Many division's out there are really interesting, and have a lot of brilliant match ups that could be made at any moment. One of the most interesting is the Featherweight division, which isn't the "deepest" but is among the most "interesting", not just in Asia but globally. Despite not being as deep as the Bantamweight and Super Bantamweight division's it's still a very, very good weight class.
Again we're only considering Asian fighters for these rankings.
1-Can Xu (18-2, 3)
The stand out Asian fighter in the division is Chinese "Monster" Can Xu. Unlike another monster, who is known for his power and being a physical freak, Xu is a monster in terms of stamina, chin and output. The 26 year old is the current WBA "regular" Featherweight champion and really came along wonderfully in 2019, when he beat Jesus M Rojas, Shun Kubo and Manny Robles III. Although not a technically perfect boxer, or a big puncher Xu is a nightmare to fight with a swarming busy style and an ability to take a punch whilst letting his shots go. A total nightmare to take on.
2-Tugstsogt Nyambayar (11-1, 9)
Earlier this year we saw Tugstsogt Nyambayar come up short in a competitive, but clear, loss against Gary Russell Jr. That may have ended Nyambayar's unbeaten record but with wins over Harmonito Dela Torre, Oscar Escandon and Claudio Marrero it's hard to question his #2 ranking. Yes he's not scored a world level win yet, but in reality he's done more than anyone on this list, other than Xu. The heavy handed boxer-puncher was a former amateur standout and is a quality professional, but needs to be much more active and he has fought only 4 times in the last 36 months, completely wasting some of his prime years. Incidentally enough that's the same accusation that has been sent Gary Russell Jr's way over the years as well.
3-Ryo Sagawa (9-1, 4)
The Japanese domestic scene at Featherweight is legitimately crazy with 6 very good and interesting fighters in and around the top top. The best of those is, probably, Ryo Sagawa, who holds wins over 2 of the other top Japanese guys at the weight. Sagawa is the current Japanese national champion, an excellent boxer, who controls distance well and looks like a true natural in the ring with a really eye pleasing and smooth style. When he needs to brawl and fight he can, though at his best he is an excellent boxer. Despite being a genuine talent Sagawa also has some questions still hanging over him, and his chin is certainly still suspect, meaning that whilst he's talented, there is always a risk he'll be stopped, making his fights the type that will have you on the edge of your seat.
4-Reiya Abe (19-3-1, 9)
The man Sagawa beat for the Japanese title was Reiya Abe, another of the excellent Japanese fighters at Featherweight. Abe is a brilliant technical boxer, an intelligent southpaw with a very good jab and he controls distance fantastically well. He was unfortunate in 2019 to fight to a draw with Taiki Minamoto and then lose a very close one against Ryo Sagawa. Abe is clearly below Sagawa in the rankings, but there was much that separated the men when they fought and in reality there's still not much between them. In fact whilst Sagawa does have the head to head win, Abe has solid wins himself over the likes of Daisuke Watanabe and Satoshi Hosono, among others. With a tough 2019 behind him we're really looking forward to seeing what the future brings for the skilled Abe.
5-Mark Magsayo (20-0, 14)
As well as a bunch of fantastic Japanese fighters at Featherweight we also have a number of talented Filipino's. The best among the Pinoy's is Mark Magsayo, who has been banging on the door of a world title fight for a while now, but not managed to get the shot at the big time yet. Despite not getting a fight at world title level yet Magsayo already has wins over Chris Avalos, Shota Hayashi and Pungluang Sor Singyu. He made a smart move a few years ago, in leaving ALA Promotions but hasn't yet managed to secure a big fight with his new promoter. Magsayo is an excellent boxer puncher, and like many fighters we feel he will look better when he steps up faces tough competition.
6-Hinata Maruta (10-1-1, 8)
Back to Japan for our #6 entry in the form of 23 year old Hinata Maruta. The talented Maruta has promised a lot since making his professional debut way back in 2015 and whilst he's yet to accomplish what was expected of him there is no doubting his ability. The one thing we need to see from Maruta is his chin being tested and his ability to move through the gears. It's often felt like he's only had 3 gears and that really did cost him against Hidenori Otake, in his sole loss. Thankfully since his defeat to Otake he has shown a lot to be excited about and wins over Tsuyoshi Tameda and Takenori Ohashi have been excellent. If Maruta can continue to improve as he has done recently he'll be finding himself with some big wins soon. Interestingly he is mandated to fight Abe in a Japanese title bout, though it now seems likely that that bout could slip to 2021 due to the ongoing situation. That may actually be a good thing for Maruta, give him extra time to grow into his man strength.
7-Jhack Tepora (23-1, 17)
It's really hard to know what is going on with Jhack Tepora. At times he looks fantastic hi KO of Lusanda Komanisi in 2017 was brutal, and his win in Malaysia against Edivaldo Ortega should have helped launch him to some huge fights. They didn't and instead he fought a meaningless bout to Jose Luis Gallegos last June before being upset by Oscar Escandon in December 2019. That loss was among the bigger upsets of 2019, and completely killed what moment he had. Rumour from the Philippines circulated suggesting he had fallen out with his team, and that they had gotten fed up with some of his out of the ring habits. Whether their is truth to those rumours or not is unclear, but what is clear is a lack of activity has been a major issue for Tepora, who has fought just 3 times since the start of 20918. He needs to sort his career out before it's too late.
8-Musashi Mori (11-0, 6)
Talented youngster Musashi Mori is the current WBO Asia Pacific champion and is very much "one of the future". At the time of writing he's just 20 years old but has already accomplished a hell of a lot, winning the 2017 Rookie of the Year and winning his regional title, taking it from Richard Pumicpic, which he has defended twice. Although still a work in progress two wins over Pumicpic and one over Takuya Mizuno pretty much show that he's already incredibly talented. For recent bout he has been training under the guidance of Ismael Salas so we're expecting to see significant improvements form the youngster in his next few fights. He's a talented southpaw, though does lack his man strength and power, and it will be interesting to see if he can develop that side of his game as he matures.
9-Richard Pumicpic (21-11-2, 6)
With two close losses to Musashi Mori and a close loss to Ryosuke Iwasa it's easy to understand why Richard Pumicpic had double digit defeats. He has been matched hard, had to travel for bouts, and still run good fighters very close. He has now lost 3 in a row, but in reality he's deserved better from the judges. He's not the most powerful, or the quickest, or the biggest, but he's a nightmare. He's tough, rough, knows his way around the ring and really makes life difficult for anyone in the division. On his day he could beat men ranked well above him on this list, but has certainly lacked any form of luck and good fortune during his career. Fingers crossed we see the now 29 year old getting another opportunity to show what he can do in the near future. He's one of those fighters where you need to ignore his record, and just watch what he can do.
10-Ryo Matsumoto (23-3, 21)
Arguably the most over-looked man in the division is former world title challenger Ryo Matsumoto, who moved up to Featherweight in 2018 following his loss to Daniel Roman. Matsumoto has all the things needed to be a star. He's good looking, powerful, quick, skilled, has great size for the division and is someone with an amazing story, fighting through a nasty illness. He also has a sense of vulnerability, with 2 stoppage losses against him. He has the things needed to be a feel good story in boxing, but needs to be given time to adapt to the division, which he has naturally grown into. A rematch with Ryo Sagawa would be interesting and is potentially something he and his team are viewing for the future.
On the bubble:
Satoshi Shimizu, Jhon Gemino, Genesis Servania, Shohei Omori and Shun Kubo
Over the next 12 months we're expecting to see a lot of changes in the world of professional boxing. As a result we have put together a list of 30 Asian fighters to keep an eye out for 2016. These range from champions to novices but all are expected to make a mark on the sport over the next 12 months.
We hope to have part of this up in the coming days, and it will feature more notable names, though we feel the 5 men listed here are all fighters who will become bigger in 2016, despite being relatively unknown by those other than the hardcore fans.
We have often been accused of being focused on several countries, particularly Japan. As a result we've decided to try and bring your attention to the 5 best Asian prospects, from countries we tend not to focus on. That means no fighters from Japan, Thailand or the Philippines.
out of Manuel Rubalcava was incredibly impressive given that the Mexican had never previously been stopped.
In regards to footage of the Mongolian the best we have is of his most recent bout, a victory over Arturo Badillo, which is listed incorrectly on boxrec.com. In the footage you can see a lot of promise in Nyambayar, but still improvements will be made before he's moved into 10 round bouts, never mind the all important 12 round title bouts.
and last time out he scored a KO of the year contender against Luyanda Jako suggesting that he is beginning to find his man strength. Sadly though his best win is still a 2013 victory over compatriot Kanat Kartenbayev and since then he has gone backwards in terms of competition.
Dmitry Bivol (4-0, 4)
The rising Russian boxing scene is really exciting though of course not all the “Russian” fighters are actually Russian fighters. One such case is the sensationally talented Light Heavyweight prospect Dmitry Bivol, who is originally from Tokmak in Kyrgyzstan.
feature on the world stage we'd certainly advise keeping an eye on him. He may fall short, but we're excited about a new Indonesian star and really hope that it will be Zoda who has the style to excite fans in a major way.
he may well be the next bust but we really hpe his handlers and team can keep him on the straight and narrow and help him work his way through the ranks and help put Korea back on the boxing map. The jury is out on what he'll do, but there is certainly real potential there.
Others that we would like to make a note of-
Muhammad Waseem (0-0)
Boxing has a number of untapped markets, one of those is Pakistan which really only has British-Pakistani fighter Amir Khan to look up to. That's despite the fact the country has a population of around 192,000,000. With so many people there it seems clear that there will be boxing talent, it just needs to be given a chance. The first Pakistani born fighter who really seems to have some potential is Muhammad Waseem.
Waseem is a little older than some of the others on this list, at 27/28, but his potential to open up a new market is incredibly exciting. That of course isn't the only reason to be excited about him, another reason is his amateur pedigree which includes medals at the Asian Games, the Commonwealth Games, the World Combat Games and the South Asian Games.
The talented and speedy Pakistani fighter isn't going to begin professional life in his native country but instead in South Korea where he will develop under the guidance of AK Promotions, who have lined him up for a South Korean title fight on his debut. A win there will likely lead to bigger fights down the line, so our fingers are crossed for that. Having not yet made his debut however the jury is, rightfully, out on the Pakistan speedster.
Uktamjon Rahmonov (4-0, 1)
Uzbekistan are missing a boxing star. They have WBA Heavyweight “regular” champion Ruslan Chagaev but they don't have an actual “star” as of yet. One man hoping to change that is 23 year old Uktamjon Rahmonov, a former Olympian who is slowly making strides in Russia and his homeland. It's fair to say that he's not yet broken through as a star but he is starting to make a name for himself and he has already competed in 23 rounds since turning professional in November 2013.
At the 2012 Olympics Rahmonov reached the quarter final before coming up short against eventual Gold medal winner Roniel Iglesias, one of the real stars of the games. Whilst he did fail to medal he did show some real ability. That ability has taken him to 4 straight wins in the professional ranks, including a genuinely solid 8 round decision win against Ukrainian Oleg Korobko.
So far it's hard to get a real understanding of his ability. He's looked like a man with a lot of skill in footage, but also some really irritating flaws including a willingness to run, a jokers attitude in the ring and a frustrating laziness. At times however he looks magical with a wonderful variety of shots, a natural calmness and good movement.
Vijender Singh (0-0)
Above we mentioned Waseem Muhammad, the man tasked with developing Pakistani boxing. It's also fair to say that Vijender Singh could be described as the man with an even bigger task, kick starting Indian boxing. Unfortunately he's not regarded as one of our “ones to watch” as he's now closing in on his 30th birthday and has various issues ahead of his professional debut.
The talented Indian recently signed professional papers with British promoter Frank Warren and is likely to make his debut later this year. Sadly though given his age it's unlikely he'll become the star that many hope. That's not to say that he's not going to have success in the professional ranks but it's unlikely to be enough to kick start an Indian boxing revolution.
Whilst we're not hugely excited by Singh's debut his amateur background is brilliant and he has claimed a trio of medal at the Commonwealth games, an Olympic games medal, a World amateur Champion medal and a couple of Asian games medals. It's a real shame however that he didn't turn professional after the 2008 Olympics.
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).