When we talk about Thai boxing legends there are a number of worthy names to talk about from through the years. Today we talk about one of those names as we look at one of the early legends of the Thai boxing, and one of the most notable Thai world champions from the 1960's and 70's, as we return for the latest in the "The 5 most significant wins for..." series.
The Thai in question here is Chartchai Chionoi (61-18-3, 36) who was a mainstay on the Flyweight world title scene for around a decade and genuinely fought a who's who of who during his 82 fight career. Whilst he did suffer some losses that was really no surprised given the quality of opponents he was up against. That included not only top world champions of his era but also leading contenders, like Mitsunori Seki, Fritz Chervet and Bernardo Caraballo.
For those that follow the history of the sport Chionoi is one of those really interesting fighters, that deserves a lot more attention. Whilst this article isn't going to go into a deep dive of his complete career, he really is one of the forgotten legends, and when we look at his 5 most significant wins you'll be able to see just how good he was.
Salvatore Burruni (February 8th 1966)
As we entered 1966 Chartchai Chionoi was a rising hopeful. He had reigned as the OPBF champion, but lost in his first defense, and was still battling to get his name out there. Just a few months into the year he scored a then career best win over Italian Salvatore Burrini, to put his name well and truly in the mix for a world title fight. Burruni had been a former WBA and WBC champion, and although he wasn't a champion at this point in time he hadn't lost the belts inside the ring, being stripped for not facing mandatory challengers. Chionoi defeated the Italian with a clear decision win, and immediately moved towards a world title fight. Notably this bout took place above the Flyweight limit, but was still a clear example of what Chionoi could do.
Walter McGowan I (December 30th 1966)
Around 10 months after Chionoi beat Burruni he would get a shot at the then lineal world champion Walter McGowan. The talented Scottish champion had not only beaten Burruni himself, but had done so at Flyweight to claim the lineal title. As a result McGowan was recognised by the EBU, BBBofC and The Ring as the champion, despite having not having an ABC title at the time. The Thai would be dropped in round 2, but battle back hard and force a stoppage in round 9 of a bloodied and battered McGowan. The tough Scot ended up receiving stitches after the bout to close up his nose, which had been a total mess when the bout was stopped.
Walter McGowan II (September 19th 1967)
Around 9 months after Chionoi beat McGowan in Thailand the two men would re-run the fight in England. Like the first bout Chionoi would end up stopping McGowan on cuts, with the Scottish fighter ended up a bloody mess due to a cut over his right eye. McGowan had looked good until being cut over the eye in round 5. That essentially forced his hand and made him step up his output. Although McGowan had success he also had a target for Chionoi to go after, and he did in round 7 when the cut forced the referee to step in.
Bernabe Villacampo (November 10th 1968)
Although Chionoi had been recognised in some quarters as the Linear champion since his first win over Walter McGowan he hadn't actually held a physical ABC title. That changed in 1968 when he beat Bernabe Villacampo to claim the WBC Flyweight title. The talented Thai would take a decision over the Filipino to claim the WBC crown and prove his status as one of the very best in the world. The win, a 15 round decision, meant the WBC could no longer look the other way. Interestingly less than a year later Villacampo himself would claim the WBA title, beating Hiroyuki Ebihara in Osaka, adding further significance and meaning to Chionoi's victory, and the Linear title that he held coming out of his win over Villacampo.
Efren Torres III (March 20th 1970)
Prior to beating Villacampo in late 1968 Chionoi had beaten Efren Torres. Torres would get revenge straight after Chionoi's win over Villacampo, taking the WBC title from the Thai just 3 months after he won it. In 1970 the two men would have a rubber match, with Chionoi taking the win and reclaiming the WBC Flyweight title, to end their in ring rivalry. Interestingly this was the only one of their 3 bouts that didn't end in a TKO, with Chionoi taking a 15 round decision over his Mexican foe.
Sadly for Chionoi his reign was a short one, again, and lasted less than 9 months, ending when he was stopped in 2 rounds by Filipino Erbito Salavarria. Following the win over Torres he would go 10-5-1 (3) but did reclaim the WBA title in 1973, beating Fritz Chervet, and defended it twice before losing it to Susumu Hanagata in 1974 and retiring soon afterwards.
Strangely picking 5 wins for Chionoi was harder than it was for most, as he around 7 that could genuinely make this list, whilst sometimes we have fighters who really do only have 5 big wins. Chionoi's record might not be the best but it's also very, very easy to over-look how good he was, how tough he was and how good some of his wins were.
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