Kanat Islam on the verge of becoming the latest Kazakh boxing sensation

It was about eight months ago that undefeated 154-pound prospects Kanat “The Kazak” Islam and Erickson “The Hammer” Lubin sparred in Florida for about 90 seconds before Islam suffered a cut over one of his eyes.

Kanat Islam

Kanat Islam pops Jonathan Batista with a jab during their fight on November 7. Islam, a rising talent in the 154-pound division, knocked out Batista in the first round to improve to 20-0. (Robert Sullivan/Premier Boxing Champions)

The brief session was enough for Lubin—a heavy-handed, rapidly rising prospect—and his team to gain respect for the little-known Islam.

“When they got out of the ring, ‘Hammer’ said, ‘Hey man, that guy hit me with a jab and a hook on my arm, and that’s the hardest I’ve ever been punched,” says Henry Rivalta, Lubin’s handler. “Kanat is a warrior fighter who lives, eats and sleeps the boxing gym.

“This guy is so far under the radar, but he has lead in his hands and an extensive amateur career. He cuts off the ring, he’s tactical, he punches like a mule and can bang you outta there. He’s a 154-pound prospect you want to keep people away from.”

Erickson Lubin (14-0, 10 KOs) supports Rivalta’s assertions, believing that he and Islam could one day battle for not just in-state supremacy, but a world title.

“I was doing a lot of boxing, making myself move, and he’s pretty solid,” says Lubin, a 20-year-old who turned pro as a high school senior with a 35-second knockout debut. “I was hitting Kanat with some good shots and landed a punch that cut his eye. If not for that, it would have been some really great sparring.

“I think of myself as one of the best in the junior middleweight division, and I think he’s one of the strongest.”

Kanat Islam (20-0, 17 KOs) will get a chance to prove as much to a national audience Sunday when he pursues his fifth straight knockout against Colombia’s Juan De Angel (18-3-1, 17 KOs). The scheduled 10-round clash headlines a Premier Boxing Champions card from the Lakeland Center in Lakeland, Florida (Bounce TV, 9 p.m. ET/PT).

It’s all about Triple G [Gennady Golovkin] in Kazakhstan right now, but Kanat is right behind him. Nelson Lopez Jr., manager for unbeaten 154-pound prospect Kanat Islam

Not only has Islam stopped five consecutive foes, but only one has taken him to the wire. (In addition to his 17 stoppage victories, Islam has won twice by disqualification.)

“I’ve been getting a lot of knockouts lately, but we’ve been working on my three-dimensional fighting,” Islam says. “For this next fight, I want to show that I can fight on the inside, I can be a good boxer. If that comes down to getting some rounds in, I can go the distance if I need to.”

A 31-year-old of Kazakhstan descent, Islam was born in China as Hanati Silamu and spent 25 years living there, winning a bronze medal for his home country in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. He also competed in the 2004 Athens Olympics. But in recent years Islam has become a fixture in Kazakhstan, where he lives when not in Florida prepping for fights.

“In Kazakhstan, Kanat is a very big name and he has thousands of people who follow him,” says manager Nelson Lopez Jr., whose father, Nelson Lopez Sr., trains Islam out of the Nelson Lopez Boxing Academy in Pahokee, Florida. “But Kanat has lived in Kazakhstan for the past six years since turning pro with us.”

Islam embraces comparisons to such Kazakh fighters as world champion Gennady Golovkin (160 pounds), former titleholders Vassiliy Jirov (200) and Beibet Shumenov (175), and undefeated 147-pound prospect Sergey Lipinets.

“They’re all like brothers, and Kanat really looks up to those guys,” says Nelson Lopez Jr. “It’s all about Triple G [Golovkin] in Kazakhstan right now, but Kanat is right behind him. We just need that extra exposure and that push. Hopefully, on Sunday, we’ll get it.”

Islam, who is coming off a first-round knockout of Jonathan Batista in November, has proven to be a very effective fighter at multiple divisions. He’s fought as high as 160 pounds, which was his weight in his fourth pro fight when he scored a first-round TKO of Nelsido Miguel Agramonte in October 2012.

His low mark is 149, which he fought at in April 2013 when he won a nine-round unanimous decision over Eduardo Flores, the only man to push Islam to the limit.

“Kanat can do 147 or 154 easily. He could even go up to 160 to fight Golovkin,” Nelson Lopez Sr. says. “If that were to happen, it would be one of the last fights that we would do. But it’s just a matter of time before Kanat becomes a superstar.”

For full coverage of Islam vs De Angel, visit our fight page.

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