So that was January 2020 and the first month of a new decade was interesting without really being sensational. We certainly had plenty of noteworthy action, though compared to December was a significant downturn, and a much less interesting month. Then again that is pretty normal for a January.
With that said lets have a look at what we deem the best of January!
Fighter of the Month
Murodjon Akhmadaliev (8-0, 6)
The fighter of the month was a pretty obvious pick, with Uzbek Super Bantamweight Murodjon Akhmadaliev being the clear, and standout, winner. The talented former amateur standout ended the month was a fantastic, albeit very competitive, win over Daniel Roman. The win, which netted Akmadaliev the IBF and WBA "Super" titles, was huge and it's hard to deny that "MJ" has kicked off the year in a huge way! If he can build on this win through the year he really could be one of the names for 2020, much like Can Xu was in 2019.
Fight of the Month
Han Bin Suh Vs Dong Myung Shin
There was some good fights this past month, but nothing that will be in the conversation for Fight of the Year. Despite that it's hard to pick fault with the compelling 10 round Korean Super Bantamweight title bout between Han Bin Suh and Dong Myung Shin. This was compelling through out, with Suh refusing to ever accept defeat, and instead he kept ploughing forward hoping to break down the much more polished Dong Myung Shin. This was brilliant and a real hidden gem part way through the month. It wasn't the most high skilled bout of the month, or the most exciting, but it blended the action, activity and skills well.
KO of the Month
Shohjahon Ergashev KO1 Adrian Estrella
It was a weird month for KO's with very few of them really standing out, though it may take a while for us to see a better one than Shohjahon Ergashev's body shot KO against Adrian Estrella. This was naturally beautiful and left the Mexican in pure agony on the canvas, It's rare for body shots KO's to be this good, and it's another KO for an Ergashev KO reel. A truly sensational shot, that is going to be worth watching and over through the year.
Tuguldur Byambatsogt (2-0)
January had a lot of stellar performances from prospects from all over the place, with emerging fighters from Uzbekistan, Korea, Japan and China all impressing. It was however a Mongolian that shined the brightest, with Tuguldur Byambatsogt really showing what he could do with a clear and impressive win against Vladimir Baez. This young man from Mongolia is a potential star of the future, and no one impressed quite as much as he did. For a fighter in just his second professional bout Byambatsogt has put down a marker of intent and hopefully he and his team will continue to aim high through the rest of 2020.
Esneiker Correa TKO7 Ravshanbek Umurzakov
We didn't have too many upsets of any note this past months, but the one that did raise have the most shock value came in Russian when 21 year old Venezuelan Esneiker Correa stopped previously unbeaten Uzbek hopeful Ravshanbek Umurzakov in 7 rounds. We'd expected the highly regarded Uzbek to pick up his 11th straight win against someone who was fighting outside of Latin America for the first. Instead Correra broke down and beat up Umurzakov to claim a massive victory in the 7th round. This wasn't just a big upset for Umurzakov but the type of win that allowed him to announce himself as one to watch. And seriously we would advise keeping an eye on this young puncher, he is someone to get excited about.
Takuma Takahashi vs Leonardo Doronio (Round 3)
There were some amazing rounds, truly amazing rounds. For us the the third round between Takuma Takahashi and Leonardo Doronio takes the honours, just. This was drama, controversy, and action all rolled into one. Takahashi twice dropped Doronio, could have had points taken both times for hitting his downed opponent, and was cut in a round that was absolutely sensation. This was almost 3 minutes of chaos in which both men were hurt. Well and truly worth a watch below!
This past week has been an interesting one with a lot of action at the end of it, some explosive action in the US and some real exciting and notable moments in both Japan and South Korea. With that said, lets take a look at this weeks award winners!
Fighter of the Week
Kazuto Takesako (12-0-1, 11)
Japanese Middleweight champion Kazuto Takesako scored the biggest win of his career as he defeated Shinobu Charlie Hosokawa, unifying the Japanese and OPBF titles in the first OPBF title fight of the year. This was expected to be a total war but in the end Takesako was in control through out. Early on it was the body shots and combinations of Takesako that set the tone for the bout, before the contest descended into a bit of a mess. In the a very good win for Takesako even if the performance wasn't the most spectacular and the bout not that memorable.
Performance of the Week
Dong Myung Shin (3-0)
With only 12 rounds to his name as a professional prior to yesterday we were expecting to see former amateur standout Dong Myung Shin being worn down and and eventually drowned by all action teenager Han Bin Suh. Instead it was Shin who handled the 10 rounder incredibly well, fighting hard to take a decision, and the KBM Super Bantamweight title. Shin proved he could fight, he could box and despite his record it does appears that he has a bit of pop as well, hurting Suh several times. At 31 Shin will likely be fast tracked this year, so do not be surprised to see him fighting for a regional title in the very near future.
Han Bin Suh Vs Dong Myung Shin
We love Korean action and it was Korea that shone this week with a very good show that went under-the-radar. The show was stacked with title action and it the KBM Super Bantamweight title bout that delivered. Teenager Han Bin Suh showed the all action, come forward mentality that caught our eye big time last year, whilst former amateur standout Dong Myung Shin showed off his polished boxing skills in what ended up being a truly fantastic 10 round battle. This is one to hunt down when SPOTV or KBM upload it, and whilst not a FOTY contender it was a brilliant low level bout.
Takuma Takahashi vs Leonardo Doronio (Round 3)
One bout we didn't expect to be mentioning in our weekly awards was the 6 round bout between fast rising Japanese prospect Takuma Takahasi and Filipino journeyman Leonardo Doronio. It was however the hidden gem of the weekend, with 4 knockdowns, and some wild exchanges. The third round of the bout had everything. It hard a couple of knockdowns, some truly crazy 2-way action, drama, controversy and intensity. This was a round that deserves to be watched, rewatched, and watched again. The controversy, left by the referee Biney Martin not taking a a point from Takahashi for hitting Doronio when he was down leave a shadow over the round in some ways, but added to the drama of it in others. This is a round that we've included below and suggest every fan watches this week!
Shohjahon Ergashev KO1 Adrian Estrella
Uzbek fighter Shohjahon Ergashev got the chance to show case what he could do on Friday night, as he took on Mexican fighter Adrian Estrella as part of a Shobox telecast. He really took his chance to showcase his power, taking out Estrella with a truly brutal body shot that will be replayed over and over during 2020. The sharp left hand, that sneaked in past the elbow of Estrella, left the Mexican in agony and really caught the eye. As fans of brutal body shot KO's this was spectacular.
Min Jang (10-0-2, 2)
We weren't mega blown away by 19 year old Korean Min Jang, though that was more due to the fact he didn't to blow us away. The talented southpaw showed glimpses of brilliance against the over-matched Junhui Zhao, but never needed to move through the gears. Jang looks like a confident, talented boxer-mover and someone we are very excited to see progress over the coming years. Fingers crossed we see what he can really do next time out, hopefully against a better opponent than Zhao.
Batyrzhan Jukembayev (17-0-0-1, 13) Vs Maximiliano Ricardo Veron (12-3-1, 4)
After a blitz of action this past week things really drop off over the coming week, with only a very small number of fights taking place. As a result we were almost forced into a selection by default. Despite that we do still have an interesting one as unbeaten Kazakh contender Batyrzhan Jukembayev takes on upset minded Argentinian Maximiliano Ricardo Veron. With Jukembayev moving towards a world title fight this is a bit of a must win for the Kazakh and we suspect this will turn out to be a decent test for him, but a test he should pass. Expect a few tricky moments for Jukembayev, but overall a comfortable, yet exciting, win for the Kazakh hopeful.
As we head towards the new year we've had a big look at the current scene and come up with "20 fights we'd like to see in 2020", yeah another series ahead of the new decade!
As is always the case with what we do, these articles will have an Asian flavour, and every bout we mention in the series will have at least 1 fighter from Asia involved. So for those of you expecting us to talk about Deontay Wilder Vs Anthony Joshua, that won't be listed.
What we'll be looking at is well matched contests with either some form of back story, a great stylistic clash or bouts with some form of significant meaning. If they tick all the boxes then that is even better! Each fight will be given it's own article and each of these will come with an introduction to the fighters, and why the bout is being featured in the list.
Shohjahon Ergashev (17-0, 15) vs Zhankosh Turarov (24-0, 17)
All Central Asian bouts don't seem to be a common thing, sadly, but on paper they could make for some really interesting fights, as they often do in the amateurs. In the unpaid ranks Uzbekistan Vs Kazakhstan is a regular sight, often in medal bouts, and the winners often walk away with not only a medal but also a huge glowing boost of national pride. We'd love to see a lot more of those types of bouts in the professional ranks, and today's fight is one such example!
Heavy handed Uzbek southpaw Shohjahon Ergashev is certainly not a fighter many would rave out in terms of skills, but in terms of aggression, power and excitement he is brilliant value. We've seen him struggle against boxers, but anyone who stays and has a fight with him can quickly find themselves in trouble. In 2020 we want to see him tested, and we want to see him in interesting bouts. We know that Salita promotions has some interesting plans for him, but we dare saw we have the perfect bout for him here against another unbeaten Central Asian fighter with ambitions of their own.
Unbeaten Kazakh Zhankosh Turarov was once on the verge of a world title fight before his career got derailed by recurring injuries. He returned to action in 2019 and took two rather meaningless wins to get some moment going in his career, whilst beginning a run at Lught Welterweight. At 29 years old, and with his history of injuries, he really can't continue wasting time. Intead he needs a bout that can help shoot him towards a world title bout, and a win over Ergashev would do that. In fact we believe a bout against Ergashev would get the best out of Turarov, and vice verse with Ergashev needing to up performance to have a chance with the talented Kazakh.
In terms of selling this bout in the West, it wouldn't be impossible, but it may be easier to actually sell it in Asia it's self, with MTK, who handle Turarov, running shows in Kazakhstan. If they can get one of the world title bodies to accept the fight as a world title eliminator it would give both teams a reason to say yes, it would give the fighters a fight with meaning and a hot crowd.
The action may not be the tidiest, with Ergashev fights often being messy if he can't blast his opponents out in a round or two, but the between the moments of messiness we would expect a hotly contested fight that could end at any moment. This would be a gut check for both, it was be a test for both and it would be exactly what both men need ahead of a bigger fight for a world title.
So the new year is here! And although we've not got a lot happening in January, we do have more than we expected, with title bouts, eliminators, tournament finals and a little of everything!
Pyeongtaek, South Korea
Yoo Seung Jun (6-1) vs Seung Hee Lee (4-6, 1)
One of two KBM eliminators at 154lbs will see the once beaten Yoo Seung Jun take on Seung Hee Lee. Our understanding is that the winner here will fight for the vacant title later in the year against the winner of the other eliminator.
Sung Min Yuh (3-0) Vs Se Yul Yang (3-4-2, 1)
Talking about that other eliminator, that will see Sung Min Yuh take in Se Yul Yang. Notable if Yuh and Jun win their bouts it would be a rematch of the "Battle Royale" final from last November, and would have an interesting sub-plot of revenge or repeat, as well as being for the KBM title.
Da Won Gang (3-0, 1) Vs Jin Soo Kim (6-7-1, 3)
Another KBM eliminator will be at 140lbs where the touted Da Won Gang takes on Jin Soo Kim. The talented Gang is regarded by those in Korea as one of the countries best talents in recent years, and like Sung Min Yuh he won the "Battle Royale" last year. A win here sets him for a big 2020.
New Jersey, USA
Jaron Ennis (24-0, 22) vs Bakhtiyar Eyubov (14-1-1-1, 12)
The limited but heavy handed Bakhtiyar Eyubov, from Kazakhstan, is up against it here as he takes on touted American Jaron "Boots" Ennis in what looks likely to be a show case for the talented local hopeful.
Vladimir Baez (26-5-2, 24) vs Tuguldur Byambatsogt (1-0)
In a Knock Out Dynamite Final we'll see Japanese based Dominican slugger Vladimir Baez battle against Mongolian professional novice Tuguldur Byambatsogt. On paper a mismatch, but in reality this could be a big break out for Byambatsogt, who impressed us in his semi-final bout.
Ribo Takahata (16-8-1, 6) vs Marvin Esquierdo (15-2-1, 9)
Another final at the Knock Out Dynamite Tournament will see Japanese veteran Ribo Takahata take on Filipino foe Marvin Esquierdo. Notably Esquierdo fought in the first ever Knock Out Dynamite Tournament bout, and netted the highest bonus with an opening round win, will he look for the same here?
Shohjahon Ergashev (17-0, 15) vs Adrian Estrella (29-4, 24)
Touted Uzbek puncher Shohjahon Ergashev looks to kick in the new year as he takes on once touted Mexican Adrian Estrella. Neither of these are the most polished of fighters, but both are heavy handed and we expect this one to be short, but very explosive!
Shinobu Charlie Hosokawa (12-4-1, 11) vs Kazuto Takesako (11-0-1, 11)
OPBF Middleweight champion Shinobu Charlie Hosokawa defends his belt against hard hitting Japanese national champion Kazuto Takesako. This is not expected to hear the final bell, with both men being heavy handed fighters, and will be one of the highlights of the month!
Takeshi Inoue (15-1-1, 9) vs Cheng Su (14-2-1, 8)
Former world title challenger Takeshi Inoue will be looking to defend his WBO Asia Pacific Light Middleweight title against Chinese challenger Cheng Su. Inoue, who is enjoying his second reign as the WBO Asia Pacific champion, will be looking to get a second world title shot in the near future, but needs to get past Su to keep that dream alive.
Kenia Enriquez (22-1, 9) vs Chaoz Minowa (6-2, 5)
Talking about world title fights WBC "interim" female Light Flyweight champion Kenia Enriquez will be defending her title at home in Mexico against Japanese challenger Chaoz Minowa. For Minowa this is a third crack at world level, and a loss here will likely end her hopes of ever becoming a world champion.
In 2019 one of our favourite weekly series was the "introducing" feature, which saw us look at a fighter every week. These tended to be focused on prospects, though the original idea wasn't supposed to be prospects, just a fighter of some interesting. This year we are focusing the "introducing" series on prospects, but to go alongside them are doing a new weekly series looking at fighters who are between prospects and world champions. "Who are you?" This is a chance to shine a limelight on a fight fighters who don't get much attention, but deserve some. This is where we look at fighters like contenders, national champions or regional champions, who deserve a chance to be more well known by an international fan base.
Our first fighter to be featured in this new series is Uzbek Light Welterweight Shohjahon Ergashev (17-0, 15), an exciting, yet very flawed, fighter who promises fire works every time he steps in the ring. The 28 year old is unlikely to ever become a dominant force as a top level fighter, but we'd be surprised if he didn't fight for a world title down the line, and potentially win a belt.
Ergashev, like many notable Uzbek fighters, first made his name in the amateur ranks. He notched a reported 202-14 record in the unpaid ranks, and whilst those numbers are questionable what can't be denied is the fact that he fought a lot in the unpaid ranks, with numerous appearances at the Sidney Jackson Memorial tournament, named after the American trainer who essentially founded organised sport in Uzbekistan.
It was at one of the Sidney Jackson Memorial tournaments that Ergashev scored a very notable win over fellow Uzbek Shakhram Giyasov, who would later win an Olympic gold medal in 2016.
In December 2015 Ergashev made his debut, doing so on a relatively small club show in Russia. It was there that he took out Arzu Aliev inside a round. Ergashev would then build momentum with 8 more blow out wins in Russia before making a low key US debut in 2017. That US debut saw him stopping Marquis Hawthorne in 2 rounds to move to 10-0 before finally landing a bout that helped him announce himself to a wider audience.
In January 2018 the then 10-0 (10) Ergashev took on a then 18-0 (12) Sonny Fredrickson. The bout was supposed to be a win for Fredrickson but instead it turned into a showcase for Ergashev, who out boxed, out fought, out though and and outshone Fredrickson, who was stopped in round 3. It was an almost perfect performance for the Uzbek who caught the eye of everyone tuning in to the show.
Sadly Ergashev failed to really shine in his next bout, and his stoppage run came to an end with a 10 round decision win over Zhimin Wang. Whilst the bout answered some questions about Ergashev, such as whether or not he could do 10 rounds, and what happened when he couldn't blow opponents out, sadly though it took the glass off the excitement we had seen in his win over Fredrickson.
Thankfully Ergashev would get back to destroying over-matched opponents soon afterwards, beating Juma Waswa, Zack Ramsey and Nazareno Gaston Ruiz all before the year was over, with Ruiz lasting just 18 seconds.
Following 3 quick wins Ergashev then took another step up, taking on the 19-0 Mykal Fox. On paper this looked like a great match up, but unfortunately it ended up being an absolute stinker of a fight between two men who's styles didn't gel at all. Fox tried to keep Ergashev at range, using his size, and Ergahsev looked completely limited in tried to cut the distance and fire off his powerful left hands. As a result this ended up a total mess of a fight. Despite the ugly nature of the bout Ergsahev did enough to take the decision, but lost a lot of the momentum and fanfare that he had had going in.
Thankfully the Fox bout was an easy one to forget and 6 months later Ergashev had got back to stopping fighters, taking out Abdiel Ramirez in 4 rounds, in August 2019.
Now lined up to fight Adrian Estrella on January 17th a win there is likely to move Ergashev towards a world title fight later in the year.
In the ring Ergashev is a heavy handed southpaw slugger. He's aggressive, he's exciting, he's very handed handed. But he's also very predictable, very straight forward, and if a fight can either neutralise, or take, his over hand left he looks like he's got nothing else in his arsenal. He's very much a one-trick pony. Thankfully for him, that 1 trick is a solid one, but he needs to add a lot more if he's to reach the top of the sport. Adding a jab, learning to double it, and varying the way he uses his left would be a great start.
Win or lose Ergashev is going to be fun to watch, but there is no denying that he is very, very flawed.
To answer who he is, Ergashev is a crude but heavy handed Uzbek southpaw contender.
The start of August was like a house on fire, with title bouts things taking place in 3 successive days, and 7 title bouts in 8 days. Thankfully things slow down in the middle of the month, at least a small bit, with fewer notable title bouts, but still a lot of action, cramped into not a lot of time. Also, unlike the start of the month, we really see the action spread all over the place.
Jung Kyoung Lee (7-2-1, 3) vs Akinori Watanabe (37-7-1, 31) - Seoul, South Korea
The first big bout from this section of the month will see OPBF Light Middleweight champion Jung Kyoung Lee make his first defense of the title, as he battles Japanese veteran Akinori Watanabe. Lee won the title earlier this year, stopping Samuel Colomban, and hastily arranged his first defense, before an injury pushed it back. Now rescheduled the bout is a big test for the champion, and a chance to find out what exactly the challenger has left in the tank. A great match up and a rare chance to get excited about what's happening in a Korean ring.
Aidos Yerbossynuly (11-0, 8) vs Rocky Jerkic (17-1, 13) - New South Wales, Australia
In Australia we get two bouts featuring unbeaten Kazakh hopefuls. One of those is unified minor title holder Aidos Yerbossynuly defending his belts against once beaten Australian Rocky Jerkic. The 27 year old Yerbossybuly has proven to be a decent fighter, but this is a clear step up in class a proper chance to see what he's like against some one else with with hunger and ambition. Jerkic on the other hand is 31, can ill afford another loss, after a 2017 defeat to Anthony Buttigieg, and will be seeing this as a big chance to claim a WBA minor title. This could be one of the hidden gems of the month
Nursultan Zhangabayev (7-0, 5) Vs Steve Gago (11-0, 4) - New South Wales, Australia
The other Kazakh in Australia is 26 year old Nursultan Zhangabayev, who will be up against fellow unbeaten Steve Gago. The talented Zhangabayev was given a real test last year by Arnel Tinampay, one of the sports most under-rated fighters, and has since gone on to drop to Welterweight, where he stopped Ivan Matute to claim a minor title at Welterweight. Gago on the other hand is a 30 year old who has padded his record against limited Thai's and may well be unprepared for the talented, if unheralded, Kazakh. It is worth noting Gago did notch his best win last time out, defeating Adam Diu Abdulhamid, but this is a big step up from that bout.
Jing Xiang (16-4-2, 3) v Jomar Caindog (10-1-1, 4) - Shenzhen, China
Highly skilled Chinese prospect Jing Xiang drops in weight as he looks to make his mark at Minimumweight, rather than in the stacked Light Flyweight division. The talented Xiang is one of China's brightest hopefuls but he's going to be pushed hard here by Filipino Jomar Caindog, who's only loss so far was to upcoming world title challenger Samuel Salva more than 3 years ago. The winner of this will become the WBO International Minimumweight champion and will likely find their self on the edge a shot at the WBO world title. Caindog doesn't have much on his record, but won't be travelling to los, whilst Xiang is one of the sports most well hidden talents.
Xiang Li (4-0, 3) v Do Jin Lee (6-2, 3) - Shenzhen, China
Unbeaten Chinese hopeful Xiang Li will be looking to build on January's win over Arvin Yurong as he takes on Korean foe Do Jin Lee, in a bout for a couple of minor titles. Li looks a bit rough around the edges, but can certainly punch and there is a lot to like about him. Despite the talent Li he does need to be much more active than he has been, and start to rack up some momentum, after a very stop-start opening to his career. Lee on the other hand is an 18 year old Korean with patchy form to say the least, going 1-2-2 in his last 5, but got a taste of international experience last time out, losing a decision in June to Mirai Naito, and may feel more confident for this road bout than he was for that one.
Jeo Santisima (17-2, 14) v Alvius Maufani (6-3-2, 3) - Leyte, Philippines
The year has been a really disappointing one for ALA Promotions and their top fighters have had much of their momentum stopped in 2019. Now we see some of those fighters trying to get back on track with the hard hitting Jeo Santisima being one of them. The 23 year old banger, who was last seen scoring a win over the incredibly tough Victor Uriel Lopez, is having little more than a tick over bout here as he takes on limited Indonesianm Alvius Maufani. Santisima is a great prospect, who could have been on the verge of a world title fight with some more activity, Maufani on the other hand is very limited and has failed to take a win in any of his last 3, and was actually stopped last time out. We don't see this one going the distance.
Albert Pagara (31-1, 22) Vs Lucky Tor Buamas (12-3, 12) - Leyte, Philippines
Another ALA prospect looking to put a frustrating year behind him is Albert Pagara, who takes on hard hitting Thai foe Lucky Tor Buamas. The touted Pagara is looking for his 6th win since a loss to Cesar Juarez in 2016, though his career really has slowed down and it's a real shame that he appears to be both inactive, and taking a massive step backwards here. Whilst Pagara has been disappointingly inactive Lucky will be fighting for the first time in over a year, and has lost his last 2, and 3 of his last 8. Not only has Lucky been shown up recently in terms of his defeats but he has been stopped, and has typically been fighting at Super Flyweight. Pagara should be too good, too strong, too big and too powerful for the limited Thai.
Apichet Petchmanee (4-0, 2) Vs Chonlatarn Piriyapinyo (61-4, 41) II - Bang Phun, Thailand
In Thailand we see fighters go again as talented prospect Apichet Petchmanee takes on former world title challenger Chonlatarn Piriyapinyo. These two fought earlier in the year and despite picking up the win Apichet really failed to shine, with a good argument that he didn't do enough to win. Whilst it was a big step up in class for the unbeaten man he was expected to have the skills, youth, size and amateur pedigree to over-come the much older and naturally smaller Chonlatorn without any problems. Instead it was the experience and ring craft of Chonlatarn that proved to be the biggest factor and we'll see whether or not Apichet will have learned from that first bout.
Jayr Raquinel (10-1-1, 7) v Takuya Kogawa (30-5-1, 13) - Tokyo, Japan
Once beaten Filipino fighter Jayr Raquinel looks to make his second defense of the OPBF Flyweight title as he takes on former world title challenger Takuya Kogawa. The 22 year old champion has been out of the ring since losing to Wulan Tuolehazi last September, and that sort of inactivity could be a major issue here, though he is an excellent young fighter who will be hoping to show what he can really do. As for Kogawa the Japanese veteran is 34 and will know that this could be his final title fight. With almost 250, hard, rounds under his belt he is a stalwart of the Japanese scene, who has taken a lot of punishment in a very memorable career.
Ryota Yamauchi (4-1, 4) vs Alphoe Dagayloan (13-2-5, 5) - Tokyo, Japan
We love seeing talented youngsters face off in their careers, taking risks early and not sitting pretty whilst running up big unbeaten records. With that in mind we have to admit we really love the look of this match up between rising Japanese hopeful Ryota Yamauchi and the under-rated Alphoe Dagayloan of the Philippines. For Yamauchi the bout is a chance to bounce back from his close and controversial loss to Wulan Tuolehazi, the man who also beat Jayr Raquinel. For Dagayaloan on the other hand it's a chance to get another notable win on his record, following solid wins over the likes of Esneth Domingo, Madiyar Zhanuzak and Rongguo Wu. The winner of this will almost certainly find themselves in the regional title mix sooner rather than later, and the loser will have a lot of time to rebuild. A fantastic match up, and one that could outshine the main event.
Mikio Sakai (0-0) v Elfelos Vega (7-6, 5) - Tokyo, Japan
Former Japanese amateur standout Mikio Sakai makes his debut, and does so against the dangerous Elfelos Vega in a very tough looking debut bout. Sakai is very highly regarded following a genuine solid amateur career on the Japanese national scene, and given how many top "bigger" fighters train at the Kedoebi gym it's clear Sakai will get great sparring. Vega, whilst not the most talented, can bang and is tough so this should be a great test of Sakai and what he has to offer. If Sakai looks good we wouldn't be surprised for Kadoebi to have him in with some sort of ranked fighter by the end of 2020. For Vega a win would kick start his career, but he will enter as the clear under-dog.
Ryo Nakai (0-0) v Jay Lloyd Quidlat (4-0-1, 2) - Tokyo, Japan
Another former Japanese amateur standout making his debut is Ryo Nakai, who could well end up the better of the two debutants. He will be up against unbeaten Filipino foe Jay Lloyd Quidlat, in a very good looking test. Although naturally much smaller than Sakai we have heard that Nakai has the more long term potential, given he's younger and was more accomplished in the unpaid ranks. Quidlat has been a professional for a little over a year but this is a very clear step up in class from the low level Filipino foes than he's been facing off with so far.
Shohjahon Ergashev (16-0, 14) v Abdiel Ramirez (24-4-1, 22) - Oklahoma, USA
One of Uzbekistan's top hopefuls, Shohjahon Ergashev, will be up against Mexican puncher Abidel Ramirez in what looks like a really good fight. Ergashev looked poor when he defeated Mykal Fox earlier in the year, despite winning he looked predictable, open and very technically poor, here however he should be up against someone less awkward and more willing to fight. Ramirez is no world beater, but is someone who believes in his power, and that should make for an entering, if short lived, war between two men looking to take each other out early. We'd suggest you don't blink if you're watching this one!
The middle section of February is pretty interesting , with a number of notable regional level bouts.
Ben Mananquil (16-1-3, 4) Vs Tenta Kiyose (15-2-1, 7) - Hyogo, Japan
Filipino fighter Ben Mananquil travels to Japan to take Tenta Kiyose in what appears to be a really well matched bout for the vacant WBO Asia Pacific Bantamweight title. Mananquil has been unlucky in a number of his bouts, though was fortunate to get a draw against Hinata Maruta. Kiyose on the other hand hasn't fought at the same level as Mananquil, but did score a very notable win over Oleydong Sithsamerchai last July and will be looking to build on that win here. This looks like a very interesting match up an should be very, very competitive.
Hiroki Okada (19-0, 13) Vs Raymundo Beltran (35-8-1-1, 21)- California, USA
Japan's Hiroki Okada takes part in his second US bout, as he battles former world champion Raymundo Beltran, in what looks to be an unofficial world title eliminator for the WBC Light Welterweight title. Okada failed to shine in his US debut, last year, but is a talented boxer-puncher and is certainly better than he looked last time out. Beltran, at his best, was handful for anyone other than the elite, and would have been strongly favoured against Okada, but he has looked to be on the slide in recent bouts, making this a very interesting match up, and something close to a 50-50 fight.
Genesis Servania (32-1, 15) vs Carlos Castro (21-0, 9)- Califnornia, USA
Former world title challenger Genesis Servania, from the Philippines, will be looking to take a huge step towards his second world title fight as he takes on the unbeaten Carlos Castro. Castro is taking a massive step up in class, and will be regarded as the under-dog, but Servania knows he needs to shine, not just win, if he's to open up the doors he needs to get a second title shot. Servania is best known in the US for his fantastic bout with Oscar Valdez and fans will be aware of how good he is, however Castro is an unknown, and could see this as his huge chance to make a name for himself, in what could be a very interesting match up.
Edward Heno (13-0-5, 5) Vs Koji Itagaki (18-13-3, 7)- Hiroshima, Japan
Filipino fighter Edward Heno returns to Japan to make his next defense of the OPBF Light Flyweight title, as he takes on Japanese veteran Koji Itagaki in Hiroshima. The unbeaten Filipino won the title in Japan back in 2017, when he stopped Seita Ogido, and has made 2 impressive defenses since. As for Itagako, he has come up short in Japanese and WBO Asia Pacific title bouts, but this will be his first for an OPBF belt. The Japanese fighter, who is now 35, is in last chance saloon, but has sadly not looked great in recent bouts and has scored just 2 wins in his last 7. All signs point towards another defense for the champion, but can Itagaki put in a career defining performance to save his career?
Hiroaki Teshigawara (18-2-2, 11) Vs Yuki Iriguchi (10-2-1, 4)-Tokyo, Japan
Over the last few year's we've been incredibly impressed by Hiroaki Teshigawara, who will be looking to make his next defense of the OPBF Super Bantamweight title, as he takes on Yuki Irigughi. This is a bout where the champion will be the clear favourite, but the challenger is far from a patsy, and holds a win over recent world title challenger Ryohei Takahashi. Given the styles of both men we're expecting a potential FOTY candidate and both men really do love to let their shots go. Sadly for the challenger he may not have the power needed to make the champion respect him, though he will have the self belief to bring the fight. This really could be the highlight of the week.
Kenichi Horikawa (38-15-1, 12) Vs Satoru Todaka (9-2-4, 3) -Tokyo, Japan
On the same show as the Teshigawara Vs Iriguchi bout is a brilliant bout to crown a new Japanese Light Flyweight champion, as veteran Kenichi Horikawa takes on little known foe Satoru Todaka. Horikawa is a former Japanese and WBO Asia Pacific champion who is an incredibly experienced fighter. At 38 Horikawa is coming towards the end of his career, but he showed there was still life in his legs last year when he stopped the previously mentioned Koji Itagaki. At 29 years old Todaka is the much younger man, but this is a major step up in class for him.
Shohjahon Ergashev (15-0, 14) vs Mykal Fox (19-0, 5)- Kansas, USA
In Kansas we'll see unbeaten men colliding, as highly touted Uzbek puncher Shohjahon Ergashev takes on Mykal Fox in a very interesting looking match up. The Uzbek shined last year, when he went 5-0 (4) putting himself on the map with notable wins over Sonny Fredrickson and Wang Zhimin. Fox, a tall rangy fighter, is stepping up massively here, but a win will boost his chances of a huge fight and he will likely be coming into this bout with the knowledge that this could be his coming out party. It's always good to see prospects colliding, and that's exactly what we have here!
Having already looked at 12 rumoured bouts, it makes sense to cover more bouts that appear to be getting spoke about, before we start to see action picking up in the coming days.
If you missed part 1 and part 2 they are available:
6 bouts rumoured to be in the works for 2019
6 more bouts rumoured to be in the works for 2019 (AKA Part 2!)
Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (47-4-1, 41) vs Jerwin Ancajas (30-1-2, 20)
In part 1 of this mini-series, if you will, we mentioned that IBF Super Flyweight champion Jerwin Ancajas had a mandatory title defense against Ryoichi Funai hanging over his head. In part 2 we mentioned that WBC Super Flyweight Srisaket Sor Rungvisai had his own mandatory looking against Juan Francisco Estrada. Interestingly however both Srisaket and Ancajas have expressed a desire to unify the WBC and IBF titles, and that bout has been rumoured as being something both fighters are targeting for March. It would seem likely that the two world title bodies would allow the champions to unify if, and only if, they can get the bout sorted sooner rather than later. We suspect March has been given to both parties as a sort target with April likely the hard deadline for the bout. If it gets made it will be a very special bout and we've got out fingers tightly crossed that this one does get made sooner rather than later!
Kosei Tanaka (12-0, 7) Vs Ryoichi Taguchi (27-3-2, 12)
WBO Flyweight champion Kosei Tanaka and countryman Ryoichi Taguchi were meant to meet when both were Light Flyweight world champions, but injuries suffered by Tanaka derailed those plans, before he moved up in weight. Now the two are supposedly targeting in a late Spring date for the match up, with Taguchi moving up to chase Tanaka. Of the two Tanaka is the more naturally gifted talent, and the more internationally well known due to his rapid rise to being a 3-weight world champion. Taguchi on the other hand is the naturally bigger fighter, the more experience man and arguably the fighter the fighter who's body will suit Flyweight better. The teams are said to be working on this bout and it's one both fighters want, and one without any TV issues, with the two fighters essentially both fighting on the same network. There really is no reason for this bout not to get made this year!
Moruti Mthalane (37-2, 25) Vs Masayuki Kuroda (30-7-3, 16)
At the end of 2018 we saw Moruti Mthalane make his first defense, of his second reign, of the IBF Flyweight title, stopping Masahiro Sakamoto. Going in to that bout the two men knew he would have a mandatory defense against Japan's Masayuki Kuroda in 2019, with the IBF giving the winner 90 days to make that defense. Mthalane is one of the most over-looked and under-rated fighters out there, and although he has spoke about unification bouts it's unlikely he'll get one without facing his mandatory first, as the IBF do tend to enforce mandatory defenses. Kuroda is best known for losing in a WBA Flyweight world title bout against Juan Carlos Reveco, though has since re-established himself with a number of decent performances on the talent laded Japanese scene. Mthalane would be the favourite, but Kuroda is a live under-dog.
Ryosuke Iwasa (25-3, 16) Vs Cesar Juarez (23-6, 17)
Originally rumoured for December 2018, though now seemingly delayed until 2019, is a world title eliminator between former IBF Super Bantamweight champion Ryosuke Iwasa and exciting Mexican warrior Cesar Juarez. When the bout was first mentioned it appeared Iwasa was still unsure about his future, but in recent weeks he has been training for a comeback to the ring. This is the sort of stylistic match up where we see heavy handed fighters face off, one is a more pure boxer, Iwasa, whilst the other is an aggressive pressure fighter and together it should make for some real fireworks.
Shakhram Giyasov (6-0, 5) Vs Shohjahon Ergashev (15-0, 14)
A lot of the Uzbek fighters seem to be good friends, however in recent weeks we've seen 2016 Olympic Silver medal winner Shakhram Giyasov and fellow unbeaten Light Welterweight puncher Shohjahon Ergashev doing a TV Face-Off and allowing a lot of talk about the two fighting each other. The two are already world ranked, both had huge 2018's, with both climbing into the world rankings and scoring notable wins, and both can bang. It's hard to predict a winner between these two, but it would certainly be a very special bout between two fantastic fighters. Although they are already building hype in the bout there is a chance that the bout will be held off until one, if not both, hold a world title, adding a even more prestige to the contest.
Floyd Mayweather Jr (50-0, 27) Vs Manny Pacquiao (60-7-2, 39) II
Although it's unlikely, at the time of writing, there has been talk of a rematch between Floyd Mayweather Jr and Manny Pacquiao, with the Filipino recently signing with Al Haymon, something that was seen as making the bout even more likely. These two clashed in a massive, yet well over-due, bout in May 2015 and could end up rematching again this year. Both are said to be keen on raising their profiles in Japan, with Mayweather recently featuring on Rizin 14 and having business interests in the country and Pacquiao also stating he wanted to fight in the country, following a deal with a fitness company. They could also fight in the US, where both are major names, even if fans are cynical based on their original contest. This has been rumoured, and we wouldn't be surprised if it's not rumoured every year going forward, even as the men both slide further and further beyond their primes.
In part 1 of “The Uzbeks are Coming” we looked at the fighters who had fought at the 2016 Olympics, where the Uzbek team had really shone. Whilst those fighters are certainly getting a lot of attention they aren't the only Uzbek fighters work making a note of. In fact there are two other Uzbek fighters already in the world rankings, another who is rising through the ranks at an impressive pace and a number of novice prospects who appears to be on the fact track to the top.
If you missed part 1 that's available to read here - The Uzbeks are coming - Part 1 - The pros from Rio!
Kudratillo Abdukakhorov (14-0, 9)
The most proven Uzbek as a professional right now is Kudratillo Abdukakhorov, who's name is also transcribed as Qudratillo Abduqaxorov. At the time of writing he is in the top 10 with the WBA, WBC and IBF at Welterweight and has looked like someone with a lot of confidence and self belief. Not only that but he's been willing to proven himself time and time again.
The "Punisher" was a decent amateur before turning professional in 2015, as the age of 22 and after starting his career in low key bouts in Uzbekistan he began to come into his own in 2016, with wins over Larry Siwu and Adones Cabalquinto. He has subsequent scored very notable wins over Charles Manyuchi and Dmitry Mikhaylenko, whilst claiming and defending the WBC silver Welterweight title.
Abdukakhorov has emerged from the shadows of the Uzbek scene by fighting in Maylasia, Singapore and Russia and looks likely to continue to score big wins outside of native Uzbekistan. Saying that however he has no problem returning home to fight, and he'll be doing this coming May against a yet to be announced opponent. That bout is likely to lead to bigger contests down the line and by the end of this year we're expecting to Abdukakhorov on the verge of a world title fight
Azizbek Abdugofurov (10-0, 4)
Abdukakhorov is one of two Uzbek fighters who have been strongly connected, the other is Super Middleweight Azizbek Abdugofurov. There's no intention of the two men to have some bizarre catch weight bout, but instead both have regularly been featured on the same shows in Malaysia and in Singapore and both have been matched hard on those shared shows.
Abdugofurov was a good amateur himself, though hadn't been a major star before turning to the professional ranks in 2016 at the age of 24. he was immediately matched hard and won his first 4 bouts by stoppage, including an opening round KO over Chaloemporn Sawatsuk. Since then life in the ring has gotten harder, but he has scored notable wins over Sirimongkol Singwancha and Martin Fidel Rios. Sadly though his last 4 bouts have been steps backwards.
The unbeaten Abdugofurov looks set to step back up on May 5th, when he takes on Russian Dmitrii Chudinov in a bout for the WBC Silver Super Middleweight title. A win there will put him into the world rankings, though it's a very tough ask.
Shohjahon Ergashev (11-0, 11)
The second world ranked Uzbek right now is the charismatic and hard hitting Shohjahon Ergashev, who is ranked by the WBA at 140lbs. He announced himself on the Western boxing scene earlier this year when he stopped Sonny Fredrickson in a real coming out performance. Prior to that bout the "Descendant of Tamerlane" had really done nothing of note since his debut in 2015.
Blessed with power and natural flair Ergashev has the potential to be a very TV friendly fighter. There is certainly a lot of style to him, and whilst we do need to see what substance is beneath that style we have been impressed by the 26 year old, who has created his own buzz and will be looking to build on that when he returns to the ring on April 28th.
As mentioned Ergashev will be in action shortly, taking on China's Zhimin Wang. It's a bout that Ergashev is expected to win and one that could really boost his standing, especially if he can stop the Chinese fighter who has previous taken the hard hitting Ivan Baranchyk the 10 round distance. If he can stop Wang then expect to hear a lot more about Ergashev over the next few years.
Ulugbek Khakberdiev (4-0, 2)
Russian based Uzbek hopeful Ulugbek Khakberdiev is a 25 year old Middleweight-come-Super Middleweight who debuted in March 2017 and reeled off 6 wins before the year was over. Whilst that's not amazing he did score a huge win over former world title challenger Dmitry Sukhotskiy, stopping him in round 6 of a very 1-sided bout.
Sadly Khakberdiev has seen his rise slow since that win, having had 3 fights fall through since that victory. It'd be a shame for him if his career can't kick on from such a big win. He has twice been scheduled to face Kazakh Aidos Yerbossynuly and that would be a great fight, fingers crossed it's third time lucky for that fight.
If Khakberdiev does fail to build on his big win through the rest of this year there is a good chance he will get forgotten about and lost in the shuffle. Given his age, and how open the Middleweight division looks set to become, he will have time to get his career back on track. We would however love to see him have a strong second half to this year, and make a move towards the world rankings before the end of 2019. He'll not be ready for a world title fight for some time, but has got the tools to become a champion in the years to come.
Jasur Akhmadjonov (4-0, 3)
Abdugofurov and Abdukakhorov are both promoted by Vikram Swapragasam, who also promotes 22 year old Light Welterweight Jasur Akhmadjonov, who turned professional at the end of 2017, having previously fought in the WSB, but is already making a name for himself and holds a win over former world title challenger Roy Mukhlis, who is admittedly a shadow of the fighter he once was.
Akhmadjonov debuted on December 17th last year in Uzbekistan and would fight twice in his native country in January before defeating Mukhlis in Singapore. He's pencilled in to fight again on May 5th, though his opponent hasn't been announced yet, and could well look to kick on from the victory over Mukhlis.
At 22 years old Akhmadjonov has got time on his side and won't be rushed, despite his clear talent. He's a boxing baby and there is no reason for Swapragasam to throw him in with killers yet, though as with many of the Uzbek fighters we see rise through the ranks there may be some aggressive match making for Akhmadjonov once he matures, and he could be in with notable names in 2019.
Ravshanbek Umurzakov (3-0, 3)
Another Russian based Uzbek is Ravshanbek Umurzakov, who has fought entirely in Ekaterinburg, where he has taken out his first 3 foes in a combined 6 rounds. He hasn't stepped up too much, but did stop the previously unbeaten Merab Turkadze this past weekend.
Stood at 5'10” “The Prince” is a tall and gangly Lightweight who's body doesn't look like it has quite filled out yet. Despite that the southpaw is heavy handed, can dig to the body and has a good understanding of the ring. There is still a lot of work that he needs to do before thinking of world titles, but there is a lot to like about him and there is a lot for his team to work with, including a sharp jab and a brutal left hand to the liver.
At the moment Umurzakov's biggest issue is that he looks like he could be pressured a bit too easily, and perhaps just needs a few more easy fights to develop his in ring composure. He has looked a little bit worried at times in these early stages of his career, but it's hard not to like him at this early stage, especially given he only debuted in December. His next bout will be in May against the tough Denis Lashin and should see the the the unbeaten man answer some new questions/
Ulugbek Sobirov (4-0, 2)
Another of Vikram Swapragasam's many Uzbek hopefuls is 19 year old Ulugbek Sobirov, who debuted in January and has already impressed whilst picking up wins in Uzbekistan, India and Malaysia. Yes, despite only being a professional since January Sobirov has already fought in 3 countries and notched 4 wins! The best of those saw him travel to New Dehli to defeat Siddharth Ravindra Varma in February.
Despite his young age Sobirov has shown that he understands how to use the ring, and looks like he is a natural in the ring, with amazing composure for someone so young. He has a nice jab, looks like a naturally strong young man and has a lot of tools his team can mould. At times he looks a little too relaxed, his shots sometimes need tightening up and he will have to show more urgency if he's to become a threat. However at 19, he really does have time on his side and he looks like the sort of fighter who will mature into a monster in the years to come.
Sobirov is set to return on May 5th, as part of a stacked Uzbek card in Tashkent, and although his opponent hasn't been announced. We don't expect anyone too tough for the teenager, but hopefully someone a bit more ambition than Hamis Mwakinyo, who hardly looked like he wanted to be in the ring when he fought Sobirov.
Although we wouldn't be surprised by some of these fighters failing to reach the top, there is so much talent coming through the ranks that we're expecting to see the start of a golden age for Uzbek professional boxing. A number of fighters from the country have the potential to be world champions and it's going to be very fun to follow them in their journey's to the top.
(Images courtesy of Boxrec and the WSB)
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