One of the best things about Asian boxing right now is the rising wave of prospects making a name for themselves, many of whom are incredibly young fighters. Here we take a look at 10 teenage hopefuls all looking to build on bright starts to their career's. Some are fighters that we covered in some depth already, whilst others are rising youngster who have so far under-the-radar, but are worthy of some attention as they grow, mature and develop.
Thanongsak Simsri (11-0, 11)
Japanese based Thai puncher Thanongsak Simsri is one of the most notable youngsters out there. The Light Fly from Si Sa Ket in Thailand has been hailed as "Srisaket II" in his homeland and has been impressive against a variety of foes. Most of his competition so far has been limited, but earlier this year he scored an impressive win against Filipino Ricardo Sueno and since then he has picked up the Thai Light Flyweight title.
Simsri is naturally very heavy handed, and whilst he's not the most rounded or polished of fighters the 19 year old has strong teams in both Thailand and Japan behind him, with the long term plan seemingly being for the Green Tsuda gym in Japan to help develop him. There is talk about him fighting for a regional title before the end of 2019 and if he does that there's a chance he could be ready for a huge 2020.
Musashi Mori (10-0, 6)
Talking about winning a regional title at a young age it's hard not to be impressed by WBO Asia Pacific Featherweight champion Musashi Mori, who at 19 is a genuinely accomplished young professional. The Japanese youngster turned professional in 2016 before winning the 2017 Rookie of the Year at Super Featherweight. He dropped down in weight in 2018 and claimed the WBO Asia Pacific title, and has defended it once.
Unblike many on this list Mori does have wins over some noteworthy names, including Richard Pumicpic, twice, and Allan Vallespin. Those wins have however made it clear that he has areas to work on, and fingers crossed work will be done to tidy up his defensive flaws before he begins to pursue world ranked opposition. Given the regional depth at 126lbs there's a lot of competition out there for him, so hopefully there will be real development fights for the talented youngster in 2020.
Lienard Sarcon (7-0, 2)
Filipino southpaw Lienard Sarcon is one of the lesser raved about fighters on this list, and that's a shame as he has had a huge 2019. The young Bantamweight debuted back in October 2017 and was 4-0 going into 2019, though this year has seen him win the inaugural Ultimate Boxing Series Bantamweight crown on ESPN5. The youngster did struggle through some of his tournament bouts, but that's what happens when well matched fighters face off, and his competition through the tournament had gone 18-1-1 when he faced them.
Sarcon is one of the fighters on this list who hasn't yet grown into his man strength and power, but at 19 that's not a worry and the "UBS" win will do his career the world of good. We expect to see ESPN in the Philippines push his career forward over the next year or two and by the time he's a fully mature fighter he could well find himself in the regional title picture. Unfortunately for him he's in one of the most talent packed weight ranges, and even a move back to Super Flyweight won't give him many easy options to a regional title.
Ginjiro Shigeoka (4-0, 3)
If anyone on this list is being fast tracked to the top it seems like that is Ginjiro Shigeoka, the 19 year old has only been a professional since September 2018 but is already the WBO Asia Pacific Minimumweight champion and has proven to be a total a total monster in the ring. The aggressively minded Watanabe gym fighter turned professional after a 56-1 amateur record and after a straight forward first 2 bouts was taken the distance by Joel Lino before blasting out Clyde Azarcon to claim his first belt, It's unclear when he will be back in the ring, though it's assumed that he'll fit in one more bout this year.
The expectation is that Shigeoka will be mixing in more title bouts in 2020 and could well be moved aggressively to a world title bout by the end of next year. He turns 20 in October, but already appears a very mature, strong and powerful fighter, with a very polished, aggressive pressure style. Shigeoka is a youngster who is tipped to go a long way, and if you mark down just 1 name on this list this is the one we would flag as the one you "must follow".
Ryu Horikawa (2-0, 1)
Another Japanese 19 year old who hasn't been a professional long is Ryu Horikawa. The talented Horikawa turned professional earlier this year, and although he showed recklessness in his debut his second bout was near flawless as he out boxed, out punched, out fought and out thought the talented Yuki Nakajima. He'll be back in the ring in mid-October, fighting China for the WBO Youth Light Flyweight title, taking on Xiang Li in Shanghai. That's a tough ask, especially this early in his career, but a win in that bout will flag him as a clear one to watch.
Horikawa had been a talented young amateur before turning professional, and debuting in June. Despite only being a professional for a few months he already looks like a real talent, who can box and fight in equal measure. There is still polishing to do, as you'd expect from such a professional novice, but there is so much upside for the Misako gym fighter, and with Misako gym being behind him he's in a gym that is red hot right now.
Toshiya Ishii (2-0, 1)
It can be a bit too easy to get over-excited about Japanese youngsters and maybe that's the case with REBOOT's 18 year old Toshiya Ishii, but so far he's hardly put a step wrong he debut in April with an early win over Indonesian Adam Wijaya before stepping up massively and schooling 2017 Rookie of the Year Fumiya Fuse in a Japanese youth title eliminator. Next up for Ishii should be Haruki Ishikawa, in a bout for the Japanese Youth Bantamweight title, and that should be a real test of his chin and what he's like under pressure.
As an amateur Ishii went 30-14 (7) but achieved a number of notable results in domestic tournaments and certainly looks like he has the basis to build a very good career on. There is, obviously, work to do and he will need to physically mature into his frame but the future is so bright for the 18 year old, and the REBOOT team certainly view as a very special talent.
Issei Ochiai (1-0)
As an amateur Issei Ochiai ran up an impressive 23-7 amateur record and made his professional debut this past August as a Celes gym fighter. The 18 year old, who is a gym headed by former world champion Celes Kobayashi, will be getting gym time with top fighters and it's clear that Mr Kobayashi things incredibly of him. The evident of how highly he's thought of is the fact he debuted against Lerdchai Chaiyawed in a 6 rounder. On paper that doesn't sound impressive, but Lerdchai had given very good tests to domestic level Japanese guys Ryoki Hirai and Seita Ogido and holds a win over former world title challenger Samartlek Kokietgym.
In his debut we weren't blown away by Ochiai, but he handled Lerdchai with ease, taking a dominant decision win over the Thai and showed good understanding of the ring, nice movement and clever foot work. There is clearly work to do with the youngster, but with the Celes gym having fighters like Ryosuke Iwasa there we suspect that Ochiai will improve, and will improve quickly as he matures into his wiry body.
Nan He (1-0)
The Chinese boxing scene isn't known for it's prospects but Nan He is worthy of some attention, despite having only made his debut a few weeks ago, and did so without any notable amateur pedigree. The youngster debuted against the then 5-0 Haiyun Duan and was expected to lose to the more experienced foe. Instead He really impressed, he boxed well, moved well, gauged distance well and used the ring fantastically for such a novice. It's rare to see someone show a natural aptitude to the sport without any amateur pedigree but He seemed to.
Given He's only 18, and even then he's a baby faced and scrawny 18 year old, he will need to physically mature before stepping up too much, but the skills are there to work with if he can get a good team behind him. Obvious a lot of work is needed here but given how he looked in his debut we're really excited to see how far He can go.
Ayumu Hanada (5-0, 3)
At the moment it's unclear when, or even if, Ayumu Hanada will fight in his native Japan, however the youngster is still well worthy of attention. The 17 year old has been carving out his career in a similar way to Devin Haney in his early years, fighting in Mexico. The young Hanada, only has 4 bouts recorded on boxrec though has apparently had a 5th at some point, and from the footage we've seen of him he may be the best kept secret from Japan.
He's technically solid for such a youngster, he has nice speed and combinations, throws heavy shots and has fantastic balance. There are technical areas to work on, but he's not relying on his laurels and earlier this year sparred with Kento Hatanaka, in what was a surprisingly competitive spar. The youngster looks like he is learning new things with every fight and in a year or 2, when he matures, he could be rushed into the title mix. Given his age there is no rush at the moment, but there is a lot get excited about, even if there is still a clear need to polish up
Dastan Saduuly (3-0, 3)
A second 17 year old who looks to be making a mark is Kazakh fighter Dastan Saduuly, who has fought solely in Kazakhstan. The youngster debuted only months after his 16th birthday and looked like a very talented fighter immediately, and also like a youngster who seemed much more mature than his years suggested. Watching him in action we see a really serious, aggressive pressure fighter who gets in the ring to beat up his opponents, who have been limited so far. He has good balance, though is a bit wild with his punches times. Despite the wildness he is powerful, quick and very confident in the ring.
After fighting 3 times in a little over 6 months, from September 2018 to March 2019, to begin his career Saduuly hasn't actually fought in the last 6 months, and it's a shame. The talented youngster was last seen stopping veteran Alexander Saltykov and hopefully it won't be too long until the the teenager returns to the ring for his next bout.
Most of our "Ones to Watch" are lesser known names, often fighters who on their way but aren't really well known to an international audience. This week is a little bit different as we look at a fight between a former world champion and a man that many suspect will be in the world rankings before the end of 2019. This is more of a bout between two top 50 fighters rather than a fight featuring an upcoming youngster, though one of the two fighters is seen as a prospect.
The One to Watch?
Batyrzhan Jukembayev (16-0-0-2, 14) vs Miguel Vazquez (41-8, 15)
September 26th (Thursday)
It's good to see a prospect step up and move from prospect to contender, and this is clearly what the plan is for Jukembayev. For Vazquez the bout sees him continue to face notable opponents, and in the last 2 years alone he has been in the ring with Josh Taylor, Thulani Mbenge, Ghislain Maduma and Ohara Davies. The unbeaten Kazakh is a hard hitter with a lot of promise, but this is an obvious and clear step up in class, against someone who has the potential to make him look awful. For Vazquez it's a chance to prove that, even at the age of 32 and with 49 bouts behind, he's not done as a notable fighter.
Batyrzhan Jukembayev is an unbeaten 28 year old Canadian based Kazakh boxer-puncher. He's clumsy at times, heavy handed, and very exciting. Sadly after showing some potential to be moved quickly his competition recently has felt like he's been going backwards and he has had issues with with his promotional team, who weren't happy with matching him against another of their fighters. It seems those issues have cleared up, a bit, but Jukembayev is still reportedly wanting to get away and fight in the US.
Miguel Vazquez on the other hand is a former IBF Lightweight champion who has really faced a who's who. We mentioned some of his opponents earlier but other opponents include Saul Alvarez, Timothy Bradley, Breidis Prescott, Ji Hoon Kim, Leonardo Zappavigna, Ameth Diaz and Mickey Bey, among others. He's a proper veteran of the sport, and someone who has long been a nightmare to fight. He's a smart boxer, who lacks power, but has a very good boxing brain, sharp punching and intelligent movement. He's slipped from the fighter he once was, but is still a very capable boxer-mover.
What to expect?
We like seeing aggressive fighters take on back foot fighters, especially when the aggressive fighters have a crude ruggedness to their style and the back foot fighters have the more complete skill set, and that's exactly what we have here. Jukembayev will press, and although he's not an out and out wild fighter he does have rough edges to him, edges that Vazquez can counter and use to his advantages. In a similar fashion Vazquez lacks the 1-punch power to get Jukembayev's respect and the Kazakh will press forward, walking through on to land one.
We'd expecting Jukembayev to, eventually, break down Vazquez in the final rounds of the bout, similar to what Mbenge did to the Mexico. There is however a good chance Jukembayev will be made to look silly at times before getting to his man.
This is a huge test, and a great chance to see just legit Jukembayev really is.
The bad news?
The bout will be a hard one to watch, as most Canadian cards are. They are often behidn paywalls, hiding the bout away from a huge amount of potential fans.
Our "One to Watch..." is all about pointing a light on an upcoming fight that deserves more attention than we typically give it. Ususually these are fights involving styles that should gel, or a prospect on the way up, or even a veteran in what could be the final fight of their career. It is, for all intents, a chance for us to talk about a contest that we're not doing a typical preview for, but we still want to help make fans aware of. This week we get a fight that ticks lots of boxes at once. It has an emerging prospect in action against a fun to watch veteran in what should be a very, very entertaining contest.
The One to Watch?
Kudura Kaneko (10-0, 7) vs Moon Hyon Yun (18-7-3, 4)
September 21st (Saturday)
We have a hard hitting and fast rising prospect against a tough veteran who has never been stopped. We have a 21 year old puncher, against a 35 year old pressure fighter. We have an uneaten man stepping up against someone now fighting for their career. We have the ingredients for something very, very exciting. Kaneko has pretty much had things his own way in recent fights, not coming close to a loss since his first bout with Shota Irie in early 2016, but Yun is a nightmare for everyone and nobody has ever had an easy time with him. This is a gut check for the youngster and a chance for Yun to add one final Hurrah to his thoroughly entertaining career.
The 21 year old Kudura Kaneko is a Afghan born Japanese based boxer-puncher. He debuted at the age of 17, after having had almost no amateur fights, and rose through the ranks relatively quickly for such a novice. He won the Japanese youth title in 2018, in his second fight against Change Hamashima, and has since added notable wins over Toshio Arikawa and Rikuto Adachi to his record. Entering this bout he is ranked #3 by the JBC and is likely to get a senior title fight in 2020, if he can get past Yun here. He's strong, a bit basic, but heavy handed and technically solid, though has plenty of areas to work on.
Yun on the other hand is a 35 year old veteran who has more than 12 years of professional experience. Although no world beater Yun is one of the great servants to the Japanese domestic scene and has proven to be a mainstay since his 2008 Rookie of the Year triumph. Back in his Rookie days he was fighting at 140lbs, but has since grown into the Welterweight division, where he has been since 2011. During his career he has beaten the likes of Daisuke Sakamoto, Takehiro Shimokawara, Tetsuya Suzuki, Nobuyuki Shindo and Shusaku Fujinaka. Sadly Yun has picked up losses, though has run the likes of Suyon Takayama, Koichi Aso, Ryota Yada and Ma Roo Jung all very close. He's an in face, all action fighter, who has always given so much value.
What to expect?
Kaneko will be looking to fight behind his jab, control the distance and open up Yun's defense for his right hand. That however will be much, much tougher than it seems and Yun will be looking to crush the distance, cramp Kaneko up and work on the inside. This could cause an ugly fight, if Kaneko ends up holding and fighting negatively, of could force Kaneko into fighting Yun's fight.
If we see Kaneko holding, spoiling and looking to the referee to keep them apart, this could be a real stinker and a horror to watch. In Japan however referees don't tend to break fighters as quickly as they do in the West and we could end up with the referee allowing Yun to work up close and begin force Kaneko into a fire fight. If that happens we'd expect a very tough bout for Kaneko and one that could see him being really tested mentally.
Alternatively we could see Kaneko decide, from the early going, that he's going to trade with Yun and if that happens we're going to be in for something amazing. Yun's toughness and pressure could break Kaneko, on the other hand Kaneko's power, physical strength and nasty straight straight, could end up breaking down the 35 year old. Yun has had a long career, and one more hard battle could well be too much for his body.
Expect action, excitement and a lot of fantastic back and forth trading!
The bad news?
Whilst the bout is available live, it is hidden behind a pay wall with the bout being aired on Boxing Raise, a service we're huge fans of but a paid service all the same. This will limit the amount of viewers who will get to watch it. Despite that limitation it is on a stacked card and the for fans wanting a value for money, this show is worth paying for a month of Boxing Raise for.
The action this coming week is slightly down in quality from some recent weeks, with a lot of action taking place at Rookie of the Year level in Japan and other lower level action. Thankfully though there are some bouts that have caught our attention, including one in China this coming Wednesday that should be a very interesting test for a rising Chinese hopeful. It's with that in mind that we've selected this week's "One to Watch"
The One to Watch?
ZongLi He (5-0, 1) vs Hamson Lamandau (10-3-1, 7)
September 11th (Wednesday)
The bout is the headline fight of a card in Xi An, China and will be a regional title fight with both men looking to shoot themselves up the rankings and prove what they have in the tank. For He it's a chance to get chin checked, whilst also potentially picking up his second stoppage win after a 4 straight decisions. For Lamandau it's a chance to claim his first win on the road, and begin to get his career back on track after going 2-3-1 in his last 6. Both men will be going in to this with the intent of picking up a win, and looking good in the process.
It's rare to see Chinese prospects catching the attention at an early stage in their career's, however ZongLi He has done just that thanks to notable wins over Diarh Gabutan and Vincent Astrolabio. Those wins have boosted him into the Boxrec top 100, at the time of writing, after just 5 fights. He's not blown away Gabutan or Astrolabio but has taken wins over both and has proven he can do 10 rounds.
Indonesian fighter Lamandau showed some early promise, starting his career 8-0, but has been matched hard since then and lost by stoppage to Hinata Maruta, Brock Jarvis and Sukkasem Kietyongyuth. His career has faltered big time, but this is certainly a chance for him to pick up a win on the road, and score his best win to date.
What to expect?
Footage of He show's him to be boxer who likes fighting off the back foot, he moves, a lot, and although he looks negative a lot he's a smart fighter with quick hands, a good tank and a bit luck on his side. His two big wins do have some question marks over them in terms of scoring, but they were bouts that were perhaps too much too soon for him too look good in. He showed something to like in both but left a lot of questions, questions we want to see him answering. We want to see more from him offensively, and see more of what he can do when he's not on the back foot against someone with more power and experience.
Lamandau has been under-sized in his losses. He's been beaten by much bigger men than himself in all 3 defeats and here we see him in with someone of a similar size to himself. We also see him taking on someone who lacks power. Given all 3 of Lamaandau's losses have been by stoppage it's interesting to see him in with a non-puncher here. In the ring he's an aggressive little bull and if well matched he should make for some very fan friendly bouts.
With Lamandau coming forward and He boxing off the back foot the styles should gel excellently and should make for some very exciting action, in what looks to be a true hidden gem for the week.
The bad news?
The bout is going to be a hard one to find, with Chinese streams being a bit hit and miss at times. The card is also a pretty low key one over all and whilst this is a bout worth making a note of it's not likely to be worth the time spent watch the whole card. We also wouldn't be surprised by some potential funny business with the score cards if this is close.
In recent weeks we've seen a surge in the number of notable Japanese amateurs turning professional. Whilst some of this is down to the Olympics dropping certain weight classes, there are other reasons for so many switching codes and turning professional. Whatever their reasons their move to the pros has given us something to get excited about, new, fresh blood, looking to begin their careers, more fighters to watch. It's with that in mind that our latest "One to Watch" features of of those fighters who has just turned pro.
The One to Watch?
Katsuya Fukui (0-0) Vs Sang Hoon Kim (4-1-2, 3)
September 7th (Saturday)
Fukui ran up a solid 59-16 record in the amateurs before signing over with the Teiken Gym, who have been snapping up amateur talent a lot in months. The gym, still the most well known in Japan, has been going through a bit of a struggle in terms of creating stars, and it seems clear that by signing so many talented youngsters they are wanting to put themselves back on the top of the Japanese scene. Kim Kim on the other hand is an exciting fighter who comes out the blocks fast, with power, a crude style and a Korean mentality. The visitor was stopped last time out, by De Kang Wang in China, and will be looking to get back to winning ways here against the Japanese debutant.
As mentioned earlier Fukui ran up a 59-16 amateur record over 75 fights in the unpaid ranks. The 23 year old won he 2014 Japanese Interschool Athletic Meet in Chigasaki in August, joining the likes of Go Hosaka and Yudai Shigeoka, and actually beat the very well regarded Yusuke Mine in the final and with Teiken's backing he's been getting top quality training and sparring since turning professional.
Kim is a 19 year old Korean who debuted as a 16 year old back in 2017. He debuted as a Flyweight, but did fight as a Bantamweight last time out, losing in 6 rounds in China. Aside from the loss in China all his bouts have been in Korea against fellow novices, but he has shown something to get excited about and like many Korean fighters his offensive is his best defense. Something that almost always makes for fun TV fights.
What to expect?
As with any amateur turned pro Fukui will be looking to impress, and leave a mark on the viewer. He'll put himself under extra pressure to shine, knowing he's being televised live in Japan on G+ on a card featuring Jorge Linares. Although a very good pure boxer we suspect he'll want to do more than just box his way to a win, and will, instead, want to shine. Against an aggressive opponent Fukui will find himself taking risks and this could force a very exciting bout, though one that Fukui should take thanks to his solid amateur background. Don't be surprised to see Fukui take a risk or two trying to catch the eye, but we expect him to win inside the distance.
The bad news?
Whilst this bout is televised it's going to be the show opener on G+ this Saturday. For Western fans his bout will be aired very early in the day and you'll really need to set an alarm clock to see this one. You'll also need access to G+ which is typically only available through some paid services, whether your in Japan out outside of the country.
Takahiro Onaga is a regular contributor to Asian Boxing and will now be a featured writer in his own column where his takes his shot at various things in the boxing world.