The 105lbs division, called either Minimumweight or Strewweight by most, is the lightest in the sport, and in 2019 it had a stinking year. There was so little that happened at the top that it's easy to forget that two world titles changed hands and that the rest of the division really went over looked. Thankfully, for those paying attention, it was also the division with one of the biggest upsets of the year and a division that has seen 3 sensational talents begin their rise to the top.
To start the new we'll again be breaking down the divisions in the sport, starting with the champions in the Minimumweight division!
WBC - Wanehng Menayothin (54-0, 18)
Unbeaten Thai Wanehng Menayothin comes into the year seeking his 13th world title defense and his 55th professional win. The talented Thai, who has gone unbeaten since his 2007 debut, may not be a big name but on paper his record certainly looks impressive. He had a relatively quiet 2019, fighting just twice, but wins over Tatsuya Fukuhara and Simpiwe Koncko were solid and helped establish him as the best of the bunch. He has signed a deal with Golden Boy Promotions and clearly the hope is to fight in the US, but with his 35th birthday later this year it seems likely that time is running out on Wanheng's hopes of becoming a household name.
WBA - Knockout CP Freshmart (20-0, 7)
WBA Champion Knockout CP Freshmart had a year to forget, with just one fight, a win against ArAr Andales, on his ledger for 2019. Much more is expected of the Thai though the reality is that his career has really toiled in recent years. He was once seen as the better of the two Thai's but he's not shined in a long time and with 5 straight decision wins, 7 decisions in his last 8, his name is becoming a joke. It may be that he needs some easy fights in 2020 get going again, but whatever it is he seems like a the low hanging fruit from the two Thai's that sit atop the division.
WBO - Wilfredo Mendez (15-1, 5)
Puerto Rican fighter Wilfredo Mendez was one of two new champions crowned in 2019, when he out pointed Vic Saludar. A the age of 23 he is certainly fresh blood in the division, and with 4 fights in 2019 he was a breath of fresh air in a division that didn't have much going for it last year. Sadly his first defense, a narrow win over Mexican teenager Axel Aragon Vega, made it clear that his reign wasn't going to be a distinguished one. He likely already has a target on his back as someone with a title that can be taken relatively easily and we wouldn't be surprised to see fighters battling to get their hands on Mendez in the new year.
IBF - Pedro Taduran (14-2, 11)
Another newer champion, having won the IBF title that Deejay Kriel vacated, Pedro Taduran is arguably the wild card of the champions. He lost a competitive bout to Wanheng in 2018 but has bounced back well and won the IBF title with a brilliant win over Samuel Salva. He's the only of the champions that would be described as a power puncher, and although crude as a fighter he's an aggressive nightmare who can take a shot and refuses to back off. Technically he's crude, and can be tagged, but his work rate, power and physicality make him an absolute nightmare to fight.
In part 2 we'll look at 6 of the contenders and prospects who we expect to make a mark on the division in 2020.
The Minimumweight division is one of, if not the, most maligned division among Western fight fans due to the small size of the fighters and the perceived lack of power among the little men. Right now however the division is a really interesting one, with a great combination of champions, contenders and prospects. There's great variety in the styles in the division and, for once, the division has a good number of punchers as well as high out put guys.
We start our look at the state of the divisions by looking at the champions at Minimumweight. With the contenders and prospects to be looked at in the coming days.
Wanheng Menayothing (52-0, 18) - WBC (10 defenses)
The unbeaten Wanheng Menayothin, from Thailand, holds a lot of records right now. Among those are the fact he's got the longest active winning run, 52 fights, and he's the longest reigning male world champion, having held the WBC Minimumweight title since November 2014, when he dethroned Oswaldo Novoa. Although he's really only gotten attention due to surpassing Floyd Mayweather's 50-0 record Wanheng is an accomplished fighter with an exciting style, who comes forward behind a tight guard and works well on the inside. Sadly however his competition at times has been dire.
Knockout CP Freshmart (19-0, 7) - WBA (6 defenses)
Another unbeaten Thai world champion at 105lbs is Knockout CP Freshmart, who often fails to shine, despite being very talented. He has one of the best monikers in the sport but sadly had failed to live up to the name in recent years, winning 7 of his last 8 by unanimous decision. Overall his competition has been better than that of Wanheng, but he has struggled to really show what he can do since fighting at world level and it feels like he's perhaps not going to hold the title for as long as his compatriot. At the moment the WBA rankings are a bit weak and he could well hold the title in to 2020 with no issue.
Vic Saludar (18-3, 10) - WBO (0 defenses)
One of the division's biggest punchers is Vic Saludar, who hits like a mule despite just being a touch over 5'2". The Filipino suffered an early career set back, losing in his third bout, but has rebuilt pretty well and showed what he could do in late 2015, when he dropped Kosei Tanaka before being stopped himself in what was a real test for Tanaka, Since then he has gone 7-1 and was last seen taking the WBO title from Ryuya Yamanaka, who sadly had to retire following the bout due to a brain injury suffered against Saludar. The Filipino lives up to his nickname of "Vicious" and is very dangerous.
Carlos Licona (14-0, 2) - IBF (0 defenses)
The lightest punching champion in the division is Mexican-American Carlos Licona, who won the IBF title when he defeated Mark Anthony Barriga at the start of December. The win over Barriga really is the only one of note on his record, and even that was a close one so we're not totally how good Licona is, though even holding his own with Barriga is pretty impressive. Licona will probably be the odd man out in the division, unless someone can lure him over to Asia, as the other 3 champions are based in the East though that may well leave a bullseye on his back for the Latin American fighters.
Takahiro Onaga is a regular contributor to Asian Boxing and will now be a featured writer in his own column where his takes his shot at various things in the boxing world.