It's fair to say that the Flyweight division went from being one of the hottest divisions in the sport to one of the weakest, lacking in both star power and in talent. It's not totally devoid of both, but it did lose a lot of it's allure in 2017 as Roman Gonzalez, Juan Francisco Estrada and Johnriel Casimero all abandoned the division. With 3 title holders moving up from Flyweight it left the title scene in a real mess, with the WBO, IBF and WBC titles all becoming vacant.
Since those titles were scattered only one vacancy has been filled, that's the WBO title vacancy that has been claimed by Chinese star Zou Shiming, who claimed the title in November when he beat Kwanpichit OnesongchaiGym. On March we see the WBC title vacancy being filled as unbeaten Thai Nawaphon Por Chokchai (36-0, 28) takes on talented Mexican Juan Hernandez Navarrete (33-2, 24) in a bout for the vacant title. For Nawaphon it'll be his first world title fight and a chance to announce himself on the world stage whilst Hernandez will be looking to claim a world title at the time of asking.
Of the two men it's the Mexican who is the more proven, and proven he is. Although best known in some circles for coming up short against Kazuto Ioka in a WBC Minimumweight title fight in 2011 it's fair to say that Hernandez has one of the most impressive resumes of any lower weight fighter right now. He holds wins over the likes of Denver Cuello, Saul Juarez, Ramon Garcia Hirales, Jesus Silvestre and Omar Nino Romero. Although the one over Cuello was controversial the others have mostly been clear cut wins and in fact since the loss to Ioka he has won 15 in a row, including wins over Juarez, Garcia Hirales, Silvestrea and Romero.
Although not a elite level talent Hernandez is a genuine world class fighter who has scored notable wins from Minimumweight to Bantamweight. He is highly skilled, very tough and experienced fighter. He's not the quickest, or the biggest punching but he isn't slow by any means and his power is solid, with his last 5 wins being by stoppage in a combined 13 rounds! He's a man in hot form and full of confidence.
Unbeaten in 36 fights and aged 25 Nawaphon is one of the rising hopefuls of the Thai scene and is looking to become the third active member of the Nakornluang stable to become a world champion following in the footsteps of older brother Suriyan Sor Rungvisai and Srisaket Sor Rungvisai who both held the WBC Super Flyweight title. Nawaphon has been a professional for a little over 6 years but has been incredibly active racking up his record. Whilst it seems impressive to have had 36 fights in around 75 months he has been in there with some dire competition, with the best wins on his record being the likes of Donny Mabao, Mateo Handig and Heri Amol. He is, in fact, a man who has one of the sports most padded records.
Although his record is padded Nawaphon can fight. He's an aggressive pressure fighter who has been slicing through the lower tired competition like he's suppose to. He's stopped 12 of his last 13 and looked to make a statement in those bouts by not going beyond 6 rounds in any of them. He's not a man who has been messing around and much like Srisaket he gets in the ring to beat opponents up and move on to the next fight. He's also huge at the weight and could be a nightmare in terms of his size alone.
Although the level of competition may flatter Nawaphon, and may have given him a false sense of security, his team dug deep into their pockets to secure home advantage here. That is a key with the Thai in having a better read on the conditions in Thailand, there is however a slightly edge on that with Hernandez's team forcing the bout to be held in an inside venue where their man will be protected from the Thai elements. With that indoor venue taking away a lot of the home advantages a Thai has this could be a double tough contest for Nawaphon and we can't but think his competition has left him ill prepared for a fighter like Hernandez. With all that in mind we're predicting a stoppage win for Hernandez in the mid-to later rounds, of what will be an entertaining scrap, but one where the experience at a higher level of Hernandez will be the difference.
World Title Previews
The biggest fights get broken down as we try to predict who will come out on top in the up coming world title bouts.