Today the Thai made the first defense of his well earned world title as he took on the unheralded, and essentially unknown, Jeffrey Galero (11-1, 5) of the Philippines.
So unknown was Galero that we hadn't seen any footage of him prior to a sparring session with Knockout CP Freshmart, released earlier this week. Until then we had assumed Galero was a southpaw. In that footage Galero genuinely impressed us with his speed, movement and understand of the ring environment. Prior to the footage we suspect Wanheng wouldn't have any problems with the Filipino though the footage showed someone who could give Wanheng some questions to answer.
In the first round we saw Galero's movement and speed keep him out of Wanheng's range. It wasn't a pretty or exciting round but it did give us a glimpse of the ability Galero had and he possibly shaded the round, though little of real note happened as both tried to see what the other man had.
Although the first round was quiet we began to see a fight breaking out in round 2 in what was a competitive round and it did seem like Galero was there to cause the champion some real issues. An upset was unlikely but Galero certainly seemed comfortable in the ring as he neutralised some of the pressure of the champion whilst firing off short but sharp flurries which were eye catching though not particularly damaging. Sadly for the challenger however this was essentially the start of the end for his success as Wanheng began to find a home for his body shots which seemed to sap the impressive movement of the challenger.
From round 3 we began to see Wanheng's pressure taking effect as he began to close the ring down, cut off Galero's escape routes and land cleaner and heavier blows. Those blows seemed to take the wind out of Galero's sails almost immediately and from the end of round 3 Galero did little more survive as Wanheng turned up the pressure, bit by bit.
By the end of round 5 Galero's clever movement had vanished, his footwork was becoming more and more basic and Wanheng was finding it easy to corner the challenger. To his credit Galero often found ways out of tricky situations but was often forced to take hurtful hooks, straights and uppercuts before he managed to get away from danger. Sadly however he could never do much more than keep the champion honest as Wanheng intelligently went about his work.
After 7 rounds the fight had become less a case of who was going to win and more a case of whether Galero would survive. At times in rounds 7, 8 and 9 it seemed unlikely as the pressure from Wanheng grew and the success of the champion began to grind away at the gutsy but over-matched challenger. In round 10 however Wanheng seemed to ease off a little bit. It was as if the champion had decided a decision was enough, though he wasn't letting Galero get away with out taking some more lumps through the round.
In the championship rounds Wanheng again amped up the assault, as if he had taken a breather and was ready to look for the late stoppage. Galero, for his part, did what he could to neutralise the champion in round 11 and then began fighting back in the final round, By then however the bout was a foregone conclusion with Wanheng a mile ahead on the cards.
At the end there was no drama, no problems for Wanheng and no shock on the cards. Wanheng won a clear decision and made an impressive first defence of his title.
For Wanheng this win could well open him up for a big Japanese pay day against Kosei Tanaka (4-0, 2) though if he feels like turning that down there is a likely mandatory title defence later in the year, possibly against Denver Cuello (35-5-6, 23). We'll be honest we'd love to see either of those fights for Wanheng and suspect that they'd both make for attractive viewing, especially the Cuello fight which would be a brilliant combination of styles.
As for Galero, he impressed in his gameness despite being outclassed. Hopefully this won't be the final time we see him and if he shares the ring with up and coming prospects we'll certainly not complain as he appears to have the traits to test good promising fighters. Today however he came up against someone who is world class and has a style that took away his strengths. It was an unfortunate style match up though we believe Galero will come back stronger from this experience and hopefully go on to compete at a solid level over the coming years.
(Image courtesy of Thairec.com)