One of the great things we've been able to do since we began this site was get an insight on a number of Asian fighters before they manage to have a chance to fight on a global scene. Whilst a good number of fighters we talk about won't fight in the US or the UK, a handful will, and have. That insight can lead us to getting excited about contests that others perhaps aren't as excited about as others. We covered one of those previously in a "What a Shock", when we looked at Rey Loreto's win over Nkosinathi Joyi, but that isn't a one off and today we get to cover another such upset.
March 18th 2017
Madison Square Garden, New York, New York, USA
Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (42-4-1, 39) Vs Roman Gonzalez (46-0, 38) I
In March 2017 little known Thai Srisaket Sor Rungvisai made his US debut taking on pound-for-pound king, and defending WBC Super Flyweight champion, Roman Gonzalez. Going into the bout few thought this was anything more than a mismatch.
The unbeaten Gonzalez was the face of the little men at the time, the Nicaraguan had become only the second fighter in history to win world titles at Minimumweight, Light Flyweight, Flyweight and Super Flyweight. He had not just accomplished that feat but had done so whilst compiling a 46-0 (38) record and beating a real who's who of modern day little men. These included Yutaka Niida, Katsunari Takayama, Juan Francisco Estrada, Francisco Rodriguez Jr, Akira Yaegashi, Edgar Sosa, Brian Viloria and Carlos Cuadras. A resume worthy of a Hall of Fame position.
Not only was Gonzalez beating top fighters but, for the most part, he was destroying fighters. He was an offensive machine, with sharp combinations, heavy shots, smart offensive movement, an ability to close distance at will and he was just fantastic. He was really highly skilled offensively minded fighter with power taking on the best. Everything a fight fan should appreciate.
Srisaket on the other hand was an unknown outside of the most hardcore of hardcore fans. Despite being a relative unknown we were lucky enough to have seen a number of his bouts prior to this and knew what to expect. He had proven to be an offensive tank. He had faced some very limited competition, and made light work of them whilst staying busy, but he had also showed what he could do against world class talent. In 2013 he had battered defending WBC world champion Yota Sato into submission, in a hugely impressive performance, he had been in the ascendancy when Jay Nady stopped his bout with Carlos Cuadras in 2014, giving Cuadras the technical decision, and had earned a second shot in 2015 when he had smashed Jose Salgado. Despite earning a shot following the win over Salgado the WBC weren't quick to enforce his mandatory fight, and Carlos Cuadras was in no rush to face him. As a result it took almost 2 years for Srisaket to get a shot at reclaiming the title.
In the ring Srisaket isn't, and wasn't at the time, the quickest, the smartest, or the smoothest, with some very questionable balance issues. That however ignores what he is, which is incredibly strong, huge at the weight, a powerful tough, heavy handed southpaw with impressive stamina. He's the sort of fighter that you look at and think he should be easy to beat, until you see him pressing and pressuring and landing his thudding, brutal heavy shots.
For most this was a formality for Gonzalez. Another win for Gonzalez, and one against a Thai with a padded record and no name value. For others, those who had followed Srisaket, this was a potential banana skin for the "Chocolatito". Gonzalez was the smaller man, by far, his style looked suited to Srisaket and this would be his first bout in years without Arnulfo Obando in his corner, following Obando's death in 2016.
The ingredients were in play for a shock and that's what we got.
The opening stages of the fight saw Srisaket show some respect to Gonzalez and see what the Nicaraguan legend had. As the round grew however Srisaket's confidence began to grow as well and he began to land some solid left hands whilst barely flinching at what he was being hit with. Within just 2 minutes was obvious that the natural size difference was going to be issue and soon afterwards Gonzalez was dropped, securing the Thai a huge 10-8 round to begin the bout.
Those over-looking the Thai were suddenly sitting up and taking note.
Srisket's good start continued to grow in round 2, as he began to force his will on Gonzalez. We were seeing a man doe to Gonzalez what we had seen Gonzalez do to so many others, and push him back, bully him, and win the inside war. We had saw Gonzalez show flashes of his genius but the round was another for the Thai.
Srisaket then came out firing left hands to begin round 3 as Gonzalez struggled with the unorthodox approach, size, freakish physicality and southpaw left of Srisaket. A headbutt, leaving Gonzalez cut over the right eye, didn't help things either. It was an accidental clash, from the southpaw-righty dynamic, but did seem to break Gonzalez's momentumn just was he was starting to build it. To his credit Gonzalez did managed to find his groove again before the round was over.
In round 4, for the first time, we seemed to see Gonzalez rock Srisaket, but the Thai refound his balance before the two men began to go to war on the inside. The skills of Gonzalez, as always, were a joy, landing the cleaner, more effective punches, but they were taken easily by Srisaket who's own shots seemed to much more powerful, and he would manage to get Gonzalez onto the ropes and cover up. It wasn't silky skills controlling from Srisaket but was his sheer presence giving Gonzalez problems, despite Gonzalez landing some huge bombs through the round.
From here on we got something special from both men. Gonzalez was fighting like a man on fast forward, easily out speeding, out punching and out moving the slower clumsier Thai. For Srisaket however when he was landing Gonzalez was feeling it, every shot landed by Srisaket seemed to lift Gonzalez or force him backwards. It made for an amazing action fight with awesome 2-way action.
In round 6 the headclashes, which were accidental and came due to both men wanting to be on the front foot and exacerbated by the stances, saw Srisaket being given a warning. That seemed to inspire a new gear from Gonzalez, who really picked up his pace. That was until late in the round when Srisaket was actually deducted a point for the headclashes, with the headclash leaving Gonzalez a bloodied mess. That, along with a strong round 5, helped Gonzalez battle his way back into the contest after his worrying start, and it seemed like Srisaket was maybe starting to fade just as Gonzalez was moving into top gear.
Despite seeming to lose the play Srisaket then began to find his second wind in round 7, backing up Gonzalez and putting his foot on the gas once again. He began to let his shots got when Gonzalez was up close, and managed to land his solid left hooks. The pressure from Gonzalez was being used against him as Srisaket picked his moments and fought more intelligently than we expected. Gonzalez still showed touches of brilliance but Srisaket could see blood and seemed to hurt Gonzalez late in the round. That lead to a string of strong rounds from Srisaket who seemed to realise that his very early success had been erased from round 3 to round 6 by the brilliance of Gonzalez.
Before we started round 9 both men were looked at in the corner by medical staff, before the bout resumed and we got more of these tiny titans unloading huge shots on each other. Once again we saw a smarter gameplan from Srisaket than we expected, with the Thai backing off at times and made Gonzalez come to get him, picking his spots, and then rocking Gonzalez on to his heels. For a man who had impressed us with his pressure against Sato this was footwork we weren't expecting from Srisaket, who choose when the men stood and traded and when there was going to be separation.
With blood pouring out of Gonzalez face, from the cut right eye, the Nicaraguan showed amateur heart to continue marching forward, taking the fight to Srisaket in an exciting round 10 and then again in round 11. Whilst each round was hard fought and competitive these two seemed like they were among the most competitive and may well have been the two rounds that, essentially, decided the fight. All 3 judges gave them to the Thai.
With the bout being ultra close we went into the final round and surprisingly it was the champion who got into top gear. The round started in fantastic fashion with toe-to-toe action, with big shots being thrown once again. The great start didn't last and when Gonzalez seemed to build some momentum we saw Srisaket get on the retreat. With around 90 seconds of the round remaining the Thai seemed confident that he had done enough, electing to spoil, hold and move before trying to steal the round late on. What maybe wasn't clear at the time, though was after the bell, was that Srisaket had also been busted open in the round, with blood dripping from his right eye, likely from other minor but regular headclashes.
After 12 rounds of incredibe Super Flyweight super action we went to the scorecards. Scores of 114-112, twice were read out along with a score of 113-113. Thankfully for the Thai, and for the sake of this article, the two 114-112 scores favoured Srisaket, who scored one of the most significant upsets in recent years.
The call of "New" sent Thai commentators into fits of joy, and the fans of the lower weights into shock.
Following the bout there was much discussion over the scoring, the headclashes, and the WBC's own accidental foul rule, which if applied properly would likely have resulted in Srisaket having an extra point deducted.
The controversy was, to some extent, put to bed when the two men rematched, with Srisaket stopping Gonzalez in 4 rounds to retain his title. He then added a major win over Juan Francisco Estrada, though lost a rematch to the Mexican. Amazingly Gonzalez bounced back from the two losses to the Thai to claim the WBA title with a stoppage win over Kal Yafai, to claim yet another world title and further enhance his legendary status as one of the finest smaller weight fighters of all time.
Sadly this bout did kill a mooted dream fight between Gonzalez and Naoya Inoue, with any hope of seeing Inoue against Srisaket dashed by the WBC playing mandatory catch up, due to the long wait Srisaket had had. Instead of seeing that bout we ended up with Srisaket being mandated to face Gonzalez, then Estrada, with Inoue announcing himself on the Bantamweight scene rather than sticking around at Super Flyweight.
For those interested we found some odds available for this bout:
Gonzalez 1/11 to win
Srisaket 13/1 to win
This past weekend we had the latest WP Boxing event from Bang Phun. The main event of that show saw former 2-time WBC Super Flyweight champion Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (49-5-1, 42) fight in a stay busy bout against Filipino journeyman Jomar Fajardo (17-18-2, 9). The bout was all about keeping Srisaket sharp, after a poor performance last time out, and was never regarded as a competitive match up, more a public whooping.
Despite the bout being a complete, and utter, mismatch the contest has given up quite a few things to talk about in our latest Take Aways article!
1-Srisaket Should be more active!
We start, as usual, with a really obvious point and that's that Srisaket Sor Rungvisai should be a lot, lot more active than he has been. The talented Thai destroyer was fighting for the second time this year with this bout against Fajardo and it was his 4th fight in 24 months. That might sound like the average amount for a Western fighter but Western fighters and Thai's are different. A sign of this was Srisaket's activity in the years before his career defining wins over Roman Gonzalez. In 2014 he fought 9 times, in 2015 he fought 6 times and in 2016 he fought 5 times. He should be kept active, kept busy and in the ring every few months to the end of the year. Doing this will keep him sharp, and keep the ring rust off him before he gets a big fight in 2021. If he's having 12 round wars then yes give him a rest, but if he's having easy bouts he should fight at least 4 times a year.
2-No Matchroom Sport
For Srisaket's previous bout, in August against Amnat Ruenroeng, Matchroom Sport streamed the bout to an international audience. It now seems like Matchroom aren't bothered and they seemingly had no involvement at all here. We understand them not wanting to push this bout too much, but it would have been a good way to keep Srisaket in the public consciousness, even in a total mismatch. When Matchroom streamed the Srisaket Vs Amnat bout we were wondering if it was going to be a one off, and sadly it appears that it was. A bit of a foolish move as the Thai scene is chock a block with talent and getting in on the ground level will allow Western fans some familiarity with the rising Thai hopefuls.
3-WP Boxing's Production Quality is the best in Thailand
Typically Thai cards have often been held out doors, full of pageantry and really drawn out, long, frustrating, dull affairs. WP Boxing however have got a much better way of doing things. There is no long parade of sponsors, and anthems and adverts. There is no delaying the action for 20 minutes at the start. Instead they show the fighters on an on screen graphic, then get to the fight. The only complaint is that the venue is a a bit sterile in the no crowd era, but other than that we love WP's production and it does feel much more professional than many of the other events in Thailand.
4-Jomar Fajardo needs to consider his future
At one point in time Jomar Fajardo was a decent Light Flyweight. Not a world beater, but someone who was serviceable as a gate keeper. We saw that when he earned a very unexpected draw against Francisco Rodriguez Jr in 2014, and when he gave Jonathan Taconing a good test in 2015. Even as recently as 2018, when he upset Edrin Dapudong, he was considered a fighter who was much better than his record suggested. Sadly he has now lost 7 of his last 9 and been stopped in 6 of those 7 losses. He's fighting well above his best weight, taking punishment, being matched in bouts he has no chance in and really taking a beating. This was his 5th stoppage loss in 12 months and someone really needs to have a serious talk with him about hanging them up.
5-Wanchai Pongsri should have stepped in
It's worth noting this bout was stopped with 1 second of round 2 remaining when Fajardo's corner man ran into the ring, literally sprinting across the ring. This was completely unnecessary and the referee should have stepped in prior to that. Sure one could argue Fajardo was always throwing back, but lets just be honest, he was taking big shots, he was taking a lot of unnecessary punishment and Wanchai Pongsri should have ended that earlier. Whether that was by his own volition or by someone making it clear the corner wanted to stop it. By the ending it was ugly, and Fajardo took quite a few shots he shouldn't have had to take.
We've all heard of Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, and we've decided to put our spin on things with "Six degrees of separation" looking to connect Asian fighters you may never have assumed were connected! Today we connect former Thai world champion Srisaket Sor Rungvisai to former Korean world champion Young Kyun Park.
Just as ground rules, we're not doing the more basic "A beat B who beat C who beat D" type of thing, but instead we want to link fighters in different ways. As a result we will limit A fought B connections, and try to get more varied connections together, as you'll see here! We also know there are often shorter routes to connect fighters, but that's not always the most interesting way to connect them.
1-Popular Thai warrior Srisaket Sor Rungvisai made his name worldwide in 2017, when he upset Roman Gonzalez, twice, to win and defend the WBC Super Flyweight title. Those wins may have put Srisaket on the radar of fans globally, but actually only began his second reign as the champion, with the Thai having previously won the title when he beat Yota Sato. Another 2-time WBC Super Flyweight champion was the controversial Masamori Tokuyama, a Japanese born Korean fighter who fought under the North Korean flag.
2-The talented Masamori Tokuyama made his debut on September 19th 1994 on a show in Osaka. Another fighter who made his debut on that very same show was future world title challenger Hidenobu Honda, who would challenge for world titles at Flyweight and Super Flyweight.
3-Another bout that Hidenobu Honda was involved in, along with his failed world title bout, was a 2008 clash with with the fantastic Alexander Bakhtin. Bakhtin beat Honda in 7 rounds, giving Honda his first stoppage loss, whilst continuing his rise through the ranks.
4-Whilst Alexander Bakhtin failed to win a world title he did manage to win the Japanese, and OPBF Bantamweight titles along with the WBA International and IBF Super Bantamweight titles. Another man who held the OPBF Bantamweight title was Japanese legend Hozumi Hasegawa, who made 3 defenses of the belt before going on to become a 3-weight world champion.
5-One of the three world titles that Hozumi Hasegawa won was the WBC Super Bantamweight title. That was the third world title that Hasegawa won, and the final belt he won before his retirement, and a belt he didn't actually defend. Another fighter who won that title was Royal Kobayashi, who also failed to make a successful defense and in fact lost the belt only weeks after winning it.
6-The WBC Super Bantamweight title wasn't the only belt that Royal Kobayashi won, another was the OPBF Featherweight title, a title that was also won by Korean warrior Young Kyun Park, who later won the WBA Featherweight title in 1991 and made 8 rapid fire defenses before losing the belt less than 3 years later.
We've all heard of Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, and we've decided to put our spin on things with "Six degrees of separation" looking to connect Asian fighters you may never have assumed were connected! Today we connect former Manny Pacquiao opponent Serikzhan Yeshmagambetov, who we finished with last week, to former 2-time WBC Super Flyweight champion Srisaket Sor Rungvisai.
Just as ground rules, we're not doing the more basic "A beat B who beat C who beat D" type of thing, but instead we want to link fighters in different ways. As a result we will limit A fought B connections, and try to get more varied connections together, as you'll see here! We also know there are often shorter routes to connect fighters, but that's not always the most interesting way to connect them.
1-It's fair to say that Serikzhan Yeshmagambetov is best known for his fight with Manny Pacquiao. Since that bout he the Kazakh has retired from in ring action and currently works in boxing as an official. In 2009 he was the referee of a bout between veteran DeMarcus "Chop Chop" Corley and Kenyan fighter James Kimori, in what was then known as Astana.
2-Around 3 months before DeMarcus Corley beat James Kimori he was on another card in Kazakhstan, this time in Shymkent. That card, on May 9th 2000, also featured a then promising Kazakh fighter called Beibut Shumenov, who beat Byron Mitchell in 4 rounds to move to 8-0.
3-Rather interestingly Beibut Shumenov made his debut on November 17th 2007, stopping Walter Edwards inside a round. That was the same day that Naomi Togashi had her first professional contest. fighting in Thailand where she beat Panda Or Yutthachai in 3 rounds and began her rise as one of the most pivotal figures in Japanese female boxing.
4-Whilst Naomi Togashi was one of the first major names of Japanese female boxing she's obviously not the only one. Rather amazingly she wasn't the only one born on July 31st, with Togashi sharing her birthday with Momo Koseki, albeit with Togashi being born 7 years earlier than Koseki.
5-In May 2013 Momo Koseki featured on a card in Hong Kong, where she stopped Eun Young Huh. On the same card fans also saw Hong Kong's then rising star Rex Tso defeated former WBC "interim" Minimumweight champion Wandee Singwancha, stopping Singwancha in 4 rounds for a then career best win.
6-Although Rex Tso never won a world title he did hold a number of minor titles, including the WBC Asian Boxing Council Super Flyweight title. This is a title has also been won by former 2-time WBC Super Flyweight world champion Srisaket Sor Rungvisai.
Last weekend we saw hard hitting Thai Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (48-5-1, 41) return to the ring after 16 months out and put on a rather under-whelming performance as he beat a game Amnat Ruenroeng. The bout was supposed to be a mismatch and a chance for Srisaket to make a statement ahead of a bigger bout later in the year. Sadly though it seemed that the former 2-time WBC Super Flyweight champion lacked the timing we'd seen from him in the past and he looked like a man with a lot of rust to shake.
Srisaket ended up winning, but that was, at least in part, due to Amnat's 40 year old legs struggling in the later stages of the 10 round bout.
Going into the bout it was supposed to be a contest that would open the door to another world title fight for the power punching man from Si Sa Ket and we suspect that is still the plan. If, for whatever reason, Srisaket can't get a world title bout next there are other options out there for the Thai.
Here we're going to look at two possible world title fights and 3 other interesting bouts as we give Srisaket Sor Rungvisai the "Five for" treatment!
1-Roman Gonzalez (49-2, 41) III
The most obvious bout, for us at last, is a third bout between Srisaket and Roman Gonzalez. Although Srisaket has won the first 2 bouts a third bout makes sense now that Gonzalez is a world champion again, with the Nicaraguan now holding the WBA title. A third bout will give Gonzalez a chance to extract some revenge over the only man to have beaten him, and will give Srisaket a chance to become a 3-time world champion. The reason we think this bout would be the preferred choice to the other possible world title bout is that Gonzalez is a man that Srisaket has twice beaten. He knows he has the tools to deal with the Nicaraguan great, whilst Gonzalez will be desperate for revenge.
2-Juan Francisco Estrada (40-3, 27) III
Whilst we'd prefer to see Srisaket against Gonzalez there is some real unfinished business between Srisaket and Mexican fighter Juan Francisco Estrada, who are 1-1 against each other. Given how Srisaket looked last weekend we wouldn't suggest this is a bout he should race head first into, despite the two very competitive bouts the men have already had. If he's anything less than 100% Estrada will toy with him, out work him, and counter him, something that Amnat did in the early stages. This rematch makes a lot of sense, but sadly for Srisaket if he's still struggling for timing he would not come out of this one with out suffering another defeat. In our eyes he really needs another bout before a rubber bout with "El Gallo".
3-Carlos Cuadras (39-3-1, 27) II
Another man we'd love to see Srisaket face off with again is Carlos Cuadras. It was Cuadras that ended Srisaket's first reign, way back in May 2014, and there was some real unfinished business there. That bout was stopped in round 8 with Cuadras taking a technical decision and Cuadras did what he could to avoid a rematch with a then prime Srisaket. Since then both men have taken a lot of punishment, both men are on the slide. Despite that it would be great to see the rematch between the two men, even if it is well and truly over-due. We get the feeling Cuadras wouldn't be in a rush to take on Sriskaet, at either Super Flyweight or Bantamweight, but it is a bout that we'd absolutely love to see...still!
4-Liborio Solis (30-6-1-1, 14)
Although Srisaket is expected to continue his career at 115lbs there is some potential that he will struggle to get his thick, muscular, powerful frame down to the weight going forward. He's now heading towards his 34th birthday and it may well be time for him, if he can't get one of the rematches above, to begin campaigning at Bantamweight. If he's going to do that then he may as well face a former world champion and someone who recently fought for a world title. With that in mind a bout with Liborio Solis would make for a great match up. It's one where Srisaket will be strongly favoured, but in terms of styles this should be a sensational fight. Solis is a decent fighter, he gave a decent effort against Guillermo Rigondeaux and had a brilliant fight with Shinsuke Yamanaka a few years ago. This would be great fun to watch fight, even if it's not a top tier match up.
5-Pedro Guevara (36-3-1, 21)
Of course if Srisaket is going to remain at Super Flyweight, and can't get one of the 3 rematches we've mentioned, it'd be great to see him in with a top divisional contender. With that in mind a bout with Pedro Guevara, who is very highly ranked by the WBC and WBO, would be really a really good clash. Technically Guevara is the better boxer, but the natural size and power advantages of Srisaket would likely be the the difference between the two men. Despite this not being as good as the 3 rematches we mentioned Guevara would work as a decent tune up for a bout with Estrada, so if we end up with Gonzalez Vs Estrada II a bout between Srisaket and Guevara would make for a brilliant chief support bout on a "Super Fly" type event.
With no fights currently taking place we've had a bit of time on our hands, and with that in mind we've decided to look at the sport in terms of how divisions sit, and do something that had previously been requested. The Asian divisional top 10's. We'll be starting this at Minimumweight and working our way through the divisions over the coming days and weeks. We know there will be some debate about some rankings and there is certainly some area for discussion, and that is certainly not a bad thing at all!
One of the most interesting division's in the sport, and particularly in Asia, is the Super Flyweight division. The division has had the spotlight shined on it a lot in recent years with, and has had more than it's share of great bouts. Here we look at the best in Asia.
1-Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (47-5-1, 41)
Although no longer holding a world title former 2-time WBC champion Srisaket Sor Rungvisai is widely regarded as one of the best of the best in the division. The now 33 year old Thai has the best record in the division, with wins against Yota Sato, Jose Salgado, Roman Gonzalez, twice, and Juan Francisco Estrada. Blessed with heavy hands, an iron chin, freakish size and an awkward southpaw stance he's a very tricky man to beat. He was beaten last time out, in his second bout with Juan Francisco Estrada, though that was at partly down to some of the stupidest tactics seen in a world title bout. We do wonder how much longer Srisaket can continue to compete at the top, 33 is old for a man in the division and with 46 fights he has taken damage but for now he's in the divisional elite.
2-Kazuto Ioka (25-2, 14)
WBO champion Kazuto Ioka is perhaps not the top Asian in the division but is almost certainly the Asian money man with TBS and SANKYO backing him heavily. The Japanese fighter won the WBO last year to become the first Japanese male 4 weight champion and has since defended the belt once. A tactically smart boxer-puncher, with some of the best body shots in the sport, he's managed to look like a strong and complete fighter at 115lbs, not something we expected when he was looking like an under-sized Flyweight a few years ago. With wins against McWillians Arroyo, Aston Palicte and Jeyvier Cintron in his last 4 bouts, to go alongside a close loss to Donnie Nietes the Osakan has proven his value at the weight. At 31 years old time is certainly not running down on his career, and he's got the perfect mix of skills and experience.
3-Jerwin Ancajas (32-1-2, 22)
Current IBF champion Jerwin Ancajas has one of the longest active reigns of any world champion in the sport, and the 28 year old "Pretty Boy" also has one of the most significant promoters on the planet, with Bob Arum behind him. He began his IBF title reign back in 2016, when he beat McJoe Arroyo, and has made 8 defenses of the belt. Whilst that sounds impressive some of his opposition during his reign has been disappointing. Despite some of his competition being questionable he does have noteworthy wins over Arroyo, Israel Gonzalez and Jonas Sultan, among others. When Ancajas is in full flow he's a joy to watch, though his draw against Alejandro Santiago Barrios does leave us wondering how he'd cope with some of the more technical capable fighters at 115lbs.
4-Kosei Tanaka (15-0, 9)
Another Japanese multi-divisional champion is Kosei Tanaka, who signalled his intent to move up in weight earlier this year, vacating the WBO Flyweight title to join the ranks at Super Flyweight. It's hard to know what he's going to be like at 115lbs but the reality is that he's move proven, as a fighter, than anyone outside of the top 3 in the division. He's the mandatory for Ioka, and they could potentially clash later this year if the suspension on boxing is lifted. The 24 year old has a lot of questions to answer at the weight, but given his speed, will to win, under-rated power and his skills he could be a genuine handful. His ranking is based, at least somewhat, on what he's done at lower weights, but see him fitting right into the mix at the top of the division when he returns to the ring.
5-Sho Ishida (28-2, 15)
It's really hard to know how go Sho Ishida is. When he's been matched against better competition he's come up short, losing to Kal Yafai and Israel Gonzalez, but by that same token he has shown flashes of brilliance and looks like a talent. At least at times. The tall and rangy Osakan is a former stable mate of Ioka's and it's clear he has learned a few things from Ioka, but it very much feels like he's missing a higher gear. It would be great to see him in with some top regional fighters in the next year or two to see if he can sink or swim at the Oriental level. Right now it feels very much like his Japanese title reign, which ran from August 2014 to mid-2016, is a very long time ago and he's not managed to replicate that level of performance since.
6-KJ Cataraja (11-0, 9)
At 24 years old the time is rife for KJ Cataraja to go from being one of the best kept secrets in Asian boxing to being a star. The former amateur standout had been matched well early on, and was fighting in 8 round bouts as early as his third contest. Sadly it took a bit too long for him to progress into facing a genuine test, with his 2018 bout against Victor Hugo Reyes being his one true test so far. He's ready to be let off the leash, but ALA Promotions, who guide his career, had a horror in 2019 rarely putting on shows and seeing Nietes vacate his title. If ALA can't push Cataraja forward when boxing returns to the Philippines we wouldn't be surprised by the youngster leaving the ALA stable and following Mark Magsayo in the pursuit of bigger and better things. He's too good to waste his career against the likes of Delfin De Asis and Crison Omayao, the two opponents he faced in 2019.
7-Ryusei Kawaura (7-0, 4)
Of course Cataraja isn't the only promising youngster ready to be unleashed when boxing returns on a wider scale in Asia. Another is Ryusei Kawaura, the protege of Hiroshi Kawashima. The unbeaten Kawaura only fought twice in 2019 but his competition there was solid with wins against Renoel Pael and Joy Joy Formentera. He proved his boxing brain and toughness in those bouts, and was asked questions that he had to answer. Although he's yet to fight beyond 8 rounds it's worth noting he has gone 8 completed rounds in 3 of his last 4 bouts and doesn't appear to have struggled with that distance so far. Hopefully 10 or 12 rounds will come for him in the next year or two and he's got skills, a smart manager and a lot of potential. One thing he will need to do however is get more eyes on him, and so far he's lacked any form of TV coverage, something that will need to change sooner rather than later.
8-Kongfah CP Freshmart (32-1, 16)
Kongfah CP Freshmart, aka Jakkrawut Majoogoen, is arguably the forgotten man of the division.The 25 year old Thai has been a professional since 2013 and his only career defeat came way back in 2015 to Daigo Higa. Since then he has reeled off 18 wins including victories over Renz Rosia, Ryoji Fukunaga and Hyuma Fujioka. Whilst much of his competition has been poor he has been climbing up the rankings based on his competition, and his win over Fukunaga is certainly one worthy of note, as he also fits into the top 10. Talented, with respectable power, good speed, work rate and toughness he could go on to be a player in the division, but really will need to step up his competition when boxing resumes in Thailand.
9-Ryoji Fukunaga (12-4, 12)
Current WBO Asia Pacific champion Ryoji Fukunaga scored a career defining win last time out, when he stopped Froilan Saludar. Prior to that win he had done little of note since winning the All Japan Rookie of the Year back in 2016. His career seemed to go off the tracks, especially when he suffered back to back losses in 2018 to Yuta Matsuo and Kongfah CP Freshmart, but the win over Saludar has given the 33 year old a major win and a chance to build something from. Sadly at 33 years old his potential is limited, but with his power and will to win he'll make for some interesting fights, until father time takes him down. It'd be interesting to see him in with the likes of KJ Catraja or Ryusei Kawaura in the future, but we feel the youngsters both have the tools to out point Fukunaga, even at this point their career's.
10-Froilan Saludar (31-4-1, 22)
Once tipped as a future world champion the 31 year old Froilan Saludar rounds out our top 10. The former WBO Asia Pacific champion is very much a fighter who has failed to reach the heights expected of him, but yet has remained a constant enigma. At his best he is very good, but it's hard to know how good he really is when he keeps losing his biggest bouts. Set backs against McWilliams Arroyo, Takuma Inoue, Sho Ishida and Fukunaga show he isn't world class, but he's very much in the mix at the regional level. He's skills, heavy handed and dangerous, but question marks about his durability and stamina will always hang over him and it wouldn't be a surprise to see him become a regional gate keeper in the coming years.
On the bubble
Kenta Nakagawa, Jonas Sultan, Takayuki Okumoto, Jade Bornea and Yuta Matsuo
Note - Donnie Nietes has not been considered as he has been inactive for over a and would be at least 38 by the time he returns to the ring. His long break from the ring may not have been confirmed as a retirement but it's impossible to know what he'll have left it he returns.
For a second week running we've decided to take an international fighter and look at 5 Asian options that they may consider for a future bout, following on from something similar we did last week in regards to Emanuel Navarrete. This week things are a little bit different however, as the international fighter we look at is very closely linked to Japan, and actually fights for a Japanese promoter. Despite that we thought it was worth talking about Nicaraguan star Roman Gonzalez (49-2, 41) in our second international "Five For...".
Thankfully due to Gonzalez's links to Japan and comments made after his recent win over Kal Yafai it's obvious he is willing to return to the Land of the Rising sun for bouts, and there's where two of the bouts would likely take place, though we certainly have other potential match ups for Chocolatito.
1-Kazuto Ioka (25-2, 14)
The bout that Gonzalez himself seems to be chasing is arguably the most interesting between himself and an Asian fighter, with that being a clash with WBO champion Kazuto Ioka, . Gonzalez, the current WBA champion, would be looking to unify with Ioka and this is a bout between two men who have circled each other for much of their careers, but things never really lined up. By the time Ioka won his first world title, the WBC Minimumweight title, Gonzalez had left the division. By the time Ioka moved up to 108lbs Gonzalez was on his way out of the division and by the time Ioka was looking settled at Flyweight Gonzalez had moved up again. Neither man blatantly avoided each other, but the windows for the two men to fight were rather slim, they existed but only for a matter of months rather than years. Now they are in the same division, both are world champions and this would be a very special unification bout between 2 men who have held world titles in 4 weight classes.
2-Donnie Nietes (42-1-5, 23)
Another potential bout between a couple of 4-weight world champions would see Gonzalez take on Filipino veteran Donnie Nietes. The Filipino has chased this bout publicly but has failed to secure it, with his team not really having the financial clout they once did. On paper this would have been a brilliant match up when the two men were in their primes, but with his 38th birthday fast approaching, and with more than a year away from the ring, we really need to wonder what Nietes has left in the tank. At his best the talented Filipino was a nightmare for anyone, with fantastic skills, and a brilliant high level IQ, but would that ever have been enough to deal with the power, poise and pressure of Gonzalez? This is probably a safer option for Gonzalez to face next, but in reality Gonzalez has rarely been able having "safer" fights as title defenses.
3-Jerwin Ancajas (32-1-2, 22)
Another potential bout that would see Gonzalez not only facing a Filipino, instead of Neites, but also getting a chance to unify, instead of facing Kazuto Ioka, is a bout with Jerwin Ancajas. The long reigning, though somewhat underwhelming, IBF champion has the longest active reign in the division, dating back to September 2016, but has yet to get that A level championship type of bout. He's beaten a mix of B tier contenders, and worse, but hasn't yet notched a real top tier defense of the IBF crown. If this bout takes place it would finally give Ancajas a chance to face an A tier opponent, and he would have significant size advantages over the Nicaraguan, but Gonzalez would almost certainly be the betting favourite.
4-Kosei Tanaka (15-0, 9)
Not the most likely choice, but an interesting choice all the same, would be a bout between Gonzalez and 3-weight world champion Kosei Tanaka. Both men are chasing a bout with Kazuto Ioka, and a clash between the two would essentially be an eliminator, of sorts, to face the WBO king. In reality neither man needs this bout, but it would be a brilliant match up with the old veteran looking to tame the young lion. Gonzalez would be strongly favoured, and would be expected to take out Tanaka, but Tanaka has shown an incredible will to win, and has the speed to make life difficult for someone like Gonzalez. The bout would test what Gonzalez has left, and give Tanaka not only a chance to become a 4-weight champion but also a chance to announce himself internationally. It's an unlikely bout to happen but one worth thinking about, and a really fun one to imagine. Sadly though if Gonzalez is 80% the fighter he once was he would likely grind down Tanaka around the middle rounds.
5-Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (47-5-1, 41) III
We've mostly looked at bouts where Gonzalez would be the favourite, but lets finish this by looking at a bout where the Nicaraguan wonder would be the under-dog, a bout with Srisaket Sor Rungvisai. Or rather a third bout with Srisaket Sor Rungvisai. The heavy handed Thai is the only man to have beaten Gonzalez, having done so twice, and is known to be looking to get back into the world title mix in 2020. For Srisaket the bout would be against a fighter he knows he can beat, and beat decisively, as he did in the rematch. It would also be a bout where Srisaket can, after Gonzalez's last performance, come in knowing the Nicaraguan isn't a shot fighter, and is still very much a top name at Super Flyweight. As for Gonzalez it would give him a chance to avenge his defeats and beat the only man to have beaten him during his legendary career.
Of course when it comes to Roman Gonzalez the modern day legend has numerous other options out there, including a second bout with Juan Francisco Estrada, or a potential bout with one of the current Flyweight kings such as Moruti Mthalane or Artem Dalakian, or unbeaten Australian Andrew Moloney. There are so many options out there for him that his win over Kal Yafai opens the doors to yet another amazing champter for Gonzalez, and a chapter we are really lookign forward to seeing play out of the coming months and years.
Man what a crazy week we've had. We were expecting the WBSS semi finals to be announced, and although that hasn't happened, we have had some notable news across various part of Asian boxing from contract signings to announcements about up coming bouts, to a pretty notable legal case. Unlike last we've we've tried to break our stories in subsections this week, grouping similar stories together.
Srisaket inks deal with DAZN! Details of Feb 8th ring appearance confirmed!
During the week we saw Eddie Hearn announce that he, and Matchroom USA, had inked a deal with WBC and Ring Magazine Super Flyweight champion Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (47-4-1, 41) [ศรีสะเกษ นครหลวงโปรโมชั่น], making the Thai a DAZN exclusive fighter. This is a huge coup for DAZN who will be showing his rematch with Juan Francisco Estrada, with that bout being eyed for an early April date.
Before Srisaket fights his first bout on DAZN however he will be "fighting" in Thailand in an exhibition bout as part of a stacked February 8th card to raise money for a local hospital. The line up for that card was also announced this week, and more details on that show can be read here:
Muhammad Waseem signs with MTK Global, said to be targeting an April ring return
Another notable fighter signing a contract with a new team was Pakistani Flyweight Muhammad Waseem (8-1, 6) [محمد وسیم] who has now signed with MTK Global ahead of the next chapter of his career. He is best known for his 2018 bout with Moruti Mthalane, and his work with Korean promoter Andy Kim, but it seems like he is needing a promoter with big pockets, and that is what he has got here with MTK Global. Whilst this doesn't explicitly tie Waseem to a particular channel it does seem like it will land him some big fights in the UK, and we're really looking forward to seeing what he can do with MTK Global now guiding his career.
Ryosuke Iwasa to face Cesar Juarez in February!
Former IBF Super Bantamweight champion Ryosuke Iwasa (25-3, 16) [岩佐 亮佑] will be returning to the ring on February 16th to take on exciting Mexican Cesar Juarez (23-6, 17). This is a bout that was rumoured late last year, but was announced until this week, when Juarez let the cat out of the bag. It was later confirmed by the Iwasa team. The contest will be an IBF world title eliminator, and will also be Iwasa's US debut. The match up was announced at short notice, less than 4 weeks before taking place, but with both men being aware of the bout it's hard to imagine either man being ill prepared for what could be a sleeper FOTY contender.
Eri Matsuda and Nanae Suzuki to battle in unification bout!
We all want to see Champion Vs Champion bouts, fighters unifying titles and looking to prove who is the best. This week we saw the announcement that OPBF Atomweight champion Eri Matsuda (2-0) [松田恵里] would be facing Japanese female champion Nanae Suzuki (8-2-1, 1) [鈴木 菜々江], in a mouth watering unification bout. Matsuda looks to be one of the hottest prospects in female boxing, but will need to show what she can do against a more experienced and equally hungry opponent. This is likely to push the winner on to a world title fight, and should be seen as a very significant match up, at least for the fighters involved.
Musashi Mori Vs Richard Pumicpic II set for April 14th, Tsutsumi, Shigeoka and Takeda on undercard!
Last year we saw Musashi Mori (8-0, 5) [森 武蔵] defeat Filipino Richard Pumicpic (21-9-2, 6) to claim the WBO Asia Pacific Featherweight title, in what is clearly his best win to date.The first bout was curtailed due to a headclash, but the fact we're getting a rematch in mid April is certainly not a bad thing.
Not only was the rematch announced here but the under-card was also a lovely bonus, with Ginjiro Shigeoka (1-0, 1) [重岡銀次朗], Seiya Tsutsumi (4-0, 3) [堤聖也] and Rookie of the Year winner Sora Takeda (4-1) [竹田宙] all announced for the show. Sadly none of them have their opponents announced, but we would be very surprised if at least one of them does face a Japanese ranked opponent. A great main event with a potentially solid under-card.
Yuko Kuroki to face Nao Ikeyama in April!
On the same day as the previously mentioned Mori Vs Pumicpic rematch we'll get a mos win female bout, as WBO Atomweight champion Nao Ikeyama (18-5-3, 5) [森脇恵子], who is edging towards her 50th birthday, take on former WBC female Minimumweight champion Yuko Kuroki (17-6-1, 8) [黒木優子]. Female boxing might not be huge but that doesn't stop the sport giving us some huge female bouts, and a contest between Ikeyama, a legend who has competed with the best despite being well beyond the retirement age of most fighters, and Kuroki should be sensational. The loser really has no where to go, but the winner will be on the verge of another world title fight. A high risk, high reward bout between two recent world champions.
Kasumi Saeki to fight for a world title in April!
Staying with female boxing, unbeaten prospect Kasumi Saeki (3-0, 2) [佐伯霞] got informed, live at an event she was speaking at, that her team were pencilling her in for a world title fight on April 27th. The details are lacking, but the WBO Asia Pacific female Minimumweight champion, looks set for a huge step up in class as her team look to make her into a star. We're expecting more details to be announced in the coming weeks, but it's clear that w could see Saeki announce herself on the world stage in just a few weeks.
Notable the April 27th date is also being rumoured as the date for Reiya Konishi's bout with IBF Light Flyweight champion Felix Alvarado.
Suzumi Takayama passes B license test, set for debut on February 26th!
Former amateur standout Suzumi Takayama [高山 涼深] is pencilled in to fight on February 26, he has been for quite some time, but he didn't actually take his B license test until this past week. He has, as expected, passed all the tests and there isn't any issue with him being licensed, and joining the strong stable of hopefuls at the Watanabe Gym.
Shokichi Iwata takes part in B class pro-test
Japanese youngster Shokichi Iwata (1-0, 1) [岩田翔吉] may have made his professional debut last year, but he wasn't allowed to fight under a JBC license until this week, when he claimed a B class licensed and linked up with Teiken. It doesn't seem totally clear on what direction Iwata's career is going to take, but he has opened up doors to fight in Japan, as well as the USA.
Golovkin suing former managers
On a really serious issue, former unified Middleweight king Gennady Golovkin (38-1-1, 34) has began court action as he looks to sue former managers Maximilian and Oleg Hermann, who he claims owe him $3.5 million. The legal action has been filed with claims the Hermann's had their contract ended in 2017 but continued to make money off their relationship with Golovkin. It's going to be very interesting to see how this story develops in the coming months.
One of the many things we're wanting to try in 2019 is a weekly news review, looking at the most interesting news stories from the last 7 days. For the same of this news won't include things like weigh ins and results, but instead things like announcements of fights, comebacks, deaths and other more general news from the week that's been.
We won't go into any of the stories in depth, leaving a link to the relevant story, but will quickly give our take on the news.
So without further ado, let us bring the 1st Asian Boxing Weekly News Review!
Srisaket to DAZN not yet a done deal! Still set to return in February
After strong speculation that WBC Super Flyweight champion Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (47-4-1, 41) [ศรีสะเกษ นครหลวงโปรโมชั่น] had inked a deal with DAZN it was revealed he hadn't....yet! He is in deep negotiations with the streaming service but hasn't inked anything yet, with a decision expected to be made shortly. What was also confirmed is that he would be fighting in a tune up bout on February 8th, in Thailand, before facing mandatory challenger Juan Francisco Estrada in the Spring. At the moment the opponent for Srisaket's opponent hasn't been announced, but will be before the end of the month, suggesting it's a limited foe, potentially an experienced regional journeyman.
WBSS announcements to be made next week!
After weeks of fans asking when the WBSS semi-final bouts would be taking place we finally saw the Sauerlands react, and announce that an announcement would be made next week. It's unclear when in the week the announcement will be made but to have a time frame of "next week" is good enough to get us a little bit excited. The rumours were that early March had been targeted but it now seems like the shows have slipped to April or May, though we're genuinely glad that we'll see things being made public very shortly! We'll file this in the rarely used "Glad there was an announcement about an announcement", folder
Sirimongkol to return to the ring...as a Heavyweight!
The biggest "What the fuck?" story of the week came from Thailand, as multiple sources informed us that former WBC Bantamweight and Super Featherweight champion Sirimongkol Singwancha (96-4, 61) [ศิริมงคล สิงห์วังชา] would be back in the ring in the coming weeks, as a Heavyweight! The enigmatic Thai was a fantastic fighter in his prime, but he is more than a decade removed from his prime and more than 20 years removed from losing the WBC Bantamweight to Joichiro Tatsuyoshi in an amazing fight in 1997! Sirimongkol, now in his 40's, is only 5'6" and will look ridiculous fighting at over 200lbs, but we suspect he's going to be very softly matched.
Mishiro to defend OPBF title against Watanabe!
A pretty good, though possibly missed, announcement came out over the weekend from Dangan, who announced the OPBF Super Featherweight champion Hironori Mishiro (6-0-1, 2) [三代大訓] will defending his title on March 27th against OPBF "silver" champion Takuya Watanabe (35-8-1, 20) [渡邉卓也]. Whilst neither man is a huge name outside of Asia it's hard to not be excited here. Both are fun to watch, have plenty of skill and throw a lot of punches. Neither is world class, though Mishiro has certainly shown the potential to get their already in his short career, but they should make for a genuinely spectacular fight to headline Dangan 221.
Ryohei Takahashi will continue his career following loss to TJ Doheny!
Former IBF Super Bantamweight challenger Ryohei Takahashi (15-4-1, 6) [高橋竜平] revealed that his career will not end following his loss to world champion TJ Doheny earlier this month. Although it's not a huge surprise to hear that the 28 year old, soon to be 29 year old, would be continuing his career it's still good to hear and he will certainly be a good addition to the Japanese domestic scene. Bouts between Takahashi and the likes of Yusaku Kuga, Ryoichi Tamura and Hidenori Otake would be very enjoyable, whilst rematches with Kazuki Tanaka and Yuki Iriguchi would certainly be more than welcome.
Denver Cuello set to return in March!
Former world title challenger Denver Cuello (36-5-6, 24) was once touted as a future star of the smaller divisions. Sadly injuries hampered him, badly, and clearly harmed his chances against Xiong Zhao Zhong in 2013. Since then he has hardly fought, due to in part to his being banged up. This week however Ian Melodillar reported that Cuello would be back in the ring in March, as fights for the first time in years. It's hard to know what Cuello has left but if the 32 year is half the fighter he once was he could make for another interesting addition to the ranks in any of the lower weights. He's likely missed out on getting a world title, but adds some name value and more Filipino interest to the lower weights.
Ivan Dychko eyeing March 1st return!
Also looking at a March return is Kazakh Heavyweight Ivan Dychko (7-0, 7) [Дычко Иван]. Dychko's manager revealed that his charge would be looking to return in March 1st, likely in Florida. The bout will be Dychko's first since July 2018, and frustratingly his activity seems to have been with his promotional team as he's not been injured, and instead has been seeing bouts fall through due to reasons outside of his hands. It's been a very frustrating year for the fighter and his fans. Given his amateur credentials there is no reason for him to have been matched the way he has, and hopefully 2019 will see him being busy and taking on some serious tests, rather than continuing to waste time with mismatches and promotional frustrations.
Iwao Hakamada manga to be released
Former fighter Shigemi Mori along with Hideko Hakamada held a news conference this week to reveal a new Manga being released this year to try and raise the attention of Iwao Hakamada's, Hideko's brother, situation. Mr Hakamada, now 82, served 48 years for a quadruple murder in 1966 and spent much of that time in solitary confinement on death row. Although he was released in 2014, Hakamada is still awaiting a retrial, which could see his sentence being reinstated. The manga is set to be released in 8 page sections on a monthly basis from February 15th and will be translated for an international audience with the plan also being to put it on to youtube, to further international attention.
Right now the Thai boxing scene is a bit of a strange one. It has 3 standout fighters at the top of the proverbial tree, with a trio of world champions that are head and shoulders above everyone else in the country. You then have a a rag tag bunch of challengers, who are a mix of emerging talent and veterans still in and around the world title scene. The prospects are an even more varied bunch, from former amateur stands to a 15 year old prodigy.
Sadly though there is a feeling that the Thai scene has faded just a touch over the last few years to give us a rather weak looking domestic picture, though one that could easily see a break out star emerge.
The World Class Trio
The most notable names in Thai boxing right now are clearly Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (47-4-1, 41), Knockout CP Freshmart (19-0, 7) and Wanheng Menayothin (52-0, 18). They are the 3 world champions from the country and the 3 names that really are head and shoulders above anything else the country has to offer.
WBC Super Flyweight champion Srisaket is clearly the most recognisable name the country has to offer in boxing, and with good reason. He is widely regarded as a top 10 pound for pound fighter and holds notable wins against Roman Gonzalez, twice, Juan Francisco Estrada, Yota Sato and Jose Salgado. To many he came out of nowhere to beat Roman Gonzalez in March 2017, and again 6 months later, but he had previously held the WBC Super Flyweight title and the win over Gonzalez saw him reclaim the title he had lost via technical decision to Carlos Cuadras. He's big, strong and extremely powerful, with under boxing skills.
Wanheng set the boxing world talking last year when he matched Floyd Mayweather's 50-0, getting coverage on things like Sky Sports, and since then he has notched 2 more wins. He is the WBC Minimumweight champion, having held that title since November 2014, and has racked up 10 defense. His current reign is the longest of any active world champion, coming in at 2 months longer than Deontay Wilder's. Although not an amazingly destructive fighter Wanheng is a defensively smart fighter who can change the tempo of a fight, neutralise pressure well and has under-rated speed and combinations. He doesn't look like he's unbeatable, but very few have really pushed him close. The one big issue however is that he's had just a touch of luck from officials at times, deducting points, or giving him the benefit of the doubt in close rounds.
The other champion is Knockout CP Freshmart, the WBA Minimumweight champion. He won the WBA interim title in 2014, before taking the main title in 2016. Since winning the WBA's top title he has made 6 defenses. Looking through his record things look impressive, with wins against Carlos Buitrago, Byron Rojas, Shin Ono, Rey Loreto, Toto Landero and Xing Zhao Zhong. Sadly however, his performances have been less than great and there has been a real lack of action at times in his bouts. He's very talented, but can be very dull. It also seems unlikely that we'll see him and Wanheng unify, despite how intriguing that bout is on an international basis.
As mentioned, the contenders in Thai, and are a varied bunch of fighters. Some are well on their way to their first world title fight whilst others are looking to get a second, or even third, shot at a belt.
We'll start with Flyweight Dennapa Kiatniwat (20-1, 15), who has been ordered to negotiate a bout with WBA Flyweight champion Artem Dalakian, which is expected to take place in the Spring. Dennapa, also known as Sarawut Thawornkham, is a 27 year old puncher who lost on debut in 2014 but has rebuilt on the regional level. Despite being the #1 WBA Flyweight contender is competition has, mostly, been pathetic, which has helped him stop his last 11 foes.
Whilst Dennapa has a shot being negotiated Downua Ruawaiking (14-0, 11) will be getting a world title eliminator, which is set to take place in February. The Light Welterweight is a talented boxer-puncher, who has shown a lot more than many Thai contenders do. He will however need to show a lot more to over-come Akihiro Kondo when the two men meet next month. Downua is a heavy handed fighter with good timing, a good jab, and the basis to build a very promising career, though may be getting his shot just a little too early.
Possibly the best of the Thai contenders is Palangpol CP Freshmart (16-2, 9), who is lacking an outstanding record, but has shown what he can do on the world stage, and what he can do isn't too shabby. The hard hitting Palangpol is best known for his 2017 bout with Kosei Tanaka, when he dropped Tanaka and fractured both of the Japanese fighter's orbital bones, before being stopped in the 9th round. Although the rest of his record is poor his performance against Tanaka showed he belonged in the world title mix. Unfortunately however he is 33 and in the deepest division in the sport, so may well miss out on another shot, if his team can't open up the purse strings.
Another standout contender is Panya Pradabsri (26-1, 15), aka Petchmanee Kokietgym, who is in the mix between Minimumweight and Flyweight. His sole loss was a controversial one against Xiong Zhao Zhong, in a WBA world title eliminator, and since then he has been handing out beatings, including an impressive KO win against Dexter Alimento in a Flyweight bout. It's not 100% clear where he sees his future, as he fought at Minimumweight as recently as last September, but he's ultra active, highly talented and a real threat to the top guys, at least at 105lbs.
Having started his career with an incredible looking 36-0-1 big things were expected from Nawaphon Por Chokchai (44-1-1, 34). Sadly a loss to Juan Hernandez Navarrete in 2007 was a huge set back and since then he has very much failed to really become a threat at world level again. Currently on a 8 fight winning run Nawaphon has only really scored 1 big win since his loss to Hernandez, stopping veteran Amnat Ruenroeng last year. If he's serious about getting a second world title fight it does feel like he needs to have investment in his development and hope his team are willing to open the purse strings to get him better opponents. He's talented, physically imposing and from a good team, but the jury is still out on whether he can make it to the top.
Few Thai's in the sport today have had chances that Eaktwan BTU Ruaviking (25-5, 16) have had. Eaktwan, also known as Komgrich Nantapech, lost in a 2017 world title fight to Donnie Nietes, then lost to Juan Carlos Reveco later that same year, in an eliminator. He was supposed to have another eliminator in 2018 but suffered an injury forcing him out of a bout with Masayuki Kuroda. Whilst he has had chances shouldn't write off the 29 year old, who is a big, strong, powerful and talented fighter. He asked real questions of Nietes and has got good wins on the regional scene, but it very much feels like he's one of those unfortunate fighters who is stuck between regional class and world class.
In December we saw Petch Sor Chitpattana (48-1, 33) suffer his first loss, coming up second best against Takuma Inoue in a WBC "interim" Bantamweight title fight. Despite losing that bout, widely, he showed he belonged on the fringes of world class, with his determination, toughness and stamina. Prior to facing Inoue he had gone 48-0 but his record lacked any sort of quality, and it showed as he lacked the skills needed to really push Inoue, but had the tools that could be built on. If Petch can get good training, work on his flawed technical skills then there is huge potential for him to become a fixture on the world stage. He's only 25 now and really shouldn't be written after the Inoue bout, even if it was a pretty wide loss for the Thai.
Another fight who showed their toughness in a world title bout, and has remained a fringe contender, is WBA #2 ranked Flyweight Noknoi Sitthiprasert (69-5, 42), aka Nare Yianleang. He began his career 1-4 but has since gone 68-1 and scored wins over the likes of Rey Loreto, Kenichi Horikara, Renoel Pael and Donny Mabao. His sole in his last 69 fights was a decision loss to Kazuto Ioka in a WBA Flyweight title bout, and he has reeled off 7 low key wins since then, whilst doing enough to remain in the title mix with the WBA. He's proven himself as a very tough fighter, but does lack in terms of big wins, and at 32 years old he is battling against time for another big fight.
The pick of the Thai prospects making waves at the moment is 29 year old, former amateur standout Apichet Petchmanee (2-0, 2), who should be regarded as one of the best prospects in boxing, even if he is older than a typical prospect. Apichet made his professional debut last year, beating Attanon Kunlawong in 2 rounds, then defeated Sadudee Tor Bumas just 2 months later, claiming the OPBF Silver Light Welterweight with that second win. Given his advanced age it's clear Apichet hasn't got time to waste, and he's showing he's aware of that having fought 13-0 and 8-0 opponents in his first 2 bouts, and looking brilliant against both. He's skilled, strong, has a good varied attack and will almost certainly be in the world rankings by the end of 2019. Sadly though he may have left the start of his professional career a little bit too late
Another 29 year old hopeful is Atchariya Tor Chantaroj (12-0, 5), also known as Atchariya Wirojanasunobol. He has been a professional since 2014 and looked promising early on, with wins against Heri Andriyanto and Stevie Ongen Ferdinandus in his first 4 bouts. Since that impressive start he has built with wins against the likes of Kaewfah Tor Buamas and Taisho Ozawa. There is plenty of promise with Atchariya but it seems more likely he will actually end up being fed to Apichet rather than advancing to major fights of his own.
At the age of 15 Phoobadin Yoohanngoh (3-0, 2) looks to be a prodigy and was mixing boxing with Muay Thai in 2018, notably winning a silver medal at the Muay Thai 2018 Youth World Championships. Sadly his boxing bouts haven't yet surfaced on to the net, but it is well know that Thailand are looking more and more at kids to become their stars, with the likes of Stamp Kiatniwat being groomed from a young age. Sadly these experiments with teenagers rare develop the stars in boxing that the Thai boxing promoters will be looking for, but it's hard to ignore anyone who debuted at the age of 14 and has reeled off 3 before their 15th birthday.
Another teenager worthy of note is 18 year old Thanongsak Simsri (5-0, 5), who debuted in June, just 3 days after his 18th birthday, and fought regularly in the second half of 2018 to move to 5-0 (5). His competition so far has mostly been debutants, as we do often see with Thai fighters,. As with Phoobadin it's hard to know what Thanongsak really has in his locker, but the Thai promoters are clearly looking to develop young talent, and with a handful of fights already under his belt Thanongsak is someone to make a note of.
Thinking Out East
With this site being pretty successful so far we've decided to open up about our own views and start what could be considered effectively an editorial style opinion column dubbed "Thinking Out East" (T.O.E).