We all hate the proliferation of “interim” titles from the WBA. They are, of course, a way for the WBA to line their pockets with additional sanctioning fees. Despite our issues with the “interim” titles they do, occasionally, give us some good match ups. One such match up occurred last year when Knockout CP Freshmart (now 10-0, 5) defeated Carlos Buitrago to claim the WBA “interim” Minimumweight title. We get another mouth watering title bout at the start of July as Knockout makes the second defense of his title and takes on fellow unbeaten Alexis Diaz (16-0, 10).
Back in the old days, when titles weren't handed out by the WBA like candy, this would have been an excellent eliminator style bout to face the “real” champion. With so many belts out there however we see the two men throwing leather for a belt even one as fake and “plastic” as this. Despite the the fake belt...the bout it's self is brilliant and the sort of thing we, as fans, love to see. Well matched and with both men seeking a big win.
Anyway on to the fighters. Knockout CP Freshmart is probably the holder of the best name in the sport, and he's also a really solid boxer-puncher. He turned pro following a very successful Muay Thai career. It was due to that background that Knockout's team put him straight into 10 round bouts, and on his debut he claimed the WBC Youth title.
Following 7 defenses of the WBC youth strap Knockout took on Buitrago in an excellent match up for the interim title. Sadly for Knockout the bout showed a lot of his flaws, despite the fact he got the win. For much of the bout Knockout looked predictable and came forward in relative straight lines whilst being tagged by Buitrago's sharp rangy shots. In the end Knockout, who did look strong and aggressive, got the decision partly due to where the fight was as opposed to legitimately “winning” it. Despite the less than sensational performance Knockout answered plenty of questions and proved he was tough, strong, aggressive and had the tank for 12 rounds fought at a good pace. It was clear that he wasn't the most illusive, or a monster puncher, but he was always gong to be coming forward and always looking to make things a fight.
Whilst “Knockout” isn't exactly the most apt name for the Thai, who is now at a 50% stoppage rate and has stopped just 2 of his last 6, the named has served 2 purposes. Firstly it's summed up his style which sees him fighting for the knockout, even if he doesn't tend to get it all that regularly now a days. Secondly it has got him real attention in the west, a remarkable for a Minimumweight from Thailand.
Aged 28 this is set to be the biggest fight so far for Diaz, a very promising fighter from Venezuela who has a been a professional for around 4 years and has never previously fought outside of Latin America. In fact just 5 of his 16 bouts have been outside of his homeland, with 4 of those 5 taking place in neighbouring Colombia. Although now a Minimumweight Diaz began his career at Flyweight and has been as high as 114¾lbs, before setting down at a much lower weight.
Although a relative unknown outside of the Latin American scene Diaz has been carving out a successful career and already holds notable wins over the likes of Ronald Ramos, Jorle Estrada and Luis De la Rosa. Those wins have won his praise with many who follow the lower weights and have seen him in action, likewise he has impressed with his power, skills and style.
Footage of Diaz isn't that easy to find though what does exist makes him look like a power, hard hitting, aggressive and quick fighter. He does look a bit crude at times but he look so strong and powerful that he could be a serious threat for most fighters in the division, he also appears to be big at the weight and very rangy.
Having seen what footage of Diaz was available he looks like a real threat to Knockout. It looks like Diaz hits harder, is faster and equally as strong. Knockout is possibly a bit stronger and more refined but not by a lot. What we're expecting is for the two men to really let their hands go and for Diaz to have an excellent start. If Knockout can see out the early storm then we'll see what Diaz is really made of, though it does seem like he will be a handful through out the bout.
One thing going in Knockout's favour, big time, is the fact the fight it in Thailand in hellish conditions for visiting fighters. Thailand is the country we often suggest is the most difficult country to get a win in and we suspect we'll see that here with Diaz coming up short on the cards despite a stirring effort. There is, of course, a chance he won't travel well though we expect he'll really put on a show and lose a controversial decision.
(Image courtesy of thairec.com)
For years the Minimumweight division has been derided as a dull one with little in terms of action, big fights or even interesting match ups. At the moment however the division does seem to be simmering and it seems like there is some really promising match ups there and a swathe of fighters worth making a note of. Of course champions like Katsunari Takayama, Hekkie Budler and Wanheng Menayothin are the “stars” of the division on paper but below those 3 men there is a rising generation of fighters such as Kosei Tanaka, Ken Shiro, Genki Hanai and Chanchai CP Freshmart.
Arguably the leader of this new generation of talent in the lowest weight class is the current WBA interim champion Knockout CP Freshmart (9-0, 4), who looks to fend off one of the “old generation” of fighters this coming week as he defends his title against Indonesian veteran Muhammad Rachman (65-11-5, 35). It's as “Old Skool” Vs “New Skool” as the division will really allow and amazingly there is 19 years of age difference between the two men.
The 43 year old Rachman really is old skool. He began his career in the early 1990's, just years after the Minimumweight division began to be recognised, and has since faced a slew of fighters of interest ranging from former champions, like Nico Thomas, to current day contenders, like Denver Cuello.
At his best, in the mid 00's, Rachman was a force to be reckoned with and for almost 3 years he was the IBF champion with defenses against Fahlan Sakkreerin, Omar Soto and Benjie Sorolla. Those days however are almost a decade gone, and even then Rachman was old for a man in the Minimumweight division.
Although looking shot following the loss of his IBF title in 2007 Rachman for a short lived return to success in 2011 when he shocked the then unbeaten Kwanthai Sithmoreseng to claim the WBA title and become a 2-time champion. The win over Kwanthai saw Rachman becoming the division's oldest champion but his reign was short lived as he lost the title just a few months later in a somewhat competitive bout against Pornsawan Porpramook.
The bout with Porpramook was the last notable one for Rachman and that bout came back in July 2011. Since then he has scored a couple of low profile wins over Thai journeymen and actually been a promoter. For a number of small Indonesian shows.
Whilst Rachman has wound down his career we have seen the division change drastically and Knockout CP Freshmart has been part of that change.
Knockout only debuted in June 2012 when he beat Marzon Cabilla for the WBC Youth Minimumweight title. Since then his rise through the ranks has been a quick one with his combination of Muay Thai experience, power, skills and desire, as well as financial backing to allow him to be fast tracked.
Last October Knockout scored the best win of his career when he defeated Carlos Buitrago in a controversially scored bout in Buriram. The win was, for Knockout, huge and put him on the boxing map though many felt he had been fortunate to claim the win. In that bout his power didn't have the effect he had hoped with and his relative lack of skills did see Buitrago winning rounds just due to a huge differential in skills. At the end of the day however Knockout did enough to convince the judges he deserved the win, albeit with some help from the fans who cheered his every bit of success in the ring.
Whilst Knockout is a relative newcomer to boxing he was a former standout Muay Thai fighter who really accomplished all he could before turning his attention to western boxing. It was due to that Muay Thai experience that he was fast tracked, though in many ways he needs more experience before fighting one of the top guys in the division. We suspect that's why Knockout is fighting Rachman who has proven to be tough despite his advanced age.
In a career spanning more than 20 years and 80 bouts Rachman has only been stopped once, by the excellent Denver Cuello. It's an amazing stat when you look through who Rachman has fought but it's the perfect example of why he has been selected here. He's no longer a danger but he's tough and will likely be able to see out 12 rounds with Knockout. Rachman's being viewed not only as a “safe” and “tough” opponent but also a big name in the division and a win over him here, as expected, will help raise Knockout's profile whilst also preparing him, in some ways, for a bout against one of the better fighters in the division.
It's thought that if Knockout wins here, which he should, he will target the WBA “regular” title. His performance, more than the result, will likely tell us whether he will have to wait for his shot at the “regular” title, currently held by Hekkie Budler.
The Minimumweight division has been one of the sports most over-looked divisions. Although it's been over-looked it has often provided fantastic action with one of the best fights this year, the Katsunari Takayama/Francisco Rodriguez Jr fight, taking place at 105lbs.
Whilst there have been some great fights in the division this year it's been a terrible year for Asian fighters. We've seen Merlito Sabillo lose the WBO title, to Francisco Rodriguez Jr, Takayama lose the IBF title, also to Rodriguez Jr, and Xiong Zhao Zhong lose the WBC title to Osvaldo Novoa. To say it's been a nightmare division for Asian fighters this year is to merely state the obvious.
The next man looking to stop the rot is unbeaten Thai novice Knockout CP Freshmart (8-0, 5) who will be attempting to claim the WBA interim Minimumweight title when he takes on the very highly regarded Carlos Buitrago (27-0-1-1, 16) of Nicaragua.
For those who recognise Buitrago's name the odds are you know of, or even saw, his fantastic fight with Filipino fighter Merlito Sabillo, who was then the WBO Minimumweight champion. That performance, in the eyes of many, announced Buitrago on to the world scene and it was clear that he was a highly skilled offensively minded fighter with real potential to a lower-weight star. We'd certainly not suggest he's the next Roman Gonzalez but he does look like one of the most sure fire future world champions in the sport.
The Nicaraguan has lovely, smooth combinations, an aggressive mentality and with 29 professional fights under his belt he is experienced. Not only has he fought Sabillo, in the Philippines, but he has also fought in the USA and Mexico and scored wins over notable foes like Jorle Estrada, Gabriel Mendoza, Yader Escobar and Julian Yedras
As for the Thai he's best known for his name, which we admit is one of the best in the sport. Sadly for Knockout his name is probably more notable than his talent and although unbeaten he hasn't yet scored any really notable wins, at least not as a boxer. In fact in his 8 fights the most notable opponents he has faced have been Filipino's such as Cris Alfante, a 10 round decision, and Jonathan Refugio, a 5th round stoppage, and in neither of those bouts did he look ready to fight a world title fight. He looked promising but not promising enough to be rushed into a world title fight, even an interim one.
What we think has happened is that Knockout's team have too much belief in their man and are trying to show that belief by gambling his unbeaten record against a fellow young and promising fighter. Sometimes that sort of gamble works and a fighter announces themselves on he world stage. Sometimes that gamble back fires and the fighter gets knocked down the pecking order. We suspect that Knockout is going to be biting off more than he can chew here and although he'll put up a great effort, and he'll have home advantage, we suspect he'll come up short against one of the best young fighters in the division.
Although it's a huge ask for Knockout we do know that he will have a lot of support with the bout taking place in the new Buriram Raceway which should hold a lot of passionate Thai's all cheering on their man. Whether that will be enough to get their man the win or not is a big question though hopefully they'll manage to do their best to energise the Thai who will need all the help he can get.
(Image courtesy of our friends at the excellent Thairec.com)
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.