For much of the last 6 years the Minimumweight division has been dominated by two Thai's, with wide spread calls for them to clash. At the time the pair were the WBA "super" champion Knockout CP Freshmart (23-0, 9) and WBC champion Wanheng Menayothin (55-2-0-1, 19), who were both unbeaten at the time and had styles that could have gelled to give us a classic. Sadly however those calls went unheeded, with the Thai promoter, Petchyindee, and corporate sponsors preferring to have two world champions they could market shows over, rather than a single unified champion. As a result the unification bout between, arguably, the two best fighters at 105lbs never came to be.
At least not when it most mattered.
This coming Wednesday we will actually get the bout, though it's a bout that has lost some allure to what it once had. No longer is it two unbeaten world champions facing off. Instead it's only Knockout defending his world champion, as the twice beaten Wanehng lost the WBC title in late 2020, to fellow Thai Panya Pradabsri and also lost a rematch to Panya in 2021. Although both of those bouts were close they were both losses and saw a lot of the intrigue of Knockout Vs Wanheng dissipating as a result. Despite the allure dying down, sometimes it's better to get something late, than never at all and that is very much the feeling with this bout. The fight isn't as red hot as it was, but it's still one of the most interesting bouts that can be made at 105lbs.
Of the two men it's the champion here that has more to lose than the challenger. The 31 year old Knockout has held some version of the WBA title, be it interim, regular of Super, since 2014 and has quietly built a solid, though unspectacular, resume for himself. His most notable wins are two decision victories over Carlos Buitrago, along with victories over Muhammad Rachman, Byron Rojas, Xiong Zhao Zhong and Robert Paradero. For a man who has been in and around the top of the sport as long as he has, the resume is thin. Despite that there is no doubting his ability and he's one of the more technically polished boxers at 105lbs, and someone who has clearly developed from a somewhat raw fighter, when he first faced Buitrago, to an accomplished boxer in more recent bouts. He has also been sitting on his shots more in recent contests, and although not a huge puncher, he has solid power at 105lbs, something he showed us last year against Robert Paradero.
At his best Knockout is a very, very good all rounder. He doesn't blow anyone away in any particular area, but he's well schooled, he knows his way around the ring, has solid power, good timing and impressive physical strength for such a small man. He is somewhat under-whelming when it comes to out put and his style isn't the most fun, with Knockout often fighting to get his nose in the lead early on, before cruising through much of the bout to take a decision, but he's smart and uses his brain well. For fighters looking to beat him, work rate is key, and fighters who set a high tempo do cause him problems, as we saw in the first fight with Buitrago, as well as his 2019 bout with ArAr Andale, but standing off and trying to box with Knockout is very much playing to Knockout's strengths. In many ways a smart, intelligent pressure fighter, with solid rate and an ability to cut the ring off, does seem likely to be the style to beat him. A style several notable fighters in the division current have.
As for Wanheng, the 36 year old was, for quite period of time, the best fighter at 105lbs and had a very impressive 54-0 (14) record. Not only that but he had a very impressive 12 world title defenses to his name and had notable wins against the likes of Florante Condes, Oswaldo Novoa, Tatsuya Fukuhara, Pedro Taduran, Melvin Jerusalem, Simpiwe Konkco and Saul Juarez. He resume wasn't screaming out as something stacked with big names, but it was a solid record, and it was highly impressive how he had stayed at one weight essentially his entire career, rather than picking and choosing his way to different titles. Sadly the two losses to Panya ended his incredibly unbeaten run, though both was questionable and they felt something akin to the the powers that be in Thailand passing the torch onto the next generation of top fighters in the division, rather than Wanheng actually being done at the top.
Despite being 36 Wanheng is really incredible. He is a committed fighter, who has dedicated himself to one weight, and had been dedicated to his craft in the ring. He's never been the quickest, the biggest puncher or the man with the highest work rate. Instead he has been crafty, intelligent and fights with a style that combines intelligent pressure, great footwork and quick, sharp combinations that catch the eye. He's not the quickest fighter out there, but he cuts the ring down well on the front foot, he has a tight guard, and he gets where he wants to be to fire shots off. Although not heavy handed he is someone who hits harder than his record suggests, and certainly gets respect from fighters, in terms of both his combinations and his single shots, which do have some pop on them.
Had this bout been when the two men were in their prime, we feel that Wanheng would have had the better of this. He would have been too accurate, to smart with his flurries, and able to dig deep late on to take a hard fought, hotly contest, but clear decision, an 8-4 or possible 9-3 type of decision. Likely after going behind early on. Now however it's a hard call. At Minimumweight 36 is ancient, and that could be a major issue for the former WBC champion. However we also wonder how easily Knockout makes weight, and whether his low work rate has had something to do with struggling to boil down to 105lbs in more recent years. If that's the case, Wanheng is not the man he wants to face. Instead Wanheng is a nightmare for him. The pressure from Wanheng, which doesn't always come with punches but, is draining to fight against and if that pressure can take the movement away from a 31 year old Knockout he will become something of a target for Wanheng's eye catching combinations in the later rounds. Knockout might well find himself being out-Knockout'd here by a smart, more experienced, more polished, and busier version of himself.
We imagine Knockout will look to get a lead and keep it, only to see it slip away from him late on, with Wanheng's having an intensified late march to the title, and potentially retiring on top of the sport.
Prediction - UD12 Wanheng
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