Asian Scene special: ones to watch 2019
Photo: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images
Marcus Bellinger brings us his annual Asian Scene special in which he guides us through five fighters from the continent to look out for in 2019...
1. Murodjon Akhmadaliev, 5-0 (4 KOs), Uzbekistan (pictured left)
Super bantamweight Akhmadaliev actually featured in a ones to watch Olympic special just before the Rio games where he picked up a bronze medal at bantamweight, losing to the phenomenal Robeisy Ramirez who went on to claim gold. A victory at home in the Asian Championships in 2017 added to his silvers at the 2015 World and Asian Championships, silver at the 2012 World Youth Championships and two national titles. Akhmadaliev also finished with a 3-2 record in the World Series of Boxing.
After bowing out in the early stages of the 2017 World Championships in Hamburg, the 24-year-old turned pro in March 2018. Trained by Joel Diaz and signed to World of Boxing, which was founded by Russian Andriy Ryabinskiy with well-known manager Vadim Kornilov running the day-to-day operations, Akhmadaliev raced to 3-0 before fighting for a minor super bantamweight bauble in just his fourth pro bout. Ramon Contreras, the man in the opposite corner was blown away inside a round in August 2018 and it was clear the Uzbek was on the fast track.
Three months later Akhmadaliev was the co-main event to the light heavyweight title clash between Dmitry Bivol and Jean Pascal and featuring on one of the last HBO boxing broadcasts. He took on world ranked Isaac Zarate, who had previously never been stopped, but Akhmadaliev broke him down in nine rounds.
Akhmadaliev combines solid boxing fundamentals with an all action aggressive style which should be pleasing to many fans. He is already number 1 contender for WBA 122lbs champion Daniel Roman but ideally he needs one or two more fights before tackling the excellent American. However, make no mistake - the exciting southpaw will give fans their money’s worth throughout his career.
2. Sadriddin Akhmedov, 6-0 (6 KOs), Kazakhstan
On first viewing it was plainly obvious that this young man possessed every ingredient to be a superstar in the professional ranks. Of course he had the excellent amateur schooling which is synonymous with boxers from his homeland but Akhmedov also has dynamite in both fists and the killer instinct to match.
A double national youth champion in 2015 and 2016, Akhmedov’s first big breakthrough came at the 2016 World Youth Championships in St Petersburg, Russia where he pounded his way to welterweight gold. With fierce competition for places in his division at senior level with the likes of Ablaikhan Zhussupov and Aslambek Shymbergenov ahead of him, Akhmedov’s opportunities would have probably been limited so he elected to turn professional, signing with Canadian-based outfit Eye of the Tiger Management.
Since making his debut in April 2018, Akhmedov has been kept extremely active, fighting nearly once a month. The Kazakh has only fought a combined 11 rounds in six fights though, with round five the furthest he has been extended so far. At just 20 years of age regular bouts and top sparring in the gym should be the way forward for him.
Akhmedov's next appearance is set for 26 January against Abraham Juarez for a minor youth light middleweight trinket and given his age there should be no rush with him at all, but due to his high ceiling there may come a point where he simply has to be let off the leash.
3. Ryota Yamauchi, 4-0 (4 KOs), Japan
Japan has a rich history at flyweight. In recent times we’ve seen Akira Yaegashi, Kazuto Ioka and Daigo Higa all pick up world titles at 112lbs and Yamauchi is the next cab off the rank aiming to continue the tradition of top flyweights from the land of the rising sun.
The 23-year-old finished with an amateur record of 38-15 (14 KOs) and impressed at under-15 level, competing with the likes of Takuma Inoue along the way. He signed with the respected Tokyo-based Kadoebi Gym and made his professional debut in June 2017. His second bout six months later drew much interest as he took on former OPBF title challenger and Ken Shiro opponent Lester Abutan. Abutan was a high risk foe for someone so early on in their pro career but Yamauchi fought a smart fight, avoiding the big swings of the Filipino before knocking him out in round four and making a real statement in the process.
In the ring Yamauchi has excellent foot work, a vicious left hook to the body and a patient demeanour which allows him to pick his spots when appropriate. Only having two bouts in 2018 was a disappointment but a domestic or regional belt should be the minimum expectations for 2019 before assessing how far away world title ambitions are.
You can watch Yamauchi’s display against Abutan here
4. Israil Madrimov, 1-0 (1 KO), Uzbekistan
Fast tracking has become more and more common in recent times with many top-flight amateurs and Japanese youngsters moved quickly through to world title tilts and it seems that Madrimov is yet another boxer following the same trend. The 23-year-old fought for a minor light-middleweight belt on his professional debut on the same November 2018 show as Dmitry Bivol’s light heavyweight title defence against Jean Pascal. Vladimir Hernandez was the opposition and after scoring an early knockdown, Madrimov saw off the Mexican in six rounds and even found time to try out a switch in stance.
As an amateur Madrimov claimed welterweight silver medals at the 2013 Asian Youth Championships, 2014 Asian Games and national championships. A move up to middleweight saw him go one better at the Uzbek championships in 2016 and he also won gold at the 2017 Asian Championships in Tashkent. He finished with a 5-1 WSB record and had some terrific tussles with quality Cuban Arlen Lopez and classy Kazakh Abilkhan Amankul. He was on the wrong end of a poor decision at the 2017 World Championships but Asian Games gold in 2018 provided a fitting climax to his amateur career.
Madrimov is a very fluid boxer in the ring, preferring to fight in bursts and when in full flow it really is a beautiful sight to behold. In the same World of Boxing stable as Akhmadaliev and also trained by Joel Diaz the sky’s the limit for Madrimov and we should expect him to challenge for a world title in just a handful of fights.
5. Vikas Krishan, 0-0, India
After a disastrous Rio Olympics we’ve seen a dramatic upturn in fortunes for India’s amateur boxers with numerous medals being won at both men’s and women’s major tournaments, with the formation of the BFI (Boxing Federation of India) being a major contributing factor. Professional boxing in the country has, however, been heavily reliant on Vijender Singh who unfortunately didn’t fight at all in 2018. However both Singh and Krishan have been signed by Top Rank with the US promotional powerhouse having a desire to enter the Indian market in the near future.
Krishan opens his professional account on 18 January in Verona New York in a six-round contest versus Steven Andrade. The 26-year-old middleweight had a glittering amateur career, winning Commonwealth gold in 2018, silver at the 2015 Asian Championships and bronze in 2017, three national titles, a gold and two bronze medals at the Asian Games, a World Championship Bronze from 2011, Youth Olympics bronze and World and Asian Youth gold.
Krishan enjoys working the body and possesses an excellent uppercut, but does have a tendency to coast through bouts at times. However his style should translate to the professional side of the sport.