Whilst March has been a busy month, it ends in amazing fashion with a lot of activity crammed into the last week or so of the month. The action isn't high profile stuff, by any stretch, but we will see a lot of exciting and talented prospects in action and we should end up seeing a lot of quality youngsters looking to show what they can do.
Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan
Gonte Lee (2-0-1, 1) Vs Aso Ishiwaki (8-3-1, 6)
On March 25th Teiken will be putting on a show, with several talented and unbeaten fighters in action. Arguably the pick of the match ups on the show will see the unbeaten Gonte Lee take on his first domestic foe and return to the ring after more than a year of inactivity. In the opposite corner will be the always fun to watch Aso Ishiwaki, who will be looking to return to winning ways after a shocking blow out loss to Jin Sasaki at the end of 2020. Give that both men have a lot to prove here we expect a really good bout, and given the styles of the two men we could end up with a very compelling match up.
Katsuya Fukui (2-0, 2) Vs Hiroki Hanabusa (8-1-3, 3)
Another unbeaten Japanese hopeful facing his first domestic foe is Katsuya Fukui, who goes up against the once beaten Hiroki Hanabusa. Fukui has impressed so far, but has only had 4 combined rounds in his career and this is a major step up for him. Saying that however he is regarded as a top prospect and was a good former amateur, who will be looking to get his career back on track after 2020, a year in which he was left out of the ring, twiddling his thumbs. Hanabusa on the other hand went unbeaten in his first 11 before suffering a TKO loss to the brilliabt Toshiki Shimomachi last year, in a Japanese Youth title fight. Hanabusa will be wanting to bounce back from that loss and is a very serious test for Fukui.
Kenji Fujita (0-0) Vs Motosuke Kimura (3-5-2, 1)
In a very easy to over-look bout on this show we'll see former amateur standout Kenji Fujita make his long awaited professional debut, as he takes on the under-rated Motosuke Kimura. On paper this shouldn't be a test for Fujita, who really was an excellent amateur, however Kimura has proven, more than once, that he has the tools to test touted prospects. Just last year we saw Kimura put Shigetoshi Kotari on his backside, and he has also managed to run Hikari Mineta very close. This is a much, much tougher debut than it looks on paper, and should be a very solid test for Fujita.
RCC Boxing Academy, Ekaterinburg, Russia
Muhammadkhuja Yaqubov (16-0, 9) vs Lunga Sitemela (13-0, 7)
Unbeaten Tajik Super Featherweight hopeful Muhammadkhuja Yaqubov will be looking to make the next defense of his WBC International Super Featherweight title as he goes up against South African challenger Lunga Sitemela. On paper this is a brilliant match up, and one to get genuine excited by, with the records suggesting a genuine test for Yaqubov. Sadly we don't think the bout will be as good as it looks, with Sitemela having a rather padded record, but it's always good to see unbeaten fighters risking their records against each other, and Yaqubov is certainly someone to keep an eye on regardless.
Erzhan Turgumbekov (8-1-1, 2) vs Gaibatulla Gadzhialiev (7-2-1, 3)
The once beaten Erzhan Turgumbekov, from Kyrgyzstan, looks to bounce back from a TKO loss to the sensational Albert Batyrgaziev, as he takes on Gaibatulla Gadzhialiev in a very nicely matched bout. Turgumbekov showed good skills and heart in his loss, but was broken down after 10 rounds by Batyrgaziev, who looks like a future world champion, and we suspect his style should make for a fun to watch bout here against Gadzhialiev, from Russia. Notably Gadzhialiev is 1-2-1 in his last 4, but the 3 bouts he didn't win were all very close and we expect this to be another close one. This might be the hidden gem of the weekend.
Mark Anthony Barriga (9-1, 1) vs Junuel Lacar (8-6-3, 6)
After more than 2 years out of the ring we finally see the ring return of former world title contender Mark Anthony Barriga. The brilliantly talented Filipino is a true joy to watch and the boxing purists will love everything he does in the ring. Sadly though he has been out of action since a 2018 loss to Carlos Licona. Given the long break from the ring we can't really complain about him having an easy return here, and he really is in soft as he goes up against the very limited Junuel Lacar, who has lost 5 of his last 6.
Arthur Villanueva (32-4-1, 18) vs Bryan Tamayo (6-1-2, 2)
Another former world title challenger returning to the ring after a lengthy lay off is Arthur Villanueva, who takes on the once beaten Bryan Tamayo. "King" Arthur was once regarded as a talented Filipino who had the skills to go all the way. Sadly he has failed in his biggest fights and now has just 2 wins in the last 4 years. He needs an impressive showing here. Tamayo on the other hand is a rising 23 year old hopeful looking for his biggest win. This might be a case of "right place, right time" for Tamayo.
Suamlum Night Bazaar, Ratchadaphisek, Bangkok, Thailand
Phoobadin Yoohanngoh (10-0, 5) Vs Chonlatarn Piriyapinyo (61-7, 41)
Fast rising 17 year old prospect Phoobadin Yoohanngoh takes his next step forward as he battled against Thai veteran Conlatarn Piriyapinyo, who is more than twice Phoobadin's age. The talented teenager has been getting a lot of attention in recent years, winning "The Fighter" in 2019, then winning a regional title in 2020, which he has since defended with an excellent win against Atchariya Wirojanasunobol, and we could be just a year or two from him really breaking out. Chonlatarn on the other hand has become a faded force and is a long, long way from the fighter who was once 43-0. Despite being a faded force Chonlatarn is a former multi-time world title challenger and should have some tricks up his sleeve to test Phoobadin with.
Tanes Ongjunta (7-1, 4) vs Suriyan Satorn (61-11, 41) (AKA Kompayak Porpramook)
Talented former Thai amateur standout Tanes Ongjunta was shocked last year when he ran into an inspired Adrian Lerasan in March. Since then he has reeled off 3 low key wins and now takes a massive step up in class to face former world champion Suriyan Satorn, better known as Kompayak Porpramook. We've been impressed by the natural boxing of Ongjunta, but the loss last year does leave us with worries about his durability and he really did take a lot of punishment there. As for Suriyan, he's very, very much a faded fighter and he has been picking up a lot of losses in recent years, and is 2-6 in his last 8. Despite being a faded force the veteran always comes to fight and should put in a legitimate effort here, though we suspect he will come up short.
Central Gym, Kobe, Hyogo, Japan
Shun Kubo (14-2, 9) Vs Ruito Saeki (7-4-1, 1)
Former WBA Super Bantamweight champion Shun Kubo has gone through a few horrible years with his career, being battered by Daniel Roman and Can Xu, as well as suffering injuries, but he seems determined to get his career back on track and is after some confidence building wins. Here he's up against the under-rated and determined Reuito Saeki, who looks to return to winning ways after going 0-3-1 in his last 4. On paper this looks a bit like a mismatch, but the style of Saeki will almost certainly be a nightmare for the skilled but fragile Kubo and this could end up being a lot, lot more competitive than it looks on paper.
Takahiro Tai (1-0, 1) Vs Koichi Wakita (7-2-3, 2)
Charismatic prospect Takahiro Tai returns for his second professional bout after an eye catching and very fan friendly debut late last year. In the opposite corner is credible domestic fighter Koichi Wakita, who will not want to be embarrassed by the young upstart. For those who missed Tai's debut it was full of show boating, dropping hands and stance switching as he tried to show off just some of the tricks in his bag. Whilst it was against an over-matched foe we suspect the style he showed is the one we'll see from him a lot over the coming years. Whilst Wakita probably lacks the power to be a real dangerman here, he does have the skills and experience to punish Tai's slip ups and this could end up being a real learning experience for the youngster.
December, the best month of the year! The part of the year where we get Christmas, New Year's Eve, the birthday of some awesome people (hint hint!), and a great array of match ups right through the month. We really do have a bit of everything in December with world class fighters, domestic and regional title bouts, prospects, intriguing rematches and bouts that are just...interesting.
Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan
Masataka Taniguchi (12-3, 7) vs Hizuki Saso (12-6-2, 4)
On December 3rd we'll see a new Japanese Minimumweight champion crowned as former world title challenger Masataka Taniguchi clashed with Hizuki Saso for the vacant title. The title has been vacant since January, when Norihito Tanaka gave it up, and it's great to see it getting a new champion here. On paper it's really hard to see anything but a win for Taniguchi, however we suspect Saso know his opportunities will be limited and he'll have put everything into preparing for this shot.
Ayaka Miyao (23-8-2, 6) vs Etsuko Tada (19-3-3, 6) II -
We'll also see a new owner of the WBO Female Minimumweight title on December 3rd when Ayaka Miyao and Etsuko Tada re-run their January bout. Earlier this year these two veterans fought to a draw, in what was a really, really good bout, and we're looking forward to this rematch. It seemed that Miyao was unlucky in the first bout between the two, and she'll be the favourite here, but Tada should never be written off and she has bounced back from multiple setbacks through her career. This promises to be competitive, exciting and high tempo, even if neither fighter has the power to really hurt the other.
Workpoint Studio, Bang Phun, Thailand
Apichet Petchmanee (7-0, 2) vs Musheg Adoian (7-2, 7) II
Another notable rematch comes from Thailand on December 5th when unbeaten Apichet Petchmanee takes on Thai based Russian fighter Musheg Adoian. This should be really interesting, especially given the controversial nature of their first bout earlier this year. When the men first fought Apichet seemed to get very lucky on the scorecards after being dropped twice, and it's clear that Adoian will be out to avenge what he and his team will feel was an unjust loss. As for Apichet it's a chance to prove he's the better man. Sadly though the close nature of a number of Apichet's wins do suggest that if this goes the distance he'll take the decision and Adoian may well need to stop his man to home a victory.
Phongsaphon Panyakum (10-1, 5) vs Kompayak Porpramook (60-10, 41)
In an interesting match up 20 year old Thai prospect Phongsaphon Panyakum will take on former world champion Kompayak Porpramook. Originally Phongsaphon was supposed to be facing Sarawut Thawornkham on this card, but the bout was changed in mid-November when Sarawut's health forced him into early retirement. As a result Kompayak has stepped in and should make for an interesting test for the youngster. On paper Phongsaphon should be favoured, but we expect he will be given a real acid test here in a very interesting match up.
Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan
Mikito Nakano (4-0, 4) vs Ruito Saeki (7-3-1, 1)
Promising Japanese Featherweight Mikito Nakano returns to the ring in search of win #5 as he takes on Ruito Saeki. So far Nakano has looked like a star in the making, and it's a real shame his rise through the ranks has been slowed by 2020, or we'd likely be seeing him in title bouts in 2021. He's talented, quick, powerful and super sharp. In Ruito Saeki we have a capable domestic level fighter who came close to making the 2016 All Japan Rookie of the Year final, but has gone 0-2-1 in his last 3. Although struggling for form Saeki has shown that he's tough and is a clear step up for Nakano in a solid bit of match making.
RCC Boxing Academy, Ekaterinburg, Russia
Fazliddin Gaibnazarov (8-1, 5) vs Manuk Dilanyan (11-4-1, 4)
Rio Olympic gold medal winner Fazliddin Gaibnazarov will be look to continue rebuilding his career following a 2019 loss to Mykal Fox. The talented Uzbek is being matched relatively easily here against Manuk Dilanyan, who hasn't looked all that impressive during his career. Although, on paper, an easy fight for Gaibnazarov it is worth noting that the Uzbek will be giving away around 5" in height and could find Dilanyan to be a tricky customer here.
Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan
Daishi Nagata (15-2-1, 6) vs Akihiro Kondo (32-9-1, 18)
Earlier this year this under-rated Daishi Nagata upset Koki Inoue to claim the JBC Light Welterweight title, which he'll defend for the first time on December 10th, when he takes on former world title contender Akihiro Kondo. On paper this looks like a really good first defense for Nagata, but digging a little deeper it's fair to say this is a calculated risk, with Kondo looking like a man who has seen better days. Given the styles of the two men this should be really fun, but the younger, fresher, champion should be strongly favoured against the tough veteran.
Rentaro Kimura (2-0, 2) Vs Thunder Teruya (7-7-1, 4)
Super prospect Rentaro Kimura has hardly put a foot wrong since turning professional earlier this year, and the man from Shizuoka will be looking to end the year 3-0 (3) as he takes on Thunder Teruya. This is expected to be a chance for Kimura to showcase his skills at Korakuen Hall in front of a paying audience, for the first time, and to get some more TV exposure, on Fuji TV, before bigger and tougher bouts in the new year. Teruya certainly shouldn't be a threat for Kimura but won't be there to roll over and Kimura will need to for his win.
Tsubasa Murachi (5-1, 3) Vs Isao Aoyama (12-7-1, 3)
Another prospect who'll have to work for a win will be Tsubasa Murachi, who looks to score his biggest win to date as he take on JBC ranked Super Flyweight Isao Aoyama from the Celes gym. Once touted as a future star Murachi bit off more than he could chew in 2019, when he was stopped by Froilan Saludar in a WBO Asia Pacific title fight, but is is looking to rebuild and looked solid last time out, against Ryotaro Kawabata. We expect another solid performance from him here. Aoyama is a veteran and a talented on, but has lost 4 of his last 4 and a win here would likely be his best to date.
EDION Arena, Osaka, Japan
Yumi Narita (4-4-3, 1) Vs Mont Blanc Miki (4-3-1, 1)
Japanese female Minimumweight champion Yumi Narita looks to make her first defense as she takes on Mont Blanc Miki in a bout that won't get much attention based on records though should be an appealing match up when the two women get in the ring. Neither of these are the most polished of fighters but as with many limited level fighters in Asia they both come to fight, and with the title on the line we expect both to dig in deep. The challenger will be the under-dog but is a very, very live challenger here.
EDION Arena, Osaka, Japan
Miyo Yoshida (14-1) v Tomoko Okuda (6-2-2, 1)
The once beaten Miyo Yoshida looks to record her second defense of the WBO female Super Flyweight title as she takes on gritty challenger Tomoko Okuda. Coming into this Yoshida will be strongly favoured, given she is riding a 10 fight unbeaten run, and has scored several very notable victories during that rung, including one against Tomomi Takano and another against Casey Morton, to win the title. Although the under-dog Okuda is now push over and she'll be hungry to make the most of her big opportunity, especially as she'll know there's a good chance she won't get a second shot at a world title, given she's 37.
Man what a week we've had! We've had so many fights over the last 7 days that we're genuinely exhausted but in a good way, having enjoyed so many great fights, so much brilliant action and so many things that have left us excited about the future of the sport.
With that said here are our award winners for this past week, and there really were a lot of contenders for some of the categories.
Fighter of the Week
We don't think anyone was really up in the running for this award other than Naoya Inoue, who secured a win on his Las Vegas debut without too much trouble. The "Monster" was under pressure to perform and he did just that, easing his way through the first few rounds before putting his foot on the gas. He had stubborn resistance from Jason Moloney, who played his part with a really brave effort, but in the end the power, skills, speed and accuracy of Inoue were too much. The Monster was out on Halloween and did exactly what he needed to to leave an impression on those who maybe weren't too aware of him.
Performance of the Week
There was a lot of really good performances this week, all for varying reasons. Inoue shining in Las Vegas was the biggest performance, Nanthasith Petchnamthong scoring a win over a former world champion in his second pro bout was impressive, Kosuke Tomioka shining in his Rookie of the Year bout was great. For us however the the guy with the most impressive performance was Kazakh fighter Ablaikhan Zhussupov. The Kazakh amateur standout made his debut in Kazakhstan against the very solid Meshack Mwankemwa and looked like a man who had had 10 or 15 professional bouts. It's a shame he's expected to compete at the Tokyo Olympics and not commit to the professoinal ranks for sometime as on this performance this kid is special.
Fight of the Week
Nonthasith Petchnamthong Vs Kompayak Porpramook
Whilst we certainly had bigger fighters, and bouts with more significance it was hard to think of a more enjoyable bout, bell to bell, than the exciting, competitive, engaging 10 round back and forth between Nonthasith Petchnamthong and Kompayak Porpramook. As with every Kompayak bout he was there to win, he was pressing, pressuring and trying to break his novice opponent mentally. Nonthasith showed his ring IQ, toughness and determination as he blunted Kompayak's aggression in a truly fantastic 10 rounder. Credit to both men for this one!
As we write this footage for Kenta Kamimura vs Yuto Kagata hasn't been made available, though reports are that this was a very special bout between two young debutants who let it all hang. As a result of not being able to see this bout it's not been considered for either the Fight OR Round of the Week
Round of the Week
Wanchana Menayothin Vs Omar El Ouers (Rd3)
As with the fight of the week we stay in Thailand for a bit of a hidden gem. The bout pitted Thai youngster Wanchana Menayothin against Thai based Moroccan Omar El Ouers and boy did they put on an under-rated, and under-seen, battle here. It always seemed like Wanchana was too big and strong for El Ouers, but that didn't stop the Moroccan from holding his own at times, and giving his some of the most exciting exchanges of the week. If you missed this one we particular advise rounds 3 and 4, as they let shots go at will and put on a show.
KO of the Week
Shu Utsuki TKO2 Takayuki Sakai
Some weeks we don't get any noteworthy KO's but this week we had several fantastic ones. The best of the bunch was the one scored by Japanese Lightweight prospect Shu Utsuki in his DANGAN A Class tournament qualifying bout against Takayuki Sakai. This was a thing of beauty! With Sakai near the ropes Utsuki lined up his man and threw a perfect 1-2, with the straight going right through the guard. A genuine brilliant KO and our favourite of the week.
Wanchana Menayothin TKO5 Omar El Ouers
Naoya Inoue TKO5 Jason Moloney
Prospect of the Week
Some weeks we don't see a single prospect that makes us sit up and take note. This week we had an abundance of them. For us however scoring a win over a former world champion in just his second bout nets Nonthasith Petchnamthong the award. His performance may not have been the the best of the week, but the manner in which he has moved his career forward in a single week can't be questioned. This guy has a lot of promise, and fingers crossed TL Promotions don't mess him up with too many tough bouts too soon. So far however their match making for him has been ambitious but very good.
Phetmorakot Petchyindee Academy
The last week of October isn't a crazy one in terms of big fights, but is a very good in terms of noteworthy fights, with a world title bout, a Japanese world title bout a bunch of Japanese title eliminators, several notable prospects and a very good cross roads fight.
Wanheng Menayothin (53-0, 18) vs Simpiwe Konkco (19-5, 7) - Thailand
On Friday October 25th we'll see WBC Minimumweight champion Wanheng Menayothin make his next defense, as he takes on mandatory challenger Simpiwe Konkco from Aouth Africa. The unbeaten Thai is the longest reigning active champion, and whilst his competition, overall, hasn't been great this is a solid defense against a very under-rated challenger. Sadly Wanheng's best wins so far have come against the likes of Tatsuya Fukuhara and Pedro Taduran and he lacks consistency, so a win here will bolster his standing before a potential US debut. For Konkco the bout is a second world title shot a win would put him on the map, big time.
Sadriddin Akhmedov (9-0, 8) vs Johnny Navarrete (33-15-2, 15) - Quebec, Canada
Hard hitting Kazakh prospect Sadriddin Akhmedov fights for the first time as a married man as he takes on Mexican veteran Johnny Navarrete. The hard hitting Akhmedov will be strongly favoured here, and is expected to blow through the Mexican in terms to return for a December card at the Bll Centre. To dat Akhmedov has squeezes 3 fights and his weeding into 2019 and is a busy boy, but given his natural talent, and power, we have no reason to think this will be anything short of a blow out.
Kazuki Tanaka (11-2, 8) Vs Kyosuke Sawada (13-2-1, 6) - Tokyo, Japan
In a very even looking Japanese Bantamweight title eliminator we'll see the aggressive Kazuki Tanaka take on the skilled and smart Kyosuke Sawada. This pits puncher against boxer and should be a very interesting match up between two talented fighters with very different in ring mindsets. We expect Tanaka to press and Sawada try to keep behind his his jab, though we have seen Sawada dragged into a fight before and sooner or later we expect this one to break out into a war.
Hinata Maruta (9-1-1, 7) Vs Takenori Ohashi (17-5-2, 11) - Tokyo, Japan
The wonderfully smooth Hinata Maruta takes on the former Japanese Featherweight champion Takenori Ohashi in a Japanese Featherweight title eliminator. Although very talented Maruta has faltered in his biggest bout to date, losing a competitive decision to veteran Hidenori Otake in an OPBF title match, but has bounced back with some impressive results and will be looking to build on his recent wins over Tsuyoshi Tameda and Coach Hiroto. On the other hand Ohashi is no slouch, and whilst technicall he's slow and clunky he has lights out power, and is a danger through out a bout. This really is boxer against puncher in what could turn out to be the gem of the Japanese title eliminators taking place on October 26th.
Kazuki Saito (7-1, 5) Vs Izuki Tomioka (6-2-1, 2) - Tokyo, Japan
Another Japanese title eliminator will be taking place at Lightweight and will see the talented, but somewhat chinny, Kazuki Saito take on the skilled, but light hitting, Izuki Tomioka. This is a bout that pits two men who have real potential, but big flaws, against each other. Saito is a joy to watch offensively, but his durability issues cannot be ignored, and he has been down in a number of fights and we do worry about him whenever he's caught. Izuki gave Masayoshi Nakatani fights in a 2018 bout for the OPBF Lightweight title, but looked worried against Shuya Masaki just a few months later. Izuki is an excellent and fighter, but his lack of stopping power is a major question mark, even at this level.
Keita Obara (21-4-1, 19) Vs Toshiro Tarumi (12-3-3, 6) - Tokyo, Japan
Former world title challenger Keita Obara drops back down to domestic level for a Japanese Welterweight title eliminator against Toshiro Tarumi. Obara has proven to not be world class, but isn't too far behind and bouts against the likes of Kudratillo Abdukakhorov have shown some of his limitations. Despite that Obara has still only ever been beaten by 1 Japanese opponent, and that was on his debut. Tarumi is a solid domestic fighter, but this is a massive step up in class for him, and we suspect it's too much too soon for him. Tarumi lacks the power needed to get Obara's respect and isn't sharp enough to be able to replicate Abdukakhorov's gameplan.
Wenfeng Ge (11-1, 6) Vs Kompayak Porpramook (60-7, 41) - Chongqing, China
Chinese 32 year old Wenfeng Ge looks to bounce back from a loss in January to Giemel Magramo, which saw him being stopped in the 10th round. The Chinese fighter will be taking on former WBC Light Flyweight world champion Kompayak Porpramook, a 37 year old Thai who has been in some amazing bouts during his long career. We suspect the local fighter will have the energy and speed to avoid an all out tear up with Porpramook, but the Thai never stops trying and we'd expect at least some exciting exchanges here in a bout both men will see as a must win.
Seigo Yuri Akui (13-2-1, 9) vs Shun Kosaka (16-5, 4) - Okayama, Japan
In a bout to crown a new Japanese Flyweight champion we'll see the exciting Seigo Yuri Akui battle the rugged Shun Kosaka. So far we've seen both of these two lose to their best opponents, in fact both share a loss to Junto Nakatani, but they should make for a very interesting domestic title bout, with Akui's quick start and intense aggression being matched against Kosaka's toughness. If Akui can take out Kosaka early this would be very impressive, however the longer it goes the more and more Kosaka's toughness will play a part. A very interesting match up and one that feels very hard to call.
Shu Utsuki (5-0, 4) vs Somphot Seesa (4-2, 4) - Tokyo, Japan
Fast rising Japanese hopeful Shu Utsuki looks to continue his rapid rise as he takes on Thai foe Somphot Seesa. On paper this is, arguably, Utsuki's easiest bout to date and it has a "stay busy" feel to it for the hard hitting Watanabe gym fighter. Seesa has a bit of experience but he was stopped in both of his previous visits to Japan, to Daisuke Sugita and Ren Sasaki, and it's hard to imagine him lasting long with Utsuki here.
Yudai Shigeoka (0-0) vs Manop Audomphanawari (3-2, 3) - Tokyo, Japan
Former amateur standout Yudai Shigeoka, the older brother of Ginjiro Shigeoka, makes his professional as he takes on Thai foe Manop Audomphanawari. In reality this should be a simple win for Shigeoka, but we're looking forward to seeing him in the ring and seeing his rise, especially given the incredibly quick rise of his brother.
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.
After the hectic new year period we do see boxing slow down as we begin 2019, with January being a particularly quiet month. That's not to say there's nothing happen, just a lot less than we see in the usually busy months of September, October, November and December.
Wenfeng Ge (11-0, 6) vs Giemel Magramo (22-1, 18) - WBO International Flyweight title
The notable Asian card of the year features number of interesting match ups, including a fantastic Flyweight bout between unbeaten Chinese fighter Wenfeng Ge, who holds solid wins over Amnat Ruenroeng and Ivan Soriano, and the once beaten Filipino Giemel Magramo. The winner of this bout will immediately find themselves on the verge of a WBO title fight, and it's hard not to think this is a huge way to start the new year.
Jiang Xiang (15-4-2, 3) Vs Kompayak Porpramook (59-6, 40) - WBC silver Light Flyweight
On the same card fans will see Chinese hopeful Jiang Xiang take a huge step up in class to take on former world champion Kompayak Porpramook. The Chinese fighter is a relative unknown but will see this as a huge chance to climb up the WBC rankings, and towards a potential world title fight. Kompayak is well beyond his best, though is well known for his great fights with Adrian Hernandez and Koki Eto. If Kompayak can roll back the clock and put in solid performance here there is a very real chance that he could derail Xiang's charge. This a really interesting match up, and should be a very exciting one.
Mugicha Nakagawa (24-5-1, 14) Vs Ryoichi Tamura (11-3-1, 6) - Vacant Japanese Super Bantamweight title
The Japanese Super Bantamweight title was vacated in late 2018 by Shingo Wake, who now looks to chase a world title. To fill the vacancy we'll see Mugicha Nakagawa take on Ryoichi Tamura, in what should be a genuinely excellent contest between a boxer-puncher and an aggressive pressure fighter. On paper Nakagawa is the more experienced and more proven man, but Tamura is aggressive, hard hitting and gave Yusaku Kuga hell when they fought in 2018. This could be a very exciting match up.
Shin Ono (23-9-3, 6) Vs Norihito Tanaka (17-7, 9) - Japanese Minimumweight title
On the same card in Tokyo we'll also see Shin Ono defending the Japanese Minimumweight title in a mandatory title defense against fellow veteran Norihito Tanaka. This will be Ono's second defense of the title, following his title win in 2018 against Ryoki Hirai and his TKO8 win over Riku Kano to defend the title in October. Ono is thought to be pursuing another world title fight in 2019 but will know that he needs to win here. For Tanaka this shot comes on the back of an upset win over Takumi Sakae in October, and is his third title fight, following losses to Akira Yaegashi and Tsubasa Koura. Ono will be the favourite, but this is a very competitive looking match up, and one that should deliver a lot of action!
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