For this week’s who the team look to Central for their question and for the man they are tipping to be the face of Kazakh boxing after Gennady Golovkin’s eventual retirement. The trio have been set a rather interesting question and one that they feel could be a great chance to help shine a light on some rising hopefuls from “the Land of the Great Steppe”.
“Who... will be the next world champion from Kazakhstan?”
For the sake of “world champion”, we are considering WBC, IBF, WBO and all the various WBA titles.
Lee: “I had a lot of fun looking through the rising Kazakh prospects, and giving them all a watch, and seeing what they all have to offer the sport. After analysing them and looking through the Kazakh fighters the man I tip as being the next Kazakh world champion is Daniyar Yeleussinov, the talented Welterweight southpaw.
Yeleussinov has a lot to like. He is a talented fighter, has a strong promoter, in the form of Eddie Hearn, and has a team behind him who are hungry for him to break through. He is also 29 years old, turning 30 in March. He is no spring chicken. With that in mind I expect to see him being pushed to a world title this year. I know the Welterweight division is a tough one, a very tough one, right now but I expect to see the division have a big shake up this year and Yeleussinov will be one of the winners of that shake up. He is high risk, low reward, and in a position where he is only 2 or 3 fights from a world title fight.
Takahiro: “Zhanibek Alimkhanuly. The sport right now has some excellent weight classes with lots of depth. It also has some very, very weak divisions where there are only one or two fighters that stand out. One of those divisions is Middleweight. With that in mind I think Alimkhanuly will be a good choice to become a world champion in 2021.
Zhanibek Alimkhanuly is world ranked by all 4 title bodies and has options. He also has MTK and Top Rank behind him, and at 27 year old he is in his prime. He is talented, sharp, fast and powerful. He is adapting to the professional ranks, and he seems to tick a lot of boxes of a future world champion. He might need to wait a year or two for a world title fight, but I think Kazakh boxing fans will begin to see him as the natural successor to Gennady Golovkin as their next big star.
My choice, Zhanibek Alimkhanuly”
Scott: "Sadly I think after Golovkin hangs up the gloves we might need to wait a few years for the next Kazakh world champion. The country is developing a lot of talent, and there are a lot of contenders but I see a lot of those falling short at the highest level, or just not getting a shot until it’s too late. One man who I think will go all though way is Sadriddin Akhmedov, the 23 year old Canadian based Kazakh who fights at 154lbs. He, to me, ticks every single box we could want from a future world champion.
He is young, good looking, talented, heavy handed, exciting, has a good promoter, is in a division where the top guys are, for the most part, on the older side, and a division which will be shaken up, massively, in 3 or 4 years.
It might be a bit of a wait until we see Akhmedov win a world title, but I’m confident he’ll win one, with the main issue being whether he gets there before all of his countrymen or not.”
For this week's "Who..." the team who set up Asianboxing.info take a look at Thailand for their question and they also take a look at the future, as the trio put for their cases for this week's question, and once again they've come up with 3 different fighters for fans to take note of.
This weeks question for the trio is:
"Who... is the best prospect in Thailand?"
Lee: "In 2020 there was a lot of Thai fighters who caught my attention, and got me excited for the future of boxing in Thailand. I'm sure some of those fighters will be mentioned by the other guys but the one I want to tip as the best is teenage fighter Sangarthit Looksaikongdin (Phoobadin Yoohanngoh).
With Sangarthit/Phoobadin I think we have the perfect mix of long term potential, given he is only 17, a weight class that gets international attention and a fighter with fantastic skills in his tool box. The fact he is so young gives him a lot of time to polish off his skills, build on foundations he already has and mature his man strength. He clearly understands the sport, he's quick and sharp, understands distance and angles and looks like one of the hottest prospects in world boxing.
I do have some reservations. His training appears to be very hard on his young, and still developing, body. I worry that maybe he is taking too much out of himself with some of his training. I also think fighting at 140 or 147 may limit his potential opponents in Asia. But I think there is too much upside to avoid."
Takahiro: "For this week, I am picking Boonrueang Phayom.
I like to see young fighters with exciting styles and power and it's hard for me to not be a big fan of a young man with a perfect 9-0 (9) record. The 21 year old Boonrueang made his debut in 2017, vanished for a while, matured away from the ring, and since returning in 2019 has been a busy boy.
His competition is admittedly not very good, a lot of Thai fighters fight not very good fighters to build experience. But he has results that are better than other fighters, like his win over Tongthep Taeyawong is quicker than the one scored by Koki Mioya and Petch CP Freshmart and we have seen him fight into the 7th round before.
I like Boonrueang Phayom a lot. He will go a long way."
Scott: "There is a lot of talent coming through in Thailand right now. Fighters like Nattapong Jankaew, Thanongsak Simsri, Thananchai Charunphak, Phongsaphon Panyakum, Nonthasith Petchnamthong, Pattawee Phansawat, Yuttapong Tongdee, Theeraphan Polsongkarm and the men mentioned by Taka and Lee. There really is so much excitement bubbling under the radar in Thailand that narrowing it down to just 1 prospect was a problem.
If someone held a gun to my head and made me pick one however I'd go with Thitisak Hoitong, a fighter who really does have me very, very excited for the future.
Aged 25 Thitisak isn't the youngest out there, and physically he's maybe only a year or two away from his prime. He is however a very talented fighter, with a strong amateur background, an insane level of confidence in the ring and a very clear natural affinity for the sport. We saw in his debut, against Samartlek, that he has the tools to do great things in professional boxing. Also he's at Flyweight, a division where Asia is rife with fighters, and where good bouts should be easy for him to get. There isn't a need for him to chase bigger names around the globe, but instead fly off to Japan and the Philippines for regional level fights and training.
To me the age issue with Thitisak is less of an issue and more of an upside. His team know they don't need to molly coddle him, and can let him loose sooner rather than later. If you're not aware of him, make a note of his name now, as he will likely be in the regional title mix by the end of the year, and potentially the world rankings by the time we enter 2022."
A few weeks ago we began a new series here looking to answer the question of “who…?” and we’re back again this week with the latest in this series. This week we’re not looking at someone coming through the ranks, or someone looking to prove themselves, but instead we’re looking at some who is currently at the top of sport and will lose their position later this year. That’s because we’ll be answering the question of:
“Who... will lose their world title this year?”
Just before we start, the condition here, as is typically the case with Asian Boxing, is that the fighter must be Asian to be considered a valid answer here. By “losing” their title, we mean losing their title in any manner. Be it from vacating, retiring, losing it in the ring or being stripped.
We will not be including cases where a fighter is promoted from “regular” champion to “super” champion. However we will be including “regular” and “interim” champions as champions for the purpose of the predictions here.
Lee: “I had a look at all the champions, from right across the sport, and I see a lot of fighters who might have tough fights in 2021. Of those however a lot have easier options they can take, and I don’t think too many are being backed into a wall to face a top fighter.
One possible exception there is Can Xu, who I love. I think every fight fan loves Can Xu. Sadly however I think he will be lured to the UK to have a bout with former IBF champion Josh Warrington. The bout every fight fan should want to see take place and should be excited to see happen. Sadly for Xu I think that fight will take place in the UK and judging in the UK, against British fighters, has become a joke in recent years. Especially against a popular fighter, like Warrington.
I think we’ll see Xu and Warrington put on a brilliant fight. A truly sensational battle. But I see judges marring the bout by giving a controversial decision to Warrington and Xu losing his title in very debatable fashion."
Takahiro: “I am sad to say I think it will be my countryman Ryosuke Iwasa, who will lose his title this year. The IBF “interim” Super Bantamweight title will likely not be around his waist at the end of 2021. I think he will have to fight Murodjon Akhmadaliev, and will lose in that bout to the very, very good Uzbek fighter.
I think Iwasa will put up a better effort against “Kaka” than he did against TJ Doheny, when he lost the full version of the title, but I think the Uzbek is too good, too strong, too powerful and too hungry for “Eagle Eye”. I like Iwasa, a lot, but I think he has too many problems with fighting southpaws, and that will show against the WBA “Super” and IBF champion. It will be a fantastic fight. And Iwasa has a punchers chance. But I think he loses a very wide decision. Maybe a late stoppage.
My guess. Ryosuke Iwasa (IBF “interim” Super Bantamweight champion)”
Scott: “This sport can be a funny one at times and we see long reigning champions being knocked off their perch when they look well set, we saw that last year with Wanheng Menayothin and Deontay Wilder. I think we’ll see something like that happen again in 2021, and for me the easy pick here is WBA “super” Minimumweight champion Knockout CP Freshmart.
I’ve felt for a while that Knockout has been happy to go through the motions at times and that his reign really isn’t that secure. He looked good last time out, beating Norihito Tanaka, but he has often under-whelmed and been a bit lucky against fighters who aren’t really world class. I thought he was fortunate against ArAr Andales, I think he under-performed against Toto Landero, Xiong Zhao Zhong, Byron Rojas and Carlos Buitrago.
He’s supposed to fight in May, more than a year after his last bout, and fighters are circling around his WBA title, with the likes of Jose Argumedo, Byron Rojas, Vic Saludar and Robert Paradero all wanting a shot at the belt. There’s also the likes of Hasanboy Dusmatov, Ginjiro Shigeoka, Jing Xiang all wanting a crack at a title this year. There’s a lot of sharks circling around Knockout, and I suspect a good offer to make him travel will be made, and we’ll see the 30 year old have the title taken away before the end of 2021.”
Back on December 31st we saw the end of 2020 and the year ended on a high for fight fans with a brilliant matchup between Kazuto Ioka and Kosei Tanaka. Sadly for the thrilling and exciting Tanaka the bout saw him suffer his first loss, being stopped by the more experienced Ioka, who boxed brilliantly and showcased some sensational counter punching throughout the contest.
Despite the loss it was clear that Tanaka was going to bounce back and return to the ring in 2021.
With that in mind the three co-founders of Asianboxing.info got together to put their ideas forward as to what is next for Tanaka in the third instalment of “Who…” as we try to answer the question:
“Who... should Kosei Tanaka face next?”
Lee: “I think in all honesty the options for Tanaka right now are quite limited, due to Covid19, and it’s clear he won’t be bringing in a limited imported opponent just to get a win. Saying that though, Tanaka has never had an easy bout and I don’t expect that to change now he has a loss on his record. Instead I think he will fight a good Japanese domestic fighter. The question really is “Who?” And sadly there aren’t that many options for him to look to face at the moment. The gulf between Kazuto Ioka and the rest in Japan is massive and anyone will feel like a massive downgrade for Tanaka.
For Tanaka I think the focus needs to be on testing his stamina and testing his strength at Super Flyweight. He can work on the skills in the gym, but he needs to get rounds, he needs to be pushed and made to work hard. With that at the forefront of my thinking, I think he should fight Hiroyuki Kudaka next. Kudaka is a 4 time world title challenger. He’s tough. He comes to fight. He presses and pressures. He always makes fighters work hard. He also knows some veteran tricks. To me he is the ideal opponent for Tanaka to learn things from. An easy win, but also a good win.”
Takahiro: “The answer here is easy for me. Ryoji Fukunaga. There are not many fighters in Japan at 115lbs who are world ranked and the one that stands out the most is JBC, OPBF and WBO Asia Pacific unified champion Ryoji Fukunaga. I know that Tanaka will want to fight someone suitable. Someone good. And get in there with someone who will ask questions. He has something to lose themselves. Someone who, if he beats, he is still in the world title mix. With that in mind Fukunaga is the easy answer. The only answer.
At the moment Fukunaga has 2 world rankings. He is unlikely to get a world title fight himself, without scoring a massive win, and a win over Tanaka would be appealing to him as well. The bout would also work with the current covid19 issues, and not require Hatanaka and CBC to pay money for a fighter to sit in quarantine.
Make this bout and get it in Tokyo. Kosei Tanaka Vs Ryoji Fukunaga! Triple crown on the line”
Scott: “I’ve gone with a similar tactic to Takahiro and looked through the world rankings for Japanese fighters given the Covid19 situation. There isn’t as many Japanese ranked fighters as I assumed there would be at 115lbs and there’s also some oddities, like the IBF ranking Koki Eto #7 despite the fact he’s retired. I’m also at a loss as to how Akio Furutani is ranked #11, even with his win over Takayuki Okumoto fresh in my mind. Doing this left me with two options.
The first of those was Sho Ishida, who is world ranked, a very live contender, best known for losing his biggest bouts, a friend of Ioka’s and a former stablemate of Ioka’s. On paper Ishida ticks almost every box, though I think Ishida will probably stick to fighting at Bantamweight and won’t move back down to Super Flyweight again.
With that in mind I was left with one other name, and it’s a name of someone I genuinely want to see Tanaka share the ring with again. That’s former WBO Flyweight champion Sho Kimura. This bout just seems to make so much sense to re-do. Their first bout was the 2018 Fight of the Year and given the super close nature of that bout it deserves a rematch. It’s also one of the bouts that CBC know they can sell to an international audience, and if they are smart they could get this on TV in Latin America and potentially the UK. Kimura might not be the natural Super Flyweight that some would want to see Tanaka in with, but iron sharpens iron and if Tanaka wants a good test to return to the ring with Kimura is the man for me.”
Last week we began our "Who..." series by looking at who would be the next OPBF champion from South Korea and we're back again this week with the second in this series as we look towards the past and try to answer a new question about the world of Asian boxing.
This week the question is..
"Who... will be the next world champion from Uzbekistan?"
Lee: "I really like how many options we have here, and how exciting the rise of Uzbek boxing has become. It's really come out of nowhere, unless you follow the amateur scene, and has been hugely exciting. Like a breathe of fresh air. In many ways it reminds me of what boxing was like here in the 1970's, 80's and early 90's, where top amateurs raced to titles. There was no fear of being moved too quickly, and that was really exciting, seeing fighters move fast. If you were good enough, you were good enough.
For Uzbekistan the contender leading the way for me is Israil Madrimov, who I think will win a world title this year. He's in a tough division, but I think he'll win some version of the WBA title in 2021, hopefully the main version of the title. He has the power, skills, speed and hunger to be a big star. My only worry is whether the pandemic has started to chip away at his mental drive and his physical fitness. But I am still confident he will be a world champion. Maybe just a short reign though."
Takahiro: "Whilst Japan is going through a golden age the Uzbek scene is just as hot with so many exciting fighters coming from the country, and making their name in the US. That is really exciting and shows the backing a lot of their fighters are getting.
The backing has let Murodjon Akhmadaliev fight for a world title in just his 8th bout and I think other fighters will look to match that target. With that in mind I will be picking Bektemir Melikuziev, who I think will win a world title this year, in his 8th fight. It's a unfortunate that Sergey Kovalev failed a drug test, as that would have been good preparation for "Bully". I think the fact he can fight at 168lbs or 175lbs is a good advantage for him, and I think he will pick up some form of WBA belt. Maybe not main WBA belt, but enough to claim a "world" title. In 2022 maybe he get a "real" title. as well.
My Pick, Bek Bully!"
Scott: "As the other two guys have said, the Uzbek's are really making a mark and doing things in a really, really exciting fashion. There is a lot of top amateur fighters who are now chasing professional honours, and a lot of them are taking a rather untraditional route there. They aren't wasting their time, and their prime years building up fancy 20-0 records against opponents they would be 1/100 to beat, but are instead looking to skip the easy bouts and the often pointless record building stage of their careers. Whilst it's the fast track will work for some and fail for others, it's something I personally enjoy watching, and it condenses the wait to find out if someone is a legitimate talent.
I'm looking at the other end of the scales though. Rather than in the middling weights I'm looking at the lower weights and picking Olympic champion Hasanboy Dusmatov to be next, and to do so in 2022.
The lower weights are often the ones where we see fast tracking done and Dusmatov is certainly ticking the boxes that will see him being moved aggressively. He's now aged 27, is in his prime, he's got the skills, power, speed, and the amateur experience to be matched hard and will not want to waste his career. The big question is "what weight will we see him winning a belt at?" And I think 108lbs is among the toughest divisions out there, but I see him having success there, if he needs to. Alternatively there are weak title holders at 105lbs, which we have to assume he can make with a day before weigh in, or even 112lbs.
Alternatively he could very easily make a mark at 112lbs. I think those options are what his team will be looking to weigh up this year, and early next year he'll win a world title. Whether that's a lesser champion at 105lbs or an aging veteran at 112lbs I'm not sure. but I'm confident he picks up a belt next year"
With so few fights taking place to begin 2021 the founders of Asianboxing.info have decided to take a look at the boxing scene and put our predictions forward in a new series called "Who..."
The idea of this series is to answer a question with who we each think will achieve a specific activity or feat, or potentially even looking back on history and sharing our takes on something from the past.
We intend to mix these up between various categories and a mix of times frames. From the past, to the immediate future and the longer term future.
To begin this series we're going to look at South Korea, where the three of us will all aim to answer the following question:
"Who... will be the next OPBF champion from South Korea?"
Lee: "This should be the one where I am good, so a perfect start to this series for me. I'm really glad to see Korean boxing getting international attention recently, at least earlier this month, and it was the man who headlined that card that I think has the best chance to claim an OPBF title this year. That is, of course, Jong Seon Kang, the all action Featherweight fighter. Aged 19 he is very young, but with a 12-0-2 record, and with good wins stacking up I think he'll break into the OPBF rankings this year, and move towards an OPBF title in 2022.
Kang is also lucky that the winner of Musashi Mori and Satoshi Shimizu, will almost certainly vacate the title later this year, leaving the door open to a vacant title title fight next year. The perfect time for Kang to swoop in"
Takahiro: "Being truthful, my understanding of Korean boxing isn't as good as it should be and as good as it used to be. I have however been sneaky, and looked at the OPBF rankings and there is an obvious choice here. Light Middleweight Jung Kyoung Lee.
Lee is ranked #3 by the OPBF for a vacant title, which was given up last year by Akinori Watanabe. I don't think #1 ranked fighter Tim Tszyu will have any interest in the title and so the door is wide open for Lee to fight for the title. I'm not sure who he would fight for the belt though. I don't think we'll see Lee face Hironobu Matsunaga, but I would like that fight. Very exciting.
Regardless, my pick is Jung Kyoung Lee"
Scott: "There are a lot of really exciting Korean fighters coming through the ranks, like Da Won Gang, Sung Min Yuh, Jong Seon Kang, Min Jang and and Min Hyuk Jang. Those however are all youngsters who are probably a few years away from a big bout.
With that in mind I'm going with someone with more experience, and someone who has spoke about wanting to win the title before. That's Dong Myung Shin the excellent 32 year old Featherweight, who can ill afford to move slowly this year. He spoke about getting a fight at Oriental title level in 2020, before the pandemic destroyed various plans and I think he's probably got the best chance of fighting for the title in the next year or two. The Super Bantamweight and Featherweight divisions are tough ones, but they are both expected to have massive shake ups in the next 12-24 months and that could leave the door open for Shin to get a shot at the vacant title."
*Note - Takahiro's answer is based on the latest OPBF rankings - which are October 2020's. Oddly the OPBF have not published rankings since then.
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