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'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).