By - George Delis (@Delisketo)
On November 28, the WBA Minimumweight World Champion Thammanoon Niyomtrong will make his 6th defense, against the man, whom he beat for that very title, Byron Rojas.
Thammanoon Niyomtrong (18-0/7 KOs), also known as Knockout CP Freshmart, just like the majority of the boxers from Thailand, he began his fighting career as a Muay Thai fighter. During that time, he managed to win the Thai National as well as the Lumpinee & Rajadamnern Stadium titles, which are considered to be the sport’s most prestigious championships. By doing so, Niyomtrong has made himself a member of that elite group of men, who have held Muay Thai & Boxing world titles, such as Saensak Muangsurin, Samart Payakaroon and Veeraphol Sahaprom.
He made his pro boxing debut in 2012, and in just 2 years he won 8 fights, 6 of those via KO/TKO. On November of 2014, he took on Carlos Buitrago for the interim WBA Minimumweight World title. Niyomtrong put on a boxing clinic, keeping the pressure on for the entirety of the match, not slowing down for a single minute. Despite suffering a nasty cut at his left eye, his superior striking and counter game earned him the unanimous decision victory that night, thus the interim belt. Their rematch in 2016, was pretty much the same, only this time, Niyomtrong was even more dominant than before.
Knockout CP Freshmart defended the interim WBA title against 2 time World champion Muhammad Rachman, back in 2015. As in the aforementioned bout, the champ kept peppering Rachman constantly for 12 rounds. To the Indonesian’s credit, he never went down and also had a good offense, but nothing game changing. In the end, Niyomtrong showcased incredible hand speed and movement, to once again leave with the gold.
In 2016 he faced the WBA World champion Byron Rojas in a unification fight. Niyomtrong was going for the clinch, every time after throwing a good combination or got tagged, slowing the pace down, in what was a smart but less than exciting strategy, that secured him the win. 6 months later, Niyomtrong successfully defended his world title for the 1st time against former OPBF Light Flyweight champion Shin Ono, after dropping him in the 10th round and continued the assault until the closing bell. He also stopped former Japanese champion Go Odaira, with a sweet right cross in the 5th, after punishing him with a plethora of body shots.
After retaining the world title 2 more times, against Rey Loreto and Toto Landero, he squared off against former WBC World Champion Chaozhong Xiong, this past July, in China. After a relatively slow start to the match, Niyomtrong caught Xiong with a perfectly timed right cross to the chin, during the 3rd round, stunning the former champion momentarily. The action then picked up, as both fighters were trading punches, with the Thai boxer getting the better of these exchanges. Since Niyomtrong was the one pushing the action for the vast majority of the fight, he was awarded the decision, improving his record to a perfect 18-0.
Knockout CP Freshmart will now come face to face again with Byron Rojas (25-3/11 KOs), in a rematch 2.5 years in the making. The Nicaraguan’s biggest achievement was winning a close decision over the WBA Super World Minimumweight Champion Hekkie Budler (now the WBA Light Flyweight World Champion), back in 2016. After losing the title, he has been undefeated in his last 8 fights, including a victory over former WBC Silver champion Carlos Ortega, which was an action-packed eight rounder. Niyomtrong has had tougher challenges in that same timeframe, which has allowed him to improve his skills even further, in comparison to Rojas who has battled against lesser opponents. At that point, it’s safe to say that the Thai fighter will once again walk out with the victory. The real question is, what’s next for Niyomtrong. A unification bout with another champion, like Vic Saludar (IBF) or maybe it’s time for the former Muay Thai king to try his hand at Light Flyweight ? Only time will tell.
The last few years have been really interesting in the lower weights, even if they have lacked the Western appeal of some of the other weigh classes. The interest has been mostly from Asia, though other countries have had a their own bits of with South Africa having Hekkie Budler and Nicaragua having both Carlos Buitrago and Byron Rojas, who actually defeated Budler earlier this year for the WBA Minimumweight title.
Later this week worlds collide as Rojas (17-2-3-1, 8) travels to Thailand to defend his title against unbeaten “interim” champion Knockout CP Freshmart (12-0 6), one of the rising stars of the Thai scene and a man who holds two wins over the aforementioned Buitrago.
Although his record might not be the most impressive in regards to numbers Rojas has got a legitimate claim to being one of the top guys in the division, with his win over Budler being one of the most credible among the current crop at 105lbs. Notably that was Rojas's 11th straight win not including a No Contest, and saw him continue turning around a career that was once 6-2-3 (4) whilst also claiming a world title on the road in his only fight outside of Nicaragua.
In the ring Rojas is fearless. He's not a big puncher, or the most skilled, or the must elusive or even the quickest but he is a warrior and he comes to fight, comes forward and is in an opponents face as he forces the tempo and pace of a fight. Not only does he control the tempo but he also sets and extremely high one with busy output and a high pressure mentality. Strangely he seems to have a style that is similar to many current Thai's with his pressure output.
Unbeaten fighter Knockout turned professional in 2012, following a lot of success in Muay Thai, and immediately fought for titles, winning the WBC Youth title in his debut. After 8 fights he was regarded as ready for world title level and fought the aforementioned Buitrago, winning a very close decision over the Nicaraguan for the WBA “interim” title. Following that win over Buitrago we've seen Knockout record 3 defenses of the “interim” title and develop significantly, rounding off some very rough edges.
In the ring Knockout does still have clear traits of being a Muay Thai convert despite that it's also clear that he's a true fighter and is constantly improving, developing his boxing skills and adapting to the Western boxing style. He's aggressive, a solid puncher and is developing his defensive abilities every fight, and actually looked defensively responsible last time out in a rematch against Buitrago, with his head movement being genuinely impressive.
Coming in to this one we're expecting something very exciting with Rojas going to Thailand for a fight with Knockout, and going there to really fight. Unfortunately in Thailand the conditions are harsh and fighting like Rojas does could be a very tough ask for 12 rounds. We suspect he'll start fast before the conditions begin to get to him slow him and inevitably allow Knockout to earn a decision win.
World Title Previews
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