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
Many division's out there are really interesting, and have a lot of brilliant match ups that could be made at any moment. One of the most interesting is the Featherweight division, which isn't the "deepest" but is among the most "interesting", not just in Asia but globally. Despite not being as deep as the Bantamweight and Super Bantamweight division's it's still a very, very good weight class.
Again we're only considering Asian fighters for these rankings.
1-Can Xu (18-2, 3)
The stand out Asian fighter in the division is Chinese "Monster" Can Xu. Unlike another monster, who is known for his power and being a physical freak, Xu is a monster in terms of stamina, chin and output. The 26 year old is the current WBA "regular" Featherweight champion and really came along wonderfully in 2019, when he beat Jesus M Rojas, Shun Kubo and Manny Robles III. Although not a technically perfect boxer, or a big puncher Xu is a nightmare to fight with a swarming busy style and an ability to take a punch whilst letting his shots go. A total nightmare to take on.
2-Tugstsogt Nyambayar (11-1, 9)
Earlier this year we saw Tugstsogt Nyambayar come up short in a competitive, but clear, loss against Gary Russell Jr. That may have ended Nyambayar's unbeaten record but with wins over Harmonito Dela Torre, Oscar Escandon and Claudio Marrero it's hard to question his #2 ranking. Yes he's not scored a world level win yet, but in reality he's done more than anyone on this list, other than Xu. The heavy handed boxer-puncher was a former amateur standout and is a quality professional, but needs to be much more active and he has fought only 4 times in the last 36 months, completely wasting some of his prime years. Incidentally enough that's the same accusation that has been sent Gary Russell Jr's way over the years as well.
3-Ryo Sagawa (9-1, 4)
The Japanese domestic scene at Featherweight is legitimately crazy with 6 very good and interesting fighters in and around the top top. The best of those is, probably, Ryo Sagawa, who holds wins over 2 of the other top Japanese guys at the weight. Sagawa is the current Japanese national champion, an excellent boxer, who controls distance well and looks like a true natural in the ring with a really eye pleasing and smooth style. When he needs to brawl and fight he can, though at his best he is an excellent boxer. Despite being a genuine talent Sagawa also has some questions still hanging over him, and his chin is certainly still suspect, meaning that whilst he's talented, there is always a risk he'll be stopped, making his fights the type that will have you on the edge of your seat.
4-Reiya Abe (19-3-1, 9)
The man Sagawa beat for the Japanese title was Reiya Abe, another of the excellent Japanese fighters at Featherweight. Abe is a brilliant technical boxer, an intelligent southpaw with a very good jab and he controls distance fantastically well. He was unfortunate in 2019 to fight to a draw with Taiki Minamoto and then lose a very close one against Ryo Sagawa. Abe is clearly below Sagawa in the rankings, but there was much that separated the men when they fought and in reality there's still not much between them. In fact whilst Sagawa does have the head to head win, Abe has solid wins himself over the likes of Daisuke Watanabe and Satoshi Hosono, among others. With a tough 2019 behind him we're really looking forward to seeing what the future brings for the skilled Abe.
5-Mark Magsayo (20-0, 14)
As well as a bunch of fantastic Japanese fighters at Featherweight we also have a number of talented Filipino's. The best among the Pinoy's is Mark Magsayo, who has been banging on the door of a world title fight for a while now, but not managed to get the shot at the big time yet. Despite not getting a fight at world title level yet Magsayo already has wins over Chris Avalos, Shota Hayashi and Pungluang Sor Singyu. He made a smart move a few years ago, in leaving ALA Promotions but hasn't yet managed to secure a big fight with his new promoter. Magsayo is an excellent boxer puncher, and like many fighters we feel he will look better when he steps up faces tough competition.
6-Hinata Maruta (10-1-1, 8)
Back to Japan for our #6 entry in the form of 23 year old Hinata Maruta. The talented Maruta has promised a lot since making his professional debut way back in 2015 and whilst he's yet to accomplish what was expected of him there is no doubting his ability. The one thing we need to see from Maruta is his chin being tested and his ability to move through the gears. It's often felt like he's only had 3 gears and that really did cost him against Hidenori Otake, in his sole loss. Thankfully since his defeat to Otake he has shown a lot to be excited about and wins over Tsuyoshi Tameda and Takenori Ohashi have been excellent. If Maruta can continue to improve as he has done recently he'll be finding himself with some big wins soon. Interestingly he is mandated to fight Abe in a Japanese title bout, though it now seems likely that that bout could slip to 2021 due to the ongoing situation. That may actually be a good thing for Maruta, give him extra time to grow into his man strength.
7-Jhack Tepora (23-1, 17)
It's really hard to know what is going on with Jhack Tepora. At times he looks fantastic hi KO of Lusanda Komanisi in 2017 was brutal, and his win in Malaysia against Edivaldo Ortega should have helped launch him to some huge fights. They didn't and instead he fought a meaningless bout to Jose Luis Gallegos last June before being upset by Oscar Escandon in December 2019. That loss was among the bigger upsets of 2019, and completely killed what moment he had. Rumour from the Philippines circulated suggesting he had fallen out with his team, and that they had gotten fed up with some of his out of the ring habits. Whether their is truth to those rumours or not is unclear, but what is clear is a lack of activity has been a major issue for Tepora, who has fought just 3 times since the start of 20918. He needs to sort his career out before it's too late.
8-Musashi Mori (11-0, 6)
Talented youngster Musashi Mori is the current WBO Asia Pacific champion and is very much "one of the future". At the time of writing he's just 20 years old but has already accomplished a hell of a lot, winning the 2017 Rookie of the Year and winning his regional title, taking it from Richard Pumicpic, which he has defended twice. Although still a work in progress two wins over Pumicpic and one over Takuya Mizuno pretty much show that he's already incredibly talented. For recent bout he has been training under the guidance of Ismael Salas so we're expecting to see significant improvements form the youngster in his next few fights. He's a talented southpaw, though does lack his man strength and power, and it will be interesting to see if he can develop that side of his game as he matures.
9-Richard Pumicpic (21-11-2, 6)
With two close losses to Musashi Mori and a close loss to Ryosuke Iwasa it's easy to understand why Richard Pumicpic had double digit defeats. He has been matched hard, had to travel for bouts, and still run good fighters very close. He has now lost 3 in a row, but in reality he's deserved better from the judges. He's not the most powerful, or the quickest, or the biggest, but he's a nightmare. He's tough, rough, knows his way around the ring and really makes life difficult for anyone in the division. On his day he could beat men ranked well above him on this list, but has certainly lacked any form of luck and good fortune during his career. Fingers crossed we see the now 29 year old getting another opportunity to show what he can do in the near future. He's one of those fighters where you need to ignore his record, and just watch what he can do.
10-Ryo Matsumoto (23-3, 21)
Arguably the most over-looked man in the division is former world title challenger Ryo Matsumoto, who moved up to Featherweight in 2018 following his loss to Daniel Roman. Matsumoto has all the things needed to be a star. He's good looking, powerful, quick, skilled, has great size for the division and is someone with an amazing story, fighting through a nasty illness. He also has a sense of vulnerability, with 2 stoppage losses against him. He has the things needed to be a feel good story in boxing, but needs to be given time to adapt to the division, which he has naturally grown into. A rematch with Ryo Sagawa would be interesting and is potentially something he and his team are viewing for the future.
On the bubble:
Satoshi Shimizu, Jhon Gemino, Genesis Servania, Shohei Omori and Shun Kubo
We recently looked at the incredibly packed Bantamweight division, and the top 10 there was genuinely amazing. It's not the only super stacked division for Asian fighters through and we also have some amazing depth at Super Bantamweight. In fact the division might be even deeper than the Bantamweight.
1-Murodjon Akhmadaliev (8-0, 6)
The #1 in the and the division is unbeaten Uzbek Murodjon Akhmadaliev who showed his ability last time out when he defeated Daniel Roman to become the WBA "Super" and IBF champion in the division. The win over Roman alone, is the biggest of anyone in this list, and arguably bigger than anyone has right now in the division. For Akhmadaliev to have done that in just his 8th bout was truly exceptional. With a pair of titles around his waist and a completed 12 round under his belt the 25 year is only going to get better and better and will be the number in the division until he gets beat. A fantastic boxer puncher who brawl when he needs to. A truly fantastic fighter and one who proved us wrong in his win over Roman, a bout we felt was maybe too early at the time but "MJ" proved other wise.
2-Ryosuke Iwasa (27-3, 17)
Former IBF champion Ryosuke Iwasa, who is actually the current IBF "interim" and the mandatory for Akhmadaliev, is a very hot and cold fighter. When he's at his best he's a special talent, a hard hitting boxer-puncher. Sadly though he's had a number of off nights during his career, can look very one paced and has historically struggled against fellow lefties. Although technically good Iwasa is more of a puncher than a boxer, and his power has impressed against the likes of Kentaro Masuda, Yukinori Oguni and Marlon Tapales. Sadly he really failed to get going against TJ Doheny in 2018 and was made to look awful against Lee Haskins in 2015. Those set backs are now in the rear view mirror and wins last year against Cesar Juarez and Marlon Tapales have really put him right back in the mix.
3-Hiroaki Teshigawara (21-2-2, 14)
Current OPBF champion Hiroaki Teshigawara is a man who is very much knocking on the door of a world title fight, which he had been hoping to get this year. The 29 year old made his debut in 2011 and but it's really been the last few that he's managed to make a mark on the sport. It's fair to say that the main turning point in Teshigawara's career was his close loss to Ryo Akaho in 2016. Since that loss he has reeled off 9 straight wins including victories over Keita Kurihara, Jason Canoy, Teiru Kinoshita and Shohei Omori. Although on first glance Teshigawara can look a bit rough around the edges at times he's an incredibly smart boxer puncher who manages to dictate the pace and tempo off his very smart feints and educated lead hand. Teshigawara might be some way behind Akhamdaliev and Iwasa, but he's very much in the mix for a potential world title fight when international boxing resumes later in the year.
4-Jhunriel Ramonal (17-8-6, 10)
If this list was based solely on "what have you done recently" Ramonal would be banging on the door for the #1 position. Despite sporting a journeyman-like record the dangerous 30 year old Pinoy puncher stopped both Shingo Wake and Yusuaku Kuga in 2019. He's the current WBO Asia Pacific champion and is riding a 5 fight unbeaten run, with his last loss coming way in November 2014. Although not the most talented, quickest or smartest fighter out there Ramonal is a dangerous fighter and not someone you can look past. With stone like hands and a great will to win he's #4 on merit, though there are question marks about how long his current run will last.
5-Shingo Wake (26-6-2, 18)
Talented Japanese southpaw Shingo Wake is someone who is a very smart technical boxer, he uses his reach, his range and his jab fantastically, and has enough power on his shots to get respect, without being a puncher. We also cannot question Wake's heart, and his desire against Jonathan Guzman in 2016 was incredible, especially given how battered his face was. In 2019 he was stopped in 3 rounds by Ramonal, ending a 6 fight run of stoppages including wins over Panomroonglek Kaiyanghadaogym, Yusaku Kuga and Takafumi Nakajima. His comeback is pencilled in for July, though given the current situation it's currently unclear if that bout will take place or not.
6-Tomoki Kameda (36-3, 20)
Former WBO Bantamweight champion Tomoki Kameda is the only one of the Kameda brothers still fighting, after brothers Koki and Daiki retired. The 28 year old is carrying on the Kameda name and seeking to become a 2-weight champion and he pursues a bout at 122lbs. High skilled, with quick hands and good movement Kameda has the ability to win a title, but unfortunately appears to have a lack of power at the weight, and his shots, whilst they look good, don't appear to get opponents respect, something that will be an issue against the best in the division. He was also comfortably beaten last time out, when Rey Vargas out boxed him at range. There is a feeling that Kameda's skills won't be enough to over-come the physical advantages of the top fighters in the division, but at he's certainly not going to be an easy man to beat. We suspect he'll be too good for regional level bouts but not quite good enough to take a world title here.
7-Yukinori Oguni (21-2-1, 8)
Former IBF champion Yukinori Oguni is hard to place in these rankings. He has lost to Shingo Wake and Ryosuke Iwas, but holds a huge 2016 win over Jonathan Guzman. Another reason he's so hard to rank is due to what he's done since his 2017 loss to Iwasa. Originally he retired following that loss, but then came back in 2018 and has scored two wins. He's not looked his best in those victories but, it did seem like the 31 year old was more focused on shaking ring rust than trying to impress people. Fingers crossed we get a good chance to see what Oguni had next time left as he's a really talented, and often over looked fighter who could, and perhaps should, have achieved more than he has so far. Although not a puncher he does hit harder than his record suggests and is certainly a clean puncher, who is accurate, smart and has some very nice looking body shots.
8-Marlon Tapales (33-3, 16)
Another former world champion here is 28 year old Filipino Marlon Tapales, a really under-rated southpaw. Tapales was a former WBO Bantamweight champion, who won the title in a brilliant comeback against Pungluang Sor Singyu, but lost the belt on the scales 9 months later. Despite only having 16T/KO's in his 33 wins the Filipino is a solid puncher, with a lot of his decision wins coming early in his career before he got his man strength. Despite being a talented fighter it is worth noting that he was made to look second last time out, by Ryosuke Iwasa, and was stopped in 11 rounds. That bout was very much a beating for the Filipino and it's going to be very interesting to see what he's like when he returns to the ring. Notably that loss was his first defeat in over 6 years and his first stoppage loss in over a decade.
9-Albert Pagara (32-1, 23)
Once beaten Filipino Albert Pagara was supposed to be the next big Filipino star, and sadly he's not yet got there. The talented 26 year old obviously has time on his side but also has a lot of questions to answer about his mental and physical toughness. The "Prince" is a sharp boxer-puncher, who very quick and very heavy handed, but was stopped himself by Cesar Juarez in 2016 and he's yet to return to that fringe level. If we're being honest Pagara passes the eye test with ease, but we'll remain unsure about his potential until he get in another dog fight, then we expect that we'll see a lot of questions answered about him. Sadly his 32 wins so far really haven't done much to prove his ability, and he desperately needs a step up in class when boxing returns to the Philippines.
10-Yusaku Kuga (19-4-1, 13)
2-time Japanese champion Yusaku Kuga is a rough, tough, crude but exciting fighter, but one who is maybe feeling the effects of a hard career. At his best Kuga is an aggressive boxer-puncher, and he's score notable wins over the likes of Yusuke Suzuki, Yasutaka Ishimoto and Ryoichi Tamura however those wins have often come in very punishing bouts, and both of his bouts with Tamura were massively damaging wars, for both men. Notably Kuga has been stopped in 2 of his last 5, with those losses coming to Jhunriel Ramonal and Shingo Wake. Although he's "only" 29 we do wonder how much those tough, gruelling bouts with Tamura have taken from him. He's supposed to make a mandatory defense of his Japanese title against Gakuya Furuhashi later this year, and that will likely tell us what he has left in the tank.
On the bubble:
Mike Plania, Ye Joon Kim, Chainoi Worawut, Gakuya Furuhashi and Jeo Santisima
Over the last few days we've worked our way through the top 10 rankings for the Asian scene at Minimumweight through to Super Flyweight and today we add the Bantamweight rankings, and this is one of the divisions with incredible depth. We feel the #1 is a consensus pick, #2 and #3 are interchangeable and then the other 7 are a mix of really talented fighters in one of the most packed top 10's that we'll be covering. There could be some debate about the placements, but in reality there's not a lot separating some of these guys. However, that's not a bad thing, and it helps show the competitive nature of the division right now.
1-Naoya Inoue (19-0, 16)
The current WBA "Super" and IBF unified champion champion is arguably the face of Asian boxing right now, Naoya Inoue. The heavy handed 27 year old from Kanagawa is already a 3 weight world champion and within just 19 fights is one of the sports genuine stars. After winning world titles at Light Flyweight and Super Flyweight Inoue moved to Bantamweight and decimated Jamie McDonnell, Juan Carlos Payano and Emmanuel Rodriguez, before working hard to defeat Nonito Donaire in the WBSS Finale last November. The bout against Donaire saw Inoue needing to prove his toughness, chin and will to win and proving them in the way he did really boosted his standing in our eyes, and he answered some real questions. Having now shown he can fight through adversity we know Inoue is much, much more than just an offensive "Monster".
2-Nonito Donaire (40-6, 26)
Having given Inoue such a tough bout in the WBSS final it's fair to suggest that Nonito Donaire is #2, or at worst #3, in division in regards to Asian fighters. The 37 year old Filipino veteran is a physical monster at the weight, with huge size advantages over almost everyone else at 118lbs. He's not just big but he's also strong, very powerful, incredibly tough and a nightmare to fight. He's not as quick as he once was, though as he's lost speed he has adapted and certainly throws fewer wild shots than he once did. There is a case of father time being on his back, but the "Filipino Flash", is experienced, skilled, strong, and has become a more intelligent fighter as the years have gone on. We don't imagine he'll have a Bernard Hopkins-esque career, but he did show there is more than just a bit of life left in his career.
3-John Riel Casimero (29-4, 20)
We mentioned that Donaire was either #2 or #3, the man he is potentially interchangeable with is WBO champion John Riel Casimero. Casimero is a 3-weight world champion, and is someone who has long been over-looked by fans of the sport. He's won titles at at 108lbs, 112lbs and now Bantameight. Blessed with confidence, speed and power Casimero is nightmare to face when he's on song. He is however rather unpredictable and he can look both amazing and terrible in the same fight. He won the WBO title last year, stopping Zolani Tete, and seems to be enjoying a good run of form, though that could change at any moment. Originally the plan had been for Casimero to face off with Inoue in April though that bout was cancelled by on going global situation. Now it appears the two men could end up going in different directions with Casimero now looking likely to face Joshua Greer Jr, in a mandatory title defense instead.
4-Keita Kurihara (15-5, 13)
After the top 3 we end up with 4 or 5 guys who are very tricky to split, and matching any of them would give some compelling bouts. Among those "chasing group" is OPBF champion Keita Kurihara, a hard hitting 27 year from Japan. On paper Kurihara shouldn't be here, with 5 losses from his 20 bouts, however those losses don't tell the full story of where Kurihara is now. In fact 4 of his losses came in his first 7 bouts and he has only been beaten once in his last 13, with that coming to Hiroaki Teshigawara. In that time he has beaten Ryan Lumacad, Yuki Strong Kobayashi, Warlito Parrenas and Sukkasem Kietyongyuth. He's not the most talented of the ones in this area of the rankings, through he is very much among the most dangerous.
5-Reymart Gaballo (23-0, 20)
The most overlooked man in the division, by some margin, is 23 year old Filipino Reymart Gaballo. Gaballo is a joy to watch, but also a freakishly good fighter with some absolutely terrifying traits. He's lightning quick, tall and rangy, with frightening power, very confident and despite look a bit raw around the edges appears to take a good shot, and throw and even better one. His best win to date is probably over Stephon Young, more than 2 years ago, and since then has been supposedly decent opponents. We're really looking forward to seeing the leash being off Gaballo and allowing him to back up our high ranking of him as he looks like the sort of fighter who really could stamp his authority on the division.
6-Takuma Inoue (13-1, 3)
Naoya Inoue's little brother, Takuma Inoue, is pretty much the opposite of Keita Kurihara. Whilst Kurihara is all about power Inoue at the cost of skills Takuma Inoue is very much about skills and movement, at the expense of his power. He's a smart boxer-mover, with under-defense, very good movement and sharp punches, but a lack of punching power a strange lack of physical strength, despite visibly looking strong. His 2019 loss to Nordine Oubaali saw him being bullied for much of the fight, though his will to win shined through late on and he pushed Oubaali hard late on, answer questions about his heart and his stamina. We do wonder whether he could drop back down to Super Flyweight, where he fought earlier in his career. If he could he would a great addition there, but instead might find his success being a bit limited at Bantamweight. Saying that however he's only 24 and is still a boxing baby, despite being a pro since 2013. He might not be the generational talent that his older brother is, but don't write him off at after just a single loss.
7-Nawaphon Por Chokchai (48-1-1, 38)
Former Flyweight world title challenger Nawaphon Por Chokchai, also known by various other names, has reeled off 12 wins since being stopped by Juan Hernandez back in 2017. Whilst his competition hasn't been the best he has scored notable victories over Amnat Ruenrroeng, Richard Claveras, Sonny Boy Jaro and Ryan Lumacad since his sole defeat, putting him back among the contenders looking for a shot. His record is padded, but watching him, you know he can step it up and would be a nightmare for many of the divisional elite. Some how he's only 28 at the moment, and right bang in his prime, despite already having 50 bouts to his name. Another fighter we can't right off for just having a loss against his name.
8-Michael Dasmarinas (30-2-1, 20)
There's an argument that 27 year Filipino Michael Dasmarinas should be much higher up this list, and we do appreciate those arguments. Wins over Karim Guerfi and Kenny Demecillo are very good wins. Sadly however we can't the gift he got against Manyo Plange out of our head, and his win over Demecillo was certainly not the clear cut win that many would have expected for a supposed top divisional talent. He's skilled and talented, but we do wonder if he has maybe hit an early peak and is now, perhaps, heading the wrong way. He's been a sparring partner for both of the Inoue brothers, and is technically a mandatory for the IBF title, but we do wonder whether he'd last long with the Monster if, or when, they fight.
9-Yusuke Suzuki (11-3, 7)
Japanese national champion Yusuke Suzuki is another fighter with a record looks out of place in this top 10, but he certainly belongs here. He would also be an absolute nightmare for many in the rankings. The 31 year old southpaw is a solid puncher, teak tough, with an insane work rate and excellent will to win. He can be out boxed, and he cant be out manoeuvred, but but he's a dark horse in the division and certainly deserves a mention. Last time out he over-came some awful facial swelling to out point Yuta Saito. To date he has only lost once at the weight, and that was a split decision in the Philippines to the touted Jeffrey Francisco. Since then he has reeled off 5 wins and come back from a nasty injury. He's not in the mix for the higher positions but is pretty much interchangeable with the man ranked #9.
10-Yuki Strong Kobayashi (16-8, 9)
Another fight who's record doesn't scream "top 10" is Yuki Strong Kobayashi, who is in the list due to his recent results. In the last 60 months he had gone 6-1 (3) with his only loss being a close one to Keita Kurihara. In that same time he has beaten Satoshi Ozawa, Vicent Astrolabio and Ben Mananquil. The win over Mananquil saw him net the WBO Asia Pacific title and score a recent big surprise last year over the talented Filipino. Kobayashi has improved from the fighter he once was, and when he was 10-7 (5) his career very much seemed like it was going nowhere but the 28 year old is now an experienced regional champion and with Muto gym well and truly behind him his future is bright. He's not near the top of this list, but certainly belongs on it. A rematch between him and Kurihara would be good, as would a bout with Suzuki.
On the Bubble:
Ben Mananquil, Kenny Demecillo, Renz Rosia, Yelshat Nikhemttolla, Petch Sor Chitpatttana, and Carl Jammes Martin
With no fights currently taking place we've had a bit of time on our hands, and with that in mind we've decided to look at the sport in terms of how divisions sit, and do something that had previously been requested. The Asian divisional top 10's. We'll be starting this at Minimumweight and working our way through the divisions over the coming days and weeks. We know there will be some debate about some rankings and there is certainly some area for discussion, and that is certainly not a bad thing at all!
One of the most interesting division's in the sport, and particularly in Asia, is the Super Flyweight division. The division has had the spotlight shined on it a lot in recent years with, and has had more than it's share of great bouts. Here we look at the best in Asia.
1-Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (47-5-1, 41)
Although no longer holding a world title former 2-time WBC champion Srisaket Sor Rungvisai is widely regarded as one of the best of the best in the division. The now 33 year old Thai has the best record in the division, with wins against Yota Sato, Jose Salgado, Roman Gonzalez, twice, and Juan Francisco Estrada. Blessed with heavy hands, an iron chin, freakish size and an awkward southpaw stance he's a very tricky man to beat. He was beaten last time out, in his second bout with Juan Francisco Estrada, though that was at partly down to some of the stupidest tactics seen in a world title bout. We do wonder how much longer Srisaket can continue to compete at the top, 33 is old for a man in the division and with 46 fights he has taken damage but for now he's in the divisional elite.
2-Kazuto Ioka (25-2, 14)
WBO champion Kazuto Ioka is perhaps not the top Asian in the division but is almost certainly the Asian money man with TBS and SANKYO backing him heavily. The Japanese fighter won the WBO last year to become the first Japanese male 4 weight champion and has since defended the belt once. A tactically smart boxer-puncher, with some of the best body shots in the sport, he's managed to look like a strong and complete fighter at 115lbs, not something we expected when he was looking like an under-sized Flyweight a few years ago. With wins against McWillians Arroyo, Aston Palicte and Jeyvier Cintron in his last 4 bouts, to go alongside a close loss to Donnie Nietes the Osakan has proven his value at the weight. At 31 years old time is certainly not running down on his career, and he's got the perfect mix of skills and experience.
3-Jerwin Ancajas (32-1-2, 22)
Current IBF champion Jerwin Ancajas has one of the longest active reigns of any world champion in the sport, and the 28 year old "Pretty Boy" also has one of the most significant promoters on the planet, with Bob Arum behind him. He began his IBF title reign back in 2016, when he beat McJoe Arroyo, and has made 8 defenses of the belt. Whilst that sounds impressive some of his opposition during his reign has been disappointing. Despite some of his competition being questionable he does have noteworthy wins over Arroyo, Israel Gonzalez and Jonas Sultan, among others. When Ancajas is in full flow he's a joy to watch, though his draw against Alejandro Santiago Barrios does leave us wondering how he'd cope with some of the more technical capable fighters at 115lbs.
4-Kosei Tanaka (15-0, 9)
Another Japanese multi-divisional champion is Kosei Tanaka, who signalled his intent to move up in weight earlier this year, vacating the WBO Flyweight title to join the ranks at Super Flyweight. It's hard to know what he's going to be like at 115lbs but the reality is that he's move proven, as a fighter, than anyone outside of the top 3 in the division. He's the mandatory for Ioka, and they could potentially clash later this year if the suspension on boxing is lifted. The 24 year old has a lot of questions to answer at the weight, but given his speed, will to win, under-rated power and his skills he could be a genuine handful. His ranking is based, at least somewhat, on what he's done at lower weights, but see him fitting right into the mix at the top of the division when he returns to the ring.
5-Sho Ishida (28-2, 15)
It's really hard to know how go Sho Ishida is. When he's been matched against better competition he's come up short, losing to Kal Yafai and Israel Gonzalez, but by that same token he has shown flashes of brilliance and looks like a talent. At least at times. The tall and rangy Osakan is a former stable mate of Ioka's and it's clear he has learned a few things from Ioka, but it very much feels like he's missing a higher gear. It would be great to see him in with some top regional fighters in the next year or two to see if he can sink or swim at the Oriental level. Right now it feels very much like his Japanese title reign, which ran from August 2014 to mid-2016, is a very long time ago and he's not managed to replicate that level of performance since.
6-KJ Cataraja (11-0, 9)
At 24 years old the time is rife for KJ Cataraja to go from being one of the best kept secrets in Asian boxing to being a star. The former amateur standout had been matched well early on, and was fighting in 8 round bouts as early as his third contest. Sadly it took a bit too long for him to progress into facing a genuine test, with his 2018 bout against Victor Hugo Reyes being his one true test so far. He's ready to be let off the leash, but ALA Promotions, who guide his career, had a horror in 2019 rarely putting on shows and seeing Nietes vacate his title. If ALA can't push Cataraja forward when boxing returns to the Philippines we wouldn't be surprised by the youngster leaving the ALA stable and following Mark Magsayo in the pursuit of bigger and better things. He's too good to waste his career against the likes of Delfin De Asis and Crison Omayao, the two opponents he faced in 2019.
7-Ryusei Kawaura (7-0, 4)
Of course Cataraja isn't the only promising youngster ready to be unleashed when boxing returns on a wider scale in Asia. Another is Ryusei Kawaura, the protege of Hiroshi Kawashima. The unbeaten Kawaura only fought twice in 2019 but his competition there was solid with wins against Renoel Pael and Joy Joy Formentera. He proved his boxing brain and toughness in those bouts, and was asked questions that he had to answer. Although he's yet to fight beyond 8 rounds it's worth noting he has gone 8 completed rounds in 3 of his last 4 bouts and doesn't appear to have struggled with that distance so far. Hopefully 10 or 12 rounds will come for him in the next year or two and he's got skills, a smart manager and a lot of potential. One thing he will need to do however is get more eyes on him, and so far he's lacked any form of TV coverage, something that will need to change sooner rather than later.
8-Kongfah CP Freshmart (32-1, 16)
Kongfah CP Freshmart, aka Jakkrawut Majoogoen, is arguably the forgotten man of the division.The 25 year old Thai has been a professional since 2013 and his only career defeat came way back in 2015 to Daigo Higa. Since then he has reeled off 18 wins including victories over Renz Rosia, Ryoji Fukunaga and Hyuma Fujioka. Whilst much of his competition has been poor he has been climbing up the rankings based on his competition, and his win over Fukunaga is certainly one worthy of note, as he also fits into the top 10. Talented, with respectable power, good speed, work rate and toughness he could go on to be a player in the division, but really will need to step up his competition when boxing resumes in Thailand.
9-Ryoji Fukunaga (12-4, 12)
Current WBO Asia Pacific champion Ryoji Fukunaga scored a career defining win last time out, when he stopped Froilan Saludar. Prior to that win he had done little of note since winning the All Japan Rookie of the Year back in 2016. His career seemed to go off the tracks, especially when he suffered back to back losses in 2018 to Yuta Matsuo and Kongfah CP Freshmart, but the win over Saludar has given the 33 year old a major win and a chance to build something from. Sadly at 33 years old his potential is limited, but with his power and will to win he'll make for some interesting fights, until father time takes him down. It'd be interesting to see him in with the likes of KJ Catraja or Ryusei Kawaura in the future, but we feel the youngsters both have the tools to out point Fukunaga, even at this point their career's.
10-Froilan Saludar (31-4-1, 22)
Once tipped as a future world champion the 31 year old Froilan Saludar rounds out our top 10. The former WBO Asia Pacific champion is very much a fighter who has failed to reach the heights expected of him, but yet has remained a constant enigma. At his best he is very good, but it's hard to know how good he really is when he keeps losing his biggest bouts. Set backs against McWilliams Arroyo, Takuma Inoue, Sho Ishida and Fukunaga show he isn't world class, but he's very much in the mix at the regional level. He's skills, heavy handed and dangerous, but question marks about his durability and stamina will always hang over him and it wouldn't be a surprise to see him become a regional gate keeper in the coming years.
On the bubble
Kenta Nakagawa, Jonas Sultan, Takayuki Okumoto, Jade Bornea and Yuta Matsuo
Note - Donnie Nietes has not been considered as he has been inactive for over a and would be at least 38 by the time he returns to the ring. His long break from the ring may not have been confirmed as a retirement but it's impossible to know what he'll have left it he returns.
With no fights currently taking place we've had a bit of time on our hands, and with that in mind we've decided to look at the sport in terms of how divisions sit, and do something that had previously been requested. The Asian divisional top 10's. We'll be starting this at Minimumweight and working our way through the divisions over the coming days and weeks. We know there will be some debate about some rankings and there is certainly some area for discussion, and that is certainly not a bad thing at all!
The third division in this series is the rather weird looking Flyweight division. Historically it's been a rich division, full of excellent Asian talent, but right now it's a division that is very much transitional in Asia and there is no recognised #1, like their is in most other divisions. Despite that it's not actually a poor division, in fact it's a deep one, just one lacking in terms of star power.
1-Junto Nakatani (20-0, 15)
Whilst we don't know who the true #1 is in the division it's probably fair to suggest that Junto Nakatani is one of the leading pack now that Kosei Tanaka has left the division. The 22 year old Japanese southpaw is regarded as one of the best youngsters in the sport and with wins over Dexter Alimentoo, Shun Kosaka, Naoki Mochizuki and Milan Melindo in recent bouts he's clearly among the very best in Asia, if not the best. Given his age, his style, his performances and his freakish size he's going to be a very, very hard man to beat. He was supposed to fight for the WBO Flyweight title earlier this year, but as of now, given everything going on, it's unclear when, and even if, that will end up happening.
2-Giemel Magramo (24-1, 20)
The man that Nakatani was supposed to fight for the WBO title was Filipino fighter Giemel Magramo. The once beaten 25 year old is a real talent, who was unfortunate in his only loss more than 3 years ago. Since suffering his sole loss he has scored 7 wins, all by stoppage. They have included victories over Richard Clavers, Petchchorhae Kokietgym and Wenfeng Ge. It's really the win over Ge that has strengthened Magramo's claim as a top Flyweight. Whilst Magramo's record suggests he's a pure puncher he's not, instead he's actually a very heavy handed boxer-puncher. He's aggressive, exciting, talented and has solid pop on his shots. There are area's for him to improve, and he can look a bit raw, but there is no doubting his ability and how much of a danger man he is in the division.
3-Sho Kimura (19-3-2, 12)
Despite being the only former world champion on this list it's hard to really know where to place Sho Kimura. In terms of achievement he's the number one, by some distance, but since losing the WBO Flyweight title to Kosei Tanaka he's not really shown much. Last year he made an ill fated move down in weight, where he was easily beaten by Carlos Canizales, and since then he has only beaten Merlito Sabillo, who suffered what looked like an horrific injury. If Kimura is still the same fighter he was against Zou Shiming, Toshiyuki Igarashi, Froilan Saludar and Kosei Tanaka he'd be the #1 in the division, but at the moment question marks do hangover him. Those questions are magnified by the fact he's also changed gyms, leaving the the Aoki gym that lead him to his success.
4-Muhammad Waseem (10-1, 7)
The most successful amateur on this list Pakistani fight Muhammad Waseem looked like a star in the making early on, when he was impressing in Korea. In his first 5 bouts he had not only won the South Korean Bantamweight title but also beaten Jether Oliva and Giemel Magramo. Sadly financial backing failed to materialise and he would struggle to build on that early success. More than 3 years on he has managed to have only 2 more bouts of note, a close decision loss in an IBF title bout against Moruti Mthalane and a close win over Ganigan Lopez last year. Although clearly talented the 32 is no spring chicken and will likely be 33 by the time he returns to the ring. A real example of why a financially strong backer is needed, even at the lower weights.
5-Jayr Raquinel (12-1-1, 9)
Filipino hopeful Jayr Raquinel is one of the hidden gems in the division. The 23 year old boxer-puncher has scored some very big wins over the last couple of years or so, stopping Keisuke Nakayama, Shun Kosaka and Takuya Kogawa in OPBF title bouts. Clearly a heavy handed fighter Raquinel still has work to do, and we saw him suffer a disappointing loss in China in 2018, when he seemed to be old manned by Wulan Tuolehazi. That loss hopefully serve as a turning point for Raquinel's training, and help him increase his activity in bouts, rather than sleep walking through portions of bouts. He's not yet ready for a world title fight, in our eyes, but is quickly moving towards one and could be ready in 2021 for a very big fight.
6-Wulan Tuolehazi (14-4-1, 7)
With wins over 2 fighters in the top 10 there will be an argument that Wulan Tuolehazi should be higher up the rankings, but in reality he's a hard man to judge. He beat Jayr Raquinel in 2018 but then squeaked some questionable decisions against Ryota Yamauchi and Ardin Diale in 2019, before being decimated by Kosei Tanaka at the end of last year. Had his bouts with Yamauchi and Diale not been in China we would be looking at a very different career for Tuolehazi, and there's a good chance he wouldn't have got the Tanaka fight. Although not a world beater he's proven himself a solid fighter, just maybe not as good as his results suggest. It's going to be very, very interesting to see what he does in his next few fights, as they could make or break him. At 27 he's in his physical prime, but it really is unclear as to how much further he can develop.
7-Masayuki Kuroda (30-8-3, 16)
Former 2-time world title challenger Masayuki Kuroda is one of the more well known names on this list and has certainly proven to be a legitimate fringe world level fight during his 41 fight career. He's been a professional since 2005 and whilst his career is definitely coming to an end, the 33 year old is looking for one more shot at the top. Last year he put on a brave effort against Moruti Mthalane en route to a clear decision loss. That defeat ended a 6 fight winning run for the Japanese veteran who had taken wins over Takuya Kogawa, Yuta Matsuo and Katsunori Nagamine. Given his age and wear and tear he'll not have long left in the sport, but could well have one more crack at the top before hanging them up.
8-Seigo Yuri Akui (14-2-1, 10)
Fast starter Seigo Yuri Akui should be regarded as one of the division's true danger men, though also someone who perhaps struggles if bouts don't finish early on. His 17 fight career has seen him scoring 9 opening round wins, but being stopped every time he has gone beyond 5 rounds. Akui is currently the Japanese champion and holds wins against Ryuto Oho, Masamichi Yabuki, Yoshi Minato and Shun Kosaka, but needs a solid international win to back up his ranking. Interestingly Akui could certainly see beat some of the man ranked higher up this list than himself, but also lose to some of the un-ranked fighters. That makes him very tricky to rank but also very exciting to watch.
9-Tetsuya Hisada (34-10-2, 20)
Another tricky man to rank is Japanese veteran Tetsuya Hisada, who announced that he was intending to compete as a Flyweight for the final few bouts of his career. The former Light Flyweight world title challenger had his best success at 108lbs, where his strength and physicality proved vital, and a move up could see him losing those assets. At 35 years old we can't begrudge Hisada's move up in weight, but he'll likely be 36 by the time he fights again and unless he can land a big fight at the weight we'll maybe never really know what he could do in the division. With 10 losses to his name he's unlikely to lure a big opponent in to the ring with him before calling a close on his career.
10-Ryota Yamauchi (6-1, 5)
One of the divisional stars of the future 25 year old Ryota Yamauchi looks like he could be unleashed back on a fast track when the sport resumes in Japan. He looked red hot early on but a controversial loss to Wulan Tuolehazi in China, in a great bout that saw both being dropped, and he followed that up with a disappointingly messy bout against Alphoe Dagayloan. Whilst he defeated Dagayloan he suffered a cut that prevented him from fighting in a Japanese title eliminator, and miss out on a bout with Akui. He did manage to return to the ring in February but it's hard to know when he'll be back out there and who he'll be against. A talented boxer who can brawl and fight he's one of the division's most interesting hopefuls.
On the bubble:
Wenfeng Ge, Jayson Mama, Taku Kuwahara, Kento Hatanaka, Jaysever Abcede, Alphoe Dagayloan and Dave Apolinatio
*Kosei Tanaka has signalled his intention is to move up and fight at Super Flyweight so isn't included here.
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).