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.
After a relatively quiet month of June we see things really pick up in July, with what looks to be a truly hectic schedule. We though May was busy but even the craziness of May could end up playing second fiddle to June which features everything we could ever ask for.
Earlier this week we looked at a number of Kazakh hopefuls in the first of 2 articles looking at the rising hopefuls of Kazakh boxing, and the fighters that will be looking to build on the success of Gennady Golovkin, Beibut Shumenov and Zhanat Zhakiyanov. For those who missed that it can be read here - The Kazakh Hopes! - Part 1 and for those who did read it, part two can be found below, looking at the Light Middleweight division and below.
Sadriddin Akhmedov (2-0, 2) – Light Middleweight
Quebec based 20 year old Light Middleweight Sadriddin Akhmedov is one of the more obscure fighters on this list, but is likely to be one that will give his team the most frustration going forward. That sounds like an insult but the reality is that Akhmedov already looks too good for his own good and that's a major problem given he only debuted in April, when he stopped Tony Barreras in 31 seconds. He returned to the ring in May, stopping Ariel Alejandro Zampedri in just 84 seconds. Whilst that might not sound too impressive it's worth noting that it took the talented Jayde Mitchell 3 rounds to stop Zampedri.
At just 20 years old Akhmedov might be the best hidden gem from Kazakhstan. His professional start has been impressive and as an amateur he was also pretty impressive, winning the World Youth Championships in 2016 and winning a pair of Kazakh Youth titles. Given his power, which is genuinely terrifying, his amateur skillset, his youth, his speed and timing, and his relaxed nature in the ring it really does seem like Kazakh boxing may well have a star in the making here. Of course it is, very, early in his career but we're been very impressed and suspect Akhmedov will impress again in June, when he's expected to have his third professional bout. With his quick blow outs his team will be wanting to keep him busy, step him up and test him sooner rather than later, as he's likely to just smash through lower level fighters with too much ease.
Zhankosh Turarov (22-0, 15) – Welterweight
One of the most experienced fighters on this list is Welterweight Zhankosh Turarov, a 27 year old who has been a professional since 2009 and slowly worked his way towards the fringes of the world rankings, in what is one of the most high profile divisions in the sport. Having turned professional at 18 he isn't a big name former amateur but has been developed carefully by his team who have had him fighting in Kazakhstan, USA, Dominican Republic and Colombia. It should be noted that whilst he has travelled for fights, on a regular basis, he is actually based in the US and could well find himself on some high profile US televised cards in the near future.
Sadly Turarov hasn't yet made a step up to battling many notable names, though he does seem to be getting matched better in the last couple of years. If that continues in 2018 he could well find himself in with some notable names, which will tell us a lot more about him. From what we have seen of Turarov he looks like a fun, flashy and confident fighter, but that could have a lot to do with the competition he has been facing not being able to punish him for his defensive flaws and allowing him to look better than he actually is. He is a fun fighter, but will need to improve his defense if he's to win at the highest levels, as he can often be seen dropping his guard against his lower level opposition.
Daniyar Yeleussinov (1-0, 1) – Welterweight
Another Welterweight prospect, and arguably a better one than Turarov, is 2016 Olympic gold medal winner Daniyar Yeleussinov. The former amateur star, didn't just win Olympic gold as an amateur but also took gold as the World Amateur Championships and the Asian Games and was one of the top Kazakh amateurs over the last few years. It's little wonder that a top promoter signed him up when he was ready to turn professional and it's fair to say that Matchroom have signed a genuinely top tier prospect here.
As a professional Yeleussinov made his debut on April 28th, and looked a tiny bit unsure of himself to begin with, before stopping the unbeaten Noah Kidd in round 3. It seemed like the 27 year old needed a round or two to adapt to the professional ranks, but in round 3 he turned it up and looked like the class act he was as an amateur. He'll be returning to the ring for his second professional bout on June 6th and will likely try to fit in another 2 or 3 fights before the end of the year, against progressively better opposition. Given his talent and amateur pedigree it's going to be hard for Matchroom to hold him back, so expect him to be moved much quicker than Turarov.
Batyrzhan Jukembayev (13-0-0-2, 11) - Light Welterweight
Another Quebec based Kazakh is Batyrzhan Jukembayev, a Light Welterweight puncher who is on a good role after a bizarre start to his professional career which saw him begin with 2 No Contests. Since then he has been matched aggressively, with all of his opponents having more wins than losses, and has scored notable wins over the likes of Cecilio Santos, Cosme Rivera and Noe Nunez. It's clear that he's yet to face a fellow contender, or prospect, but he's building a reputation for himself and looking damned good doing it.
At 27 years old it does seem like Jukembayev is ready to be let off the leash. He fought 4 times last year and already has a couple of wins this year, suggest they are going to keep him active in 2018. If they step him up again he could well be finding himself in with a contender before the end of the year and could be charging through the world rankings in 2019. He has power, a really nice style, a southpaw stance and a team who seem very confident in his abilities. There is, of course, work to do in his development but he's on the right track and and is likely to be finding himself really making a mark on television very shortly.
Ruslan Madiev (12-0, 5) - Light Welterweight
Another US based prospect from Kazakhtan is 140lb hopeful Ruslan Madiev, who is based in Big Bear, California. Madiev has been a professional for over 5 years, having made his debut on May 26th 2013, but would have a stop-start beginning to his career and take 17 months before returning to action. It wasn't actually until last September that Madiev got much attention, following a big win over the then 23-1-1 Abdiel Ramirez, and since then he has scored two more notable wins over Martin Angel Martinez and the then unbeaten Jesus Perez.
As a stablemate of Gennady Golovkin we know Madiev is in good hands. He also has WSB experience, which has sort of explained “his lack of activity”. That WSB experience shows in just how relaxed Madiev looks in the ring, even when he's under pressure, and he does look like a very composed fighter, who knows his way around the ring, throws very solid body shots and, unlike some on this list, seems to enjoy boxing on the back foot with his counters and movement, as opposed to coming forward and looking destructive.
Bekman Soylybayev (12-0, 4) - Super Featherweight
The Super Featherweight division is a strong one and it's one where Kazakhstan are a bit lacking, though they do have 27 year old Bekman Soylybayevn. Soylybayev has only actually fought a single bout in Kazakhstan, having racked up fights in Ukraine, USA and Mexico and is getting stamps on his passport and getting international experience. His sole bout in Kazakhstan came more than 2 years ago, when he stopped Nikoloz Kokashvili in 2 rounds. It's fair to say that Kokashvili isn't a particularly notable opponent, but Soylybayev has scored other wins against the likes of German Meraz and Fernando Vargas which are worthy of note.
In terms of his boxing style Soylybayev is a pretty patient fighter and looks loose and relaxed in the ring. There is perhaps a sense of laziness at times when watching Soylybayev but he does look a real talent who can fight on the front foot but looks like he's happier on the back foot, and seems very happy fighting off the ropes when he needs to. There is a lot of technical ability here, and a lovely variety to his work. Sadly though he may be held back by his relative lack of power, and 4 stoppage wins from 12 bouts suggests that he may have problems getting respect of world class opponents.
Mussa Tursyngaliyev (7-0, 6) – Featherweight
At Featherweight Kazakh fans have Mussa Tursyngaliyev to get excited about, and he really could be one of the most interesting fighters on this list. Around the start of 2016 he had seemingly signed with AK Promotions in Korea, though would never actually fight for AK and wouldn't actually make his professional debut until November 10th 2017. Amazingly by the end of November he had raced away to 6-0 (5), beating 6 opponents in just 19 days, and made up for lost time with that level of intense activity. Notably he has fought just once since then, scoring a very notable win against Luis Hinojosa this past March, and claiming the WBA NABA USA Featherweight title.
Although it's hard to track down much footage of Tursyngaliyev as a professional he was a pretty accomplished amateur and looked pretty good back in his amateur days. Sadly however that amateur footage is very dated now and it's to imagine him being the same fighter today. Thankfully it does sound like he's going to be chasing bigger and better bouts in the near future and could well be a break out fighter this year, and make it to have some televised contests. If he does then we'll finally be able to see what the hard hitting 23 year old has to offer. From what we understand he will be fast tracked this year and hopefully will get some sort of exposure to help throw some light on exactly how good and how promising Tursyngaliyev actually is.
Madiyar Zhanuzak (4-0, 1) – Flyweight
There isn't a lot of Kazakh fighters in the lower weight classes, though it's worth making a note of Madiyar Zhanuzak, a 23 year old who has fought twice in Russia and twice in Macau, all since July 2017. His competition hasn't been massively impressive but he has already completed a 10 round bout, scored a notable win on the road and looked really impressive so far. From the footage of him he's aggressive, constantly applying pressure has a tight guard to bring that pressure with. He does look a little bit open when letting his shots go, but given he's still a novice that's to be expected. What he perhaps lacks is power but he may well mature into a more powerful puncher.
From what we understand Zhanuzak will be back in action on July 8th on a stacked RCC Boxing Promotions card in Ekaterinburg in a 10 rounder. His opponent hasn't been announced for that bout, yet, but we're hoping it'll be someone who can really test the youngster, who has only lost around 3 rounds in his career so far.
Of course these aren't the only prospect from Kazakhstan, but in our eyes they arre the best of the bunch to begin their professional careers.
Images courtesy of:
Eye of the Tiger Managament
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