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.
Last week we looked at the PABA Heavyweight title, as part of this series, and we took the piss a little bit by poking fun at how rarely it's been held by Asian fighters and how it has seemingly been fought for all over the globe. In the interest of fairness we only felt it apt to look at the OPBF Heavyweight title, and see how that compared with the PABA belt as give you "Did you know.... the OPBF Heavyweight title".
-The first ever OPBF Heavyweight champion was Tongan Maile Haumona, who won the title in November 1982. Going into that title bout Haumona had a reported record of 11-12-1 (9). Haumona would only win bout after his title win and retire 13-18-1 (11)
-Haumona won the title by stopping a Samoan fighter with an amazing name, Prince Larry Tattoo. Tattoo bizarrely never saw the final round of any bout he was in, going 3-4-1 (3), with his draw coming from a technical draw!
-The second champion, Steve Aczel, was born in Hungary whilst the third champion and fourth champions Dave Russell and Dean Waters, were both from the UK.
-None of the first 7 champions managed to score a successful defense.
-The first champion to record a successful defense was Jimmy Thunder.
Rather interestingly his defense was in Fiji, and only the second outside of Australia.
-Toakipa Tasefa beat Justin Fortune for the vacant title in Japan, in what was the bout's first contest in Asia, rather than the Pacific region. Interestingly Fortune lost the PABA title due to this loss, though the belt wasn't on the line
-Colin Wilson was the first 2-time champion
-There has only been one draw in a title bout, that was the 1995 bout between James Grima and Bob Mirovic
-At the time off writing the title has been featured in 41 bouts, of which 18 have taken place in Australia and 18 have taken place in Japan. The other countries to host title bouts are New Zealand (4) and Fiji (1).
-With 9 title bouts Koarakuan Hall holds the record for the most title bouts held.
-The most defenses of the title is 9, by Okello Peter, who held the title from March 2001 to September 2006. This gives the big Japanese based Ugandan the most defenses and the longest reign, in terms of time.
Having had a bit of fun last week looking through the history of the PABA Lightweight title we thought we'd go through the weights this week and look at the even wackier history of the PABA Heavyweight title. Prior to being deactivated, when the WBA rid themselves off the PABA, the title had been held by a number of future word champions and was fought for a lomg way from Asia.
Before we get started with this weeks "Did You Know...", we'll just quickly explain a little bit about the PABA. It was the Pan Asian Boxing Assocation and the idea was that it would be the WBA's answer to the well recognised, and successful, OPBF. The title doesn't currently exist, with the WBA moving away from the PABA when then re-named it's self before seemingly faded in to a black hole, but for a time it was seen as the secondary regional only to the OPBF belt.
Of course, Heavyweights in Asia aren't a common thing, but that's hardly an excuse for some of the things we saw here.
With that out of the way, let us bring you "Did you know... the PABA Heavyweight title"
-The first ever fight for the PABA Heavyweight title was in....England! That's where future world champion Oleg Maskaev won the belt, stopping Russian born Kazakh Nikolay Kulpin.
-The second man to win the title was Hungarian born British-Australian Joe Bugner, who won the title at the age of 46! He won the belt in 1996, 29 years after his debut and 23 after fighting Muhammad Ali! Amazingly Bugner would win the title for a second time in 1998 at the age of 48!
-As mentioned Oleg Maskaev's first reign began in the UK, his second, in 1998, began in the US! He claimed the title a second time in Louisiana, when he blasted out Toakipa Tasefa inside a round. He would later defend the belt successfully in the US twice, before losing it to Canadian Kirk Johnson. Yes we had a Candian holding an Asian title, that he won in the USA!
-American fighter Rob Calloway won the belt in 2005, and made a single defense, defending it back at home in the US!
-Staying with non-Asian champions German based Cuban Juan Carlos Gomez won the belt in 2007. So too did did US based Nigerian Friday Ahunanya.
-In the title's later years it was was fought for in the Czech Republic, Germany, Serbia, Montenegro and Chile, among other places.
-During it's rather odd life span the title was held by a strong for future Heavyweight world title holders. There was Maskaev, as mentioned, along with Nikolay Valuev, Ruclsan Chagaev and Joseph Parker
-Despite being the "Pan Asian" title the only Asian fighters to claim it were Oleg Maskaev, who was born in Kazakhstan and represented Uzbekistan as an amateur, and Ruslan Chagaev, who was Uzbek born fighter who later relocated to Germany.
-In 2002 Nikolay Valuev defended the title in South Korea, beating a then 3-0 Taras Bidenko! This fight can be seen below!
Despite the Heavyweighg division being regarded as the blue ribbon division, and the most significant, historically, their has never really been a huge surge in Asian fighters making their mark there. The South East Asian fighters their body types don't really suit Heavyweight boxing, with average weight and height being a long way from the behemoths that rule the roost in boxing's heaviest divisions.
Thankfully however the last few year's we've seen more and more Central Asian fighters turning professional, and with that we've finally started to see an emergence in genuine Heavyweight prospects from the region. At the moment we have several and whilst some of those are "old" for prospects the division has suddenly got a real interest for Asian fight fans.
Bakhodir Jalolov (3-0, 3)
Uzbek hopeful Bakhodir Jalolov is the youngest man to make it on to this list, and the 24 year old giant really is a modern day Heavyweight monster. Stood at over 6'6", reports suggest he's anything from 6'6" to 6'9", and fighting out of the southpaw stance Jalolov is a long term project at Heavyweight, but one that looks to have a lot of naturally exciting traits added to a strong amateur background.
As an amateur Jalolov shone, winning a World Amateur Championship bronze medal in 2015, as a 21 year old, before competing at the 2016 Olympics and then claiming the 2017 Asian Championships gold medal.
There's plenty of tall rangy Heavyweights out there right now, but there's very few with Jalolov's power, explosiveness, quickness or the southpaw stance, all of which combine to make a very promising young heavyweight. Sadly though his handlers seem to be wanting to guide him slowly and since his debut in May he has stopped all of his opponents, in a combined 8 rounds. Fingers crossed that stiffer competition will come his way in 2019.
Ivan Dychko (7-0, 7)
If Jalolov is to be lauded for his amateur achievements then they pale in comparison to 28 year old Kazakh Ivan Dychko, a 2-time Olympian, winning a Bronze medal in 2012, a 2-time World Amateur Championship silver medal winner and a genuine amateur stand out. Not only was he an exceptional amateur but like Jalolov he is a physical freak and also stands at around 6'9". Not only is he huge but he also has a terrifying aura around him, which will put fear into low level opponents.
At 28 there isn't years to develop Dychko, but there isn't that much that really needs developing. His amateur style was pretty pro-ready and he could well end up fighting in minor title bouts in 2019. He's naturally quick, heavy handed and very fluid for such a big man. The one big question about physical traits is his chin, and he was stopped in frightening fashion by Magomedrasul Majidov at the 2013 World Amateur Championships.
As well as a potentially suspect chin Dychko also seems to have a problem with his match making, His first 7 bouts, spaced out over 15 months, have lasted a combined 11 rounds, and he has only been beyond round 1 in 2 of his 7 professional bouts. He was supposed to have his 8th bout in November but that fell through and he'll now be out of the ring until the new year, prolonging his step up.
Zhan Kossobutskiy (7-0, 6)
As we mentioned it's the central Asian fighters who are making a mark as prospects, and some are older than a typical prospect. That includes 30 year old Kazakh hopeful Zhan Kossobutskiy, who made his debut in September 2017 and has slowly been building a reputation on the European circuit, with bouts in Belarus, Russia and Ukraine. Sadly, given his age, the time for developmental fights should be long gone and standing at 6'3" he's a relative dwarf compared to them fighters at the top of the division.
Footage of Kossobutskiy shows a heavy handed fighter who is explosive, well schooled and promising. Sadly though he is older than most of the rising hopefuls in the division, he's also shorter than many and lacks the impressive international level amateur credentials of many contemporaries.
[Note - Kossobutskiy will fight on November 29th]
Damir Toybay (0-0)
Another Kazakh, and a bit more of a wild card, is youngster Damir Toybay, who is still an amateur and doesn't appear to be in a rush to turn professional. Whilst he's not in a rush to fight for pay he is certainly worth a note here given the 2018 he has had, which has included winning the Asian Junior Championships in Thailand in April, and coming runner up in both the AIBA Youth World Championships and the Youth Olympic Games.
Toybay is still young but is clearly a prodigy and we're looking forward to him turning professional, one day. Even if that day is in 5 or 6 years time we're still looking forward to it.
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).