When it comes to notable emerging talents at Flyweight the division is rather crazy. It has a lot of contenders, though very few of them have really been tested at world level. In fact only 2 of our 6 to watch have actually challenged for a world title, and one of those is a former world champion, though it seems likely that at least 3 of them will fight for a belt in the next 12 months.
Angel Acosta (21-2, 21)
The most notable of the contenders here is hard hitting Puerto Rican Angel Acosta. "Tito" is a former WBO Light Flyweight champion who now appears set to make his mark at Flyweight, where he currently holds the IBO title. Acosta was rather unlucky to lose the WBO Light Flyweight title last year, with Thomas Taylor seeming a bit too eager to stop his bout with Elwin Soto, but a move up to Flyweight will likely serve him well and suspect he'll be a handful at 112lbs. The heavy handed and talented Acosta has unfinished business with WBO champion Kosei Tanaka, and a bout between him and Martinez would absolutely sensational.
Muhammad Waseem (10-1, 7)
The only other contender making our list who has previously fought at world level is Pakistani fighter Muhammad Waseem. The talented Waseem came close to beating Moruti Mthalane in 2018 but hasn't done enough to earn a second shot at a title yet. He spent 14 months out after the Mthlane fight before disposing of the hapless Conrado Tanamor in 62 seconds. Last time out Waseem looked poor as he took a decision over Ganigan Lopez, and it seems clear that someone needs to light a fire under his ass to get the best from him. He has the ability, he has the amateur experience, he has the financial backing and he has the tools to make an impact at world level. No the question is whether he has the desire to do so. If he has that hunger still, after what has been a frustrating career, he could still go on to become a world champion. At 32 however time is ticking on his career.
Junto Nakatani (20-0, 15)
Japanese hopeful Junto Nakatani is just 22 years old, but the 5'7" southpaw looks ready for a world title fight, and we suspect that he will get a shot during 2020, likely for either than the WBA or WBC title. He's impressed through his career and has already won the All Japan Rookie of the Year, the Japanese Youth and Japanese national titles. Our view is that he should try and get 1 more solid win in before getting a world title fight, so he can get a solid 10 rounder in, but the reality is that he and his team will feel they are ready for the top guys and that this could be a huge year for the popular, lanky southpaw puncher.
Giemel Magramo (24-1, 20)
Often overlooked Filipino fighter Giemel Magramo is on the verge of a world title fight, and has really built his reputation rather quietly. In fact if you don't follow boxing in Asia there's a good chance you've never seen or heard of Magramo, despite the fact he is legitimately one of the top Flyweight contenders out there. The 25 year suffered his only loss back in 2016, a close loss to Muhammad Waseem, and since then has gone 7-0 (7) with notable wins over Petchchorhae Kokietgym, Wenfeng Ge and former world title challenger Richard Claveras and John Mark Apolinario. Magramo seems to be on the verge of a WBO title shot, and is a very exciting hopeful.
Jayr Raquinel (12-1-1, 9)
One of the many emerging youngster in the division is OPBF champion Jary Raquinel, another young Filipino puncher. Raquinel has been a frustrating fighter since bursting on to the since in 2018, when he knocked out Keisuke Nakayama for the OPBF title, but he has proven to be a devastating puncher with notable KO's against Shun Kosaka and Takuya Kogawa. When Raquinel is on point he a brutal fighter and has the power to be a nightmare for anyone. Sadly however a 2018 loss to Wulan Tuolehazi slowed his momentum, and a win over Jack Amisa in November 2019 did little to boost his stamina. Hopefully 2020 is a year where he just gets it right and begins knocking on the door!
Jay Harris (17-0, 9)
One man who does now seem to have secured himself a world title fight is Welshman Jay Harris, a 29 year old who had a sensational 12 months, from November 2018. In that that 12 months he claimed the Commonwealth title, stopping Ross Murray, the European title, stopping Angel Moreno, and the IBF Inter-Continental title, stopping Paddy Barnes. Although not a big name he has been really impressive recently and will be fighting WBC champion Julio Cesar Martinez on February 29th in a bout that really promises a lot of violence!
The 3 bouts we want in 2020:
Julio Cesar Martinez Vs Angel Acosta
Kosei Tanaka Vs Moruti Mthalane
Artem Dalakian Vs Junto Nakatani
Due to the Flyweight division being in a state of change in 2018, what may go down as one of the division's most transitional years in living memory, it's been awkward in really recognising the divisional contenders. It seems like so many of the highest ranked fighters haven't had the management or mentality to fight fellow contenders and prove they deserve a shot.
Thankfully the division has delivered in terms of prospects, with a host of youngsters making their charge and looking to climb through the rankings.
If you missed out look at the champions in the division you can catch up here The state of the Division - Flyweight - The Champions whilst out look at the contenders is here The state of the Division - Flyweight - The Contenders
Junto Nakatani (17-0, 12)
Japanese 20 year old boxer-puncher Junto Nakatani might have 17 bouts to his name and not yet have had a world title fight but the youngster has already won the All Japan Rookie of the Year, the Japanese title and will fight for the main Japanese title in the new year, battling Naoki Mochizuki in February for the vacant title. He's been one to watch for a few years now and wins against the likes of Masamichi Yabuki, Mario Andrade, Seigo Yuri Akui and Dexter Alimento have all put him in a place where a world title fight looks inevitable. The biggest question when it comes to Nakatani is "when" and not "if" he'll fight at the very top level in the division.
Ryota Yamauchi (4-0, 4)
Top Japanese prospects are well known for being fast tracked and so far Ryota Yamauchi looks like he is on the fact track, having already beaten two notable names in just 4 bouts. The talented 23 year old has already stopped Lester Abutan and Yota Hori and looks like a very talented boxer puncher. Despite the obvious talent and belief of his team it does seem like we'll be seeing him held back just a touch, and wouldn't be surprised if he only competes for his first title towards the end of 2019. Over the coming years however he will likely find himself well and truly in the mix at world level.
Mekhdi Abdurashedov (5-0, 2)
The Russian boxing scene is set to have a new wave of great talent, following the old guard of fighters like Denis Lebedev and Alexander Povetkin. One of the new wave is the unbeaten Mekhdi Abdurashedov, who turns 20 before the end of the year. At such a young age it's hard to know just how good he really is, but he looked like a sensation when he stopped Prince Andrew Laurio in 3 rounds and has also impressed in wins over Iwan Zoda and Hugo Hernandez Aguilar. It might be a long wait to see Abdurashedov fighting for a world title, but after just 5 fights he already looks like he will, eventually, end up fighting at world level.
Kento Hatanaka (7-0, 7)
WBC Youth World champion Kento Hatanaka is a second generation fighter, following in the footsteps of his father Kiyoshi Hatanaka, a world champion back in the 1990's. Kento is aged 20 and already appears to have the tools needed to go a long way, with vicious power, great speed, exciting combination punching and a real desire to make an impression. There is still a lot of improving for Hatanaka to do before he moves onto senior titles, but with the tools he has been blessed with, as well as the training he'll get along side current WBO world champion Kosei Tanaka there is real potential for Hatanaka to not only improve but to go on and become a world champion of the future.
Dave Apolinario (9-0, 6)
Filipino teenager Dave Apolinario doesn't turn 20 until January 2019 but is already getting rave reviews in the Philippines due to his combination of skills, power and ring craft. The youngster hasn't really fought anyone of real note yet, but has looked incredible at the early stages of his career and already shown an ability to go 8 rounds, as well as the ability to blow opponents away early on. He's perhaps a few years away from reaching his physical prime, but when he develops his man strength he will become a very hard man to beat. At the moment we expect to see Apolinario being given baby steps, but that's certainly not a problem.
Alphoe Dagayloan (11-2-5-1, 5)
We see quite a lot of Filipino's with really misleading records, and Alphoe Dagayloan is another in that mould. The Southpaw has a less than stellar record but a lot of that has to do with baffling 4-2-4-1 start to his professional career. He is now riding a 5 fight winning run and has scored notable wins over Madiyar Zhanuzak and Rongguo Wu in his last 2 bouts. He can be our boxed, but he's a nightmare as he comes forward, throws a lot of hard shots and breaks opponents down. His record may put some off believing him to be a prospect but we've been impressed and suspect he could go on to challenge for a world title in the future, if he continues his current run of form.
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.