The Minimumweight division has been slowly creating a bit of buzz in the last few years. Typically the division has been chronically over-looked but thanks to action fighters like Roman Gonzalez, Katsunari Takayama and Akira Yaegashi we've slowly seen a snowball of interest for the men at 105lbs. That interesting is arguably at it's highest now with several notable champions, and very highly regarded contenders. Champions like Wanehng Menayothin and Hiroto Kyoguchi have certainly gained some for various reasons whilst Knockout CP Freshmart (17-0, 7) has probably the best name in the sport. Contenders like the hard hitting Tsubasa Koura or the amazingly skilled Mark Anthony Barriga add real depth to a division which has often only hand a handful of quality fighters.
This coming weekend the aforementioned Knockout CP Freshmart returns to the ring to defend his WBA Minimumweight title against WBA interim champion Xiong Zhao Zhong (27-7, 14), who was the first ever Chinese male world champion. The bout will be held in Qingdao China and see Knockout fighting outside of Thailand for the first time as a professional boxer.
The unbeaten champion got a lot of attention early in his career due to his memorable ring name, choosing to fight under the “Knokcout” moniker rather than his birth name of Thammanoon Niyomtrong. The former Muay Thai fighter made an immediate impact in professional boxing by claiming a WBC Youth title on debut, back in 2012. He then rose quickly through the ranks before claiming the WBA “interim” Minimumweight title in 2014, when he controversially defeated Carlos Buitrago. In 2016 he unified the interim title with the regular title, by defeating Byron Rojas in a competitive, but less than fantastic bout.
During his reign as the WBA interim, and regular, champion Knockout's reign has really been a mixed bag. He has scored solid wins over Buitrago, dominating a rematch between the two, Rey Loreto and Shin Ono, but also scored some really weak defenses against the likes of Muhammad Rachman, who was 43 at the time and Go Odaira. In the ring he is technically solid, and is improving pretty much with every fight. He's not the quickest, or the biggest punching or even the most energetic, but he's a very good all-rounder, arguably the best all rounder at 105lbs right now and is hard man to look impressive against.
At 35 years old Zhong is one of the division's senior citizens. He debuted back in 2006 and had a pretty slow start to his career, with China not really even being a blip on the boxing map back in 2006. Despite the low key start he did manager to fight for the WBC Flyweight title in 2009, dropping Daisuke Naito before coming up short in a messy bout in Japan.
In 2012 Zhong got his second shot at a world title, and defeated Javier Martinez Resendiz to claim the previously vacant WBC Minimumweight title, creating history by becoming China's first male world champion. He would defend the title twice, scoring a very notable win over Denver Cuello in his first defense, but was surprisingly dethroned in 2014 by Oswaldo Novoa, who stopped Zhong in 5 rounds. Since Zhong lost the WBC title he has had mixed fortunes, going 5-2 though claimed WBA interim title last time out with a very lucky win over Panya Pradbsri, AKA Petchmanee Kokietgym.
At his best Zhong was an awkward, bull like fighter. He lacked the nuances of a real world class fighter, but was tough, strong and hit surprisingly hard. His lack of technical ability has held him back, and whilst he has dropped fighters like Naito and Hekkie Budler the damage has come from his bull like strength and and wild, wide and unorthodox shots, rather than technically accurate boxing skills.
Given the skills and accuracy of Knockout, as well as his edge in youth and speed, we can't see anything but a win for the Thai. If he can stop Zhong it would be impressive, but we're expecting a decision for the Thai, who will dominate in such a way that the judges can't possibly give it to the local.
Interestingly the winner of this will be expected to face off with Byron Rojas, who's team had pushed to get a bout with Knockout before this bout was signed. That would likely lead to a rematch between Knockout and Rojas.
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.