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
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
The last couple of years have not been good ones for the Minimumweight division, with very few of the top fighters actually fighting, and very, very few world title bouts taking place at 105lbs. One of the few notable results from the division since the start of the pandemic was the surprising win by Panya Pradabsri (36-1, 23) over Wanheng Menayothin in 2020, for the WBC Minimumweight title. The bout saw Panya claim the title, dethroning the then 54-0 Wanehng, and end a long reign by Wanheng, who went in as the favourite and seemed destined to retire with one of the most stunning looking records in the sports history.
Since winning the title, in November 2020, Panya hasn't had the chance to defend the belt. Sadly for most of the last 2 years, travelling into Thailand has been incredibly difficult, and as a result no title contenders have been willing or able to travel over. Sadly those issues are still there, however Panya will be defending his title this coming Tuesday. Unfortunately it's not against a top opponent, or as many hoped a rematch with Wanheng, but instead it'll be in a bout with the relatively unknown Danai Ngiabphukhiaw (9-2, 5), who is also a Thai.
The talented Panya showed what he could do in his title win last year. In that bout he looked very accomplished, and although we though he was lucky against Wanheng it was clear that he was very competitive, and wasn't out of place at world level. He was quick, he skilled, he picked his shots well, and he could both fight, box, and brawl when he needed to. He also showed a really experienced head, starting fast, taking an early lead, and protecting it through the bout. It didn't make for the most fun to watch performance, in what was a genuinely good bout, but it was calculated, it intelligent from Panya.
Whilst that was the first time many had seen Panya it is worth noting that's not his usual type of fight. He can certainly box, but he often seems happier to fight, and he's a big, strong, powerful fighter at 105lbs. He's got very heavy hands and throws some brutal body shots, both up close and at range. He likes beating up opponents who aren't fit to face him, and that's what we expect to see from him here. We expect him to make his first defense in style, and beat up a challenger, rather than control him, and the tempo of the bout, like he did against Wanheng.
Whilst Panya announced himself in 2020 with his win over Wanheng, Danai Ngiabphukhiaw was just ticking over and being busy, picking up 5 wins in 2020, and 2 mote this year. The 21 year old can't be criticised for his activity, and has fought 11 times since March 2019. Looking at the numbers on his record, it is worth noting that he has lost twice, though both of those losses came in his first 4 bouts, and he has gone 7-0 since then. Sadly however his wins have come against very, very low level opponents, and the most notable fighter he's faced is Thananchai Charunphak, who stopped Danai in 4 rounds. His 9 wins have come against dreadful opposition, and strangely the combined records of his wins has been 44-44.
Danai Ngiabphukhiaw, dubbed "Laser Man", is a promising youngster, but he is very much a young man learning his trade against limited fighters. Watching him we see a fighter who has got some nice skills, but they are unpolished, and he makes a lot of mistakes. His defense is poor, his offense is predictable, he lacks power, he gets caught coming in, and his footwork is predictable. He seems to want to fight as a counter puncher, but against his opponents so far he has struggled to draw leads, and looks like a novice. He is from a stream team of fighters, so will be progressing behind the scenes, but is a long, long way from being ready for a world title fight.
It's fair to say we are not expecting anything other than a win for Panya, and a relatively easy one. In fact we expect him to stop his challenger within 4 or 5 rounds, which shaking some ring rust and tuning up for bigger and better fights down the line. We like busy champions, and this is better than him sitting on the side lines, but it's a poor fight against a very, very inexperienced and limited challenger.
We expect Panya will take a few rounds to see if Danai is hiding something, before moving into third gear and taking out his challenger, likely with a body shot.
Prediction - TKO4 Panya
All-Thai world title bouts are incredibly rare, despite the prolonged success of the country in world boxing. In total there has been only 12, in history, and have been dubbed "Bloodline Battles" in Thailand. On November 27th however we get another, in fact we get the first in over a decade. Not only that but was also get one that has gotten some international attention due to the defending champion, who despite being a Minimumweight has gotten international attention in recent years for his lengthy unbeaten record and reign. The bout isn't just interesting due to the champion however, but also the challenger, who is looking to grab the torch and rip it from one of the current flag bearers of the Thai boxing scene.
The champion in question is the WBC Minimumweight champion Wanheng Menayothin (54-0, 18), who's winning run is the longest active run in boxing, exceeds that of former pound for pound king Floyd Mayweather Jr and would, if he retires without a loss, set the new record for the longest 100% winning record of any boxing world champion. Not only is Wanheng boasting an excellent record, on paper at least, but also the longest active world title reign of any man in the sport. At the age of 35 he's ancient for a Minimumweight, and did retire during the summer, before changing his mind and having time to rest and recover from niggling injuries.
In the opposite corner to Wanheng is Panya Pradabsri (34-1, 22), also known as Petchmanee Kokietgym among other names. He's a 29 year old who has been knocking on the door of a big fight for years, but failed to land one. That's despite showing a willingness to fight at Minimumweight, Light Flyweight and Flyweight, even going as far as to call out Kenshiro Teraji a few fights back. Sadly he's been pretty much avoided by the top guys, and his most notable bout was a very controversial loss in China to Xiong Zhao Zhong in 2017. Had he won that bout he'd have been in line to face another Thai, Knockout CP Freshmart. Although much less well known than the champion he's someone that has long been viewed as a future champion by those in Thailand, who have seemingly accepted that, with Covid19, his options are limited and battling his countryman is the only option, unless he wants to wait even longer.
It's fair to say that Wanheng is very much a fighter who has had a lot of people looking at him in recent years, even since he had more wins than Mayweather. That has seen some trolling Mayweather and pointing out the raw numbers, something Mayweather himself did when he beat Rocky Marciano's long standing 49-0 record. It has also seen "Money" responding to the haters, further building Wanheng's profile among the wider boxing fan base.
An often mentioned complaint of the Thai is that his competition has been limited, and that does hold some weight, with his competition paling compared to the likes of Mayweather. It isn't however as bad as some suggest and he has scored wins over a number of notable fighters. They include former world champions Florante Condes, Oswaldo Novoa, Tatsuya Fukuhara and current world champion Pedro Taduran. As well as contenders like Melvin Jerusalem, Simpiwe Konkco, Saul Juarez and Ardin Diale.
Leaving his record, and competition behind, Wanheng is a fighter who is very much under-rated by those who don't follow the lower weights. He's a talented, educated, fighter who comes forward behind a tight guard, pressures and forces mistakes from opponents, which he counters. Unlike most counter punches he doesn't create space to open up counter opportunities, but instead gets in an opponents face, and capitalises on mistakes that he forces, often with eye catching combinations and bursts of shots. As he's aged he's slowed slightly, but still looks like a very tough man to beat and someone who has surprising power on his shots. Although his stoppage might suggest he's feather fisted it is worth noting that he is very consistent and every shot has a good bit of sting on it, chipping away at fighters, mentally and physically. When he has a point to prove, as he did in 2018 against Leroy Estrada, he also seems to find an extra gear to really dominate opponents.
Although very talented Wanheng isn't without faults. His style can see him being out worked, and is very much a slow methodical style, that can leave him being handcuffed. He's patient and accurate, but not able to set, or maintain, a high work rate. This has seen him have very close bouts with hungry fighters who set a pace, like his first bout with Tatsuya Fukuhara as well as his bouts with Pedro Taduran and Melvin Jerusalem. The key of setting a high work rate and pinning him behind his guard is a key gameplan, and something we almost saw actually work against Mayweather, with Marcos Maidana having success against the talented American with a similar tactic.
In Panya Pradabsri we have a very different type of fighter. The challenger is a big, tall, powerful boxer-fighter, who can boxer well behind his jab but has better success as a fighter, with a seek and destroy mentality. His body shots are brutal and wicked, and he has belief in his toughess and power. He's proven to be willing to take a show clean when he needs to, walking forward to get to his man. Technically he's a lot less polished than the champion but he's aggressive, younger, hungrier and the much heavier handed. Defensively he does look naive, and is caught a fair big coming in, but looks like he's always confident of landing the bigger single shot, and having the last word in any argument with his big, solid right hands. They might not be crisp and clean, but they look heavy, every time.
The challenger is a man who has waited patiently for his shot, and his chance to shine, and he'll know that a loss here will likely see him needing to wait a real long time for a second shot. With that in mind we suspect he'll not be wanting to leave anything to chance. This isn't just a world title bout, it's potentially his only world title bout and it's also a chance to grab the torch from Wanheng and run with it. With that in mind we're expecting to see Panya fight like a man possessed.
We know many see this, like many Wanheng bouts, as a foregone conclusion. We have feel that it's not. We will happily state that Wanheng is more talented boxer, the crisper puncher and the man with the better defense. That however isn't all it takes to win a fight, and it completely ignores a lot of intangibles. If a fight was purely based on skills, this would almost certainly be the 13th successful defense for Wanheng. At 35 years old, and with talk of retirement, lingering injuries and talk about a loss of desire we wonder whether Wanheng will be the fighter we've seen in the past. He may well see a loss as his chance to escape the sport, retire and move on with life. For the challenger this really is a huge chance to put himself on the boxing map, something he's wanted to do for years, and become one of the new faces of Thai boxing.
With that in mind we're picking Panya Pradabsri to pick up the win here, and do so with a close, competitive, but very fair decision. We see him having that toughness and hunger needed to over-come the 35 year old Wanheng. He'll have to work for it, and we've seen a lot of Thai veteran's in recent years make youngsters work for wins against them, but we see Panya having the tools needed to cope with Wanheng.
Prediction - UD12 Panya Pradabsri
It's fair to state the Minimumweight division hasn't had a great year in 2019. We've seen only 3 successful defenses so far this year, and whilst it has 2 new champions neither has yet to make a defense of their title. There has been activity in the division, and even one or two fantastic bouts, but on the whole it's really been a poor and unremarkable year for the division. And that's coming from us, and we are huge fans of the little guys!
Thankfully it does look like we could get a really exciting match up before the year is over as WBC champion Wanheng Menayothin (53-0, 13) defends his belt against South African challenger Simpiwe Konkco (19-5-0-1, 7) on October 25th. This bout, a mandatory for Wanheng, will be the Thai's 12th defense of the title he won almost 5 years ago. On the other hand it will be Koncko's second bout for a major title, though he has previously held the IBO belt twice.
At 33 years old the champion is old for a Minimumweight, but is still younger than some of the challengers around like Norihito Tanaka and Shin Ono, who are both in their mid 30's and Gabriel Mendoza, who is set to challenge for a world title at the age of 40. What's more impressive than Wanheng's age is his ring years. He has a been a professional for almost 13 years, has 53 bouts behind him and 425 professional rounds. For a fighter to have a 53 fight unbeaten run is rare, though has been done in the past, but for a world champion in today's era to have over 400 rounds, over 50 bouts and remain in 1 weight class is genuinely impressive. The dedication to fight at the same weight through his entire career has to be applauded.
Sadly what can't be applauded is Wanheng's competition. There are a number of solid wins on his record, such as victories over Florante Condes, Oswaldo Novoa, Tatsuya Fukuhara, Saul Juarez, Pedro Taduran and Melvin Jerusalem, but for a man with over 50 wins that's an unimpressive line up.
In the ring Wanheng is incredibly talented. He's a smart fighter who applies pressure behind a tight guard, with good, clever footwork, he presses well, and defends well. When up close he lets his combinations fly, and his body shots are really eye catching. Whilst he does do somethings really well he does lack power, he's not the quickest, or the busiest and he has had some luck with judges in the past. He's a hard man to beat, but certainly not unbeatable, and we suspect the best way to beat him is to out work him, keep him behind his tight guard and get away before he gets close enough to set off his own combinations. It's something we've seen tried, and something that has really shown flaws in Wanheng's style, but the Thai has always done enough to get the nod from the judges.
On paper Koncko doesn't look like a qualified challenger, he's already lost 5 of his 24 bouts and has been stopped in 3 losses. What that doesn't tell you is anything in regards to context, with Koncko going 6-4 to begin his career before rolling off a 13-1-0-1 stretch over the last few years. That stretch of success has seen him lose on to Hekkie Budler, in a very competitive all-South African bout, whilst notching wins against the likes of Zukisani Kwayiba, Siyabonga Siyo, Nkosinathi Joyi, Lito Dante and Toto Landero. Maybe not murderer's row but still solid wins, and wins that show how misleading his record is.
In the ring Koncko is a very tough guy, the early KO losses shouldn't be seen a sign of a poor chin, but more inexperience at the time. What he's become is a smart fighter, able to counter well, set a high pace when he needs to and hit with much more power than his record suggests. He's notable a patient fighter, looking for the right time to strike, but when he gets on the front foot he is a solid guy, with a hard right hand. He gauges distance well and does find gaps will alarming frequency. Sadly though his work rate isn't as high or as consistent as we'd think it'd need to be to beat Wanheng in Thailand.
Stylistically this should be interesting, with Koncko being a skilled boxer who can hold his own with Wanheng on a technical level. The difference though is that Koncko is unlikely to be getting a decision in Thailand, against the ever hostile Thai conditions. He doesn't fight at a high enough pace to make Wanheng uncomfortable, nor does he appear to have the 1-punch power to hurt the Thai. Wanheng will almost certainly rack up the rounds, buoyed on by local fans and take a clear, but hard fought decision in a technically high level bout.
This may not be the most fun to watch, but it has the ingredients to be a very interesting contest.
Prediction UD12 Wanheng
Although often described as a division with no depth the Minimumweight division is current a really interesting one, with several notable fighters all in or around world level. One of these is WBC champion Wanheng Menayothin (52-0, 18), who notched his 52nd straight win last November, as he defeated Mektison Marganti in a stay busy bout. Not only is Wanheng the holder of a perfect 52 fight winning record, but he is also the longest reigning active male world champion, having held the title for over 4 years and making 10 defenses.
In the coming days Wanheng will seek his 11th defense of the title, as he takes on former WBO champion Tatsuya Fukuhara (21-6-6, 7) in what will be a second meeting between the two men.
These two first fought in 2017, when Fukuhara gave Wanheng a serious test and could well have got the decision had the bout not been held in Thailand. Now, more than a year later, Fukuhara returns for a second shot at the Thai champion.
Aged 33 Wanheng is an old man for the smaller weight classes, especially when you consider he has had over 50 bouts, more than 415 professional rounds and has been a professional for more than 12 years. Despite that he hasn't taken much damage and he is a defensively responsible fighter, with a tight guard and a good boxing brain.
Not only is Wanheng defensively smart but he's also offensively smart too. He's not a big puncher, but he's an accurate, clean puncher. He rarely throws when he's out of position or off balance and fires in good sharp counters, applies good pressure behind his guard and unleashes some really impressive combinations. Whilst a smart fighter he doesn't have much in terms of power, he's not the hardest worker, or the quickest out there, and he gets older we suspect that he will become slower and will throw less and less.
Aged 29 Fukuhara is the much younger fighter. Like Wanehng he is a veteran, with more than 10 years of professional experience and over 200 rounds of action. Despite also being a veteran he is stylistically very different to the Thai, relying on work rate, aggression and desire rather than ring IQ and clean punching. Technically he is rather limited, but his will to win is really impressive.
Fukuhara's has had an up and down career. In terms of the highs he reached the final of the 2009 Rookie of the Year, won the Japanese national title in 2015 and the WBO title in 2017. As for lows he has lost most of his notable bouts, including a loss in 2013 to the then debuting Takuma Inoue and losses in 2017 to Ryuya Yamanaka and Menayothin.
We don't think Wanheng will extend his winning record for too much longer. He has been pushed close numerous times in recent bouts, but we do suspect that he will be protected by the conditions and officiating in Thailand for as long as he can be. We think that will play a major role here, in what we're expecting will be a razor close bout, but one which again sees the champion edging the bout in the eyes of the judges.
Fukuhara will set a high work rate, he knows he has too, but unless he can really hurt Wanheng he doesn't have much of a chance of getting the decision in the Land of Smiles and instead we're expecting a close judges decision to the Thai.
On August 29th Thai fans will get the chance to see WBC Minmumweight champion Wanheng Menayothin (50-0, 18) look to go one better than Floyd Mayweather Jr, as he looks to move to 51-0 and takes on young Filipino challenger Pedro Taduran (12-1, 9). The champion will be looking to secure his 10th defense of the title and build on an outstanding mandatory defense from back in May, when he blew out Leroy Estrada. On the other hand the challenger will be looking to claim a title in his first world title shot, and become one of the youngest world champions at just 21 years old.
The 32 year old champion is looking to etch his name in to the records books and break the 50-0 record of Floyd Mayweather. Whilst there is some criticism of his competition Wanheng does have some good opponents mixed into his record, such as Florante Condes, Saul Juarez and Tatsuya Fukuhara. Sadly though he also has a lot of filler opposition, including the likes of Silem Serang and Jaysever Abcede, both of whom he beat in non-title fights whilst being a reigning world champion.
Although he's never unified or faced the stiffest of competition there needs to be a good dose of respect for Wanheng who has shown real commitment to the Minimumweight division. He is one of the very few fighters to have not really changed weight during his career. His first professional title was the WBC Youth Minimumweight title, which he won back in 2007, and all of his bouts of note have been at 105lbs. A real dedication to making weight.
In the ring Wanheng blows hot and cold. At his best he's a defensively tight, stalker with under-rated power, good combinations accurate counter shots. These were seen fantastically last time out, when he stopped Estrada in 5 rounds after dropping him numerous times. At his worst however he can be made to look tense, slow and unwilling to trade blows, as we saw against Fukuhara and Melvin Jerusalem. If a fighter is busy they can handcuff Wanheng who really needs to pick his moments and can't match the output of some younger fighters.
The once beaten Taduran made his debut in May 2015, 3 months after Wanehng won the WBC title, and was just 18 at the time. He would begin his career with 6 straight wins before suffering a razor thin decision loss to Joel Lino. Since then he has racked up 6 more wins and progressively faced stiffer and stiffer competition, with his most recent win coming against former world title challenger Jerry Tomogdan, for the GAB Minimumweight title. Sadly other than Tomogdan there is little quality on Taduran's record with his next between wins being against Phillip Luis Curedo and Ronbert Onggocan.
There is very little footage of Pedro Taduran but from his record it's clear he can punch. Sadly though that's never going to be enough against someone like Wanheng, and he'll have to find holes in Wanheng's defense, get in and out, and land the biggest shots in his arsenal. If he can do that he has a chance, though we suspect he'll lack the experience needed to really make the most of Wanheng's flaws.
We think Taduran will have some great moments, but in the end his lack of experience and ring time will be his undoing as Wanheng moves to 51-0 and leaves Floyd Mayweather's 50-0 record in the past. Few will compare the two in terms of achievement, with Mayweather winning multiple world titles, but few can question Wanheng's dedication and desire to have a long and lengthy reign in one division, whilst taking on all mandatory challengers along the way. A loss for Taduran won't be the end, and we suspect it will actually do his career more good than harm, be we can't see how he over-comes such an accomplished champion this early in his career.
This coming Wednesday fans in Thailand will see WBC Minimumweight champion Wanheng Menayothin (49-0, 17) return to the ring for his first fight of the year, as he battles mandatory challenger Leroy Estrada (16-2, 6) in Nakhon Ratchasima. For the unbeaten Thai the bout is a chance to go 50-0, and match the unbeaten run of American icon Floyd Mayweather Jr, and would also be Wanheng's 9th defense of the title. As for Estrada the bout is a chance for him to announce himself on the world stage and claim his first world title.
The 32 year old Thai has been the WBC champion since November 2014, whenhe stopped Oswaldo Novoa, and has gone on to defend the title against the likes of Jeffrey Galero, Go Odaira, Saul Juarez, Melvin Jerusalem and Tatsuya Fukuhara. In a number of those bouts, such as the ones against Juarez, Jerusalem and Fukuhara, we've seen Wanheng pushed all the way as younger fighters have given him issues with volume and speed. Although on paper he won all 3 of those bouts they were very competitive and showed a number of flaws with the Thai.
At his best Wanheng is a calculated pressure fighter. He uses a tight guard, comes forward well and throws accurate, solid combinations. He's not a big puncher, but he's a solid hitter who will land clean and switch between head and body well. He's at his best at mid to close to range but has a decent jab at distance. Unfortunately for him he's a relatively small Minimumweight and at 32 he's not got the energy to fight at a high tempo and move through all the gears any more, and he can be out worked.
The champion's tight defense has kept damage down through his career, but with 394 already under his belt from an 11 year career he's clearly taken some punishment. His chin hasn't shown any real cracks but as he gets older the accumulation of those rounds may take it's toll and it's clear he hasn't been up against any of the division's really big punchers, like Hiroto Kyoguchi or Vic Saludar.
The 23 year old challenger is known as "El Sensacional" and proved to be a sensation early in his career, debuting at just 16 years old and reeling off 7 straight wins to begin his career. Sadly for him his 6th victory, a majority decision over Mercedes Concepcion, lead to a rematch which saw Estrada being stopped in the 6th round. The bout saw Estrada being out manned by Concepcion who dropped him several times to gain revenge for his narrow loss. That set back saw Estrada take time away from the ring before returning and looking even better as he strung together 5 more wins. Sadly that winning run would come to an end in 2014 when he was out pointed by Carlos Ortega, who also holds a win over Gilberto Pedroza.
Despite the set backs Estrada has gritted his teeth and is currently riding a 4 fight winning run, including a big 2017 win over Saul Juarez in a world title eliminator. Sadly for Estrada that bout is his only bout in the last 18 months. In fact he has only fought 17 rounds, combined, in 2016 and 2017. That isn't the activity a fighter needs heading into a world title fight, in fact that's the sort of activity that will really harm a youngster like Estrada.
The footage of Estrada shows a pretty talented boxer move with nice hand speed and good counter punching. Sadly though that same footage makes him look rather light fisted, negative and in some ways made to order for a fighter like Wanheng. Despite being young and fresh faced Estrada doesn't have a high work rate, instead choosing to be selective with his punches rather than overwhelming. Against Wanheng we suspect Estrada walked down, and broken down with body shots, before simply being stopped in the mid to late rounds.
Estrada is a talented fighter but we can't see him over-coming the highly skilled champion here.
The Minimumweight division is one of the most over-looked at the moment, yet has a number of interesting match ups coming up between now and the end of 2017. One of those is a WBC world title fight which will see long term unbeaten Thai Wanheng Menayothin (48-0, 17) risking his title, and unbeaten record, against former WBO and JBC champion Tatsuya Fukuhara (19-5-6, 7). For Wanheng the bout sees him potentially tying his record with that Rocky Marciano whilst the Japanese visitor will be hoping to become a 2-time champion, and create a little bit of history.
For the champion the bout will see him seeking his 8th defense, and look to continue a title reign that began back in November 2014 when he stopped Mexican Oswaldo Novoa. Since winning the title Wanheng has won 12 bouts in a row, including victories over Jeffrey Galero, Young Gil Bae, Go Odaira, Saul Juarez and Melvin Jerusalem. In the ring Wanheng is a defensively intelligent pressure fighter, who applied constant pressure and looks to out work and grind down opponents. His lack of power is notable, but he certainly his a lot hard than his record suggests and in his 9 world title fights he has scored 4 stoppages.
With Wanheng closing in on the 50-0 record of Floyd Mayweather Jr this is a really credible test for the champion. At 32 he is getting on for a Minimumweight and with 382 rounds under his belt he has certainly got miles on the clock. He has negated damage in many of his fights, due to his solid defense, but was cut a couple of fights ago by the head of Omari Kimweri, and it could be that his body is maybe starting to feel it's age, something that also seemed to be the case in January's win over Melvin Jerusalem.
The Japanese challenger has had a strange career. After winning his first 4 bouts he quickly slipped to 5-1-2 and really saw his momentum slow, despite reaching the 2009 Rookie of the Year final. Another winning run followed before a surprise stoppage loss to Hiroyuki Otsuka, and a draw with Koji Itagaki. In 2013 Fukuhara again saw his career falter with losses to Yu Kimura and Takuma Inoue, and by the start of 2015 Fukuhara had fallen to 13-4-5 (4) with his career seemingly going no where. Since then however he has gone an impressive 6-1-1 with with notable wins over Hiroya Yamamoto, Takumi Sakai, Genki Hanai and Moises Calleros, and a draw with Fahlan Sakrreerin Jr. The win over Yamamoto saw Fukuhara claim the Japanese title and the one over Calleros saw him become the WBO champion.
The problem for Fukuhara is that whilst he has had an impressive few years, he's not actually shown himself to be that talented. He's gotten far on toughness, energy and desire rather than skills, power and slickness. He's a handful for many, given that he has a never say die attitude and always looks to have have a fight, but against truly world class fighters it's hard to see what he has to offer. This was clear when he was widely beaten by a then debuting Takuma Inoue and is likely to be seen again here against the very talented Wanheng.
Whilst Fukuhara is travelling with hunger, and the chance to become the first Japanese fighter to claim a world title on Thai soil, it's hard to see him really testing Wanheng. Fukuhara will come to fight but we believe the sharper, smoother and tighter boxing of Wanheng will be too much for the challenger, who we think will start will be take a methodical beating in the later rounds, and potentially be stopped in the championship rounds.
The Middleweight division is in a period of relative flux with a number of champions who are likely to find themselves up against challengers who will fancy their chances over the coming year. The challengers, including the insanely exciting Hiroto Kyoguchi and the criminally under-rated Rey Loreto, are licking their lips however the champions are certainly looking out on the division on looking for easier contenders to face. That will be the case again this coming weekend when WBC champion Wanheng Menayothin (46-0, 17) defends his title against Australian based Tanzanian born Omari Kimweri (16-3, 6).
The champion is closing in on the magic 50-0 but was fortunate earlier this year when he was taken to a very close decision by Melvin Jerusalem, who came into the bout as a hungry fight and showed his desire by pushing the Thai all the way. That bout is as close as we've seen Wanheng to picking up a loss, and it's the first time he has really shown signs of being an “old” fighter. In the past he has always looked like the type of fighter who can control the tempo of the bout with his educated pressure and combinations.
Although relatively unknown outside of Asia Wanheng is a genuine joy to watch at his best. He's an intelligent but aggressive fighter, who uses a tight guard to come forward and breaks his opponents down, with his pressure and under-rated power. His record may not show it, but Wanheng can punch, and has stopped 5of his last 9 whilst making 6 defenses of the world title and scoring notable wins over Go Odaira, Saul Juarez and Young Gil Bae. The win over Juarez, last year, showed how good Wanheng was, though did see him turn off late in the bout, but he's not looked the same since with the close win over Jerusalem and a couple of simple victories.
Born in Tanzania and now based in Australia Kimweri is a well travelled fighter and one who has actually faced some pretty interesting competition. In just his 4th bout he battled Angky Angkotta, in 2013 he lost a controversial decision to Shin Ono and last time out, more than a year ago, he took a controversial win over Randy Petalcorin. Aged 34 he's no spring chicken and he has been in some tough, and draining bouts, particularly the Petalcorin one.
Although not the most sensational of fighters Kimweri is a decent boxer-mover, he's game and has a real desire to win. He got off the floor numerous times against Petalcorin, a razor sharp puncher, and kept looking to win as he looked to always fight back. He was out matched but showed no quit and seemed to get some help from the judges to escape with a much debated win.
Although Wanheng didn't look his best last time out, it does look like this bout is one for him to shine in. Kimweri is similar, in some ways, to Go Odaira and will lack the power to get Wanheng's respect whilst the Thai will almost certainly walk through him, and eventually get a stoppage late in the bout.
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.