This coming is a tricky one to pick a fight to be excited about. The volume of fights is significantly reduced from what it has been in recent weeks. Despite that we think we've found a fight worthy of people's attention in a rather obscure and well hidden Thai card. The bout is expected to be the next step forward for a really talent Thai hopeful who we see as being one of the country's brightest prospects.
The One to Watch?
Nattapong Jankaew (5-0, 3) vs Samartlek Kokietgym (34-13-1, 12)
September 6th (Sunday)
We love using these weekly articles as a chance to shine a light on either a potential Fight of the Week, or a promising young prospect who deserves attention. This week is very much about the prospect, who looks like one of the true hidden gems of Thai boxing, Not only that but he's stepping up to take on a 2-time world title challenger in what is an excellent match up for the youngster's 6th professional bout!
The 24 year old Nattapong Jankaew isn't a name we expect to see being touted by many outside of Thailand, but in his short career he has shown enough to get excited about. He made his debut in September 2019 and scored 4 by wins by the end of the year, picking up an interim Thai national title in one of those bouts. He looked likely to keep up a high level of activity this year until boxing was put on an hiatus in Thailand. In his only bout in 2020, way back in January, he shut out John Kenan Villaflor over 10 rounds and claimed a minor regional title along the way.
Although we don't think many have seen Nattapong Jankaew he is someone worth trying to check out. He's a Thai who, surprisingly, uses an American-like style. Watching him we see someone who is clearly inspired by he likes of Floyd Mayweather Jr and James Toney, using a shoulder roll, looking very natural, and throwing some really nicer counters. He's also shown an ability to switch stances and looks genuinely class. There is work to do, but for a guy with just 5 fights we like him, a lot.
Samartlek Kokietgym, also known as Wittawas Basapean, is a 35 year old veteran who made his professional debut around a decade ago and has shared the ring with a who's who of who. During his lengthy career he had faced fighters like Kwanthai Sithmorseng, Fahlan Sakreerin Jr, Muhammad Rachman, Denver Cuello, Mark Anthony Barriga, Randy Petalcorin, Naoya Inoue and Akira Yaegashi. Sadly for him he has typically lost to the best fighters he has faced, but he has shown himself to be a tough guy, who lasted into round 11 with Inoue and round 12 with Yaegashi. In recent years he has been picking up a lot of losses, losing his last 4 and going 2-7-1 in his last 10, but hasn't been stopped since he fought Yaegashi back in 2016. In fact he's only been stopped 3 times, by Cuello, Inoue and Yaegashi.
At his best Samartlek was never a world beater, but was always a capable enough fighter. He liked to come forward, fight behind his jab and press an opponent. We've not seen his most recent fights, be we don't imagine he's changed his style too much. If anything has really changed we suspect it's down to his age and the fact he's fighting at higher weights than he used to.
What to expect?
On paper there is a massive difference in experience here but it's hard to imagine that mattering too much give the advantages that swing the other way. Whilst Samartlek is the more proven and much more experienced fighter he is also the naturally much smaller and much older man, who is seemingly on the slide, if not shot.
What we expect is to see Nattapong come forward, behind his defensive stance, open up when he wants and show case the eye catching defense that has really impressed us. We see him slipping and sliding the shots of Samartlek, but being fully aware that if he does get caught it really won't matter, given the natural size difference and the lack of power Samartlek has. When Samartlek does come forward the footwork and movement of Nattapon will be allowed to shine, and he'll really show off how smart and fleet footed he is.
We don't imagine Nattapong will manage to stop Samartlek, but we do see him toying with the veteran on route to a wide decision.
The bad news?
Whilst this will actually be free to watch on the Tan Telecom Boxing Promotion facebook page we know very few people actually tune into boxing on facebook. It's a shame, and it will mean people will miss out here. We hope do tune in, but facebook, as a streaming service for boxing, really has struggled, even when bigger names have been in action, for US cards.
There's also a real risk that this could be a rather dull fight, given the gulf in skills between the two fighters. This could be very one sided, but lack any chance of a stoppage, which could get dull to watch.
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.