We suspect we're about to see another of those good match ups in late July as the WBA attempt to appease their friends in Thailand and help make Stamp Kiatniwat (13-0, 6) a “world champion” aged just 17.
Stamp, who has been impressive at times, will be taking on little known Dominican puncher Gregorio Lebron (13-2, 11) for the WBA “interim” Flyweight title. A belt that was last held by another Thai, Yodmongkol Vor Saengthep who managed to take it from the aforementioned Koki Eto.
On paper the bout looks like a good test for Stamp, the usual step up in class where a fighter moves from facing journeymen to opponents that try to win. In reality however the bout is a politic move by the WBA who seem to already know that Stamp could be worth a lot of money for a Flyweight and is unlikely to really push for fights with either the WBA “regular” or “super” champions. It's another nice revenue stream for the “Association”, but one that further dents their reputation, or what is left of their reputation.
Stamp Kiatniwat is a really promising young fighter. The 18 year old has been a pro for little more than 2 years and yet has already scored a really big win over Kwanthai Sithmorseng. That win should entitle the youngster to, at very least, a world ranking. He has also won, and defended, the interim PABA Flyweight title, further winning favour with the WBA. For Stamp to have a world ranking, and for Stamp to be considered a viable challenger to a world champion isn't hard to believe, even if that ranking was the lower end of the top 15 and his shot was a voluntary shot by a generous champion.
Typically Thai boxers are known as relatively basic come-forward guys who are very strong but not the most technically astute fighters. Stamp however is a bit more of a rounded boxer with a boxer-puncher style who enjoys fighting at mid-range, can force the action or fight as a counter-puncher. At the moment he does appear to lack his “man strength”, though as a teenager that is to be expected, though that lack of power has almost forced him into needing to hone his skills. Sometimes however he does get caught in the almost stereotypical “Thai” mindset of “I'm going to outfight you”, which was a massive issue against the tough Espinos Sabu who really pushed Stamp hard.
On paper the best win Stamp has was the one over Kwanthai, a former world champion, in reality however the win over Sabu was the most telling. Stamp boxed excellently early on, with a very sharp jab, intelligent movement and good counters. Later in the bout however he seemed to run out of steam and was really forced to grit his teeth and see out the storm. That would have been an excellent learning experience for the youngster who will have developed more in the final few rounds of that fight than in all the other bouts together.
As for Lebron the 33 year old has done very little of note. He has beaten 4 fighters with winning records and is on an 11 fight winning streak, including a win over Angelo Munoz for the WBA Fedelatin title last September, in what is Lebron's most recent bout, 10 months ago. That win was Lebron's biggest to date, after a 4 year career.
From the footage of Lebron he's a strong looking pressure fighter, a bit of a bull in fact. He appears to be very strong, comes forward with a lot of upper body movement and looks like a very confident fighter capable of cutting the ring down. He's not the quickest, or most accurate, but he looks like the sort of fighter who could be a very good gatekeeper for the division.
On paper Lebron looks like a big puncher. From the footage we've seen it seems more that he's heavy handed rather than a KO artist, but every shot he lands takes a toll and is thrown with bad intentions. Not only does he put real spite on his shots but he throws vicious combinations when he has a stationary target. If you can limit him to one shot at a time you have a chance to make him miss and make him pay, however if you stand and trade with him he could really do damage.
To date all of Lebron's bouts have been in the Dominican Republic, a stark world of difference to Thailand. He has looked impressive and he passes the “eye test” if you will, even if his competition does leave a lot to be desired. This is a huge step up for him, but it's impossible to rule him out given what we've seen.
Whilst we are cynical about the WBA's motives in making this bout we must admit that this actually should be a really good fight. We know Lebron's competition has been terrible, really it has, but watching him suggests he can actually fight. If Lebron is as good as recent footage suggests, he could end up being a real surprise package for the Thai's who well have over-looked him. Stamp is the more technically proficient fighter but Lebron is the bigger puncher, looks to be the stronger guy and certainly not the type of guy you want to stand and fight with. If Stamp decides to trade we'll find out a lot about his toughness, though we suspect the Thai will try to stay on the move and use his movement, as well as the Thai conditions, to try and take a decision.
(Image courtesy of "The Champion Thailand")