One of the biggest issues with boxing fans today is that they don’t tend to be aware of the busy Asian scene. This is due in part to the US based boxing media which seems to forget about anything east of Germany which is a real shame for fans who are forced to miss out on some of the best fighters on the planet and some of the most promising youngsters in world boxing.
Rather than try and introduce you to the top Asian fighters of today, some of which are certainly getting on in terms of years, I’ve decided to try and let you know about the top talent of tomorrow with small introductions on 5 young Asian fighters. These are the fighters you can consciously follow as they rise through the ranks from being novices to, hopefully, being professional champions.
Firstly I’ve got to speak about the best prospect in world boxing. Japanese youngster Naoya Inoue (3-0, 3) is a fighter who has gotten everyone in Japan very excited. He’s only 20 years old but is being tipped as the best Japanese fighter in a generation. Many may claim that was merely hype but from having watched him from his debut I can safely say that this kid is special.
On his debut Naoya looked like an experienced professional with poise rarely seen in fighter and in his second contest he landed a knockout punch compared to that of Sugar Ray Robinson’s over Gene Fullmer. In his most recent bout he completely dominated the experienced Yuki Sano and did things that were genuinely unreal. He was landing his jab at will, using a very educated hook to counter Sano and throwing long combinations that not only landed but looked completely natural.
Inoue’s 4th bout is scheduled for August 25th and he’ll be taking on the world ranked Ryoichi Taguchi in a battle for the Japanese title. This bout, which will be televised by Fuji TV in Japan, is likely to leave Inoue looking at a world title fight in just his 5th professional contest if comes out victious.
Whilst everyone knows that Japan has an amazing boxing history it’s often forgotten that Thailand has produced talented and often over-looked fighters ever since Pone Kingpetch became the countries first world champion back in 1960. Although the country has had some world famous names such as Pongsaklek Wonjongkam it’s often after a Thai has retired that his skills have been fully appreciated with the Galaxy brother’s being the perfect example.
One Thai that currently stands out as likely to join Pone, Pongsaklek and the Galaxy’s is youngster Jomthong Chuwattana (7-0, 4). Despite his inexperience as a professional boxer he was a top level Muay Thai fighter who has been fast tracked up the world rankings and is currently at #12 in the WBC’s Lightweight rankings.
Aged just 23 Jomthong has adapted well to professional boxing and has already claimed both the WBC Asia Council Continental Super Featherweight title and the prestigious OPBF title. It’s seems only a matter of time before he claims a world title at either Super Featherweight or Lightweight though I think he’ll probably be given another year or two to fully develop before moved up to world level.
Bob Arum, love him hate him, has been nice enough to bring big boxing shows to Macau and giving the Chinese market some major attention thanks to 2-time Olympian Zou Shiming. I think it’s fair to admit none of us really expect anything great from Shiming but his Chinese compatriot Ik Yang (13-0-0-1, 9) really does look like a potential star in the making.
Currently managed by Chauncey Welliver, the 28 year Yang is being given exposure in the US where his two most recent bouts were fought. Although neither of his US bouts were televised he has got everything needed to be a star in the US. He has a very American looking style which is very relaxed and loose and by all accounts he’s charismatic outside of the ring.
I’m expecting Yang’s US TV debut to occur before the end of the year and hopefully he’ll be moved up the rankings and towards a world title fight in the next 12 months. I’m certain the US fans would warm to him very quickly if they got to see him.
Not too far from Macau is Hong Kong, which like Macau is a “Special Administrative Region” of China. Hong Kong is not a country anyone links to boxing by default though thanks to “The Wonder Kid” Rex Tso (9-0, 6) this looks set to change and change quickly.
Tso has been a professional for less than 2 years but is already drawing well over 1,000 people to his fights including a certain Mr Ricky Hatton who co-promoted Tso’s fight with Timur Shailezov late last year. There was rumours that Hatton was going to sign Tso and help make him a star in both Hong Kong and in the UK though with Tso’s next bout taking place on a Bob Arum show in Macau there is a possibility that Arum has beaten Hatton to the signature of Tso.
The final youngster I want to make you aware of it a young Filipino. Of course Filipino fighters in recent have had more success than other Asian fighters in the US with the likes of Nonito Donaire and Manny Pacquiao both becoming stars, but not every Filipino is making their name stateside and one who perhaps should is “Prince” Albert Pagara (17-0, 12).
Aged just 19 Pagara is one of the few teenage prospects anywhere in the world that looks the complete package. He is highly talented, has an excellent jab, great speed, surprising power for a teenager most impressively a very mature boxing brain. His development, under the guidance of ALA Promotions has been exceptional and as long as they continue to work with him in the way they have so far he’ll be a superstar at home if not worldwide.
Of course there are many, many other Asian fighters emerging through the ranks, I’ve only selected 5 of them but if they can open your eyes to the wonderful world of Asian boxing then that is a success story in it’s self.