Around a year ago we took a look at 10 teenage prospects from around Asia, and now seemed a perfect time to re-run that article by taking a look at 10 prospects who are currently teenagers and that we're really excited by.
As with last year's article we are genuinely exciting about how bright the future is looking for Asian fighters and Asia in general has a lot of young talent breaking through the ranks. Not just the teenagers we mention here, who are very much the youngest of the emerging talent, but the 20, 21, 22 and 23 year old's who are all looking to make their mark. Thankfully one thing we know about Asian talent is that the top prospects don't tend to want to waste time and in a year or two we may be talking about some of these fighters are regional champions or world contenders.
In fact with that in mind, and before we go in to the 10 for this list we'll just note that two of the men featured last year, Musashi Mori and Ginjiro Shigeoka, are currently world ranked and regional title holders, whilst several others from last year's list reappear again this year, showing just how young they actually are!
For those wondering, the ordering is by age, starting at the youngest. There is no ranking system used.
Phoobadin Yoohanngoh (9-0, 4) [16 years old]
The youngest of the prospects we've been really impressed by is 16 year old Thai hopeful Phoobadin Yoohanngoh, who fights at Light Welterweight and has already ticked off more boxes than many much older fighters. The youngster, who debated at the frankly ridiculous age of just 14, has been a professional since 2018 and actually ended the year 3-0 (2). In 2019 he really built on his momentum by winning TL Promotion's "The Fighter" tournament, and going 5-0 (2) during the year. All that was impressive but nothing compared to what we saw him do this past July when he claimed the WBA Asia Light Welterweight title with a 10 round decision win over Kulabdam Sor Jor Piekuthai.
Although he's only 16 Phoobadin is a very mature youngster and with a good 10 rounder under his belt it's hard to not be very, very impressed by what he's shown us, and potential that he has to show. He's proven he can box, move, and fight, and has battled through some adversity already. Definitely one to keep an eye on!
Dastan Saduuly (3-0, 3) 
Aged 18 Dastan Saduuly is one of the youngest Kazakh fighters out there, and is one who has shown a lot to be excited about, though we actually think it's what we've not seen from him that is more interesting. Through his first 3 fights he has pretty much had everything all his own way, and hasn't had to break a sweat. Despite that we have seen nice quick punches, good movement, a good temperament and really good aggressive instincts. There is some work to do on his technique, and it certainly feels like he's not as physically mature as Phoobadin, despite being older, but he looks like a brilliant prospect who simply needs time to develop and mature.
Saduuly debuted at the age of 16, back in September 2018, and fit 6 fights into 7 months. Sadly he's not fought since March 2019, though part of that is understandable given the current global situation. As we write this he is pencilled in for a fight in Russia later this month and that should be a credible step up for the Kazakh wonder kid.
Kosuke Tomioka (3-0, 2) 
Another 3-0 fighter worthy of real attention is Japan's Kosuke Tomioka, who is just 2 days older than Dastan Saduuly. The Japanese youngster comes from a boxing family, with 2 of his brothers and his cousin all being professionals, and was a notable omission last year. That was, in part, due to the fact he was just 1-0 (1). Since then Tomioka has become one of the must watch prospects, thanks in part to a flashy performance against Asato Mori, in October 2019.
In the ring Tomioka is a speedy fighter with a flashy style. He throws great counter punches, has fast feet, very fast hands and is confident in his reflexes and speed. Sadly last time out we saw him put on a rather dull win over Shota Hara, though that was partly down to the fact Hara had come to survive and not win, making for an awful clash. Aged 18 and fighting at Super Flyweight Tomioka is in a great division domestically, and getting attention among hardcore, both in and out of Japan, for his style, his flair and his charisma. Thankfully he blends that flash with a lot of skill and really does understand the sport, and his strengths. We suspect he's going to shine as he matures and he looks like a very, very exciting and talented youngster, with the potential to go all the way, even if it will be a long journey there.
Ayumu Hanada (5-0, 3)* 
We stay in Japan for a very, very interesting fighter who has gone the road less travelled, in many ways. Ayumu Hanada is an 18 year old old Flyweight who debuted in Mexico more than 2 years ago. He won his first 4 bouts in Mexico, and these are the 4 bouts that show up on his boxrec record, all of which were scheduled for 4 rounds. Last year he then turned up in Osaka fighting on a non-JBC show where he won a 10 round decision to claim a WBF title. That result isn't on his boxrec record, despite it taking place, and being his Japanese debut, essentially because without the JBC sanctioning it the bout isn't recognised, despite the minor title.
Back in August Hanada announced that he would stop fighting as a free-lancer and would be joining the JBC, with his pro-test taking place later this month. When that happens he will be a JBC licensed fighter and begin his climb towards becoming a star at home. We expect the 18 year old to squeeze in his JBC debut later this year and move quickly through the domestic and regional rankings, though given his career so far we wouldn't be surprised at all if he ends up doing something else a bit unusual.
In regards to ability Hanada is a genuinely talented boxer puncher with quick hands, quick feet, real power for a youngster and an aggressive mean streak. There is, as with many fighters here, some real polishing that needs to be done, but we suspect sparring in Japan will help there and should help him again sort out his somewhat flawed technique.
Jong Seon Kang (11-0-2, 6) 
The Korean boxing scene has been underwhelming for years, but it does appear that the country has got some quality talent emerging through the ranks. One of their most interesting young prospects is 18 year old Featherweight Jong Seon Kang, who is a hell of a fun fighter to watch, despite being a very flawed fighter, who needs a lot of work if he's to reach the top.
Since debuting in 2017, aged 16, Kang has done a lot, without making too much noise. He scored a number of upsets in 2019, beating Ravshanbek Shermatov, Qixiu Zhanf and Tomjune Manguabet, claimed a couple of minor titles, went 10 rounds and picked fought on foreign soil. In terms of achievements in the professional ranks he has done more than anyone else on this list, but like the others he's a work in progress, and he needs to work on his defense, which is questionable at best.
Despite Kang being easy to hit he appears to take a shot well, have a great engine and a real desire to put on thrilling action fights. He is one of the most fan friendly fighters in Asia, but that may come to his detriment down the line. Win or lose he's the sort of prospect who will leave fans happy after seeing him in action, and he's bout to have a damn fun rollercoaster of a career.
Chaiyapong Phongwankittikun (3-0, 3) 
Thai youngster Chaiyapong Phongwankittikun isn't a name we suspect many will be familiar with, however his father is someone who we suspect fans will known, as Chaiyapong is the son of former world champion Yodsanan Sor Nanthachai, who held the WBA Super Featherweight title in the early 00's. The hope is for Chaiyapong to follow in his father's footsteps and allow the family to become the first father-son world champions in Thai boxing history.
The youngster made his debut in August 2019, aged 17, and sadly looked a bit raw, clumsy and over-awed by the occasion, as his opponent gave him a legitimate chin checking in the opening round. Despite being under pressure the youngster made his way through the round, even dropping his man, before calming down. He would later go on to stop his man in the 4th round, proving his resolve, guts, determination and heart along the way.
Chaiyapong didn't have the debut performance he had hoped for, and he was chastised by some for it, but it was a great learning experience, and since then he has scored 2 more wins and looked like he's improving with every fight. Given the fame of his father and the backing of Tantelecom Boxing Promotion the hope is they can take him and mould him into a success. Given his age, his toughness, and his power he's one of the ones we're going to be interested in following, and one the potential wild cards here. They know he needs time, and the talk is that they want him to have 3, if not more, years of learning the craft, and that really does seem the smart idea. There's plenty to like about him, but he's very much someone who needs a lot of time and development.
Jin Sasaki (8-0, 7) 
Japanese Light Welterweight Jin Sasaki may, potentially, be the best teenager in Asia, and the one with the biggest upside. The 19 year old puncher appears to have it, and understands what it is. He's charismatic, confident, a tough cocky even, but backs it up with aggression, speed and power. He's a brutish puncher who is growing into his frame and he looks like a genuine top tier prospect, with the potential to make huge strides over the next year or two.
At the end of August Sasaki scored his biggest win to date, flattening Shun Akaiwa in just 45 seconds, and we suspect by the time the next time the JBC rankings are updated his name will appears. With that in mind it's hard to imagine his team waiting too long before angling him into a Japanese or regional title fight.
With an international bout under his belt, and 5 wins in the first 2 rounds the things Sasaki needs now is rounds, some adversity, and a chance to prove his chin and gas tank. If his team are confident, like they appear to be, we suspect he will get a real test in the next 12 months as they push onwards and upwards with their rising star.
Sung Min Yuh (5-0, 1) 
We mentioned a little bit earlier about emerging talent in South Korea and with that in mind we want to bring your attention to arguably their best young prospect, Light Middleweight Sung Min Yuh. In terms of natural ability Yuh might be the best teenager in Asian boxing. He's a natural in the ring, with fantastic handspeed, shot selection, and slippery defense, not things we always associate with Korean boxing. He is however a fighter who seems to need to be tested to get the best from him, and he has, at times, been seen fighting well within himself, and fighting down to his opponents level.
Yuh is a really brilliant talent, who stands at 5'11", is fighting at 154lbs, is already the KBM champion and at just 19 years old is getting better and better. Amazingly Yuh only made his debut in March 2019, 12 days after his 18 birthday. He didn't look great on his debut, but since then has developed into a real talent. We just now need to hope that the desire, and mental side of the sport is with Yuh, and he can make the most of his skills. If he can this kid has the potential to be the biggest thing in Korean boxing in decades. If he can develop that potential we could see South Korea have another world champion in a few years time.
Toshiya Ishii (3-0, 2)
We head back off to Japan for the penultimate name on this list as we look at JBC Youth Bantamweight champion Toshiya Ishii, an outstanding young talent, who made his professional debut in April 2019 and has rapidly risen through the rankings. His debut came against a relatively poor opponent, Adam Wijaya, but since then he has taken on two very good domestic opponents, beating the then 8-0 Fumiya Fuse and the then 8-1 Haruki Ishikawa.
Despite only having 3 professional bouts to his name, as well as a solid amateur background, Ishii has already shown the ability to box, the ability to fight and the ability to punch. He has taken his opportunities to shine and his bout with Ishikawa was one of the most exciting bouts of 2019. In that one bout he showed his heart, determination, power, ability to recuperate, and skills. We think Ishii might need a year or two to really be ready to move on to the main Japanese title scene, but given he's still only 19 that's not going to be an issue at all.
Ishii is, interestingly, one of the teenagers, along with Yuh, who is technically very good, but for Ishii the big thing he needs is experience, and of course the only way he gets that is by fighting. The technical ability and physical traits are there for him, and he has a very, very bright future ahead of him.
Talgat Shayken (1-0) 
We finish this with 19 year old Kazakh hopeful Talgat Shayken, who debuted recently following a strong amateur career. On debut he didn't look flawless, but he did look exciting and like a man full of potential. He showed a fun to watch style, a really impressive physical maturity and a solid gas tank, going 6 complete rounds on his debut. Unlike many debutant teenagers he was almost matched hard, going up against the then 5-0 Berikbay Nurymbetov, who did come to win, rather than roll over.
As an amateur Shayken always a bit rough, and relied on his physicality and physical strength. Now in the professional ranks that will have to change, and he will certainly have to polish off some technical issues, but he's only 19, there is a lot of time for him to make those changes, and given that MTK are managing him there is going to be the chance for him to get top sparring, and time to develop. Although MTK are big, and powerful, they have allowed their prospects a lot of time to develop when they have needed it, sometimes too much time. With that in mind we don't imagine Shayken will be rushed, but we do expect to see him being tested early, and often.
Yifan Wang (2-0-1, 2)  - Yes he 14!
Yoo Chan Lee (2-0, 2) 
Nan He (1-0) 
Bryan James Wild (5-0, 4) 
Issei Ochiai (2-0, 1) 
Our final One to Watch for 2019, or rather our first one to watch for 2020, sees us focus on Korea where we had a really surprising amount of great action in 2019.
The One to Watch?
Sung Min Yuh (3-0) Vs Se Yul Yang (3-4-2, 1)
January 5th (Sunday)
Firstly lets make it very clear, we love boxing in Korea! The Korean scene is starting to get off life support, at long, long last, and the KBM system appears to be leading the charge and slowly developing a workable eco-system based on developing fighters from novices to title fighters. Here we see one of their most promising young prospects moving a step towards a title fight as he fights in an eliminator. In the opposite corner with a tough, but limited, foe, looking to get his career back on track after 3 straight losses.
The 18 year Sung Min Yuh debuted in March, and despite struggling to get a win over fellow debutant Jae Woo Kim he managed get better through the year, and closed 2019 with a big domestic win over the then 6-0 Yoo Seung Jun. That win over Jun was a stellar victory for the youngster, who showed a good boxing brain, dictated the distance, landed good solid counters, and also showed a willingness to mix it up when he needed to. It wasn't a flawless performance, far from it, but for a youngster in their third fight there was a lot more positives than negatives to take from the bout. Despite being a Korean fighter he shows smart defensive work and looks rather slick, not a word we would often use to describe a Korean fighter.
Aged 23 Se Yul Yang is a bit older than the teenage hopeful, and a bit shorter, but he is also much more experienced and aggressive. He's been in tough, recently facing Japanese hopeful Rei Nakajima on the road, and has lost his last 3 however he shouldn't be written off here. He has proven he's tough, he's game and he comes to fight. His limitations, lack of power, and relatively short stature will always be a problem at Light Middleweight, but he takes a shot well and comes back looking to return fire with interest. In many ways he's your typical Korean domestic level fighter. Lots of will but limited skill.
What to expect?
We are expecting to see Yang's aggression really forcing the best out of Yuh, who will need to be at his defensive best. If Yuh can establish his jab, control the distance and box at range he can make this easier for himself, but we have seen, time and time again, that Yang will take risks, rush forward, cut the distance and let shots go. Yuh will be able to rack up rounds behind his boxing, but will, sooner or later, get dragged into a brawl, and it's he responds to those moments that really matter here.
The bad news?
Don't expect world class skills. We like Yuh a lot, but he is still a novice, and doesn't appear to have had a strong amateur background. Yang is pretty much a limited action fighter. Also these two could end up having styles that clash like curry on mash potato.
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.