By David Finger
There has been little question that upstart boxing management company MTK Global is set on establishing themselves as major players in the world of boxing. But it is their latest signings of four talented amateurs from Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan that could prove to be the company’s biggest coup of the year.
The most noteworthy is 2016 Olympic gold medalist Shakhobidin Zoirov of Uzbekistan, who left Rio as one of the hottest boxing prospects in the sport.
“I think within two years Zoirov will be one of bantamweight world champions,” commented MTK Global International Consultant Mike Altamura. “He’s 25-years of age. Very physically strong. Very seasoned. Very Great counterpuncher but he’s also very entertaining to watch. (He is) skillful but has the mentality to walk down fighters as well. I think he’s a very versatile fighter and I’d expect him to be at the elite level as a professional within ten fights.”
MTK Global also signed another hot prospect out of Uzbekistan in Hurshid Tojibaev. Tojibaev competed in the 2008 Olympics as well as the 2016 Olympics, and although he failed to medal in either Olympics, he did score an impressive victory over Joseph Cordina of the UK and also won bronze in the 2010 Asia Games.
“Tojibaev is turning 29-years of age in November so there is a little bit of a thought process that he may need to be fast tracked,” Altamura admitted. “(But) we’ll give him a little bit of time to adapt. He’s a very good counterpuncher as well. Very accurate. Very sharp. I think he’ll transition very well to the pro ranks. He’s another guy who I expect in a dozen fights to be competing at the absolute highest levels in the sport.”
Rounding off the series of signings were two amateur sensations from Kazakhstan: lightweight Sultan Zaurbek and Azhbenov Nurtas.
“Zaubek is a very fast counterpuncher,” Altamura said of the Kazak star. “He is a very good prospect coming into his own…very good puncher.”
Although Zaurbek has no Olympic experience he still is seen as a world class prospect thanks in part to his amateur pedigree. Zaurbek won a silver medal in the 2014 AIBA world youth championships as well as a gold medal in the 2014 Asian championships and a bronze medal the 2017 Islamic Games in Baku.
“He has a win over Robinson Conceicao who is an Olympic gold medalist,” Altamura added. “He’s got fantastic credentials and he’s still very young.”
The final prospect signed, Azhbenov Nurtas, also has an extensive amateur background of 247 fights.
“He’s a hellacious puncher,” Altamura added. “About seven or eight weeks before the 2016 Olympics he won a unanimous decision victory over (the eventual) Fazliddin Gabinazarov (the eventual) Olympic gold medalist at 64 kilos. He’s got unbelievable credentials and he’s going to be a real crowd pleasing fighter to watch in the pro ranks.
This recent move by MTK Global into Central Asia may prove to be the biggest post-Olympic coup of any management company since the 1984 Olympics. Many boxing insiders have started to recognize that Central Asia is a breeding ground for talented world class fighters with solid amateur pedigree who can successfully transition to the pro ranks.
“I think if you follow the amateur ranks and you look at the dominance of fighters from nations like Uzbekistan, from Kazakhstan…there is so much talent coming through.” Altamura added. “There is unbelievable amateur programs in place that churn out terrific fighters. I think you are going to see more athletes in these nations turning their eyes on the professional ranks. I certainly think this is a big statement on our behalf signing four of the hottest prospects in these two respective countries. Our title is MTK Global and the dedication of our team is to truly become a global company so we are open to any athletes from all over the world.”
Although the addition of Zoirov is seen as the biggest name signed by MTK this month, it was only the latest in a series of international acquisitions. Just a few weeks ago MTK Global moved into the West African market with the signing of Ghanaian lightweight contender George Ashie (28-4-1, 20 KOs). Ashie had gone into June having defeated Michael Mokoena of South Africa by way of twelve round majority decision to win the vacant WBO Africa lightweight title, a win that propelled him into the WBO world rankings at #15.
“I followed him a long time, he’s a humble warrior.” added Altamura. “Outside the ropes he’s a gentleman. I think he’s one of those guys in African boxing who is being overlooked. I see the potential in him.”
MTK Global has made inroads in Europe since it was founded by former middleweight contender Matthew Macklin. The company already represents Tyson Fury, Billy Joe Saunders, Liam Smith, Carl Frampton, and Michael Conlan. But the acquisition of Altamura as international consultant is part of a major effort to expand outside of Europe and into various emerging markets like Africa and Central Asia.
“More than anything I am really thrilled to be associated with a company that puts the athletes first,” Altamura said. “The core ideals are to take care of the athletes. I’m at the forefront of operations and at the moment we are working on a couple of different events in other markets that are totally untapped such as Ghana. In recent years I think MTK has made a massive statement in Europe. We have grown to be the largest management company in the world. But in the next twelve months there will be a lot of expansion and diversification. If we don’t have people’s attention now, we will in the next twelve months.”