By Marcus Bellinger-
This past weekend Wanheng Menayothin extended his long unbeaten record to 49-0 17 KOs with a 12 round unanimous decision versus Tatsuya Fukuhara in a fight which so could have easily gone the other way. The Japanese challenger set an insane pace from the off and managed to sustain it throughout but the open scoring after 8 rounds never gave him a chance of victory on points and the champion has displayed a good chin during his career.
The win gave the Thai his 8th defense of his WBC 105 lb crown and saw him equal Rocky Marciano’s record of 49-0 and put him one away from equalling Floyd Mayweather’s 5-0 resume. Joe Calzaghe finished with an undefeated slate of 46-0 and Rene Cesar Cuenca and Roman Gonzalez have all come close but fell before reaching the hurdle of 49 victories. The relevance of these statistics depends on how much stock you put in such numbers but it is at least a nice talking point and for Wanheng it gives him some notoriety that he or his weight class wouldn’t normally receive.
Like pretty much all Thai fighters Wanheng’s record is littered with journeymen and non-title bouts against debutants and boxers with multiple losses. After turning pro in January 2007 Wanheng was moved in to title action in just his third contest where he picked up the vacant WBC Youth minimumweight belt. Before contesting for his first world title he beat the likes of Ardin Diale, Florante Condes, Armando de la Cruz and Crison Omayao who were all decent regional level operators at the time.
Eventually the world title shot came in October 2014 when he gained home advantage against WBC strawweight champion Oswaldo Novoa. The Mexican had made 1 defence after dethroning China’s first ever world champion Xion Zhao Zhong via 5th round stoppage in February 2014 but couldn’t overcome Wanheng who broke him down in 9 rounds in what for large parts was a competitive scrap.
His world championship reign has been mixed with challengers Jeffrey Galero, Young Gil Bae and Go Odaira offering no real threat. His 9th round stoppage over Jerry Tomogdan looks slightly better now on paper as the Filipino went on to stop former world title challenger Rikku Kano in a bout for the WBO Asia Pacific strap.
His first real test came in August 2015 when he made a mandatory defense against Saul Juarez. The Mexican had mixed in good company having shared the ring with Milan Melindo, Jose Argumedo, Juan Hernandez and Adrian Hernandez amongst others. After the first 4 rounds were keenly contested Wanheng managed to pull away, even cruising the last couple of rounds to a unanimous decision which added some validity to his world championship status.
Then unbeaten Melvin Jerusalem gave Wanheng a real run for his money in their January meeting but again after a slow start the champion did just about enough to retain his title. The rough and tough Omari Kimweri was in the opposite corner 6 months later and was always likely to be an awkward obstacle. This proved to be the case early on as Wanheng was cut from a clash of heads but he used his extra class to pound out another unanimous points win.
At 32 which is considered old for a fighter in the lightest weight divisions a loss could come at any time as was the case when Thai great Pongsaklek Wonjongkam was shockingly knocked out by Sonny Boy Jaro back in March 2012. Next up is mandatory challenger Leroy Estrada and a win for the Thai would of course bring up a half century of victories. Just 6 KOs in 16 wins and a shaky chin don’t inspire much confidence of the Panamanian spoiling the party but who knows as with Sonny Boy Jaro he could be in the right place at the right time and his southpaw stance may also help him.
If Wanheng navigates his mandatory then unifications would be highly desirable but a lack of finances make it extremely inconceivable that a clash with countrymen and fellow belt holder Knockout CP Freshmart will come to fruition however, the extra cash that could be on offer in Japan could possibly see him take on other champions Hiroto Kyoguchi and Ryuya Yamanaka or exciting youngster Tsubasa Koura.
As well as the trio mentioned above the division also includes several other interesting fighters, such as-
"The Wonderfully Named"
The best name in the division, by a long way, is Knockout CP Freshmart (9-0, 5) who is the current WBA interim champion and a 24 year old who is tipped to become something a bit special by those in the know in Thailand. We've yet to be convinced but her certainly the perfect name for a boxing star and his style is certainly not a bad one to watch. He's expected back in the ring in early March to defend his title against Indonesian veteran Muahmmad Rachman (65-11-5, 35)
"The Notable Non-Asian"
The most notable non-Asian fighter in the division is, without a doubt, WBA and IBO champion Hekkie Budler (27-1, 9). Budler, a highly skilled South African fighter, is said to be a target for both Takayama and Knockout and has already scored wins over Asian fighters Pigmy Kokietgym (KO8) and Xiong Zhao Zhong (UD12). Our next chance to see Budler is this coming weekend when he battles against Mexican Jesus Silvestre (20-5, 22) in a very good looking WBA Mandatory title fight.
When we have some free time we're hoping to add a series of fun articles to the site. Hopefully these will be enjoyable little short features