The past week has been an interesting one in Asian boxing. We had expected two world title fights but sadly Covid19 struck, removing one of those fights from the schedule the day before the bout was supposed to take place. Despite that we actually had a really good week. It was a week full of great stories, surprisingly good action, and a week that is worth look back over quite happily. It may not have been the biggest week we've had but it was a really good week!
Fighter of the Week
There really was only one man in the running for the Fighter of the Week and that was Junto Nakatani, who announced himself on the world stage with a TKO win over Giemel Magramo. The 22 year old from Japan shone as he outboxed, out fought, out punched, out though and generally out did Magramo in every which way to claim the WBO Flyweight title. After talking about Nakatani for years, following his Rookie of the Year success, we are so proud of seeing Nakatani getting plaudits from around the boxing world and it's well and truly due!
Performance of the Week
Not only did Nakatani get the biggest win of the week, which is generally what our Fighter of the Week award is for, but he also put in the performance of the week. He made a very dangerous, talented fighter look third rate. Magramo isn't a bad fighter but if that was the first time you'd seen him you were left with the impressed that he was completely inept. Nakatani didn't just beat Magramo at range, where he could have made life very, very easy, but beat him on the inside too, showing how effective he can be at either range. It wasn't quite a flawless performance, but it wasn't far off from the brilliant youngster. This was a complete performance and a star making one!
Fight of the Week
Amnat Ruenroeng Vs Pungluang Sor Singyu
We'll admit that we had high expectations and genuine excitement when we saw the announcement that Amnat Ruenroeng and Pungluang Sor Singyu would face off on a WP Boxing show. What we didn't expect was for the two men to put on something truly brilliant. This 8 round bout was marred with controversy before hand, with Amnat citing a hand injury, changing the weight of the bout and the length of the bout, but in the ring the two veterans put on a show and over-delivered. They was 8 rounds of fantastic action, with styles that gelled perfectly. Pungluang was the aggressor through out, pressing and pressuring whilst Amnat played the role of counter puncher, making for a sensational bout with brilliant back and forth. If you've a bad taste in your mouth after the DAZN and PBC cards give this one a watch, it'll remind you why you follow this sport!
Round of the Week
Junpei Tsujimoto vs Daiki Ogura (Rd2)
Whilst the Amnat Vs Pungluang bout was the best bout it didn't have the best round. That honour belonged to round 2 of the bout between Junpei Tsujimoto and Daiki Ogura. In fact this goes down as one of the best rounds of the year. The round started slowly but about 40 seconds in an Ogura left hook buckled Tsujimoto's knees and a follow up dropped him. To his credit Tsujimoto got to his feet and took a pounding whilst trying to survive. He was holding, spoiling, and doing anything to buy time to recover, whilst Ogura landed a number of big left hooks. It seemed almost certain that Tsujimoto would be heading down to the canvas again but he managed to shake the cobwebs and, 2 minutes after being dropped himself he knocked Ogura down and out with a huge right hand, turning the tables in a must see round. Fantastic stuff!
KO of the Week
Thananchai Charunphak KO4 Pigmy Kokietgym
We had some dramatic finishes this week, including the one between Tsujimoto and Ogura, but few were as painful looking and devastating as the brutal body shot KO scored by Thananchai Charunphak, who damn near gutted Pigmy Kokietgym. To his credit Kokietgym came to win, he just wasn't good enough to be competitive with the very highly skilled Thananchai who took control early on, and then started hammering Pigmy in round 3 and 4. In round 4 Pigmy was down twice, with the second knockdown being the finish. It came from a single, devastating, left hook tot he mid section that left Pigmy in pure agony on the canvas. This was what a body KO is supposed to look like and is a real treat for those who like to see bouts finished with gut busters and rib wreckers.
Prospect of the Week
When a promoter matches a novice with a former world title challenger that tends to mean one of two things. Either the novice is there to lose, and lose quickly, or he's seen the real deal. Thitisak Hoitong falls firmly in the category of "real deal". The 24 year old debuted on Sunday morning in Samur Prakan, Thailand, and boy did he leave an impression. He out boxed 2-time world title challenger Samartlek Kokietgym with ease and looked like a veteran. On his debut. Thitisak moved around the ring with ease, picked his punches perfectly, looked relaxed and calm throughout and showed all the touches of a future star. This may have been his first bout as a professional but we dare say his future is looking incredible and he really could be fighting for a world title in the next year or two. He looks like a very, very special fighter and if you missed his debut we really suggest hunting it down at some point this week. We suspect you'll be very impressed by the debutant, just like we were.
It's fair to say action picked up, notably, in October but that's nothing compared to what we are set to get through November, as boxing races towards the end of the year with a brilliant, packed and stacked month. The next few weeks are among the best we've had in a long time with lots of notable names and interesting bouts, and thankfully we don't need to wait long between some of these exciting match ups!
Aioi Hall, Kariya, Aichi, Japan
Masanori Rikiishi (8-1, 4) vs Soreike Taichi (7-3, 5)
The first bout of real note in November takes place on November 1st, with Japanese Lightweight hopeful Masanori Rikiishi looking to continue his strong run of form. The talented fighter from the Midori Gym is looking for his 7th straight win following a 2018 loss to Kosuke Saka, and a win here would likely take him to within touching distance of a Japanese title fight. Taichi on the other hand will be there looking to get his career back on track following a loss in February to Kazuma Sanpei. Sadly for Taichi he has been stopped in 2 of his 4 losses to naturally smaller men than Rikiishi, and we see him failing to complete the schedule here too.
Intex Osaka, Osaka, Osaka, Japan
Hiroto Kyoguchi (14-0, 9) vs Thanongsak Simsri (14-0, 12)
The first major bout of the month will see WBA Light Flyweight "Super" champion Hiroto Kyoguchi make his next defense as he takes on unbeaten Thai challenger Thanongsak Simsri. The talented Kyoguchi hasn't looked as good in recent bouts as he did when he won the title at the end of 2018, but will be regarded as the very clear favourite here as he takes on a relatively unknown contender. Although unknown outside of Asia Simsri has looked impressive and is a heavy handed youngster from the same region as Srisaket Sor Rungvisai. We do see Simsri as a future champion, but feel this may be too much too soon for him.
Jinki Maeda (5-0, 3) vs Kaito Okubo (5-1, 2)
Also on November 3rd is brilliant prospect Jinki Maeda, who won Rookie of the Year in 2020. The talented, sharp punching and fast rising Maeda isn't being matched easily here as he takes on the once beaten Kaito Okubo, who has notched up two wins since his sole defeat in 2019 and will tower over Maeda in the ring. We expect to see Maeda win, but we are expecting him to answer some questions on route to victory. The perfect type of match up for the unbeaten 24 year old
Korakuen Hall, Japan
Junto Nakatani (20-0, 15) Vs Giemel Magramo (24-1, 20)
After several delays it now seems we will finally see a new WBO Flyweight champion being crowned this month as we finally get the long awaited showdown between Junto Nakatani and Giemel Magramo. The title has been vacant since Kosei Tanaka vacated it earlier in the year, and we had hoped to see Nakatani and Magramo battle in the Spring, and then the summer. Despite the, repeated, delays this is still one of the most interesting Flyweight bouts on the docket and is a real 50/50 bout. Both men can box, both have solid power, and both are looking for a top tier divisional win. This is the sort of bout we, as fans, should all be behind.
Korakuen Hall, Japan (G+)
Kazuto Takesako (11-0-1, 11) Vs Riku Kunimoto (4-0, 2)
In a delayed Champion Carnival bout we'll see Japanese Middleweight champion Kazuto Takesako taking on mandatory challenger Riku Kunimoto. As with the Nakatani Vs Magramo bout this has been delayed numerous times, due to the on going situation and then training issues affecting Kunimoto. On paper this is a massive step up for Kunimoto, who has never faced anyone even close to Takesako's ability or power. Despite the step up this is not a foregone conclusion, and will instead be an interesting way for both men to answer a lot of questions about their ability.
Takeshi Inoue (16-1-1, 10) Vs Nath Nwachukwu (6-0-2, 3)
WBO Asia Pacific Light Middleweight champion Takeshi Inoue is in action here, but not a title defense, as he takes on Japanese ranked Middleweight Nath Nwachukwu. On paper this really does just look like a stay busy bout for Inoue, who's best known for 2019 fight with Jaime Munguia, but in fairness Nwachukwu will be coming to win, and won't be wanting to give up his unbeaten record. Inoue's the clear favourite, but we do expect him being forced to work for a win here.
Takuma Takahashi (5-0, 5) Vs Kodai Kiyota (9-6-2, 9)
The exciting, flawed, heavy handed, crude, Takuma Takahashi looks to put controversy behind him and build on his highly entertaining bout with Leonardo Doronio from back in January. In that bout Takahashi was in all sorts of trouble, and seemed lucky that Biney Martin let him get away with some very questionable tactics. Here he's up against domestic foe Kodai Kiyota in what should be a very easy win for the unbeaten man. A real confidence builder more than anything else.
RCC Boxing Academy, Ekaterinburg, Russia
Ravshanbek Umurzakov (10-1, 7) vs Zoravor Petrosian (9-0, 4)
Back on to the subject of delayed fights here as we finally see Uzbek fighter Ravshanbek Umurzakov take on Ukrainian youngster Zoravor Petrosian. This bout was originally scheduled to take place in mid-September but fell through at the 11th hour when Umurzakov was unable to get into Russia. Despite the bout falling through a few weeks ago Petrosian fought anyway, looked really good, and we're now set to see them get in the ring together. This could be the hidden for the weekend.
Workpoint Studio, Bang Phun, Thailand
Thananchai Charunphak (10-1, 8) Vs Pigmy Kokietgym (61-13-2, 25)
Once beaten Thai prospect Thananchai Charunphak is among the most promising fighters in Thailand, and this week we get to see him step up again for what is essentially his third bout against a notable foe. The once beaten 20 year old, who already holds wins over Samartlek Kokietgym and Kompayak Porpramook, is tipped very highly.In the opponent corner will be veteran Pigmy Kokietygym, a former world title challenger who has seen better days, but should still provide something of a test for the youngster.
Pungluang Sor Singyu (54-8, 36) Vs Amnat Ruenroeng (20-4, 6)
In a brilliant match up between veterans we'll see former WBO Bantamweight champion Pungluang Sor Singyu take on former IBF Flyweight champion Amnat Ruenroeng. At his best Pungluang was a strong, powerful aggressive fighter, who came forward and let his hands go. As he's aged he's slowed down, but is still having success and recently upset Campee Phayom. Amnat however has always been a tricky, awkward, fast, skilled, nightmare who knows the dark arts and how to get away with things. We're not expecting this to be the most action packed bout, but it is a genuinely intriguing one, and one of the most interesting non-title boutswe've seen in Thailand in years.
Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, Hollywood, Florida, USA
Zhilei Zhang (21-0, 16) vs Devin Vargas (22-6, 9)
Chinese Heavyweight contender Zhilei Zhang looks to continue his unbeaten record as he takes on Devin Vargas in Florida. The Chinese giant, who stands at 6'7", is a real talent, a quick handed, well schooled, southpaw with surprising speed and power. Sadly though he's 37, and any dreams of him getting a big fight before father time inflicts a loss on him are slim, even with Matchroom behind him. Vargas is a serviceable opponent for a prospect, but the 38 year old American is little more than that and shouldn't really ask questions of a contender, like Zhang. A really pointless match up that does little more than keep a 37 year old busy, rather than building his profile in what is the "now or never" part of his career.
July felt like a bit of a turning point with boxing, as we had shows return to Thailand and Japan, we managed to see a show in Belarus with some Kazakh hopefuls, we had upsets, action, excitement and some brilliant debuts as the sport finally begins to turn a corner. Thankfully that momentum looks likely to continue in August with a host of notable events set for the coming month. With their being a lot planned and scheduled for August lets take a look at what we're getting in the first half of the month!
PLEASE Note - All bouts are subject to change, cancellations and postponements, something that is a lot more rife right now than usual due to the on going situation.
Workpoint Studio, Bang Phun, Thailand
Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (47-5-1, 41) Vs Amnat Ruenroeng (20-3, 6)
The month kicks off with one of the biggest non-title bouts in Thai history, as former world champions Srisaket Sor Rungvisai and Amnat Ruenroeng clash in the headline bout of the month's WP Boxing event. The event, which will be streamed not just by Work Point but also by Matchroom, is expected to help launch Srisaket into world title bout, as he looks to become a 3-time champion. Although Amnat is a very capable fighter, and a master of the dark arts, we do wonder if he had enough left in the tank to make this as interesting in the ring as it seems.
Chainoi Worawut (10-0-1, 9) Vs Jomar Fajardo (17-16-2, 9)
In a supporting bout on that same WP Boxing show is a match up for talented Thai prospect Chainoi Worawut, one of the leading Thai hopefuls for the future. The unbeaten Worawut will be up against Jomar Fajardo, a man best known for his two wars with Francisco Rodriguez Jr. Sadly Fajardo has struggled, massively, since those battles and is 3-12-1 (2) in his last 16 bouts. This should be a straight forward win for Worawut, but he is certainly one to watch, and if you tune in to the WP Boxing show he's the guy on the under-card most likely to fight for a world title in the next few years.
Zhan Kossobutskiy (13-0, 12) Vs Kamil Sokolowski (9-17-2, 3)
Unbeaten Kazakh Heavyweight hopeful Zhan Kossobutskiy looks to continue his unbeaten run as he returns to the ring in Minsk to take on English based Polish Heavyweight hopeful Kamil Sokolowski. On paper this is a total mismatch, but in reality Sokolowski is a very well respected journeyman in the UK who does come to win, rather than survive, and he will give this a genuine go. Kossobutskiy isn't the most talented, smooth or quickest and we wouldn't be surprised if Sokolowski managed to expose some of Koosobutskiy's flaws. Saying that however we do think the Kazakh will pick up the win.
Bucheon, Gyeonggi, South Korea
In Duck Seo (12-3-2, 7) Vs Jung Kyoung Lee (8-3-1, 4)
In South Korea we get a KBA show that was originally planned for July. The main event here is WBA Asia Welterweight title bout that looks mouth watering on paper and will pit In Duck Seo against former OPBF Light Middleweight champion Jung Kyoung Lee. We don't see many good looking All-Korean bouts so this one really does stand out as something to get excited about, and style wise this should be a war. Notably this is a KBA show, so the bouts are likely to end up being uploaded afterwards and we would advise fans to keep some time aside to catch up on this one if they can't catch it.
Jong Seon Kang (10-0-2, 6) Vs Seong Yeong Yang (8-2-5, 4)
In a second good looking all Korean bout we'll see the unbeaten Jong Seon Kang take on Seong Yeong Yang in a KBA Featherweight ranking bout. For those who have seen these two fighters in action it should be no surprise if this something very special. Both men were in some thrilling contests in 2019 with Kang's bout against Tomjune Mangubat being a sensational 10 round thriller whilst Yang's bout with Jian Wang was just an 10 round toe to toe slugest. Don't expect high quality boxing here, but do expect high intensity and thrilling action.
City Sogo Gym, Hirakata, Osaka, Japan
Toshiki Shimomachi (11-1-2, 7) vs Hiroki Hanabusa (8-0-3, 3)
In a very interesting looking Japanese Youth Super Bantamweight title bout we'll see defending champion Toshiki Shimomachi defending his title against the unbeaten Hiroki Hanabusa. For Shimomachi this will be his first defense, and comes just over a year after he won the title, stopping Kenta Nomura. As for Hanabusa this will be his first title bout, though he has fought in notable bouts before including a Rookie of the Year Final and a bout in China, where he had the crowd against him. This should be a real test of what both men have in the locker, and hopefully the two youngsters will both go on to have successful, and perhaps a rematch somewhere down the line.
Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan
Ryo Sagawa (9-1, 4) Vs Yuri Takemoto (8-1-1, 4)
Action returns to Tokyo on August 13th for a Japanese Featherweight title bout between defending champion Ryo Sagawa and underwhelming challenger Yuri Takemoto. Originally the plan was for Sagawa to defend his title against Hinata Maruta, but with the Champion Carnival essentially messed up by what's been going on in the world that bout was essentially put on ice, for now. As a result we'll be getting Takemoto challenging the brilliant champion. Also this is an underwhelming title defense Takemoto is a solid fighter, who won the Rookie of the Year in 2018, but he's done nothing to suggest he'll be a test for the fantastic Sagawa.
When we first started this site, heading towards over 6 years ago now, the Thai boxing scene was one of the most active. In 2013 there was 148 shows in the country, many of those were televised with, Channel 7 (CH7) showing fights pretty much weekly and Channel 3 (CH3) also doing regular broadcasts.
To put that number into some perspective Japan had 233 shows in 2013, Philipines had 126, Indonesia had 95 and South Korea had 31.
There wasn't just an incredible level of activity but that activity was mostly about developing fighters as part of the next wave of the Thai boxing scene. An example of that was between January 25th and January 28th 2014 there was fights for Yodmongkol Vor Saenghtep, Wanheng Menayothin, Petch Sor Chitpattana, Suriyan Sor Rungvisai, Srisaket Sor Rungvisai and Nawaphon Por Chokchai.These men were allowed to be active, were allowed to fight frequently on television shows and build their profiles.
In that year alone Wanheng and Srisaket, two of the biggest Thai names right now, each fought 7 times. They weren't the only busy fighters, but are certainly the two who appear to have benefited the most from that high level of activity.
As well as the emerging fighters, which also included Amnat Ruenroeng and Knockout CP Freshmart, we also saw the end of the legendary Pongsaklek Wonjongkam, who fought 3 bouts during the year before his retirement. Yes he came back in 2018 for 2 bouts, including the infamous rematch with Koki Kameda, but his career really ended in 2013. Like wise it was the last year that Denkaosan Kaovichit scored a win of note,
It was a transition year for the country, but a great year all the same, and a year that gave us some amazing fights, such as Kompayak Porpramook's FOTY contender with Koki Eto, and the entertaining bout between and Pornsawan Porpramook abd Rey Loreto.
At the time it seemed like the Thai scene, along with the Filipino and Japanese scenes, was amazingly healthy and as we entered 2014 we also seemed to be on the verge of a break out year for Fahlan Sakkreerin, Jr, who had stopped Ryo Miytazaki in Japan at the very end of 2013.
Sadly though things have gone backwards for Thai boxing since then. Activity has dropped, with no year since ever having the same amount of shows. Although 2015 boasted 140 cards that numbers declined to just 99 in 2016 and 2017 wasn't much better with 105. Although it climbed slightly in 2018, when there was 115, it was still a massive reduction from what we had seen just 5 years earlier.
That decline is despite the huge success of Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, the 52 fight unbeaten streak of Wanheng and the emergence of Knockout CP Freshmart.
Worryingly yet, there has only been 31 Thai shows this year as we write this. That's less than 8 a month and it doesn't appear that the trend is set to change, in fact the upcoming scheduled seems to be worryingly scarce. We are well on course for the lowest number Thai shows since the millenium, and we need to go all the way back to 1998 for a year with less than 8 shows a month. That was a year where there was only 71 shows in Thailand, and even then there was unique circumstances behind things. After all 1998 was a year that had followed a massive financial crisis through out Asia, a financial crisis which began in 1997 in Thailand.
Thailand has long been one of the Asian boxing powerhouses, but right now it's a country floundering and a country that is paying for it's mistakes in the sport. Despite the attention given to Srisaket.
For years it has delivered awful match ups, packing records with wins, but not developing fighters. The focus has seemingly been to turn away from fighters carrying the name of top gyms, and instead to carrying the name of a sponsor, showing a shift in focus. Gone are the days of regularly seeing fighters reprresent OnesongChaigym, Kokietgym and Kratingdaenggym, and now are the days of seeing fighters carrying names like CP Freshmart or Ruawaiking. There are a few exceptions, but the gym names being part of a fighters identity are a lot rarer than they used to be.
The TV companies, including long time boxing support CH7, have gradually changed their view on the sport. In fact CH7 have changed their policy on the sport so much that what were once weekly broadcasts are now a near rarity, with the channel only airing world title bouts. We've gone from having shows aired on different channels at the same time, to waiting weeks for a televised show, and even longer for one with some intrigue. The main channels of the past have fallen by the say side in some ways and been over-taken by a relative new comer who have raised the production standards and quality expected of a Thai show
That new channel is WorkPoint, who have really managed to step in, put money into the sport and been putting in what resembles quality control. That had been lacking at times, but was really needed when they moved into the sport last year. In 2018 Work Point put on 11 shows under their "WP Boxing" banner, and despite not always being huge shows, they were consistently worth watching. They were different to what other channels were putting on, and were a shining light in what was becoming a rather dark and dreary Thai sign.
With Workpoint it's not all doom and gloom, and boxing in Thailand isn't dead. It's not like Korea, where it's hanging on by it's finger nails. But it is hard in seeing what the next wave of Thai contenders is going to look like, and just how long their top names of today can remain relevant.
At the moment the top 3 fighters in Thailand are Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, who is 32, Wanheng Menayothin, who is is 33, and Knockout CP Freshmart, who is 28. Srisaket, of course, lost last time out to Juan Franisco Estrada, Wanheng is 52-0 but is showing signs of aging in recent fights and will likely see his perfect record come to an end sooner rather than later, and Knockout has bored fans with dull performances.
Aside from the top 3 it's really unclear what is actually worth caring about in the Thai scene.
Their are prospects, like Apichet Petchmanee, Singsayan CP Freshmart, up coming world title challenger Satanmuanglek CP Freshmart and Chainoi Worawut and Thanongsak Simsri but they are few and far between. To get big bouts they will need to travel, their is little money backing the prospects and securing home advantage against good journeymen, gatekeepers and fellow hopefuls. If these fighters can get the bouts they need they could give us towards a new era in Thai boxing, but the feeling is that they won't be given the development match ups they need. They will either pad their records, and climb the rankings on the back of a lengthy unbeaten run, or be thrown to the wolves.
There is also the worrying trend for Thai fighters to be on the way down at a young age. The promising Fahlan Jr is looking to be on the slide at just 25 years old whilst the once touted Stamp Kiatniwat, at just 21, is looking like his career might be over before many fighters even turn pro.
Whilst there is clearly a lot to the downfall in the Thai scene, despite the huge success of Srisaket, the main thing is that it's happening, and that it's clearly happening. This isn't some gradual thing, but is something that is happening alarmingly fast. The change in CH7's policy is a big change, but the downturn was happening well before that, though it is hard to pin point when this downturn began. In fact it is likely a combination of the issues we've mentioned and a lot more.
There is, of course, one thing we've not yet mentioned, and that is the effect of ONE, which held it's first show in Thailand in 2016, the same year that there was less than 100 boxing shows in Thailand. The competition from other combat sports, including the traditional Muay Thai, is there and no longer is boxing the best alternative source of income for a top Muay Thai fighter who can join something like ONE. It's also worth noting that in 2013 the Sports Authority of Thailand lifted a ban on MMA, which may also have played a notable role in the decline of boxing.
It's hard to know for sure how much of an impact the rise of MMA had, but longer term we suspect it will deny the sport the chance to acquire some top Muay Thai fighters, something that has been a key source of talent.
One other thing to note is the strengthening of the Baht in recent years, meaning the Thai currency is stronger than it was in 2013, meaning domestic are essentially costing more than they did.
Despite all of this, it is not the end of Western style boxing in Thailand, it is however the start of a worrying trend. A trend that needs to end quickly of Thai boxing isn't going to be into a proverbial dark age. Hopefully the rise of Srisaket will kick start the next generation of Thai fighters, if it doesn't then it's hard to see what it will stop the current in decline in boxing in Thailand., though as mentioned there are a few beacons of hope and hopefully those will become the game changers Thailand needs right now.
We saw the sport bounce back from the big issues in the 1990's, and we've seen Thai boxing producing a gem when it's needed one in the past. Fingers crossed they produce another and the sport will be given another shot in the arm for what has been a major player for the Asian scene ever since Pone Kingpetch won the World Flyweight title back in 1960.
This is just an opinion, maaaan! It's easy to share our opinions, and that's what you'll find here, some random opinion pieces