On August 31st we'll see WBC Minimumweight champion Panya Pradabsri (38-1, 23), aka Petchmanee Kokietgym, seek his third defense as he takes on former Japanese national champion Norihito Tanaka (20-8, 10) [田中教仁] in Nakhon Ratchasima. The bout, which was made when Tanaka replaced fellow Japanese fighter Tsubasa Koura for the opportunity a few weeks ago, is potentially the final one in the career of Tanaka, who knows it's now or never for him at the top level.
The once beaten champion, aged 31, is arguably the best fighter in the division, though there is a strong argument to be had that that honour lies with either with WBA Knockout CP Freshmart. He earned that honour in 2020 when he beat the previously unbeaten Wanheng Menayothin to claim the WBC title, in what was a career defining win and one that put him on the map of many fans who hadn't heard of him before. Just beating the then 54-0 Wanheng meant a lot, and it's a win that will likely go down as the best win of his career when Panya eventually retires. Sadly outside of that win, and another in a rematch against Wanheng, there is little of note on his record. His best "other" wins are against the likes of Jaysever Abcede, Jerry Tomogdan, Dexter Alimento and Robert Onggocan.
Despite having a paper thin 38-1 record there is no doubting Panya's ability in the ring. He is a talented boxer-puncher, with good hand speed, nasty body shots, and a good understanding of the ring. He could, and probably should, have done much more with his career and as mentioned he is arguably the best at 105lbs right now. He can box, he can punch, he can move and at times it looks like he can pretty much do anything. He does however sometimes flatter to deceive and can make tactical errors, such as fighting the wrong fight against Wanheng, with both of their fights being very close, and following fighters rather than cutting the ring down, an issue that we saw against Danai Ngiabphukhiaw last November.
The Japanese challenger, who's now 37 years old, has had a rollercoaster like career with a number of ups and downs. He began his career 9-0 and despite going 11-8 since then there is no doubting his achievements, including his Japanese title 2in in 2019, when he stopped Shin Ono. There is also no questioning the talent he's gone in against, with losses to Kenichi Horikawa, Akira Yaegashi, Ryoichi Taguchi, Tsubasa Koura and most recently Knockout CP Freshmart. He has held Japanese honours and managed to fight for world and Regional honours during his career. Sadly though at the age of 37, and with out a fight since the end of 2020, it's hard to say just what he has in the tank.
At his best Tanaka was a sharp, awkward and tricky fighter who used good hand speed and movement to land and get out of range. He understands the ring and range and where to move, how to move and how to land without taking much in return. Sadly though at the age of 37 and with extra ring rust we see that speed slowing, the timing going and with his lack of physicality, power and size he is going to really struggle to put up a legitimate challenge for Panya. He might ask questions, at times, of the champion, but it's very hard to imagine him really testing Panya.
We expect Tanaka to have moments early on, but as the rounds go on those moments will become less and less regular, with Tanaka eventually deciding to just survive to the final bell, knowing that he's too far behind to really make a fight of things.
Prediction - UD12 Panya
On March 3rd we'll see unbeaten WBA Minimumweight champion Knockout CP Freshmart (20-0, 7) make his next defense, as he takes on former Japanese national champion Norihito Tanaka (19-7, 10) in Nakhon Sawan. For Tanaka this will be his first world title bout, whilst the local star looks to make his 8th defense of the WBA title, which he won in 2016 when he beat Byron Rojas, in their first bout.
Of the two men it's obvious that Knockout CP Freshmart with the more recognisable name. The Thai has one of the most memorable names in the sport, and has also had a long, if not particularly impressive, reign as the WBA champion. Prior to becoming a boxer he was a successful Muay Thai fighter, who turned to boxing in 2012. He quickly rose through the ranks an claimed the WBA "interim" title in 2014 before taking the full version of the title 20 months later. Sadly since winning the WBA belt his competition has, on the whole, been unspectacular with wins over faded veterans, like Shin Ono, Go Odaira and Xiong Zhao Zhong, and pre-prime Filipino fighters like Toto Landero and ArAr Andales.
Although named "Knockout" CP Freshmart the Thai hasn't really shown any power since moving to world class. He has gone 12-0 (2) in since fighting in his first "interim" world title fighter, and could mockingly now be called "Unanimous Decision" CP Freshmart. Not only has Knockout shown a lack of power but also a really boring style. He seems capable of setting a good pace, for a few rounds early on, but as the bouts progress he becomes more and more dull to watch, with hugging, wrestling and messy action becoming the norm for his bouts. Although highly skilled there is a view that he has lost interest in the sport, and that really feels like the case in recent bouts, in what have been some awful bouts. The one thing that Knockout does have going in his favour is is that he appears to have a good relationship with judges, who have often given him rounds that he may not have deserved, especially when he fights in Thailand.
The 35 year old Tanaka is someone who is coming to the end of his career, though has been riding a small wave of success in recent years.
Tanaka debuted in 2005 and won his first 9 bouts, before losing 3 of his next 4. That sounds bad but included losses to Ryoichi Taguchi, Kenichi Horikawa and Masatate Tsuji. Another loss not too much later, to Akira Yaegashi in a Japanese title fight was followed by yet another loss, this time to Takashi Kunishige. After those losses he was 13-5 (7) and only fought once more before walking away from the sport in late 2011. It would be more than 5 years before he returned and since then he has rebuilt going 5-2 (3) with notable domestic wins over Yuto Takahashi, Takumi Sakae and Shin Ono, as well as avenging one of his 2 losses, a controversial one to Naoya Haruguchi.
In the ring Tanaka is a sneaky good fighter, a veteran who uses smart movement to draw mistakes, drawing opponents in and countering. He's really small for a Minimumweight, but really crafty, and very much a smart fighter who punishes opponents for their slip ups. Although not a puncher he does have enough sting on his shots to do damage, as he did against Shin Ono, and given he often catches opponents coming in those shots have the opponent's weight on them as well.
One thing we need to mention before we talk about how we expect the fight to go is the history of Japanese challengers in Thailand. In more than 20 world title bouts in Thailand, no Japanese fighter has ever won. History is dead set against Tanaka, as is his age, and the questionable officiating of bouts featuring Knockout.
We expect to see this start quite well, Knockout fights tend to, but after 3 or 4 rounds this will have descended into a mauling affair. We wouldn't be surprised if Tanaka has the skills and movement to take a couple of the early rounds, but as the bout progresses into a gruelling mess we expect to see Knockout convince the judges to give him rounds.
We do not expect this to be pretty, we do not expect this to be exciting and sadly, given Knockout's last few bouts, we do not expect to see the title change hands.
Prediction - UD12 Knockout
World Title Previews
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