The little men in the sport of boxing often get over-looked despite what they can do in the ring and who they beat. Higher up the scales fighters who achieve less seem to get a lot more plaudits than those who achieve impressive things at lower weights. Sadly this is just part of the sport, and the general perception of boxing. Saying that however some little men do accomplish a lot, often with in only a handful of fights. Today we look at a great example that as we discuss Japanese based Thai Den Junlaphan.
"Eagle" Den Junlaphan, also known as Eagle Akakura and Eagle Kyowa only fought 20 times, running up an 18-2 (6) record between 2000 and 2007 but what he did in those 20 bouts was genuinely outstanding and he notched some great wins that aged fantastically well. Despite his very short career he was a 2-time WBC Minimumweight champion, who's first loss was an unfortunate one, from a shoulder injury, and the second came in his final bout in what was a very close contest.
Today we get to look at the 5 most significant wins for... Den Junlaphan a man who perhaps is now a forgotten face of the Minimumweight division despite featuring in 9 world title bouts, dethroning a long term champion and scoring wins over several notable names.
Nico Thomas (January 5th 2002)
For the first significant win on Junlaphan's record we go all the way back to January 2002 for what was his 6th professional bout and his second since relocating to Japan. The bout saw him take on former IBF Minimumweight world champion Nico Thomas from Indonesia. By this point Thomas was a faded force, he was well past his best years and at 35 years old he was over a decade removed from being a world champion. The idea though wasn't to see Junlaphan tested here, but for the Thai to make a statement of intention, which he did by stopping Thomas in 3 rounds.
Jose Antonio Aguirre (January 10th 2004)
After picking up 4 more wins after his victory over Nico Thomas we saw Junlaphan take a huge step up to face the then WBC Minimumweight champion Jose Antonio Aguirre from Mexico. By this point Aguirre was 30-1-1 (19), he was 28 years old, had held the WBC title for close to 4 years and had amassed 7 defenses. Although he had a loss to his name had gone unbeaten in over 6 years and had scored a number of world level wins over very good opponents. Although Aguirre was a world class fighter he was made to look very, very poor by Junlaphan. The Thai was was too quick, too sharp, too smart and too good. He made Aguirre miss, a lot, out landed the Mexican and pretty much controlled the action from the first round to final bell. Aguirre had a few brief moments of success but after 12 rounds it was clear the challenger had taken a clear decision and the WBC title.
Katsunari Takayama (August 6th 2005)
Sadly for Junlaphan his first reign as the WBC Minimumweight champion was a short lived one. He made a single defense before losing the title to Isaac Bustos in December 2004 due to a shoulder injury he suffered in round 3, which forced him to retire the following round. The following August he got a chance to reclaim the title as he took on Katsunari Takayama, who was enjoying his first world title reign. Despite a good, brave and typically high energy effort from Takayama he was out boxed by the clean, straight punching of Den Junlaphan. The effort from Takayama was great through out but the 22 year was just not quite the fighter he would later become. For Junlaphan this was his first bout after the injury and saw him become a 2-time champion.
In the years that followed this win aged amazingly, with Takayama later becoming a multi-time champion and one of the key fighters at 105lbs over the following decade.
Rodel Mayol (May 6th 2006)
Thankfully for Junlaphan his second reign was a much longer one than his first, and saw him scoring 4 defenses, including 2 really notable ones. The first of those came 9 months after he won the title, when he took a hard fought decision over the then unbeaten Filipino Rodel Mayol. Mayol was 22-0 when he entered and gave a really good account of himself, making his aggression count for something against the skills of Junlaphan. Despite a very good effort from the Filipino he would go on to lose here, with the classier work, and the cleaner punching from Junlaphan being the difference.
As with the win over Takayama this was a win that aged really well, Mayol would, in 2009, move up in weight and claim the WBC Light Flyweight title with a huge, and controversial, upset win over Edgar Sosa.
Akira Yaegashi (June 4th 2007)
The second of Junlaphan's notable defenses saw him defeat a then 6-0 Akira Yaegashi. The talented Yaegashi was being fast tracked following an early OPBF title win, and was being groomed as a future star for Japan. Sadly for the then unbeaten challenger he would suffer a jaw injury during the bout, and have to fight through some real pain en route to losing a clear decision to Junlaphan. Yaegashi certainly had moments, early on, but the fight came a bit too early for him and Junlaphan was a bit too experienced and class for the future 3 weight world champion. This was not just the final defense for Junlaphan but also his final fight in Japan. Given what Yaegashi accomplished in the years after this fight this is a brilliant win to have on the record of Junlaphan and is one that will always stand out, despite the fact Yaegashi was still such a novice.
Although not the most exciting of fighters, or the most explosive or powerful, Junlaphan was a aggressive but skilled boxer, a real talent who looked a natural in the ring. It's a shame his career was as short as it was, and we feel he really could have done much more. His career was brief, but it was very, very meaningful and in a way educated two of the Japanese stars of the future.
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