Ones To Watch 2018 Progress Update – overseas
At the end of 2017, Mark Butcher selected his ten overseas 'ones to watch' in 2018. As the new year enters its third month, we run through his selection again and catch up on how they are doing...
This year the criteria for 'one to watch' is a little different. Selected fighters must have participated in under 20 fights, cannot be rated in the Boxing Monthly World Top 10, nor hold a significant championship belt. Boxers in previous years’ ‘Ones To Watch’, like Michael Conlan, are naturally excluded.
NB: Fight records were correct at original time of writing, the 'update' section provides the latest news on each boxer...
Super-welterweight, (3-0, 3 KOs); Paris, France
The stiff-hitting Cissokho, from Paris’ 19th arrondissement on the right bank of the River Seine, earned a bronze captaining France at the Rio Olympics. Patient but powerful, Cissokho returned from a four-week training camp in America with trainer Virgil Hunter to topple the rangy Dmytro Semernin in the opening round in October. The Parisian has enjoyed Hunter’s meticulous approach and been concentrating on developing his bodywork. Considered to be in the shadow of Tony Yoka, Cissokho may emerge as the success story from the 2016 French Olympic squad dubbed ‘Team Solide’. “Tony Yoka is the headliner, but I think each of us has a story to build,” Cissokho, 26, told L’Equipe recently. “I intend to build my story.”
Update: Cissokho beat Spaniard Jose Manuel Lopez Clavero by seventh-round TKO in Paris on 16 December to advance to 4-0. This Saturday he faces unbeaten Mexican Daniel Vega Cota.
Vergil Ortiz Jr.
Super-lightweight, (8-0, 8 KOs); Grand Prairie, Texas, USA
Despite being a seven-time U.S. national champion boasting a 140-20 amateur slate, the heavy-handed Ortiz looks far more suited to the pros with his ceaseless pressure and impressive punch variety. Trainer Joel Diaz, not one for empty compliments, has gone as far as calling his charge, “The next superstar in the sport”. High-praise indeed but Ortiz has been flawless to date and is yet to greet the fourth round as a pro. The Golden Boy prospect looks far more seasoned than his 19 years though still has a tendency to load up a bit in his thirst for the knockout. Every punch is thrown with ‘bad intentions’ and Ortiz seems destined to achieve and entertain in equal measure.
Update: Now 9-0 after a 22 February victory against Jesus Alvarez Rodriguez via third-round TKO. Televised on ESPN, the win secured the vacant NABF Junior Super Lightweight title.
Featherweight, (9-0, 8 KOs); Carson, California via Ulan-Bator, Mongolia
A fan-friendly, offensive fighter with amateur polish, ‘King Tug’ is a methodical assassin in the ring, slowly breaking opponents’ hearts before finishing them with a sledgehammer right hand. Trained by Joe Goossen at the Ten Goose Gym in Van Nuys, after being inspired by that epic Corrales-Castillo I fight, Nyambayar is one of a number of PBC fighters who have struggled to obtain fight dates as part of the sizeable Al Haymon stable. Nonetheless, the decorated amateur, who won Olympic and World silver medals representing his native Mongolia, is on the brink of world title contention and recovered from an early knockdown to pound out a hard-fought decision over previously unbeaten Filipino Harmonito De La Torre in November.
Update: Unfortunately, 'King Tug' hasn't fought since November, and currently has no fight firmly scheduled.
Heavyweight, (2-0, 1 KO); Paris, France
A 6ft 7ins, Olympic Super-Heavyweight champion is, of course, worth his promotional weight in gold. Thoughts immediately turn to Anthony Joshua, Wladimir Klitschko and Lennox Lewis who used that top podium finish as a platform for grander things, but there’s always Audley Harrison as a cautionary tale. Yoka, 25, was perhaps fortunate to edge out Joe Joyce in their Olympic final, but is being groomed by Richard Schaefer’s Ringstar Sports and trainer Virgil Hunter to become France’s first ever world heavyweight champion. Schaefer bullishly believes Yoka will become a global star who will transcend the sport. That remains to be seen, but in the age of the super-heavyweight Yoka stands face-to-face with the ruling giants. With significant backing from French broadcaster Canal Plus, the Parisian could be the man to shift the heavyweight titles into new territory.
Update: Yoka beat Ali Baghouz in December to move to 3-0. However, this week it was reported that he has been handed a one-year suspended ban for missing three drugs tests. He is scheduled to face former French heavyweight champion Cyril Leonet in his next fight on 7 April.
Lightweight, (2-0, 2 KOs); Santa Maria, California, USA
After winning a multitude of accolades in a 175-9 amateur career, including four U.S. National championships and two Junior Olympic titles, promoter Richard Schaefer hailed Balderas as the most sought after prospect to emerge from the Rio Olympiad and potentially, ‘The king of LA boxing’. The Californian, 21, lost in the quarter-finals to Cuban Lazaro Alvarez but opted to turn pro despite U.S. coach Billy Walsh imploring him to wait for the Tokyo Games. Born Carlos Banderas, the Californian has lightning fast hands and effortless combinations, allied with a wicked left hook downstairs. A sky high talent with his feet on the ground, Balderas and older brother Jose used to sleep in a van before amateur tournaments to save money on hotel rooms. Supported by a tight knit family - including trainers David (uncle) and Zenon (father) Balderas - this red hot prospect is angling for a world crown within three years.
Update: Balderas has secured two more wins since this article was first published - defeating Carlos Flores by knockout in December, and Jorge Rojas Zacazontetl via four-round decision in February - a bout which was televised by Fox on the undercard of Devon Alexander vs Victor Ortiz.
Heavyweight, (2-0, 2 KOs); Zagreb, Croatia
The 6ft 6ins Hrgovic looks likely to eclipse Croatia’s last great heavyweight hope, the mohawked Zeljko Mavrovic, who gave Lennox Lewis a solid argument in a WBC title challenge in September 1998. An elite amateur with size and punch, Hrgovic earned bronze at the Rio Games (losing narrowly to former victim Tony Yoka) before turning pro with Sauerland Promotion. Hrgovic bombed out former Anthony Joshua foe Raphael Zumbano Love in a round on his debut before repeating the trick against unbeaten Czech Pavel Sour in his second fight. A 26-4 WSB record illustrates that Hrgovic is primed for the professional fast track. “[I] would love to see [Dillian] Whyte vs Hrgovic - in fact [I] would cover Hrgovic‘s purse so he would come for free!” tweeted promoter Kalle Sauerland in October, giving a measure of expectations.
Update: Two wins have been added to Hrgovic's record in the last few months, both on WBSS shows. On the undercard of Usyk vs Briedis the Croatian rampaged past Tom Little, while on the Smith vs Holzken card he was extended the full eight rounds by the magnificently nicknamed Sean 'Big Sexy' Turner, winning widely on points against the spirited Irishman.
Featherweight, (3-0, 1 KO); Newark, New Jersey, USA
With his innate charisma and flair, the precocious Stevenson captured the imagination at the Rio Olympics before falling just short in the final against gifted Cuban Robeisy Ramirez. The Newark southpaw took the defeat hard, crying in a post-fight interview, though his quest for a professional world title is unlikely to end in tears. The star potential matches the talent with octogenarian promoter Bob Arum making bold comparisons to Sugar Ray Leonard. That’s a sky-high bar of excellence, but the 20-year-old certainly has the ingredients to reach the upper echelons of the sport. Quick and skillful with a burning desire to ‘chase greatness’, the slick youngster sparred Vasyl Lomachenko in his training camp for Guillermo Rigondeaux and is being groomed for similar stardom in the lighter weights.
Update: Defeated Oscar Mendoza at the Madison Square Garden Theater on the 9 December Lomachenko vs Rigondeaux promotion, and then moved to 5-0 by winning all eight rounds against Juan Tapia on 16 February.
Middleweight, (6-0, 6 KOs); Montreal, Canada, via Paris, France
Another representative of the 2016 French Olympic squad, Mbilli, nicknamed ‘Le Solide’, is a hard-hitting middleweight set to make an impact. Unlike more celebrated team-mates Tony Yoka and Souleymane Cissokho, the compact Mbilli chose a different direction by signing with Yvon Michel’s GYM outfit in Montreal, an impassioned, French-speaking fight city. The former soldier has the high-octane offense to make inroads in boxing’s blue riband 160lbs division. Mbilli likes to mix it on the inside and unload bludgeoning shots from short range. Still only 22, the 5ft 8 1/2ins buzzsaw should be among the next generation of middleweights vying to take over in the post-Gennady Golovkin era.
Update: Secured win number seven (and stoppage number seven) against Robert Swierzbinski in December and returns to the ring in Montreal on 15 March against 'TBA'.
Super-flyweight, (2-0, 0 KOs); Kemerovo, Russia, via Bambakashat, Armenia
A hugely decorated amateur, the skillful Aloyan has projected himself into world title contention within two fights. His pedigree speaks for itself - two World amateur golds, one European gold and a bronze at the 2012 London Olympics with triumphs over the likes of Kal Yafai and Andrew Selby. A black mark is, of course, a positive test for Tuaminoheptane that saw ‘Misha’ stripped of flyweight silver in the Rio Games. Setting down an early marker, the Russian stylist debuted against former world title challenger Yader Cardoza who just two months earlier had dropped a hotly-debated split decision to Jamie Conlan. At 29-years-old, the well-schooled southpaw won’t be hanging around. Promoter Vladimir Hrunov is anticipating a world title shot inside a handful of fights.
Update: Defeated previously unbeaten Hermogenes Elizabeth Castillo in December over ten rounds for the vacant WBA International bantam title, but only via a somewhat odd split decision (100-90, 98-92 and 94-96). Aloyan defended this bauble and moved to 4-0 with a hard-fought victory against Alexander Espinoza in January, again via split decision.
Super-featherweight, (12-0, 11 KOs); Victorville, California, USA
The flashy ‘King Ry’ Garcia is one of Golden Boy Promotions’ great young hopes. Boasting a 215-15 amateur record, Garcia has exceptionally quick hands, natural timing and deceptive power. On the lively California boxing scene, Garcia has reportedly acquitted himself well in sparring with Vasyl Lomachenko and Jorge Linares, which has boosted his already fulsome confidence. The baby-faced Garcia, just 19, has the star quality to capture the imagination, but at a lofty 5ft 10ins needs to tighten up his defence with a chin-high approach to offence certain to be tested as he moves up in class. Garcia looks a sure-fire talent, but doesn’t need to be rushed unduly.
Update: TKO'd Noe Martinez Raygoza in December, and should be back in the ring in March, headlining a Golden Boy show in California over ten rounds against Fernando Vargas.