In 2019 one Chinese fighter really broke out from the pack, announcing himself in a big way and not only claimed a world title, but completely thrilled fans who watched him. That, of course, was Can Xu, who went 3-0 (1) during the year, threw countless punches and gave us some of the best rounds of the year, with his bout against Jesus M Rojas being a forgotten Fight of the Year contender.
In 2020 we expect a number of other Chinese fighters attempt to make their mark and show that Xu isn't the only talented fighter in the country. One of those fighters is the unbeaten Yonggqiang Yang (13-0, 10), a 27 year old hopeful, who looks to score his biggest win to date, in early February.
As a professional Yang made his debut back in March 2016, fighting up at Light Welterweight, where he stopped Jizhu Han in 2 rounds. Sadly we haven't been able to watch that bout, but we did catch his second bout, which saw him stopping Biaobiao Wuin 2 rounds. Wu, who was making his debut, was dropped about a minute into round 2 and Yang just kept the pressure on after the bout resumed until the referee stepped in. For someone at such an early stage in his career Yang looked really composed.
Yang would continue to build his stoppage run, running his record to 5-0 (5) before being given his real test of any kind, as he faced Kuerbanjiang Qiong in January 2017. Despite not being able to take Qiong out early Yang impressed again, controlling his foe through much of the 6 round bout with crisp punches, switching between head and body and showing an ability to box on the move. It wasn't flawless, but for a guy in just his 6th pro bout it was a solid performance and saw Yang show the fundamentals that he could use for a solid career.
Straight after beating Qiong we saw Yang hit a career milestone, as he faced his first international opponent, Geisler AP. This turned out to be a rather pointless match up, with AP being stopped in the first round courtesy of a body shot from Yang, who moved through the gear for the finishing sequence and looked fantastic in the finish.
Although Yang was quietly making a name for himself as we headed into 2018 that was the year that he really began to create real buzz. He dropped down to Lightweight and scored a very notable, and hard fought win, over Takuya Watanabe. Although not well known in the west Watanabe is a talented and rugged fighter and getting past him, especially in just his 10th fight, was a legit statement from Yang, who had to dig deep at times but remained composed and earned the win. That was followed by another of note, as he stopped once touted Filipino Harmonito Dela Torre in 2 rounds.
Sadly the win over Dela Torre, which came in Malaysia on the same card as Manny Pacquiao's win over Lucas Matthysse, wasn't followed up on and it was more than a year later before Yang fought again, beating Filipino Ernie Sanchez. He then finished 2019 by stopping JR Magboo in November.
Originally the plan was for Yang to then get a shot at WBO world champion Jamel Herring, with numerous Chinese news sources reporting that was the plan for early 2020. Instead however Yang seen that bout fall by the way side. He was then up scheduled to face Masayuki Ito, himself a former world champion, before that bout fell through with Ito suffering an injury, and then the show being cancelled due to the coronovirus outbreak in China.
Although the Chinese press have described Yang as the "Chinese Lomachenko", Yang's style really isn't similar to the Ukrainian great. He is busy with his jab, and has got under-rated foot work, but he's with some nice body work. It is is however going to be interesting to see what he can do when he steps up a level. So far he has looked good, but the Watanabe bout aside things have mostly been easy going for him. The Ito bout will also be a chance to see what Yang looks like at 130lbs. He's looked solid, if somewhat basic, at 135lbs, but cutting that extra weight could be a major issue, especially against someone as talented as Ito, who will clearly be looking to make a statement here.
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