We recently looked at the incredibly packed Bantamweight division, and the top 10 there was genuinely amazing. It's not the only super stacked division for Asian fighters through and we also have some amazing depth at Super Bantamweight. In fact the division might be even deeper than the Bantamweight.
1-Murodjon Akhmadaliev (8-0, 6)
The #1 in the and the division is unbeaten Uzbek Murodjon Akhmadaliev who showed his ability last time out when he defeated Daniel Roman to become the WBA "Super" and IBF champion in the division. The win over Roman alone, is the biggest of anyone in this list, and arguably bigger than anyone has right now in the division. For Akhmadaliev to have done that in just his 8th bout was truly exceptional. With a pair of titles around his waist and a completed 12 round under his belt the 25 year is only going to get better and better and will be the number in the division until he gets beat. A fantastic boxer puncher who brawl when he needs to. A truly fantastic fighter and one who proved us wrong in his win over Roman, a bout we felt was maybe too early at the time but "MJ" proved other wise.
2-Ryosuke Iwasa (27-3, 17)
Former IBF champion Ryosuke Iwasa, who is actually the current IBF "interim" and the mandatory for Akhmadaliev, is a very hot and cold fighter. When he's at his best he's a special talent, a hard hitting boxer-puncher. Sadly though he's had a number of off nights during his career, can look very one paced and has historically struggled against fellow lefties. Although technically good Iwasa is more of a puncher than a boxer, and his power has impressed against the likes of Kentaro Masuda, Yukinori Oguni and Marlon Tapales. Sadly he really failed to get going against TJ Doheny in 2018 and was made to look awful against Lee Haskins in 2015. Those set backs are now in the rear view mirror and wins last year against Cesar Juarez and Marlon Tapales have really put him right back in the mix.
3-Hiroaki Teshigawara (21-2-2, 14)
Current OPBF champion Hiroaki Teshigawara is a man who is very much knocking on the door of a world title fight, which he had been hoping to get this year. The 29 year old made his debut in 2011 and but it's really been the last few that he's managed to make a mark on the sport. It's fair to say that the main turning point in Teshigawara's career was his close loss to Ryo Akaho in 2016. Since that loss he has reeled off 9 straight wins including victories over Keita Kurihara, Jason Canoy, Teiru Kinoshita and Shohei Omori. Although on first glance Teshigawara can look a bit rough around the edges at times he's an incredibly smart boxer puncher who manages to dictate the pace and tempo off his very smart feints and educated lead hand. Teshigawara might be some way behind Akhamdaliev and Iwasa, but he's very much in the mix for a potential world title fight when international boxing resumes later in the year.
4-Jhunriel Ramonal (17-8-6, 10)
If this list was based solely on "what have you done recently" Ramonal would be banging on the door for the #1 position. Despite sporting a journeyman-like record the dangerous 30 year old Pinoy puncher stopped both Shingo Wake and Yusuaku Kuga in 2019. He's the current WBO Asia Pacific champion and is riding a 5 fight unbeaten run, with his last loss coming way in November 2014. Although not the most talented, quickest or smartest fighter out there Ramonal is a dangerous fighter and not someone you can look past. With stone like hands and a great will to win he's #4 on merit, though there are question marks about how long his current run will last.
5-Shingo Wake (26-6-2, 18)
Talented Japanese southpaw Shingo Wake is someone who is a very smart technical boxer, he uses his reach, his range and his jab fantastically, and has enough power on his shots to get respect, without being a puncher. We also cannot question Wake's heart, and his desire against Jonathan Guzman in 2016 was incredible, especially given how battered his face was. In 2019 he was stopped in 3 rounds by Ramonal, ending a 6 fight run of stoppages including wins over Panomroonglek Kaiyanghadaogym, Yusaku Kuga and Takafumi Nakajima. His comeback is pencilled in for July, though given the current situation it's currently unclear if that bout will take place or not.
6-Tomoki Kameda (36-3, 20)
Former WBO Bantamweight champion Tomoki Kameda is the only one of the Kameda brothers still fighting, after brothers Koki and Daiki retired. The 28 year old is carrying on the Kameda name and seeking to become a 2-weight champion and he pursues a bout at 122lbs. High skilled, with quick hands and good movement Kameda has the ability to win a title, but unfortunately appears to have a lack of power at the weight, and his shots, whilst they look good, don't appear to get opponents respect, something that will be an issue against the best in the division. He was also comfortably beaten last time out, when Rey Vargas out boxed him at range. There is a feeling that Kameda's skills won't be enough to over-come the physical advantages of the top fighters in the division, but at he's certainly not going to be an easy man to beat. We suspect he'll be too good for regional level bouts but not quite good enough to take a world title here.
7-Yukinori Oguni (21-2-1, 8)
Former IBF champion Yukinori Oguni is hard to place in these rankings. He has lost to Shingo Wake and Ryosuke Iwas, but holds a huge 2016 win over Jonathan Guzman. Another reason he's so hard to rank is due to what he's done since his 2017 loss to Iwasa. Originally he retired following that loss, but then came back in 2018 and has scored two wins. He's not looked his best in those victories but, it did seem like the 31 year old was more focused on shaking ring rust than trying to impress people. Fingers crossed we get a good chance to see what Oguni had next time left as he's a really talented, and often over looked fighter who could, and perhaps should, have achieved more than he has so far. Although not a puncher he does hit harder than his record suggests and is certainly a clean puncher, who is accurate, smart and has some very nice looking body shots.
8-Marlon Tapales (33-3, 16)
Another former world champion here is 28 year old Filipino Marlon Tapales, a really under-rated southpaw. Tapales was a former WBO Bantamweight champion, who won the title in a brilliant comeback against Pungluang Sor Singyu, but lost the belt on the scales 9 months later. Despite only having 16T/KO's in his 33 wins the Filipino is a solid puncher, with a lot of his decision wins coming early in his career before he got his man strength. Despite being a talented fighter it is worth noting that he was made to look second last time out, by Ryosuke Iwasa, and was stopped in 11 rounds. That bout was very much a beating for the Filipino and it's going to be very interesting to see what he's like when he returns to the ring. Notably that loss was his first defeat in over 6 years and his first stoppage loss in over a decade.
9-Albert Pagara (32-1, 23)
Once beaten Filipino Albert Pagara was supposed to be the next big Filipino star, and sadly he's not yet got there. The talented 26 year old obviously has time on his side but also has a lot of questions to answer about his mental and physical toughness. The "Prince" is a sharp boxer-puncher, who very quick and very heavy handed, but was stopped himself by Cesar Juarez in 2016 and he's yet to return to that fringe level. If we're being honest Pagara passes the eye test with ease, but we'll remain unsure about his potential until he get in another dog fight, then we expect that we'll see a lot of questions answered about him. Sadly his 32 wins so far really haven't done much to prove his ability, and he desperately needs a step up in class when boxing returns to the Philippines.
10-Yusaku Kuga (19-4-1, 13)
2-time Japanese champion Yusaku Kuga is a rough, tough, crude but exciting fighter, but one who is maybe feeling the effects of a hard career. At his best Kuga is an aggressive boxer-puncher, and he's score notable wins over the likes of Yusuke Suzuki, Yasutaka Ishimoto and Ryoichi Tamura however those wins have often come in very punishing bouts, and both of his bouts with Tamura were massively damaging wars, for both men. Notably Kuga has been stopped in 2 of his last 5, with those losses coming to Jhunriel Ramonal and Shingo Wake. Although he's "only" 29 we do wonder how much those tough, gruelling bouts with Tamura have taken from him. He's supposed to make a mandatory defense of his Japanese title against Gakuya Furuhashi later this year, and that will likely tell us what he has left in the tank.
On the bubble:
Mike Plania, Ye Joon Kim, Chainoi Worawut, Gakuya Furuhashi and Jeo Santisima
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 former 2-time Japanese world champion Yoshiaki Numata to current world champion Murodjon Akhmadaliev.
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-Japanese fighter Yoshiaki Numata was a 2-time Super Featherweight champion back in the late 1960's and early 1970's. His first title reign began in June 1967 when he claimed the WBA and WBC Super Featherweight titles when he beat Filipino legend Flash Elorde. That bout was the second between the two men and took place at the Kokugikan.
2-Numata isn't the only fighter to have won a Super Featherweight world title at the Kokugikan, another is Takashi Miura, who won the WBC title there in April 2013, when he stopped Gamaliel Diaz in 9 rounds, dropping Diaz numerous times en route to that stoppage.
3-Way back in July 2003 Takashi Miura made his professional debut, winning a 6 round decision over Yutaka Sato. That win came on a show that also saw wins for Jorge Linares, Masayoshi Sagawa, Takehiro Shimokawara and Noel Arambulet. In fact it was Arambulet, from Venezuela, who took home a win in the main event, defeating Yutaka Niida for the WBA Minimumweight title.
4-During his career Noel Arambulet, who fought numerous times in Japan, would only be stopped twice. The first of those stoppage losses came in November 2005, when he was beaten in 7 rounds by the then 19 year old Koki Kameda, who moved to 9-0 (8) with the win.
5-As a professional Koki Kameda would box from 2003 to 2015. His debut came on a Green Tsuda card that a trio of future Japanese world champions, including Kameda. Another of those future world champions was Katsunari Takayama whilst the other was Nobuo Nashiro.
6-Nobuo Nashiro famously won his first world title in his 8th bout, stopping Martin Castillo to become the WBA Super Flyweight champion. Another fighter who won his first world title, or rather titles, in bout #8 was Murodjon Akhmadaliev, who achieved the feat earlier this year with a win over Daniel Roman!
With a massive lack of Asian related action last week we really struggled to find a suitable fighter to cover in this week's "Five For...". Sure we saw Jeo Santisima fight in a high profile bout, but the reality is...he didn't shine. He was competitive, at times, with Emanuel Navarrete, but it was clear he wasn't on the Mexican's level.
Rather than finding someone to talk about that didn't fight we're instead going to take things in a slightly different direction than usual. Rather than focusing on an Asian fighter and looking at 5 options he could face, we're instead going to look at 5 Asian's who could challenge Emanuel Navarrete later in the year. Thankfully we have a lot of Asian fighters competing at Super Bantamweight, and a lot could give Navarette a very different type of bout to the one we saw from Santisima.
1-Hiroaki Teshigawara (21-2-2, 14)
Japanese fighter Hiroaki Teshigawara is someone who has began knocking on the door of a world title fight on merit in recent years. The talented, and heavy handed, boxer-puncher has stopped his last 4, including former world title challenger Shohei Omori and Teiru Kinoshita, he has proven to be tough, dangerous and tricky. Whilst he's not the most polished he does have under-rated skills, and at 5'7" he's one of the few who could physically match the Mexican world champion. Given the styles and mentality of the two men this would be a very, very interesting match up and a huge chance for Teshigawara to get a world title fight be the end of 2020.
2-Albert Pagara (32-1, 23)
Once tipped as future star for the Philippines Albert Pagara has seen his career really fail to develop as hoped. Thankfully for "Prince" Albert he's rebuild well since his 2016 loss to Cesar Juarez, and has notched up 6 straight wins to remain in the title mix. At the age of 26 it's probably best for ALA to roll the dice with Pagara rather than continue to leave him treading water. ALA are struggling as a gym and need a big win, and you don't get those without taking risks. Also Pagara will have seen Santisima have moments against Navarrete, and will believe he's a better boxer than his ALA stablemate. Of course this would be a really big ask of Pagara, but the reality is that his going has become rather aimless, and it would seem better to to take a big, high profile bout like this, than to continue fighting in obscurity.
3-Jhunriel Ramonal (17-8-6, 10)
Staying with Filipino's a bout with Navarrete would be a good reward for the heavy handed Jhunriel Ramonal, who scored two huge wins on the road last year, stopping both Shingo Wake and Yusaku Kuga in Japan. On paper Ramonal might not look the most testing but with his brutal power, high level experience and will to win he'd certainly make for a better than the likes of Santisima, who seemed to accept he'd not be able to win relatively early on. Ramonal isn't a rounded fighter, he's not the best move, or the smartest, but he's full of confidence, punches like a mule, unbeaten in more than 5 years and would be an easy fighter to get in the ring. Whilst we wouldn't give the Filipino much of a chance with the champion we have been surprised by him in the past and he's a fighter you write off at your peril.
4-Tomoki Kameda (36-3, 20)
Maybe the way to beat Navarrete is by relying on speed and boxing, rather than trying to have a fight with him. With that in mind a bout against Tomoki Kameda would certainly be an interesting proposition. Kameda lacks power, especially at Super Bantamweight, but is a tough, talented boxer-mover with quick hands and the ability to pick his shots very well. He was easily beaten by Rey Vargas last year, but that was a stylistic nightmare for Kameda, whilst a bout against Navarrete would be a lot, lot more interesting. This would a big name for Navarrete, and a second chance for Kameda to become a multi-weight world champion. A mouth watering match up and one of the more intriguing ones the division could give us. Also the bout could easily be staged in Mexico, given Kameda's long established links to the country.
5-Murodjon Akhmadaliev (8-0, 6)
We've saved the best to last with the final option being a potential triple title unification bout between Navarrete, the WBO champion and the unified WBA and IBF champion Murodjon Akhmadaliev, of Uzbekistan. The bout would be an excellent one to decide the clear #1 in the division, it would match the most destructive against the most impressive. On one hand the Mexican champion had looked good against lower level opponents, whilst establishing a long reign, but he needs a defining win. Akhmadaliev has a defining win, over Daniel Roman, but now needs to prove it wasn't a fluke. This would be the bout that would let both men answer serious questions, and the winner would come out of the bout with 3 titles and the legitimate claim of the best in the division.
This past weekend we saw Uzbek sensation Murodjon Akhmadaliev (8-0, 6) claim the WBA "super" and IBF Super Bantamweight titles with an excellent win over Daniel Roman. The performance, in just his 8th professional bout, was a real statement from Akhmadaliev, despite a bizarre 12th round, and a sign of the rising wave of the Uzbek fighters, which include the likes of Israil Madrimov, Bektemir Melikuziev and Bakhodir Jalolov.
With his win at the weekend it's going to be interesting to see what Akhmadaliev does next. The Super Bantamweight division is a very interesting one, and as a double champion there are some very interesting potential moves for "MJ" going forward. So with that in mind lets look at Five for... Murodjon Akhmadaliev
1- Ryosuke Iwasa (27-3, 17)
The obvious next next fight for "MJ" is a mandatory defense of his titles against IBF "interim" champion Ryosuke Iwasa. If MJ avoids this fight, for whatever reason, he'd likely be stripped of the IBF title and given how he spoke about being a unified champion we don't imagine him wanting to relinquish either belt any time soon. In the ring this would be a really interesting match up. It would be the first time MJ has fought a hard hitting southpaw, though he has faced two lefties already in his career, and would also see whether or not Iwasa has figured fellow southpaws himself, or whether his performance against Marlon Tapales was a fluke. Given the heavy hands both men have we wouldn't be surprised to see this one end inside the schedule and for both to be rocked at some point.
2- Emanuel Navarrete (30-1, 26)
Whilst Akhmadaliev may be a unified champion there are still titles out there for him to go and capture. The reality is that a bout between "MJ" and WBC champion Rey Vargas wouldn't be an enjoyable watch, however a fight between the unbeaten Uzbek and marauding Mexican Emanuel Navarrete would be something special. It would be beautifully brutal, with both men firing off heavy shot. It would be "Vaquero's" pressure, against MJ's movement and boxing ability, it would be champion against champion, and it would be stylistically the most pleasing and exciting unification bout the division could give us right now. This would be something to get very, very excited about.
3- Daniel Roman II (27-3-1, 10)
Lets be honest the first fight between Akhmadaliev and Daniel Roman was good, really good...so good we want to see it again! Of course with the bout being a WBA mandatory there's no obligation for "MJ" to give Roman a rematch, but it did seem like both wanted to do it again, and we sure as hell would love to see them go again. Their first bout showed they were well matched, and with 12 rounds already between the men we would love to see what changes they make for a rematch. We would expect more output from Roman in the early going, especially given the way he seemed to have Akhmadaliev in trouble in the final round, whilst we expect Akhmadaliev to pace himself just a tough more and be able to fight hard in the final round. Alternatively the first 12 rounds may have allowed one man to find a weakness in the other they could exploit early in a rematch. Although we don't expect this to be next, we do expect this to be excellent when, and if, it happens.
4- Brandon Figueroa (20-0-1, 15)
Another really interesting match up from a style point of view would see "MJ" take on "The Heartbreaker" Brandon Figueroa. Whilst Akhmadaliev is the WBA "Super" champion Figueroa is the "Regular" WBA champion, so it would get rid of one of those pesky WBA belts, at least temporarily. MJ would certainly be favoured over the unbeaten Figueroa, but that doesn't take away from the fact this would be very, very exciting to watch and would see him up against a big, strong, powerful and aggressive foe. In many ways this would be like Akhmadaliev facing a lesser quality version of Emanuel Navarrete, and would work as a nice tune up for a bout with the Mexican down the line.
5- Naoya Inoue (19-0, 16)
Possibly entering to the realms of a dream fight here, but "MJ VS The Monster" is a mouth watering proposition, and potentially something we'll see somewhere down the line. In terms of height and reach the guys are very similiar, but both are also very different. MJ is probably the better boxer, and the better mover, but we suspect Inoue is the better puncher, and and the slightly quicker on the trigger. Either way we would love to find out, in what would be arguably the most intriguing bout either could have. This would see Inoue stepping up in weight again, attempting to become a 4-weight champion, but again given the fact the men are so similar in size, we wouldn't imagine that being a problem. In fact instead size being the key to victory it would be what they can do in the ring, and we would love to see match up of sensational young champions at some point, preferably sooner rather than later.
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).