This weekend a lot of focus will be on Uzbekistan, thanks to a monster card from Matchroom. Among the many notable fighters on that show will be amateur standout Ikboljon Kholdarov (0-0), who makes his long awaited professional debut. As with many top Uzbek fighters who have turned to the professional ranks, the expectation on Kholdarov is huge, in fact there's a very real chance that he could be the best of the bunch. With that in mind we'd though we'd take the opportunity this week to introduce the 24 year old southpaw hopeful
Born in Andijan, in the East of Uzbekistan, in 1997 Kholdarov has been on the radar of fans who follow amateur boxing for the better part of a decade, and not without reason. In fact he's long been regarded as one of the best young fighters in not just Uzbekistan but world boxing.
The major sign that he was something special came in April 2013 at the Asian Junior Championships, in Kazakhstan. In that tournament he reached the semi-final, where he lost to local favourite Abylaykhan Zhusupov, who later went on to win gold. A few months later he appeared at the World Junior Championships, losing in his first bout to eventual bronze medal winner Henry Lebron. Later that same year he managed to claim first place at the Uzbekistan Youth National Cup, ending the year on a bit of a high.
Following a solid 2013 Kholdarov kicked off 2014 at the Asian Youth Championships, losing early in the competition to Sultan Zaurbek. He had much more success at the AIBA Youth World Championships in Bulgari a few months later, before running into Kazakh nemesis Abylaykhan Zhusupov in the semi final, with Zhusupov going on to win gold a day later. In December, at the Agalarov Youth Memorial in Azerbaijan, Kholdarov finally took first place at an international tournament, albeit a low profile one.
Sadly for Kholdarov things cooled off on the international front in 2015 but in 2016 things would go better for him. He would win the Karakozy Abdaliyev Memorial and come runner up at the Uzbek National Championships, losing in the final to Elnur Abduraimov.
Despite having been on the international stage for a few years, and making solid waves, it still seemed there was unrealised potential with Kholdarov. That changed, in a big way, in 2017 as he shone. In April that year he won the gold medal at the Asian Championships, at home in Uzbekistan, beating Battarsukh Chinzorig of Mongolia in the final. That gold medal was followed up a few months later by a silver at the World Championships in Germany, where he lost to Cuban Andy Ruiz in the final, and a silver at the World Cup of Petroleum Countries in Russia, losing in the final to local favourite Grigoriy Lizunenko.
It's fair to say that 2017 was a year that established Kholdarov as a top, top amateur and he built on it further in 2018 when he won gold at the Asian Games in Indonesia, beating Daisuke Narimatsu in the semi final and Battarsukh Chinzorig in the final. At the end of the year he also won silver at the Uzbek championships, where he moved up in weight and ended up facing Bobo-Usmon Boturov in the final, losing a very competitive decision.
As well as his amateur success Kholdarov also competed in the WSB, albeit with mixed success. He was unfortunate to face Andy Cruz, who beat him twice, but he did manage to pick up wins as well and it seems his WSB record was 2-2.
Despite having a lot of success in the amateurs Kholdarov's style always seemed like it would be more suited to the professional ranks. He's not a fighter with a tippy-tappy style. Instead he's aggressive, he fights with flamboyance and excitement in his work, he throws combinations and comes forward. He's somewhat similar in style to many of the rising Uzbek fighters, such as Israil Madrimov and Shakhram Giyasov, in the way he presses the action forward, moved throw the levels and is happy to let shots fly. He's also happy to drop his hands and try to draw opponents into a fight.
Given his success in the unpaid ranks, and his pro-like style, and the Uzbek nationality, we're expecting to see Kholdarov moved incredibly quickly. He looks like he has the tools to be fast tracked into the top 15/20 of the Welterweight rankings within a year or two and could well be banging on the door of a world title fight by the end of 2024, if he focuses on the professional scene.
Notably his debut bout is set to be a pretty one, as he takes on the skilled, but light punching, Volodymyr Hordiienko of Ukraine this coming weekend. Although not a baptism of fire it's a very solid debut and should give us a good glimpse of what the young Uzbek can do in the ring.
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