As we write this, in early May, once beaten Jamshidbek Najmitdinov (16-1, 13), is pencilled in to make his US debut and with that in mind we thought we'd take this opportunity to discuss once beaten man Uzbekistan. He's not the typical type of fighter we look at in this "Introducing" series, but he's certainly the sort of fighter who deserves a lot more attention than he's gotten so far, and is definitely someone fans need to be aware of. Even if he is, now, the wrong side of 30.
In recent years we have seen a massive rise in fighters from Uzbekistan getting massive amounts of attention. Guys like Murodjon Akhmadaliev, Israil Madrimov, Shohjahon Ergashev, Shakhram Giyasov and Bektemir Melikuziev have all been getting rave reviews and a lot of time to show what they can do on in front of a main stream audience, with each of those fighters having become well known in the US. The same, however, cannot be said of Jamshidbek Najmitdinov who is a very obscure fighter, but someone who is much better than fans may realise. In fact with just a bit of luck, there's a good chance he would have landed a world title fight already, or at least seriously impacted the look of the Light Welterweight division of the last few years. More about that a little later.
Unlike many of those top names from Uzbekistan Najmitdinov has lacked two things. A major international amateur profile, and a strong backer able to get him fights away from Uzbekistan, where he has fought almost his entire career so far. He has lacked the backing to secure the fights he's needed to progress his career and become more well known, and that's been the major issue with his career so far.
Najmitdinov debuted way back in July 2013, on a show in Tashkent. The show featured just 5 bouts in total, and on the event the debuting 23 year old Najmitdinov defeated Botir Nosirov via a 4 round decision. Despite a win on debut it was more than 2 years before Najmitdinov was back in action in the pro's, though in fairness he did try to make up for lost time, fighting in 3 times in 2015, squeezing fights into October, November and December. Those wins saw him race his record to 4-0 (3) and he would notch another win in January 2016 to keep momentum building.
Whilst Najmitdinov was building up some momentum, and getting busy, his competition was absolutely terrible. His first 5 opponents failed to have a recorded win and were little more than a nuisance for the talented fighter who needed bigger, better tests. Thankfully they came later in 2016, as he took on the the sturdy Ismatullo Gulomov, whp extended Najmitdinov 6 rounds. He would then secure a fight against Mansur Abdumamatov for the Uzbekistan national title at 140lbs, winning that in 7 rounds to claim his first title belt.
Despite winning the Uzbekistan Najmitdinov would never actually defend it. Instead he would score two stay busy fights in early 2017 before getting his first international bout, over in Ukraine against former world champion Viktor Postol. On paper this wasn't just a step up in class for Najmitdinov, but a completely new game all together. He was going from fighting novices in Uzbekistan to taking on a former former champion in Kiev. Despite the massive leap up in class Najmitdinov gave Postol all he could handle, and them some, dropping the Ukrainian veteran several times, and hurting him repeatedly, whilst Vadym Lavrenets, the referee, did all he could to help Postol survive. Despite being beaten and hurt numerous times the bout ended in a disgusting home town decision, from the Ukrainian judges who all gave the win, by some margin, to Postol. Following this "win" Postol would go on to challenge the then WBC "silver" champion Josh Taylor and more recently the WBC and WBO world champion Jose Carlos Ramirez. Had this bout gone the right way there's a good chance Postol wouldn't have had those opportunities, and Najmitdinov could have been in the world title mix as early as 2017.
Sadly since the controversial loss to Postol we've not seen Najmitdinov land a fight of real note. His most relevant fight since was a 10 round win, in Kazakhstan, against limited Indonesian veteran Hero Tito, a 10 round win that has been followed by 3 quick blowouts back in Uzbekistan. The only thing of note from those 3 wins was was Najmitdinov winning the WBC CIS and Slovac Boxing Bureau (CISBB) Welter Title in 2019, hardly a massive achievement.
Sadly fighting in Uzbekistan for almost his entire career has meant not a lot of footage of Najmitdinov is available. Thankfully however a few of his fights are out there, including his clash with Postol and his clash with Tito. In both of those bouts it was clear that Najmitdinov was heavy handed, aggressive, strong, and powerful, but much a fighter who was crude around the edges. He's the sort of fighter who looks like he could be a nightmare for anyone, but that the best fighters in the division would counter, a lot. His shots are looping, they aren't the quickest or the sharpest, but when he lands, he lands hard. As with many of the current fighters from Uzbekistan there is some flair to his in ring style, and a sense of excitement, but a lot of work needs doing with him.
In 2020 Najmitdinov signed with Banner Promotions. The hope was that he would have made his US debut in 2020 but, of course, 2020 was not a normal year. As a result he's not yet made his US debut, but that is set to come on May 28th, as he finally begins to move his career forward and move towards some career defining fights, that are well over-due.
One thing we love about Japanese boxing is the willingness of youngsters to step in the ring with decent competition straight off the bat, and it's even better when they do that in 6 rounders in bouts that we can watch. With that in mind we want to discuss one such fighter this week as we talk about 20 year old Kotoji Irita (0-0), who will be making his debut on May 23rd, as part of a huge festival of fights from Dangan.
Irita is not a name we expect many to be familiar with, even those that follow amateur boxing, but he is someone who is has a lot to like about him already, including a decent domestic amateur career, and some freakish dimensions for someone fighting at Super Flyweight. And he is certainly someone worth having an eye on as he heads towards his first professional bout.
The young Irita was born in the first half of 2001 in Yatsuhiro City, Kumamoto, and like many fighters from Kumamoto has head over to Tokyo to become a professional fighter, much like the Shigeoka brothers who are from the same Prefecture. Unlike the Shigeoka's however he hasn't signed with Watanabe Gym but instead the Dangan Aoki Gym, which isn't as powerful as Watanabe at the highest levels in the sport, but do put on a lot of shows and will allow him to be very busy, if that's what he wants to do.
Prior to signing professional Irita managed to have a pretty solid career on the Japanese amateur scene, going 36-11 in the unpaid ranks and fighting in a number of notable amateur tournaments, such as inter high school tournaments and national selection tournaments. He wasn't an absolute standout on the amateur scene, but like many fighters who develop on the tough Japanese High school scene it was clear he was talented and had a style that was potentially more well suited to being a success in the professional ranks than the amateur ranks.
In his amateur performances Irita proved to be quick, sharp, light on his feet and a genuine physical freak, fighting in the men's Flyweight division (52KG's) despite standing at 5'9". To put that into some form of comparison, he's very similar in stature to Zolani Tete, who also fights at a similar weight and is also 5'9". Just like Tete he's also a southpaw, making an already awkward fighter even tougher to fight.
Although Irita has been impressive there is a lot of work to do, though that's to be expected of a 20 year old kid with less than 40 amateur bouts. The fact he is as good as he's looked in some of the amateur bouts has impressed us, and got him on our radar ahead of his May 23rd debut.
In regards to Irita's he's not facing a chump. Instead he'll be up against 4-1 (3) youngster Kosuke Tomioka, who impressed in his early bouts before being stopped in the East Japan Rookie of the Year final at Super Flyweight last year. He has proven himself as a teenage worth following, and credit to Tomioka for taking on Irita following his last bout, though we suspect this will be more about Irita than Tomioka, and we see the debutant as being too tall, too rangy and to too mature for Tomioka.
*Note - Irita's debut was postponed indefinitely due to the on going State of Emergency that put boxing on pause in Tokyo.
When it comes to looking back over the 2020 Rookie of the Year there are lot of things that will stand out, such as how delayed the final was due to Covid19 and how the tournament final was fought in an empty Korakuen Hall. It will also, however, be remembered as the launch pad for several careers. Maybe the most promising of those is that of Super Featherweight winner Tsubasa Narai (7-0, 6), who dominated the tournament with 4 KO wins in his 4 bouts. Not only was he dominant through out the tournament, but he also showed genuine star power in a division that has been one of the most popular in Japan over the last 30 years or so.
The unbeaten 21 year old was born in Osaka City in August 1999 and would pick up the sport of boxing as a teenager. Although not a stand out amateur Narai was certainly a fighter with potential and after 26 amateur bouts he had amassed a 17-9 (6) amateur record, and had competed in a high school tournament. He had shown some potential, but he was certainly not a distinguished amateur when he decided to turn professional.
When Narai turned professional he did so as a Super Bantamweight with the RK Kamata Gym, and debuted aged 19, in the 2019 East Japan Rookie of the Year qualifying round. Despite only being in his debut he quickly made a mark, stopping Kento Nakano in 3 rounds to progress in the tournament. Whilst his debut was impressive he was even more destructive in his second bout, stopping Taison Mukaiyama in just 100 seconds to progress further in the tournament.
In Narai's third bout we saw him having the toughest bout of his career as he took on Yuki Yazan, in the East Japan Rookie of the Year quarter finals. Yazan, who would reach the All Japan finals in the 2020 Rookie of the Year, proved to be tough, and durable and survived the power of Narai, but couldn't do enough to take the decision as Narai took his first, and so far only, decision win. Sadly for Narai however he was unable to compete in the semi-final a few weeks later, which would have seen him face Takeshi Takehara.
Have gone so far in the 2019 Rookie of the Year Narai returned in 2020 for that year's edition of the tournament, which was delayed massively due to the Covid19 pandemic. This time he was at Super Featherweight, his young body filling out to that of a good sized 130lb fighter. On his debut at the new weight Narai would get back to scoring stoppages as he stopped the previously unbeaten Tomohiro igarashi in round 4 to progress in the tournament. That was quickly followed by a TKO2 win over the more experienced Hiromichi Komatsu in the East Japan semi final and then another TKO2 win over American born Japanese fighter Dominique Kenshin in the East Japan Rookie of the Year final.
Having done so well in 2019 Narai's success in 2020 saw him go further than he had a year earlier. But there was still the All-Japan final left for him, and that was going to come against West Japan representative Seika Fukuda, a then 5-0 fighter who was taller than Narai and was also looking to move their career forward. On paper this was an excellent looking match ups and one of the standouts of the 2020 All Japan Rookie of the Year finals. In the end however it ended up being a showcase of power and aggression from Narai. After taking a few seconds to get a read on Fukuda we saw Narai rock his man with a big left hook, and within a minute Fukuda was looking like a man who very uncomfortable with Narai's power. He tried to fight back, but Narai was far too strong, and Fukuda would be rocked later in the round and then dropped. He got back to his feet but was dropped again moments later forcing the referee to wave off the bout, despite the fact Fukuda quickly recovered to his feet.
Sadly since the All Japan final, in February, we've not see Narai have his next bout being scheduled, though we're looking forward to it, whoever he faces.
At the moment Narai is very much an unpolished fighter, but he has an exciting style, genuine power, and he likes to fight. He's shown a willingness to stand and trade shots when he needs to, and he's shown to his hard enough to really shake people up when he lands. At just 21 we're not expecting him to be the complete article, but with the RK Gym behind him, they can certainly help him polish some of wilder traits of his. He's someone who perhaps won't be fighting for titles in the next year or two, but someone who certainly has the natural tools to be a major player on the Japanese scene over the next decade or so.
If you like fighters with power Narai is certainly one to keep a close eye on as he develops from crude puncher to future Japanese title contender, and potentially even further.
When it comes to the most well known promotional stables in Japan there is no one that matches Teiken, the stable that has dominated Japanese boxing, especially in recent years thanks to the relative collapse of main rival Kyoei. One of the many things that has helped make Teiken standout is their ability to attract some of the best talent in Japan, and many of the top amateurs from East Japan end up turning professional with the gym when they finally hang up their vest and begin to fight for pay.
Included in those former amateur standouts is Junya Shimada (0-0), who makes his debut later this week and is the focus of this week's "Introducing", as we flag him as one to pay attention to ahead of his May 6th debut against Shigeotshi Kotari.
The allure of Teiken really was seen in 2020, despite the pandemic, as the gym snapped up the signatures of several standout amateur fighters. They included Kenji Fujita, who we saw debut recently, Subaru Murata, who's debut is expected to come in the near future, and Shimada, who may be the mover over-looked of the recent Teiken signees.
Born in Kyoto in March 1998 the 23 year old Shimada was a genuinely top tier amateur, who not only had success at home, but also competed internationally whilst compiling a very impressive 58-23 record in the unpaid ranks.
Shimada began boxing at the Kokoku High school, in Osaka and continued to fight through his education, as he also competed during his time at Komazawa University.
Although the full details of Shimada's 81 fight career are unclear there are some details we know, including the fact he twice came third in notable national tournaments, including the 2017 Japanese National Sport Festival, where he was beaten by Ryuji Kanaka in the semi finals. The other semi-finalists there were Rentaro Kimura, the eventual winner, and the aforementioned Kenji Fujita, showing just how deep that tournament was.
More is known about how Shimada's 2018 went, with him fighting in a number of notable tournaments. They included the 2018 World University Championships in Elista, Russia. Sadly he was eliminated in the second round, by eventual silver medal winner Gabil Mamedov. Just weeks later he lost in the semi-final of the Japanese National Sports Festival in Ehime, losing to Kenji Fujita. He also competed at the 2018 Japanese National Championships, reaching the last 8 before losing to Taiga Imanaga.
Sadly for Shimada he was regularly in one of, if not the, deepest division domestically. For example the 2018 National championships saw the likes of Arashi Morisaka, Rentaro Kimura, Kenji Fujita and Ryosuke Nishida all in the final 8, along with Shimada himself. He was also younger than many of those other well established names, who had more experience than the young, but promising Shimada.
Despite not yet fighting as a professional there is a lot of expectation on Shimada and that's with good reason. He looked damn good as an amateur.
This can be seen in footage of Shimada in action, where he looked really quick, very sharp, had lovely light footwork and despite being an amateur also seemed to show the ability to target the body, something that many amateurs miss out on. His amateur record may not have blown many away, but it was clear, watching him, that he had the tools to be a major success. Had he chose to stay in the unpaid ranks major success would have come to him, sooner or later, it was too obvious that he had the tools to be a very good amateur.
Thankfully for us Shimada didn't stick around the amateurs for too long and instead turned professional, likely realising his style was more suited to the professional ranks. He looked like the type of fighter who wouldn't have any issues at all in switching from the amateurs to the pros.
Although we were impressed by how Shimada looked as an amateur there are areas to work on, and things we want to see him prove in the professional ranks. We never really saw him being given a chin check, which we'll certainly see in the pros, and we never really saw him show much power, though of course amateur gloves are much more padded and "safe" than the gloves used in professional boxing. There are also, of course, questions about stamina and pacing, the same questions that we need to ask whenever a fighter goes from amateur to professional. With Teiken behind him however we expect him to have answered some of those questions in the gym, hence him being matched with another former amateur standout on debut, rather than taking on a limited, low level, domestic fighter.
Shimada passed his B license test last September he explained what he felt in regards to his career, and stated "I'm finally on the starting line. I'm happy. My dream (to become the world champion) has changed to my goal. I feel that the real game is about to begin."
For those wanting to see what the fuss is about we've included Shimada's 2018 amateur bout with Jinu Ri below, thanks to the brilliant Sakana 1976 for filming and uploading the bout. If you're a fan of amateur boxing he is well and truly worth subscribing too
Last years Japanese Rookie of the Year was an odd one as the Covid19 pandemic completely decimated the calendar and saw the Rookie of the Year being pushed backed massively, and not ending until February 2021, 2 months after the originally planned date. Despite the delay to the finals we did see some really promising fighters emerge from the tournament, one of whom was Lightweight fighter Hiromasa Urakawa (7-1, 4), who really impressed through the tournament.
With that Rookie of the Year triumph under his belt, and a bright future ahead of him, we though it was a good idea to give Urakawa the "Introducing" treatment, as he looks to build on his success and move towards potential title fights.
The very basics for Urakawa is that he's a 24 year old Lightweight from the Teiken Gym, who was born in March 1997, but it's what he is as a boxer that we're interested in.
Unlike many Japanese fighters Urakawa didn't really have much of an amateur background in the sport, in fact he's explained in the past that the reason he's involved in the sport was that he "wanted to see a match of an acquaintance". There was no major story there, like there is with many fighters, and no big name fighter seems to have inspired him, instead it was a love of the sport that a friend was doing.
With little to no amateur experience Urakawa made his debut in March 2018, aged 20, and took on Shuichi Aso at Korakuen Hall, live on G+. Within seconds of his debut Urakawa had looked raw, heavy handed and exciting, shaking Aso very quickly in the bout. As the contest went on Urakawa continued to show some nice traits, including a good jab and nice belief in his power and aggression. He did however show a lot of raw qualities and it was very, very clear that he was inexperienced. He looked rigid, tense, and like he was trying to put a lot on almost every shot he threw and it was clear that he was a young man who was a work in progress. Albeit a young man with something exciting about his raw style.
Urakawa would return to the ring 4 months later for his second bout, which saw him quickly stopping Koshi Fujisaki, with that bout ending after just 1 minute. The ending was from a brilliant right hand that dropped Fujisaki, who almost tried to tackle Urakawa by the ankles unaware of where he was for a few seconds. Urakawa's bout continued to be televised, with his third bout being shown, on tape delay, on G+ against Hiroki Sakakubo. Once again Urakawa's power was a difference maker, as he landed a right hand, dropping Sakakubo early in round 2 and then finished him off later the same round with a flurry of big shots.
The win over Sakakkubo came in a preliminary bout of the 2019 East Japan Rookie of the Year. Sadly for Urakawa however he could come up shot in his very next bout an be eliminated from the competition when he was out pointed by Shinnosuke Saito. Sadly the bout saw the usual aggression of Urakawa being tamed, massively, as he seemed too focused on defensive work, rather than showing off his raw aggression. It was the wrong tactic, and something he later admitted in an interview with Boxmob.jp.
Having lost his unbeaten record to Saito and been eliminated from the 2019 Rookie of the Year Urakawa looked to get back on the horse, and ended the year with a KO win against Ren Matsuoka. This saw Urakawa get back to being an aggressive fighter, and once again his power paid dividends as he dropped Matsuoka midway through the second round, and Matsuoka was unable to continue.
In 2020 Urakawa entered the East Japan Rookie of the Year again, and kicked off his campaign in September, when boxing resumed in Japan. Despite having been out of the ring for over 9 months Urakawa again showed off his power, as he took out Yuki Aizawa in 3 rounds. This was, up to this point in his career, the most polished performance from Urakawa's career. He showed aggression, but also a more mature edge to his boxing. He was tighter defensively than he had been earlier in his career but kept his nasty power, dropping Aizawa late in round 2, then forcing a stoppage at the very start of round 3 with Aizawa's team threw in the towel.
Following his win over Aizawa we then saw Urakawa return to a live TV broadcast as he took on Toshiki Tanaka in the East Japan semi-final. This was, on paper, a big of a gimmie for Urakawa, but to his credit Tanaka came to win and gave the heavy handed Urakawa some real questions to answer early in the bout. Sadly however the bout was curtailed in round 3 when Urakawa was left cut from a clash of heads. Despite only going 2 and a bit rounds the bout went to the scorecards with the judges all giving the bout to Urakawa.
Sadly the planned final for the East Japan Rookie of the Year Lightweight bout fell through at short notice, when Urakawa's scheduled opponent Ryan Joshua Yamamoto, failed to make weight for the contest. This saw Urakawa admit he was frustrated, and he seemed genuinely angry about the situation as he was essentially in the best condition of his career. Although it was a frustrating experience it did allow Urakawa a final to the All Japan final, which we got in February. That final saw him take on Eiji Togawa and the two men delivered a genuinely solid match up, with both showing respect to the other, and both also showing some hunger to win, and to be crowned the All Japan Rookie of the Year. Togawa put in a genuine effort in every round, but in the end the cleaner, heavier, more telling shots were landed by Urakawa, with all 3 judges giving the decision to the Teiken fighter after 5 well contested rounds.
Since his Rookie of the Year triumph, back on February 21st, we've not seen Urakawa return to the ring, though we would expect him back in action in the Summer on a Teiken promoted card. Fingers crossed when we do see him return, it'll be in a solid 6 rounder, giving him a chance to show his continued improvement in the ring.
Although it's unlikely that Urakawa is a world champion in the making he is a fun fighter to watch, a raw fighter with some potential and some one with the ability to make some noise at the upper echelons of the Japanese domestic scene. Don't expect to see him in huge bouts, but do expect him to be in some fun contests, when matched against the right type of fighters. Something we suspect Teiken will do for him.
Rather interestingly every bout of Urakawa's has been shown, either on G+ or on Boxing Raise, meaning people can actually watch every professional bout of his, at least at the time of writing.
It's not often we get to talk about female fighters in this series but this week we get one of those rare opportunities, as we take a look at emerging Thai hopeful Phannarai Netisri (7-0, 4), a German based Thai hopeful who has been turning heads in her adopted homeland over the last couple of years. She's certainly not a big name, but could be set for a big 2021, if things go her way over the next few months.
The talented 20 year old, also known as Fai Phannarai and "Sweet Chilli", was born in Khon Kaen, one of the major cities in Thailand, where she originally grew up with her grandparents. She would later relocate to Germany along with her mother, who decided Germany was a place for a better life. Prior to relocating however Fai had been training Muay Thai, something she was introduced to by her grandfather. That training carried in good stead when she moved to Germany and took up kick boxing, winning her first 3 bouts.
Of course kicking might not be boxing, but it did give Fai a good foundation to build off as a boxer, which she did under the guidance of Jiri Resl in Germany.
In 2019 Fai made her professional debut, aged just 19, and made an immediate impact in the sport, stopping fellow debutant Elizabeta Konaj in just 44 secords. Although this bout was an obscure one, tucked away on a small card in Bayern, it was a perfect way for Fai to begin her boxing career, shaking off some nerves and getting a boost of confidence straight away.
Fai was back in the ring 3 months after her debut, taking on fellow novice Sanja Cebic, a southpaw from Serbia. Thankfully this bout is actually online allowing fans a chance to see what Fai is like as a fighter and at this point in time she was offensively wild, and looked powerful but nervous. Cebic's southpaw stance and long arms gave Fai something to think about, but as the bout went on the Thai begun to land the bigger shots and started to calm down somewhat. She still seemed wild through out, but was a clear and worthy winner after 4 rounds.
By the end of 2019 Fai had squeezed in 2 more bouts, showing off her power with a 4th round TKO against Croatian fighter Manuela Zulj and an opening round win over Valeria Aletta Kovacs. Again footage of Fai in action showed up, with her bout against Zulj being online. She still seemed like a fighter with nervous energy to begin with, but settled very quickly, and put on an exciting and aggressive performance, before forcing the referee to save Zulj, who had been beaten into submission in the corner.
Having fit 4 bouts into less than 6 months in 2019 Fai was, like many fighters, a lot less active in 2020 as Covid19 really put a hold on boxing around the world. Amazingly however she did manage to fit in 3 bouts, including 2 in the Czech Republic. The first of those was against Eva Hrkotova in what looked like a big beer tent at a festival or something. This bout with Hrkotova ended when Hrkotova was apparently DQ'd, for spinning around and turning her back... errr, yeah we were confused by that too. The second bout in the Czech Republic saw Fai take a 6 round decision win over the much bigger Veronika Andrisikova. In November 2020 she returned to a German ring to beat Kim Angeline Jaeckel, in the 5th round of a scheduled 10 rounder.
The bout with Jaeckel was the best performance that we've come across from Fai, who looked composed, sharp, and a lot, lot more polished than she had earlier in her career. She threw nice body shots, came forward with a lot of upper body movement, and broke down a naturally bigger fighter, who seemed to want to avoid a fight. Despite the negativity of Jaeckel it was clear to see that Fai had improved a lot from her early bouts, and her improvement in just 18 months was massive. She looked polished, comfortable and confident in the ring, rather than rushed and feeling like she needed to throw big shots. This was a performance of a professional and it was a real mark of the fighter she had become.
We're expecting to see Fai back in the ring later this month in a WBC Youth title bout, with her opponent expected to be Cheyenne Hanson, if Hanson recovers from what was a nasty injury she suffered a few weeks ago. If that takes place we'll see Fai in a real fight for the first time. A win there and the Thai will prove she's one to watch. A loss however wouldn't be the end of the world for the Thai youngster, who has come a long way in a short amount of time, and can certainly continue improving.
If not often we get to talk about European based fighters or female fighters, but Fai is certainly someone making a mental note of, and she looks like she could, potentially, go on to make noise in women's boxing in the coming years.
We've included Fai's most recent bout below, and as you can see Jaeckel really didn't want to fight, but Fai did what she needed to and got some rounds in.
It's not often we get to talk about fighters from Kyrgyzstan with very, very few fighters of note coming from the land locked central Asian country. Despite that the country, of around 6.6 million, does seem like it could be one to watch over the coming years and we suspect it'll follow in the footsteps of it's neighbours, such as Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. With that in mind it's worth making a note when some of their top amateur fighters leave the vest behind and begin their professional journey.
With that said it made this week's "Introducing" an easy choice, as we want to focus on the debuting Bek Kamchybekov (0-0), who is set to appear on a Russian show on April 17th.
As an amateur Kamchybekov has been on the radar of fans for a decade now. In fact going back through some old AIBA videos we can find footage of Kamchybekov fighting in the 2011 Junior World Amateur Champions, in the 46KG "Pinweight" division. Even in those early days it was clear that he was a genuine talent, with a nice guard and some real hunger, though he did come up short against Behruz Umarqulov, who beat him with a hard fought decision. It was clear, even at this early stage in his career that he was a southpaw with a lot of potential. That same year he managed to win the Kyrgyz Youth National Championships at 49KG's. In 2013 he repeated that feat, albeit doing so at 56KG's as he started to mature and develop into his body and find himself as a fighter.
In 2014 Kamchybekov proved that he was now a man, going from winning the Youth national championships to the senior Kyrgyz national championships, again at 56KG's. He had found his weight, he had found his groove, and he was beginning to find success. However in international tournaments he did continue to struggle, and did also fail to make a mark when he moved up in weight, testing the waters at 60KG's.
When it comes to notable international success that had to wait for Kamchybekov, though he did make a good mark at the 2016 Duisenkul Shopokov Memorial, where he came second, losing to Russian fighter Konstantin Bogomazov, in a tournament that saw Israil Madrimov take gold a few weight classes high. That same year he was also unfortunate to run into Daisuke Narimatsu in an Olympic qualifying bout, losing a clear decision to the Japanese amateur standout.
Sadly for Kamchybekov his success failed to bring more success. At the 2017 national championships he was eliminated in the semi-finals, he also stumbled in the semi-finals at the 2018 World Cup of Petroleum Countries and failed to get even close to the medals at the 2019 Asian Championships, losing to Baatarsukh Chinzorig.
Success would occur occasionally, such as at the 2018 national championships, but it wasn't a steady stream of success for Kamchybekov. He showed touches of brilliance, but seemed to come up short against the biggest and best names that he fought. this is seen when he took on the likes of Chinzorig, Narimatsu and Ikboljon Kholdarov. He was just below their level and just lacking that higher level consistency needed for success in major competitions. Despite failing to shine at the highest level he was competing at a high level and travelling around the world, getting very good experience along the way.
Watching bouts featuring Kamchybekov shows us a fighter who is a genuine talent. Sure he wasn't a mega star in the amateur ranks but was a fighter who looked like there was a lot of potential there. He could box but at his best he was a cautious pressure fighter, using his southpaw jab, tight guard and methodical footwork to try and cut the ring off and grind down his opponents. There was no flash with him, but he was very much a skilled operator, who often played by the text book. His style might not have been the best in the amateurs, though it does appear to be a style that will work well in the professional ranks, especially over the longer distances. His pressure, over 6, 8, 10 or even 12 rounds will be a handful for many fighters.
There's a good chance that Kamchybekov won't become a star, and the next big face of Kyrgyzstan boxing, but we're really excited to see him try. In his debut bout he's expected to face 20 year old Uzbek Sherzodjon Abdurazzokov, and although Abdurazzokov is 1-2 as a professional he has been in with some good fighters, and has asked questions of them. With that in mind Kamchybekov is not getting a gimmie here. He will have to prove what he can do in the ring, and will be expected to prove that he's legit as a fighter. If he can do that, then we expect to see him become a regular on the RCC shows from Ekaterinburg over the next few years.
On April 8th we'll see Japanese youngster Go Hosaka (4-0, 3) make his Japanese debut, and feature on a Diamond Glove show from Korakuen Hall. The bout will be Hosaka's first since September 2019 and will be a great chance for him to build on a very promising start to his professional career. With that in mind we thought this was the perfect time to have a look at Hosaka, his career, what he brings to the sport and why fans should be excited about the 24 year old Lightweight hopeful. With that said, let us introduce you to Go Hosaka in this week's Introducing...
Hosaka was born in Fukuoka prefecture, in the the south east of Japan. It was there that he learned to box, and he was a solid fighter when he was at high school, the Higashi Fukuoka High School. It was there that he made his first mark on the boxing world, and he managed to make his way to the semi finals of the 2013 Japanese Interschool Athletic Meet, losing a close decision to Naoto Yonezawa. Notably that tournament featured a who's who of Japanese fighters from today, including the likes of Kosei Tanaka, Mikito Nakano, Hinata Maruta, Shokichi Iwata and Takuma Inoue.
Just a few months after that Interschool tournament Hosaka came runner up at the Japanese National Athletic Meet, losing in the final to Gonte Lee. With solid results in two national tournaments Hosaka was on the radar of those who followed Japanese amateur boxing as we went into 2014, a year that defined his amateur career.
Hosaka began 2014 by reaching the semi-finals of the Asian Youth Championships in Bangkok, beating local fighter Somchai Wongsuwan in the quarter final before losing to eventual winner Abylaykhan Zhusupov in the semi-final. Hosaka would also go on to reach the final 4 of the AIBA Youth World Championships in Bulgaria a few months later, where he scored 3 wins before running into Arsen Mustafa in the semi-final. Back on the domestic scene Hosaka won come runner up in the High School Selection Tournament in Spring of 2014 before winning the Japanese Interschool Athletic Meet later that same year. To end 2014 Hosaka managed to continue his success internationally, and came 4th at the Youth Olympics.
Sadly things were less busy for Hosaka in the years that followed, though he continued to compete in numerous tournaments, before ending his days in the unpaid ranks with a reported 50-13 amateur record.
Unlike many Japanese fighters Hosaka didn't want to begin his professional career in Japan. Whilst it's not unheard of for Japanese fighters to begin there careers away from Japan, with a number of notable fighters such as Tomoki Kameda and Shoki Sakai starting there careers away from home, it was rare that such a stand out amateur began to fight away from home. Instead of signing with a Japanese promoter he dropped out of Komazawa University and travelled to the Philippines to begin his professional career, and joined with the well established ALA Gym in Cebu. It was under the ALA Gym that Hosaka trained as a professional, living in a dormitory with some of their top fighters, and learned how to boxing as a professional, alongside the likes of Milan Melindo, who he claimed taught him a lot.
In June 2018 the then 21 year old Hosaka finally made his professional debut, doing so in a 6 round Lightweight bout against Holly Quinones in Maasin City. The match up was the first chance to see what Hosaka could do in the professional ring, but was a blink and you miss it affair, with Hosaka stopping his man within a round. Just 5 months later Hosaka was back in the ring, and was matched with decent fighter Jason Tinampay in another 6 rounder. This was a much better match up, and we saw what Hosaka could really do, as he controlled Tinampay for all 6 rounds, forcing Tinampay on to the ropes and picking his spots well. It was an impressive performance for a fighting in just his second bout, and it was clear he had the ability to go a long way.
Sadly in 2019 ALA put on very, very few shows. The shows they did have were poor, and their match making really went backwards. Despite that Hosaka fought twice, stopping Romnick Magos in July and then stopping Kim Lindog in September, both of which were serious steps backwards from the win over Tinampay.
Things went from bad to worse for ALA Gym, who went from running very few shows in 2019 to closing complete in 2020. That left Hosaka as a free agent, and in 2020 he finally signed with a Japanese promoter, joining the legendary Misako Gym in Kansai.
Despite signing with the Misako gym in 2020 Hosaka remained out of the ring, training in Japan and developing his skills back at home. Thankfully however the wait to see him boxing in Japan is almost over, and on April 8th he'll face Kanta Fukui (7-3-1, 5) in a good, solid looking, 8 round test. A win there will begin the next chapter in Hosaka's career, the journey to his first title.
In the ring Hosaka looks like a relaxed boxer-puncher. He's a southpaw with a lovely crispness to his punching, a patient pressure based style, and although there is still work to do, he looks very much a natural in the ring. Albeit a natural who still has some polishing to do.
It's clear, from watching Hosaka, that he has a strong amateur background, but that he is a young man developing a professional style. As a trainee at the Misako gym we suspect his development as a professional fighter will be quick. The gym is one of the best in Japan and he will get high level sparring, high level training and the chance to train alongside some of the best in Japan. Those things will all help him become a better boxer and we suspect those things will all help him move quickly towards titles at either Lightweight or Super Featherweight.
For those who haven't seen Hosaka we've included his 2018 bout with Jason Tinampay below. This was just his second bout, and he has improved since, but it is a good chance to see what he has to offer the sport, and what tools he has in his arsenal.
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.
Back on January 16th we saw the professional debut of Flyweight hopeful Jukiya Iimura (1-0, 1), who instantly impressed us as he blew out Daisuke Yamada in the first round of a scheduled 6 rounder. Following that win we got really excited about him, and only days later it was announced that the 23 year old would be back in the ring in May for his second professional bout. With that in mind we felt it was a perfect time to give Iimura some attention in our “Introducing…” series, and explain why you should be excited about him, and what the youngster brings to the ring.
Iimura was born in Edogawa, Tokyo, one of the 23 special wards of Tokyo, in January 1998. He picked up boxing at a young age, first taking to the sport in elementary school, and was getting some media attention way back as a teenager. That included attention he got in 2015, when he competed at the 69th National High School Boxing Championships in Nishinomiya City, Hyogo. In that competition he reached the semi-final of the Light Flyweight division, losing a decision to Ryutaro Nakagaki who is now making waves as a professional himself.
Following his impressive performances in the High School tournaments Iimura went to university and was quickly noted as a potential boxing star. In 2016 he won his first bout as part of the Nihon University team and in the years that followed he would go on to become the team captain, and a vital member of the team, for both his leadership and his in ring performances.
Not only was Iimura impressive on the University Boxing scene but also in his other performances, including the All Japan championships. He unfortunately ran into nemesis Ryutaro Nakagaki at the 2017 edition of the tournament, losing a close 3-2 decision. He bounced back the following year as he came runner up in the 2018 National Athletic Meet, and continued to impress for the Nihon University team.
After helping Nihon University to a several league titles Iimura had options in front of him, and in 2020 signed with Kadoebi, alongside fellow amateur standouts Jun Ikegawa and Yugo Kon, with all three passing their pro-tests in September, after a lengthy wait.
By the time he had taken part in his pro-test Iimura had racked up a very, very impressive 68-13 amateur record and it was clear that when he got round to making his professional debut there was going to be genuine intrigue into how he would adapt to professional boxing. Sadly, given he signed with Kadoebi in early 2020, the wait to see what Iimura could do was a long one. That was, in part, due to Covid19. Despite the effects of Covid19 delaying Iimura’s debut fans were able to see what Iimura could do in October, when he took part in an exhibition with the aforementioned Jun Ikegawa During this exhibition both men looked really good, and very exciting talented. Of the two it was Iimura who seemed to have the more polished professional style, pressing forward with educated pressure and showing a polished in ring style. Something very different to the still very amateur like Ikegawa, who was also the much bigger man.
In January we finally got the chance to see what the fuss with Iimura was about, as the youngster came out to the ring in a Sombrero and almost a year after signing with Kadoebi we got Iimura’s debut.
From the very early seconds of the bout you could see he was very much a professional style fighter. He stalked Daisuke Yamada around the ring, before dropping him with a perfectly timed right hand for the first knockdown. Yamada beat the count but Iimura dropped him a second time soon afterwards, forcing the referee to halt the bout, before Yamada was later stretchered from the ring.
Although it’s very, very early in his career it’s obvious that Iimura is a genuine talent. It’s going to be great to see how far he can go and how quickly he can get there. Given he’s at the Kadoebi gym he will be getting top notch sparring, a chance to learn from much older and more experienced heads and will get the chance to tweak his style, though in fairness he really does look like a very good professional boxer.
In his second professional bout Iimura will be facing off with Tomoki Kawasaki, himself a debutant who had a successful amateur career, with their bout set to take place in May. Although it’s a 1-0 (1) fighter taking on a debutant it’s a bout we are really, really looking forward to and think it’ll be a great chance to see what two, talented, youngsters have got to offer the sport. The winner will be moved quickly through the ranks, and the loser will have a lot of time to rebuild and get their career back on track. In a bout like this, neither guy should be written, win or lose.
For those that missed it we’ve included Iimura’s debut bout with Yamada below.
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