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
This past weekend we saw Japanese 154lb fight Takeshi Inoue (16-1-1, 10) retain his WBO Asia Pacific title with an early win against the horribly over-matched Cheng Su. The bout was his third win since losing in a WBO world title bout in January 2019 to Jaime Munguia, and it seems clear that he wants to move back towards big bouts by the end of 2020.
With Inoue's recent win it seems an ideal time to look at 5 possible opponents for Inoue for later this year, as we do the latest in our "Five for..." series.
1-Hironobu Matsunaga (16-1, 10)
Our number 1 pick here is probably the most likely and the easiest fight to make, by far. Inoue has dominated the Japanese and Oriental scene at the weight, beating the likes of Akinori Watanabe, Koshinmaru Saito, Riku Nagahama and Yuki Nonaka. The only domestic fighter of note he's yet to face is current Japanese champion Hironobu Matsunaga, who will defend his national title in March then be available to face who he wants. Matsunaga, like Inoue, is an aggressive fighter and physically strong fighter at 154lbs who has the style to make for some excellent fights. Both of these men are lacking a bit of size at the weight but both are physical fighters and a fight between the two should be thrilling!
2-Tony Harrison (28-3, 21)
There's not many world class fighters that Inoue would be given much a chance against, however a man who has been stopped in 3 losses would give Inoue an outside chance. Former world champion Tony Harrison would be the perfect match up for Inoue to try and prove that he belongs on the world level. Harrison lost his world title in December, when he was stopped by Jermell Charlo, and facing off with him now would be a smart move if Inoue and his team can secure the bout. Inoue would clearly have to travel for the fight but his style would give Harrison, a boxer-mover, real problems. The aggression and pressure from Inoue against the skills and movement of Harrison, for 12 rounds would be great to see and a really interesting mix of styles.
3-Israil Madrimov (4-0, 4)
Unbeaten Uzbek Israil Madrimov is known to be struggling in terms of getting opponents, and getting rounds. His first 4 bouts have gone a total of 19 rounds and he could do with an opponent to test his stamina and his ability to fight over a longer distance. Inoue would answer those questions, and also ask question questions of Madrimov's in ring mentality against someone who is bull strong and physical. A clash between the two would see Madrimov enter as the big favourite, but it would still be an excellent test for the Uzbek, and the type of fight he needs to prove himself, before a world title fight. On paper this isn't a big name fight, but it would be a match up we would be very interested in seeing.
4-Julian Williams (27-2-1, 16)
Hours after Inoue defeated Cheng Su we saw Julian Williams being upset against Jeison Rosario, and losing the WBA "super" and IBF titles to the hard hitting Dominican fighter. Williams had made it clear that he will be making the most of a rematch clause in their contract, and that will likely be next for him, though we do like Inoue Vs Williams, and it's a bout with a back story. Originally the two were ordered to have an IBF eliminator in 2018, the saga went on and on and in the end the two men went in different directions. We can't help but feel this would be a great fight to watch and would love to see the two men facing off.
5-Carlos Adames (18-1, 14)
Dominican fighter had his flaws shown up last year, when he lost to Patrick Teixeira, but showed and aggressive and exciting style against the more skilled Brazilian. We can't help but feel that Adames' style and Inoue's style would gel for an excellent stylistic clash. Both men are physically strong, come to fight, let their hands go and don't know how to back up. Adames would be the favourite, and would be looking to bounce back from the loss to Teixeira in what was an instant classic, whilst Inoue has the momentum of his last 3 wins. This would be brutal, entertaining and something that both men could benefit from.
Last November we ran what we thought would be a one off article, entitled "1 and 0 so good! The 1-0 fighters to make a note of!", now, almost a year one, we've decided to revisit that idea and look at some fighters who are currently 1-0.
Before we go any further we've decided to briefly look at the 5 men we mentioned in last year's article:
Tsendbaatar Erdenebat - was (1-0) and is now 2-0 (1) - The Mongolian has been switching between amateur and professional codes, so hasn't really built his record from a year ago, scoring only a single win in the professional ranks since his debut.
Makhmud Gaipov - was (1-0, 1) and is now 2-1 (1) - The touted Uzbek youngster notched a win just days after our article, but was beaten in March 2019, by Vazir Tamoyan, and hasn't been seen in the professional ranks since. At 23 years old there is time, but it does seem like maybe he's not the star in the making that he seemed following his debut.
Israil Madrimov - was (1-0, 1) and is now 4-0 (4) - Whilst Gaipov has failed to build on his debut win the same can't be said of Israil Madrimov, who has quickly become one of the sports must watch fighters. The confident switch hitting 154lb boxer-puncher has taken on progressively better fighters and has managed to impress every time. He has gone from prospect to contender incredibly quickly and we are expecting him to fight for a world title sooner rather than later.
Apichet Petchmanee - was (1-0, 1) and is now 5-0 (2) - The most active fighter featured on last year's list is Thai fight Apichet Petchmanee, who has fought 4 times since we put the list together. He's a weird one in many ways, as he's now scored 2 wins over former world title challenger Chonlatarn Piriyapinyo but hasn't looked great in those wins and there are now more questions over the 30 year old than we have liked. He's a talent, but maybe not the face of Thai boxing as hoped a year ago.
Ginjiro Shigeoka - was (1-0, 1) and is now 4-0 (3) - Japanese youngster Ginjiro Shigeoka had only fought 3 rounds when we covered this subject a year ago. Since then he has added 10 more rounds, scored a couple of blow out wins and claimed the WBO Asia Pacific Minimumweight title. Like Madrimov he looks like he could be in the world title mix very soon, and and he looks like one of the best young prospects in world boxing.
With that update on the 5 men we covered last November out the way, lets have a look at 5 men who are currently 1-0 and are already being tipped for big, big things going forward.
Yudai Shigeoka (1-0, 1)
Having included Ginjiro Shigeoka in last year's list it only makes sense to include his brother in this year's list! The talented Yudai Shigeoka is a couple of years older than Ginjiro but, like his younger brother, he looks like a sensation. On debut Yudai took out Manop Audomphanawari (3-3, 3), and whilst that's not a huge win it was the performance that really impressed. He showed a lovely variety of shots with some of the most impressive body punching we've seen from a debutant. We know Yudai wants to get into the title mix quickly, and we wouldn't be surprised at all by him fighting for some type of title by the end of next year.
Miras Ali Sarsenov (1-0, 1)
Following a 211 bout amateur career we're really excited to see how Kazakh youngster Miras Ali Sarsenov goes on as a professional. In the unpaid ranks Sarsenov won 188 bouts before signing with MTK Global earlier this year, and debuting in October. He looked good on debut, when he stopped Davit Natsvlishvili in 2 rounds, and whilst his opponents wasn't up to anything the 22 year old Kazakh still impressed with sharp punching, good movement, and good shot variety. He's certainly one to watch in 2020, though we need to hope that MTK Global won't hold him back, as we have seen from them in the past with other fighters.
Nurdos Tolebay (1-0)
Another Kazakh worth making a noting of with a 1-0 record is Nurdos Tolebay, who is also managed by MTK Global. He's aged just 18 and is tipped highly by those in Kazakhstan, despite not having the biggest or strongest amateur pedigree. He looked good on his debut, back in mid October, and was slated to return to the ring in mid November, as he looks for his second win. At just 18 years old MTK won't be rushing him, then again MTK aren't well known for rushing fighters, and will instead keep him busy over the next year or two, giving him time to develop.
Tuguldur Byambatsogt (1-0)
In October we saw 20 year old Mongolian fighter Tuguldur Byambatsogt make his debut, and he impressed as he out pointed Japanese veteran Shusaku Fujinaka over 5 rounds in the Knock Out Dynamite tournament. We'll admit it did feel like Byambatsogt was fighting within himself, but even then he out out boxed Fujinaka, and looked like he had an extra 2 or 3 gears to go through. He showed really smart movement on debut, a lot of skills and we're looking forward to seeing his next bout, which will come in Japan against Vladimir Baez. That bout should see Byambatsogt answering a lot more questions about his chin, his durability and his ability to go through the gears. From what we've seen of him on his debut however he looked very good.
Hiroto Yashiro (1-0, 1)
The only fighter on this list that've sadly not been able to watch, though have had very positive feed back from, is Japanese Bantamweight Hiroto Yashiro. Yashiro is a 22 year old southpaw who debuted in September when he stopped Adundet Khonwong and turned professional following a very, very impressive amateur career. The youngster went an incredible 75-19 in the unpaid ranks and managed to come 3rd in a national tournament. He's a really interesting fighter, who has stated that he wants to fight for youth titles sooner rather than later. Not only does he have the amateur pedigree but also boxing in his blood, with his cousin being Yoshimitsu Yashiro, a former Japanese Super Featherweight champion who twice fought Takashi Miura. We're really hoping to see Yashiro in the ring sooner rather than later and hopefully his next bout will be broadcast some how, as from what we understand he is one exceptional young fighter and someone with a lot of potential to live up to.
(Images courtesy of Watanabe Gym and Teiken)
Through out this month we've posted Part 1 and Part 2 of our 19 for 19, looking at Asian prospects, and here's our third part. If you missed the first part that's here 19 for 19: Part 1 - The Teenage Prospects and the second part is here 19 for 19: Part 2 - A Rookie, an Uzbek puncher, a Pinoy Prodigy and an Olympic champion
Here we are looking at 4 novices, with a combined record of 7-0 (7) but all 4 men involved have looked incredibly promising and appear to be well worthy of attention.
Lei Wang (1-0, 1)
It can be easy to get over-excited about Chinese prospects, and we might be heading that way with Lei Wang, however there is a lot to get excited about. The 28 year old Chinese fighter was a very good amateur and when he made his debut this past September he did so in style, stopping Filipino Anthony Sabalde in 5 rounds, doing what Nihito Arakawa and Wang Zhimin both failed to do. On debut Wang looked razor sharp, both on defense and offense, he looked like a fighter with a great boxing brain, a flashy style and like someone incredibly exciting. He looks incredibly relaxed in the ring and we're hoping to see a lot more of him in 2019.
Israil Madrimov (1-0, 1)
Uzbek fighters all look like they are trying to out do each other at the moment, much like the Ukrainians did in the wake of the 2016 Olympics. So far we've seen several Uzbek fighters all begin their careers with aggressive match making, though no one rivals Israil Madrimov, who debuted in a 10 round bout and took a minor WBA title in his very first professional contest. The 23 year old, dubbed "The Dream" looks to be a phenomenal switch hitter who is a natural in the ring, sharp with both hands and has an excellent boxing brain. We've got a lot of questions to see him answer, but we've also been hugely impressed by Madrimov's sole professional outing.
Apichet Petchmanee (1-0, 1)
Former Thai amateur stand out Apichet Petchmanee made his debut this past October, at the age of 28, but did so in a notable bout against the then 13-0 Attanon Kunlawong. He'll be back in the ring on December 22nd, when he fights for the OPBF "silver" title at 140lbs and he may well find himself fighting for the full OPBF title in 2019. He really impressed on debut and we're expecting a really bright future for him, given how strong his amateur background is. Sadly he is now 29 years old, though we suspect he will be fast tracked and will end up fighting notable international opponents before the end of 2020.
Ryota Yamauchi (4-0, 4)
At the end of 2017 we were raving about Ryota Yamauchi, who was then 2-0 (2). During 2018 he doubled that record, and scored a big domestic win over Yota Hori, but a lack of activity has left the 23 year old Flyweight failing to reach our predictions for the year. Despite failing to build massively on his impressive start he has continued to develop and the hope now will be for 2019 to be his break out year, and if he can fit 3 fights into the year he should well be in the mix for a title by the end of the year. He's aggressive, quick, heavy handed and managed by the highly recognised Kadoebi gym, who just need to keep him active, and well matched next year
Going in to 2019 we'll be hoping to see the emergence of a number of new fighters. At the moment there a number of very promising fighters who are starting to create a buzz despite having only had a single professional bout. Here we take a look at 5 such fighters who are going to potentially have a big year ahead of them and be fast tracked to success.
Tsendbaatar Erdenebat (1-0) - Mongolia
Mongolian amateur standout Tsendbaatar Erdenebat made his professional debut in China this past September, and did so in relative obscurity with sources originally listing him as "Tsendbaatar Tsendbataar", likely an issue with translating his name from the Chinese bout sheet. On debut he dominated Chinese based Filipino Joseph Omana over 6 rounds, to take a unanimous decision and he looked really exciting with his performance.
In 2016 Tsendbaatar lost in the Olympic to eventual silver medal winner Shakur Stevenson but would go on to win the 2018 Asian Games gold medal. Those were among the highlights of a very long and successful amateur career that should give him the grounding for a bright professional career.
Makhmud Gaipov (1-0, 1) - Uzbekistan
Uzbekistan are turning out talent like no ones business right now, and they have two fighters on this list. One of those is 22 year old Makhmud Gaipov, who debuted in November stopping Tanzania's Iddi Mkwera in the 3rd of a scheduled 4 rounds, having dropped Mkwera 4 times. He seems to have been signed with RCC Promtoions, who will keep him busy, keep him active and move him aggressively on their shows. The best thing about fighting under the RCC banner however will be the exposure, with thm streaming their cards internationally.
Gaipov, like everyone else on this list, was an experienced amateur who came runner up in the 2014 Asian Youth Championships and also competed in the WSB, giving plenty of "pro-style" experience. There is work to do but given how he looked on debut there is a lot to be excited about here.
Israil Madrimov (1-0, 1) - Uzbekistan
The second Uzbek to make it to this list, and the more well known of the two, is Israil Madrimov, who made his debut recently on the under-card of Dmitry Bivol's win over Jean Pascal. Unlike most debutants he matched in a 10 rounder to begin his career, and quickly claimed a minor WBA title in the process, as he stopped Mexican Vladimir Hernandez in 6 rounds. The performance he put on was exciting, confident and really showed what he could do in the ring, switching stands, trading when he wanted to and really digging in brutal body shots. With World of Boxing behind him the future is incredibly bright for him.
Given he debuted in a 10 round bout it should be no surprise that he was a decorated amateur, winning gold at the 2018 Asian games, the 2017 Asian Championships, a Silber medal at the Asian Youth Championships in 2013 and picking up numerous national and minor titles.
Apichet Petchmanee (1-0, 1) - Thailand
Thailand, who do often fast track stand out kicks boxers, may have a gem among their ranks with Apichet Petchmanee who was a former amateur standout who made his professional debut back in October, dominating Attanon Kunlawong, aka Kongthara KKP. Apichet is tipped to be a success and his performance against the then 13-0 Kunlawong really was a statement of a result, and an incredible performance, though one that should have been expected.
At 29 years old Apichet doesn't have a lot of time to waste, though with a strong amateur background, WSB experience and a style that already looks suited to the professional ranks it may not need much time to fly through the rankings, especially if Workpoint get behind his rise. The only problem he might have is getting suitable regional competition whilst fighting at 140lbs.
Ginjiro Shigeoka (1-0, 1) - Japan
The youngest fighter on this list is Japanese teenager Ginjiro Shigeoka, who debuted in September and really looked the part, as we expected given his 56-1 (17) amateur record. At just 19 years old there is no for the Watanabe gym to out and out rush him, though we suspect his desire will be to be moved fast in 2019, and there is also a chance he will fit in another fight at the end of this year. He is one of the most exciting little men in the sport and will likely have a similar career trajectory to fellow Watanabe gym fighter Hiroto Kyoguchi.
Whilst his amateur record is impressive it is worth noting that his sole loss was a family issue, where he would have faced his brother in a prefectural tournament final. Sadly he also lacks in terms of international amateur experience. That aside we're struggling for reasons not to gush over Shigeoka's potential
The new year is fast approaching and I'll be honest I'm really excited about the coming year. It's fair to say that 2018 has been a great year for boxing, despite being a pretty poor year on a personal level, but I'm expecting 2019 to be even better as the sport continues to develop, and be reshaped into something more and more spectacular. If I'm being honest I suspect 2019 may well be one of the best year's the sport has had in a very long time, building on the momentum of a great 2018.
With that in mind I've put together 5 predictions for the new year, and how I think they will effect the boxing world in general
Naoya Inoue wins the WBSS
An obvious one to start with. Japan's Naoya Inoue is strongly favoured to win the WBSS Bantamweight series and for good reason. "The Monster" is one of the few fighters who really lives up to his reputation every time he steps in the ring, and in 2018 he quickly despatched recognisable foes Jamie McDonnell and Juan Carlos Payano without breaking a sweat. I suspect that his current impressive run takes him to the Muhammad Ali Trophy in the coming year, beating Emmanuel Rodriguez in the Spring before winning the final in the Summer. After that it's unclear whether he'll immediately look for bigger challenges at Super Bantamweight or will look to clean up at Bantamweight, with a potential fight against Luis Nery certainly a possibility.
Fast Tracking continues
If we've seen anything really come to the fore these past few years it's been that fast tracking has really exploded. No longer is it just a Japanese and Thai thing but we're seeing Europeans, and Central Asian's fighters all stepping up incredibly quickly. I suspect that actually intensifies in the coming year, with more and more fighters shrugging off the usual preliminary stages of their professional careers and being moved aggressively. Lu Bin was too aggressively matched, but I expect others, like Murodjon Akhmadaliev, Apichet Petchmanee, Ginjiro Shigeoka and Israil Madrimov, to be competing for world titles within 7 fights. Top amateur fighters making their debuts next year will also be pushed hard early on.
A big year for India
Top Rank have made a very conscious effort in signing two of the most notable Indian fighters, Vijender Singh and Vikas Krishan, and I suspect that will only be the start for what could be a massive year for Indian boxing. The market is ripe for surge, and top young amateur fighters like Amit Panghal and Gaurav Solanki could well have professional promoters trying to snap them up as key figures for the long term growth of Indian boxing. The sport isn't huge in India, yet, but with over 1,000,000,000 people living there the potential is massive, if a promoter can sign the right fighters and work well with the local media. It will be a risky market to jump into but given the right promoter it could end up being a game changer. I also expect to see aforementioned Vijender Singh challenge for a world title before the end of 2019.
Boxing Grows in non-Boxing Countries
It's not just India that I expect to see boxing grow in but also Vietnam, Teipai, Malaysia and Singapore. We've certainly seen Singapore and Malaysia develop their scenes recently, but Vietnam and Teipai will likely follow suit, albeit for different reasons. Malaysia and Singapore are key hubs for the area, and money in those countries towards boxing has grown due to the promoters wanting to build the scenes. For Vietnam and Teipai however it seems likely that the OPBF will be the fulcrum behind their growth, and the development of the OPBF Silver titles, specifically in those two countries, will be key. In fact we could see that extending into other locations like Mongolia as the OPBF become more than just a title body but also, in association with the JBC, an overseer of several, non-boxing countries as they plant seeds of potential growth.
An Uzbek Take Over
It's hard to believe that only two Uzbek fighters have ever won world titles, Artur Grigorian and Ruslan Chagaev. This coming year I'm expecting that to change and wouldn't be massively surprised to see that number double in 2019, with the likes of the aforementioned Akhmadaliev along with Shakhram Giyasov, Elnur Abduraimov and Kudratillo Abdukakhorov all likely to be fighting for world titles by the end of the year. The Uzbek take over will be a hostile one, as the fighters look to put not only themselves on the boxing map, but also their country and we suspect the number of Uzbek amateurs turning professional will grow substantially in not only 2019, but also 2020. Uzbek fighters who miss out on the 2020 Olympics will likely jump at the chance to turn professional, and I expect them to do so with a lot of ambition to climbing the rankings as quickly as possible.
Thinking Out East
With this site being pretty successful so far we've decided to open up about our own views and start what could be considered effectively an editorial style opinion column dubbed "Thinking Out East" (T.O.E).