After a couple of quiet weeks, with only a single show or two of note, we had boxing really pick up this past week with notable cards in the Japan, the US and even Vietnam. Not only did we have notable shows but we also had a world title fight, and it now seems like the sport is starting to get into the swing of things.
Fighter of the Week
Manny Pacquiao (61-7-2, 39)
Filipino icon Manny Pacquiao turned 40 in December, an age that many fighters turn whilst they are retired. Not is Pacquiao 40 years old but this week he proved he was still a top class fighter, as he defeat Adrien Broner in the US. Pacquiao appeared to be giving away significant size to Broner, and was 11 years old than the American, but looked in total control through out their 12 round bout, even staggering Broner in rounds 7 and 9. It wasn't a vintage Pacquiao performance, by any stretch, and he did look like a faded version of his prime self, but it was still a comfortable and controlling display against the cocksure Broner. Sadly the performance, whilst it was controlled, did seem to show how far Pacman had slid from his destructive best, though at the age of 40 that is to be expected!
Notable mention - Shingo Wake
Performance of the Week
Reiya Abe (19-2, 9)
We think that we'll be mentioning the name Reiya Abe a lot in 2019, and we don't believe that that's a bad thing! This week he shut down the talented and aggressive Daisuke Sugita in Tokyo, dropping Sugita twice and hardly losing a minute of the bout in what was a thoroughly controlled performance. For much of the fight Abe simply stuck to his boxing, using his skills to neutralise Sugita, before dropping his man twice. There was no real urgency from Abe, but he didn't need to be, he was just showcasing his skills from the first round to the final bell, only really going through the gears in the 8th round as he started to look to close the show. This wasn't an exciting fight, but it was a fantastic performance that showed what Abe can do.
Kenshin Oshima (4-1-1, 3) vs Ikuro Sadatsune (9-2-3, 3)
We stay in Japan for our Fight of the Week, an 8 round contest between two youngsters each looking to shine. This wasn't an all out war, like some Fight of the Weeks, but it was a bout that swung one way, then the other. It saw both men hurt, both having to over-come adversity and both digging deep in a fight that really exceeded expectations. The competitive nature of the bout will leave the door open to a potential rematch somewhere down the line. The was skills involved, making this more of a technical chess match at times, but they upped the pace regularly enough to give us some brilliant moments
Shohei Yamanaka vs Tatsuhito Hattori (Round 4)
There is something about these lower level Japanese bouts, over 4 rounds, that keep delivering fantastic rounds. This was seen perfectly this week when the debuting Shohei Yamanaka battled Tatsuhito Hattori in a bout that was easy to overlook. Yamanaka, as mentioned, was debuting whilst Hattori was fighting his 6th professional bout, more than a decade after his previous contest. Yamanaka had done enough to claim the first rounds on our card, but was dropped in round 3, meaning it was all to play for in round 4 and they both went out there seeking to do enough to take the victory. A fantastic and thoroughly engaging round.
Notable mention - Round 3 Oshima Vs Sadatsune
Mikhail Lesnikov KO Afrizal Tamboresi
It's taken a while but 2019 finally has a brutal KO thanks to Russian Mikhail Lesnikov, who blasted out Indonesian fighter Afrizal Tamboresi in Vietnam. Tamboresi was rocked hard from an uppercut, somehow remaining upright. That however wasn't a good thing for him and he would be caught by a brutal left hook just seconds later. He was dropped hard and stayed down. A gorgeous KO for the Russian, who had never previous scored a KO.
Vikas Krishan (1-0, 1)
We have a feeling that Indian boxing is going to be huge over the coming few years, and part of that rise will be linked, directly, to the "Indian Tank" Vikas Krishan. Krishan made his debut on Friday, against Steven Andrade, and looked like a pro-ready fighter immediately with his intense pressure style, sharp punching and intelligent footwork. His amateur background, which is arguably the best of any Indian fighter, shone through here and it seems like he has the ambition, drive and age to really progress. There are still things he needs to work on, but he showed enough here to get excited about.
Notable mention- Fazliddin Gaibnazarov
Tugstsogt Nyambayar (10-0, 9) Vs Claudio Marrero (23-2, 17) (January 26th)
It feels like we've lacked a really explosive fight so far. We've had some excellent action fights, some brave performances but nothing truly explosive. That's likely to change next week when unbeaten Mongolian Tugstsogt Nyambayar takes on Dominican puncher Claudio Marrero. With a combined 33 wins, 26 by T/KO, it's hard to imagine this one goes the distance. Both men have been down and we would not be surprised to see both hitting the deck in what could end up be an early contender for Fight of the Year.
Vic Saludar (18-3, 10) Vs Masataka Taniguchi (11-2, 7) [and undercard]
After weeks of waiting we finally saw the announcement of the WBO Minimumweight title bout between Vic Saludar and Masataka Taniguchi. The bout was one of the worst kept secrets in the sport, but we were still awaiting the confirmation until this week. The bout is a really good looking one. Both are aggressive, both have nasty power, and both have exciting styles that should gel really well. Although the bout looks like it won't be televised live, unfortunately, it does look almost certain to be a really fun fight, when TBS finally get around to airing it.
As well as the main event we also saw the under-card being revealed, and includes Shu Utsuki (3-0, 2), Fumiya Fuse (7-0, 1), Ginjiro Shigeoka (1-0, 1) and the debut of Suzumi Takayama.
In 2016 we saw a lot of controversy at the Rio Olympics. A lot of that seemed to come around suspicion of bribery or ineptitude of the judges, and saw a number of very questionable decisions. Despite all the controversy there was one very big winner from the Olympics, Uzbekistan. The country, which only competed as an independent nation for the first in 1996, really shone just 20 years after their debut.
Having sent 11 fighters to Rio Uzbekistan actually went on to win the medal table, taking home an impressive 7 medals, including 3 gold medals, and one of those was also the Val Barker trophy winner Hasanboy Dusmatov. The following year at the Amateur World Boxing Championships they came second in the medal table, only behind the dominant Cuban team.
The early success stories of the Uzbek amateur scene, such as such as 1996 Olympic bronze medal winner Karim Tulaganov and 2000 Olympic gold medal winner Mohammad Abdullaev, both failed as professionals, with Tulaganov going 1-3 in the professional ranks. The only two real early success stories of Uzbek professionals are Artur Grigorian and Ruslan Chagaev.
Today however we look like we're on the verge of a golden age of Uzbek professional boxing. There is real depth in the Uzbek scene across a number of divisions and it's almost as if the country has finally realised it can be really successful as a force in professional boxing. And with so much talent breaking through, we thought it a perfect time to have a look at some of those emerging fighters.
We'll start by looking at 5 men who competed at Rio 2016, most of whom had really successful campaigns. Later in the week we'll look at those who didn't compete at the Olympics, in what will be part 2 of this mini-feature.
Fazliddin Gaibnazarov (3-0, 1)
The only Uzbek to have won an Olympic gold medal in Rio and to have already began their professional career is 26 year old Fazliddin Gaibnazarov who is managed by Egil Klimas and promoted by Top Rank. In the amateur he was a 2-time Olympian, fighting in London 2012 and Rio 2016, with his Rio triumph being the highlight of his amateur career.
As well as his Oympic triumph Gaibnazarov claimed silver medals at the 2015 World Amateur Championships, losing to Russian Vitaly Dunaytsev in the final, and the 2015 Asian Championships, losing to home fighter Wuttichai Masuk in the final.
As a professional Gaibnazarov hasn't yet shone, being put down on his debut in April 2017 and failing to stop any of his subsequent opponents. Although he hasn't been matched easily there is a worry that he lacks power and hasn't yet adapted to the professional ranks in the way Top Rank would have wanted. Saying that however he has won every round of his professional career, bar his very first.
Shakhram Giyasov (2-0, 1)
Having taken the silver medal in Rio at Welterweight there was some hope that Shakhram Giyasov would have professional promoters all over him and try to turn him professional quickly. Giyasov however stayed amateur and had a brilliant 2017, picking up gold medals at both the World Amateur Championships and the Asian Championships. The extra year in the amateurs saw him shine before turning professional.
Giyasov debuted this past March, against Nicolas Atilio Velazquez, and didn't even break sweat with a 15 second blow out. It seemed like he was unhappy with the speed of his win and he took his time in his second professional bout, taking a very 1-sided decision win over the experienced Gabor Gorbics, and going 6 very comfortably rounds in the process.
Based in the US there is big things expected of the 24 year old Welterweight. We don't expect him to be in world title fights this year, or even next year, but we do expect to see him in with “name” opponents in the near future, and given his relaxed nature in the ring we have no worries about him going long distances.
Murodjon Akhmadaliev (2-0, 2)
Another fighter who chose to stay in the unpaid ranks for an extra year following the Olympics was Bantamweight bronze medal winner Murodjon Akhmadaliev. Like Giyasov we saw Akhmadaliev claim more success after staying on in the amateurs, and he took a gold at the 2017 Asian Championships in Tashkent, a competition that saw the Uzbek team claim 9 of the 10 possible gold medals.
Akhmadaliev made his professional debut in March and instantly took to the professional ranks like a duck to water. From the opening seconds of his bout against David Michel Paz we saw a naturally aggressive, yet smart, young fighter. He would drop Paz with a body shot, that had a delayed reaction, and record his first win in just over a minute. In his second bout, earlier this month, he defeated Carlos Gaston Suarez and showed that he could box patiently before making the referee jump in and stop the bout in round 3.
Just like Giyasov it seems like Akhmadaliev could be set for a big year and the 23 year old Featherweight might well race into the fringes of the world rankings before the end of the year. He looks like a really special talent, and it's hard to say where his ceiling will be, but it's going to be very high.
Rustam Tulaganov (1-0)
Another bronze medal winner from the Rio games was Rustam Tulaganov, who claimed his medal in the Heavyweight division. Like many others on this list he didn't turn professional immediately but did make his debut in late 2017, taking a 4 round decision over Robert Guerra.
Since his debut Tulaganov has twice been pencilled in to face Martez McGregor but for whatever reason the bout has failed to actually happen. This means that Tulaganov has been out of action for around 6 months and his career really needs to kick on, rather than be slowed down. He's a talented fighter, in a stacked division, and can't afford to waste his prime years. He is only 26, but with so much talent at 175lbs he should be using this year to make his mark as a prospect.
When Tulaganov does next fight he'll be hoping to answer some questions and make up for lost time. He has the ability to go a long way, but will be wanting to avoid having a stop-start career. Thankfully with Egis Klimas managing his career he should have the link to be kept active, matched well and moved through the rankings. That however depends on his desire and hunger to make an impression on the professional scene.
Batyr Ahmedov (4-0, 3)
One man who fought at the Olympics but failed to medal was Batyr Ahmedov, who actually competed for Turkey under the name Batuhan Gozgec. Although he failed to medal he did reach the quarter finals and claimed two wins in Rio.
Unlike most on this list he didn't hang around in the amateurs and instead debuted in February 2017 with a 3rd round win over Dmitry Lavrinenko. Sadly he was inactive for close to 10 months, returning in December to stop Levan Tsiklauri in 2 rounds. It was obvious from the very start of his professional career that he was a special talent, making Lavreinenko look lost and confused by his foot work and smashing his face in with heavy shots. There was touches of Vasyl Lomachenko in what he was doing in the ring and it was great to watch.
Ahmedov has already stepped up, massively, and in just his third professional bout he faced Ricky Sismundo. The Filipino veteran is a solid gate keeper but Ahmedov made him look very poor, and dropped him twice en route to a dominant decision win, over 10 rounds. That win netted Ahmedov the WBA Inter-Continental Super Lightweight title, and given his weight on the scales there a real chance he could actually move down to Lightweight if he wanted. For the full 10 rounds Ahmedov looked great and like a star in the making. Since then he has also added a 3rd round win over Oscar Barajas.
With a very fan friendly style, a great work rate, proven stamina, spiteful power, great foot work and movement the future is incredibly bright for Ahmedov. He has already shown touches of genius and there is real potential for him to become a multi-weight champion. His team have spoke about fast tracking him, and given the showing against Sismundo there is no reason to doubt them.
Despite not fighting for Uzbekistan, or winning an Olympic medal, at Rio Ahmedov might well be the best Uzbek born boxer to have gone to Brazil.
In part 2 of our look at the rising Uzbek fighters we'll have a look at 7 fighters to keep an eye one. Several have already scored notable wins with two of the fighters already in the world rankings.
This is just an opinion, maaaan! It's easy to share our opinions, and that's what you'll find here, some random opinion pieces