Last week we saw the WBC Minimumweight title change hands as long term champion Wanheng Menayothin (54-1, 18) was dethroned by countryman Panya Pradabsri (35-1, 22) in one of the more notable upsets in Asia this year. The bout ended what was the then longest active reign in male boxing, and saw Panya become the 49th male world champion from Thailand. Not only was the bout a passing of the torch but it was also a great bout, with a high intensity from both and really thrilling action.
Today we've decided to look back on the bout and share some of our takes aways from the contest in the latest article in this on going Five Take Aways series.
1-Panya's body body shots were great early on
The challenger had a number of advantages, including a 6 year youth advantage, and advantages in terms of size and power. It was however his body shots, and not his inherent advantages, that really caught the eye. He hammered Wanheng with fantastic left hooks to the body early on, and tried to chip away at the veteran in the early rounds with rib bursting shots. They landed clean, they looked painful and they were really solid blows. Credit needs to go to Wanheng for taking them so well, but they were the key early on for Panya. It's a shame they vanished part way through the bout, as they were so effective early on.
2-Wanheng is no typical 35 year old Minimumweight
We've mentioned Panya's body shots but there was something more impressive than those. That was Wanheng in general. The 35 year old did not look his age at all. He was razor sharp through much of the bout, let combinations go, showed incredible desire and hand speed. Even through he's ancient by Minimumweight standards, and still by typical boxing standards, he did not look his age. He also didn't look like a man who was talking about retirement in the summer. He looked very hungry and very much like a man desperate to move to 55-0 and keep his title. A fantastic effort by the old man, who seemed to set the tempo and have significantly higher output than the challenger.
3-This was a big fight!
It's incredibly rare for us to be asked for streams of bouts from Thailand, we some times get them for big names in Japan but very rarely Thailand. We also rarely get asked for streams of Minimumweight bouts. This bout however had a lot of questions from people wanting to watch, and on social media it felt like a decent sized fight with much broader interest than we typically see. Sure this wasn't the interest of a Naoya Inoue bout or a Kazuto Ioka fight, but this was still much, much more than expected and it was great to see more fans actually being interested in the little men.
4-This was a great fight
With so many fans being interested in watching the bout there was a worry. This could stink. Like really stink and become a dire fight with no talking points. Instead the bout delivered, massively, and gave us one of the best fights of the year. It was back and forth, high tempo action, with both men landing solid shots through out, exchanging leather regularly and giving us something to remember. It wasn't just a war however, but was a high tempo aggressive and technical bout which went well beyond just a typical fight. For fans who aren't used to watching the little guys we hope this bout has convinced you to give them a chance. The Minimumweights might not have the fire power of the heavy guys, but their can often over-deliver in terms of action and excitement. This isn't a one off great bout for the division, and there are copious other fantastic contests at 105lbs, including recent great bouts such as Katsunari Takayama Vs Francisco Rodriguez Jr and Akira Yaegashi Vs Pornsawan Porpramook. The division regularly delivers as it did here!
5-Thailand has continued to deliver in 2020 thanks to All-Thai bouts
Typically Thailand serves us one or two great bouts a year, and a lot of garbage that simply isn't worth watching. Year after year the quality in Thailand has decreased as local hopefuls have beaten up smaller and less skilled international opponents. With international transport at close to a standstill we've seen promoters being forced to put on more and more all-Thai bouts, and this has seriously increased the level of fights we've been getting in the country. This was the latest in a long line of excellent all-Thai bouts in 2020. Fingers crossed that continues as there is something special about domestic rivalries and the the hunger to prove you're the best. We see it in Japan and the UK and now we're seeing it more in Thailand. Historically All-Thai world title bouts, dubbed "Bloodline Battles", have delivered amazing action fights, and this is was another great one. Fingers crossed this continues in 2021, and well beyond the current Covid19 epidemic.
Bonus Take Away
Thank you Wanheng
If this turns out to be Wanheng's final career bout we genuinely owe him a thank you. Whilst he may not have faced the best in the division, and there are a lot of bouts we'd have loved to see him in, there is no doubting that he has helped put a spot light on the Minimumweight division and Thailand, at least over the last year or two. His career has been a genuinely impressive on and he has been on of the few men in recent memory to create a legacy whilst fighting at just his weight. He didn't feel the need to move through the weights to make his name, and that is a credit to his professionalism. He never missed weight, he never out grew the division and instead he committed himself to the 105lb weight class. Genuinely an impressive facet of his career, and one that will often go over-looked.
Over the last few days we've seen a lot of talk about Wanheng Menayothin and his 54-0 record. Some look to devalue it, others look to use it to troll fans of Floyd Mayweather Jr, who of course seemed to himself use his unbeaten record and final bout to troll fans of Rocky Marciano. What we've seen is a lot of argument over whether the record should be recognised, which really seems an odd argument to be made, when the record, for all intents and purposes, is little more than a meaningless bit of trivia.
Of course boxing is full of pointless records, records that, at the end of the day, mean very little. The big argument when it comes to Wanheng and whether his 54-0 should be recognised seems to be based on his competition. Though since when did competition become part of recognising an actual record? Who decides when level of competition should, and shouldn't count?
Of course Wanheng's competition wasn't consistently great. In his 54 bouts he had 5 bouts against fighters who were former, future or reigning world champions. If competition was so key however fans would, or should, be giving Roman Gonzalez a lot more respect, especially given that 3 men he beat went on to not just win world titles but to unify them!
With that said we've decided to look at some other rather pointless boxing records, to show that competition doesn't affect the actual record. In fact some of the records out there are there because of how bad some fighters are.
Shortest world title fight:
11 Seconds - Zolani Tete TKO1 Siboniso Gonya (WBO Bantamweight title)
Set in 2017 South African fighter Zolani Tete scored the ultimate "blink and you miss it" world title defense stopping fellow South African Siboniso Gonya in 11 seconds. Gonya had done little to deserve a world title bout, but the record stands.
Prior to Tete's win the record was set at 20 seconds by Gerald McClellan, who stopped Jay Bell in 1993 to defend the WBC Middleweight title. No one is ignoring these two incredibly quick wins due to the level of opponent.
Shortest career of a world title challenger
90 seconds - Arturo Mayan
Not too much is known about Arturo Mayan, who Boxrec list as a Spanish based Mexican but in 1994 he shared the ring with the WBO Minimumweight cham Alex Sanchez, and was stopped in 90 seconds. That wasn't just his debut, but is his only recorded professional bout. Yes he retired 0-1 after this one off contest. We don't imagine this record will ever be beaten, and is one of the most bizarre bits of trivia. One of those great answers when someone asks about the worst world title challenger either.
Fewest fans in attendance for a world title fight
0 Fans - Jason Moloney Vs Joshua Franco
Whilst the WBA "regular" Super Flyweight title might not mean much to many fans it's an interesting bit of trivia to note that the title was on the line for Jason Moloney's bout with Joshua Franco this week. The fight, which was a great one, was the first ever time a "world title" had been fought for in front of 0 fans. Again this is a record that will never be beaten, and can only be matched, but is an intriguing bit of trivia, and something we expect will be never be done again.
Most successive opening round wins
21 - Ali Raymi
When we talk about records that are dubious, but should be recognised, the run of Ali Raymi that saw him stopping his first 22 opponents inside a round should be acknowledged, and is actually a more interesting record than many as it's one that we had seen several fighters try to set. Edwin Valero set a record 18 in a row in 2006 before Tyrone Brunson beat that with his 19th in 2018. Brunson's record was then beaten by Raymi who set the new record at 21 in 2014.
On paper there's no reason why this one couldn't be beaten going forward, but it's certainly not an easy one to beat, and would likely only be possible with the help of a relatively suspect commission.
Fewest Fights to a World title
1-Hyun Mi Choi
One of the records we hear mentioned about Vasyl Lomachenko is how he won a world title in his third professional bout, tying the record of Thai legend Saensak Muangsurin. What both of those men did was incredibly impressive, though the actual record for winning a world title in the fewest fights is a record held by Korean fighter Hyun Mi Choi. The talented Choi, and her family defected from North Korea to South Korea where Choi turned professional and, in her debut, won the WBA female Featherweight title, taking a decision win over Chunyan Xu.
Whilst this record is matchable, in theory, we don't expect anyone to match it. Saying that however several fighters have attempted two win a world title on debut, such as the aforementioned Arturo Mayan, Joko Arter, Joves De La Puz, and Domingus Siwalette.
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!
We'll begin by looking at Minimumweight today and work our way through the weights in the future one by one.
1-Wanheng Menayothin (54-0, 18)
There is, of course, some debate about the #1 and #2 in the division between two Thai's. Of the two we have Wanheng Menayothin, the WBC champion, as the #1 guy in the division. His 54-0 record might not be full of quality, but in terms of his overall record his resume is better than anyone else's in the division. Wins over Florante Condes, Oswaldo Novoa, Saul Juarez, Melvin Jerusalem, Tatsuya Fukuhara, Pedro Taduran and Simpiwe Konkco are do put him ahead of anyone else. At 34 years old his career hasn't got long left, but until he's dethroned it's hard to put anyone above him, especially given his resume to date. It's also worth noting that he has already ran up a very impressive 12 defenses of the title since winning it more than 5 years ago.
2-Knockout CP Freshmart (21-0, 7)
The other Thai in the running for top spot is Knockout CP Freshmart, the WBA champion. The 29 year old Knockout has been inconsistent at times, in both his performances and his competition. At his best he looks fantastic, but unfortunately he has built a reputation as someone more than happy to stink out the joint, as he did against Byron Rojas in 2018. Wins over the likes of Carlos Buitrago, Byron Rojas, Muhammad Rachman, Rey Loreto and Xiong Zhao Zhong look good on paper but in reality he's not looked the most impressive in some of those and really has managed frustrate fans. He did look good earlier this year, when he beat Norihito Tanaka, but that came after a number of uninspired performances.
3-Pedro Taduran (14-2-1, 11)
IBF Minimumweight champion Pedro Taduran is an interesting case here. On paper the 23 year old is some way behind the WBA and WBC champions, though he did give Wanheng one of his toughest bouts to date. He impressed in his title win last year, when he stopped Samuel Salva in a 4 round thriller, and was unfortunate to see his first defense to end in a technical draw in February. Unlike the men ranked #1 and #2 Taduran is a real fun fighter to watch, with an aggressive and exciting style, though it does seem likely that he will lose the title sooner rather than later. We suspect his next bout will be a rematch with Daniel Valladares, and given their bout earlier this year we will not be complaining about them re-running that, as it was a great fight.
4-Vic Saludar (20-4,11)
Former WBO champion Vic Saludar is a hard man to place on this list. The 29 year old has looked great at times, such as in his loss to Kosei Tanaka and his wins over Ryuya Yamanaka and Masataka Taniguchi. At other times however he has looked questionable. His title loss last August, to Wilfredo Mendez, ended what had been a reign that started well but never really got going. He's talented, heavy handed, has an under-rated boxing brain but is a touch on the slow slide and can be out boxed. At his best he's a nightmare for anyone in the division, though we do wonder if his days at Minimumweight are numbered.
5-Ginjiro Shigeoka (5-0, 4)
One of the most exciting and promising prospects in the sport, Ginjiro Shigeoka is a special fighter and the youngster has already claimed the WBO Asia Pacific title and put himself in the running for a world title fight. Aged just 20 years old he has already shown he can box or punch. His body shot KO of Clyde Azarcon was truly brutal and his stoppage of Rey Loreto, in just his 5th professional bout, legitimised him as a true contender. The rating here might be a little high however that is, in part, due to his potential, which we expect we will see a lot of when the sport returns to the ring.Don't be surprised at all if Shigeoka fights for a world title in his next fight or two.
6-Melvin Jerusalem (15-2, 9)
Another Filipino youngster who needs to be mentioned is 26 year old contender Melvin Jerusalem. Jerusalem does have a couple of losses to his name, but one of them was a razor thin loss to Wanheng Menayothin and another was a close loss to the always tricky Joey Canoy. Since losing those fights, which were back to back in 2017, Jerusalem has won his last 4 including solid wins over Philip Luis Cuerdo and Toto Landero. He's yet to have a win at the world level, but our feeling is that will change sooner rather than later and he prove himself as a world class fighter in the next year or two. A really exciting, talented youngster with a lot of promise.
7-Lito Dante (17-11-4, 9)
On paper Lito Dante doesn't belong on this list, with 11 losses in his 32 bout career. The reality however is that the records of fighters don't always reflect their ability, or how dangerous they are and that's the case with Dante. The 30 year old Filipino is the current OPBF champion and is one of the division's hidden danger men. He's got 11 losses but has never been stopped and most of his losses have come in 6 rounders. We mention that because Dante's big strength is not just his toughness, but also his insane stamina, making him a total nightmare to fight over the longer distances. Over 10 or 12 rounds he will be a handful for anyone and would give any of the champions fits.
8-Masataka Taniguchi (12-3, 7)
Japan's Masataka Taniguchi is another of those hard men to place, like Vic Saludar who holds a win against him. Taniguchi is a very real talent, and we were looking forward to his proposed showdown with Lito Dante before boxing in Japan was put on hiatus. He's a solid puncher, had under-rated skills, an exciting style, but still has a lot of work to do. The 26 year old isn't a KO artist, he's not got the best stamina, and he does have areas to work on. But, he's also a very, very good fighter and has been unfortunate in 2 of his 3 losses, with the other coming to Saludar in a world title fight. Don't be surprised to see Taniguchi banging on the door of future world title fights down the line. He does however need to find that extra gear in the coming years if he's to win a top level belt.
9-Yudai Shigeoka (2-0, 1)
The 23 year old Yudai Shigeoka is the older brother of Ginjiro Shigeoka and actually appears to bee the more polished fighter of the two, though he lacks the explosiveness and physical strength of his younger brother. Yudai made his debut just over a year ago and then really impressed as he beat Lito Dante, over 6 rounds, in his second professional bout. The talented southpaw looks to be an excellent, sharp boxer, with some brutal body punching, educated foot work and a very smart boxing brain. He certainly fights to his strengths, though we do wonder whether or not he can fight the way he does over 10 or 12 rounds. That's the one big question over Shigeoka and one we hope to see answered later this year.
10-Samuel Salva (18-1, 11)
Former world title contender Samuel Salva is someone who came up short in his biggest bout to date, being stopped by Pedro Taduran, but at 23 years old has a lot of time to rebuild and learn from that loss. Against Taduran we saw a really talented young fighter, with good power, good technical ability and good speed, but a fighter who lacked the mental toughening he needed against Taduran. He had early success but didn't like it when he was on the receiving end of Taduran's pressure. There's a chance that Salva will never like being under intense pressure, as he was against Taduran, but we're going to give him the benefit of the doubt and go with the idea that that loss will actually make him a better fighter. He now knows what he needs to work on, he'll hopefully learn to bit down on his gum shield a bit more, and maybe even take a bit of a whooping in sparring to mentally preparing him for when the going gets tough again. He's got the skills, now he just needs maturing, and mentally toughening up.
On the bubble:
ArAr Andales, Jing Xiang, Marco John Rementizo, Tsubasa Koura and Hasanboy Dusmatov
Note - Typically a fighter with a win against a ranked fighter would be above the ranked opponent. Here though we've decided that the 6 round limit neutralises Shigeoka's win over Dante a little bit, and have left Shigeoka behind Dante, however not a lot separates the two of them, or Taniguchi at this present moment in time.
Unbeaten Thai fighter Wanheng Menayothin (54-0, 18) extended his perfect record last Friday, when he beat South African fighter Simpiwe Konkco to retain the WBC Minimumweight title. The Thai dominated the South African and took a surprisingly easy win over the usually solid Konkco, who seemed happy to go through the motions and see out the 12 rounds, rather than to try and win.
Now with his 54th win in the bag it seems the perfect time for us to look at potential future challengers for the WBC champion, as we give Wanheng Menayothin the "Five for..." treatment.
Before we start this we are just going to immediately rule out the potential showdown with Knockout CP Freshmart, a bout that both fighters have shown no interest in making and seems a very unrealistic bout to make given the circumstances of the two men. Whilst it would be a very interesting bout, it's not one that is plausible, so we won't be considering it here.
1-Pedro Taduran (14-2, 11) II
The most obvious choice for Wangheng next timeout, on what is likely to be his US debut, would be a showdown with IBF champion Pedro Taduran. This bout makes sense in so many ways. Not only would it be a unification bout between the Thai and Filipino but it would also give Taduran a chance to avenge a competitive 2018 loss to the Thai, a loss that saw Wanheng move to 51-0. Since the loss to the Thai we've seen Taduran score early wins over Jeffrey Galero and Samuel Salva, claiming the IBF title with the win over Salva. Aged just 23 a place on a big US card against Wanheng would be massive for Taduran's career, and a win on a US show against the Thai would be sensational for the Filipino youngster. If the two did fight Wanheng would be the favourite, but Taduran would be a very live under-dog, in a bout that could be very entertaining from a stylistic point of view.
2-Wilfredo Mendez (15-1, 5)
Fighting just a day after Wanheng defended his belt against Konkco, it's hard not to think that Wilfredo Mendez would be the perfect opponent for Wanheng's US debut. Mendez is the current WBO world champion, he's a Puerto Rican and although not a star he could draw on the US based Puerto Rican fans to back him on a notable US under-card. The 22 year old "Bimbito" would see this as a huge step up in class, given he only fought in his first world title bout in August 2019, but a chance to unify his WBO title with Wanheng's WBC belt in Las Vegas or New York would, perhaps, be too much to turn down. We don't see this being a great bout to watch, but it's certainly a significant match up if it gets made.
3-Vic Saludar (19-4, 10)
For a more fan friendly bout Wanheng could take on former Mendez foe Vic Saludar, the man Mendez beat for the WBO title in August. Mendez's style proved too quick and sharp for Saludar, but the Filipino puncher is a hard hitting monster, and managed to show what he could do with wins in Japan against Ryuya Yamanaka and Masataka Taniguchi, and it's of course impossible to forget his effort, in a loss, to Kosei Tanaka. This bout was spoken about earlier in the year, as a potential unification bout if Saludar got past Mendez, but there's no reason it can't still take place. With Wanheng moving around a lot less than Mendez he'll be there for a fight and Saludar will be looking for just that. This would be the sort of action fight that could grab a Western audience by the collar and get them to give the little men a go, and would be a great stand alone contest.
4-Norihito Tanaka (19-7, 10)
At the age of 34 Norihito Tanaka isn't the most attractive opponent for Wanheng in terms of building the Thai's international fan base. What he is however is a criminally under-rated fighter who had been linked to Wanheng earlier this year and would make for a decent challenger, without being a great one. The current Japanese champion has won his last 3, including a stoppage over Shin Ono, and knows that time is ticking down on his career. If he could land one big bout, such as one with Wanheng, it would be the perfect send off for the Japanese veteran. For Wanheng a bout with Tanaka would be a bout against a fellow veteran, and someone who has the power and ring craftiness to be a test. Not the headline bout for Wanheng's US debut, but a bout we'd like to see all the same.
5-Mark Anthony Barriga (9-1, 1)
Having been out of the ring for almost a year as we write this it's unclear what the future holds for "Da Baby Boy" but Mark Anthony Barriga is one of the most naturally skilled men in the lower weights, and his skills going up against Wanheng's would be a really interesting test for both men. For Wanheng the bout would see him up against someone who has a legitimate chance of out boxing him, forcing him to be more aggressive and try to rough up Barriga. For Barriga the test will be how well he can cope in the harsh conditions of Thailand against a defensively smart pressure fighter. This wouldn't be one for the ages, but would be a really compelling bout and a stylistically intriguing one. Sadly Barriga's not fought since losing in an IBF title fight against Carlos Licona, but after a warm up or two he'll likely leap at a shot to face Wanheng.
Last weekend we saw the exciting Pedro Taduran (14-2, 11) claim the IBF Minimumweight title, with an excellent win over countryman Samuel Salva. The 22 year old Taduran looked like a really exciting fighter, who despite being flawed, really just broke down and beat up Salva for the title and the biggest win of his career.
Following Taduran's win we decided to begin our newest feature, "Five For...", where we we look at 5 potential opponents for a particular fighter, starting with Taduran.
1-Wanheng Menayothin (53-0, 18)
For these "Five For..." features we won't be focusing on unification fights, as great as they are, because they are so hard to secure, especially in the lower weights. Saying that however one unification makes a lot of sense for Taduran, that's a bout with WBC champion Wanheng Menayothin. The reason fight makes sense, more than a bout between Taduran and either Wilfredo Mendez or Knockout CP Freshmart, is that Taduran and Wanheng have some history. Two the men fought in August 2018, with Wanheng taking a close and competitive win over Taduran. The loss for Taduran was a bout filled with funny business, including Stephen Blea taking 2 points from Taduran without clear warnings, letting Wanheng get away with a lot of holding and generally being on the challenger's back. This potential unification would have a lot going for it, though obviously depends on Menayothin successfully defending his WBC title in his upcoming mandatory against Simpiwe Konkco in October.
2-Jing Xiang (17-4-2, 3)
Chinese fighter Jing Xiang has been really impressing us in recent years, and his style of being a pure boxer is the complete opposite of Taduran. Where as Taduran is an aggressive, straight ahead pressure fighter Xiang is a boxer-mover, he has some combinations in his arsenal, great timing and speed, but is very much a fighter who will try to avoid a tear and instead use his skills to be and win. At 108lbs he looked strong, despite not being a huge puncher, but at 105lbs there is probably more on his punches than his record suggests. His style should make for the perfect foil for Tadruan's pressure, but will also give Xiang openings of his own, to counter the wild mistakes of the Filipino.
3-Ginjiro Shigeoka (4-0, 3)
Japan's Ginjiro Shigeoka has been put on an incredible trajectory and is already on the fringes of the world rankings, after just 4 bouts and a year in the professional rankings. Shigeoka has already beaten the first man to beat Taduran, more about him later, and would likely love to get a world title fight sooner rather than later. According to rules from the JBC he wouldn't bee allowed to fight for a title next in Japan, but could leave the country for a shot at Taduran. Stylistically this would be an amazing fight, with both men being aggressive front foot, offensive machines. In a perfect world this would be something to get very excited about, though we do suspect Shigeoka will have to wait a few fights to get his shot at a world title.
4-Melvin Jerusalem (15-2, 9)
Ranked #7 by the IBF Melvin Jerusalem would, stylistically, make for an excellent match up with Taduran and is a highly ranked contender for his title. Both men have similar mentalities in the ring, both throw a lot of leather and whilst neither is a 1-punch KO artist both fighters they do get stoppages. Both men have also given really tough bouts to Wanheng and both would be facing off with some moment here. Taduran has obviously just won the biggest fight of his career whilst Jerusalem has won his last 4, including wins over good Filipino domestic fighters like Philip Luis Cuerdo and Toto Landero.
5-Joel Lino (10-3-1, 3)
Fellow Filipino Joel Lino was the first man to bear Taduran, taking a split decision over Taduran back in 2016. Than win saw for Lino move to 3-0 whilst Taduran fell to 6-1 (5). Since then Taduran has, of course, gone 8-1 (6) whilst Lino has gone 7-3 (3) but the desire to avenge his first loss must be there for Taduran and this bout should be a really good one, if they re-run it. The only real problem however is Lino's standing in the sport, and it's unlikely many would accept him as being next for Taduran given he's lost his last 3, including a loss to Ginjiro Shigeoka. If Lino can get a couple of wins under his belt however this fight will become something that would make sense.
The month of May promised a lot for Japanese fighters, with a staggering 8 world title fights featuring Japanese fighters during the first month of the new Reiwa period of Japanese history. Sadly what could have been a huge month for Japanese fighters was a nightmare, with their fighters going 1-7 for the month at the top level. Whilst history was made in Europe, Japanese fighters suffered losses on Japanese, Chinese and American soil, and some defeats were horribly one sided.
The first of the Japanese fighters to fall short was Ryuichi Funai (31-8, 22) who was stopped in the 7th round by Jerwin Ancajas (31-1-2, 21) on May 4th, in an IBF Super Flyweight title bout. Ancajas was a big under-dog, but his performance saw him being totally out classed, and used as a punch bag by Ancajas, who had one of his best performances. Whilst Fuani showed his toughness his lack of defense, speed and movement really cost him hard here and allowed Ancajas one of his best performances so far.
Just over a week later, on May 13th, we saw Masayuki Kuroda (30-8-3, 16) put up a brave effort as he lost to Moruti Mthalane (38-2, 25), in an IBF Flyweight title bout. To credit Kuroda he was always seen as the under-dog and was really competitive in the first half, though ended the bout as the clear loser, suffering awful facial swelling in the process. Kuroda's effort deserves so many plaudits, but at the end of the day Mthalane was too good, too sharp and too skilled.
The third man to lose again put up a brave effort, with Reiya Konishi (17-2, 7) coming up short in an IBF Light Flyweight title fight with Felix Alvarado (35-2, 30) on May 19th. Again the Japanese challenger put up a great effort, and was competitive at times, but was unable to match the champion overall, and was rocked hard late on as Alvarado came close to dropping the Shinsei man. All credit to Konishi for his effort, but he was clearly second best here to the excellent champion
The weekend of May 25th and 26th was a nightmare for Japanese fighters, a real nightmare, with a 0-3 run over the weekend. The first of those to lose was Masayuki Ito (25-2-1, 13), who lost the WBO Super Featherweight title to Jamel Herring (20-2, 10), in what was regarded as a 50-50 bout. Herring really boxed to a fantastic gameplan to out point Ito, who failed to ever get a read on the southpaw stance of Herring.
Just a day later we saw back to back losses for Shun Kubo (13-2, 9) and Sho Kimura (18-3-2, 11).
Kubo put in a fan friendly performance, though was stopped by Chinese fighter Can Xu (17-2, 3) in a WBA "regular" Featherweight title fight. Kubo came to win, and gave a good account of himself, but was worn down by Xu, who made his first defense.
Kimura on the other hand was lacklustre, and very disappointed in himself, as he lost to WBA "regular" Light Flyweight champion Carlos Canizales (22-0-1, 17). Kimura, who dropped down in weight, looked like he had lost 25% of his usual hunger, desire and energy and was rarely a threat to Canizales.
The final set back came on May 31st when former WBO Minimumweight champion Tatsuya Fukuhara (21-7-6, 7) lost a technical decision to WBC champion Wanheng Menayothin (53-0, 18). This rematch was expected to be hotly contested, but Fukuhara was just doing enough to lose competitive rounds to Wanheng, who extended his unbeaten record.
The only shining light for Japanese boxing at the world level this past month was the sensational Naoya Inoue (18-0, 16), who created history in Glasgow by stopping Emmanuel Rodriguez (19-1,12) in 2 rounds to add the IBF Bantamweight title to his WBA regular belt. This bout, on May 18th, saw a Japanese fighter win a world title bout on European soil for the first time, after 20 losses, and proved to be their only success at world level this past May.
Whilst many of those who lost were clear under-dogs, such as Funai, Mthalane and Kubo, others weren't. Kimura was the betting favourite and Ito was a 50-50 shot. To see such a band month is a real worry and one that will linger in the mind of Japanese fans for the foreseeable future, as all the countries other top fighters, several of which have big fights in June and July.
Whilst the month promised a lot, it was a disaster for Japanese fighters, and hopefully not a sign that the Reiwa era will be a bad one for the Land of the Rising Sun.
This past week has been a somewhat quiet one in the realms of Asian Boxing news. It's not been a silent week, by any stretch, but we didn't see any major stories breaking, instead it was a relatively subdued week of lesser quality news, though plenty of that news is worth catching up on if you did miss it.
Tenshin Nasukawa Vs Gervonta Davis at Rizin 15!
According to multiple sources we'll see Japanese combat sport prodigy Tenshin Nasukawa fight against WBA Super Featherweight Super champion Gervonta Davis in April. The bout wasn't announced officially but sources from both sides of the Pacific did mention the bout as being close to a done deal and should be announced in the coming weeks, if not days. We don't see this ending well for Tenshin, who may end up taking more punishment in boxing exhibitions than is good for him, and it's probably time that he decides whether he wants to remain in kick boxing, or convert to boxing and do it properly, rather than getting beaten up in public exhibitions.
A Monster heading to Scotland?
On a frustrating week for WBSS news it now seems like we're set to see Naoya Inoue (17-0, 15) [井上 尚弥] make his European debut, and take on IBF Bantamweight champion Emmanuel Rodriguez (19-0, 12) in Scotland, in their WBSS semi-final. It appears that massive scheduling issues will force the bout to be part of the Josh Taylor card on May 18th. This wasn't officially confirmed but both Juan Orengo, the manager of Rodriguez, as well as the Sauerlands, suggested that this would be the case, not long after Hideyuki Ohashi confirmed the possibility of the bout being in the UK. This seems set to be confirmed early this week
Kuroda set to get a shot at Mthalane in May!
Although the specifics weren't announced we do now know that a deal is in place for the IBF Flyweight title bout between Japan's Masayuki Kuroda (30-7-3, 16) [黒田 雅之] and world champion Moruti Mthalane (37-2, 25). The bout, a mandatory defense for Mthalane, was announced as being done by Kuroda and his team, though they gave no details away of the bout, leaving the specifics set for a future announcement. It sounds like the bout will be in either Kanagawa or Tokyo in May, though Nitta do seem to be keeping their cards close to their chest until the announcement is due.
Katsunari Takayama to begin amateur journey on March 1st!
As for things that were announced, officially, former world champion Katsunari Takayama [高山 勝成] revealed that his amateur journey, which he hopes will result in a medal at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, will begin on March 1st. The exciting and very likable Takayama will compete in a national selection event, with the winner assured a shot at the Asian Championships, and a potential Olympic berth. We'll be honest and admit we don't imagine Takayama going far in the amateurs, given his age and style, but we do really look forward to seeing him in action again.
Koura to defend OPBF crown in March
The OPBF twitter account is a great soure of news and announcements, and this week they let slip the fact they have sanctioned their Minimumweight champion Tsubasa Koura (14-0, 9) [小浦 翼] to make his next defense against Filipino challenger Lito Dante (15-10-4, 7) on March 31st. On paper this is one that won't excite people, but the reality is that this should be a good test of what Koura can do against a really tough opponent. We don't see it being a competitive bout, but Dante is a battler and won't fold early on to Koura's power. A mismatch, but one likely to have real intrigue.
WBO order Super Flyweight title fight
The WBO held a world title eliminator at Super Flyweight recent, which saw Aston Palicte (25-2-1, 21) become the mandatory challenger for WBO world champion Donnie Nietes (42-1-5, 23). The men have now been ordered to negotiate as the WBO look to keep their title active. The negotiation period for the two men is to end in less than 2 weeks, so we should see these two facing off, for the second time, in the middle of 2019.
Wanheng Vs Fukuhara rematch pushed back
Staying with world level rematches it appears the WBC Minimumweight title bout rematch between unbeaten champion Wanheng Menayothin (52-0, 18) [วันเฮง ไก่ย่างห้าดาวยิม] and former WBO champion Tatsuya Fukuhara (21-6-6, 7) [福原 辰弥] has been pushed back by 4 weeks, to March 29th. No reason was given, though Wanheng will fight in an exhibition with WBA champion Knockout CP Freshmart (19-0, 7) [น็อคเอาท์ ซีพีเฟรชมาร์ท] in the mean time, with that set to take place on February 22nd. Every fan of the little guys wants to see Wanheng take on Knockout, sadly however it seems the best we're going to be getting any time soon is this exhibition.
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.
Over the last few years Japan has gained a reputation for ending the boxing year in style, with major shows in the final few days of the year. Typically those bouts get announced through November, as promoters officially announce the bouts and put their shows together along with major domestic television companies.
As we enter November we thought it would be fun to look at some of those rumours for the month, and some of the confirmed bouts, as well as those that have been mentioned as possible, and those on the verge of being officially announced.
We'll start by looking at what we know, with the confirmed notable bouts from the month.
December 1st is set to be a crazy day with several major shows.
In Tokyo we'll get a card televised by G+ which will be headlined by Valentine Hosokawa (23-6-3, 10) defending his Japanese Light Welterweight title against Takashi Inagaki (20-17-2, 9). The card will also feature a brilliant match up between Seiya Tsutsumi (4-0, 3) and Matcha Nakagawa (13-1-1, 5) as well as the ring return of former IBF Super Bantamweight champion Yukinori Oguni (19-2-1, 7)
On the same day in Osaka we get two Shinsei Gym cards, featuring a combined 6 title bouts. The shows will be Real Spirits vol 60 and Real Spirits vol 61, with the first card featuring 4 female title bouts, including a WBO female Minimumweight title bout between Kayoko Ebata (12-7, 6) and Etsuko Tada (17-3-2, 5) and an OPBF Atomweight title bout between Eri Matsuda (1-0) and Minayo Kei (6-3, 1).
The second card will see former world title challenger Reiya Konishi (16-1, 6) defending the WBO Asia Pacific Light Flyweight title against Richard Rosales (13-7-2, 7) and a potentially thrilling contest between Masao Nakamura (24-3, 23) and Carlo Magali (23-10-3, 12) for the WBO Asia Pacific Super Featherweight title.
December 3rd will give us a single big show, headlined by OPBF Featherweight champion Satoshi Shimizu (7-0, 7) and Takuya Uehara (16-0, 10), with a brilliant supporting bout between Hinata Maruta (7-1-1, 6) and Tsuyoshi Tameda (18-3-2, 16), which is one of the bouts we're most looking forward to!
On December 9th things get a bit crazy again. We will get a Japanese Welterweight title fight, as Ryota Yada (17-4, 14) defends his belt against Shusaku Fujinaka (16-9-2, 10), and a Japanese Super Flyweight title bout, with Takayuki Okumoto (21-8-3, 10) making his first defense against Masayoshi Hashizume (16-0-1, 10). These bouts have been officially announced and confirmed.
The same day we're set to see to see Shohei Omori (19-2, 14) taking on Takahiro Yamamoto (21-5, 17) and Sho Ishida (26-1, 15) taking on Warlito Parrenas (26-8-1, 23). These bouts haven't been formally announced, though teams from both have confirmed they are taking place, and will be at the EDION Arena Osaka. It's unclear if they will share the same card as the other bouts or if the EDION will host another double dose of boxing with two shows. There is also some speculation that if this is a second show there will be one more big bout to add to the card.
On December 13th we'll see Japanese Lightweight champion Shuichiro Yoshino (8-0, 6) defending his belt against Kazumasa Kobayashi (10-7-1, 6) at the Korakuen Hall and a week later we'll see Nobuyuki Shindo (20-4-1, 8) and Akinori Watanabe (37-7, 31) fight to unify the Japanese Light Middleweight title.
The only other show of real significant that has been confirmed is the Japanese Rookie of the Year final on December 23rd. Nothing after Christmas, but before the start of 2019, has really been announced. But we have had a lot of rumours, speculation for December!
One bout that is supposed to be, finally, made is the long awaited IBF Light Middleweight world title eliminator between Takeshi Inoue (13-0-1, 7) and Julian Williams (25-1-1-1, 15), a bout that has seemingly been delayed, rescheduled and redelayed several times already this year. Fingers crossed this is actually made before the year is over, as it seems both fighters have wasted a lot of this year waiting for this bout to take place. Interestingly this could be the only bout to actually take place outside of Japan.
Another IBF eliminator which is rumoured to take place in December is a Super Bantamweight title eliminator between Ryosuke Iwasa (25-3, 16) and Cesar Juarez (23-6, 17). This bout is supposedly set to take place in Tokyo, though no date has been made public. If this is confirmed then we are in for a treat as these two, together, should be an amazing contest, with both being heavy handed and flawed. Fingers crossed we get this one announced shortly!
Staying on the subject of IBF title fights there has been speculation in Japan that Masayuki Kuroda (30-7-3, 16) may get an unexpected shot at Flyweight champion Moruti Mthalane (36-2, 24). This rumour has come about after a scheduled eliminator with Kuroda and Eaktwan BTU Ruaviking fell through after the Thai suffered an injury. Kuroda's seemed to suggest this would be a long shot, but they are chasing the bout and it could, potentially, be on.
The first of the rumoured big cards to end the year is expected to be on December 30th and is expected to be the Fuji TV card. The strongest rumour for this show is a WBO Super Featherweight title defense for Masayuki Ito (24-1-1, 12), with the named linked to him being Evgeny Chuprakov (20-0, 10). This bout is expected to be confirmed in the coming days, or at the very least Ito's part of it is, with Chuprakov perhaps not being the opponent. The same date is also pencilled in as a potential date for Kenshiro (14-0, 8) to make his next defense of the WBC Light Flyweight title, though no opponent has been linked to him.
The December 30th Fuji card has also been set as the potential date for a WBC Bantamweight title bout between Petch Sor Chitpattana (48-0, 33) and Takuma Inoue (12-0, 3). This bout depends on another bout not taking place, as per an order at the WBC convention in early October, so we should see this bout being either confirmed or not very quickly. There is also a rumour that Takuma's stable mate at the Ohashi gym, Akira Yaegashi (27-6, 15) may also be involved on the same show.
If the rumours for December 30th are a bit of an exciting mess things get even crazier for New Year's Eve. For weeks we've been hearing that WBC Minimumweight champion Wanheng Menayothin (51-0, 18) would be defending his title against Shin Ono (23-9-3, 6). This was rumoured to be part of a triple header, which has changed a few times but new seems most likely to feature a rematch between Ryoichi Taguchi (27-3-2, 12) and Hekkie Budler (32-3, 10), with Taguchi looking to reclaim the WBA Light Flyweight title from the South African. Along with that rematch is rumoured WBO Light Flyweight title bout between Angel Acosta (19-1, 19) and Hiroto Kyoguchi (11-0, 8). If this triple header is done, then TBS would be expected to show at least 2 bouts live on their Kyoguken show.
Things get more complicated when we consider the other rumours, which include a potential WBO Flyweight world title defense by Kosei Tanaka (12-0, 7). His could be squeezed on TBS as an early bout, or could be used to stack the show to a quadruple header or could end up being only CBC live, with TBS showing it on tape delay. It's really unclear how he fits in, but he will almost certainly be wanting to fight on a year ending show, after missing out on the chance last year due to injury.
Last, but certainly not least, is the rumoured WBO Super Flyweight title bout between Kazuto Ioka (23-1, 13) and Donnie Nietes (41-1-5, 23), a bout so big that TBS have seemingly given Ioka the option to take the date and broadcast if he wants it. This was rumoured strongly in September, and Japanese sources were suggesting that it could take place in the Philippines with TBS still airing it live, however the rumours did quieten quickly. It should be noted that Ioka's not been one for leaking news in the past, this could be well in the works. Given how silent things have gone however we may well see this bout being delayed into 2019, potentially as part of the next Superfly card.
(Bottom image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
Over the next 12 months we're expecting to see a lot of changes in the world of professional boxing. As a result we have put together a list of 30 Asian fighters to keep an eye out for 2016. These range from champions to novices but all are expected to make a mark on the sport over the next 12 months. Here is part 2 which looks at 5 young novices who have impressed in 2015 and look likely to do the same over the next year.
For those who missed them the previous parts are available below-
Part 1 is here
Part 2 is here
Part 3 is here
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).