One of boxing’s big stories over the past few years has been the emergence of stars from the former Soviet Bloc. While Ukrainian greats Wladimir and Vitali Klitschko were already trailblazers in this movement a generation ago, in recent years, it has become a full-blown trend. Kazakhstan native Gennady Golovkin and Russian Sergey Kovalev have become two of the sport’s biggest draws. The Siberian Rocky, Ruslan Provodnikov, is among the sport’s most popular sluggers. Ukrainian featherweight and Olympic legend Vasyl Lomachenko looks like a future pound-for-pound king.
Thursday night in Brooklyn, another hungry prospect looking to add his name to these conversations will make his U.S. debut, when Russian bantamweight Nikolay Potapov headlines Salita Promotions’ “Brooklyn Brawl” series.
Nikolay Potapov has been out of action all of this year, after ending 2014 with the biggest victory of his career, a near shutout of Jason Canoy last November. Potapov is an intelligent, pressure fighter with a very solid amateur background. Undefeated in 13 fights, with six KOs, he is already an arguable top-10 talent in the 118-pound division.
The WBC has ranked Nikolay Potapov No. 13 and the WBO puts him at 14. While the IBF doesn’t have him ranked in the top 15, they have Canoy at 11. Boxrec actually has Potapov all the way up at No. 8. I can see a decent argument for ranking him ahead of Rau’Shee Warren, who The Ring has slotted at No. 10 in the division.
Honestly, after the top five to eight fighters in any division, there’s usually another eight to 12 who could all potentially fill out the top 10. Nikolay Potapov’s undefeated record and victory over Canoy definitely puts him in that second tier of rising contenders and fading veterans.
He’s a very nice fighter for the roster of a young promotional organization like Salita Promotions. Run by former welterweight contender Dmitriy Salita, the promotion has consistently presented good, smaller cards in the New York City area, with a strong focus on Eastern European imports like Potapov. With Nikolay Potapov, they could have a potential world champion.