A little cheating in this post for a few reasons. One – as a highly ranked contender for all four major sanctioning organizations as well as a spot in the top 10 in Ring Magazine’s ratings, it would be incorrect to label this 28-year old sharpshooter a “prospect.” Two – while ringwalkNIPPON focuses on the boxing scene in Japan, the fighter we will look at is no longer based in the land of the rising sun. However, aside from his last bout in December, this undefeated former amateur champion fought his entire professional career in Japan. As WBC Bantamweight champion Hozumi Hasegawa recently stated that he intends to continue at the 118lb division, I felt it more than appropriate to take a look at one of his possible opponents.
Sasha Bakhtin vs. Hidenobu Honda Part 2
(Click here for part 1)
Currently ranked #3 by the WBC, #6 by the WBA & IBF, and #14 by the WBO, former OPBF & Japan Bantamweight champion Sasha Bakhtin (Boxrec: Alexander Bakhtin) is a pristine 24-0 with 11KO. Also rated at #10 by The Ring Magazine, the lanky 5’7’ native of Balashikha, Russia, is touted for his tight defense and a jab that he shoots out like an automatic weapon as described on wikipedia.
While only a few of Bakhtin’s fights are available on youtube and dailymotion, it is apparent that he commands a superior set of skills and uses a good variety of punches to dominate his opponents. Ring generalship and a cool demeanor are perhaps two of his best traits, and a look at his record shows many one-sided unanimous decisions (though I thought Bakhtin/Minoriyama II was a lot closer than scores would suggest). His lead left hand is low, and while his jab is not the Tommy Hearns-type flicker jab, the low angle from which it is thrown, as well as the sniper-like accuracy at which is delivered, provides Bakhtin with a very powerful weapon. At his best, he will fire the jab and his wide arsenal of power shots from a variety of angles. Somewhat flat-footed and susceptible to body shots, I found myself wondering why he is so hard to hit. However, that must have been the same question each of his 22 opponents has asked themselves.
Bakhtin came to Japan after a spectacular amateur career that resulted in a 130-4 record with 60RSC, and included a European Youth title. Initially joining Japanese powerhouse Kyoei Gym, the home of Takefumi Sakata and, formerly, Koki Kameda, he debuted at Korakuen Hall at the age of 19. His second fight was a close UD over Pone Saengmorakot (22-4), who had faced (and lost against) WBC Super Flyweight champion In-Joo Cho, future Super Flyweight champ Masamori Tokuyama, and two-weight world title holder Gerry Penalosa. Winning the Japan title in only his seventh pro bout, Bakhtin defended it for a record 9 times.
That record could have been extended much longer, however, while cool in the ring, he may not have been so outside it as he was stripped of the title for his involvement in an incident that took place in Tokyo’s famed entertainment district, Roppongi. The case was resolved without criminal charges but resulted in a 16-month blank, during which Kyoei Gym voided their contract with the fighter (only to sign him back in April 2007).
Returning to the ring in July 2007, Bakhtin faced former OPBF champion and world title challenger Jesse Maca. The shopworn Filipino had been relegated to the status of “name opponent” and Bakhtin took advantage of his youth and skills in ending the fight in the 8th round by TKO. The next biggest challenge he would face, at least on paper, would be Gerson Guerrero, who is set to face Nonito Donaire next month. Though owning a 1999 victory over Super Flyweight stud Hugo Cazares, Guerrero had typically fallen flat against top competition, losing to Mauricio Pastrana, Cristian Mijares and Daniel Ponce de Leon. His outing with Bakhtin was lackluster and resulted in scores of 100-91 (twice) & 99-91.
The Russian sharpshooter then captured the OPBF Bantamweight crown in his next fight against Sung-Kook Kim. However, within a month of that fight, Bakhtin parted ways with Kyoei and joined Okinawa World Ring Gym in January 2009. While I was unable to find details on reasons for changing gyms, it may have been just one of the visible signs that Bakhtin would eventually leave Japan all together. That is exactly what he did after defending the OPBF title once – a TKO over Richard Samosir in July. The next time we would see Bakhtin would be on Christmas Day in Moscow with the now former champ forcing a corner retirement against a 6-3 fighter.
I imagine that many of Bakhtin’s fans and supporters in Japan were disappointed by his departure. Boxing Magazine reported in its 2010 World Boxing Perfect Guide that the Russian had vacated the OPBF title and his future plans were unknown.
Earlier this month, Fightnews.com posted a presser that stated Bakhtin will face Nick Otieno (20-4, 9KO) in a WBC title eliminator “semifinal” in Izhevsk, Russia, on February 22. As Hasegawa is planning to fight in April, that would seem to rule Bakhtin out as his next opponent. Even if they do not meet for the champion’s next defense, I am sure I am not alone in saying that a showdown between Hasegawa and Bakhtin is a fight that would be very welcome. That card has much more appeal than Hasegawa/Vetyaka II.
It will be interesting to see if the move back to Russia will be beneficial to the young technician. Bakhtin had voiced frustration in the progress of his career while in Japan, as a chance at a world title had never materialized despite some media buildup. Now out of the country, he is no longer restricted to the WBC and WBA (as the only two sanctioning organizations recognized by Japan), and has already doubled the possibility for a world title fight. If he persists on targeting the green belt, we will have to see if the WBC keeps its word and installs him as a mandatory should Bakhtin win both the semi-final and title eliminator (wonder who that would be against…).
Nonetheless, for fight fans, this has expanded the number of intriguing match-ups for the Russian sniper. Bakhtin versus IBF title holder Yonnhy Perez would be an interesting fight, as would a meeting with WBO champ Fernando Montiel (who would probably be too much for him at this stage), or a clash with young Filipino bomber AJ Banal.
The fight I would like to see the most, however, is with former Mexican Olympian and fellow undefeated contender Abner Mares. While Mares is tentatively scheduled to challenge Perez for the IBF title in May, a bout with Bakhtin would be a great show of young, skilled pugilists defending their “0.” Both fighters had extensive amateur careers that have translated to polished skills in the professional ring. Both have a smooth style underlying their cool demeanor. Both are very accurate with their punches.
I would slightly favor the Hawaiian Gardens resident as I can see Mares wearing Bakhtin down by going at his midsection and being effective in using the Russian’s low left hand against him. In addition, while Bakhtin has been more aggressive recently, Mares has more pop in his punch. Moreover, as Ryuichi Minoriyama showed in his first two fights with the former Japan title holder, speed can be effective against the less mobile Bakhtin, and Mares has great hand speed and is able to move around the ring well enough.
Whether or not Bakhtin ever faces any of the boxers mentioned above, let’s hope that his career unfolds in events where we can watch him fight. It would be a shame if the skilled technician continues to be stuck in purgatory away from higher profile bouts.
*Posts from Fightwriter.com also consulted for content for this post.