We've all heard of Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, and we've decided to put our spin on things with "Six degrees of separation" looking to connect Asian fighters you may never have assumed were connected! Today we connect the legendary Manny Pacquiao to Katsunari Takayama
Just as ground rules, we're not doing the more basic "A beat B who beat C who beat D" type of thing, but instead we want to link fighters in different ways. As a result we will limit A fought B connections, and try to get more varied connections together, as you'll see here! We also know there are often shorter routes to connect fighters, but that's not always the most interesting way to connect them.
1-Filipino boxing icon Manny Pacquiao has had one of the greatest careers of any fighter. He has had success in terms of world titles, and success in terms of beating top names. During his long career, which has seen him holding world titles in 4 different decades, as well as minor titles. One of those minor titles was the WBC International Super Bantamweight title.
2-Another fighter to have held the WBC International Super Bantamweight title was Joe Hiyas, an unheralded Filipino fighter who fought from 1980 to 1995. Although not star Hiyas fought a very impressive 94 times, going 51-28-15 (10) during his career. Interestingly he had a nickname that is popular with many other fighters, "Sugar".
3-Another fighter with the "Sugar" nickname was former WBA Super Bantamweight champion Akifumi Shimoda. Shimoda held the WBA title at 122lbs for just over 5 months, holding it from late January 2011 to early July, when he was knocked out by Rico Ramos. Shimoda's final bout came on December 31st 2016 at the Memorial Center in Gifu.
4-Another fighter who was in action December 31st 2016 at the Memorial Center in Gifu was Kosei Tanaka, who became a 2-weight world champion when he stopped Moises Fuentes in 5 rounds to claim the WBO Light Flyweight title. The win was a big one for Tanaka, who had struggled a year earlier when he had to dig deep to over-come Vic Saludar to retain the WBO Minimumweight title.
5-Kosei Tanaka has had his career guided by former world champion Kiyoshi Hatanaka, who was a successful fighter back in the last 1980's and early 1990's, winning the WBC Super Bantamweight title and the Japanese Super Flyweight title.
6-As well as his title victories Kiyoshi Hatanaka also won Rookie of the Year at Super Flyweight. Another Rookie of the Year winner was the hugely exciting Katsunari Takayama, who won Rookie of the year years after Hatanaka.
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
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).