We continue to through the Asian rankings today as we look at the Lightweight division. The division is a relative weak one in Asia however and really is in a transitional state which we expect to see changing over the coming years. Thankfully it appears likely that the division will become a stronger one in the years to come.
1-Shuichiro Yoshino (12-0, 10)
With no world champion, or even former world champion, in the Lightweight division the #1 pick for the Asian scene is an easy one, Shuichiro Yoshino. The unbeaten Japanese fighter is a flawed but talented boxer puncher who has unified the JBC, OPBF and WBO Asia Pacific and is the #1 pretty much with out question here. Although Yoshino isn't the best pure boxer he is a real threat in the division and no one should take too many risks against. We have seen him score some sensational KO's already, including the brilliant one against Harmonito Dela Torre last year, and we expect big things form him. Although talented we have seen him being out boxed and there is a risk that he will run into someone who can take his power and will defeat him. So far, however, we've not seen anyone do that to him.
2-Valentine Hosokawa (25-7-3, 12)
A potentially controversial choice at #2 is Japanese veteran Valentine Hosokawa. The 39 year old is a former Japanese Light Welterweight champion who has moved down in weight and looks stronger than ever. Although he has 7 losses to his name they include defeats to the likes of Koki Inoue, Shinya Iwabuchi and Min Wook Kim. Hosokawa has aged like fine wine in recent years and despite being 39 he may be at best. Powerful, with great stamina, an aggressive mentality and with more bang on his punch than his record suggests he's a very hard fighter to beat and we suspect he has the potential to really shine now that he's not giving away natural size at 140lbs.
3-Yongqiang Yang (13-0, 10)
Unbeaten Chinese hopeful Yongqiang Yang has quickly risen through the ranks without getting much attention. He was supposed to face Masayuki Ito in China earlier this year, before the situation in China forced the show to be cancelled. Although certainly not a big name or a high profile fighter Yang has notched a string of respectable wins recently, beating Takuya Watanabe, Harmonito Dela Torre, Ernie Sanchez and JR Magboo in his last 4. Yang is a solid boxer-puncher, he's very strong and powerful, and at just 27 he's still getting better and getting stronger. Yang has only been a professional since 2016 but he is certainly already on the fringes of a legitimate world ranking.
4-Romero Duno (22-2, 17)
Hard hitting Filipino Romero Duno is a pretty well known 24 year old who has been fighting in the US frequently in the last few years. Duno made a big impact on his US debut in 2017, when he stopped the touted Christian Gonzalez, and since then score some decent wins over the likes of Juan Antonio Rodriguez. Sadly for Duno his rise through the ranks took a huge hit last year when he was stopped inside a round by Ryan Garcia. Duno can box, he can punch and he is a dangerman, though the loss to Garcia certainly showed him to be a clear level below world class, and he did look very slow in the bout. We suspect he'll be a gatekeeper going forward, but with his power he'll always be a risky opponent and someone who prospects will see as a solid test. A beatable. but solid test.
5-Ravshanbek Umurzakov (10-1, 7)
It's really hard to know where Uzbek hopeful Ravshanbek Umurzakov stands right now. The 26 year old looked like he was going to be moved quickly towards big things after early career wins over Eden Sonsona, Rimar Metuda and Roldan Aldea. Sadly however back in January we saw Umurzakov being stopped in 7 rounds by Esneiker Correa. That loss to Correa was a bad one for Umurzakov who took a lot of punishment and had his defensive flaws shown up time and time again. Although talented he really does have a lot of work to do before moving onwards and upwards. He's more proven than many fighters on this list, but the loss to Correa is going to loom his head for quite some time.
6-Elnur Abduraimov (5-0, 5)
Staying with Uzbek fighters Elnur Abduraimov is certainly worthy of some attention. The 25 year old would rank above his compatriot had it not been for the stop-start nature of his career so far. Abduraimov made his debut in September 2018 and fought 3 times by the end of the year. Sadly he only fought twice in 2019, with his last fight coming in May, when he stopped Issa Nampepeche in 4 rounds. Talented, explosive, heavy handed and very promising we're really hoping to see more of Abduraimov, but it seems like he'll not fully commit to the professional ranks until after the Olympics, so it could be a while before we really see what he can do.
7-Viktor Kotochigov (11-0, 4)
Another hard fighter to place is 26 year old Kazakh Viktor Kotochigov. The well travelled Kazakh, who has been a professional since December 2015, has shown some real promise, with wins over Piotr Gudel, Jairo Lopez and Javier Jose Clavero. Whilst clearly a talented fighter Kotochigov does have a knack of fighting within himself and there is a worry he'll never be able to find that extra gear that he'll need to make a mark on the world stage. He's a talented boxer but also has question marks remaining over his power, and we've yet to see him go in against someone with hunger and power. It would be nice to see him tested when the sport resumes, but in reality we suspect we'll see him being given some easy bouts when the sport continues.
8-Ju Wu (9-0-2, 2)
Chinese boxer Ju Wu is another of those less known fighters who has quietly gone about things and made his name without too much of a fuss. The 20 year old southpaw drew 2 of his first 3 but has won his last 8 bouts including wins over Adones Aguelo, Rimar Metuds and Alain Chervet, with the win over Chervet coming last December in Switzerland. Although not a puncher Wu is a genuine talent, a very good boxer, a very smart fighter and a young man who is still some time from developing his man strength.
9-Shu Utsuki (6-0, 5)
Whilst Yoshino is the divisional king of Japan it's hard to not mention Shu Utsuki, who is 26 years old and looks like a star in the making. He's a former Japanese amateur standout who turned professional in 2018 and scored notable wins over Jerry Castroverde and Omrri Bolivar last year. He's not as polished as some of the man ranked above him, but with 24 rounds to his name, nasty past, good movement and tight defense it's hard not to get excited about him. We were expecting a big 2020 for him, but it seems unlikely that we'll see too much from him now, but 2021 could be a huge year for the man from the Watanabe gym.
10-Izuki Tomioka (7-3-1, 2)
With 3 losses to his name Izuki Tomioka looks a little out of place here, but the reality is that no one has had an easy time with him. His first loss came against Masayoshi Nakatani, in 11 rounds, his second was a razor thin split decision to Shuya Masaki and he was stopped earlier this year by Shuichiro Yoshino, whilst in the lead on the cards. Despite those losses Tomioka is only 23 years old, he's developing and he's maturing and as he matures we suspect he'll manage to toughen up and become a very good fighter. Head to head he could certainly hold his own, if not beat, men ranked well above him, but his results and set backs have really dragged him down the rankings here.
On the bubble:
Xiang Xiang Sun, Apichet Petchmanee, Abdurasul Ismoilov, Kaiki Yuba and Masanori Rikiishi
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).