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
Last week we saw Japan's Rikki Naito (22-2, 7) make his third defense of the OPBF Light Welterweight title, with a good win in South Korea over Gyu Beom Jeon. The bout had been rescheduled several times, and in the end it really wasn't competitive, with Naito dominating much of the bout with his boxing skills, until slowing down late and Jeon just a slight window of opportunity. In the end bout was a clear victory Naito.
With the OPBF title still around his waist Naito will have a target on his back and he looks a very beatable champion, especially by fighters who can force him to fight at a high pace and get to him late. Today we look at 5 potential opponents for Naito going forward.
1-Koki Inoue (14-0, 11)
On December 2nd Koki Inoue will look to claim the WBO Asia Pacific title, as he faces Jhertiz Chavez, and add it to a collection that also includes the Japanese title, a match with Naito would therefore clear who is the best at 140lbs not only in Japan but also the wider region. The two have some history, following them from the amateurs, they are both regarded as being among the best in regions and stylistically they should make for a compelling all southpaw bout. This has everything, history, titles, and regional domination. Of course Inoue will need to get past Chavez, and that is certainly not a given, for this bout to have the allure in 2020.
2-Mercito Gesta (32-3-2, 17)
Another bout that is dependent on future bout would be a showdown with US based Filipino veteran Mercito Gesta. Gesta has a bout scheduled for November, but if he comes through that unscathed a bout with Naito would certainly be an interesting looking contest. For Gesta it would be a chance to face a fellow Asian fighter, something he's not done recently, having fought solely in the US since 2007 mostly against American and Mexican opponents. On the other hand it would give Naito a great chance to fight in the US and make his American debut, and in a bout he would see as very winnable. Gesta would likely be the favourite but this certainly would be interesting.
3-Yusuke Konno (15-4, 8)
We go back to Japan for our third option, and a bout with the under-rated Yusuke Konno. On paper this doesn't have the greatest allure, but in reality this would be the type of bout that would push Naito, and test him to his absolute limits. In terms of skills and speed the advantages lie with Naito, however Konno has the advantages in stamina, power and will be in there to win. We saw Konno score a career best win earlier this year over Baishanbo Nasiyiwula in China, to extend his current winning streak to 4, and he would be make for a fantastic bout with Naito. This would be skill against will, speed against power and brilliant to watch.
4-Miguel Vazquez (41-9, 15)
In his prime Miguel Vazquez was an avoided fighter, nobody wanted to share the ring with the awkward, talented, and smart Mexican. In the last few years however he has been able to get the role of gatekeeper and has landed a lot of fights against solid prospects and hopefuls. Although he typically loses he always puts up a good effort, and exposes areas for youngsters to work on. With that in mind he makes the perfect opponent for a future Rikki Naito fight. Naito should have enough to beat him, but this would still be a very good at this point and a chance for Naito to be compared to some of the better fighters in the division. If the Naito gym could get this in the US it would also help improve Naito's international profile and could be his US debut.
5-Downua Ruawaiking (16-0, 13)
A high risk-high reward option would be a showdown with unbeaten Thai puncher Downua Ruawaiking, aka Apinun Khongsong. The Thai poses a lot of risk and danger with his power but by that same token he is the IBF #1 ranked fighter in the division and if Naito could secure a fight with him, and beat him, he could find himself in line for a world title fight. It would take a lot of money to make the Thai and his team risk their future fight for the title, maybe too much money to risk here, but it would make for a very interesting boxer-mover vs boxer-puncher match up and the type of high risk-high reward fights that we love seeing fighters take.
It's fair to say that the month of August was relatively quiet for Asian fight fans. It wasn't “silent” by any means, but it was certainly quiet with the boxing turning down down during the Olympic period. That silence however ends tomorrow and we move in to a very busy, exciting and active September.
With so much action during the month we've decided to try and mark off some key dates for the month with a 3-part article of the upcoming Asian bouts. This is the first of those three parts and briefly covers fights between September 1st and September 12th.
Jerwin Ancajas Vs McJoe Arroyo
The action kicks off on the first Saturday of the month as Filipino star Jerwin Ancajas (24-1-1, 16) takes on IBF Super Flyweight champion McJoe Arroyo (17-0, 8). The bout will be the first defense by the Puerto Rican fighter, who won the title last year with a technical decision win against Arthur Villanueva. On the other hand Ancajas will be riding an 11 fight stoppage run into what is his first world title bout.
Naoya Inoue Vs Petchbarngborn Kokietgym
Just a day after the IBF Super Flyweight title be we see the WBO version of the title being fought for as Naoya Inoue (10-0, 8) looks for his third defense of the title. The “Monster” will be battling against Thai veteran Petchbarngborn Kokietgym (38-7-1, 18) in what looks like a straight forward defense for the champion. Whilst Inoue will be strongly favoured the Thai isn't travelling to just pick up a pay cheque and will instead be looking for one of the biggest upsets of the year.
Takuma Inoue Vs Froilan Saludar
On the same show on September 4th we will have several other bouts of note, including a mouth watering test for youngster Takuma Inoue (7-0, 2), who takes on Froilan Saludar (23-1-1, 14). This is a genuinely tough test for Inoue, who goes up against a man many tipped a few years ago to win a world title. Saludar knows that a loss here could be the end of his career whilst Inoue knows a win will help open the door to a world title fight either later this year or early next year.
Koki Inoue vs Heri Andriyanto
A third Inoue in action on September 4th is Koki Inoue (4-0, 3) who takes a step up in class as he faces Indonesian veteran Heri Andriyanto (22-22-2, 10) in an 8 round bout. The talented and exciting Inoue hasn't set the world on fire yet but has shown real potential and a win here against Andriyanto may be able to push him towards a domestic title fight. For the visitor the bout is likely to be painful but he's certainly proven his toughness in the past.
Satoshi Shimizu vs In Kyoo Lee
Still staying on that September 4th 4th card we'll finally see the professional debut of Satoshi Shimizu (0-0) who goes up against Korean visitor In Kyoo Lee (3-2, 1). The Japanese debutant is 30 years old and is expected to be fast tracked to the top so will almost certainly be looking to look fantastic here. But Lee is no push over and won't be travelling to just fall over in front of the 2012 Olympic Bronze medal winner.
Keita Obara Vs Eduard Troyanovsky
One of the most interesting bouts this month takes place in Russia and sees Japanese puncher Keita Obara (16-1-1, 15) battle against IBF Light Welterweight champion Eduard Troyanovsky (24-0, 21). The bout hasn't got much attention but looks almost certain to be a war between two massive punchers each looking to score a career defining win. We don't see this one going the distance but it will be fire works from start to end and should be a bit of a hidden gem.
Kenichi Ogawa vs Kento Matsushita
The month really steps up on September 10th, a day where an avid fan gets the chance to watch hours, and hours, of fights. The first of the many title bouts featuring Asian fighters takes place in Japan and sees Japanese Super Featherweight champion Kenichi Ogawa (18-1, 15) defending his title against veteran Kento Matsushita (34-9-7, 13). The bout should be a straight forward defense for the champion but he did look poor last time out before stopping Satoru Sugita.
Johnriel Casimero vs Charlie Edwards
The first of a number of world title fights involving an Asian fighter will see Filipino fighter Johnriel Casimero (22-3, 14) defending his IBF Flyweight title against unbeaten British novice Charlie Edwards (8-0, 3) in London. On paper this looks like an opportunity that has come too for Edwards however it's good to see Western fighters on the fast track and testing themselves against world class fighters like Casimero rather than padding their records.
Gennady Golovkin vs Kell Brook
Staying in London we'll also see a battle of unbeaten men trading blows for the Middleweight crown, as well as the WBC, IBF and IBO titles. The bout in question will see Kazakh star Gennady Golovkin (35-0, 32) taking on British fighter, and IBF Welterweight champion, Kell Brook (36-0, 25). Golovkin will be heavily favoured though some have suggested that this could be Golovkin's hardest bout so far and it could well open real doors in the UK for “GGG”.
Jesus Soto Karass vs Yoshihiro Kamegai II
Potentially the Fight of the Month is rematch as Japan's popular Yoshihiro Kamegai (26-3-2, 23) battles against Jesus Soto Karass (28-10-4, 18). These two men faced off in an all out war earlier this year and we're expecting something similar here with the two men both having styles which will always be fun to watch. Kamegai seemed to do enough to claim a win in their first bout, but the judges disagree and we'd not be shocked to see both putting it all out there for the win here.
Carlos Cuadras vs Roman Gonzalez
In a rare all-Teiken bout we'll see WBC Super Flyweight champion Carlos Cuadras (35-0-1, 27) defending his belt against pound-for-pound sensation Roman Gonzalez (45-0, 38). For Caudras the bout is great chance to legitimise his world title reign, which has been disappointing so far, whilst Gonzalez will be looking to become a 4-weight world champion. The bout is a rare title bout between unbeaten fighters and we can't help but be excited by this one.
Genesis Servania vs Alexander Espinoza
Action continues through Japan for much of the much and on September 11th fans in Ishikawa will get the chance to see world ranked Filipino Genesis Servania (27-0, 11) take on the heavy handed Alexander Espinoza (11-7, 10). Servania has had a frustrating career recently with inactivity, fighting only twice last year and not fighting this year, but will have to be careful here against a big punching Venezuelan who has gone the world distance with two former world champions.
Given the activity during the month part will be posted in the upcoming days and feature bouts from the 12th of September and onwards, including several world title bouts, the first of the WBO Asia Pacific title bouts to be held in Japan and a lot more!
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).