As we head towards a new year we've decided to look into our glass balls, our tea leaves and our palms to come up with 20 predictions which will be posted over the coming weeks for what we think will happen in 2020. So far our predictions haven't been the best though they've not all been wrong.
In 2013 we predicted that Naoya Inoue, his brother Takuma and Kosei Tanaka would all win world titles. Between them they've won a few world titles, though Takuma has yet to win a proper world title. That same year we also predicted a growth in Chinese boxing, and this arguably happened despite the fact the Macau side of things has died off. We also predicted a growth in Asian fighters making a name for themselves in the US, this was before Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, Naoya Inoue or Kazuto Ioka had fought on US soil, and before the wave of Uzbek's had began to attract US attention.
Unlike the past, where we have made all of our predictions in 1 article, we'll be spreading these ones out with 1 prediction per article, and going more in depth than we have in the past.
PREDICTION number 20-Someone breaks Muangsurin and Lomachenko's record!
We've had, we believe, a nice mix of predictions, from some we feel were maybe a little obvious to some which were certainly a bit left field. What we hadn't mentioned was anything historical. Today, in our 20th, and final, prediction for next year we do go historical and we predict someone will break the long standing record for fewest fights to win a world title.
At the moment the record stands at 3 pro bouts, at least for men, jointly held by Thai legend Saensak Muangsurin and current Ukrainian star Vasyl Lomachenko, who both won their first world title in their third bout.
We have seen fighters, including Lomachenko himself in fact, challenge for a belt in their second bout, and a few debutants have also fought for world titles, but to date no one, other than female fighter Hyun Mi Choi, has won a world title before their third bout. In 2020 we expect that to change. We predict that someone will win a world title in their second professional bout, at some point next year.
We'll be totally open and admit we don't know who it will be who achieves the feat, though we would guess a central Asian fighter, likely an Uzbek, or a Japanese fighter. Both countries have been willing to fast track fighters, throw them in deep from their debut, and try to create a buzz quickly and neither country tends to do the whole slow build tot a title fight that we see in the west.
We're thinking next year will be the year the record goes for a few reasons.
Firstly there are more titles out there than ever before, and whilst a fighter holding a "regular" title might not be accepted by some fans the reality is that that will do for others. Even with all the titles out their the fighter who breaks the record would still need to be a world ranked opponent for the belt, so even with extra titles, they don't get a gimmie for a belt.
Another thing to consider is that 2020 is an Olympic year, and fighters who miss out on the Olympics may well be looking to make a name for themselves as quickly as they can. Someone like Kenji Fujita, who recently retired from the amateur code, could be hot shotted through the pros on the back of his excellent amateur background. Even if it's not Fujita, it could well be some other top amateur who misses the Olympics for whatever reason, and tries to make up for the year by being moved on the hyper quick road to the top.
On one hand a lot of the top Uzbek fighters have already debuted, however there is still a lot of talent there yet to turn over. Some one like the exceptionally talented Mirazizbek Mirzakhalilov, who has won gold at the Asian Games, Asian Championships and World Championships, could make an immediate impact on the pros. Likewise someone like, Vassiliy Levit, could well turn his back on the politics of the amateurs and try to make the most the little time he'd have in the pros.
There were several Uzbeks who likely could, had they selected the right champion, been able to take a world title in their first 2 fights. Hansanboy Dusmatov was probably the most likely, but a then 1-0 (1) Israil Madrimov taking on Tony Harrison would have been compelling and a 1-0 (1) Bektemir Melikuziev could likely have beaten the Callum Smith who fought John Ryder. Neither of those would have been gimmies, but neither would have been the biggest of shocks either...in fact neither would have been the biggest upset of 2019 if we're being totally honest.
It is a massive risk for any fighter to try and achieve the feat, as we saw when Lu Bin failed against Carlos Canizales, but it's certainly not impossible and we know the record will go. It's a matter of "if" and not "when". Sadly for Bin he was up against an excellent champion, but had he attempted the feat just a few years earlier, there's a chance he could have beat a champion like Alberto Rossel or taken the vacant title that ended up with Jesus Geles.
With the two pro-style competitions that AIBA ran now seemingly dead, and professionals competing in amateur tournaments the two codes have began to directly over lap in major competitions, and this could also help an amateur prepare to face a pace a professional fighter. Sure the amateur bouts are shorter than they were in APB and WSB, but amateur boxing does have stiffer competition at the top level than most professional fighters have early in their career, and we have seen more and more fighters turning to professional boxing "pro-ready". With no head gear in the Olympics that is likely to continue, despite the death of two pro style competitions.
One other wild card to consider is Thailand.
The Muay Thai scene has long developed top Thai fighters who have been able to be fast tracked, and as with Muangsurin, their may well be some appeal to a top Muay Thai practitioner to turn to boxing, and try to break Muangsurin's record. With professional boxing struggling a little bit in Thailand, something like this would give the country's boxing scene a huge shot in the arm. A loss would likely send them back to Muay Thai whilst a win would make them an instant boxing star.
Although we do realise this is a wild prediction we genuinely would not be surprised if it happens in 2020!
Over the past few weeks we've been reading about Tabtimdaeng Na Rachwat (52-2, 34) on forums following the announcement he would be fighting Britain's Jamie McDonnell (23-2-1, 10) for the vacant WBA Bantamweight title. Unfortunately a lot of the comments about Tabtimdaeng have come from Western fans who are unaware of how boxing works in Thailand.
Due to that we've decided it was only right to try and explain why so many things in Thailand seem so wrong to a western fan. Some of this may not make a lot of sense to a Western fan but we hope to help at least explain things, even if something's are things that they may not agree with.
Firstly the question of Tabtimdaeng's ranking. Ranked #3 by the WBA at 118lbs Tabtimdaeng has a very flattering ranking and we completely accept that it's not demonstrative of his merits or his talent. What it is however is the boxing political game which he and the WBA have played.
Tabtimdaeng is a 2-time PABA champion at Bantamweight. His first reign was from 2005 to 2010 before he was upset by the very talented Filipino Roli Gasca. His second reign began in 2011 as an interim champion before being upgraded in 2013 and later he was upgraded to the PABA super champion, for the second time.
What Tabtimdaeng had done is defended a WBA regional title for a high ranking and been rewarded for. The PABA belt is a Asian based WBA regional title that is utilised much like the European title. Having a PABA belt doesn't automatically grant a high world ranking but defending it multiple times will help a fighter shoot up the rankings and move on to a WBA world title fight.
Other fighters who have benefited from being PABA champions in recent years have included:
Paipharob Kokietgym, Kwanthai Sithmorseng, Pornsawan Porpramook, Wisanu Kokietgym, Denkaosan Kaovichit, Tepparith Kokietgym, Poonsawat Kratingdaenggym, Chris John, Chonlatarn Piriyapinyo, Eduard Troyanovsky, Dmitry Chudinov, Beibut Shumenov, Oleg Maskaev and Nikolay Valuev. All of these men, other than Troyanovsky, have either fought for or won a WBA title of some variation.
Rather interestingly the PABA title is open to Australian fighters and have been held by Jarrod Fletcher, Sam Soliman and Anthony Mundine over the last few years as well as the men already mentioned.
Interestingly it is Thai's who seem to target the PABA route with many Japanese and Filipino fighters preferring to go the OPBF route which is affiliated with the WBC instead of the WBA. We intend to do an in depth piece on the OPBF in the future but it's essentially the same game there, albeit with tougher competition due to the WBC having tighter rules on challengers.
The second issue we hear with Tabtimdaeng relates to his recent competition which has been against novices. What many fans in the west don't realise is that Thai's tend to prefer activity over a tough level of competition.
In the last 12 months Tabtimdaeng has fought 6 times, including twice already this year. That is twice as often as McDonnell who fought thrice last year and hasn't fought this year.
For many outsiders it looks like Tabtimdaeng is just beating up novices. What he's actually doing is treating boxing as a full time job. He gets paid to fight and the more fights he has the more he gets paid. In Thailand purses aren't large and activity can make up for the small purses as well as keeping a good fighter sharp and in shape. We're not suggesting Tabtimdaeng is being paid a lot for these "stay busy" fights or even learning a lot but he's getting paid and that is the key reason for his activity.
The same issue arose when Pongsaklek Wonjongkam was the WBC Flyweight champion in the 00's. He, like Srisaket Sor Rungviai does now, was collecting pay days between world title fights.
Wonjongkam reigned as the WBC Flyweight champion twice between 2001 and 2012. In total he fought in 28 WBC or WBC "interim" world title bouts in 11 years. He also fought in 21 none title bouts in the same time span often against the same level of competition that Tabtimdaeng has been fighting. He did that to be paid and the level of competition between his title fights didn't hinder him against fighters like Luis Alberto Lazarte, Daisuke Naito, Gilberto Keb Baas, Tomonobu Shimizu, Julio Cesar Miranda, Koki Kameda, Suriyan Sor Rungvisai or Edgar Sosa. all of whom were world title holders themselves.
Going back to Srisaket he has defended his belt just once since winning it a year ago. He has remained active however with 7 none title victories and is now just weeks away from his second world title defence, a mandatory against Carlos Cuadras in Mexico. Rather than just wait for his mandatory he has remained active and collected numerous paydays whilst Cuadras has fought just once in the last 12 months.
It seems silly in the UK and the USA where fighters often have either "a big name" and get paid handsomely or have a full time job but for a lot of Thai's in boxing, boxing is their job and they want to be at work regularly.
Of course not all fighters follow the route of heavy activity. Instead some are fast tracked to a world title with fighters like Saensak Muangsurin, Muangchai Kittikasem, Sot Chitalada, Veeraphol Sahaprom, Samart Payakaroon and most recently Amnat Ruenroeng all being put on the fast track to the top. These man have all come from a strong background in Muay Thai, other than Amnat who was, of course, a stand out Thai amateur and scored a notable win over Kazuto Ioka in the amateur ranks.
This brings to one more point. A lot of Thai's don't have an amateur career, or at least not a substantial one. They often come from either Muay Thai or a very short amateur career and as a result they are forced to learn on the job. This can lead to fighters having 20 or 30 fights before they face anyone of any note.
The fact so many learn on the job does show why some top Thai's have losses. One such fighter is Srisaket who began his career 1-3-1 with a loss to Akira Yaegashi on his debut, another is Suriyan who was 8-2-1 after 11 fights, whilst Rusalee Samor was 8-2 early in his career and later 11-3-2 and Mike Tawatchai was 3-3.
Fighting regularly lets a fighter hone their skills and, as mentioned earlier, they are being paid for their lessons.
We know their are issues with the way Thailand do what they do. It does encourage mismatches, it encourages the abuse of visiting fighters from Indonesia and Philippines, and it also leads to some awful televised cards which are often full of mismatches however it works for them and they do regularly provide the world with ranked fighters. They often have world class fighters, world champions and some must watch guys, like Srisaket, Samor and Jomthong Chuwatana are right now, and probably most interestingly they have a lot of free to air fights on Channel 3, 5, 7 and 9 something many other countries could well do with copying.
With everything said, we don't think Tabtimdaeng will be McDonnell. From the fights of his that we've seen we don't think he has anything to trouble McDonnell with, however we do hope fans will at least let Tabtimdaeng teach them something about from Thailand and even if he does lose it'd be nice for fans to become a little bit more aware of why Thai's do what they do.
(Images courtesy of: www.bangkokpost.com-Tabtimdaeng, and boxrec.com Srisaket and Muangsurin)
In July 1975 Thailand's Saensak Muangsurin, pictured, shocked the world by winning a world title in just his third professional contest. For much of the last 40 years fans thought that record was an untouchable record, one that would never be beaten and very few fighters would have either the testicular fortitude or skills to even dream about challenging it.
Just this past weekend however a fighter came very close to beating that record. Vasyl Lomachenko (1-1, 1), fighting for just the second time as a professional after a stunning amateur career, was just a single judge away from managing to win the WBO Featherweight world title in his second bout.
Lomachenko's failure to win the world tile might have been "bad" for his legacy and for those hoping to see "history" created that night, though in another way it may have been one of the greatest things to happen in recent memory for professional boxing. Lomachenko's competitive effort signalled that professional novices could hold their own against experienced championship level fighters. Although Lomachenko may have been an exceptional amateur he was still a baby in terms of professional experience and he showed that a fighter doesn't need to have been a professional for years to have world class skills.
In failing to secure the record Lomachenko has actually left the door open to others wanting to tie, or even beat the record.
One man who seems interested in trying to tie the record is Japanese teenage Takuma Inoue (1-0), pictured below, who faces the world ranked Fahlan Sakkreerin Jr (23-2, 15) on April 6th.
Sakkreerin Jr is currently ranked by all 4 organisations and a victory over him would open up doors with any of the WBA, WBC, WBO or IBF. Whilst some of these doors won't be worth trying open for obvious reasons, for example having a champion that you simply wouldn't risk a young novice against, others are very much open. In fact some of these possibilities are so open that it's hard to imagine Inoue refusing to consider them.
At the moment the WBA have a vacant title at Light Flyweight. If Inoue gets past Fahlan in their encounter it's hard to imagine Inoue not being rewarded with a top 5 rankings with the WBA. A top 5 ranking would surely leave Inoue in a position to challenge for either the vacant title, if it's still vacant, or have a shot at the next champion.
It may seem an extreme way to treat an 18 year old but with Inoue holding his own in sparring with WBC Flyweight champion Akira Yaegashi it's hard for Ohashi Gym and Inoue himself not to at least consider trying to tie the world record. He'd be in an ideal position, if he beats Sakkreerin Jr, to tie the record and most importantly he'll know a loss isn't a huge set back. He could easily rebound, like Lomachenko, at either the OPBF or Japanese level and rebuild from their.
Of course there is risk there for Inoue though the youngster will surely be aware that he could cement his place in the history books if he takes the risk and the gamble pays off.
The interesting thing for Inoue though isn't just that he'd be in a position to challenge for a world title in his third fight but that he's the next in the line of Japanese fighter who are swiftly coming through the ranks with ideas of grandeur.
We all know how great Joichiro Tatsuyoshi was and his rapid climb up the ranks back in the early 1990's was brilliant. Though of course his national record was beaten a few years back by Kazuto Ioka. Joichiro's national record had stood for almost 20 years before Kazuto Ioka burst on to the scene and defeated Oleydong Sithsamerchai to break "Jo's" record.
Now, just over 3 years after Ioka set a national record, Naoya Inoue (5-0, 4) is trying to beat Ioka's achievement. If Naoya is successful and claims a world title in his 6th fight, when he battles Adrian Hernandez for the WBC Light Flyweight title, then one must wonder what is next.
For me, and knowing what Takuma has been involved in in the gym, the next step is for Takuma to either get a world title fight in fight #3 or fight #4, if he gets past Sakkreerin Jr.
There is every chance that if Takuma does manage to fight for, and win, a world title in his third bout then more fighters will be looking to try and break the record and claim a world title in their second bout. On paper it's beyond what is currently allowed in Japan, due to domestic rules, but it's a marker set down to suggest that in this day and age Muangsurin's record is there to be challenged, not just admired.
(Pictures courtesy of boxrec and Ohashi Gym)
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