That champion is the unbeaten Wanheng Menayothin (42-0, 17) who defends his belt against in form Mexican challenger Saul Juarez (23-4-1, 12), the current mandatory challenger.
Wanheng's record is one of the longest unbeaten records in the sport, only a few fights behind that of Nicaraguan sensation Roman Gonzalez, despite that no one is proclaiming the Thai as one of the best pound-for-pound fighters on the planet. That's due to his level of competition which has certainly not been great. In fact his best wins have come against the likes of Florante Condes, Oswaldo Novoa, Ardin Diale, Young Gil Bae and Go Odaira. They aren't terrible fighters but nothing exceptional for a man with 42 wins.
Of course it's not just the wins that stand out on Wanheng's record but also his apparent lack of power. In fact 17 T/KO's in 40 fights is a 40% stoppage rate, one of the least impressive in the sport today for any world champion.
What neither of those numbers, nor the names, do is actually tell you a lot about Wanheng who is developing his power and really does pass the eye test with flying colours. In the ring he's a very intelligent and aggressive pressure fighter, he has a solid guard, he's calculating with his footwork and throws some brilliant combinations, with his power being criminally under-rated. He's not a 1-punch KO artist but his' a vicious terrier like fight who grinds opponents down and barely takes a shot in the process. It's that grinding that has seen him stopping his last 5 opponents and claim 6 stoppages in his last 7 bouts.
On paper the challenger should be the under, surprisingly however boxrec.com rank Juarez as their #1 fighter in the division. That's due to their algorithms however Juarez has been on an impressive run on recent years with 2 wins over Adrian Hernandez and a victory, and a draw, against Oswaldo Novoa. Along with those 4 results he also has wins over Luis Ceja, Armando Torres, and early career wins over Martin Tecuapetla and another win over Novoa. In all honesty he has an impressive resume. On the other hand he has been beaten by Tecuapetla, Jose Argumedo, Juan Hernandez Navarrete and Milan Melindo, all highly regarded fighters themselves.
In the ring Juarez has shown lots of facets to his ability. He can box in a relatively technical fashion using his jab, holding when needed and using intelligent movement with crisp combinations, he can also go to war and enjoy a good old fashioned tear up. He's not an out and out warrior but like many Mexican fighters that it certainly something he has in his arsenal when needed.
Like the champion the challenger isn't a puncher, in fact he only boasts a 43% stoppage rate and has scored just a single stoppage in the last 36 months, that's 1 stoppage in 9 bouts. Despite that he does have solid pop and will keep fighters respectful of him given his ability to land clean.
Where're expecting a technically brilliant battle here. Juarez's movement and technical boxing against Wanheng's calculating pressure. Sadly however for Juarez the bout will be held in the hot and humid conditions of Thailand which will likely zap his energy if he tries to move too much whilst Wanheng will look to walk him down. If Juarez slows, as expected, we think Wanhneg will come away with a clear and wide decision win.