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.
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).