We finally finish off our look at current Asian rankings this week with a look at the Heavyweight division, which surprisingly a lot, lot deeper than both the Light Heavyweight and Cruiserweight divisions. The reality is that the division still isn't amazing, and it actually a truly frustrating one, but is a lot deeper than the two division's we've just mentioned.
1-Zhang Zhilei (21-0, 16)
The leading Asian Heavyweight right now is Chinese veteran Zhang Zhilei, who has proven himself more in the professional ranks than anyone else from the area. He's 37 years old now, and has likely missed the boat of a major fight. Despite that he's very talented, looks very natural in the ring and is a very skilled, surprisingly quick boxer-puncher. Sadly his best win so far is his 2019 victory over Andriy Rudenko and given his age it's unlikely we'll see him really taking on anyone big before his body begins to break down and retirement calls. Interestingly there had been talk of him fighting Anthony Joshua but that talk now looks to be completely dead.
2-Bakhodir Jalolov (6-0, 6)
We stick with giants as we go to US based Uzbek giant Bakhodir Jalolov. At the moment Jalolov hasn't fully committed to the professional ranks, hence why he has only fought 6 times in the professionals since his debut in May 2018. He has, however, been busy in the amateurs and in 2019 he won the World Amateur Championships and clearly has been staying busy. He is a big hope for the 2020, or should that be 2021, Olympics. At the age of 25, he turns 26 later this month, Jalolov has time on his side, he's huge, very skilled, a big puncher and has surprising fluidity for such a big man. We'd love to see him fully commit to the professional ranks, and when he does he's going to be a big star.
3-Ivan Dychko (9-0, 9)
Another giant, and former amateur standout, is Ivan Dychko, a Kazakh with so much potential that many tipped him as a major star when he turned professional in 2017. Sadly his amateur credentials are now looking like a part of history and in the 3 years that Dychko has been a professional he has really just has frustration after frustration. He's a proper giant, at around 6'9", a smooth operator with power, speed and skills, and like Jalolov is very fluid for such a big man. Sadly inactivity, bouts falling through, poor competition and nothing really going his way has left him really feeling like a man with lost potential. His biggest win to date was his 2019 victory over Ray Austin and it feels like his career should be a long, long way further than it is. A talent, but a talent that is being badly wasted.
4-Mahammadrasul Majidov (2-0, 2)
Another Asian former amateur stand out is Azeri banger Mahammadrasul Majidov. The 33 year old looks like to be fast tracked, given his age and links to Matchroom, and has got the strong amateur background to be moved rapidly through the ranks. Sadly Majidov turned professional too late to see what he can really do and really build a professional standing, though he is blessed with brutal power, under-rated skills and frightening physical strength. Given that Majidov was never the quickest we don't think he'll age quickly, but we do feel he's turned pro too young to get the experience he needs to reach the top of the sport. Fingers crossed, however, that Majidov's professional career will light a fire under the backsides of top Azeri amateur to turn professional when they still have time to make a mark on the pros.
5-Zhan Kossobutskiy (13-0, 12)
Technically Zhan Kossobutskiy has done more than most in this list, and is more proven as a professional than almost everyone in this top 10. Despite that he's not looking like the natural talent that a Dychko or Jalolov has. Instead he's looked a bit raw, and has been taking on fighters generally on short notice. Despite the complaints about his competition 31 year old has been busy, with 4 fights in 2019, including a career best win over the then 15-0 Agron Smakici for a minor IBF title. Given his age, and now experience, we expect to see him step up this year, especially he's now backed be a rather strong promotional team. We expect to see Kossobutskiy fighting at a higher level, but it's hard to see him getting a world title fight any time soon.
6-Ruslan Myrsatayev (7-0, 6)
Another Kazakh making his way into our top 10 is Ruslan Myrsatayev, who is 35 years old and has likely missed the bout to make an impact at a higher level. His best win to date is a KO win over British veteran Danny Williams last year, and since then he has seen his KO run come to an end, being taken 8 rounds by Yury Bykhautsou. Although not the most talented Myrsatayev is a fight with heavy hands, and a decent work rate, but nothing exceptional and we could easily see him losing to fighters below him who make the most of his slowness. From here on we expect him to slow further and really only expect him to slide down the rankings, and not do much of note. Again a shame he turned pro so late as he could have been in some interesting fights just a few years ago.
7-Kyotaro Fujimoto (21-2, 13)
Former unified Japanese, OPBF and WBO Asia Pacific champion Kyotaro Fujimoto is one of the more well known names on this list. He was a K1 fighter, the first Japanese national champion in a general and a man splattered by Daniel Dubois last year in the UK. Sadly he's also a man who was looking like a big fish in a little pond. Technically he's actually not a bad fighter, but he's also not a particularly impressive one. He's often negative in the ring, relying on his speed and movement, sadly when he's facing a quicker fighter that big advantage is neutralised and he lacks the power to get respect of opponents. It's great to see a Japanese Heavyweight try and do something on a bigger stage, but the reality is that Fujimoto hasn't got the toughness, chin, size or power to make a mark against the better fighters, even the better Asian fighters.
8-Ryu Ueda (9-1-1, 5)
It's hard to know how good Ryu Ueda can become, but at the moment his ceiling looks low. He's the current Japanese Heavyweight champion, claiming the title last year when he beat Kotatsu Takehara in their second bout. He looks the part physically, and is a big, athletic looking guy, but sadly he's relatively uncoordinated and when he gets in the ring the natural athletic ability one would assume he has is lacking. He doesn't look comfortable in the ring. At the age of 28 there is room for improvement, but it's hard to see him improving much and he really is lucky the Japanese scene is very weak at the division.
9-Eric Pen (6-0, 5)
American born Cambodian Eric Pen is a very interesting fighter in some ways, but like many Asian Heavyweights his potential to make a mark at the higher levels is very, very limited. Pen is the current WBA Asia champion but his competition so far has been dire and his last win, over Alexander Bajawa came against a very out of shape fighter. It's impossible to know how good Pen is given how easily matched he's been. Saying that however we would love to see him fight Ueda in what would, on paper, be a big step up in class for Pen.
10-Yunlong Shi (1-0, 1)
Chinese Heavyweight Yunlong Shi might not have been a success in WSB but he impressed in his professional boxing debut last year, stopping Pawel Sowik in 2 rounds in Poland. Unlike many fighters on this list he's actually based in European, with a Polish team behind him. It's hard to know just how good Shi is, but we were impressed by his debut, and wouldn't be betting against him against Pen or Ueda. It's still very early in his career and he looks like someone to actually be quite excited about. Again very, very early days, but he has size and skills, and on his debut he showed decent power, albeit against a very limited opponent.
As with last weeks look at the Light Heavyweight division we will also only be looking at the top 5 Current Asian Cruiserweights, rather than top 10, as the division really is that thin in terms of talent. Also, for the sake of these particular rankings, we will not be including current "WBA Crusierweight champion" Beibut Shumenov. He might be a world champion but his inactivity means he's not being included, and we're really not sure if we'll ever see him in the ring again.
1-Ali Baloyev (9-0, 7)
Promising Kazakh hopeful Ali Baloyev looks to be the man to pin Asian hopes on at the moment. The heavy handed and promising 27 year old is the biggest hope but also a great example of how weak the Asian interest is in the division. He spent most of 2019 out of the ring, before picking up a decision against Hamilton Ventura in July, and is now almost a year away removed from that bout. Although talented and promising his competition so far hasn't been great, and he will need to be moved fast when boxing returns, if he's to become an actual threat in the division.
2-Peng Qu (15-2-1, 11)
China is potentially the place where we could see some major names pop up in the division over the coming years. Sadly Qu isn't going to be the first Chinese world champion in the division, unless something completely bizarre happens. The 30 year old boxer-puncher isn't a bad fighter, by any stretch, but he's also not a particularly good one and he certainly hasn't got the ability to set the world alight. He's talented and can boxer and punch, he has good size, but his age is against him and his competition so far has done little to suggest he can make the massive leap from regional class to world class.
3-Issa Akberbayev (20-1-0-1, 15)
Once beaten 36 year old Kazakh Issa Akberbayev was beaten back in November following almost 2 years out of the ring. In his prime he was seen as a promising fighter but the reality is that he's beyond his best, was never great or a particularly proven fighter and scored little in terms of wins. His best win came more than 5 years ago, and even that wasn't a major win, and his most notable result, other than his loss, was a No Contest in 2013 against Anthony Ferrante, which saw Akberbayev being knocked out only for Ferrante to fail a drug test.
4-Muhamad Farkhan (11-0, 11)
Malaysia isn't a boxing hot bed, but it is nice to see a name coming from the country which is worthy of talking about, and that is 31 year old Muhamad Farkhan. The unbeaten fighter from Johore has been a professional since 2015 and has been matched relatively softly. In saying that however wins over Alexander Bajawa and Pascal Abel Ndomba are pretty much as good as anything on Akberbayev's record. It would be good to see Farkhan have a big fight but in reality we suspect his handlers will treat him very carefully to try and make him into a local draw before he retires, rather than getting him a truly noteworthy bout.
5-Ibragim Iskandarov (7-0, 7)
We finish the top 5, which is another really weak top 5, with unbeaten Kazakh Ibragim Iskandarov, who is 33 years old and has just 15 rounds of professional experience to his name. The 5'11" puncher made his debut in 2017 and blew through his first 6 opponents in a combined 8 rounds, he then struggled last time out before finally stopping Mussa Ajibu in the 7th round. Given his age, and the struggle against Ajibu, he's unlikely to make any kind of mark at the higher levels of the sport, but sadly we needed a #5 to complete this list.
Right now the best of the Asian Cruiserweights are in the amateurs, but hopefully in 2021 or 2022 they do head over to the professional ranks and make a mark there.
When we started doing the top 10 series we didn't expect to come in to too many issues and in reality we didn't....until we got to the Light Heavyweight division. Sadly however when we hit 175lbs, and again when we looked at Cruiserweight, we realised there just wasn't the depth needed for a top 10. As a result we are going cut the numbers for both divisions down to a top 5 ranking.
With that now out of the way, here are our top 5 Asian Light Heavyweights.
1-Fanlong Meng (16-0, 10)
Leading the way in the division is unbeaten Chinese Light Heavyweight Fanlong Meng, who is supposed to be getting an IBF world title fight later in the year. The 32 year old Southpaw has proven to be a talented boxer-puncher and wins over the likes of Adam Deines, Frank Buglioni and Emmanuel Danso have shown his ability. Sadly whilst he is a very skilled fighter with a strong amateur background he has shown a questionable chin and has been down several times during his career. He's, unfortunately, supposed to take on divisional destroyed Artur Beterbiev next and that is not a good style match up for "Cold Blood".
2-Rustam Tulaganov (3-0, 1)
Former Uzbek amateur standout Rustam Tulaganov comes in second, despite having only 3 bouts to his name. The talented Uzbek made his debut in 2017, but was out of the ring for over 2 years before impressing in late 2019 with his second professional win. Like many top Uzbek's Tulaganov looks like he can be fast tracked, and we expect big things of him. At 28 he doesn't have any more time to waste, but by that same token he's only a few fights away from an alphabet rankings and a potential world title eliminator. Yes he's only had 3 professional bouts, but he is very advanced for a man with just 3 fights.
3-Mingcun Chen (6-0, 6)
We return to China for our third ranked fighter at 175lbs wuith Mingcun Chen, a 22 year old novice who debuted at the end of 2017 and has slowly been making a name for himself. To date his best wub us iver Clint Alderson, for a low level WBF title, but given his age and potential there is reason to be excited in the youngster, and hopefully we see him taking on some stiffer competition from Australia and Eastern Europe in late 2020. Sadly his career is a bit shrouded, but outside of the top 2 he's pretty much the best of the rest.
4-Abdulkhamid Khakimov (5-0, 3)
Another Uzbek making his name in the division is 28 year old Abdulkhamid Khakimov. Whilst Khakimov doesn't have much hype behind him he did kick off 2020 with a solid win over Russian journeyman Karen Avetisyan, and that's a win worthy of note, even if Avetisyan is little more than a journeyman. In reality that one win is pretty much better than what the other Asian fighters in the division has. That's how weak the division is in terms of Asian fighters right now.
5-Zhaoxin Zhang (8-1-1, 4)
Rounding out this surprisingly weak top 5 is 24 year old Chinese fighter Zhaoxin Zhang, who suffered a loss in 2019 to Zulipikaer Maimaitiali, and then struggled past Chase Haley later in the year. On paper Zhang got his best win in November 2019, when he stopped Jianzheng Wang, but that still wasn't a big or meaningful win outside of China.
Fingers crossed that in the coming years the Light Heavyweight division sees a burst of amateur talent making it's mark there from Central Asia but at the moment, only the top two Asian fighters in the division are really worthy any attention at all.
With the rise of Central Asian fighters in the professional scene we expect to see Asian fighters leaving a big mark on the higher weights in the year to come. That makes the Super Middleweight division an interesting one right now, packed with talented and exciting fighters from Central Asia. With that in mind lets look at the current top 10, and like many divisions the drop off at the bottom end of this top 10 is massive.
1-Azizbek Abdugofurov (13-0, 5)
The 28 year old Uzbek Azizbek Abdugofurov is a bit of a forgotten man in the division at the moment. He was supposed to have big bouts in 2019 and is expected to have some big bouts this year, but it's been a while since anyone has really spoke much about him. Despite only having 13 bouts to his name he has beaten the likes of Sirimongkol Singwancha, Dmitrii Chudinov and Wuzhati Nuerlang. A very talented boxer Abdugofurov once looked like he was on the verge of huge things, but he only fought once last year and his win over Chudinov is now more than 2 years old. We have him at number #1, but he has another Uzbek closing in him and on the verge of moving ahead of him.
2-Bektemir Melikuziev (5-0, 4)
Whilst Abdugofurov is the top of this list he may be over-taken very quickly by the "Bek Bully" Bektemir Melikuzie. ,The Uzbek destroyer looks like the one man who is nailed on to be a future world champion. Melikuziev is a former amateur standout who turned professional in 2019 and blasted out experienced fighters like Martin Fidel Rios and Ricardo Luna Flores in his first two bouts. Since then he has proven he can box, as we saw against Vaughn Alexander, and has much more to his arsenal than his frightening power and vicious body punching. This man is one of the top prospects in world boxing, and is someone who might only be a fight or two away from a world title fight.
3-Ali Akhmedov (16-0, 12)
Fast rising Kazakh youngster Ali Akhmedov looks like one of the most exciting fighters making his way through the sport. The unbeaten 24 year old is exciting, aggressive, heavy handed and still very much an improving fighter, who is getting ring time at an early age before aiming for bigger and better things in the future. At the moment we're still awaiting to see Akhmedov take a step up, but we suspect when he does he will impress. He has defenses flaws to work on, but is an offensive machine and he looks like he will be in the mix for a world title in the coming years.
4-Aidos Yerbossynuly (13-0, 9)
Another Kazakh heading towards big things, potentially, is the unbeaten Aidos Yerbossynuly. The 28 year old has been a professional since 2015 and has slowly and quietly gone about his business so far. Last year he stepped up competition well, and beat Rocky Jerkic, in a career best win. With a number of regional titles around his waist he is heading towards big things, but there are big questions about his chin, his punch resistance and his ability to step up. He's a talented boxer-puncher, but there is still a lot of questions for him to answer.
5-Nurzat Sabirov (11-0, 9)
A third Kazakh in this list is Candian based 26 year old Nurzat Sabirov, who has quietly been quietly building some career momentum in recent years. Last year he scored 3 wins, including one over the unbeaten Laszlo Toth and one over veteran Ricardo Adrian Luna Flores. Although not the most well known of the Canadian based Kazakh fighters he is being managed by a team who know how to bring prospects through and is in a strong unit. Sabirov is likely a few fights behind those above him, but has ability, a good set up and a lot of promise. It's going to be interesting to see what Eye of the Tiger Management have planned for him when boxing resumes in Canada and we suspect that he's maybe 2 or 3 years away from a huge fight.
6-Vijender Singh (12-0, 8)
Once tipped for massive things Indian fighter Vijender Singh appears to be another of those fighters who was viewed as a star but failed to fully make his mark in the professional ranks. It was hoped that Singh would put Indian boxing on the map, be the star the country needed to unleash a generation of future boxers from the untapped Indian market. Sadly though inactivity, and promotional issues along with injuries have seen the 34 year old fighting just 12 times since his 2015 debut. Although still a big name in India it very much feels like Singh is only going to be sliding down this list, and then eventually off it, with out ever having a career defining fight. Talented, but not the star we had hoped for.
7-Zulipikaer Maimaitiali (12-2-1, 8)
Chinese fighter Zulipikaer Maimaitiali gave Vijender Singh a really close and competitive bout in 2017 and looked like being a really bright hope for Chinese boxing at 168lbs. Now however the jury is well and truly out on him. A surprise upset loss in 2019 to Abdallah Paziwapazi, who was taken out in 2 rounds by Rocky Fielding just a few months later. The 25 year old Maimaitiali is a fun to watch and aggressive fighter, but he now needs to get his career back on track as quickly as possible. Fingers crossed 2020, or rather what is left of 2020, gives him a chance to get back on track and get a win over a decent opponent.
8-Wuzhati Nuerlang (13-3, 10)
Close on the tail of Zulipikaer Maimaitiali is another Chinese fighter, Wuzhati Nuerlang. The 24 year old Nuerlang has shown promise but with losses in 2 of his last 4, and a team that appears will to throw him in too deep too soon we do wonder what can come of Nuerlang. He's talented, exciting and aggressive, but needs to be kept away from the likes of Azizbek Abdugofurov and Fedor Chudinov going forward, with both of them easly beating the Chinese fighter.
9-Arman Rysbek (7-0, 6)
Another Kazakh making his way into these rankings is 29 year old Arman Rysbek. He's someone who has already fought in the US, Argentina and Kazakhstan, but desperately needs a step up in competition sooner rather than later. His career is a weird one, fighting in the west before heading back to Kazakhstan for his last 4 bouts. His competition so far has been terrible, and he has stopped his last 5 opponents in a combined 7 rounds. Although he passes the eye test as a talented fighter his career really is in need of an injection, and hopefully he will kick on when boxing resumes later in the year.
10-Dias Tastemirov (4-0, 4)
We round out the top 10 with another fighter we want to see moving up in class shortly, with 29 year old Kazakh Dias Tastemirov filling out the rankings. The unbeaten puncher from Almaty has taken out his 4 opponents in a combined 6 rounds, but desperately needs to be fed better competition. He's just turned 29, so he does have a few years of time, but being based in Kazakhstan he may not have the team needed to back him in the way that helps really bring him along and develop him.
On the bubble:
Ravshan Ergashev, Tae San Kil, Chaloemporn Sawatsuk, Rafi Majid and Dinh Hoang Truong
The Middleweight division isn't one that we immediately think of when we think of Asian boxers, but it's a surprisingly interesting one right now, thanks in a big part due to the recent surge of Central Asian fighters making their mark on the sport. With that in mind this is actually a really interesting top 10 mixed with some nice match ups as well as some solid fighters of notes.
1-Gennady Golovkin (40-1-1, 35)
Like many we believe the 38 year old Gennady Golovkin might be heading towards the end of his days as an active fighter, but the reality is that he is, still, one of the very best Middleweights on the planet. The iron chinned and rock fisted Kazakh was given a hell of a test last October, against Sergey Derevyanchenko, and is expected to make a mandatory of his IBF title later in the year. Although not the force he once was there's not many fighters in the division that would be expected to give "GGG" a real test. Time is ticking on Golovkin's career, but with wins against some of the best Middleweights from the last decade it's hard to argue anyone should
2-Ryota Murata (16-2, 13)
Another fighter with rocks for hands and an iron jaw is Ryota Murata, the WBA "regular" champion. The 34 year old from Japan is a legitimate star in the Land of the Rising sun and draws huge audiences to see him in action. Since winning a Gold medal at the 2012 Olympics Murata has been one of the most marketable stars in the sport, and the hope of him headlining a major Dome show in Japan seemed to be on the verge of happening. Sadly however with global situation that now looks to be little more than a pipe dream. Murata, like Golovkin, is probably on the back end of his career, but he's not had the long damaging career that Golovkin has had and may well have another few years left in the sport, if he wants them.
3-Janibek Alimkhanuly (8-0, 4)
Confident, skilled and still only 27 years old Janibek Alimkhanuly looks like the natural successor to Gennady Golovkin for Kazakh fans wanting a Middleweight to get behind. The talented Alimkhanuly has called out the likes of Demetrius Andrade and has made it clear he wants to be facing the best in the world. Although not a destructive puncher Alimkhanuly has looked to be sitting on his punches more in recent bouts and has started to polish off his style which was once looking a bit too amateurish. He's a long way behind the two men ranked above him, but has shown a lot of promise already.
4-Meiirim Nursultanov (13-0, 8)
Another Kazakh fighter worthy of some attention is Meiirim Nursultanov, a 26 year old who has been quietly making a name for himself without too much fuss. The US based Kazakh is managed by Egis Klimas and was busy in 2019, with 4 bouts. Given his competition seems to be improving fight by fight he's certainly someone we expected to be tested properly in the near future. Sadly though he appears to lack championship level power and will need to rely on his boxing skills more than his power.
5-Kazuto Takesako (12-0-1, 11)
It might seem hard to believe that there's two Japanese Middleweights in the top 5 for Asia but it's a surprising time in boxing and Kazuto Takesako is certainly in in and around the middle of the top 10. So far the hard hitting Takesako has has looked devastating on the domestic scene, and has unified the Japanese and OPBF titles. Although not the most polished fighter out there he's strong, aggressive, takes a shot and has very heavy, thudding shots. Wins over the likes of Shuji Kato, Shinobu Charlie Hosokawa, Sanosuke Sasaki and Hikaru Nishida has made him the clear #2 in Japan behind Murata
6-Kanat Islam (27-0, 21)
One tipped as a big hopeful for Kazakh boxing Kanat Islam's career has really come to a screeching halt in recent years. In September 2017 he looked on the verge of something big after stopping the then 18-0 Brandon Cook but since then injuries and inactivity have been a major problem for "Qazaq". Islam was a really talented boxer-puncher at Light Middleweight but at Middleweight last time out against Walter Kautondokwa he looked poor, and like he really wasn't suitable for the 160lb weight class. That bout was full of controversy, with Islam being injured and hurt multiple times layer on. At 35 we don't see Islam getting any more suited to the weight and suspect the move up will turn out to be a bad one.
7-Yuki Nonaka (34-10-3, 10)
At the age of 42 Japanese Southpaw may end up being the oldest man on any of these ranking lists, but the WBO Asia Pacific champion is certainly here on merit. Nonaka, a talented Osakan, first made his name at Light Middleweight, where he won the Japanese and OPBF titles, then made a mark at Middleweight, winning the OPBF and WBO Asia Pacific titles. Nonaka is very much a throwback type of fighter, who has done things the hard way, faced a true regional who's who, and has managed to some of his best performances the wrong side of 40. His time is clearly coming to an end, and he didn't look good last time out against Hyun Min Yang, but there's still very few Asian fighters we would back against him.
8-Hurshidbek Normatov (10-0, 3)
The unbeaten Hurshidbek Normatov is a 28 year old Uzbek who hasn't had the attention many of his countrymen have had. Instead he's been quietly going about things and has notched noteworthy wins against Nicklaus Flaz, Walter Wright and Uriel Hernandez. There is still very much a "jury's out" feeling to Normatov, who clearly needs to be matched tougher than he has been, but there is real potential there and he has some freakish intangibles. Stood at 6'2" and fighting out of the southpaw stance he has two things that can make him a very awkward man to beat, though a lack of power may be a downfall when he steps up in class.
9-Ainiwaer Yilixiati (17-1, 12)
Chinese warrior Ainiwaer Yilixiati is an interesting fighter who perhaps could be much higher up this list, if he and his team pushed better match making. The aggressive and fun to watch 27 year old looked exciting on his climb through the ranks, was much more competitive with Jayde Mitchell than the scorecards said in 2017, and has slowly moved on since that loss. Wins against Ryosuke Maruke and Betuel Ushona in 2019 seemed to suggest that there was progress with his career but we need to see that continue when boxing resumes in China later in the year. He's talented, young-ish at 27, but needs to be allowed to test himself.
10-Riku Kunimoto (4-0, 2)
The final place in these rankings was a hard one, with several names all in the running. We've gone with potential rather than anything else here, with Riku Kunimoto. The Japanese novice is just 23 but already looks like the countries next major Middleweight player. His first two bouts were relatively straight forward wins but last year he stopped Shoma Fukumoto in a big step up and is clearly a very capable youngster, able to make a mark. He was supposed to face Kazuto Takesako this year, though speculation is that that bout may end up slipping to 2021 due to the on going situation, and in reality that is probably a good thing for Kunimoto and his career.
On the bubble:
Abay Tolesh, Shinobu Charlie Hosokawa, Shuji Kato, Ulugbek Khakberdiev and Odiljon Aslonov
The 154lb Light Middleweight division is one of the most interesting in the sport, both globally and in regards to Asian fighters. The division has no standout on the global scene, and whilst that can be bad for a division it actually helps to make the division really intriguing with a feeling that the top 5 or 6 guys, if not more, can all beat each other. The division could hold some brilliant tournaments and it'd be very hard to pick the eventual winner.
Saying that however we're not here right now to discuss the division at large rank the top Asian fighters in the division. And boy is this a trickier one than we imagined with a huge drop off towards the bottom end of the top 10.
1-Israil Madrimov (5-0, 5)
The 25 year old Israil Madrimov is one of the most promising fighters on the planet, and in just 5 fights has proven to be an exceptional talent with all the tools to be a superstar in boxing. The talented Uzbek, dubbed "The Dream", can box, bang, brawl, fighter, punch, entertain and looks to have all the tools to be something very, very special. With wins over solid fringe contenders, like Alejandro Barrera and Charlie Navarro we've seen Madrimov facing very advanced competition for someone with so few fights and he has been impressive every time we've seen him. Madrimov is one of the surest "future world champions" in the sport today.
2-Sadriddin Akhmedov (11-0, 10)
Another man we're tipping for the top is Kazakh youngster Sadriddin Akhmedov, but like Madrimov he's not just one for the future but a fantastic fighter right now. Akhmedov, a Kazakh based Canadian, is a boxer-puncher who is an absolute joy to watch. He's not as destructive as Madrimov but at just 22 years old he is still looking like a very, very special fighter. His record isn't the best among the Asian fighters, but his skill-set, and talent is incredible and in regards to the eye he's passing with flying colours. His best wins are over the likes of John Ruba and Jose Antonio Villalobos but he can clearly beat better than he's been facing. Akhmedov is one of the best hidden gems in world boxing today.
3-Takeshi Inoue (16-1-1, 10)
The most proven of the Asian fighters at the weight is former world title challenger Takeshi Inoue. The 30 year old Japanese mauler is best known for his 2019 loss to Jaime Munguia, in which he took Munguia 12 rounds and managed to back up the Mexican youngster. Inoue has scored wins against the likes of Akinori Watanabe, Yuki Nonaka and Riku Nagahama, he's also a former unified Japanese, OPBF and WBO Asia Pacific champion and the current WBO Asia Pacific king. In terms of professional accolades he's top, but it really feels like Akhmedov and Madrimov both have significantly better skills and potential.
4-Hironobu Matsunaga (16-1, 10)
Japanese national champion Hironobu Matsunaga is someone in a very rich vein of form and has won his last 10 in a row, following a loss in the 2014 All Japan Rookie of the Year final at Welterweight. The pint size fighter from the Yokohama gym is one of the shortest men in the division but also an absolute nightmare to fight. Matsunaga is a physically strong pressure fighter who breaks opponents down with volume and pressure. He doesn't have a big international performance under his belt but wins over the likes of Je Ni Ma, Koshinmaru Saito and Nobuyuki Shindo he has proven his ability on the domestic and fringe regional scene and is, for us at least, the #2 in Japan.
5-Madiyar Ashkeyev (14-0, 7)
We return to Western based Kazakh's now with 31 year old fringe contender Madiyar Ashkeyev, who is based in Oxnard, California. The unbeaten Ashkeyev turned pro in 2015 and has slowly been making a name for himself, with decent wins against the likes of Luis Hernandez, Cecil McCalla and Rodolfo Ezequiel Martinez. The hope is that Ashkeyev will jump in with a higher level of opponent later in the year, though his career has been rather frustrating at times and it has felt like he could have stepped up a level much earlier. A talent, but some one with questions still to answer and at 31 time is ticking down on his prime years.
6-Teerachai Kratingdaenggym (43-1, 31)
Once beaten Thai Teerachai Kratingdaenggym, also known as Tewa Kiram, is best known for his loss to Lucas Matthysse at Welterweight. Since then he rebounded well with 5 wins and a move up in weight. We'd love to see him in with a regional level test soon, but the WBA Asia champion is a man who is hard to get a read on. We know he's better than many Thai's with padded records, and we thought he was giving Matthysse fits. He does however have a questionable chin, as we saw against Matthysse, and we do wonder if he can dig deep when the going gets tough. A solid boxer-puncher, but we wouldn't be surprised if his level was fringe regional, and we certainly wouldn't fancy him against any of the guys above him.
7-Akinori Watanabe (39-7-1, 33)
Japanese veteran Akinori Watanabe has had a truly compelling career since he turned professional in 2004. He was a crude puncher early on, suffering a number of stoppage losses as a result, but has become a more rounded boxer-puncher in recent years, and looks much sturdier at 154lbs than he did at Welterweight. During his long career he won Japanese, OPBF and PABA Welterweight titles and since moving up he has held the Japanese "interim" title and the OPBF title. Although not a world class fighter, by any stretch, the 34 year old is a good, solid, regional level fighter, and someone who would put up a fight, win or lose, against anyone else on this list. The top guys would beat him, but they'd be forced to work for their wins.
8-Tonghui Li (12-2, 6)
Chinese 30 year old Tonghui Li is a bit of a wild card. He's a former OPBF "silver" and IBF Asia champion and has some notable wins against the likes of Romeo Jakosalem, Larry Siwu and Arnel Tinampay. Sadly though he's also picked up a couple of losses, including a 2018 defeat to Jung Kyoung Lee. Li is one of those fighters who we don't expect to see much from, but a win over Tinampay means a lot and we wouldn't be that shocked if we saw him fighting for a regional title when boxing resumes. Li against Watanabe or Teerachai would be very interesting, and maybe the sort of bout we could end up with in December if travel restrictions allow.
9-Rei Nakajima (3-0)
Another wild card selection is 21 year old Rei Nakajima, a Japanese fighter promoted by Nobuhiro Ishida. At 5'5" he's a very short Light Middleweight but also a very, very talented fighter in the division. Having debuted last July it's still really early to get too excited about him, but he's proven he can do 6 rounds, something he's now down 3 times, and with a win over Patomsuk Pathompothong this early in his career it seems like he and his team have got eyes on making a mark at title level sooner rather than later. Yes it's early, yes he's unproven, but boy does this kid look good!
10-Arnel Tinampay (26-25-1, 12)
The dark sheep of the division is tried and tested Filipino journeyman Arnel Tinampay, who has one of the sports most confusing and misleading records. With just 26 wins from 52 bouts it's easy to suggest that Tinampay isn't good, but the reality is that his record could, and should, be very different. The 35 year old has scored notable upsets against the likes of Yosuke Kirima, Shoma Fukumoto and Koshinmaru Saito and had a number of losses that should have been wins, including a 2019 bout against Hassan Mwakinyo. If you're preparing to face Tinampay and look at his record rather than look at footage of him you're in trouble.
On the bubble:
Jugn Kyoung Lee, Nobuyuki Shindo, Nath Nwachukwu, Sung Miun Yuh and Vikas Krishan
The Welterweight division is a one of the most notable in the sport, and has been heavily dominated by American fighters in recent years, with the likes of Floyd Mayweather Jr, Keith Thurman, Errol Spence, Terence Crawford, Shawn Porter, Timothy Bradley and others all being among the big name US fighters of the last years. It's also a division where Central Asian fighters are starting to make a mark, and where a certain Filipino still resides. It's not the best division for Asian fighters but it's certainly not the worst, and more than interesting.
1-Manny Pacquiao (62-7-2, 39)
The Filipino might be 41 years old but it's hard to deny that is the #1 Asian fighter in the division. Last year he scored good wins over Adrien Broner and Keith Thurman, showing their was still life in his legs. He's really in a league of his own in regards to Asian fighters at 147lbs and whilst he is certainly not the rapid fire, prime Pacquiao we all fell in love with, he's a more calculated and smart fighter and is going to be a very tricky man to dethrone. Talk of big fights for Pacquiao remain on the radar and it's going to be very interesting to see what is next for him.
2-Kudratillo Abdukakhorov (17-0, 9)
Unbeaten Uzbek Kudratillo Abdukakhorov might be some way behind Pacquiao but is also some way ahead of those ranked behind him. He's set for an IBF title fight, at some point, and with wins against Keita Obara, Luis Collazo, Charles Manyuchi and Dmitry Mikhaylenko he's got a very strong record for a contender. Sadly whilst it's clear that Abdukakhorov is a talented boxer, very skills, we do wonder about his power, his toughness and his physical tools, all of which are perhaps not on the same level as his movement, skills and hand speed. A very talented fighter, but someone who is perhaps going to struggle when he mix at the highest level.
3-Daniyar Yeleussinov (9-0, 5)
Another central Asian fight with a lot of potential and a very high skill level is unbeaten Kazakh Daniyar Yeleussinov. The excellent Yeleussinov won an Olympic gold medal in 2016, at the Rio Olympics, and has been matched impressively so far whilst managing to take some good strides forward. There has been questions over his style and power, but stoppages in 2019 over Reshard Hicks and Alan Sanchez were impressive and he certainly has the tools to go a very long way. Can he adapt and become a world champion? We'll see but the 29 year old certainly has the potential to fight at the highest level.
4-Keita Obara (23-4-1, 21)
Hard hitting Japanese national champion Keita Obara may now have had enough to over-come Abdukakhorov but there's not many Asian fighters who would be favoured over the heavy handed man from Tokyo. Obara isn't going to be a world champion, we've seen him suffer a spectacular loss at world level before and suffer several setbacks since then, but he's in a good gatekeeper like position in the sport. Those above him have the potential to go all the way, but those below him in this list are unlikely to get close to the top, or at least get close to the top any time soon.
5-Nursultan Zhangabayev (8-0, 5)
Another unbeaten Kazakh here is Nursultan Zhangabayev, who looks like the dark sheep of the division. He's not had much attention, especially in the west, but has already scored notable victories Xingxin Yang, Arnel Tinampay, Ivan Matute and Steve Gago. Not only has he scored some solid wins but he has also been picking up wins around the globe, with bouts in China, Russia, Kazakhstan and Australia. Strong, tough, with a good work rate, and a real will to win, Zhangabayev is someone who is showing the tools to go a long way in the sport, but will need some strong backing to help him get the bouts he needs to make it to the top.
6-Riku Nagahama (12-2-1, 4)
Another Japanese fighter in this top 10 is OPBF champion Riku Nagahama. The 28 year old scored the best win of his career last time out, defeating Kudura Kaneko, and has shown great improvement since being stopped by Yuki Nagano around 2 years ago. There are still questions for Nagahama to answer, and his chin certainly doesn't seem anything amazing, but he's improving and the win over Kaneko is good enough for a mid-place ranking here. He has the potential to climb up these rankings but in reality it's going to take another big win to see him climb and we're not sure he can get another big win any time soon.
7-Yuki Beppu (21-1-1, 20)
Another Japanese fighter who deserves to be mentioned in here is WBO Asia Pacific champion Yuki Beppu, who really has been under-rated for much of his career, following his win in the Rookie of the Year. Beppu has been matched for the most part, but he earned a draw against Charles Bellamy, an impressive result at the time, ran Yuki Nagano close in a Japanese title eliminator and then took part in an amazing bout last year against Ryota Yada. Beppu might not be the best, or have the greatest chin, but his will to win is incredible, he has solid power and under-rated skills. He's someone who will struggle to get into would level bouts, but will be a major player at regional level.
8-Bobirzhan Mominov (10-0, 8)
Unbeaten Kazakh hopeful Bobirzhan Mominov has yet to score a big win but has shown enough to be excited about and has shown he can do it where ever he is. He has notches wins in Argentina, Kazakhstan and the US. Sadly however his level of competition added to inactivity, with just one bout in 2019, do leave us with a lot of question about his potential. Fingers crossed we see what Mominov has to offer later this year. He's looked good, but hasn't had the competition needed for us to really know anything about his potential.
9-Roman Zakirov (7-0, 4)
It's good to mention new countries in these pieces, and especially countries we don't think of when we speak about boxing. One great example of that is Azerbaijan, which is the birth place of the talented Roman Zakirov. Zakirov struggled on his professional debut, but since then has gone from stride to stride, with wins over Karen Avetisyan, Daniel Vega Cota and Meshack Mwankemwa. It's going to be interesting to see where Zakirov can go and who will help push his career along. Fingers crossed we see him making a mark at the highest level, but it's a push to imagine him ever having the backing needed to be a champion. At 23 he's young, talented and has potential. Hopefully that potential can be developed.
10-Kenbati Haiyilao (6-2-1, 1)
China's Kenbati Haiyilao rounds out the top 10 thanks to an upset win last year over Nick Frese. The tall, rangy Chinese fighter wasn't expected to be a test for Frese but ended up out boxing the Thai based Dutchman. Aged just 24 Haiyilao has shown something to get excited about and despite the 2 losses against his name he certainly has a lot of promise and is someone we're looking forward to seeing more of. He looks skilled, he's proven he can do 10 rounds, he can box, has a good jab and has the potential to go further in the sport. If he can be matched well and get good sparring. A talented yet unknown hopeful.
*For the sake of these Rankings Sergey Lipinets has been regarded as Russian
On the bubble:
Yuki Nagno, Fazliddin Gaibnazarov, In Duck Seo, Youli Dong and Kudura Kaneko
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
We continue to through the Asian rankings today as we look at the Lightweight division. The division is a relative weak one in Asia however and really is in a transitional state which we expect to see changing over the coming years. Thankfully it appears likely that the division will become a stronger one in the years to come.
1-Shuichiro Yoshino (12-0, 10)
With no world champion, or even former world champion, in the Lightweight division the #1 pick for the Asian scene is an easy one, Shuichiro Yoshino. The unbeaten Japanese fighter is a flawed but talented boxer puncher who has unified the JBC, OPBF and WBO Asia Pacific and is the #1 pretty much with out question here. Although Yoshino isn't the best pure boxer he is a real threat in the division and no one should take too many risks against. We have seen him score some sensational KO's already, including the brilliant one against Harmonito Dela Torre last year, and we expect big things form him. Although talented we have seen him being out boxed and there is a risk that he will run into someone who can take his power and will defeat him. So far, however, we've not seen anyone do that to him.
2-Valentine Hosokawa (25-7-3, 12)
A potentially controversial choice at #2 is Japanese veteran Valentine Hosokawa. The 39 year old is a former Japanese Light Welterweight champion who has moved down in weight and looks stronger than ever. Although he has 7 losses to his name they include defeats to the likes of Koki Inoue, Shinya Iwabuchi and Min Wook Kim. Hosokawa has aged like fine wine in recent years and despite being 39 he may be at best. Powerful, with great stamina, an aggressive mentality and with more bang on his punch than his record suggests he's a very hard fighter to beat and we suspect he has the potential to really shine now that he's not giving away natural size at 140lbs.
3-Yongqiang Yang (13-0, 10)
Unbeaten Chinese hopeful Yongqiang Yang has quickly risen through the ranks without getting much attention. He was supposed to face Masayuki Ito in China earlier this year, before the situation in China forced the show to be cancelled. Although certainly not a big name or a high profile fighter Yang has notched a string of respectable wins recently, beating Takuya Watanabe, Harmonito Dela Torre, Ernie Sanchez and JR Magboo in his last 4. Yang is a solid boxer-puncher, he's very strong and powerful, and at just 27 he's still getting better and getting stronger. Yang has only been a professional since 2016 but he is certainly already on the fringes of a legitimate world ranking.
4-Romero Duno (22-2, 17)
Hard hitting Filipino Romero Duno is a pretty well known 24 year old who has been fighting in the US frequently in the last few years. Duno made a big impact on his US debut in 2017, when he stopped the touted Christian Gonzalez, and since then score some decent wins over the likes of Juan Antonio Rodriguez. Sadly for Duno his rise through the ranks took a huge hit last year when he was stopped inside a round by Ryan Garcia. Duno can box, he can punch and he is a dangerman, though the loss to Garcia certainly showed him to be a clear level below world class, and he did look very slow in the bout. We suspect he'll be a gatekeeper going forward, but with his power he'll always be a risky opponent and someone who prospects will see as a solid test. A beatable. but solid test.
5-Ravshanbek Umurzakov (10-1, 7)
It's really hard to know where Uzbek hopeful Ravshanbek Umurzakov stands right now. The 26 year old looked like he was going to be moved quickly towards big things after early career wins over Eden Sonsona, Rimar Metuda and Roldan Aldea. Sadly however back in January we saw Umurzakov being stopped in 7 rounds by Esneiker Correa. That loss to Correa was a bad one for Umurzakov who took a lot of punishment and had his defensive flaws shown up time and time again. Although talented he really does have a lot of work to do before moving onwards and upwards. He's more proven than many fighters on this list, but the loss to Correa is going to loom his head for quite some time.
6-Elnur Abduraimov (5-0, 5)
Staying with Uzbek fighters Elnur Abduraimov is certainly worthy of some attention. The 25 year old would rank above his compatriot had it not been for the stop-start nature of his career so far. Abduraimov made his debut in September 2018 and fought 3 times by the end of the year. Sadly he only fought twice in 2019, with his last fight coming in May, when he stopped Issa Nampepeche in 4 rounds. Talented, explosive, heavy handed and very promising we're really hoping to see more of Abduraimov, but it seems like he'll not fully commit to the professional ranks until after the Olympics, so it could be a while before we really see what he can do.
7-Viktor Kotochigov (11-0, 4)
Another hard fighter to place is 26 year old Kazakh Viktor Kotochigov. The well travelled Kazakh, who has been a professional since December 2015, has shown some real promise, with wins over Piotr Gudel, Jairo Lopez and Javier Jose Clavero. Whilst clearly a talented fighter Kotochigov does have a knack of fighting within himself and there is a worry he'll never be able to find that extra gear that he'll need to make a mark on the world stage. He's a talented boxer but also has question marks remaining over his power, and we've yet to see him go in against someone with hunger and power. It would be nice to see him tested when the sport resumes, but in reality we suspect we'll see him being given some easy bouts when the sport continues.
8-Ju Wu (9-0-2, 2)
Chinese boxer Ju Wu is another of those less known fighters who has quietly gone about things and made his name without too much of a fuss. The 20 year old southpaw drew 2 of his first 3 but has won his last 8 bouts including wins over Adones Aguelo, Rimar Metuds and Alain Chervet, with the win over Chervet coming last December in Switzerland. Although not a puncher Wu is a genuine talent, a very good boxer, a very smart fighter and a young man who is still some time from developing his man strength.
9-Shu Utsuki (6-0, 5)
Whilst Yoshino is the divisional king of Japan it's hard to not mention Shu Utsuki, who is 26 years old and looks like a star in the making. He's a former Japanese amateur standout who turned professional in 2018 and scored notable wins over Jerry Castroverde and Omrri Bolivar last year. He's not as polished as some of the man ranked above him, but with 24 rounds to his name, nasty past, good movement and tight defense it's hard not to get excited about him. We were expecting a big 2020 for him, but it seems unlikely that we'll see too much from him now, but 2021 could be a huge year for the man from the Watanabe gym.
10-Izuki Tomioka (7-3-1, 2)
With 3 losses to his name Izuki Tomioka looks a little out of place here, but the reality is that no one has had an easy time with him. His first loss came against Masayoshi Nakatani, in 11 rounds, his second was a razor thin split decision to Shuya Masaki and he was stopped earlier this year by Shuichiro Yoshino, whilst in the lead on the cards. Despite those losses Tomioka is only 23 years old, he's developing and he's maturing and as he matures we suspect he'll manage to toughen up and become a very good fighter. Head to head he could certainly hold his own, if not beat, men ranked well above him, but his results and set backs have really dragged him down the rankings here.
On the bubble:
Xiang Xiang Sun, Apichet Petchmanee, Abdurasul Ismoilov, Kaiki Yuba and Masanori Rikiishi
After doing a few really interesting divisions in this series we then come to a jumbled mess at Super Featherweight. The division is almost entirely dominated by the mess of Japanese fighters, who have sort of proven themselves capable, and probably would make for a brilliant round robin. The top few guys stand out, but the rest sort of match each other out, a bit too well
1-Masayuki Ito (26-2-1, 14)
Former WBO Super Featherweight world champion Masayuki Ito had a 2019 to forget, losing the WBO title in May, to Jamel Herring, and then taking a TKO over Ruben Manakane but suffering a nasty looking injury in the bout. His lack of fortune seemed o continue this year, when he had to pull out of a bout in China, before other issues saw the card he was supposed to be on being cancelled all together. Ito is a talented boxer who proved his ability in 2018, with wins over Christopher Diaz and Evgeny Chuprakov, but did look very limited against Herring. It's going to be interesting to see how he bounces back, and we suspect he'll be looking to face some southpaws in the near future, as he didn't appear to ever understand Herring's stance and movement when they fought.
2-Shavkatdzhon Rakhimov (15-0, 12)
Russian based Tajik Shavkatdzhon Rakhimov is currently in the running for an IBF title fight, after beating Azinga Fuzile back in September 2019. That win was marred with some controversy, in regards to some drug issues, but stands. Although it'd be hard to see him beating Jo Jo Diaz that bout is an interesting one and would be a very, very exciting one if it took place. Aggressive, heavy handed, tough and with an impressive will to win Rakhimov is a nightmare to fight, despite some technical flaws. He's not the quickest or the smoothest, but he's probably the deadliest in this top 10, as wins over Fuzile, Robinson Castellanos and Malcolm Klassen have shown. Very much the under-rated dangerman of the division.
3-Kenichi Ogawa (24-1-1-1, 18)
Former Japanese national champion Kenichi Ogawa is best known his controversial bout against Tevin Farmer in 2017. That bout ended with Ogawa being crowned the IBF Super Featherweight champion then being stripped for a failed drug test. Whilst there are still unanswered question about the test he served a year ban and was actually out of the ring for almost 14 months before finally returning last year. After two low key wins he had a technical draw with Joe Noynay, in a messy bout for the WBO Asia Pacific title. We expect to see Ogawa back in big bouts in the near future and the 32 year old from the Teiken gym certainly still has time left in his career, but will need to move fast when boxing returns later in the year.
4-Joe Noynay (18-2-2, 7)
Filipino fighter Joe Noynay Had a fantastic few months in 2019, stopping both Kosuke Saka and Satoshi Shimizu, before ending the year with the aforementioned technical draw against Kenichi Ogawa, in what really was a messy, dirty accidental foul filled war. Although not a puncher, as such, he looked really destructive against Saka and Shimizu and has been impressive since losing to Reiya Abe more than 3 years ago. At 24 years old the talented southpaw is one to keep an eye on, and is only behind Ogawa on the basis the depth of the two men's records. We would favour Ogawa, marginally, in a rematch but given the mess of their first bout we're not in a rush to see them face off again.
5-Hironori Mishiro (9-0-1, 3)
Rushing through the rankings has been 25 year old boxer Hiironori Mishiro, who has proven he can box and brawl, when he needs to. Mishiro won the OPBF title in his 6th professional bout and has since made 4 defenses of the title, including a draw against Masaru Sueyoshi and victories over Takuya Watanabe and Yoshimitsu Kimura. Although not the most powerful Mishiro is well schooled, a very smooth boxer with excellent movement and skills. He's proven he can turn things around and brawl, as he did against Sueyoshi. Sadly Mishiro does look like he lacks some real killer instinct, and that could be a major problem when he moves from regional level to world class. As well as his lack of killer instincts there is also question marks about his punching power, but so far his achievements have been impressive.
6-Kosuke Saka (20-5, 17)
Few fighters had the rollercoaster year that Kosuke Saka had in 2019. He was stopped in 2 rounds in April, by Joe Noynay, in what was considered a real set back, scored a low key nothing win against Indonesian journeyman Isack Junior in September and then ended the year by smashing Masaru Sueyoshi to claim the Japanese Super Featherweight title with his best win to date. Saka, at his best, is a nightmare to face and he looked at his absolute best when he beat Sueyoshi. That was the sort of performance that put the division on notice and was his most impressive win since he stopped Shota Hayashi, back in April 2017. Saka is dangerous, but a flawed glass cannon. He'll be in some great fights, win or lose.
7-Takuya Watanabe (37-9-1, 21)
With 9 losses in 47 bouts Takuya Watanabe doesn't look like a fantastic fighter, but boy is his record misleading. He's certainly not a world beater, but on the regional scene not many fighters will beat him without needing to answer serious questions. He's technically a very solid fighter, despite not being the quickest, most powerful or sharpest punching. What he is, is very physically strong and powerful, incredibly tough and has a solid gas tank. Despite his 9 losses he has never been stopped, and that was despite his blood bath in South Korea with Jaesung Lee which saw Watanabe give the Gwanakgu Hall in Seoul a serious donation of claret. Watanabe has lost to some men on this list, notably Masayuki Ito and Hironori Mishiro, but he made both men work for their wins. Most recently he was seen beating Taiki Minamoto to set up a mouth watering showdown with Kosuke Saka, though we may need to wait until 2021 for that bout given the current climate.
8-Yoshimitsu Kimura (12-2, 7)
Having previously lost to Hironori Mishiro and Richard Pumicpic, who is in our Featherweight rankings, the case may be that Yoshimitsu Kimura is too highly ranked here, but in reality he pushed Mishiro all the way in December and is very much a fighter developing rapidly. Aged just 23 he had matured fantastically into a Super Featherweight, after winning the 2016 All Japan Rookie of the Year at Featherweight. In the coming year we expect to see Kimura really climb up these rankings, and he may well be among the best kept secrets in the division. Don't be fooled by his two losses, they were very competitive, and great learning experiences for the youngster who is going to be a key player in the next few years.
9-Masaru Sueyoshi (19-2-1, 11)
Former Japanese national champion Maasaru Sueyoshi rounds out the Japanese fighters in these rankings, though the reality is that he could probably beat some of the ones above him, and did draw with Mishiro. Despite being, head to head, better than some of the guys above we really can't put him higher than Saka, due to Saka's victory over him, and Watanabe and Kimura both looked better than he did last time out. Sueyoshi is a very good technical fighter, he controls distance, tempo and timing well, but lacks real power and struggles with the physical side of the sport. Saka really bullied him, showing no respect to Sueyoshi's power, and we suspect many of those ranked higher up this list would now do the same with that tactic being shown to work against the 29 year old Teiken fighter.
10-Stanislav Kalitskiy (10-0, 3)
As well as all the Japanese talent "clogging" up the division there are some interesting fighters emerging from Central Europe. Among those is the unbeaten 22 year old Stanislav Kalitskiy, who is based in Russia. The talented Kalitskiy lacks power, with only 3 stoppages in his 10 bouts, but has stepped up his competition well and a January win over Alan Isaias Luques Castillo is worthy of note. It'll be interesting to see what RCC have planned for him, but we suspect it's going to be a long, hard slog for him going forward. He is simply too early in his career, and lacks the power, to let him off the leash any time soon.
On the bubble:
Taiki Minamoto, Akzhol Sulaimanbek Uulu, Sultan Zaurbek, Nurtas Azhbenov and Xiang Li
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).