On Sunday live from Kazakhstan we had the chance to see Kamshybek Kunkabayev (1-0, 1) make his professional debut, as he easily defeated Issa Akberbayev (20-2-0-1, 15) in 2 rounds. The bout wasn't a fun or exciting one, in fact as a spectacle it was dire, and we'll get on to why in a few moments, but it was also an impressive debut for a man that many feel will be a big star in the professional ranks in the coming years.
Whilst we didn't really enjoy the bout, again we'll explain why shortly, it was a bout that we felt deserved the treat of a Take Aways article because there was a lot to take from the bout, despite how lacking it was in terms of entertainment.
1-Issa Akberbayev came to lose
Entering with a 20-1-0-1 (15) record it's fair to have assumed Issa Akberbayev would have come to win. He didn't. In fact he barely even came to fight. Within moments of the fight starting he was on the back foot and never really changed that tactic, preferring to avoid a fight than try to win. This may have been a surprise but in reality Akberbayev's record really is one that should have told us all we needed to know. He was without a win in more than 2 years, with his last victory coming against Mirnes Denadic in December 2017, he was 36, had lost last time out and his competition, for the most part, had been very limited.
Whilst Akberbayev was tagged a fair few times in the opening round his attitude after being tagged said it all. "I don't want to be here". On paper his name, and record, will look very nice on Kunkabayev's record but in reality Akberbayev gave him nothing even close to representing a test.
2-Kamshybek Kunkabayev looked real good!
Although he had an ultra negative opponent Kamshybek Kunkabayev himself looked really good, kept his composure, didn't show his frustration, controlled the center of the ring and applied intelligent pressure behind his long jabs. This was calculated, smart, intelligent and controlled. What we saw from Kunkabayev looked smooth, it looked easy and it looked like he was really well schooled. Also for such a big man he is quick, accurate, sharp and his footwork was very good for someone making his debut. He was up against a frustrating opponent but settled well and controlled everything at his own pace.
3-The Tokyo Games have a real medal contender in Kamshybek Kunkabayev
For those unaware Kamshybek Kunkabayev didn't turn professional with the idea of being moved quickly through the professional ranks. Instead this bout, and maybe one or two others, are more about keeping his fitness up and fine tuning things, before the now postponed Tokyo Olympics. Given how he looked here it's very clear he's going to be in the medal mix. For those that follow the amateur scene that would have already been known, given he's a 2-time World Amateur Silver medal winner, but for those that don't follow amateur boxing, this bout showed the talent he has and for those looking for ones to watch at the Olympics make sure you remember his name.
Interestingly Kunkabayev is a Super Heavyweight in amateur boxing but fought as a professional Cruiserweight. It'll be interesting to see if he comes in "light" at the Olympics.
4-MTK shows shows really lack atmosphere
We need to start this by saying that we loved the venue for this show, it had a lot going on in the background and it looked interesting outside of the ring, something we've not always seen in the fan-free era of boxing. Sadly though that was about the only thing done to try and see an atmosphere. The venue was pretty much silent. We understand why there was no fans but something needs to be done to try and keep fans attention, especially when someone is fighting with Akberbayev's negativity.
The problem goes far beyond this fight, and is a general with MTK shows in general. It's probably not helped by the fact that the commentators, whilst very good and two of the best in Britain, are both subdued and insightful. Typically we love that type of commentary, but it sadly amplifies the near silence of the venue. Maybe they could try pumping crowd noises in or play background music, or something just to spice things up.
5-Top amateurs can be fast tracked
Whilst we weren't impressed by Akberbayev, at all, it was clear that Kunkabayev is a special talent. He showed to be very excited about and showed, like many other top amateurs fighters who are turning professional recently, that they are pretty much "pro-ready" fighters. We've seen it with a number of other fighters and it seems clear that there is a lot of amateur talent with styles than will work in the pro's. Kunkabayev's style probably does need tweaking for the pros, but it's clear he has the tools to be moved quickly.
We've seen the likes of Vasyl Lomachenko, Murodjon Akhmadaliev, Oleksandr Usyk and Naoya Inoue being moved quickly. The same can be said for the likes of Kunkabayev, and Tursynbay Kulakhmet. He's 28 now and we hope, after the Tokyo games, MTK push him fast and hard towards some notable professional opponents as he's already good enough to be mixing with top 50 type fighters.
As with last weeks look at the Light Heavyweight division we will also only be looking at the top 5 Current Asian Cruiserweights, rather than top 10, as the division really is that thin in terms of talent. Also, for the sake of these particular rankings, we will not be including current "WBA Crusierweight champion" Beibut Shumenov. He might be a world champion but his inactivity means he's not being included, and we're really not sure if we'll ever see him in the ring again.
1-Ali Baloyev (9-0, 7)
Promising Kazakh hopeful Ali Baloyev looks to be the man to pin Asian hopes on at the moment. The heavy handed and promising 27 year old is the biggest hope but also a great example of how weak the Asian interest is in the division. He spent most of 2019 out of the ring, before picking up a decision against Hamilton Ventura in July, and is now almost a year away removed from that bout. Although talented and promising his competition so far hasn't been great, and he will need to be moved fast when boxing returns, if he's to become an actual threat in the division.
2-Peng Qu (15-2-1, 11)
China is potentially the place where we could see some major names pop up in the division over the coming years. Sadly Qu isn't going to be the first Chinese world champion in the division, unless something completely bizarre happens. The 30 year old boxer-puncher isn't a bad fighter, by any stretch, but he's also not a particularly good one and he certainly hasn't got the ability to set the world alight. He's talented and can boxer and punch, he has good size, but his age is against him and his competition so far has done little to suggest he can make the massive leap from regional class to world class.
3-Issa Akberbayev (20-1-0-1, 15)
Once beaten 36 year old Kazakh Issa Akberbayev was beaten back in November following almost 2 years out of the ring. In his prime he was seen as a promising fighter but the reality is that he's beyond his best, was never great or a particularly proven fighter and scored little in terms of wins. His best win came more than 5 years ago, and even that wasn't a major win, and his most notable result, other than his loss, was a No Contest in 2013 against Anthony Ferrante, which saw Akberbayev being knocked out only for Ferrante to fail a drug test.
4-Muhamad Farkhan (11-0, 11)
Malaysia isn't a boxing hot bed, but it is nice to see a name coming from the country which is worthy of talking about, and that is 31 year old Muhamad Farkhan. The unbeaten fighter from Johore has been a professional since 2015 and has been matched relatively softly. In saying that however wins over Alexander Bajawa and Pascal Abel Ndomba are pretty much as good as anything on Akberbayev's record. It would be good to see Farkhan have a big fight but in reality we suspect his handlers will treat him very carefully to try and make him into a local draw before he retires, rather than getting him a truly noteworthy bout.
5-Ibragim Iskandarov (7-0, 7)
We finish the top 5, which is another really weak top 5, with unbeaten Kazakh Ibragim Iskandarov, who is 33 years old and has just 15 rounds of professional experience to his name. The 5'11" puncher made his debut in 2017 and blew through his first 6 opponents in a combined 8 rounds, he then struggled last time out before finally stopping Mussa Ajibu in the 7th round. Given his age, and the struggle against Ajibu, he's unlikely to make any kind of mark at the higher levels of the sport, but sadly we needed a #5 to complete this list.
Right now the best of the Asian Cruiserweights are in the amateurs, but hopefully in 2021 or 2022 they do head over to the professional ranks and make a mark there.
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).