In "A look at fighters from "non boxing countries part 1" I looked at Cambodia, North Korea, Mongolia, Hong Kong and Macau. So now I'll have a look at some more fighters from countries not traditionally known for boxing.
Tran Van Thao (11-0, 8) - Vietnam
Vietnamese fighter Tran Van Thao, dubbed "the trigger", is a 26 year old who debuted back in 2015 and has got himself a genuine name back home in Vietnam, despite only fighting professionally there once, on his debut. He's been compared in Vietnam to Floyd Mayweather Jr and has received a lot of coverage in his homeland for a 2017 win over George Lumoly for the "interim" WBC Asian Boxing Council Super Flyweight title. That win is one of a few notable ones for Thao who has also beaten Yo Han Bae, Wulan Tuolehazi and Richard Rosales, who are all great wins for a fighter with 11 bouts.
Sadly a lot of footage of Tran has vanished from the internet, including his first 2 bouts, and he's not fought as a professional since June this year, when he fought his 8th straight bout in Thailand. The hope, from us, is that he will be back in the ring sooner rather than later, as he seems like a genuine prospect for Vietnam, and he could be one of the big winners from the OPBF being involved in the country.
The footage of Thao that remains online makes him look like a sharp puncher, who's defensively patient and mixes his shots well. Sadly however there is so little footage that it's hard to know just how much potential he has, and how far he can really go. His competition has been decent, at times, but there are a lot of questions that will need answering, if and when he fights again.
Nadir Baloch (4-0, 4) - Pakistan
When we talk about boxing in Pakistan we really only think of Pakistani-British fighter Amir Khan. That however may change in the coming years with the rise of Nadir Baloch, who is a 29 year old Featherweight who is actually fighting in Pakistan and is slowly, but surely, making a mark of his own. He looks to be pretty well schooled, and was reportedly a good amateur, but there are a lot of question marks about him, his actual record, which is thought to differ from the reported 4-0, and his hunger.
There's lots to enjoy about watching Baloch, who can fight like a bit of an eccentric clown when he wants to, but there competition he has faced has often looked like it's there to lose. It also needs to be mentioned that he appears to be short for a Featherweight and despite some lovely touches to his boxing he can be rather overly aggressive and open.
With Pakistan boxing just getting off the ground Baloch looks like he will be a key figure for the countries scene. Sadly though it seems like if, or when, he faces stiffer competition hey may end up being found out. In theory a win over Juma Fundi looks good, but Fundi was beginning to roll over every time he left Tanzania and it hardly looked like he threw a punch of note at Baloch.
Sachin Dekwal (4-0, 2) - Indian
We suspect that Indian boxing will be big news in 2019. Bob Arum has recently signed two notable Indian fighters, India had a good 2018 in terms of amateur results, and we suspect that if the 2020 Olympics doesn't have boxing then a number of Indian fighters will turn professional. One of the few Indian fighters already making a mark on the Indian scene, and hasn't abandoned the country yet.
Aged 23 Dekwal is a Lightweight who debuted at the start of the year and is slowly making his mark. He began his career on the road, winning his debut in the Philippines before notching his second win in Thailand. Since then he has twice fought in India, and recently stopped veteran Francis Miyeyusho. Against Miyeyusho we were impressed by Dekwal who looked very competent for such a novice, with a good understanding of the ring and his movement. There is clearly a lot of work to be done but there is promise here.
With the Indian boxing scene set to boom Dekwal may well see a lot of attention put his way in 2019. Hopefully that will lead to better training and getting a real team behind him. We like what we've seen, given his novice status, but he certainly needs a professional team to develop his skills, his name and standing in the sport.
Muhamad Farkhan (7-0, 7) - Malaysia
Over the last few years Malaysia has become a notable, but small, player for fights with a number of Uzbeks fighting in then country and generating buzz there. When it comes to Malaysian fighters themselves however there's not been much said at all, with Muhammad Meeraj probably more attention than anyone else. For us however the man we'd like to raise attention to is Cruiserweight Muhamad Farkhan, who is hard hitting, exciting, flawed but fun.
Farkhan isn't going to win a world title, in fact if he even wins a notable international belt we'd be very surprised, however there is a real enjoyment in watching the rather our of shape, slow and clumsy Malaysian taking out limited opponents whilst raising attention of Malaysian boxing. He's the sort of fighter who is very basic, very straight forward but looks to take opponents out early on and that alone does generate some attention.
The likeliness of Malaysia creating a superstar any time soon is slim, and that's being polite, but having someone like Farkhan on the scene will not harm the boxing culture there. Instead having someone who appears to be looking to knock opponents out will genuinely help Malaysian boxing to build a fan base.
Kudura Kaneko (9-0, 6) - Afghanistan
I'm going to finish this list by cheating a little bit and mentioning a Japanese fighter, though it's someone who is originally from Afghanistan, and looks like he could be one of their more notable fighters. Kudura Kaneko, also known as Kudura Tura, is someone who left Afghanistan at a very young age with his family to leave the war torn country of his birth. Since living in Japan he has become a bit of a minor boxing star, having already claimed the Japanese Youth Welterweight title and, more recently, stopping former Japanese national champion Toshio Arikawa.
The 20 year old is expected to fight for a Japanese title in the next year or two, and whilst he will be the under-dog at the moment there is a real chance that he will develop quickly enough to be favoured over a champion by the end of 2019, especially given how much he's developed this year.
Afghanistan has had other fighters of note, most obviously the Canadian based Arash Usmanee, but it's quite possible that Kaneko could well go further than any other Afghan born fighter, and with growing popularity in his adopted country we're really enjoying his journey and development. He really is a unique fighter, and someone we've been constantly impressed by.
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.