What an interesting week we've had! We've not necessarily had any Fight of the Year contenders but we've had some thrilling match ups, great fights and brilliant performances in what has been a genuinely great week for Asian boxing.
Fighter of the Week
Murodjon Akhmadaliev (8-0, 6)
Winning a world title is a great achievement, but winning 2, in just your 8th bout is a sensational achievement, and that's exactly what Uzbek sensation Murodjon Akhmadaliev did this past week. The excellent Uzbek showed he could punch, he could box and that he could go 12 in a performance that has really shaken up the Super Bantamweight division. There is no one else who has come close to doing what "MJ" did this week, and he is the only person deserving of the Fighter of the Week honours.
Performance of the Week
Murodjon Akhmadaliev (8-0, 6)
Whilst the 12th round from Murodjon Akhmadaliev was poor everything else was fantastic, especially for a man in just his 8th fight. He controlled the ring, and out boxed Daniel Roman for stretches of the fight whilst answering a lot of question. It wasn't a punch perfect performance from the Uzbek, but for a man in just his 8th fight this was, by far, the most impressive performance of the week. Excellent stuff from "MJ".
Pedro Taduran vs Daniel Valladares
Whilst we absolutely loved the Murodjon Akhmadaliev Vs Daniel Roman fight, which was arguably the most consistent fight, the most action packed was the IBF Minimumweight title bout between Pedro Taduran vs Daniel Valladares. This was all action, dramatic and thrilling with the two men unloading huge bombs on each other early and often. The only real shame, and the only reason this will not be in the running for fight of the year consideration is the inconclusive and disappointing ending, resulting in a 4th round technical draw. Despite the result, this a must watch war.
Shun Akaiwa vs Kenta Endo (Round 2)
There were some great rounds this past week, but for sheer drama and excitement few rival the second round of the Shun Akaiwa vs Kenta Endo bout. The round wasn't all action from the bell, but instead it grew and grew through the fight before 30 seconds of chaos at the end. This was one of those almost perfect stand alone rounds that tells a complete story, and swings one way then the other. With a touch of controversy and real excitement. This is one every fan should give a watch to.
There was no valid KO this week
Rustam Tulaganov (3-0, 1)
Nobody would suggest that Rustam Tulaganov is the most exciting fighter out there, in fact in many ways he's quite boring and a touch methodical. But it's hard to deny that he's an excellent talent, a well schooled boxer and the prospect who impressed the most this past week. The Uzbek took a huge step up in class, as he took on Polish southpaw Norbert Dabrowski and easily out boxed his more experienced foe.
Gary Allen Russell Jr (30-1, 18) vs Tugstsogt Nyambayar (11-0, 9)
This coming week is an eerily quiet one, with very, very little happening. Then again one of the bouts we do have is something we're really, really excited about. That is the WBC Featherweigth title bout between defending Gary Allen Russell Jr and Mongolian challenger Tugstsogt Nyambayar. This is a fight we are really looking forward, despite the fact both have been out of the ring for a lengthy amount of time we expect this to be an excellent bout between two top 10 Featherweights with different, but effective, styles. We expect this to be an excellent bout!
It feels like January has been an incredibly bitty month for fight fans, with stretches without bouts, and a real lack of consistency through the month. We've had some notable bouts, of course we have, but for the most part it's concentrated on only a few days and hasn't been spread through much of the month. Thankfully that is set to change in February when we have a lot more to look forward to.
Nuevo León, Mexico
Pedro Taduran (14-2, 11) Vs Daniel Valladares (22-1, 13)
The most significant bout at the start of February sees IBF Minmumweight champion Pedro Taduran travel off to Mexico to defend his title, for the first time. The exciting champion, who won the belt in September when he stopped Samuel Salva in a short but thrilling bout, will be up against talented Mexican Daniel Valladares in what should be a really good bout. Taduran isn't the most polished, but sets a high work rate and lets power shots go, as if the judges are people he doesn't want to see. Valladares is more polished but will be moving down in weight for this bout. Expect this to be a genuinely brilliant fight!
Tokyo, Japan [G+ - Live]
Yuki Nagano (17-2, 13) Vs Keita Obara (22-4-1, 20)
The 2020 Champion Carnival kicks off with a brilliant looking Japanese Welterweight title fight, pitting in form champion Yuki Nagano against mandatory challenger Keita Obara. A win here for Nagano will push him on to the fringes of the world rankings, though he'll be a clear under-dog against the hard hitting Obara. For Obara a win here would see him becoming a 2-weight Japanese national champion and claim his third win since losing in a world title eliminator last March, as he looks to build some career momentum.
Ryusei Ishii (8-5-1, 5) Vs Yamato Hata (9-1, 9)
In a JBC Youth Super Featherweight title fight fight the limited Ryusei Ishii takes on the heavy handed Yamato Hata, with both men looking to move their career forward and claim their biggest win to date. Hata will be the favourite but Ishii has competed at a higher level and is no push over.
Kenshi Noda (1-0, 1) Vs Thomas Tope Hurek (2-4-1, 1)
Former amateur standout Kenshi Noda looks to continue his professional journey as he takes on Indonesian foe Tomas Tope Hurek. This should be little more than a showcase for the talented Noda.
Hiroto Yashiro (1-0, 1) Vs Abdul Rauf (1-2)
Another prospect in action here is Hiroto Yashiro, who is also expected to pick up a very easy win as he takes on Indonesia's Abdul Rauf. Given this is early in his career we can't complain too much about an easy fight for Yashiro, but don't be surprised if this one is over quickly.
Jasurbek Latipov (0-0) Vs TBA
Talented former amateur stand out Jasurbek Latipov makes his professional debut at the start of February. At the moment we've not been informed who Latipov will be facing, but the bout is being described as a chance for the excellent Uzbek to try and catch the eye of promoters, and we suspect he is going to look sensational here. He is certainly one to watch and this debut is one that should be of interest to fans who want to get in on the ground level for someone who will be looking to get fast tracked.
Rustam Tulaganov (2-0, 1) v Norbert Dabrowski (23-8-2, 10)
Touted Uzbek fighter Rustam Tulaganov takes a huge step up in class as he takes on Norbert Dabrowski. The talented Tulaganov was tipped for big things when he debuted in 2017 but hasn't been active enough to get to where he should be now. Thankfully he, and his team, are willing to take risks and a win here will help him make up for lost time.
Pennsylvania, USA [Showtime - Live]
Gary Russell Jr (30-1, 18) Vs Tugstsogt Nyambayar (11-0, 9) -
In a bout we're really looking forward too we'll see WBC Featherweight champion Gary Russell Jr defending his belt against mandatory challenger Tugstogt Nyambayar. This is a mouth watering bout and a great chance to see whether or not the unbeaten Mongolian is for real. The American champion, who has gained a reputation for not liking the sport, and not by anywhere active enough, is talented but incredibly frustrating and has wasted his prime years. Nyambayar on the other hand is getting his shot at the big time, at last, and will know a win here will be huge for his career. In fact a win here for Nyambayar will see him becoming only the second Mongolian world champion. A really important and significant bout.
Kento Hatanaka (10-0, 9) Vs Roland Jay Biendima (15-5-1, 8) -
In Kariya we'll see WBC Youth Flyweight champion Kento Hatanaka make his next defense of the title as he takes on Filipino foe Roland Jay Biendima. On paper this looks like a mismatch but in reality this should be another great test for Hatanaka, who struggled last time out against Jaysever Abcede. Although talented and exciting Hatanaka does need time to mature and develop and this type of bout is perfect for that. Biendima isn't a world beater but should serve as an excellent test for Hatanaka at this point in time.
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