This week's one to watch features a novice professional taking his next step up in class, as he takes on a veteran in a world title eliminator. It's not necessarily the bout any of us wanted, but it will be a decent chance to see the improvements made by one of Uzbekistan's brightest hopefuls, albeit against a much older opponent.
The One to Watch?
Israil Madrimov (4-0, 4) vs Charlie Navarro (29-9, 22)
February 29th (Saturday)
We get the chance to see one of boxing's fastest rising hopefuls take his next step towards a world title fight as he clashes with a veteran who has world title experience. On the other a veteran gets the chance to try and derail someone seen a massively exciting bright young star in the making. We love seeing prospects develop and their journey's through the rankings, and this is a great chance to see just that!
Unbeaten Uzbek Israil Madrimov is a 24 year old Light Middleweight super prospect. He debuted in a 10 round bout, in November 2018, and instantly looked sensational. He was a former amateur before turning professional and that amateur pedigree, mixed with sensational athletic ability and a flair for entertainment was on show immediately. He switching stances, he was mixing things up and at times it looked like he was trying to not just impress but also make sure he was burned into the brain of every fight fan who saw him. Since then he has continued impressing, scoring wins over solid opposition and racing up the WBA world rankings. Within just 4 bouts it's become less a case of "whether" Madrimov will be a world champion and more a case of "when".
Venezuelan veteran Charlie Navarro is certainly not the best opponent out there, but given that Madrimov's team have struggled to get opponents he's the best that's willing to face the Uzbek. Even in saying that however the 40 year old is no push over, in fact it seems he's coming into this bout with a lot of confidence after taking the unbeaten records of Damian Rodriguez and Johan Gonzalez in his last 2 bouts, and has gone unbeaten in his last 4. At his best Navarro was world class, giving the then WBA Welterweight champion Vyacheslav Senchenko a close bout in Ukraine. Sadly though that was almost 10 years ago and since then he has gone 11-5 and suffered 2 of his 3 stoppage losses. With a WBA top 15 ranking he also serves as the type of opponent that will boost Madrimov's ranking and move him towards a world title shot.
What to expect?
We could sit here and pretend that Navarro could be competitive, but the reality is that he shouldn't be, not even close. However what we do expect is for Madrimov to make a statement. The Uzbek knows he needs to do something special, every time he fights, to live up to the hype he's getting, and especially so soon after countryman Murodjon Akhmadaliev won the IBF and WBA "super" titles at Bantamweight. He will be out there to shine.
Navarro might be old, but he's rugged, tough and has enough on his shots to potentially check Madrimov's chin. If he can land clean and he knows his way around the ring. He's not a world beater, but he's a crafty veteran who can look after himself, and be a banana skin for an over-confident hopeful.
We expect Navarro to take a bit of a beating if we're being honest. We don't see him having the speed or slickness to really test Madrimov, but instead allow him to showcase what he has. We suspect we'll see him show off the switch hitting, the movement, the finding of unusual angles, the hand speed, power and in ring charisma that he has. And then to break down a resilient, but over matched, Navarro.
The bad news?
It's annoying that Madrimov can't get a bigger name in the ring with him. Hopefully that changes next time out, and we see him in with a genuine top 10 type opponent, or a former champion. Someone who can genuine be viewed as a test, rather than just a step up in class, like Navarro is.
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.