For a second straight "Reliving the Finish" we stay in the US, though move from the MGM Grand in Las Vegas to the Forum in Inglewood, California, for another KO. This one isn't quite as iconic as the Manny Pacquiao Vs Ricky Hatton one, but is another notable. Sadly though this came at the expense of a previously unbeaten Asian who had the hopes of Thailand behind him, and one which left more questions than it probably should have.
Teerachai Kratingdaenggym (38-0, 28) Vs Lucas Martin Matthysse (38-4-0-1, 35)
Although he sported a ridiculously long name Teerachai Kratingdaenggym wasn't a well known fighter, and in the US he was introduced as Tewa Kiram, rather than being called by the Thai fighting name he had used in his homeland.
Although not well known the 25 year old Thai had one of the longest unbeaten records in the sport at the time, having scored 38 straight wins. Sadly, though as is common place in Thailand, a lot of those wins were stay busy wins against lesser opponents. Those wins had seen him and his team essentially piggy back on the PABA title to gain a high WBA ranking, and in January 28 he looked to turn that ranking, and loyalty to the WBA's regional body, into a world title reign.
For those who hadn't seen him Teerachai was a bit of a mystery man, though plenty of footage was out there. He had proven to be a solid boxer-puncher, and a huge man for a Thai. He wasn't a blown up fighter fighting above his best weight, but instead a very big Welterweight who had matured into a fighter who probably could have been better off moving up in weight, which he actually did after this bout.
For the bout in question Teerachai battled against big punching Argentinian Lucas Martin Matthysse, for the vacant WBA "regular" Welterweight title.
At the age of 35 it was now or never for the incredibly hard hitting, and popular Matthysse. Up to this point Matthysse, dubbed "La Maquina", was the nearly man of professional boxing. He had knocked on the door of a proper world title numerous times, though the best he could get was the WBC "interim" title. He had 4 losses to his name, but the first two of those were very questionable decisions to Zab Judah and Devon Alexander. Following those defeats he had gone on to beat the likes of Humberto Soto, Ajose Olusegun, and Lamont Peterson, who was then the IBF champion.
Sadly for Matthysse his other two losses had come in actual title fights, with a close decision loss to Danny Garcia and a TKO loss to Viktor Postol. Those were both in world title bouts and it seemed like he was going to be denied a "full" title until he moved up in weight and got the shot against Teerachai for the vacant WBA belt.
Before we talk about the stoppage, we do need to point out the title had only become "vacant" due to the politics of the WBA and they still had a "super champion" in the form of Keith Thurman.
Despite being seen as a massive under-dog Teerachai really did incredibly well early on. He was making Matthysse look his 35 years of age, and out moving, out working, out jabbing and out boxing Matthysse. Matthysse seemed to be landing the better single shots, and had more power on his shots, but was very much being made to work incredibly hard to cut the distance.
Of course the last thing a fighter usually loses is their power, and even at the age of 35 Matthysse still had that. Big time.
Midway through round 8 Matthysse's power told and he dropped the Thai with what appeared to be a hard 1-2. For a moment it seemed Teerachai was done, before he got to his feet. That wasn't the end, but a clear warning of what Matthysse' power could do.
Less than a minute later Matthysse's power struck again.
This time the Argentinian backed the Thai up and, on first viewing seemed to drop him with a sharp, short, left hand. The Thai was flat out as the referee waved off the bout with Teerachai's head lying under the ropes.
In real time it looked like a jab had knocked out the Thai, and on replay it seemed that was the case, though it seemed like it was almost a delayed reaction KO, with Teerachai throwing his own shot before dropping to the canvas in what was a really odd ending.
Following the finish Teerachai was accused of taking a dive and looking for a way out. In fairness that may well have happened, with the pressure from Matthysse increasing and Teerachai likely realising he couldn't hurt the Argentinian. Though it was something he and his team did deny.
Whatever the outcome we didn't see Matthysse hold the title for long, losing to Manny Pacquiao in his first defense. As for Teerachai he bounced back, moved up in weight and began moving towards a second world title bout, this time at 154lbs.
Whether this was a delayed reaction KO, a dive, or a man simply shaken into the point of accepting a loss, it looked great at the time.
The 154lb Light Middleweight division is one of the most interesting in the sport, both globally and in regards to Asian fighters. The division has no standout on the global scene, and whilst that can be bad for a division it actually helps to make the division really intriguing with a feeling that the top 5 or 6 guys, if not more, can all beat each other. The division could hold some brilliant tournaments and it'd be very hard to pick the eventual winner.
Saying that however we're not here right now to discuss the division at large rank the top Asian fighters in the division. And boy is this a trickier one than we imagined with a huge drop off towards the bottom end of the top 10.
1-Israil Madrimov (5-0, 5)
The 25 year old Israil Madrimov is one of the most promising fighters on the planet, and in just 5 fights has proven to be an exceptional talent with all the tools to be a superstar in boxing. The talented Uzbek, dubbed "The Dream", can box, bang, brawl, fighter, punch, entertain and looks to have all the tools to be something very, very special. With wins over solid fringe contenders, like Alejandro Barrera and Charlie Navarro we've seen Madrimov facing very advanced competition for someone with so few fights and he has been impressive every time we've seen him. Madrimov is one of the surest "future world champions" in the sport today.
2-Sadriddin Akhmedov (11-0, 10)
Another man we're tipping for the top is Kazakh youngster Sadriddin Akhmedov, but like Madrimov he's not just one for the future but a fantastic fighter right now. Akhmedov, a Kazakh based Canadian, is a boxer-puncher who is an absolute joy to watch. He's not as destructive as Madrimov but at just 22 years old he is still looking like a very, very special fighter. His record isn't the best among the Asian fighters, but his skill-set, and talent is incredible and in regards to the eye he's passing with flying colours. His best wins are over the likes of John Ruba and Jose Antonio Villalobos but he can clearly beat better than he's been facing. Akhmedov is one of the best hidden gems in world boxing today.
3-Takeshi Inoue (16-1-1, 10)
The most proven of the Asian fighters at the weight is former world title challenger Takeshi Inoue. The 30 year old Japanese mauler is best known for his 2019 loss to Jaime Munguia, in which he took Munguia 12 rounds and managed to back up the Mexican youngster. Inoue has scored wins against the likes of Akinori Watanabe, Yuki Nonaka and Riku Nagahama, he's also a former unified Japanese, OPBF and WBO Asia Pacific champion and the current WBO Asia Pacific king. In terms of professional accolades he's top, but it really feels like Akhmedov and Madrimov both have significantly better skills and potential.
4-Hironobu Matsunaga (16-1, 10)
Japanese national champion Hironobu Matsunaga is someone in a very rich vein of form and has won his last 10 in a row, following a loss in the 2014 All Japan Rookie of the Year final at Welterweight. The pint size fighter from the Yokohama gym is one of the shortest men in the division but also an absolute nightmare to fight. Matsunaga is a physically strong pressure fighter who breaks opponents down with volume and pressure. He doesn't have a big international performance under his belt but wins over the likes of Je Ni Ma, Koshinmaru Saito and Nobuyuki Shindo he has proven his ability on the domestic and fringe regional scene and is, for us at least, the #2 in Japan.
5-Madiyar Ashkeyev (14-0, 7)
We return to Western based Kazakh's now with 31 year old fringe contender Madiyar Ashkeyev, who is based in Oxnard, California. The unbeaten Ashkeyev turned pro in 2015 and has slowly been making a name for himself, with decent wins against the likes of Luis Hernandez, Cecil McCalla and Rodolfo Ezequiel Martinez. The hope is that Ashkeyev will jump in with a higher level of opponent later in the year, though his career has been rather frustrating at times and it has felt like he could have stepped up a level much earlier. A talent, but some one with questions still to answer and at 31 time is ticking down on his prime years.
6-Teerachai Kratingdaenggym (43-1, 31)
Once beaten Thai Teerachai Kratingdaenggym, also known as Tewa Kiram, is best known for his loss to Lucas Matthysse at Welterweight. Since then he rebounded well with 5 wins and a move up in weight. We'd love to see him in with a regional level test soon, but the WBA Asia champion is a man who is hard to get a read on. We know he's better than many Thai's with padded records, and we thought he was giving Matthysse fits. He does however have a questionable chin, as we saw against Matthysse, and we do wonder if he can dig deep when the going gets tough. A solid boxer-puncher, but we wouldn't be surprised if his level was fringe regional, and we certainly wouldn't fancy him against any of the guys above him.
7-Akinori Watanabe (39-7-1, 33)
Japanese veteran Akinori Watanabe has had a truly compelling career since he turned professional in 2004. He was a crude puncher early on, suffering a number of stoppage losses as a result, but has become a more rounded boxer-puncher in recent years, and looks much sturdier at 154lbs than he did at Welterweight. During his long career he won Japanese, OPBF and PABA Welterweight titles and since moving up he has held the Japanese "interim" title and the OPBF title. Although not a world class fighter, by any stretch, the 34 year old is a good, solid, regional level fighter, and someone who would put up a fight, win or lose, against anyone else on this list. The top guys would beat him, but they'd be forced to work for their wins.
8-Tonghui Li (12-2, 6)
Chinese 30 year old Tonghui Li is a bit of a wild card. He's a former OPBF "silver" and IBF Asia champion and has some notable wins against the likes of Romeo Jakosalem, Larry Siwu and Arnel Tinampay. Sadly though he's also picked up a couple of losses, including a 2018 defeat to Jung Kyoung Lee. Li is one of those fighters who we don't expect to see much from, but a win over Tinampay means a lot and we wouldn't be that shocked if we saw him fighting for a regional title when boxing resumes. Li against Watanabe or Teerachai would be very interesting, and maybe the sort of bout we could end up with in December if travel restrictions allow.
9-Rei Nakajima (3-0)
Another wild card selection is 21 year old Rei Nakajima, a Japanese fighter promoted by Nobuhiro Ishida. At 5'5" he's a very short Light Middleweight but also a very, very talented fighter in the division. Having debuted last July it's still really early to get too excited about him, but he's proven he can do 6 rounds, something he's now down 3 times, and with a win over Patomsuk Pathompothong this early in his career it seems like he and his team have got eyes on making a mark at title level sooner rather than later. Yes it's early, yes he's unproven, but boy does this kid look good!
10-Arnel Tinampay (26-25-1, 12)
The dark sheep of the division is tried and tested Filipino journeyman Arnel Tinampay, who has one of the sports most confusing and misleading records. With just 26 wins from 52 bouts it's easy to suggest that Tinampay isn't good, but the reality is that his record could, and should, be very different. The 35 year old has scored notable upsets against the likes of Yosuke Kirima, Shoma Fukumoto and Koshinmaru Saito and had a number of losses that should have been wins, including a 2019 bout against Hassan Mwakinyo. If you're preparing to face Tinampay and look at his record rather than look at footage of him you're in trouble.
On the bubble:
Jugn Kyoung Lee, Nobuyuki Shindo, Nath Nwachukwu, Sung Miun Yuh and Vikas Krishan
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).