Whether it's been the emergence of Kosei Tanaka, who recently stopped Ryuji Hara, the continued excitement of Katsunari Takayama, who had a barn burner with Francisco Rodriguez Jr earlier this year, or the break through of the wonderfully named Knockout CP Freshmart this year has been great for the fans of the smallest men in boxing.
The Minimumweight division comes to the fore against this coming Thursday when unbeaten Thai Wanheng Menayothin (35-0, 11) finally gets a long awaited shot at a world title as he battles heavy handed WBC belt holder Oswaldo Novoa (14-4-1, 9). The bout will be Menayothin's big step up whilst for the champion it's a chance to top off what will be a fantastic year for him.
The champion won his title earlier this year, winning it in spectacular fashion in China where he totally dismantled Xiong Zhao Zhong. He made his first defense in a relative nothing bout against Alcides Martinez in June and since then we've all been awaiting for him to fight Menayothin.
Although Novoa's record is patchy, to say the least, he is a pretty good fighter. He holds wins not only over Zhong but also over Jose Argumedo, Jose Alfredo Zuniga and Javier Martinez Resendiz as he has managed to string together 7 straight wins since a close technical decision loss to Carlos Velarde more than 2 years ago. At 5'3" he's a relatively tall Minimumweight but overall he looks huge at the weight given his imposing and rangy frame, in fact it appears as if he seriously drains to make 105lbs.
Gifted with size and power we don't think Novoa has the most rounded of skills but we hardly think he cares. He strikes us as more of a free swinging fighter, in there to win a fight not a boxing contest. This can leave him open but he does look a very strong guy who can take a shot and walk down opponents, as he did against Zhong. On the road, as he was against Zhong and will be again here, it's often a case of a winning a fight and winning it early.
As for Thailand's Menayothin we have a man with a misleading and confusing record. On paper he's got a sensational looking record with 35 straight wins in the Minimumweight division. In reality very few of those wins really tell us anything other than that he's a Thai fighter were activity is key as opposed to the level of competition. That's not to say the Thai hasn't fought anyone of note, in fact wins over Ardin Diale, Florante Condes, Crison Omayao, Rolio Golez and Yuma Iwahashi are decent wins, though at best they are decent and not great or outstanding.
Stylistically Menayothin is like many Thai's. He's strong, tight defensively and fights as an out and out pressure fighter. Saying that however he's not got massively concussive power and scores many of his stoppages through accumulation as opposed to single shots damage. Despite the lack of power he is aggressive, fun to watch and should stylistically make for a great fight with a fighter like Novoa.
In the ring we're suspecting a really exciting war with both men meeting in the middle of the ring and letting shots go with bad intentions. For Wanheng the question is whether or not he can take the power of Novoa? If he can then the Thai is likely to take a very hard fought and exciting decision with the two men fighting toe-to-toe for large swathes of the bout. If Novoa hits too hard for the Thai however this one could be over quickly though is still likely to be very exciting for as long as it lasts.
It may seem crazy to say be we genuinely feel this one could be a FOTY candidate much like the first bout between Porpramook Kompayak and Adrian Hernandez, that was another bout where a WBC champion from Mexico traveled to Thailand and we ended up with something very special to watch.
(Image courtesy of http://www.thairec.com)