With 2018 coming to a close we're already excited about the coming year and what the sport may have in store for us in 2019. Here we look at 5 potential bouts involving Asian fighters at world level, we'll be doing a similar article at Oriental/Asia Pacific level in the coming days.
Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (47-4-1, 41) Vs Kal Yafai (25-0, 15)
The Super Flyweight division is one of the most packed at the moment, with a good handful of fighters who could all mix in some interesting fights. Among those possible fights is a WBC/WBA unification bout that would pit Asia Vs the UK. The match up in question would see murderous puncher Srisaket Sor Rungvisai take on unbeaten boxer Kal Yafai, in a bout that could go some way towards sorting out the division.
In theory it's not the out and out best bout the division could give us, or even the most obvious, but we would love to see this bout, and suspect it could end what has been a poor reign from the Englishman. It would also leave Juan Francisco Estrada available to have a long awaited rematch with Roman Gonzalez and a potential WBO/IBF unification with the winner of Donnie Nietes Vs Kazuto Ioka taking on Jerwin Ancajas.
Wanheng Menayothin (52-0, 18) Vs Tsubasa Koura (14-0, 9)
The Minimumweight division is particularly exciting right now with a lot of young talent emerging to challenge the champions at the top of the division. The longest reigning champion in the sport right now is Thailand's unbeaten Wanheng Menayothin, who has held the WBC Minimumweight title since November 2014 and already ran up 10 defenses. One of the most promising of the emerging contenders is Japan's Tsubasa Koura, who is exciting, skilled, hard hitting and one of the brightest youngsters in Japan.
This bout has been mooted for Spring 2019, and seems almost certainly a done deal to our understanding. It would be a big step up in class for Koura but he's really looked tremendous so far and if he can lure Wanheng to Japan he has a great chance. For Wanheng it'd be another bout against a young upstart, but one that could see him silencing more of his doubters and further extending his impressive unbeaten record.
Tomoki Kameda (36-2, 20) Vs Shingo Wake (25-5-2, 17)
Back in November Tomoki Kameda claimed the WBC "interim" Super Bantamweight title, he's expected to face "regular" champion Rey Vargas in 2019, however there is some talk that bout may not be next for either man, with Vargas expected to face WBA champion Daniel Roman. If that happens it could open the door for Kameda to defend the interim title before facing Vargas. There's one man who has been very public about fighting him, and that's Shingo Wake, who has publicly called Kameda out, a number of times.
If this All Japanese Super Bantamweight clash was made it would pit two skilled fighters against each other in a mouth watering bout that could end up deciding the #1 Japanese fighter in the division, though Ryosuke Iwasa and Yukinori Oguni could also involve themselves in that argument. It would however have to wait until late Spring given that Wake will be fighting on January 19th and would need time to prepare for Kameda, who doesn't seem to have been excited about facing Wake in the past.
Vic Saludar (18-3, 10) Vs Masataka Taniguchi (11-2, 7)
Filipino fighter Vic Saludar travelled to Japan earlier this year to rip the WBO Minimumweight title from the hands of Ryuya Yamanaka, and sadly retired Yamanaka in the process. A return to Japan to defend the title against Masataka Taniguchi would be a potential FOTY candidate with Saludar and Taniguchi both being heavy handed fighters, with solid boxing skills, a good amateur pedigree and exciting, free flowing attacking styles. It's rare to get two solid punchers up against each other at 105lbs and this bout would give us just that.
This bout had been rumoured for New Year's Eve but didn't come off, it could however end up taking place in 2019, with Taniguchi having won the WBO Asia Pacific title since the bout was first rumoured. This could be put on a bumper card in the Golden Week and would make for a great supporting world title bout.
Angel Acosta (19-1, 19) Vs Jonathan Taconing (28-3-1, 22)
It's hard to say what the best bout possible to make at Light Flyweight really is, with a number of match ups that could end up being FOTY contenders featuring many of the top fighters in the division. Not only are there a lot of fantastic fighters at 108lbs but there are a lot that stylistically match up for great fights. One such fight would see WBO world champion Angel Acosta taking on Filipino slugger Jonathan Taconing, who would be getting his third world title fight. This wouldn't be a mega skilled bout, but would be ultra exciting, with both being heavy handed, tough, and having solid stamina.
On paper this is a real possibility, given that Taconing is ranked #2 by the WBO, though Acosta is pencilled in to make a mandatory defense against Ryuji Hara in Spring. If the bout takes place in Summer 2019 then we'd be ecstatic and looking forward to some real unbridled violence. This really would be something special, though either man could be replace with Felix Alvarado, Carlos Canizales, Hiroto Kyoguchi or Christian Araneta and we'd still get a very special bout!
Earlier today WBC Minimumweight champion Wanheng Menayothin (51-0, 18) [วันเฮง ไก่ย่างห้าดาวยิม], aka Chayaphon Moonsri, recorded his 10th world title defense and moved ahead of Floyd Mayweather Jr in regards to unbeaten records. In fact if Wanheng retired later this week he would have the most statistically impressive record of any unbeaten world champion, but what does 51-0 actually mean? How impressive is Wanheng's unbeaten record? And what value do we get from digging into the numbers?
The Thai made his debut way back in January 2007, beating fellow debutant Roel Gade of the Philippines. At the time Wanheng was 21 years old and not someone who was immediately tipped as being a future boxing success. Despite that it wouldn't take long for Menayothin to claim his first title, winning the WBC Youth Minimumweight title just 2 months later, in his third bout, by stopping Yiming Ma of China.
Wanheng's reign as the Youth champion followed a similar reign from countryman from Oleydong Sithsamerchai, aka Kittipong Jaigrajang, who made 16 defences between October 2002 and August 2006.
As the Youth champion Wanheng would record 8 defenses, winning the title in March 2007 and making his final defense in October 2009. Those defenses included wins against a number of novices as well as decent Filipino fighters like Armando de la Cruz and Ardin Diale.
Wanheng second professional title was the interim WBC International Minimumweight title, which he won against Jayson Rotoni in December and defended twice before winning the WBC International silver title, defending that 3 times between January 2011 and September 2011. It was whilst defending that title that Wanheng would record his first victory over a former world champion, defeating former IBF king Florante Condes in June 2011.
The full version of the WBC International Minimumweight title was the next for Wanheng to claim, in November 2011, and he would hold that title for several years whilst building up his unbeaten record and edging up the WBC rankings.
In 2014 he had become the WBC mandatory challenger, and was waiting for a world title shot. By the end of his waiting period he was 35-0 (11) and was securing a long awaited shot as WBC king Oswaldo Novoa, who had upset Xiong Zhao Zhong for the belt in China and recorded his first defense, stopping Alcides Martinez. Despite being the challenger Wanheng seemed to be the boss for the most part, before stopping Novoa in the 9th round to claim the WBC Minimumweight title, a title he still holds now, almost 4 years later.
As a champion Wanheng's reign has been a mixed back. Hisfirst two defenses came against Filipino challengers Jeffrey Galero and Jerry Tomogdan, neither of which really seemed like suitable challengers. The gutsy Galero lasted 12 rounds before losing a decision whilst Tomogdan was stopped in 9 rounds.
Following those bouts was a stay busy contest, something we often see Thai's take part in with greats like Pongsaklek Wonjongkam fighting in them to stay sharp and keep a pay cheque coming in, against Ardi Buyung. Just a month later he would record his third defense, stopping Korean puncher Young Gil Bae in 9 rounds. Next was Japanese challenger Go Odaira, who lasted less than 5 complete rounds with the Thai.
Another stay busy bout, this time against Edo Anggoro, allowed Wanheng to tune his skills before a mandatory defense in August 2016 against talented Mexican Saul Juarez. Juarez was competitive through out but was out pointed over the 12 round distance.
Following the mandatory against Juarez was another stay busy in December 2016 against Silem Serang. The next month Wanheng would score his 6th defense, narrowing over-coming the hungry Melvin Jerusalem. That was the start of a busy year for the Thai who would fight stay busy bouts in March, against Jaysever Abcede, and August, against Jack Amisa, as well as world title defenses against Omari Kimweri in June and former WBO champion Tatsuya Fukuhara in November.
To begin 2018 Wanheng would make a mandatory defense against Panamanian youngster Leroy Estrada. Estrada proved to be a boy against a man and was dropped at will be Wanheng en route a 5th round stoppage win for the Thai, who reached 50-0 with the victory, tying the record of Floyd Mayweather Jr. A record he surpassed earlier today when he defeated Filipino challenger Pedro Taduran in his 10th defense.
Few will suggest that Wanheng is one of the all time greats, or a future hall of famer. His 51-0 record looks great on paper but the quality hasn't been fantastic and if we're being honest he's never come close to really proving his quality. There's been chances to unify, with fighters like Katsunari Takayama, Knockout CP Freshmart, Hiroto Kyoguchi, Byron Rojas, Ryuya Yamanaka and even Kosei Tanaka all having had world title reigns and making for attractive bouts with Wanheng. Though none ever came off, the closest we got was his his bout with Fukuhara, who had lost the WBO title 3 months earlier.
There is also a case to be made that he should have moved up in weight if he really wanted to prove himself. Whilst that does hold some weight he deserves some serious credit for making 105lbs right through his career. A fighter sticking at one weight, Heavyweight aside, through a 10 year career is impressive. It's a sign of his commitment to making weight and how strong he can be at one weight.
A very valid criticism, along with his competition, is his lack of travel. Everyone of his 51 fights has been in Thailand. Whilst not all great fighters travel, it's hard to believe that he didn't get good offers to fight in Japan, the Philippines or Mexico. It would have been really interesting to have seen him travel and fight on the road. Travelling to Tokyo or Osaka to fight a leading contender in Japan, or Tijuana to face a leading Mexican or Manila to face one of his string of Filipino challengers.
At the age of 32, an age that many Minimumweights have outgrown the division or retired, one thing that Wanheng really deserves a lot of respect for is his longevity. It's impressive to fight 51 times, something that most fighters don't do, but the fact he's now surpassed over 400 professional rounds is also a real credit. He's not got much in terms of wear and tear and given his relative lack of power his bouts are going long, with 13 compete 12 rounders under his belt including 6 in world title bouts.
So on to the numbers:
Reigning world champions faced:1
Former world champions beaten: 3
and Tatsuya Fukuhara
World title defenses: 10
Jeffrey Galero - UD12,
Jerry Tomogdan - KO9,
Young Gil Bae - TKO9,
Go Odaira - TKO5,
Saul Juarez - UD12,
Melvin Jerusalem - UD12,
Omari Kimweri - UD12,
Tatsuya Fukuhara - UD12,
Leroy Estrada - TKO5
and Pedro Taduran - UD12
Countries fought in:1
World titles won: 1
Total title bouts:
Debutants faced: 2
Roel Garde - UD6
Kuk Chol Jon - TKO6
Record: 51-0 (18)
Career rounds: 411
This is just an opinion, maaaan! It's easy to share our opinions, and that's what you'll find here, some random opinion pieces