When we started doing the top 10 series we didn't expect to come in to too many issues and in reality we didn't....until we got to the Light Heavyweight division. Sadly however when we hit 175lbs, and again when we looked at Cruiserweight, we realised there just wasn't the depth needed for a top 10. As a result we are going cut the numbers for both divisions down to a top 5 ranking.
With that now out of the way, here are our top 5 Asian Light Heavyweights.
1-Fanlong Meng (16-0, 10)
Leading the way in the division is unbeaten Chinese Light Heavyweight Fanlong Meng, who is supposed to be getting an IBF world title fight later in the year. The 32 year old Southpaw has proven to be a talented boxer-puncher and wins over the likes of Adam Deines, Frank Buglioni and Emmanuel Danso have shown his ability. Sadly whilst he is a very skilled fighter with a strong amateur background he has shown a questionable chin and has been down several times during his career. He's, unfortunately, supposed to take on divisional destroyed Artur Beterbiev next and that is not a good style match up for "Cold Blood".
2-Rustam Tulaganov (3-0, 1)
Former Uzbek amateur standout Rustam Tulaganov comes in second, despite having only 3 bouts to his name. The talented Uzbek made his debut in 2017, but was out of the ring for over 2 years before impressing in late 2019 with his second professional win. Like many top Uzbek's Tulaganov looks like he can be fast tracked, and we expect big things of him. At 28 he doesn't have any more time to waste, but by that same token he's only a few fights away from an alphabet rankings and a potential world title eliminator. Yes he's only had 3 professional bouts, but he is very advanced for a man with just 3 fights.
3-Mingcun Chen (6-0, 6)
We return to China for our third ranked fighter at 175lbs wuith Mingcun Chen, a 22 year old novice who debuted at the end of 2017 and has slowly been making a name for himself. To date his best wub us iver Clint Alderson, for a low level WBF title, but given his age and potential there is reason to be excited in the youngster, and hopefully we see him taking on some stiffer competition from Australia and Eastern Europe in late 2020. Sadly his career is a bit shrouded, but outside of the top 2 he's pretty much the best of the rest.
4-Abdulkhamid Khakimov (5-0, 3)
Another Uzbek making his name in the division is 28 year old Abdulkhamid Khakimov. Whilst Khakimov doesn't have much hype behind him he did kick off 2020 with a solid win over Russian journeyman Karen Avetisyan, and that's a win worthy of note, even if Avetisyan is little more than a journeyman. In reality that one win is pretty much better than what the other Asian fighters in the division has. That's how weak the division is in terms of Asian fighters right now.
5-Zhaoxin Zhang (8-1-1, 4)
Rounding out this surprisingly weak top 5 is 24 year old Chinese fighter Zhaoxin Zhang, who suffered a loss in 2019 to Zulipikaer Maimaitiali, and then struggled past Chase Haley later in the year. On paper Zhang got his best win in November 2019, when he stopped Jianzheng Wang, but that still wasn't a big or meaningful win outside of China.
Fingers crossed that in the coming years the Light Heavyweight division sees a burst of amateur talent making it's mark there from Central Asia but at the moment, only the top two Asian fighters in the division are really worthy any attention at all.
We've yet to see the giant of China really make its mark on professional boxing in the way that some had anticipated, but there has been a few notable fighters from the country, and it does look like we're set to see rise in competition from the country over the coming years. So let's look at where we stand today with Chinese boxing.
We'll start by looking at Can Xu (15-2, 2), the biggest hope of the country now, and the next Chinese fighter set to fight for a world title. The 24 year old Featherweight will be getting a WBA "regular" world title fight on January 26th. Xu has genuinely impressed at times, and is a better fighter than many would expect. Wins over the likes of Neomar Cermeno, Jelbirt Gomera, Hurricane Futa, Spicy Matsushita and Corey McConnell show he's, at worst, Oriental level. Sadly though he does seem to be getting a world title fight a little bit too early in his career. He's an exciting, high output guy with a good pressure style, but his lack of power is an issue, and will certainly be a problem with bouts at world level. Notably he's one of about 60 Chinese Featherweights, with the next best, arguably, being Yiran Li (4-0, 3), a 22 year old who has shown early promise, but needs real work to develop to being close to Oriental level.
Of course whilst Xu is looking to become a world champion China does still have Xiong Zhao Zhong (27-8-1, 14) as an active fighter, or at least he was active last year, losing to Knockout CP Freshmart in a WBA title fight, and has been linked to another fight later this year. The 36 year old is the first ever Chinese man to win a world title and should be regarded as the aging veteran of the Chinese scene. Whether he fights again or not is unclear but he will continue to be involved in the sport following various investments and developments in the wider Chinese scene. To many he will be one of the figure heads of the next wave if Chinese boxing, and will be regarded as a key figure.
From the little guy to the big guys, the country has a couple of notable Heavyweight punchers who seem to get attention internationally. The more notable of the two is Zhilei Zhang (20-0, 16), who has shown a willingness to travel for fights, was a stellar amateur and has been linked to a potential future bout with Anthony Joshua. "Big Bang" is a 35 year could southpaw with surprising speed and movement, a solid straight left hand and nice combinations for such a big guy. There are however fears of his durability, and he turns 36 this coming May, so time is not on his side. The other Chinese Heavyweight of some note is 37 year old Zhang Junlong (20-0, 20), though his career appears to be meandering towards an anti-climatic end with nothing other than a pretty looking record.
Staying with the heavier weights China has a notable fighter at both Crusierweight and Light Heavyweight. The Cruiseweight of note is Peng Qu (14-2-1, 10), the current OPBF "Silver" Cruiserweight champion. Qu was fighting at Light Heavyweight until recently, and has since scored 2 opening round wins at 200lbs, including a freak 62 win over Joey Vegas who injured his knee. At Light Heavyweight they have the very talented, though somewhat chinny, Meng Fanlong (14-0, 9). The unbeaten Fanlong is a 30 year old who appears to be on the verge of something big after stopping Frank Buglioni last November in Monaco. Fanlong does have a serious question mark over his chin, having twice been dropped by Zura Mekereshvili, but is a sharp punching, smart boxer-mover and has the potential to fight for a world title this year.
There's an interesting Chinese trio at 168lbs, who aren't likely to fight at world level but are all very interesting names on the regional scene, and could one day face off to decide who the best Chinese Super Middleweight is. The fighters in question are Ainiwaer Yilixiati (14-1, 11), Wuzhati Nuerlang (11-2, 9) and Ahatelike Muerzhabieke (8-1-1, 5). All are pretty young, aged between 20 and 25, all are in China and all are going to be looking for things like the OPBF and WBO Asia Pacific titles, which could make for a very interesting dynamic.All 3 are aggressive, exciting and well worth following, even if they aren't going to be fighting against the divisional elite.
The exciting, but flawed, Baishanbo Nasiyiwula (15-2-1, 6) has shown a willingness to fight at either Welterweight or Light Welterweight. There's no one else of note at Welterweight but there is the promising Lei Wang (2-0, 1) competing at 140lbs, and could be either a rival for Baishanbo down the line, or could China a 2-pronged attack in the division. Wang was a top amateur and a WSB participant who made his debut last year, and looked really good on debut, but did struggle against Ricky Sismundo on his second outing and there will need to be time given for his professional development before stepping in too deep.
One of the most interesting divisions in China is the Lightweight division, where there are a number of different unbeaten and promising fighters all coming through at the same time. One of the most interesting is Xiangxiang Sun (15-0, 10), who is unbeaten and has notable wins over Nelson Tinampay, Roldan Aldea and Roy Mukhlis among others. There is also Yongqiang Yang (11-0, 8), who has a huge 2018 with wins against Takuya Watanabe and Harmonito Dela Torre, and hard hitting prospect Xiang Li (4-0, 3), who kicked off the year with a good win over Arvin Yurong. As well as the unbeaten fighters there is also Wang Zhimin (11-3, 3), a 33 year old fighter who is teak tough and although unlikely to fight for a world title, he is good gatekeeper to the stars and a solid test for any emerging prospect.
A forgotten man in the Chinese boxing world is Qiu Xiao Jun (23-4, 11), a former world title challenger. Jun is a talented and exciting, yet flawed, fighter who could well climb the rankings again and find himself fighting for titles once more. However having lost twice to Nehomar Cermeno, and having fallen out with his old promoter it does feel like Jun's career is in limbo at the moment, and his last fight was in Thailand, whilst the one before that saw him failing to make weight.
At Super Bantamweight, the division that Jun first made his name out, we have the unbeaten Zhong Liu (13-0, 5) making his mark. The 27 year old Southpaw is a former WBO Greater China Super Bantamweight champions and has scored wins over experienced Indonesian foes in recent fights, picking up a regional title last time out. Hopefully 2019 will see him stepping up.
The lower weights have not only the aforementioned Zhong but also several other notable fighters. At Flyweight there is Wulan Tuolehazi (9-3-1, 4), who scored a huge 2018 win over Jayr Raquinel, and is unbeaten in 8 bouts. Also at Flyweight is Wenfeng Ge (11-1, 6), who was recently stopped by Giemel Magramo but proved his toughness in that loss and could certainly rebuild following his defeat, though is never likely to be a threat at world level. Whilst Magramo is unlikely to fight for world titles it's hard to imagine Jing Xiang (16-4-2, 3) not getting to that level, following some excellent recent performances against former world champions Merlito Sabillo and Kompayak Porpramook. There is also Lu Bin (1-1, 1), though his future is very unclear following his 2018 loss to Carlos Canizales.
The Chinese boxing might not be setting things on fire right now, but there is clearly a wave of fighters making a name for themselves, and it's not going to be long until the country does provide us a constant stream of contenders, challengers, prospects and, eventually, champions. One thing those involved in Chinese will need to do however, is sort out their internal politics and work together to push Chinese boxing forward, rather than to hold it back.
(Images courtesy of Max Power Boxing)
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).