With the rise of Central Asian fighters in the professional scene we expect to see Asian fighters leaving a big mark on the higher weights in the year to come. That makes the Super Middleweight division an interesting one right now, packed with talented and exciting fighters from Central Asia. With that in mind lets look at the current top 10, and like many divisions the drop off at the bottom end of this top 10 is massive.
1-Azizbek Abdugofurov (13-0, 5)
The 28 year old Uzbek Azizbek Abdugofurov is a bit of a forgotten man in the division at the moment. He was supposed to have big bouts in 2019 and is expected to have some big bouts this year, but it's been a while since anyone has really spoke much about him. Despite only having 13 bouts to his name he has beaten the likes of Sirimongkol Singwancha, Dmitrii Chudinov and Wuzhati Nuerlang. A very talented boxer Abdugofurov once looked like he was on the verge of huge things, but he only fought once last year and his win over Chudinov is now more than 2 years old. We have him at number #1, but he has another Uzbek closing in him and on the verge of moving ahead of him.
2-Bektemir Melikuziev (5-0, 4)
Whilst Abdugofurov is the top of this list he may be over-taken very quickly by the "Bek Bully" Bektemir Melikuzie. ,The Uzbek destroyer looks like the one man who is nailed on to be a future world champion. Melikuziev is a former amateur standout who turned professional in 2019 and blasted out experienced fighters like Martin Fidel Rios and Ricardo Luna Flores in his first two bouts. Since then he has proven he can box, as we saw against Vaughn Alexander, and has much more to his arsenal than his frightening power and vicious body punching. This man is one of the top prospects in world boxing, and is someone who might only be a fight or two away from a world title fight.
3-Ali Akhmedov (16-0, 12)
Fast rising Kazakh youngster Ali Akhmedov looks like one of the most exciting fighters making his way through the sport. The unbeaten 24 year old is exciting, aggressive, heavy handed and still very much an improving fighter, who is getting ring time at an early age before aiming for bigger and better things in the future. At the moment we're still awaiting to see Akhmedov take a step up, but we suspect when he does he will impress. He has defenses flaws to work on, but is an offensive machine and he looks like he will be in the mix for a world title in the coming years.
4-Aidos Yerbossynuly (13-0, 9)
Another Kazakh heading towards big things, potentially, is the unbeaten Aidos Yerbossynuly. The 28 year old has been a professional since 2015 and has slowly and quietly gone about his business so far. Last year he stepped up competition well, and beat Rocky Jerkic, in a career best win. With a number of regional titles around his waist he is heading towards big things, but there are big questions about his chin, his punch resistance and his ability to step up. He's a talented boxer-puncher, but there is still a lot of questions for him to answer.
5-Nurzat Sabirov (11-0, 9)
A third Kazakh in this list is Candian based 26 year old Nurzat Sabirov, who has quietly been quietly building some career momentum in recent years. Last year he scored 3 wins, including one over the unbeaten Laszlo Toth and one over veteran Ricardo Adrian Luna Flores. Although not the most well known of the Canadian based Kazakh fighters he is being managed by a team who know how to bring prospects through and is in a strong unit. Sabirov is likely a few fights behind those above him, but has ability, a good set up and a lot of promise. It's going to be interesting to see what Eye of the Tiger Management have planned for him when boxing resumes in Canada and we suspect that he's maybe 2 or 3 years away from a huge fight.
6-Vijender Singh (12-0, 8)
Once tipped for massive things Indian fighter Vijender Singh appears to be another of those fighters who was viewed as a star but failed to fully make his mark in the professional ranks. It was hoped that Singh would put Indian boxing on the map, be the star the country needed to unleash a generation of future boxers from the untapped Indian market. Sadly though inactivity, and promotional issues along with injuries have seen the 34 year old fighting just 12 times since his 2015 debut. Although still a big name in India it very much feels like Singh is only going to be sliding down this list, and then eventually off it, with out ever having a career defining fight. Talented, but not the star we had hoped for.
7-Zulipikaer Maimaitiali (12-2-1, 8)
Chinese fighter Zulipikaer Maimaitiali gave Vijender Singh a really close and competitive bout in 2017 and looked like being a really bright hope for Chinese boxing at 168lbs. Now however the jury is well and truly out on him. A surprise upset loss in 2019 to Abdallah Paziwapazi, who was taken out in 2 rounds by Rocky Fielding just a few months later. The 25 year old Maimaitiali is a fun to watch and aggressive fighter, but he now needs to get his career back on track as quickly as possible. Fingers crossed 2020, or rather what is left of 2020, gives him a chance to get back on track and get a win over a decent opponent.
8-Wuzhati Nuerlang (13-3, 10)
Close on the tail of Zulipikaer Maimaitiali is another Chinese fighter, Wuzhati Nuerlang. The 24 year old Nuerlang has shown promise but with losses in 2 of his last 4, and a team that appears will to throw him in too deep too soon we do wonder what can come of Nuerlang. He's talented, exciting and aggressive, but needs to be kept away from the likes of Azizbek Abdugofurov and Fedor Chudinov going forward, with both of them easly beating the Chinese fighter.
9-Arman Rysbek (7-0, 6)
Another Kazakh making his way into these rankings is 29 year old Arman Rysbek. He's someone who has already fought in the US, Argentina and Kazakhstan, but desperately needs a step up in competition sooner rather than later. His career is a weird one, fighting in the west before heading back to Kazakhstan for his last 4 bouts. His competition so far has been terrible, and he has stopped his last 5 opponents in a combined 7 rounds. Although he passes the eye test as a talented fighter his career really is in need of an injection, and hopefully he will kick on when boxing resumes later in the year.
10-Dias Tastemirov (4-0, 4)
We round out the top 10 with another fighter we want to see moving up in class shortly, with 29 year old Kazakh Dias Tastemirov filling out the rankings. The unbeaten puncher from Almaty has taken out his 4 opponents in a combined 6 rounds, but desperately needs to be fed better competition. He's just turned 29, so he does have a few years of time, but being based in Kazakhstan he may not have the team needed to back him in the way that helps really bring him along and develop him.
On the bubble:
Ravshan Ergashev, Tae San Kil, Chaloemporn Sawatsuk, Rafi Majid and Dinh Hoang Truong
We continue our Did You Know... series by moving through the weights and looking at the OPBF Super Middleweight title. Given the the fact the title has been around for over 30 years we would expect some interesting facts, and there are some...some which genuinely shocked us.
-There have only been 42 OPBF Super Middleweight title bouts, including interim title bouts, since the title was inaugurated in 1988 with 18 reigns of the regular title, and 2 interim title reigns. Australian Rod Carr was in the first 4 bouts for the title, Yuzo Kiyota has been in 12 of those and Yoshinori Nishizawa has been in 9.
-Most of the title reigns have been by Australians. In fact 9 Australian's have held the title, for a combined 10 reigns of the belt.
-Only 1 OPBF Super Middleweight champion has won a world title, with that being Danny Green. Several have however fought for world titles
-Yoshiaki Tajima was the first Japanese fighter to challenge for a Super Middleweight world title title, losing in 7 rounds to In Chul Baek. He's the only Japanese world title challenger at the weight to have never won the OPBF Super Middleweight title, though he did win the OPBF Middleweight title. Both Yoshinori Nishizawa and Yuzo Kiyota have both won the OPBF title, multiple times, and challenged at world level. None of the three men managed to win their world title bouts though.
-The OPBF Super Middleweight title has been held by two Korean fighters. The first was Byung-In Kang, who won the title in 1993 and defended it twice before losing to Australian Darren Obah and retiring with a 12-1 (7) record. The second was Yong Suk Choi, who actually took the belt from Obah in 1996, in just his third bout and also retired with 1 loss, ending his career in 2009 with an 11-1 (5) record.
-Yoshinori Nishizawa is the only 3-time champion. Rod Carr and Yuzo Kiyota both had 2 reigns. Interestingly Carr and Kiyota ended their first reigns by vacating, and won the title they themselves had vacated before anyone else had won it. This gives Carr the first and second reigns and Kiyota the 15th and 16th reigns.
-At the time of writing, the last bout for the belt was way back in September 2018, as Jayde Mitchell made his second defense of the belt
-Although not related to the OPBF title directly Korean fighters are the only Asian fighters to win world titles at Super Middleweight, with Chong Pal Park and In Chul Baek both holding world titles. Park was the first, holding the IBF title from 1984 to 1987 and the the WBA title from 1987 to 1988, and then Baek followed holding the WBA title from 1989 to 1990.
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).