With no fights currently taking place we've had a bit of time on our hands, and with that in mind we've decided to look at the sport in terms of how divisions sit, and do something that had previously been requested. The Asian divisional top 10's. We'll be starting this at Minimumweight and working our way through the divisions over the coming days and weeks. We know there will be some debate about some rankings and there is certainly some area for discussion, and that is certainly not a bad thing at all!
The third division in this series is the rather weird looking Flyweight division. Historically it's been a rich division, full of excellent Asian talent, but right now it's a division that is very much transitional in Asia and there is no recognised #1, like their is in most other divisions. Despite that it's not actually a poor division, in fact it's a deep one, just one lacking in terms of star power.
1-Junto Nakatani (20-0, 15)
Whilst we don't know who the true #1 is in the division it's probably fair to suggest that Junto Nakatani is one of the leading pack now that Kosei Tanaka has left the division. The 22 year old Japanese southpaw is regarded as one of the best youngsters in the sport and with wins over Dexter Alimentoo, Shun Kosaka, Naoki Mochizuki and Milan Melindo in recent bouts he's clearly among the very best in Asia, if not the best. Given his age, his style, his performances and his freakish size he's going to be a very, very hard man to beat. He was supposed to fight for the WBO Flyweight title earlier this year, but as of now, given everything going on, it's unclear when, and even if, that will end up happening.
2-Giemel Magramo (24-1, 20)
The man that Nakatani was supposed to fight for the WBO title was Filipino fighter Giemel Magramo. The once beaten 25 year old is a real talent, who was unfortunate in his only loss more than 3 years ago. Since suffering his sole loss he has scored 7 wins, all by stoppage. They have included victories over Richard Clavers, Petchchorhae Kokietgym and Wenfeng Ge. It's really the win over Ge that has strengthened Magramo's claim as a top Flyweight. Whilst Magramo's record suggests he's a pure puncher he's not, instead he's actually a very heavy handed boxer-puncher. He's aggressive, exciting, talented and has solid pop on his shots. There are area's for him to improve, and he can look a bit raw, but there is no doubting his ability and how much of a danger man he is in the division.
3-Sho Kimura (19-3-2, 12)
Despite being the only former world champion on this list it's hard to really know where to place Sho Kimura. In terms of achievement he's the number one, by some distance, but since losing the WBO Flyweight title to Kosei Tanaka he's not really shown much. Last year he made an ill fated move down in weight, where he was easily beaten by Carlos Canizales, and since then he has only beaten Merlito Sabillo, who suffered what looked like an horrific injury. If Kimura is still the same fighter he was against Zou Shiming, Toshiyuki Igarashi, Froilan Saludar and Kosei Tanaka he'd be the #1 in the division, but at the moment question marks do hangover him. Those questions are magnified by the fact he's also changed gyms, leaving the the Aoki gym that lead him to his success.
4-Muhammad Waseem (10-1, 7)
The most successful amateur on this list Pakistani fight Muhammad Waseem looked like a star in the making early on, when he was impressing in Korea. In his first 5 bouts he had not only won the South Korean Bantamweight title but also beaten Jether Oliva and Giemel Magramo. Sadly financial backing failed to materialise and he would struggle to build on that early success. More than 3 years on he has managed to have only 2 more bouts of note, a close decision loss in an IBF title bout against Moruti Mthalane and a close win over Ganigan Lopez last year. Although clearly talented the 32 is no spring chicken and will likely be 33 by the time he returns to the ring. A real example of why a financially strong backer is needed, even at the lower weights.
5-Jayr Raquinel (12-1-1, 9)
Filipino hopeful Jayr Raquinel is one of the hidden gems in the division. The 23 year old boxer-puncher has scored some very big wins over the last couple of years or so, stopping Keisuke Nakayama, Shun Kosaka and Takuya Kogawa in OPBF title bouts. Clearly a heavy handed fighter Raquinel still has work to do, and we saw him suffer a disappointing loss in China in 2018, when he seemed to be old manned by Wulan Tuolehazi. That loss hopefully serve as a turning point for Raquinel's training, and help him increase his activity in bouts, rather than sleep walking through portions of bouts. He's not yet ready for a world title fight, in our eyes, but is quickly moving towards one and could be ready in 2021 for a very big fight.
6-Wulan Tuolehazi (14-4-1, 7)
With wins over 2 fighters in the top 10 there will be an argument that Wulan Tuolehazi should be higher up the rankings, but in reality he's a hard man to judge. He beat Jayr Raquinel in 2018 but then squeaked some questionable decisions against Ryota Yamauchi and Ardin Diale in 2019, before being decimated by Kosei Tanaka at the end of last year. Had his bouts with Yamauchi and Diale not been in China we would be looking at a very different career for Tuolehazi, and there's a good chance he wouldn't have got the Tanaka fight. Although not a world beater he's proven himself a solid fighter, just maybe not as good as his results suggest. It's going to be very, very interesting to see what he does in his next few fights, as they could make or break him. At 27 he's in his physical prime, but it really is unclear as to how much further he can develop.
7-Masayuki Kuroda (30-8-3, 16)
Former 2-time world title challenger Masayuki Kuroda is one of the more well known names on this list and has certainly proven to be a legitimate fringe world level fight during his 41 fight career. He's been a professional since 2005 and whilst his career is definitely coming to an end, the 33 year old is looking for one more shot at the top. Last year he put on a brave effort against Moruti Mthalane en route to a clear decision loss. That defeat ended a 6 fight winning run for the Japanese veteran who had taken wins over Takuya Kogawa, Yuta Matsuo and Katsunori Nagamine. Given his age and wear and tear he'll not have long left in the sport, but could well have one more crack at the top before hanging them up.
8-Seigo Yuri Akui (14-2-1, 10)
Fast starter Seigo Yuri Akui should be regarded as one of the division's true danger men, though also someone who perhaps struggles if bouts don't finish early on. His 17 fight career has seen him scoring 9 opening round wins, but being stopped every time he has gone beyond 5 rounds. Akui is currently the Japanese champion and holds wins against Ryuto Oho, Masamichi Yabuki, Yoshi Minato and Shun Kosaka, but needs a solid international win to back up his ranking. Interestingly Akui could certainly see beat some of the man ranked higher up this list than himself, but also lose to some of the un-ranked fighters. That makes him very tricky to rank but also very exciting to watch.
9-Tetsuya Hisada (34-10-2, 20)
Another tricky man to rank is Japanese veteran Tetsuya Hisada, who announced that he was intending to compete as a Flyweight for the final few bouts of his career. The former Light Flyweight world title challenger had his best success at 108lbs, where his strength and physicality proved vital, and a move up could see him losing those assets. At 35 years old we can't begrudge Hisada's move up in weight, but he'll likely be 36 by the time he fights again and unless he can land a big fight at the weight we'll maybe never really know what he could do in the division. With 10 losses to his name he's unlikely to lure a big opponent in to the ring with him before calling a close on his career.
10-Ryota Yamauchi (6-1, 5)
One of the divisional stars of the future 25 year old Ryota Yamauchi looks like he could be unleashed back on a fast track when the sport resumes in Japan. He looked red hot early on but a controversial loss to Wulan Tuolehazi in China, in a great bout that saw both being dropped, and he followed that up with a disappointingly messy bout against Alphoe Dagayloan. Whilst he defeated Dagayloan he suffered a cut that prevented him from fighting in a Japanese title eliminator, and miss out on a bout with Akui. He did manage to return to the ring in February but it's hard to know when he'll be back out there and who he'll be against. A talented boxer who can brawl and fight he's one of the division's most interesting hopefuls.
On the bubble:
Wenfeng Ge, Jayson Mama, Taku Kuwahara, Kento Hatanaka, Jaysever Abcede, Alphoe Dagayloan and Dave Apolinatio
*Kosei Tanaka has signalled his intention is to move up and fight at Super Flyweight so isn't included here.
Last week Chinese Flyweight Wulan Tuolehazi (13-3-1, 6) recorded his second defense of the WBA International Flyweight title, stopping Satoshi Tanaka. As we write this the awkward Chinese fighter is ranked highly by both the WBA and WBO and has scored several notable wins whilst extending a winning run to 8 straight victories. His competition might not be the top names in the Flyweight division but wins over OPBF champion Jayr Raquinel and the very promising Ryota Yamauchi, do show he has real momentum behind him. With that in mind he makes a perfect candidate for our latest "Five For...".
1-Kosei Tanaka (14-0, 8)
The Chinese fighter is clearly someone who will be looking to get a world title fight sooner, rather than later, and with a number of recent wins over Japanese fighters it makes sense for him to chase a Japanese world champion Kosei Tanaka. For Wulan the bout would be a massive step up in class, but it would give the 26 year old, yes we were surprised Wulan was so young as well, a chance to make his mark before he ends up picking up a loss. Tanaka didn't look great last time but would be expected to beat Tuolehazi, whilst Tuolehazi really couldn't have much more momentum coming it. This makes sense, and should see Wulan's team striking whilst the iron is hot!
2-Giemel Magramo (24-1, 20)
As well as Japanese fighters we've seen Wulan have success against Filipino fighters, and Giemel Magramo is arguably the best Filipino fighting at 112lbs. And Magramo has history with China, stopping Wenfeng Ge earlier this year. Both of these men are looking to get a world title bout and this would work as a fantastic eliminator between two men who are heading onwards and upwards. Technically it would be hard to favour Wulan, but we've said that in the past only to see him shock us and pick up the win against fighters we fancied beating him. Magramo would be the toughest test so far for Wulan, but Wulan would also be one of the biggest tests for Magramo so far. A fantastic match up.
3-Ronnie Baldonado (15-2-1, 9)
Another Filipino option for Wulan would be 23 year old Ronnie Baldonado, who is hovering in the world rankings. Baldonado has fought in China twice before, stopping the once touted Iwan Zoda in Beijing and stopping Yi Ming Ma, both in 2017 and has also shared the ring with Kosei Tanaka, giving Baldonado a direct comparison to the WBO champion in terms of result. Baldonado is, so far at least, not a proven world class combatant, but is a very tough and rugged guy who should expected Wulan well in a fairly competitive bout. This would be a good warm up before a potential world title eliminator, if Wulan's team feel he needs another bout at that type of level.
4-Mirco Martin (14-0-1, 6)
It may take real money to get Germany's Mirco Martin out of his based in Europe but that money may be worth it to get a win over the #2 WBO ranked fighter. Sadly fighting in Germany is a no-no against Martin who has quickly gained a reputation for getting some awfully suspect scorecards in his favour. The very limited 27 year old has received a "bit of luck" against Robert Onggocan, Atsushi Kakutani and Ernesto Irias, and it seems clear that whilst he's fighting at home he'll be protected by officials. On the other hand even the German officials will get fed up with him eventually. If Wulan's team couldn't get Mirco out of his homeland we wouldn't expect this bout, but if they can make him travel then this would be a relatively easy win for the Chinese contender.
5-Masayuki Kuroda (30-8-3, 16)
Sometimes the best way to prepare for a world title fight is to face someone in a similar situation and if Wulan's team could get a match with 2-time world title challenger Masayuki Kuroda that would certainly be a great idea. Kuroda looked brave in defeat earlier this year against Moruti Mthalane and although he came up very short against the South African he proved he could still go at world level. Wulan would have the edge in youth but Kuroda's experience could be the difference if the Chinese fighter isn't smart. Although suspect Wulan's team to be able to get home advantage there would also be the possibility of getting this on a neutral venue due to the Nitta gym's relationship in places like Vietnam. We feel this is a really interesting bout, and one we'd love to see.
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).