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.”
It's fair to say that February will be a very, very quiet month with only a handful of shows taking place during the month, and sadly that means there are a very small number of bouts to talk about for the month. Despite that we are, of course, bringing you our regular "What's to come" for the month.
Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan
Ryu Horikawa (3-0-1, 1) vs Yudai Shigeoka (2-0, 1)
The first notable bout in February featuring Asian fighters will come at Japanese Youth title level as Light Flyweight Ryu Horikawa and Yudai Shigeoka clash in a mouth watering match up. The two youngsters are both tipped for big things during their careers and it's great to see them clashing here, rather than protecting their records like we'd see in other countries. Horikawa is the younger man and is the natural Light Flyweight, however Shigeoka has arguably been more impressive was very impressive in beat Lito Dante in just his second bout. Although not a massive fight this is a very, very interesting one.
Ryo Sagawa (10-1, 5) vs Hinata Maruta (10-1-1, 8)
On the same show as the Japanese Youth title fight we'll also get a mandatory bout for the Japanese Featherweight title as talented champion Ryo Segawa looks for his third defense, and takes on the touted Hinata Maruta in a mouth watering clash. The talented Sagawa has been on a great run of results since an early career loss and looks like a man who could certainly get into the world title mix over the coming years. Although not the most durable, he has been stopped and has been dropped in other bouts, Sagawa is a very talented fighter who can box or fight. As for Maruta the once super-hot prospects has failed to meet the lofty expecations that were on his shoulders when he turned professional, but there is no denying his talent and a win here would put him back on track to bigger and better things.
Fantasy Springs Casino, Indio, California, USA
Joseph Diaz (31-1, 15) vs Shavkatdzhon Rakhimov (15-0, 12)
In the first world title fight to feature an Asian fighter this month we'll see Russian based Tajik fighter Shavkatdzhon Rakhimov take on IBF Super Featherweight champion Joseph Diaz in California. For Rakhimov this is a mandatory title fight he has waited well over a year for, earning the shot in 2019 when he stopped Azinga Fuzile. As for Diaz this will be his first defense of the title that he won in early 2020, when he beat Tevin Farmer. In terms of the match up this one should be an all out action fight between two men who like to come forward. Diaz will be the favourite, but Rakhimov is very much a live under-dog here.
The Flash Grand Ballroom of the Elorde Sports Complex, Paranaque City, Metro Manila, Philippines
Bienvenido Ligas (12-1-1, 9) Vs Alphoe Dagayloan (14-3-6-1, 5)
The first major Filipino bout of the new year takes place on the 13th as the once beaten Bienvenido Ligas takes on the criminally under-rated Alphoe Dagayloan in an excellent Flyweight match up. Coming in Ligas will likely be the slight favourite, given his better reord, but in reality Dagayloan is the more proven and has been impressing in recent years, following a stuttering start to his professional career. This should be a genuinely excellent match up, something we, sadly, don't say often enough about All-Filipiuno bouts.
Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan
All Japan Rookie of the Year
Not a specific bout here, but something that is worth noting is that February 21st will bring us the All Japan Rookie of the Year final, ending what has been a delayed and belated tournament. Despite the hiccups along the way, caused by Covid19, we are really looking forward to this show, which will be shown live on G+ in Japan and will almost certainly help launch one or two prospects towards bigger and better things.
Bula Gym, General Santos City, Philippines
Pedro Taduran (14-2-1, 11) Vs Rene Mark Cuarto (18-2-2, 11)
In another very interesting all-Filipino bout IBF Minimumweight champion Pedro Taduran will defend his title, for the second time, as he takes on IBF #3 ranked challenger Rene Mark Cuarto in a really mouth watering match up. Taduran, who won the title in 2019 with a thrilling performance against Samuel Salva, has sadly been out of the ring for a year since making his first defense. As for Cuarto he's unbeaten in his last 3 but has been out of the ring since December 2019. On paper this is, by far, the toughest bout of Cuarto's career and it'll be very interesting to see what he has to offer at world level against an aggressive and heavy handed champion.
Tynyshpayev Academy of Transport and Communications, Almaty, Kazakhstan
Kamshybek Kunkabayev (2-0, 2) Vs Steven Ward (13-1, 4)
In a really nice step up bout unbeaten Kazakh Cruiserweight hopeful Kamshybek Kunkabayev will be battling against Northern Irish fighter Steven Ward in a bout for the WBO Asia Pacific title. Kunkabayev, a former Kazakh amateur standout has impressed since turning professional but there are a lot of questions for him to still answer. Sadly we don't actually expect Ward to be able to ask him those questions and if anything we see Kunkabayev having a pretty easy time of things here.
Nurtas Azhbenov (10-0, 4) Vs Evgeny Smirnov (13-1-3, 3)
Unbeaten Kazakh prospect Nurtas Azhbenov takes his next step forward as he takes on the once beaten Evgeny Smirnov, form Russia, in a very credible step up. Azhbenov has frustrated at times, and despite being a very talented fighter seems to lack power and killer instinct with a lot of his bouts meandering to a rather drama free decision. He certainly has skills but he is not the finished article. Smirnov on the other hand has failed to win his last 3, but has been fighting at pretty decent level in recent bouts.
Janibek Alimkhanuly (9-0, 5) vs TBA
Unbeaten Kazakh hopeful Zhanibek Alimkhanuly will look to stay busy as he takes on a yet to be named opponent late in the month. The talented Middleweight is looking to secure a world title fight later this year, and although this will likely just be a stay busy bout it's great to see him staying active after a frustrating 2020 that saw him unable to build on a solid KO win against Gonzalo Gaston Coria. It's clear that Alimkhanuly is a talent and although we want to see him prove that talent against good fighters we would prefer him staying busy rather than sitting on the side lines waiting for a bout. With that in mind we can't complain too much at the TBA status of his opponent,
Talgat Shayken (3-0, 2) Vs Evgeny Pavko (18-3-1, 13)
Another unbeaten Kazakh prospect in action here is Talgat Shayken, who battles against the much more experienced Evgeny Pavko. The talented Shayken turned professional last year, and despite a rather crude performance on his debut he has impressed in his last 2 bouts and he appears to be a fighter heading places in the coming years. Despite bot being the most polished fighter Shayken is aggressive, strong and very fun to watch. Pavko on the other hand is an experienced Russian, who has lost 3 of his last 6. Despite his faltering form Pavko should, potentially, be a decent test for Shayken over 8 rounds.
Hard Rock Stadium, Miami, Florida, USA
Zhang Zhilei (22-0, 17) v Jerry Forrest (26-4, 20)
Chinese Heavyweight giant Zhang Zhilei continues to waste his career as he takes on American foe Jerry Forret. The 37 year old Zhang has been linked to an Anthony Joshua fight for the last few years, but in reality is trudging along with rather meaningless bouts, and this is another for "Big Bang", who really should have been in with a notable name by now. The 32 year old Jerry Forrest is actually a decent opponent, and gave good tests to Jermaine Franklin and Carlos Takam, but isn't the type of name opponent Zhilei needs to push forward with his career. In fact Forrest is the type of high risk-low reward opponent that doesn't make sense for Zhilei at this point in his career.
Another week is over and we again get to celebrate the world of Asian boxing with our look at the best from the last week. It wasn't the best week, but was a low key, solid, and enjoyable week of action featuring Asian fighters.
Fighter of the Week
With his 4th defense of the OPBF Super Bantamweight title under his belt there wasn't really much competition here, this was Hiroaki Teshigawara's award almost by default. The talented Japanese fighter kept up his march towards a world title fight as he easily stopped Shingo Kawamura. Talk is that Teshigawara is now in the running for a world title fight and whilst this wasn't the win to get him that type of bout, few can deny the run he's been on over the last few years. Fingers crossed he gets a big fight before he begins to decline, as he has genuinely earned a shot and taken risks along the way.
Performance of the Week
Although we had some very impressive performances, including that of Teshigawa, Kanehiro Nakagawa and Rei Nakajima, we don't think anyone left the impression that Kazakh contender Janibek Alimkhanuly did. The Kazakh dropped Gonzalo Gaston Coria in the opening round, stopped him in round 2 and looked like a legitimate world class fighter through out. This was the break out performance that Alimkhanuly really needed, though did come in front of an audience who had to struggle to see the bout due to issues with the way ESPN broadcast the fight. If you missed this one it's well worth tracking down and watching!
Fight of the Week
Peter Apolinar vs Jetro Pabustan
We didn't really get any standout wars this week, sadly, though we did get some decent bouts including a fairly fun brawl from the Philippines, where boxing returned after about 7 months. The card was a low key one in Mandaue City and it's stand out bout, in terms of competitive action, was the 10 rounder between Peter Apolinar and Jetro Pabustan. If you missed this one it's worth a watch, though don't expect a FOTY contender here, it's just a good old entertaining 10 rounder.
Round of the Week
Jin Miura vs Daiki Wakamatsu (Rd2)
The week didn't have any amazing rounds, and there was no rounds where knockdowns were traded or anything spectacular. Saying that however we ddid genuinely enjoy the second round of the bout between Jin Miura and Daiki Wakamatsu on Boxing Raise. Both guys were rocked during the round, with Wakamatsu being dropped and then stopped. In a week where action wasn't too plentiful this is well worthy of your time, a real fun round tucked away on an obscure Boxing Raise under-card.
Prospect of the Week
Rei Nakajima (4-0)
Due to the lack of action there wasn't too much competition here, though even if there was Rei Nakajima would likely have remained in the mix regardless. The Japanese youngster looked incredibly talented and composed with his excellent win over Shinobu Charlie Hosokawa. Nakajima looked fantastic through out the bout, moved brilliantly and looked like he was a fighter who could really go places. He was giving up size, power and experience here, but easily out boxed Hosokawa and he instantly proved himself as a legitimate domestic title contender.
KO of the Week
There wasn't a lot of action this past week, if we're being honest, but we did get an absolute beauty of a KO as Kazakh sensation Janibek Alimkhanuly blasted out Gonzalo Gaston Coria in sensational fashion. The Kazakh landed several shots that hurt Coria before he finished him off with a monstrous single left hand that turned Coria's lights out. This was an absolutely brutal finish and up there with some of the best of 2020.
Over the last 6 years Kazakh boxing, at least in the professional ranks, has been dominated by Gennady Golovkin, who has spearheaded the countries boxing scene. Although he's not solo he has pretty much been the focal figure for the country's success in professional boxing, with only Zhanat Zhakiyanov's short reign at Bantamweight and the controversial and much maligned Beibut Shumenov for company as a world champion. At 36 years hold however Golovkin won't be able to lead the Kazakh charge for too much longer.
With that in mind we've decided to take a long over-due look at the rising Kazakh boxing hopefuls, who will look to rise through the ranks and become the new faces of Kazakh boxing, and the ones to continue the good work that Golovkin, and to a lesser extent Shumenov, and Zhakiyanov have done in recent years.
Ivan Dychko (5-0, 5) - Heavyweight
Former amateur star Ivan Dychko has long been on the radar of fight fans, who have followed him since he was a youngster in the unpaid ranks. He first made a mark at the 2008 AIBA Youth World Championships, claiming a silver medal at Heavyweight before growing into a Super Heavyweight. At the heavier division he claimed a number of major medals, including bronze at the 2012 Olympics and the 2011 World Amateur Championships, as well as Silver medals at both the 2013 and 2015 World Amateur Championships.
Stood at 6'9” at weighing in at around 245lbs he has the size of a fully fledged Super Heavyweight and he's already looking to charge through the division. He made his professional debut last September, stopping Aubur Wright in just over 2 minutes, and has needed just 9 rounds to race out to a 5-0 record. He has, admittedly, fought poor competition so far but will look to make a notable step up in class shortly. He's pencilled to face Michael Marrone in June, a step up of sorts, but won't want to waste too much time at this type of level given how strong his amateur pedigree is.
Ali Akhmedov (11-0, 8) – Light Heavyweight
The 22 year old Ali Akhmedov is one of a number of US based Kazakh hopefuls, though is also well travelled having already notched up professional wins in Kazakhstan, Poland and the US. Not only has he been willing to travel for fights but has also been matched pretty well with notable wins against Patrick Mendy, Curtis Hill, Justin Thomas and DeShon Webster. Impressively he has only been a professional for around 2 years, making his debut in May 2016, but has been active, aggressively matched and his team are stepping him up.
Given his age Akhmedov has a lot of time on his side but it's unlikely he or his team will be looking to waste that time and instead he'll likely be matched hard and allowed to develop against decent competition. His boxing is already solid technically and like a number of fighters from Central Asia he seems to have very heavy hands and an aggressive exciting style. He's perhaps not a concussive puncher, but every shot seems to be damaging, and he has that exciting flair that the new era of Central Asian fighters seem to have, wanting to put on a show as well as win.
Zhanibek Alimkhanuly (2-0, 1) - Light Heavyweight
Another former amateur star is 25 year old Zhanibek Alimkhanuly, who shone at the 2013 World Amateur Championships, where he claimed gold, and was tipped as a medal contender for the 2016 Olympics, where he lost in the quarter final. He made his professional debut, unless you include his fights in the World Series of Boxing, in October 2016, blitzing Milton Nunez inside a round, before returning to the amateur code. He would again surface as a professional in September 2017, taking testing 6 round decision over Gilberto Pereira dos Santos.
At the moment it's pretty unclear on what Alimkhanuly plans to do. He has the world at his feet in any form of boxing, professional, amateur or one of the AIBA professional systems. We're hoping he commits to professional boxing, and if he does he really could be fast tracked. He's a very sharp, accurate and powerful puncher with brilliant movement and a high boxing IQ. He's got the tools to do a lot in the sport, but one does wonder about his mentality, and that could be the biggest question mark over his potential.
Nurzat Sabirov (6-0, 5) - Super Middleweight
There are a number of Kazakh hopes rising through the Canadian scene at the moment, one of whom is Nurzat Sabirov. The Quebec based 24 year old made his debut in July 2017 , scoring an opening round win over Kasjan Inglot, and has since been slowly stepping up his competition. Not only has he been stepping up in terms of quality opposition but he has continued to impress, stopping all of his foes, but going a few rounds in the process. He's expected to have a busy 2018 so it could very interesting to see where his career is at the end of the year.
From the footage of Sabirov he looks like a very exciting fighter, with a high level of ring craft and defense as well as explosive offensive capabilities. There is clearly a lot of development that his team will be wanting to do with him, and at 24 there is a lot of time for that development to take place, but he has a lot to work with. That includes impressive handspeed, nice ring IQ and really impressive variation in his shots.
Meiirim Nursultanov (6-0, 5) -Middleweight
When a fight skips the 4 round stage of their career you tend to take notice of them, and that was the case when Meiirim Nursultanov made his debut in November 2016, scoring a 6 round decision over Henry Beckford. Since then he has been matched well and consistently impressed as his team have matched him harder and harder as his career has gone on. That saw him being matched with Ismael Bueno in September 2017 and then the unbeaten Eric Moon just 2 months later. Not only is he being matched well but with Egis Klimas managing his career you know that he has a great team behind him.
As you may have guessed from Klimas' involvement Nursultanov is based in the US and the 24 year old has been getting himself on high-profile under-cards already, with his last 2 bouts coming at Madison Square Garden on shows headlined by Sergey Kovalev. Not only has he been on big cards but he's been shining when fans have had the chance to see him, and his body show KO of Lanny Dardar was a sickeningly brutal one. He's a fighter with serious power and a man who will be looking to make a name for himself in the not too distant future. Given he's a Middleweight he may also be the one to take over Golovkin's role as the country's leading man at 160lbs.
Aidos Yerbossynuly (7-0, 6) – Middleweight
Another potential successor to Golovkin at Middleweight is Aidos Yerbossynuly, a 26 year old fighter who is actually based in Kazakhstan, a bit of a rarity for a prospect from the country. Despite being based in the country of his birth he has also travelled for fights and has already picked up wins not only Kazakhstan but also Ukraine and the USA. So far he has looked exciting, talented and yet flawed, and was dropped early in his career, though has certainly improved since then and his win over over Jonathan Geronimo Barbadillo last September showed that he was one to watch.
Although very exciting and very aggressive there is an openness to Yerbossynuly that he will need to sort out before stepping up too far, but we suspect that will be sorted when he steps up and he will start to contain the wild aggression that he does occasionally show. When that happens we'll have a talented, exciting and hard hitting fighter, who could well give Nursultanov a good run to become the leading Kazakh Middleweight. For now though he looks a step behind his countryman and fighting in Kazakhstan may not help him with his profile internationally, though it is good to see a prospect actually staying in Kazakhstan given how many of them have gone to the US or Canada.
Nursultan Zhanabayev (3-0, 2) – Light Middleweight
We've already mentioned fighters skipping the 4 round phase of their career, but amazingly Nursultan Zhanabayev skipped straight to 10 rounders to begin his career, making his debut in 2016 and taking a 10 round decision over Xingxin Yang to kick off life as a professional boxer. On paper that debut win relied on a 10th round knockdown of the then 11-4-3 Chinese fighter, to claim a split decision, but the reality is that Zhanabayev deserved a very clear and very impressive debut win. He has since built on that debut win with a stoppage against the Joel Dela Cruz and a blast out win against Alex Sandro Duarte.
Zhanabayev seems to have an issue with staying active. He has his first 2 bouts just 2 months apart, bout would be out of the ring for 9 months. He's now been inactive since September 2017, and we do wonder when he returns. He's a genuine talent, and could go a very long way with the right sort of promotional and managerial backing, but without that he could become one of the many lost talents this sport has had. If a team can get behind him, guide him properly then the sky is his limit. Thankfully he is only 25 and has certainly got time to build his career, though may not want to wait too much longer before getting back to action.
Part two of this series will be posted shortly and will feature some of the other top prospects from Kazakhstan, who are going to be worth following over the years to come.
Images courtesy of:
A thanks to Matt Horan for pointing out Zhanat Zhakiyanov's world title reign.
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