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The first of the 4 notable losses came back on July 24th when Japan's aggressive Daigo Higa (7-0, 7) became the first man to defeat Kongfah CP Freshmart (14-1, 8).
On paper this bout, for the WBC Youth Flyweight title, looked like a 50-50 contest between two really promising and unbeaten fighters. Higa getting the win was far from a shock, despite his inexperience, however the manner in which he did it was nothing short of sensational. He took the fight to Kongfah from the opening bell and refused to give the Thai the breathing room and space that he needed to work.
As mentioned this was a 50-50 bout, and we had been impressed with both fighters before this bout, but the expectation wasn't that Higa would simply beat up Kongfah as he did, eventually finishing the Thai off in the 7th round of a scheduled 10 round contest. The win put Higa on to the proverbial boxing map though it also showed that the home advantage of Thai's doesn't guarantee them a win, as is often assumed, and that by knocking out the local fighter there really is no way a visitor will be denied.
One thing to note is that this result seemed to tell the rest of the world that you can win in Thailand.
Exactly 3 weeks after Higa's win over Kongfah we saw another upset, this time a more notable one as Filipino Jestoni Autida (9-3, 4) stopped Ratchasak KKP (29-4-1, 14) in the 8th round of their bout.
This contest, back on August 14th, was supposed to be a routine win for the fringe level Ratchasak. The Thai had come to the attention of the boxing world last year when he twice dropped Rex Tso and appeared to have numerous key advantages over Autida. Strangely however there had been alarm bells coming in to this one that were ignored by everyone.
Those alarm bells had come from Autida's previous fights on the road, most notably a narrow decision defeat to Petch Sor Chitpattana, just 5 months earlier. Despite the close loss to Petch nobody had expected Autida to do what he did, which included out boxing the Thai and twice dropping him, forcing the referee to save Ratchasak after he tried to recover to his feet.
With the win Autida claimed a WBA regional title and may well have positioned himself for another good payday in Thailand. For Ratchasak however this will be hard to come back from.
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Exactly 2 weeks later we got an even bigger upset as the completely unheralded Jaysever Abcede (10-3, 6) scored an 11th round TKO win over former world title challenger Pigmy Kokietgym (57-8-2, 23).
Coming into the bout Pigmy was the #1 ranked Minimumweight with the WBO and was the 3rd highest contender with the IBF*. Our Thai sources had told us that he had been set to fight WBO champion Kosei Tanaka and that this bout was essentially a tune up bout.
Someone hadn't told Abcede that he was meant to be the tune up and instead the Filipino came to fight, and fought hard making Pigmy look second best through large portions of the fight. The more success the Filipino had the more we saw Pigmy become desperate and tired before a sweeping right hand in round 11 put the Thai veteran on to his back.
The supposed easy tune up bout turned into one of the biggest mistakes that Pigmy's team could possibly have made and their man is now looking at potentially retiring rather than having a third shot at a title. Sadly for Abcede the IBF didn't reward him with a ranking for his win over one of their contenders, though the WBO may do so.
Now, back to where we started, Iwan Zoda's win over Petchchorhae Kokietgym today, a week after Pigmy's loss.
This was actually the second meeting between the two men with Petchchorhae taking a hard fought win over the Indonesian teenager last year. In their first meeting Zoda showed real glimpses of natural ability but a lack of experience seemed to just hold him back.
Prior to the first bout between the two men Zoda had fought just once. This time however he had built up some experience, some confidence and some skills. Those skills proved to be too much for Petchchorhae who looked good early on but was slowly ground down by Zoda who scored a 12th round KO to avenge his sole loss.
The bout wasn't supposed to be competitive. The handlers of the Thai would have assumed their man would have done the double over Zoda, who hadn't scored a win of note between the two bouts with Petchchorhae. In the end however Zoda was simply too strong, too tough, too aggressive and too good for Petchchorhae, who looked like a fighter who had actually regressed from the first bout.
The best thing it could do for Thai boxing is force the match makers to change their attitude to the sport. These may be hits to their contenders and prospects but it'll serve them well and show what they need to work on in the future. Hopefully it will also lead to better match ups for their genuine contenders, such as Suriyan Sor Rungvisai who has been force fed a steady stream of weak opposition since losing to Shinsuke Yamanaka last year. Guys like Suriyan would develop much better from Nakornloung bringing in solid fighters and hopefully that will happen in the future.
The current run is unlikely to continue much longer but we've got to admit that we've enjoyed seeing fighters travel and fight to win and hopefully that will continue, win or lose. Boxing needs fighters coming to fight not just coming to make up the numbers, as fighters like Domi Nenokeba, Samuel Tehuayo, Boido Simanjuntak and Johan Wahyudi have done in recent years. Bouts with those guys have served little purpose to the men other than to notch up an easy win against an opponent unwilling to give a fight to the home guy.
All videos courtesy of the brilliant tko.in.th
*Pigmy was #5 ranked by the IBF who had the #1 and #2 spots vacant
**We did consider including Espinos Sabu's draw against Inthanon Sithchamuang on August 11th, despite the fact Sabu only got a draw. The reality however is that Sabu is another fighter who comes to win and gets our utmost respect for his attempts in the ring.