By Corey Erdman
On Saturday night, three miles from Barclays Center where the majority of the boxing public set their eyes, three fighters with the looks of future dominant champions stepped into the ring at King’s Theater in Brooklyn.
While Adrien Broner was busy charming people into believing he’s the sport’s future leader, and consequently disappointing those people again, a pair of Uzbek standouts, Shakhram Giyasov and Murodjon Akhmadaliev, and Russian stablemate Batyr Ahmedov were busy actually looking the part.
Giyasov (welterweight), Akhmadaliev (featherweight) and Ahmedov (light welterweight) have only a combined seven professional fights between them, but all promise to be serious threats to the top names in their respective divisions within a short period of time.
The trio fight under Andrey Ryabinsky’s World Of Boxing banner, and are managed by Vadim Kornilov, a stable which also includes former heavyweight titleholder Alexander Povetkin and current light heavyweight titlist Dmitry Bivol. Ryabinsky and Kornilov don’t tend to make mistakes when choosing prospects. Not every fighter they handle or have ever handled have won world titles, but none have been complete duds.
It didn’t take a tremendous amount of scouting acumen to know that these three would make for good professionals. Giyasov won the silver medal at the 2016 Olympics at welterweight, and at the time of his professional turn, was ranked No. 1 in the world in his weight class. Akhmadaliev won bronze at the same games, while Ahmedov missed the podium while representing Turkey (Ivan Baranchyk represented Ukraine over him).
It’s evident that the three have no use for the requisite early career walkovers. Quite frankly, they won’t encounter opponents with the level of talent they were defeating months ago in the amateurs until they start facing Top 10 contenders. And they’re being moved accordingly. Ahmedov battered the 18-5-1 Oscar Barajas into submission on Saturday night to improve to 4-0. Akhmadaliev did the same with the 7-4-3 Carlos Gaston Suarez to improve to 2-0, while Giyasov took a lopsided decision over 24-10 Gabor Gorbics.
“We won everything possible in the amateurs. The Asian tournament is the toughest in the world. Our goal is belts. We want to move as fast as possible,” said Akhmadaliev through a translator. “We’re not going to take it easy on any of our opponents.”
All three fighters have their own stylistic nuances, but have the common trait of dazzling footwork. Ahmedov is particularly reminiscent of Vasyl Lomachenko and Oleksandr Usyk, given that he was schooled alongside them from an early age. His technical prowess has earned him the very on-the-nose nickname “Perfect Guy” at the Wild Card Gym. Giyasov is a self-described showman who first started boxing after watching Roy Jones Jr., and clearly hasn’t put those tapes away ever since. However, unlike many of the Jones clones that have come through the ranks over the years, Giyasov has the embedded boxing IQ to actually pull off a remarkable imitation. Akhmadaliev is the most blatantly aggressive of the bunch, drawing comparisons to Gennady Golovkin, with a ferocious body attack and a thirst for knockouts.
“I wanted to turn pro and make it in the United States, because it’s the mecca of boxing,” said Giyasov through a translator. “We got used to the lifestyle right away. But the training has been different. Joel Diaz has been showing us professional tactics that we didn’t know before. Everything is totally different. Culture is different, food is different, but we enjoy it a lot.”
Fighters like these three represent a particularly special era of prospects who walk the road paved by Lomachenko and Guillermo Rigondeaux. With the changes in amateur boxing over the past six years, which has included the removal of headgear, it’s less likely that we’ll see fighters having the number of amateur fights that they once did. Understandably, it’s not economically viable to take part in more non-headgear bouts than one actually has to. This generation of amateur stalwarts that are now turning pro started boxing in the previous era, and as much, have both amassed immense experience and been able to fine tune themselves for the pro game through the sport’s alterations more recently. As a result, we see fighters like Giyasov, Akhmadaliev and Ahmedov enter the pro ranks perfectly prepared to win titles within their first two years on the job.
These three in particular seem to be strategically positioned for stardom as well. Outside of the technical benefits of training with Joel Diaz in Indio, where all three train, simply being in California—which likely houses the highest concentration of boxing media in America—ensures their names will always be top of mind for boxing media consumers. In addition, the bets have been hedged, as World of Boxing’s partnership with Evander Holyfield’s The Real Deal Boxing in New York means many of their early fights will take place in the Big Apple, where the maxim states you go if you “really want to make it.”
The American boxing public has begun to embrace foreign fighters on its airwaves, as Lomachenko, Golovkin, Sergey Kovalev and others stand as the flag bearers for their respective home networks, so it’s not unfathomable that these three fighters could achieve the same level of appreciation. But whether they get the helping hand or not, early signs suggest that they are probably good enough to simply kick the doors down themselves.