A few days ago we shared our Lightweight rankings and confessed that the division was a hard one to really talk about. There was a unified champion, Yuichiro Yoshino, but the rest of the division was a bit of a mess and there was no clarity within it. Things don't get any clearer at 140lbs. In fact Light Welterweight might be an even harder division to rank, but also one of the most interesting with a number of people all banging on the door of big fights.
1-Batyrzhan Jukembayev (18-0-0-2, 14)
Unbeaten Canadian based Kazakh contender Batyrzhan Jukembayev is really banging on the door for a world title fight. Although not too well known internationally Jukembayev has ready scored noteworthy wins against the likes of Cosme Rivera, Patricio Lopez Moreno and Miguel Vazquez. A talented boxer puncher, but still a work in progress, Jukembayev is part of the chasing pack wanting a world title fight sooner rather than later. At 29 the Kazakh will be wanting to get back into the swing of things as soon as possible, and certainly doesn't have too much time to waste if he's going to have a solid time at, or around, the top of the sport. He's not old, but he's also no spring chicken.
2-Shohjahon Ergashev (18-0, 16)
The most explosive and exciting fighter in this top 10 is the powerful, but technically flawed, Shohjahon Ergashev. The heavy handed American based Uzbek is a fighter who can completely destroy opponents with his left hand, but can also be made to look rather rudimentary and basic by those who can control the action against him. Ergashev burst on the wider scene in 2018, when he dismantled Sonny Fredrickson in a charismatic and thrilling performance, and has notched 7 more wins since then. He looked very human against the awkward Mykal Fox, but absolutely terrifying against Nazareno Gaston Ruiz and more recently Adrian Estrella. The crude dangerman of the division.
3-Shakhram Giyasov (9-0, 7)
Another US based unbeaten Uzbek hopeful is 2016 Olympic gold medal winner Shakhram Giyasov. The talented "Wonder Boy" has shown a lot of potential, and looks to be a better boxer than Ergashev, but has got a lot of questions to answer before we move up any further up this list. Although he's a hard hitting boxer-puncher there are defensive holes we've seen from Giyasov and the now 26 year old did not look good against Emanuel Taylor last year. He scored an impressive blow out against Darleys Perez last time out, but still has a lot to prove. We suspect that when Giyasov steps up in class he will impress more than he has so far, but it might be a case of waiting for another year or so before we come close to seeing how good Giyasov really is.
4-Downua Ruawaiking (16-0, 13)
Thailand's Downua Ruawaiking, also known as Apinun Khongsong, was preparing for a world title fight before the global situation pout a halt on worldwide boxing. When we come out of this current situation we would expect to see the Thai getting a shot at unbeaten Scottish fighter Josh Taylor. The Thai hasn't got many wins of note on his record, but his 2019 win over Akihiro Kondo in Japan was very impressive and certainly sees him deserving a high ranking here. Although he's not the quickest, he has shown under-rated technical ability, real power and he is much better than many Thai's around this weight. We don't expect him to defeat Taylor, when the two finally clash, but he is certainly among the very best at 140lbs in Asia, and is going to be someone who would be fancied against pretty much everyone in region.
5-Koki Inoue (15-0, 12)
The unbeaten Koki Inoue is the "lesser known Inoue", and is the cousin of Naoya and Takuma. Inoue isn't as well established as his two cousins, but is another boxing product of Shingo Inoue and the Ohashi gym. Inoue has proven to be a solid punching boxer-mover who has shown the ability to bang when he wants to, as we saw against Jheritz Chavez last year, and box when he needs to, as we saw against Valentine Hosokawa. At times he's been a bit dull to watch, but there is always a sense of tension with his fights, knowing he can go into another gear as, and when, he chooses. Currently Inoue is the Japanese and WBO Asia Pacific and we see him moving onto the next level sooner, rather than later.
5-Daud Yordan (40-4-0-1, 28)
Indonesian veteran Daud Yordan appears to have been around forever, but the former world title contender is still only 32 and his career, which began in 2005, is still very much active. Originally a contender at Featherweight Yordan has seen his body fill out over the last decade and he's now fighting between Lightweight and Light Welterweight. Although not the physically imposing fighter he was lower down the weights he's certainly still a handful and a genuine gatekeeper. His 2018 proved he still deserves to be mentioned here in among the best in Asia, with an excellent win in Russia against Pavel Malikov and a game performance in a loss to Anthony Crolla. Yordan is some way from being world class, but is a definite gatekeeper level fighter.
6-Zhankosh Turarov (24-0, 17)
The second Kazakh to make it on to this list is the unbeaten 29 year old "Kazakh Kid" Zhankosh Turarov. The unbeaten Turarov has been a professional for more than a decade but has yet to make a real mark at the top, not help by the fact he spent around 21 months out of the ring from September 2017 to June 2019. Although talented there has, seemingly, been lacking direction and hunger in his career and he really needs some stiffer competition to see what he's really made out of. It'd be great to see Turarov taking on a test this year, but we do wonder if the desire is really there. He was supposed to be in a tournament last year but pulled out with injury and with that in mind we do need to wonder if he's perhaps, maybe, a touch fragile and injury prone. A talent, but one who needs to be questioned and needs to do more, soon.
7-Rikki Naito (22-2, 7)
OPBF champion Rikki Naito is in an interesting position. He's clearly a talented boxer who has won the Japanese Super Featherweight title and now holds the OPBF title at 140lbs, but he's a talented boxer with some real issues. We know his stamina isn't great, and he tends to run on fumes in the championship rounds. We know he lacks power, which further makes his lack of stamina and issue, as bouts do go long, and physically he's not the strongest at the weight. Despite those flaws he's fast, very skilled, smart and know how to move around the ring. As with Turarov his ability isn't going to be questioned, but boxing isn't all about ability and we can all see Naito's flaws, so to will future opponents. Jheritz Chavez and Daishi Nagata have pushed Naito all the way, and we suspect any decent regional level fighter will do the same, but he has been finding ways to win!
8-Daishi Nagata (14-2-1, 5)
It's hard to know how good 20 year old Japanese fighter Daishi Nagata is. It's clear he can fight, it's clear he's a warrior and his performances against Rikki Naito, in a razor thin loss, and Cristiano Aoqui, in a 2019 win, showed what he could do. Sadly though he's been fairly inconsistent, struggling past the unheralded Min Ho Jung and being battered into submission by Vladimir Baez. When he's on song Nagata could well be a nightmare for those ranked above him, as he was for Naito, but his next bout is likely to be against Inoue and we suspect there will be a clear between the two Japanese fighters when we get around to seeing that one.
9-Andy Hiraoka (15-0, 10)
Talented Japanese fighter Andy Hiraoka is someone we should have seen fans talking about internationally back in April. He was pencilled in to fight on the under-card of the now cancelled Naoya Inoue Vs Johnriel Casimero bout and the reality is that he would have got a lot of eye balls on him there. The talented 23 year old is big, strong, tough, fast and has the athletic traits to be a real one to watch in the division, with the potential to quickly outgrow the Asian scene. Despite the athletic ability Hiraoka is still a work in progress and needs to develop the technical skills to go with his athletic tools. We saw Hiraoka make good development last year, and his decision win over Akihiro Kondo was a career best win, but the best is yet to come.
10-Ablaikhan Khussainov (11-0, 8)
Rounding off our top 10 is another Kazkh, Ablaikhan Khussainov. Khussainov, like Jukembayev, fought much of his career in Canada but is now based in the US where he is hoping to have a big break through in the near future. The talented Kazakh fought much of his career at Lightweight but his last two bouts have suggested that a move to being a fully fledged Light Welterweight it now on the cards. Although not as proven as the others on this list Khussainov is a good former amateur, who has proven his professional ability around the globe and is clearly ready to be tested. His future may lie at Lightweight but for now we're ranking him at 140lbs, where his 29 year old body may be better, rather than draining the extra 5lbs. We're hoping that when the sport returns in 2020 we see Khussainov in a real test, as we genuinely believe he'll rise to the occasion.
On the bubble:
Hiroki Okada, Yusuke Konno, Baishanbo Nasiyiwula, Tuguldur Byambatsogt and Hwang Kil Kim
With a lack of big bouts over the last week we were left with very few fighters to consider for this week's "Five For..." series. Despite the lack of fighters we did come to the conclusion that there was an obvious choice. That was Canadian based Kazakh Batyrzhan Jukembayev (18-0-0-2, 14), who didn't get the opponent he had been hoping for last weekend but made light work of the late replacement he ended up facing.
Given the easy nature of Jukembayev's win over Ricardo Lara, it now makes sense to suggest that Jukembayev should be back in the ring sooner rather later, so we'll now take a look at 5 possible match ups for the talented southpaw.
1- Daud Yordan (40-4-0-1, 28)
Whilst not the most likely bout out there for either Jukembayev or Indonesian fighter Daud Yordan it would serve as a perfect match up to see whether Jukembayev is ready for the big time or not, it will also serve a purpose for both men. The 32 year old Yordan is in the WBO world rankings, whilst Jukembayev is ranked by the WBC and IBF, meaning both men having something to gain. Yordan is a fantastic gatekeeper, and to see him with Jukembayev would see both men answering questions. We would find out if Jukembayev has got the potential to go all the way, and we would also find out if Yordan still has anything left at this level.
2-Jorge Linares (46-5, 28)
If Jukembayev and his team are looking to make a statement then a bout with Venezuelan star Jorge Linares would be a very interesting one. On his day Linares is a sensational fighter, and could well prove to be too much for Jukembayev, however Linares is, and always will be, vulnerable. A win over Linares might not mean as much as it once did but it still carries a lot of weight and if Jukembayev can stop the 34 year old "El Nino De Oro" he will have a much enhanced profile, and be moved much closer to a world title fight. Linares' inconsistent performances and vulnerable chin make this a very interesting potential match up.
3-Pablo Cesar Cano (33-7-1-1, 23)
Whilst a bout between Jukembayev and Linares makes a lot of sense, and would allow Jukembayev a chance to get a former world champion on his resume, it may be even better for him to face a man who stopped Linares. With that in mind a bout between Jukembayev and Pablo Cesar Cano would certainly be a good fight, a fan friendly one, and a test of what Jukembayev can do against the inconsistent, but dangerous, "El Demoledor". Cano is certainly no world beatet, but he's had 3 solid wins in a row and would enter this bout in good form, make for an exciting style match up with the Kazakh and would be a very compelling opponent for Jukembayev.
4-Raymundo Beltran (36-9-1-1, 22)
It's unclear what Mexican veteran Raymundo Beltran has left in the tank, however he is still, at the age of 38, a serviceable name in the sport. Just last year Beltran fought in a world title bout against Richard Commey, but was unable to make Lightweight and unable to win the title, and he's been in some real tough bouts recently. At his best he was a tough nosed, hard hitting, under-rated fighter. Now however he's very much a man who has slipped, and aged. For Jukembayev a win over Beltran would be a huge win, and get his name in the mix for bigger fights. Beltran could still be too much for Jukembayev, as he turned out to be too much for Hiroki Okada a year ago, but it would look like a very smart and calculated risk.
5-Cristian Rafael Coria (29-7-2, 13)
We've seen Jukembayev's team look towards Latin American fighters regularly, in fact his last opponent was supposed to be from Argentina before visa issues scuppered their plans. If they want their man to face an Argentinian then why not Cristian Rafael Coria. On paper Coria poses little threat but the 37 year old is a genuine gate keeper level fighter, who will come to win and has the ability to really test a fighter like Jukembayev. In 2017 he travelled to Canada and went 10 rounds with Custio Clayton, showing a willingness to travel up to Canada, and since then he has ran Hiroki Okada incredibly close and beaten Joel Diaz Jr.
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).