The second in our "Top 5 Wins" features looks at another modern icon, as we look at Thai great Pongsaklek Wonjongkam (9-15-2, 47). The Thai is a criminally over-looked fighter who is often remembered unfairly as a fighter who only fought in Asia against weak opposition, but the reality is that he fought a lot of fighters who were a lot better than fans realise. In fact of the men he beat numerous ones went on to win world titles in the years that followed, and the way he essentially monopolised the WBC Flyweight world title in the 00's and early 10's is incredible.
So lets have a look at the 5 top wins of Pongsaklek Wonjongkam.
5-Suriyan Sor Rungvisai (October 28th 2010)
In Pongsaklek's first defense of his second reign he took on the then 14-3-1 (4) Suriyan Sor Rungvisai. At the age of 33 Pongsaklek was seen as being on the way out, and although Suriyan hadn't made his mark on the sport by this point, something he would do impressively in the coming years, though the then 21 year old left a great impression here. Pongsaklek was pushed all the way by a talented, tough, determined foe who came of age. Suriyan would put up an amazing effort, using his youth, energy and toughness. The challenger even threw up at one point yet still continued to press and push Wonjongkam in a bit of a forgotten classic. This was a great fight, a hotly contested battle and in many ways the start of the end for Wonjongkam, who would only defend the WBC title 3 more times. It was also a bout that put Suriyan on the map, before he won the WBC Super Flyweight title
4-Edgar Sosa (October 21st 2011)
A year after beating Suriyan we saw Pongsaklek take on excellent Mexican fighter Edgar Sosa. Sosa was 43-6, 2 years younger than Wonjongkam, a former long reigning Light Flyweight champion and a very, very good fighter. He had lost just once in his previous 32 bouts, and that was a very controversial loss to Rodel Mayol, on paper this looked a huge ask for the the ageing Pongsaklek, and Sosa was in great form. What we ended up seeing here was Pongsaklek out boxing, out thinking, out moving and out fighting the Mexican in what turned out to be one final great performance by Pongsaklek. Amazingly this would be his last win at world level. Sosa on the other hand remained a contender until quite recently, losing to Roman Gonzalez in 2015 and Donnie Nietes in 2016.
3-Malcolm Tunacao (March 2nd 2001)
Of course the win that puts a fighter on the map always belongs on any top 5 list, and that's exactly what we got when Pongsaklek took on WBC Flyweight champion Malcolm Tunacao in 2001. The unbeaten Tunacao was 11-0-1, 7, and had taken the title the previous year with a TKO win over Medgoen Singsurat and had made a defense in Japan against Celes Kobayashi. For Pongsaklek this was supposed to be the first real test, the first time he was facing someone of known quality and the first time the then 23 year old Thai was supposed to be in there with a top quality opponent. Pongsaklek made this look incredibly easy, surprisingly so in fact, as he dropped the Filipino champion just over a minute into the fight and set an incredible all out tempo. Tunacao got to his feet but was dropped a second time not afterwards and then dropped again. He was done within a round. This win kicked off a great reign for Pongasaklek and was one of only 2 career stoppages for Tunacao, the other coming more than 12 years later, in 12 rounds to Shinsuke Yamanaka. This was a huge win, and an incredibly impressive one when we look back over out.
2-Koki Kameda (March 27th 2010)
After losing the WBC Flyweight title to Daisuke Naito in 2007, in their third bout, it seemed like Pongsaklek was on his way out. He was "only" 29 at the time but had had 65 bouts and seemed to be on the slide. Over 2 years later however Pongsaklek would become a 2-time world champion, upsetting the then 22-0 Koki Kameda in a notable upset win. Kameda had been one of the stars of Japan, he was a controversial figure, but a huge star and at only 23 years old he was seen as one of the top rising stars, and was already a 2-weight world champion. Kameda had taken the title from Naito, and yet was unable to over-come the then 32 year old Pongaklek. The Thai legend pressed, pushed, forced the tempo and our worked Kameda, who had the edge in speed, but didn't do enough. This was a great win for Pongsaklek and was a huge win at the time, against one of the biggest names in Asian boxing.
1-Daisuke Naito (Apri 19th 2002) I
When a fighter sets a record that stands more than 17 years later, and does so against a future world champion it's worth making a note of. Especially when the fighters go on to have a very storied rivalry. That is part of what elevates Pongsaklek's first win against Daisuke Naito to the #1 place here. Entertaing the bout Naito was 19-0-2 (14), aged 27 he was seen as being in his physical prime and was a a legitimate title challenger. Despite Naito being a really good challenger, Wonjongkam managed to take him out with 1 powerful straight left hand after just 34 seconds. This blow out win is still the quickest win in a world title bout, one of the all time quickest in world title bouts, and was the only stoppage loss for Naito, who would later go 1-1-1 in a trio of rematches with Wonjongkam. For the historical context of this win, it takes the #1 place in our list of Wonjongkam's top 5 wins.
After weeks of trying to come up with a regular Saturday feature we've finally got one thanks to our good friend Derek Bonnett, from Seconds Out, who's regular posts on facebook lead to things clicking. Whilst we know Derek wasn't the first to come up with the idea, it's been his regular posting of them that has really flicked a switch and lead us to begin this new series.
To begin with we must admit we're not 100% sure which we this will end up going and what will take priority. The original idea was going to be "The 5 best wins for..." though our realisation was that the "best" didn't always mean significant, and in the end it can be a frustrating task to summarise what is really "better" than something else. As a result we've decided to mix the two pretty interchangeably to begin with. This may change in the future, but for now we're going with a hybrid of "best", "significant", "meaningful" and "impressive".
To kick things off with we're going to look at former 3-weight Japanese world champion Hozumi Hasegawa (36-5, 16). The "Ace of Japan debuted in 1999 and fought for the final time in 2016. During his long he won the WBC Bantamweight, WBC Featherweight and WBC Super Bantamweight title whilst becoming a genuine star in his homeland and one of the most widely respected fighters out there.
Of course we all know who Hasegawa is, but what were his Top 5 wins?
5-Jess Maca (May 18th 2003)
The first win we'd like to talk about when it comes to Hasegawa is his 2003 win over Filipino veteran Jess Maca for the OPBF title. This isn't a win that got much attention in the west but showed that the 22 year old Hasegawa was a real one to watch. Coming in to the bout Maca had developed a reputation as a "Japanese killer" winning against a string of Japanese fighters, including Setsuo Segawa, Shigeru Nakazato, Shin Yamata and Katsushige Kawashima, whilst running up 7 defenses of the OPBF Bantamweight title. Hasegawa managed to end Maca's run with an excellent performance, taking a narrow split decision over the Filipino. This was Hasegawa's first title win, and put him on the road to the top.
4-Veeraphol Sahaprom (April 16th 2005) - Fight I
After making 3 defenses of the OPBF title Hasegawa got his first world title fight, taking on Thai great Veeraphol Sahaprom, for the WBC Bantamweight title.The Thai boasted a 46-1-2 (31) professional record, with his only loss coming Nana Yaw Konadu way back in 1996, a loss that had been followed by a 44 fight unbeaten run including 14 defenses of the WBC Bantamweighr title. Like Maca we'd seen Sahaprom prove to be a thorn in the side of Japanese boxing, with 2 wins against the legendary Joichiro Tatsuyoshi, a 2-0-2 series with Toshiaki Nishioka. Hasegawa would go on to take a close and competitive decision over Sahaprom, ending the Thai's lengthy world title reign.
3-Vusi Malinga (March 12th 2009)
It was somewhat hard to place Hasegawa's two wins over notable South African fighters. The first of those came in 2007, when he took a decision win over Simpiwe Vetyeka, and the other came less than 2 years later when he beat Vusi Malinga. The bout with Vetyeka is one that certainly aged very well, though in reality was a hard to watch bout between two talented 26 year old's who pretty much cancelled each other out. Against Malinga however Hasegawa impressed, blitzing the tough Southpaw inside a round, giving him his only stoppage loss. This was arguably the most impressive destruction job Hasegawa ever managed and showed that the Ace could punch much harder than his record suggested. In just 157 seconds Hasegawa took out a legitimately tough guy. This wasn't the most notable win, but was one of the most impressive.
2-Hugo Ruiz (September 16th 2016)
At the age of 35 Hasegawa was seen as a man coming to the end of his career, and his 2016 bout with Hugo Ruiz was expected to one final roll of the dice in his attempt to become a 3-weight world champion. Almost 30 months earlier he had been broken down by the then IBF champion Kiko Martinez and just 9 before facing Ruiz he had been dropped twice by Carlos Ruiz. He looked done. Ruiz on the other hand was a was a huge Super Bantamweight, who had real power, was 29 years old and had avenged a stoppage loss to Julio Ceja. Ruiz's only other losses were a 2007 loss to and a very close decision loss in Japan to Koki Kameda. Despite being beyond his best Hasegawa put up a great performance and forced Ruiz to retire in his corner after 9 rounds. At the time of the stoppage Hasegawa was in a very narrow lead, and in fact one judge had him down, but finally he'd done it. Almost 6 years removed from his last world level win, he had become a 3 weight champion.
1-Veeraphol Sahaprom (March 25th 2006) - Fight II
Whilst Hasegawa's first win over Veeraphol Sahaprom, in 2005 was an excellent performance to win the WBC Bantamweight title we'd actually go with the rematch, just 11 months later, as a better win. For Hasegawa this was his second defense, following a rather easy win over Gerardo Martinez. For Veeraphol however the bout was a chance to avenge his loss, reclaim the title and scoring a 6th straight win. This time around Hasegawa took the result out of the judges hands and seemed to toy with Sahaprom at times before landing a brutal right hand early in round 9 to take out the Thai with 1 shot. This was only the second time the Thai had been stopped, and despite the fact he was 37 the finish here, and the pressure to perform at the highest level earned this bout the #1 place.
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).