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
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.
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).