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.
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).