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!
Today we take a look at the Light Flyweight division, which is a rather interesting weight class right now. The 108lb weight class is, potentially, the best in the sport on a global basis, and would make for a fantastic tournament with the top guys from around the bout. We see some of the best fighters in the division in Asia however the drop off in the division is start between the best, and the best of the rest.
1-Kenshiro Teraji (17-0, 10)
There will be debate between the #1 and #2 in the division, however for us the pick is rather easy based on achievement and competition at the weight class. Kenshiro Teraji has been the WBC champion since May 2017 and has scored 7 defenses, some of which have come against fighters lower down this list. The talented boxer-mover has looked near untouchable at times and beaten the likes of Ganigan Lopez, Pedro Guevara, Milan Melindo and Jonathan Taconing. An excellent technical boxer Kenshiro has made so many improvements since winning the title that he hardly seems the same fighter that he was 3 years ago. A real revelation at the top of the division.
2-Hiroto Kyoguchi (14-0, 9)
Whilst we have Kenshiro at #1 we know some would suggest fellow Japanese fighter Hiroto Kyoguchi, the Ring Magazine champion, should be top. Whilst he's the Linear champion his reign at 108lbs has yet to match that of his countryman. He won the WBA "Super" and Ring magazine titles in December 2018, when he stopped Hekkie Budler in a great win, but wins against Satanmuanglek CP Freshmart and Tetsuya Hisada were both tougher than expected for the Watanabe Gym fighter. Kyoguchi is certainly ahead of the rest of the field, but so far he's shown less versatility at Light Flyweight and doesn't look as dangerous as he did at Minimumweight. Still a top fighter however and he's going to be very hard to dethrone.
3-Reiya Konishi (17-2, 7)
The drop off between the top 2 and the rest really is massive and even then the argument for #3 is a really close one. We've gone with 2-time world title challenger Reiya Konishi at number 3, though could see 3 or 4 fighters all having a fair claim to the position. Konishi has only lost at world level against ultra-dangerous fighters, Carlos Canizales and Felix Alvarado, and holds wins against decent fighters like Masataka Taniguchi, Shin Ono and Orlie Silvestre. A little warrior Konishi has a great work rate but lacks single punch power and makes life very difficult for himself time and time again. A legitimate top 15 globally, he's a man who had proven he's on the bubble of world class, but hasn't yet scored the big win. Saying that however he gave Carlos Canizales a very tough bout back in 2018.
4-Petchmanee Kokietgym (32-1, 21)
Thailand's Petchmanee Kokietgym, also known as Panya Pradabsri among other names, is perhaps the divisions least well known contender. The 29 year old Thai was unlucky in his sole defeat, a loss in China to Xiong Zhao Zhong, and has bounced around between Light Flyweight and Flyweight since then. Despite having over 30 wins to his name his competition is rather mixed, and is certainly not the best out there. When he has stepped up to fringe regional level however he has impressed, stopping the likes of Jerry Tomogdan, Robert Onggocan and Dexter Alimento. Very much a fighter who is just a win or two away from making a mark, and at 29 he does have a bit of time to go out and make a statement before a world title bout.
5-Edward Heno (14-1-5, 5)
Former OPBF champion Edward Heno has impressed multiple times, with wins against the likes of Seita Ogido, Merlito Sabillo, Jesse Espinas and Koji Itagaki. He also impressed last year in his loss to Elwin Soto, in what was a very competitive bout against the dangerous Mexican. Aged 27 the Filipino southpaw is pretty much in his physical prime and the loss to Soto do more good than harm, instilling a confidence in Heno that he belongs at world level. Before the current global situation he was supposed to fight in March against Francis Jay Diaz, and that would be a big test of his mentality after the Soto bout. Arguably the most skilled of the contenders he has a bright future, if he can get up for the lower level tick over fights until landing another big one.
6-Satanmuanglek CP Freshmart (11-1, 5)
Another Thai with an under-rated standing in the sport is 27 year old Satanmuanglek CP Freshmart, aka Tanawat Nakoon. The talented Thai had done little in boxing before landing a fight with Hiroto Kyoguchi last year and giving the Japanese fighter some trouble over 12 rounds. The bout was a clear one for Kyoguchi on the cards but Satanmuanglek proved he was on the fringes of world class and that he was tough, skilled, smart and promising. Since that loss he has had some Muay Thai action, though hopefully we see him back boxing in 2020. He has the ability to be well and truly in the mix though needs to face more opponents like Marco John Rementizo and few like Crison Omayao, if he's to develop and progress the way he should.
7-Jonathan Taconing (28-4-1, 22)
Just a year ago Johnathan Taconing would have come much higher up this list but the 33 year old Filipino southpaw is very much a fighter on the way out. The heavy handed puncher was always regarded as a dangerman in the division, and one of the most brutal punchers in the weight class. He matched that power with an iron jaw and will to win. Sadly though a KO loss last year to Kenshiro has seen the jaw now left with question marks and at 33 time is not on his side. He's likely to be too good for those at regional level but going 0-3 in world title bouts is a telling stat, and we don't imagine we'll see him picking up a world title before he hangs them up.
8-Thanongsak Simsri (14-0, 12)
Exciting Thai teenage Thanongsak Simsri is one of the division's most promising and exciting hopefuls. He's only 19 but is a heavy handed boxer-puncher who is show real potential, and is getting international experience with bouts not just in Thailand but also Japan. Whilst his competition hasn't been the toughest so far he has impressed with wins against Ricardo Sueno, Lerdchai Chaiyawed and Christian Bacolod already. In 2019 he fought 8 times and the intention was to move him into regional title bouts this year. We might see that happen, but given how the year has been so far any plans for the youngster have been put on hold. For now.
9-Randy Petalcorin (31-4-1, 23)
Another Filipino worthy of note in the division is former world title challenger Randy Petalcorin. He's a long way from the top fighters in the division, but is certainly on the fringes of world class. Last time out he fought Kenshiro Teraji, as a late replacement for Felix Alvarado, and was stopped in 4 rounds by the WBC champion. At 28 years old the talented southpaw has time to bounce back, but unfortunately for him there is a lot of young and emerging talent coming through the division. We mentioned Simsri a moment ago and there are others looking to over-take Petalcorin in regards to his standing in the division.
10-Tibo Monabesa (20-1-2, 8)
Indonesian fighter Tibo Monabesa found that he wasn't ready for the top when he lost to Hiroto Kyoguchi, but the 29 year old has distinguished himself from those outside of the top 10 wins a number of notable victories. In his 23 fight career he has already defeated Rene Patilano, Lester Abutan, Lito Dante, Samartlek Kokietgym and Omari Kimweri. Before the world changed he was pencilled in to face Toto Landero in March, and a win there would have boosted his career to being a legitimate fringe contender. He's on a good run since being beaten by Kyoguchi and the hope is that he will get a world title fight in the coming future.
On the bubble:
Masamichi Yabuki, Daiki Tomita, Christian Bacolod, Kenichi Horikawa and Christian Araneta.
Notes - Tetsuya Hisada has stated his intention is to move up to Flyweight in the future, so wasn't considered here. Yuto Takahashi has announced his retirement from the sport
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).