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.