Right now the Thai boxing scene is a bit of a strange one. It has 3 standout fighters at the top of the proverbial tree, with a trio of world champions that are head and shoulders above everyone else in the country. You then have a a rag tag bunch of challengers, who are a mix of emerging talent and veterans still in and around the world title scene. The prospects are an even more varied bunch, from former amateur stands to a 15 year old prodigy.
Sadly though there is a feeling that the Thai scene has faded just a touch over the last few years to give us a rather weak looking domestic picture, though one that could easily see a break out star emerge.
The World Class Trio
The most notable names in Thai boxing right now are clearly Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (47-4-1, 41), Knockout CP Freshmart (19-0, 7) and Wanheng Menayothin (52-0, 18). They are the 3 world champions from the country and the 3 names that really are head and shoulders above anything else the country has to offer.
WBC Super Flyweight champion Srisaket is clearly the most recognisable name the country has to offer in boxing, and with good reason. He is widely regarded as a top 10 pound for pound fighter and holds notable wins against Roman Gonzalez, twice, Juan Francisco Estrada, Yota Sato and Jose Salgado. To many he came out of nowhere to beat Roman Gonzalez in March 2017, and again 6 months later, but he had previously held the WBC Super Flyweight title and the win over Gonzalez saw him reclaim the title he had lost via technical decision to Carlos Cuadras. He's big, strong and extremely powerful, with under boxing skills.
Wanheng set the boxing world talking last year when he matched Floyd Mayweather's 50-0, getting coverage on things like Sky Sports, and since then he has notched 2 more wins. He is the WBC Minimumweight champion, having held that title since November 2014, and has racked up 10 defense. His current reign is the longest of any active world champion, coming in at 2 months longer than Deontay Wilder's. Although not an amazingly destructive fighter Wanheng is a defensively smart fighter who can change the tempo of a fight, neutralise pressure well and has under-rated speed and combinations. He doesn't look like he's unbeatable, but very few have really pushed him close. The one big issue however is that he's had just a touch of luck from officials at times, deducting points, or giving him the benefit of the doubt in close rounds.
The other champion is Knockout CP Freshmart, the WBA Minimumweight champion. He won the WBA interim title in 2014, before taking the main title in 2016. Since winning the WBA's top title he has made 6 defenses. Looking through his record things look impressive, with wins against Carlos Buitrago, Byron Rojas, Shin Ono, Rey Loreto, Toto Landero and Xing Zhao Zhong. Sadly however, his performances have been less than great and there has been a real lack of action at times in his bouts. He's very talented, but can be very dull. It also seems unlikely that we'll see him and Wanheng unify, despite how intriguing that bout is on an international basis.
As mentioned, the contenders in Thai, and are a varied bunch of fighters. Some are well on their way to their first world title fight whilst others are looking to get a second, or even third, shot at a belt.
We'll start with Flyweight Dennapa Kiatniwat (20-1, 15), who has been ordered to negotiate a bout with WBA Flyweight champion Artem Dalakian, which is expected to take place in the Spring. Dennapa, also known as Sarawut Thawornkham, is a 27 year old puncher who lost on debut in 2014 but has rebuilt on the regional level. Despite being the #1 WBA Flyweight contender is competition has, mostly, been pathetic, which has helped him stop his last 11 foes.
Whilst Dennapa has a shot being negotiated Downua Ruawaiking (14-0, 11) will be getting a world title eliminator, which is set to take place in February. The Light Welterweight is a talented boxer-puncher, who has shown a lot more than many Thai contenders do. He will however need to show a lot more to over-come Akihiro Kondo when the two men meet next month. Downua is a heavy handed fighter with good timing, a good jab, and the basis to build a very promising career, though may be getting his shot just a little too early.
Possibly the best of the Thai contenders is Palangpol CP Freshmart (16-2, 9), who is lacking an outstanding record, but has shown what he can do on the world stage, and what he can do isn't too shabby. The hard hitting Palangpol is best known for his 2017 bout with Kosei Tanaka, when he dropped Tanaka and fractured both of the Japanese fighter's orbital bones, before being stopped in the 9th round. Although the rest of his record is poor his performance against Tanaka showed he belonged in the world title mix. Unfortunately however he is 33 and in the deepest division in the sport, so may well miss out on another shot, if his team can't open up the purse strings.
Another standout contender is Panya Pradabsri (26-1, 15), aka Petchmanee Kokietgym, who is in the mix between Minimumweight and Flyweight. His sole loss was a controversial one against Xiong Zhao Zhong, in a WBA world title eliminator, and since then he has been handing out beatings, including an impressive KO win against Dexter Alimento in a Flyweight bout. It's not 100% clear where he sees his future, as he fought at Minimumweight as recently as last September, but he's ultra active, highly talented and a real threat to the top guys, at least at 105lbs.
Having started his career with an incredible looking 36-0-1 big things were expected from Nawaphon Por Chokchai (44-1-1, 34). Sadly a loss to Juan Hernandez Navarrete in 2007 was a huge set back and since then he has very much failed to really become a threat at world level again. Currently on a 8 fight winning run Nawaphon has only really scored 1 big win since his loss to Hernandez, stopping veteran Amnat Ruenroeng last year. If he's serious about getting a second world title fight it does feel like he needs to have investment in his development and hope his team are willing to open the purse strings to get him better opponents. He's talented, physically imposing and from a good team, but the jury is still out on whether he can make it to the top.
Few Thai's in the sport today have had chances that Eaktwan BTU Ruaviking (25-5, 16) have had. Eaktwan, also known as Komgrich Nantapech, lost in a 2017 world title fight to Donnie Nietes, then lost to Juan Carlos Reveco later that same year, in an eliminator. He was supposed to have another eliminator in 2018 but suffered an injury forcing him out of a bout with Masayuki Kuroda. Whilst he has had chances shouldn't write off the 29 year old, who is a big, strong, powerful and talented fighter. He asked real questions of Nietes and has got good wins on the regional scene, but it very much feels like he's one of those unfortunate fighters who is stuck between regional class and world class.
In December we saw Petch Sor Chitpattana (48-1, 33) suffer his first loss, coming up second best against Takuma Inoue in a WBC "interim" Bantamweight title fight. Despite losing that bout, widely, he showed he belonged on the fringes of world class, with his determination, toughness and stamina. Prior to facing Inoue he had gone 48-0 but his record lacked any sort of quality, and it showed as he lacked the skills needed to really push Inoue, but had the tools that could be built on. If Petch can get good training, work on his flawed technical skills then there is huge potential for him to become a fixture on the world stage. He's only 25 now and really shouldn't be written after the Inoue bout, even if it was a pretty wide loss for the Thai.
Another fight who showed their toughness in a world title bout, and has remained a fringe contender, is WBA #2 ranked Flyweight Noknoi Sitthiprasert (69-5, 42), aka Nare Yianleang. He began his career 1-4 but has since gone 68-1 and scored wins over the likes of Rey Loreto, Kenichi Horikara, Renoel Pael and Donny Mabao. His sole in his last 69 fights was a decision loss to Kazuto Ioka in a WBA Flyweight title bout, and he has reeled off 7 low key wins since then, whilst doing enough to remain in the title mix with the WBA. He's proven himself as a very tough fighter, but does lack in terms of big wins, and at 32 years old he is battling against time for another big fight.
The pick of the Thai prospects making waves at the moment is 29 year old, former amateur standout Apichet Petchmanee (2-0, 2), who should be regarded as one of the best prospects in boxing, even if he is older than a typical prospect. Apichet made his professional debut last year, beating Attanon Kunlawong in 2 rounds, then defeated Sadudee Tor Bumas just 2 months later, claiming the OPBF Silver Light Welterweight with that second win. Given his advanced age it's clear Apichet hasn't got time to waste, and he's showing he's aware of that having fought 13-0 and 8-0 opponents in his first 2 bouts, and looking brilliant against both. He's skilled, strong, has a good varied attack and will almost certainly be in the world rankings by the end of 2019. Sadly though he may have left the start of his professional career a little bit too late
Another 29 year old hopeful is Atchariya Tor Chantaroj (12-0, 5), also known as Atchariya Wirojanasunobol. He has been a professional since 2014 and looked promising early on, with wins against Heri Andriyanto and Stevie Ongen Ferdinandus in his first 4 bouts. Since that impressive start he has built with wins against the likes of Kaewfah Tor Buamas and Taisho Ozawa. There is plenty of promise with Atchariya but it seems more likely he will actually end up being fed to Apichet rather than advancing to major fights of his own.
At the age of 15 Phoobadin Yoohanngoh (3-0, 2) looks to be a prodigy and was mixing boxing with Muay Thai in 2018, notably winning a silver medal at the Muay Thai 2018 Youth World Championships. Sadly his boxing bouts haven't yet surfaced on to the net, but it is well know that Thailand are looking more and more at kids to become their stars, with the likes of Stamp Kiatniwat being groomed from a young age. Sadly these experiments with teenagers rare develop the stars in boxing that the Thai boxing promoters will be looking for, but it's hard to ignore anyone who debuted at the age of 14 and has reeled off 3 before their 15th birthday.
Another teenager worthy of note is 18 year old Thanongsak Simsri (5-0, 5), who debuted in June, just 3 days after his 18th birthday, and fought regularly in the second half of 2018 to move to 5-0 (5). His competition so far has mostly been debutants, as we do often see with Thai fighters,. As with Phoobadin it's hard to know what Thanongsak really has in his locker, but the Thai promoters are clearly looking to develop young talent, and with a handful of fights already under his belt Thanongsak is someone to make a note of.
Through out this month we've posted Part 1 and Part 2 of our 19 for 19, looking at Asian prospects, and here's our third part. If you missed the first part that's here 19 for 19: Part 1 - The Teenage Prospects and the second part is here 19 for 19: Part 2 - A Rookie, an Uzbek puncher, a Pinoy Prodigy and an Olympic champion
Here we are looking at 4 novices, with a combined record of 7-0 (7) but all 4 men involved have looked incredibly promising and appear to be well worthy of attention.
Lei Wang (1-0, 1)
It can be easy to get over-excited about Chinese prospects, and we might be heading that way with Lei Wang, however there is a lot to get excited about. The 28 year old Chinese fighter was a very good amateur and when he made his debut this past September he did so in style, stopping Filipino Anthony Sabalde in 5 rounds, doing what Nihito Arakawa and Wang Zhimin both failed to do. On debut Wang looked razor sharp, both on defense and offense, he looked like a fighter with a great boxing brain, a flashy style and like someone incredibly exciting. He looks incredibly relaxed in the ring and we're hoping to see a lot more of him in 2019.
Israil Madrimov (1-0, 1)
Uzbek fighters all look like they are trying to out do each other at the moment, much like the Ukrainians did in the wake of the 2016 Olympics. So far we've seen several Uzbek fighters all begin their careers with aggressive match making, though no one rivals Israil Madrimov, who debuted in a 10 round bout and took a minor WBA title in his very first professional contest. The 23 year old, dubbed "The Dream" looks to be a phenomenal switch hitter who is a natural in the ring, sharp with both hands and has an excellent boxing brain. We've got a lot of questions to see him answer, but we've also been hugely impressed by Madrimov's sole professional outing.
Apichet Petchmanee (1-0, 1)
Former Thai amateur stand out Apichet Petchmanee made his debut this past October, at the age of 28, but did so in a notable bout against the then 13-0 Attanon Kunlawong. He'll be back in the ring on December 22nd, when he fights for the OPBF "silver" title at 140lbs and he may well find himself fighting for the full OPBF title in 2019. He really impressed on debut and we're expecting a really bright future for him, given how strong his amateur background is. Sadly he is now 29 years old, though we suspect he will be fast tracked and will end up fighting notable international opponents before the end of 2020.
Ryota Yamauchi (4-0, 4)
At the end of 2017 we were raving about Ryota Yamauchi, who was then 2-0 (2). During 2018 he doubled that record, and scored a big domestic win over Yota Hori, but a lack of activity has left the 23 year old Flyweight failing to reach our predictions for the year. Despite failing to build massively on his impressive start he has continued to develop and the hope now will be for 2019 to be his break out year, and if he can fit 3 fights into the year he should well be in the mix for a title by the end of the year. He's aggressive, quick, heavy handed and managed by the highly recognised Kadoebi gym, who just need to keep him active, and well matched next year
Going in to 2019 we'll be hoping to see the emergence of a number of new fighters. At the moment there a number of very promising fighters who are starting to create a buzz despite having only had a single professional bout. Here we take a look at 5 such fighters who are going to potentially have a big year ahead of them and be fast tracked to success.
Tsendbaatar Erdenebat (1-0) - Mongolia
Mongolian amateur standout Tsendbaatar Erdenebat made his professional debut in China this past September, and did so in relative obscurity with sources originally listing him as "Tsendbaatar Tsendbataar", likely an issue with translating his name from the Chinese bout sheet. On debut he dominated Chinese based Filipino Joseph Omana over 6 rounds, to take a unanimous decision and he looked really exciting with his performance.
In 2016 Tsendbaatar lost in the Olympic to eventual silver medal winner Shakur Stevenson but would go on to win the 2018 Asian Games gold medal. Those were among the highlights of a very long and successful amateur career that should give him the grounding for a bright professional career.
Makhmud Gaipov (1-0, 1) - Uzbekistan
Uzbekistan are turning out talent like no ones business right now, and they have two fighters on this list. One of those is 22 year old Makhmud Gaipov, who debuted in November stopping Tanzania's Iddi Mkwera in the 3rd of a scheduled 4 rounds, having dropped Mkwera 4 times. He seems to have been signed with RCC Promtoions, who will keep him busy, keep him active and move him aggressively on their shows. The best thing about fighting under the RCC banner however will be the exposure, with thm streaming their cards internationally.
Gaipov, like everyone else on this list, was an experienced amateur who came runner up in the 2014 Asian Youth Championships and also competed in the WSB, giving plenty of "pro-style" experience. There is work to do but given how he looked on debut there is a lot to be excited about here.
Israil Madrimov (1-0, 1) - Uzbekistan
The second Uzbek to make it to this list, and the more well known of the two, is Israil Madrimov, who made his debut recently on the under-card of Dmitry Bivol's win over Jean Pascal. Unlike most debutants he matched in a 10 rounder to begin his career, and quickly claimed a minor WBA title in the process, as he stopped Mexican Vladimir Hernandez in 6 rounds. The performance he put on was exciting, confident and really showed what he could do in the ring, switching stands, trading when he wanted to and really digging in brutal body shots. With World of Boxing behind him the future is incredibly bright for him.
Given he debuted in a 10 round bout it should be no surprise that he was a decorated amateur, winning gold at the 2018 Asian games, the 2017 Asian Championships, a Silber medal at the Asian Youth Championships in 2013 and picking up numerous national and minor titles.
Apichet Petchmanee (1-0, 1) - Thailand
Thailand, who do often fast track stand out kicks boxers, may have a gem among their ranks with Apichet Petchmanee who was a former amateur standout who made his professional debut back in October, dominating Attanon Kunlawong, aka Kongthara KKP. Apichet is tipped to be a success and his performance against the then 13-0 Kunlawong really was a statement of a result, and an incredible performance, though one that should have been expected.
At 29 years old Apichet doesn't have a lot of time to waste, though with a strong amateur background, WSB experience and a style that already looks suited to the professional ranks it may not need much time to fly through the rankings, especially if Workpoint get behind his rise. The only problem he might have is getting suitable regional competition whilst fighting at 140lbs.
Ginjiro Shigeoka (1-0, 1) - Japan
The youngest fighter on this list is Japanese teenager Ginjiro Shigeoka, who debuted in September and really looked the part, as we expected given his 56-1 (17) amateur record. At just 19 years old there is no for the Watanabe gym to out and out rush him, though we suspect his desire will be to be moved fast in 2019, and there is also a chance he will fit in another fight at the end of this year. He is one of the most exciting little men in the sport and will likely have a similar career trajectory to fellow Watanabe gym fighter Hiroto Kyoguchi.
Whilst his amateur record is impressive it is worth noting that his sole was a family issue, where he would have faced his brother in a prefectural tournament final, and sadly he lacks in terms of international amateur experience. That aside we're struggling for reasons not to gush over Shigeoka's potential
The new year is fast approaching and I'll be honest I'm really excited about the coming year. It's fair to say that 2018 has been a great year for boxing, despite being a pretty poor year on a personal level, but I'm expecting 2019 to be even better as the sport continues to develop, and be reshaped into something more and more spectacular. If I'm being honest I suspect 2019 may well be one of the best year's the sport has had in a very long time, building on the momentum of a great 2018.
With that in mind I've put together 5 predictions for the new year, and how I think they will effect the boxing world in general
Naoya Inoue wins the WBSS
An obvious one to start with. Japan's Naoya Inoue is strongly favoured to win the WBSS Bantamweight series and for good reason. "The Monster" is one of the few fighters who really lives up to his reputation every time he steps in the ring, and in 2018 he quickly despatched recognisable foes Jamie McDonnell and Juan Carlos Payano without breaking a sweat. I suspect that his current impressive run takes him to the Muhammad Ali Trophy in the coming year, beating Emmanuel Rodriguez in the Spring before winning the final in the Summer. After that it's unclear whether he'll immediately look for bigger challenges at Super Bantamweight or will look to clean up at Bantamweight, with a potential fight against Luis Nery certainly a possibility.
Fast Tracking continues
If we've seen anything really come to the fore these past few years it's been that fast tracking has really exploded. No longer is it just a Japanese and Thai thing but we're seeing Europeans, and Central Asian's fighters all stepping up incredibly quickly. I suspect that actually intensifies in the coming year, with more and more fighters shrugging off the usual preliminary stages of their professional careers and being moved aggressively. Lu Bin was too aggressively matched, but I expect others, like Murodjon Akhmadaliev, Apichet Petchmanee, Ginjiro Shigeoka and Israil Madrimov, to be competing for world titles within 7 fights. Top amateur fighters making their debuts next year will also be pushed hard early on.
A big year for India
Top Rank have made a very conscious effort in signing two of the most notable Indian fighters, Vijender Singh and Vikas Krishan, and I suspect that will only be the start for what could be a massive year for Indian boxing. The market is ripe for surge, and top young amateur fighters like Amit Panghal and Gaurav Solanki could well have professional promoters trying to snap them up as key figures for the long term growth of Indian boxing. The sport isn't huge in India, yet, but with over 1,000,000,000 people living there the potential is massive, if a promoter can sign the right fighters and work well with the local media. It will be a risky market to jump into but given the right promoter it could end up being a game changer. I also expect to see aforementioned Vijender Singh challenge for a world title before the end of 2019.
Boxing Grows in non-Boxing Countries
It's not just India that I expect to see boxing grow in but also Vietnam, Teipai, Malaysia and Singapore. We've certainly seen Singapore and Malaysia develop their scenes recently, but Vietnam and Teipai will likely follow suit, albeit for different reasons. Malaysia and Singapore are key hubs for the area, and money in those countries towards boxing has grown due to the promoters wanting to build the scenes. For Vietnam and Teipai however it seems likely that the OPBF will be the fulcrum behind their growth, and the development of the OPBF Silver titles, specifically in those two countries, will be key. In fact we could see that extending into other locations like Mongolia as the OPBF become more than just a title body but also, in association with the JBC, an overseer of several, non-boxing countries as they plant seeds of potential growth.
An Uzbek Take Over
It's hard to believe that only two Uzbek fighters have ever won world titles, Artur Grigorian and Ruslan Chagaev. This coming year I'm expecting that to change and wouldn't be massively surprised to see that number double in 2019, with the likes of the aforementioned Akhmadaliev along with Shakhram Giyasov, Elnur Abduraimov and Kudratillo Abdukakhorov all likely to be fighting for world titles by the end of the year. The Uzbek take over will be a hostile one, as the fighters look to put not only themselves on the boxing map, but also their country and we suspect the number of Uzbek amateurs turning professional will grow substantially in not only 2019, but also 2020. Uzbek fighters who miss out on the 2020 Olympics will likely jump at the chance to turn professional, and I expect them to do so with a lot of ambition to climbing the rankings as quickly as possible.
Thinking Out East
With this site being pretty successful so far we've decided to open up about our own views and start what could be considered effectively an editorial style opinion column dubbed "Thinking Out East" (T.O.E).