There was quite a bit of discussion among the website writers, rankings panel members, and other contributors on who should win this year's 'Male Fighter of the Year' award. However, the pair of victories Chingiz Allazov picked over the past twelve months were monumental enough to tip the scales in his favor.
At the end of 2022, Allazov's triumph over Sitthichai Sitsongpeenong in the finals of the ONE Featherweight (70 KG) World Grand Prix earned him the right to call himself one of the best fighters in the world, regardless of weight class, as well as revenge over one the few people who managed to beat him. Impressive as this was, the Azeri kickboxer surpassed all expectations the following year.
Allazov challenged Superbon Singha Mawynn, the reigning pound-for-pound king at the time, for the ONE Featherweight championship in January. Despite coming into the contest as an underdog, although with a fair chance to win, the challenger needed just slightly over four minutes to brutally stop the champion. The boxing prowess, power and aggressiveness were enough to make him one of the faces of kickboxing and made the Beyond Kickboxing rankings panel unanimously vote him as the best kickboxer active in the sport.
Eight months later, Allazov made his maiden defense against Marat Grigorian, the first man to knock him down and one of only five to ever beat him. Many were expecting the same dogfight the pair put on a decade prior, especially considering Grigorian's notorious pressure game, which gave 'Chinga' such trouble in the past. Allazov decided to once again subvert expectations however, clearly sweeping four of the five rounds and only losing the fifth and final round once he started to finally tire in the face a relentless challenger.
An incredible year – it's hard to imagine what Allazov would have to do in 2024 to exceed it.
Toki Tamaru missed out on winning the award by the slimmest of margins, with many writers and fans feeling his success this year had more than earned him the accolade. Overcoming the second-best man at in his weight class in Kazane Nagai, beating a pair of Muay Thai standouts in Petchsila Wor.Auracha and Kumandoi Petchyindee Academy, as well as avenging his prior loss to the pound-for-pound ranked Kazuki Osaki is nothing short of incredible. All this while coping with the pressure of taking part in the RISE World Series tournament and while bouncing back from a cold streak of fights which saw him win just once in four attempts.
He missed out on the award by a hair's breadth this year, but he is an early favorite to win it in 2024. As the southpaw technician has the speed and skill to take on most fighter at and around his weight, it'll be interesting to see what the future holds for the 21-year old.