The 105lb Minimumweight division has been one of the most interesting in the last 12-18 months. It has been full of interesting bouts ranging from thrillers to upsets, it has seen real changes with several of the divisions bigger names moving up whilst other fighters have taken the division by storm, and most interestingly it's seen the best fighting real tests as they attempt to prove their class. Oh and it's had Ali Raymi involved in it too.
Whether it's been the emergence of Kosei Tanaka, who recently stopped Ryuji Hara, the continued excitement of Katsunari Takayama, who had a barn burner with Francisco Rodriguez Jr earlier this year, or the break through of the wonderfully named Knockout CP Freshmart this year has been great for the fans of the smallest men in boxing.
The Minimumweight division comes to the fore against this coming Thursday when unbeaten Thai Wanheng Menayothin (35-0, 11) finally gets a long awaited shot at a world title as he battles heavy handed WBC belt holder Oswaldo Novoa (14-4-1, 9). The bout will be Menayothin's big step up whilst for the champion it's a chance to top off what will be a fantastic year for him.
The champion won his title earlier this year, winning it in spectacular fashion in China where he totally dismantled Xiong Zhao Zhong. He made his first defense in a relative nothing bout against Alcides Martinez in June and since then we've all been awaiting for him to fight Menayothin.
Although Novoa's record is patchy, to say the least, he is a pretty good fighter. He holds wins not only over Zhong but also over Jose Argumedo, Jose Alfredo Zuniga and Javier Martinez Resendiz as he has managed to string together 7 straight wins since a close technical decision loss to Carlos Velarde more than 2 years ago. At 5'3" he's a relatively tall Minimumweight but overall he looks huge at the weight given his imposing and rangy frame, in fact it appears as if he seriously drains to make 105lbs.
Gifted with size and power we don't think Novoa has the most rounded of skills but we hardly think he cares. He strikes us as more of a free swinging fighter, in there to win a fight not a boxing contest. This can leave him open but he does look a very strong guy who can take a shot and walk down opponents, as he did against Zhong. On the road, as he was against Zhong and will be again here, it's often a case of a winning a fight and winning it early.
As for Thailand's Menayothin we have a man with a misleading and confusing record. On paper he's got a sensational looking record with 35 straight wins in the Minimumweight division. In reality very few of those wins really tell us anything other than that he's a Thai fighter were activity is key as opposed to the level of competition. That's not to say the Thai hasn't fought anyone of note, in fact wins over Ardin Diale, Florante Condes, Crison Omayao, Rolio Golez and Yuma Iwahashi are decent wins, though at best they are decent and not great or outstanding.
Stylistically Menayothin is like many Thai's. He's strong, tight defensively and fights as an out and out pressure fighter. Saying that however he's not got massively concussive power and scores many of his stoppages through accumulation as opposed to single shots damage. Despite the lack of power he is aggressive, fun to watch and should stylistically make for a great fight with a fighter like Novoa.
In the ring we're suspecting a really exciting war with both men meeting in the middle of the ring and letting shots go with bad intentions. For Wanheng the question is whether or not he can take the power of Novoa? If he can then the Thai is likely to take a very hard fought and exciting decision with the two men fighting toe-to-toe for large swathes of the bout. If Novoa hits too hard for the Thai however this one could be over quickly though is still likely to be very exciting for as long as it lasts.
It may seem crazy to say be we genuinely feel this one could be a FOTY candidate much like the first bout between Porpramook Kompayak and Adrian Hernandez, that was another bout where a WBC champion from Mexico traveled to Thailand and we ended up with something very special to watch.
(Image courtesy of http://www.thairec.com)
One fighter, win or lose, who seems to have much of the boxing public against him is WBC Minimumweight champion Xiong Zhao Zhong (22-4-1, 12). Zhong, China's first ever world champion, appears completely unable to do anything right in the eyes of critical fans who seem to blame him for anything and everything.
When he first got his title fight, back in November 2012, Zhong had been given preferential treatment by the WBC. There's no arguing that and theres also no arguing that Filipino Denver Cuello took a payment to step aside so that China could have their first world champion. Cuello, who took the step aside payment, then got a fight with Zhong himself and lost that by majority decision in a bout that we felt Zhong had clearly on top in.
Zhong, despite fighting and beating Cuello, was denigrated due to the fact Cuello had injured his shoulder. It was brave from Cuello but Zhong had done what was decent and battled the top contender.
Unfortunately for Zhong he was again chastised when the Chinese government refused to allow him to fight Omari Kimweri. Zhong, wanting to meet TV commitments and expectations of fans, was forced to take on a much less testing Thai who took the fight late. It wasn't a "world level fight" but Zhong was stuck between letting down down his fans in China or taking an easy defense. Fans worldwide can criticise but it was the first time a Chinese champion had ever defended a world title at China and that alone meant a lot.
Zhong will again be trying to win fans over as he takes on Mexico's Oswaldo Novoa (12-4-1, 7), the WBC #2 ranked and IBF #7 ranked challenger.
Although somewhat unknown Novoa is well regarded with not just the WBC and IBF decrying him as world class but also Boxrec (where he is #7 ranked). These rankings haven't come from any particular victory but more the series of 5 straight, 3 by KO, victories that Novoa has strung together over the last 18 months or so. These victories, which included a decision over one-time interim title challenger Jose Alfredo Zuniga and a stoppage over former Zhong foe Javier Martinez Resendiz have both really worked in his favour.
Interestingly for a man with 4 losses on his record Novoa has actually faced decent competition and two of those who have beaten him, Carlos Velarde and Jesus Silvestre, have gone on to fight for the WBA version of the world title whilst another who has beaten him, Jose Argumedo, has twice been beaten by Novoa.
What we have with Novoa is a very aggressive puncher. He goes to the ring to fight and doesn't seem to mind what hand he hits you with. It's not really pretty but it does tend to be exciting and is the sort of thing that any fight fan loves. A two handed offensive machine with a little bit of craziness thrown in for good measure. It's this aggressiveness that has seen hm record so many stoppages and keep even his losses close. On the flipside however he does leave himself open and does seem to regularly over-commit to shots.
Although Novoa is a big puncher he doesn't look as physically strong as Zhong who is boxing's version of a tank. Everything about Zhong says he's a hard man. He just looks tough, as if he were carved out of concrete and then taught to fight. Despite looking so big and strong he's not actually a big puncher, though he does tend to be able to hurt opponents with his heavy shots esepcially to the body as he showed last time out. It's fair to say he's not a world class puncher but his shots are all thrown with the intention of making an opponent not ant to take another one.
With Novoa being such an openly aggressive fighter this has the markings of a really great fight. Novoa will come forward with his aggression, Zhong will come forward relying on his strength and as a result we should see two men stand toe-to-toe freely swinging at each other in the hope of ending the other mans chances. Unfortunately for that potential excitement we also have the risk of a headclash calling an early early conclusion to the bout and both men have had headclashes in the recent bouts.
As well as the potential excitement via a clash of styles we also have excitement in the fact both men have been down. This one could end at any time and more over it could end in spectacular fashion. If you like a fight we really reccomend tuning in to this one.
As for a prediction we favour Zhong. The Chinese fighter might not be everyone's cup of tea though he's a genuine world level fighter and he's proven to be much better than people give him credit for, we think we'll see a further improved version of Zhong managing to defeat a tiring Novoa in what will be a real humdinger.
World Title Previews
The biggest fights get broken down as we try to predict who will come out on top in the up coming world title bouts.