Despite the Heavyweighg division being regarded as the blue ribbon division, and the most significant, historically, their has never really been a huge surge in Asian fighters making their mark there. The South East Asian fighters their body types don't really suit Heavyweight boxing, with average weight and height being a long way from the behemoths that rule the roost in boxing's heaviest divisions.
Thankfully however the last few year's we've seen more and more Central Asian fighters turning professional, and with that we've finally started to see an emergence in genuine Heavyweight prospects from the region. At the moment we have several and whilst some of those are "old" for prospects the division has suddenly got a real interest for Asian fight fans.
Bakhodir Jalolov (3-0, 3)
Uzbek hopeful Bakhodir Jalolov is the youngest man to make it on to this list, and the 24 year old giant really is a modern day Heavyweight monster. Stood at over 6'6", reports suggest he's anything from 6'6" to 6'9", and fighting out of the southpaw stance Jalolov is a long term project at Heavyweight, but one that looks to have a lot of naturally exciting traits added to a strong amateur background.
As an amateur Jalolov shone, winning a World Amateur Championship bronze medal in 2015, as a 21 year old, before competing at the 2016 Olympics and then claiming the 2017 Asian Championships gold medal.
There's plenty of tall rangy Heavyweights out there right now, but there's very few with Jalolov's power, explosiveness, quickness or the southpaw stance, all of which combine to make a very promising young heavyweight. Sadly though his handlers seem to be wanting to guide him slowly and since his debut in May he has stopped all of his opponents, in a combined 8 rounds. Fingers crossed that stiffer competition will come his way in 2019.
Ivan Dychko (7-0, 7)
If Jalolov is to be lauded for his amateur achievements then they pale in comparison to 28 year old Kazakh Ivan Dychko, a 2-time Olympian, winning a Bronze medal in 2012, a 2-time World Amateur Championship silver medal winner and a genuine amateur stand out. Not only was he an exceptional amateur but like Jalolov he is a physical freak and also stands at around 6'9". Not only is he huge but he also has a terrifying aura around him, which will put fear into low level opponents.
At 28 there isn't years to develop Dychko, but there isn't that much that really needs developing. His amateur style was pretty pro-ready and he could well end up fighting in minor title bouts in 2019. He's naturally quick, heavy handed and very fluid for such a big man. The one big question about physical traits is his chin, and he was stopped in frightening fashion by Magomedrasul Majidov at the 2013 World Amateur Championships.
As well as a potentially suspect chin Dychko also seems to have a problem with his match making, His first 7 bouts, spaced out over 15 months, have lasted a combined 11 rounds, and he has only been beyond round 1 in 2 of his 7 professional bouts. He was supposed to have his 8th bout in November but that fell through and he'll now be out of the ring until the new year, prolonging his step up.
Zhan Kossobutskiy (7-0, 6)
As we mentioned it's the central Asian fighters who are making a mark as prospects, and some are older than a typical prospect. That includes 30 year old Kazakh hopeful Zhan Kossobutskiy, who made his debut in September 2017 and has slowly been building a reputation on the European circuit, with bouts in Belarus, Russia and Ukraine. Sadly, given his age, the time for developmental fights should be long gone and standing at 6'3" he's a relative dwarf compared to them fighters at the top of the division.
Footage of Kossobutskiy shows a heavy handed fighter who is explosive, well schooled and promising. Sadly though he is older than most of the rising hopefuls in the division, he's also shorter than many and lacks the impressive international level amateur credentials of many contemporaries.
[Note - Kossobutskiy will fight on November 29th]
Damir Toybay (0-0)
Another Kazakh, and a bit more of a wild card, is youngster Damir Toybay, who is still an amateur and doesn't appear to be in a rush to turn professional. Whilst he's not in a rush to fight for pay he is certainly worth a note here given the 2018 he has had, which has included winning the Asian Junior Championships in Thailand in April, and coming runner up in both the AIBA Youth World Championships and the Youth Olympic Games.
Toybay is still young but is clearly a prodigy and we're looking forward to him turning professional, one day. Even if that day is in 5 or 6 years time we're still looking forward to it.
Going in to 2019 we'll be hoping to see the emergence of a number of new fighters. At the moment there a number of very promising fighters who are starting to create a buzz despite having only had a single professional bout. Here we take a look at 5 such fighters who are going to potentially have a big year ahead of them and be fast tracked to success.
Tsendbaatar Erdenebat (1-0) - Mongolia
Mongolian amateur standout Tsendbaatar Erdenebat made his professional debut in China this past September, and did so in relative obscurity with sources originally listing him as "Tsendbaatar Tsendbataar", likely an issue with translating his name from the Chinese bout sheet. On debut he dominated Chinese based Filipino Joseph Omana over 6 rounds, to take a unanimous decision and he looked really exciting with his performance.
In 2016 Tsendbaatar lost in the Olympic to eventual silver medal winner Shakur Stevenson but would go on to win the 2018 Asian Games gold medal. Those were among the highlights of a very long and successful amateur career that should give him the grounding for a bright professional career.
Makhmud Gaipov (1-0, 1) - Uzbekistan
Uzbekistan are turning out talent like no ones business right now, and they have two fighters on this list. One of those is 22 year old Makhmud Gaipov, who debuted in November stopping Tanzania's Iddi Mkwera in the 3rd of a scheduled 4 rounds, having dropped Mkwera 4 times. He seems to have been signed with RCC Promtoions, who will keep him busy, keep him active and move him aggressively on their shows. The best thing about fighting under the RCC banner however will be the exposure, with thm streaming their cards internationally.
Gaipov, like everyone else on this list, was an experienced amateur who came runner up in the 2014 Asian Youth Championships and also competed in the WSB, giving plenty of "pro-style" experience. There is work to do but given how he looked on debut there is a lot to be excited about here.
Israil Madrimov (1-0, 1) - Uzbekistan
The second Uzbek to make it to this list, and the more well known of the two, is Israil Madrimov, who made his debut recently on the under-card of Dmitry Bivol's win over Jean Pascal. Unlike most debutants he matched in a 10 rounder to begin his career, and quickly claimed a minor WBA title in the process, as he stopped Mexican Vladimir Hernandez in 6 rounds. The performance he put on was exciting, confident and really showed what he could do in the ring, switching stands, trading when he wanted to and really digging in brutal body shots. With World of Boxing behind him the future is incredibly bright for him.
Given he debuted in a 10 round bout it should be no surprise that he was a decorated amateur, winning gold at the 2018 Asian games, the 2017 Asian Championships, a Silber medal at the Asian Youth Championships in 2013 and picking up numerous national and minor titles.
Apichet Petchmanee (1-0, 1) - Thailand
Thailand, who do often fast track stand out kicks boxers, may have a gem among their ranks with Apichet Petchmanee who was a former amateur standout who made his professional debut back in October, dominating Attanon Kunlawong, aka Kongthara KKP. Apichet is tipped to be a success and his performance against the then 13-0 Kunlawong really was a statement of a result, and an incredible performance, though one that should have been expected.
At 29 years old Apichet doesn't have a lot of time to waste, though with a strong amateur background, WSB experience and a style that already looks suited to the professional ranks it may not need much time to fly through the rankings, especially if Workpoint get behind his rise. The only problem he might have is getting suitable regional competition whilst fighting at 140lbs.
Ginjiro Shigeoka (1-0, 1) - Japan
The youngest fighter on this list is Japanese teenager Ginjiro Shigeoka, who debuted in September and really looked the part, as we expected given his 56-1 (17) amateur record. At just 19 years old there is no for the Watanabe gym to out and out rush him, though we suspect his desire will be to be moved fast in 2019, and there is also a chance he will fit in another fight at the end of this year. He is one of the most exciting little men in the sport and will likely have a similar career trajectory to fellow Watanabe gym fighter Hiroto Kyoguchi.
Whilst his amateur record is impressive it is worth noting that his sole loss was a family issue, where he would have faced his brother in a prefectural tournament final. Sadly he also lacks in terms of international amateur experience. That aside we're struggling for reasons not to gush over Shigeoka's potential
The new year is fast approaching and I'll be honest I'm really excited about the coming year. It's fair to say that 2018 has been a great year for boxing, despite being a pretty poor year on a personal level, but I'm expecting 2019 to be even better as the sport continues to develop, and be reshaped into something more and more spectacular. If I'm being honest I suspect 2019 may well be one of the best year's the sport has had in a very long time, building on the momentum of a great 2018.
With that in mind I've put together 5 predictions for the new year, and how I think they will effect the boxing world in general
Naoya Inoue wins the WBSS
An obvious one to start with. Japan's Naoya Inoue is strongly favoured to win the WBSS Bantamweight series and for good reason. "The Monster" is one of the few fighters who really lives up to his reputation every time he steps in the ring, and in 2018 he quickly despatched recognisable foes Jamie McDonnell and Juan Carlos Payano without breaking a sweat. I suspect that his current impressive run takes him to the Muhammad Ali Trophy in the coming year, beating Emmanuel Rodriguez in the Spring before winning the final in the Summer. After that it's unclear whether he'll immediately look for bigger challenges at Super Bantamweight or will look to clean up at Bantamweight, with a potential fight against Luis Nery certainly a possibility.
Fast Tracking continues
If we've seen anything really come to the fore these past few years it's been that fast tracking has really exploded. No longer is it just a Japanese and Thai thing but we're seeing Europeans, and Central Asian's fighters all stepping up incredibly quickly. I suspect that actually intensifies in the coming year, with more and more fighters shrugging off the usual preliminary stages of their professional careers and being moved aggressively. Lu Bin was too aggressively matched, but I expect others, like Murodjon Akhmadaliev, Apichet Petchmanee, Ginjiro Shigeoka and Israil Madrimov, to be competing for world titles within 7 fights. Top amateur fighters making their debuts next year will also be pushed hard early on.
A big year for India
Top Rank have made a very conscious effort in signing two of the most notable Indian fighters, Vijender Singh and Vikas Krishan, and I suspect that will only be the start for what could be a massive year for Indian boxing. The market is ripe for surge, and top young amateur fighters like Amit Panghal and Gaurav Solanki could well have professional promoters trying to snap them up as key figures for the long term growth of Indian boxing. The sport isn't huge in India, yet, but with over 1,000,000,000 people living there the potential is massive, if a promoter can sign the right fighters and work well with the local media. It will be a risky market to jump into but given the right promoter it could end up being a game changer. I also expect to see aforementioned Vijender Singh challenge for a world title before the end of 2019.
Boxing Grows in non-Boxing Countries
It's not just India that I expect to see boxing grow in but also Vietnam, Teipai, Malaysia and Singapore. We've certainly seen Singapore and Malaysia develop their scenes recently, but Vietnam and Teipai will likely follow suit, albeit for different reasons. Malaysia and Singapore are key hubs for the area, and money in those countries towards boxing has grown due to the promoters wanting to build the scenes. For Vietnam and Teipai however it seems likely that the OPBF will be the fulcrum behind their growth, and the development of the OPBF Silver titles, specifically in those two countries, will be key. In fact we could see that extending into other locations like Mongolia as the OPBF become more than just a title body but also, in association with the JBC, an overseer of several, non-boxing countries as they plant seeds of potential growth.
An Uzbek Take Over
It's hard to believe that only two Uzbek fighters have ever won world titles, Artur Grigorian and Ruslan Chagaev. This coming year I'm expecting that to change and wouldn't be massively surprised to see that number double in 2019, with the likes of the aforementioned Akhmadaliev along with Shakhram Giyasov, Elnur Abduraimov and Kudratillo Abdukakhorov all likely to be fighting for world titles by the end of the year. The Uzbek take over will be a hostile one, as the fighters look to put not only themselves on the boxing map, but also their country and we suspect the number of Uzbek amateurs turning professional will grow substantially in not only 2019, but also 2020. Uzbek fighters who miss out on the 2020 Olympics will likely jump at the chance to turn professional, and I expect them to do so with a lot of ambition to climbing the rankings as quickly as possible.
Thinking Out East
With this site being pretty successful so far we've decided to open up about our own views and start what could be considered effectively an editorial style opinion column dubbed "Thinking Out East" (T.O.E).