Uzbek duo making a splash in Malaysia and Singapore
Photo: Azizbek Abdugofurov is in red, Qudratillo Abduqaxorov in navy (source: Facebook)
Rian Scalia on a pair of Uzbek boxers based in Malaysia and Singapore who are looking to make a slash in the pro ranks...
The wave of fighters turning pro from former Soviet Union countries is sweeping across the boxing world. Malaysia and Singapore are the latest locations where two rising Uzbek boxers have based themselves.
The duo are being built up into major attractions quickly, due to their fighting abilities that are well past what boxers in the early stages of their pro careers usually possess, thanks in part to deep amateur pedigrees.
Their names are Qudratillo Abduqaxorov and Azizbek Abdugofurov. Don’t feel bad if you have trouble pronouncing their, but get used to seeing them and more of their compatriots in the professional ring in the future.
Hailing from Uzbekistan and based in Malaysia, manager Vikram Swapragasam has plans for the pair to be the flag bearers of boxing in Singapore and Malaysia.
“Between the two, Azizbek is the more experienced and has had over 250 amateur bouts, of which 150 ended by way of knockouts," Vikram tells Boxing Monthly. "All their lives they have been boxing and all they needed were some adjustments to pro boxing. Qudratillo on the other hand is technically much better than most of the pros I have seen. Hence I [have] matched them with opponents with way more experience.”
Azizbek is currently 3-0, while Qudratillo is 9-0. Both are scheduled to fight again on 10 February in Singapore, in 12 round fights against much more experienced opponents.
Azizbek was thrown into a twelve rounder in just his third fight, while Qudratillo was scheduled for ten in his fifth fight and went ten in his sixth bout, shortly after going the full 12 in his eighth fight.
The pair train in Malaysia but also spend time back home training with the Uzbekistan national team, which is a powerhouse in the amateurs - indeed the country topped the boxing medal count at the recent Olympic Games in Rio. Trained by Ilgar Aliev, who scouted them and brought them to Malaysia for Vikram, their maintained connection with the Uzbekistan Boxing Federation has been fruitful for both parties.
“I had the privilege of meeting both Azizbek and Qudratillo in an amateur competition in Malaysia," Vikram explains. "I have a good working relationship with the Uzbekistan Boxing Federation and hence have access to the incredible talents that they produce.
"On Ilgar’s recommendations I flew them both to Malaysia to compete in an event. Upon seeing firsthand their incredible talents I decided to make them my first signings."
Muhammad Ali fought Joe Bugner in Malaysia in 1975, but the country, along with Singapore, isn’t exactly a boxing hotbed. However Vikram is hoping that he can build boxing there with the two standout Uzbek boxers under his guidance.
“I have been a boxing fan as long as I can remember. There used to be a time in Malaysia that when Mike Tyson fought, folk took medical leaves to stay home and watch it and talk about it for the following days. As I had some success in my business, I decided to open my own boxing gym and hired Mr. Ilgar Aliev as my trainer.
"In time I developed my own amateur team in Malaysia, but the thrill of pro boxing was always at the back of my mind. After looking at some of the Uzbekistan boxers I realised that I could showcase their talents in the pros in Malaysia and develop pro boxing here.”
With a minimum of six boxing events scheduled for this year, Vikram and his company Cartel International Promotions have got the ball rolling. The region lacks the proper commissions to oversee pro boxing, but his hope is that the growth of the sport and his events promoting it will be enough to make positive developments.
“I hosted the first event in Malaysia in 40 years on 16 April 2016," he explained. "There are also a lot of boxing gyms in Singapore that promote boxing as well as a few promoters that are serious about making it a household sport again.
“The population speaks for itself. Unfortunately the professional set-up has not been developed. Malaysia and Singapore don’t have a boxing commission to oversee the proper implementation of pro boxing events and the welfare of pro boxers. The rest of the region has pro boxing politicised, but there are new emerging promoters who are eager to put Malaysia and Singapore on the world map through boxing. In my promotions I am trying to attract bigger names to this region.”
Looking ahead, if Qudratillo gets by Viktor Plotnykov on 10 February, he’s tentatively scheduled to contest the WBC Silver welterweight title against Charles Manyuchi on 25 March, also in Singapore. A win over the Zimbabwean would catapult the Uzbek up the WBC rankings, where Manyuchi is currently highly ranked at #4.
At 23 and 24 respectively, Qudratillo and Azizbek are poised for a promising future and so is Vikram and the rest of the boxing community in Singapore and Malaysia if things go according to plan.