This weekend a lot of focus will be on Uzbekistan, thanks to a monster card from Matchroom. Among the many notable fighters on that show will be amateur standout Ikboljon Kholdarov (0-0), who makes his long awaited professional debut. As with many top Uzbek fighters who have turned to the professional ranks, the expectation on Kholdarov is huge, in fact there's a very real chance that he could be the best of the bunch. With that in mind we'd though we'd take the opportunity this week to introduce the 24 year old southpaw hopeful
Born in Andijan, in the East of Uzbekistan, in 1997 Kholdarov has been on the radar of fans who follow amateur boxing for the better part of a decade, and not without reason. In fact he's long been regarded as one of the best young fighters in not just Uzbekistan but world boxing.
The major sign that he was something special came in April 2013 at the Asian Junior Championships, in Kazakhstan. In that tournament he reached the semi-final, where he lost to local favourite Abylaykhan Zhusupov, who later went on to win gold. A few months later he appeared at the World Junior Championships, losing in his first bout to eventual bronze medal winner Henry Lebron. Later that same year he managed to claim first place at the Uzbekistan Youth National Cup, ending the year on a bit of a high.
Following a solid 2013 Kholdarov kicked off 2014 at the Asian Youth Championships, losing early in the competition to Sultan Zaurbek. He had much more success at the AIBA Youth World Championships in Bulgari a few months later, before running into Kazakh nemesis Abylaykhan Zhusupov in the semi final, with Zhusupov going on to win gold a day later. In December, at the Agalarov Youth Memorial in Azerbaijan, Kholdarov finally took first place at an international tournament, albeit a low profile one.
Sadly for Kholdarov things cooled off on the international front in 2015 but in 2016 things would go better for him. He would win the Karakozy Abdaliyev Memorial and come runner up at the Uzbek National Championships, losing in the final to Elnur Abduraimov.
Despite having been on the international stage for a few years, and making solid waves, it still seemed there was unrealised potential with Kholdarov. That changed, in a big way, in 2017 as he shone. In April that year he won the gold medal at the Asian Championships, at home in Uzbekistan, beating Battarsukh Chinzorig of Mongolia in the final. That gold medal was followed up a few months later by a silver at the World Championships in Germany, where he lost to Cuban Andy Ruiz in the final, and a silver at the World Cup of Petroleum Countries in Russia, losing in the final to local favourite Grigoriy Lizunenko.
It's fair to say that 2017 was a year that established Kholdarov as a top, top amateur and he built on it further in 2018 when he won gold at the Asian Games in Indonesia, beating Daisuke Narimatsu in the semi final and Battarsukh Chinzorig in the final. At the end of the year he also won silver at the Uzbek championships, where he moved up in weight and ended up facing Bobo-Usmon Boturov in the final, losing a very competitive decision.
As well as his amateur success Kholdarov also competed in the WSB, albeit with mixed success. He was unfortunate to face Andy Cruz, who beat him twice, but he did manage to pick up wins as well and it seems his WSB record was 2-2.
Despite having a lot of success in the amateurs Kholdarov's style always seemed like it would be more suited to the professional ranks. He's not a fighter with a tippy-tappy style. Instead he's aggressive, he fights with flamboyance and excitement in his work, he throws combinations and comes forward. He's somewhat similar in style to many of the rising Uzbek fighters, such as Israil Madrimov and Shakhram Giyasov, in the way he presses the action forward, moved throw the levels and is happy to let shots fly. He's also happy to drop his hands and try to draw opponents into a fight.
Given his success in the unpaid ranks, and his pro-like style, and the Uzbek nationality, we're expecting to see Kholdarov moved incredibly quickly. He looks like he has the tools to be fast tracked into the top 15/20 of the Welterweight rankings within a year or two and could well be banging on the door of a world title fight by the end of 2024, if he focuses on the professional scene.
Notably his debut bout is set to be a pretty one, as he takes on the skilled, but light punching, Volodymyr Hordiienko of Ukraine this coming weekend. Although not a baptism of fire it's a very solid debut and should give us a good glimpse of what the young Uzbek can do in the ring.
The past few months have, sadly, been rather quite on the boxing front, at least compared to pre-pandemic times. Despite that it does feel like April is going to be a truly stacked month of action with more fights of note than we've seen all year. Genuinely this coming month is set to be massive, with every type of fight we could hope for! With that in mind lets take a look at what's to come in the early part of the month.
Humo Arena, Tashkent, Uzbekistan
Murodjon Akhmadaliev (8-0, 6) vs Ryosuke Iwasa (27-3, 17)
The big fight to kick the month off will see IBF and WBA "Super" Super Bantamweight champion Murodjon Akhmadaliev defending his titles against IBF "interim" champion Ryosuke Iwasa in a highly anticipated bout that would have taken place last year were it not for Covid19. For Akhmaaliev it's his first bout since winning the titles from Daniel Roman in a sensational 2020 bout whilst Iwasa has been out of the ring since beating Marlon Tapales in 2019. The Super Bantamweight division is a criminally slept on one right now, and the winner of this will be in the mix for some brilliant match ups later in the year. For this bout we suspect the strength and technical ability of Akhmadaliev will be up against the power of Iwasa, and we should get something a bit special.
Israil Madrimov (6-0, 5) vs Emmany Kalombo (14-0, 14)
Talking about special it's fair to say that Israil Madrimov might be a bit special, and he gets a chance to show what he can do on this show as he takes on the unbeaten Emmany Kalomobo. The talented Madrimov has been touted as a future world champion since making his debut but showed some cracks last time out. We're expecting a really big performance from him here. Saying that howeber Kalombo will not have travelled from South Africa to Uzbekistan to hand over his unbeaten record and he should be regarded as a live opponent here.
Shakhram Giyasov (10-0, 8) vs Patricio Lopez Moreno (28-4, 20)
Another hotly tipped Uzbek is Shakram Giyasov, who took a silver medal at the 2016 Olympics. He has looked hot and cold at times as a professional, though it appears when he's on song he is an incredible talent with a bright future. We suspect to see him at his very best here, as he takes the chance to impress his countryman. In the opposite corner is highly experienced Mexican Patricio Lopez Moreno, who is no push over, and went 12 rounds with Denys Berinchyk in 2019. Moreno has the tools to test Giyasov, but we are, as mentioned, expecting something impressive from the unbeaten Uzbek.
Hasanboy Dusmatov (2-0, 2) vs Muhsin Kizota (11-2, 5)
Whilst there is a lot of press regarding Madrimov and Giyasov, who have both fought on DAZN before, the Uzbek that really could steal the show is Hasanboy Dusmatov, another Olmypic champion and a man who is wanting to fight for a world title sooner rather than later. The excellent Dusmatov has gone through his first 2 professional bouts without much attention, picking up very easy wins. Here we expect to see him taking on his toughest test so far as he battles Tanzanian fighter Muhsin Kizota. Dusmatov is a very, very special fighter, and needs to move his career quickly to real the heights his potential deserves and we suspect an impressive win here will see his team look to secure a world title fight in 2021. Kizota Kizota's record lacks in terms of quality, but it is worth noting that he went 7 rounds with Sivenathi Nontshinga, and we suspect that Dusmatov will try to take him out quicker than that.
Also on this show are exciting prospects Bakhodir Jalolov (7-0, 7), Elnur Abduraimov (7-0, 6), Sanjar Tursunov (2-0, 1) and the debuting pair of Ikboljon Kholdarov (0-0) and Mirazizbek Mirzakhalilov (0-0).
Round 10 Boxing Club, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Donnie Nietes (42-1-5, 23) vs Pablo Carrillo (25-7-1, 16)
The long awaited ring return of Donnie Nietes, who hasn't fought since the final day of 2018, takes place this month as he clashes with Colombian veteran Pablo Carillo. The excellent Nietes, a 4 weight world champion who's only loss needs a giant "*" next to it, is looking to secure a career defining fight before finally hanging them up. Carrillo shouldn't pose a threat to Nietes, if Nietes is half the fighter he was, but with such a long lay off it's going to be very interesting to see how Nietes looks here.
Zhankosh Turarov (24-0, 17) Vs Tyrone McKenna (21-2-1, 6)
Unbeaten Kazakh fighter Zhankosh Turarov looks to make a big step up in class as he takes on Tyrone McKenna in what looks like a very good match up. Turarov has been touted for a while, but had a very, very stop start career, plagued by injuries and inactivity. Dubbed "Da Kazakh Kid" he is now 30 and it's do or die time for his career, which has seen him fighting as a pro since 2009! His opponent will be Northern Irishman Tyrone McKenna, who will be incredibly hungry to take a win here, and bounce back from a controversial 2020 loss to Ohara Davies. Although not a marquee fight by any stretch, this should be a hotly contested one, and a bout that sees both men in the ring to win.
Tursynbay Kulakhmet (2-0, 1) Vs Heber Rondon (20-0, 13)
Another unbeaten Kazakh in action is professional novice Tursynbay Kulakhmet, who will be looking to defend his WBC International title for the first time as he takes on the unbeaten Heber Rondon. On paper this looks a really good match up and a good chance to Kulakhmet to show what he can against a solid looking opponent. Although he is being fast tracked there are plenty of areas for Kulakhmet to work and we'd love to see a more polished performance from him here, after a bit of flawed showing last time out. As for Rondon, an unbeaten Venezuelan, this will be his first bout away from home, an is a very steep step up in class. Rondon could be a bit of a surprise fighter here, though we suspect Kualkhmet will have far too much for him.
Workpoint Studio, Bang Phun, Thailand
Nawaphon Por Chokchai (50-1-1, 40) Vs Sophon Klachun (5-5-1, 1)
Former world title challenger Nawaphon Por Chokchai was hoping to land a WBC title fight in March, tough Covid19 restrictions in France saw that bout collapse. As a result he's now set for a stay busy fight in April as he takes on Sophon Klachun. Ranked #2 by the WBC, in some of the strangest rankings we've seen, Nawaphon is edging towards a second world title fight and really should just be focusing on shaking some ring rust here.
Sakai City Industrial Promotion Center, Sakai, Osaka, Japan
Kaori Nagai (5-2-3, 2) Vs Natsuki Tarui (4-6-2)
JBC Atomweight champion Kaori Nagai will make her first defense of her title as she takes on Natsuki Tarui. On paper this looks a very low level title fight, but in reality the styles of the two should gel really well and we're expecting a fantastic, high tempo bout here. Nagai is in really good form, having won her last 4, and gone unbeaten in her last 8, but Tarui is also much better than her record suggests and is 3-1-1in her last 5. This should be a very good bout.
Sakai City Industrial Promotion Center, Sakai, Osaka, Japan
Tenkai Tsunami (27-12-1, 16) Vs Shione Ogata (11-6-1, 3)
A second Japanese female fighter defending her title on April 4th is WBO female Light Flyweight champion Tenkai Tsunami, who takes on the under-rated Shione Ogata in a solid, if unspectacular, match up. The highly experienced Tsunami 36 and has been a professional since 2005, mixing against many of the best in the world, and is going through one of the best runs of her career. Ogata on the other hand is taking a big step up here, unbeaten in her last 5 and won the WBA Asia, WBO Asia Pacific and OPBF female Light Flyweight titles in her last 4 bouts. This really should be a very, very entertaining clash of styles and a hotly contested 10 rounder.
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