In 2020 the Minimumweight division got one it's most notable results in recent years as Panya Pradabsri (37-1, 23) dethroned long term WBC Minimumweight champion Wanheng Menayothin (55-1, 19), ending Menayothin's unbeaten record, at 54 fights, and 6 year reign as the WBC champion. The bout wasn't just a changing of the guard at 105lbs, but was also a really good bout, with fantastic back and forth, and was, genuinely, one of the best bouts the division has seen in the last decade or so, with Panya taking a close, and some what controversial decision.
Interestingly going into that bout Wanheng had announced his retirement, he had complained about health issues, and it seemed almost as if the bout was little more than a passing of the torch from one of the faces of Thai boxing to the next generation. In the bout however Wanheng didn't look like someone wanting to retire. In fact he looked like someone who was angry about the way his promoter had treat him, and he gave Panya all he could handle, as if Wanheng was himself wanting to ruin the plans of the promoters of the event.
Coming in to this bout things feel very, very different to how they did ahead of their first bout. Wanheng isn't openly talking about retirement, he hasn't got a 54 fight unbeaten run, or the WBC title and instead he's coming in as the challenger. He's also coming in as a man who will want to reclaim what he lost in November 2020. He is however now 36 years old, and that is absolutely ancient for a Minimumweight fighter. Sure we have had an older Minimumweight world champion, with Muhammad Rachman winning the WBA title aged 39, but 36 is still very, very old for the division. For a fighter with the style of Wanheng, age is a potential issue, as he presses forward, uses pressure, and combinations to win rounds, and doesn't have the "Rock Breaker" power of someone like Rachman.
On the other hand Panya has shines as a champion. He won the title, as previously mentioned, back in November 2020, but since then he has only defend the title once, and that was a surprisingly competitive bout with Danai Ngiabphukhiaw, more competitive than the scores cards suggested. He has taken the title and improved since winning the belt, but has seemingly plateaued, or even started to regress. He's 30 himself, which is certainly youngster for the division, and he has got people breathing down his neck for a world title fight, not just Wanheng. We get the feeling that, whilst Wanheng was a long term champion, Panya is going to be something akin to a transitional champion, holding the belt for just a few short years before someone really takes the title, and runs with it.
In the ring Wanheng is one of the smarter Minimumweights. He's not a heavy handed fighter, like some of the emerging fighters in the division, or a man with a huge work rate, or incredible speed. Instead he's a consistent, intelligent pressure fighter, who uses a tight guard, deliberate foot based pressure, a good solid jab, and lets combinations go when he's up close. He's tough, he has a very solid defense, and knows how to win rounds, when to put his foot on the gas, and when to cruise. He's crafty, skilled, and even at 36 it's hard to imagine his skills fading too much with his age, though his work rate might be less than it was back in 2020. The one main issue for him is his footwork, he was never the quickest, and at 36 we imagine his feet will be slower than ever before.
Panya on the other hand is a boxer puncher. He likes to have full extension on his shots, have some space to work with and his straight punches are his keys to victory. Notably he is one of the best body punchers at 105lbs, and he has got a good work rate. He's struggled when fighters have been quicker than him, something we saw against Danai where he never really pinned down his man, but he's not slow himself and when he is the quicker man he can use the ring really well on the back foot, as well on the front foot. He's heavy handed for a Minimumweight, without being a truly destructive fighter, and his shots do have an effect, though we do wonder if that power can hold against genuine world level fighters.
In their first fight Panya started well, took an early lead, and managed to just keep his nose in the end. That was despite a huge effort from Wanheng late on as he looked to take out Panya and keep a hold of his belt. It was an effort that showed the veteran still had plenty of life in his legs, and was a good enough finish to make many feel he had done enough to retain his title, though that wasn't a view shared by any of the judges.
This time around we expect something similar. We expect to see Panya start well, but we expect his good start to continue deeper into the fight, before Panya gets on his toes in the final rounds, neutralising the pressure and big finish of Wanheng. Much like the first bout this be competitive, it will be exciting, and much like the first bout, Panya will retain his title with a close decision. Though this time around this will be less close than their first bout.
Prediction - UD12 Panya
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.