It's fair to say that 2020 has been an odd year so far, with a very stop-start feel to the boxing we've had. Things, of course, haven't been helped by shows being cancelled due to Coronavirus in Asia, but this week was just an odd, odd one. There was fights, but mostly at a low level. The top Asian fighters in action failed to pick up the wins we;d hoped for and the best of the action really came on some obscure cards. With that in mind lets have a look at this weeks award winners
Fighter of the Week
Shuma Nakazato (10-1-2, 7)
Given our criteria of fighter of the week this week was a really weird one. The criteria is the fighter who scored the best win from the week, not the best performance, which comes under the "Performance of the Week" which can account for losses. As a result we really had to look outside the box, given there was so few wins of note by Asian fighters in what was a truly odd week. In the end it seemed hard to argue that Shuma Nakazato's win over Yuji Awata was the best, and most significant. The win came on the first sole-promoted by former world title challenger Shigeru Nakazato, and gave the promoter the result they needed for the show to be a success.
Sadly this week may well end up with us reviewing how we do fighter of the week going forward, though this week was an odd one in general, and this could be an anomaly rather than anything else.
Performance of the Week
Tugstsogt Nyambayar (11-1, 9)
It really was an odd week for Asian boxers, with no one getting a truly big win, in fact the two biggest fights involving Asian fighters both ended in a loss. It was however hard not to be pretty impressed with how Tugstsogt Nyambayar ended up acquitting himself in his loss to Gary Russell Jr. The Mongolian started slowly, but warmed to the task well and proved that he certainly deserves to remain in the world title picture, despite a loss to the talented and speedy American. Don't be surprised to see Nyambayar's loss serve as a learning experience, and the way he picked up the pace in the final 8 rounds showed what he could do. A mixed performance, sure, but also one which showed a lot to get excited about.
Tugstsogt Nyambayar vs Gary Russell Jr
In a fight that had high level skills and was a genuine chess match Tugstsogt Nyambayar and Gary Russell Jr gave us something that was both compelling, exciting, and technical. There was no real debating the winner, with Russell Jr banking the early rounds for the win against Nyambayar's slow start, but this was still a fantastic bout, and something that is well worthy of a watch. It's not going to be a fight of the year contender, but don't let that take away from what was a genuinely solid 12 round, world level bout between two men who are both legitimate top fighters at 126lbs.
Ryosuke Maruta vs Kazunari Kosaka (Rd1)
We'll admit we tend to skip the 4 round Dangan cards, but on a week lacking in action like this the show was certainly worthy of some interest, and it provided some really great action. The best of it, for us, was the opening round of Ryosuke Maruta's bout with Kazunari Kosaka, who really went all out, swinging bombs in a thrilling action packed 3 minutes of chaos. For those wanting technically perfect boxing, counter punching and smart defense do not look at this round, but for those who wild and heavy offense this is for your. This is just great and thrilling wild, crude fun.
Andy Atsushi v Yuta Hasegawa (Rd 2)
Naoya Mitsuhashi TKO2 Harunobu Yamasaki
We stick with the 4 round Dangan cards for the KO of the week, as Naoya Mitsuhashi cleaned out Harunobu Yamasaki in brutal fashion in the second round of their bout. This is one you'll need to hunt down to find, and be a Boxing Raise subscriber to see, but it's worth it as a single clean right hand to the temple sent the 37 year old Yamasaki crashing to his knees, then flat out on his back. This is not what we expected from Mitsuhashi, who was fighting for just the second time, but we'll be keeping an eye on him after this fantastic KO
Narimichi Miura TKO1 Yota Matsui
Abdulkhay Sharakhmatov (1-0, 1)
Talented Uzbke fighter Abdulkhay Sharakhmatov kicked off his career with an expected easy win over Benjie Ebido in the Philippines. Despite stopping Ebido inside the opening round there was a lot to like about Sharakhmatov's performance, and he is certainly one to watch going forward. Make a mental note of his name as he is going to make a big splash in the years to come and should be on people's radar's now. He intelligently pressed Ebido and broke him down mentally and physically in very quick fashion. A real talent with a nice, easy introduction to the professional ranks.
Daigo Higa (15-1, 15) vs Jason Buenaobra (7-4-3, 3)
Although our upcoming bout selection is usually the bout we expect to be the most exciting of the coming week this week's is a little bit different however as the bout we are most looking forward to is a bit of a mismatch. Despite it being a mismatch it's one we're excited about because it's the long awaited return of former world champion Daigo Higa after almost 2 years out of the ring. We expect Higa to beat Filipino foe Jason Buenaobra, without too many problems, however the key here is that the Higa express is back on the line after such a long break from the ring!
On February 8th in we see Mongolian fighter Tugstsogt Nyambayar (11-0, 9) get his biggest fight to date, as he takes on WBC Featherweight champion Gary Russell Jr (30-1, 18) in Pennsylvania. Fans who who don't follow the depths of boxing are unlikely to know much about Nyambayar ahead of his big bout this weekend, so we've decided that the Mongolian will be the latest fighter covered in our "Who are you?" series. A series that tries to shine a light on a fighter ahead of a notable bout.
To begin with, the basics. Nyambayar is an unbeaten Mongolian fighter, who is currently 27 years old and has been a professional for close to 5 years. He turned professional with a lot of expectations on his shoulders but has had a stop start professional career due to hand issues, which have prevented him from reaching the top of the sport as quickly as some had anticipated.
The reason Nyambayar was expected to be fast tracked was due to his amateur pedigree, was was genuinely excellent. He claimed a national title back in 2009, then added a Bronze medal from the Asian Games and a silver medal from the World Championships as he began to explode on the international amateur scene. That amateur success bread more success, including a Silver medal at the 2012 London Olympics.
Unlike many who medalled in London Nyambayar didn't rush to the professional ranks and actually continued in to the amateurs to 2014, picking up Mongolian national titles in 2013 and 2014 but failing to make it to the medal stages of major international tournaments.
Nyambayar also had mixed success in the WSB, going 3-2 in the semi-professional league. Interestingly his final WSB bout, which came in 2011, saw him lose to Frenchman Nordine Oubaali, who currently holds the WBC Bantamweight title.
In 2015, Nyambayar finally began his professional journey signing with advisor Al Haymon and trainer Joe Goosen, who seemed to be immediately impressed with the Mongolian hopeful. To begin with it seemed like a match made in heaven and Nyambayar was active through 2015, racking up 4 wins in his first 9 months as a professional, including an impressive stoppage against Arturo Badillo. His consistent level of activity continued in 2016, when he added 3 more wins, again all by stoppage, including a stoppage of German Meraz.
Sadly after racing to 7-0 (7) in just 21 months Nyambayar's career has really faltered and he has fought just 4 times since the start of 2017. Whilst those bouts have been at a higher level, with bouts against the then unbeaten Harmonito Dela Torre and former interim world champions Oscar Escandon and Claudio Marrero, the activity has been a real problem for a man who has been banging on the door of a world title fight. In fact he became the mandatory for the WBC title over a year ago and hasn't fought since!
Whilst some of that activity has been down to waiting for the WBC to order the fight with Gary Russell, a fight that will take place on February 8th, he has also suffered some nasty hand injuries. Those injuries saw him need to take a break between May 2018, when he beat Oscar Escandon and January 2019, when he faced Claudio Marrero. The waiting for the WBC and Russell Jr also saw plans being scrapped for an August 2019 bout.
Although not a big name Tugstogt Nyamabar is a top Featherweight contender, and someone who will look to put his name on the boxing map when he faces Russell Jr in their eagerly anticipated world title clash. He's heavy handed, technically well schooled, physically strong and a man on the hunt to become the second ever Mongolian world champion.
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!
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