It's rare to see a huge number of Western fans tuning in to a bout from Thailand, or a bout at Minimumweight but today it seemed like they did just that and saw a changing of the guard at Minimumweight, albeit a controversial and debatable one, in Thailand.
The bout in question saw long term WBC Minimumweight champion Wanheng Menayothin (54-1, 18) [วันเฮง มีนะโยธิน], aka Chayaphon Moonsri, finally fall to his first defeat and in the process pass the WBC title, along with proverbial torch for Thai boxing, on to Panya Pradabsri (35-1, 22), aka Petchmanee CP Freshmart. Albeit in very debateable fashion and very, very exciting fashion.
Prior to the bout we'd never seen so many people come to us for a stream for a fight from Thailand, and boy did they manage to tune in to one worth watching.
Wanheng came out like a man with a point to prove, pressing the action, as he typically does. Early on however it was the body shots of the challenger which were catching the eye, and seemed like the better, cleaner, more powerful blows. Wanheng tried to put his foot on the gas more in round 2 but again took some solid body shots, as the challenger looked to be fighting to a very smart gameplan. He was forcing Wanheng to work hard, was landing solid body blows and trying to take the gas out of the tires of the 35 year old champion. This continued through the first 4 rounds, with Panya doing enough to make sure he was in the lead when we went to the open scoring for the first time.
After 4 rounds the scores were shown was 39-37, 38-38 and 38-37, though there is a feeling the final score there was a mistake.
Having his nose in front after 4 rounds Panya had a strong 5th round, and it seemed the tempo and body shots were taking their toll on the champion. It seemed like Wanheng's 6 year reign was coming under real threat. And then the champion dug his toes in and began to fire back, having a very strong round 6, which saw him move through the gears, laying it all on the line and taking the fight to the challenger. This was first of a number of amazing rounds from the bout, as Wanheng fought like a man possessed. It was a huge effort, and one which yielded some real results, but couldn't force any cracks in Panya. Round 7 was another fought at an amazing pace, with Wanheng again setting the tempo, though Panya landed the better single shots, in a scintillating 3 minutes of ferocious action.
It seemed that Wanheng, who had looked tired in round 5, was going deep into his reserves and was going to burn himself out. But he didn't and he seemed to have another solid round 8, though in fairness the tempo was slowing again, and it was a close round. Wanheng was the busier man, but his success was often stifled by Panya holding, spoiling and trying to man handle the champion. Despite a good stretch for the champion the judges saw the bout the other way, with all 3 having the challenger 77-75 up after 8 rounds.
Those scores seemed harsh against Wanheng, but with them being open it seemed clear, he needed to go big in the final 4 rounds and that's exactly what he did. He set electric pace again in round 9, as if he knew he title was slipping away, and he gave a huge effort again, despite some late body work from the challenger. It was a close round than we had seen, but another that seemed to be in favour of the champion. Then we saw the pace, from both, go through the roof again in round 10. Although down on the cards Wanheng didn't want to let that title go and he fought like a man desperate to hold on to it. That drew a great response from the challenger, who finished the round strongly, and may have done just enough to edge it. It was very close round.
We again saw Wanheng go to the well in round 11 as he once again applied intense pressure, letting his hands go, and forced Panya to fight back, which he did in some eye catching bursts. Wanheng again did the better work over all, but there was enough eye catching moments from the challenger to potentially sway the judges, who would have seen him move around the ring, landing eye catching clean single shots. It probably shouldn't have been enough but it could have been if the judges were looking for a reason to give the challenger rounds.
Wanheng started round 12 fast, it seemed like he knew he had to win the final round big, he had to drop the challenger, he had to make sure there was no way the judges could deny him. He had to fire off bombs and drown the challenger. The challenger however soaked it up well in the first minute, then began to create space, and work at range, making Wanheng chase him around the ring. In the final half of the round Panya then began to turn it on, and tried to steal the round again. It was a very strong finish to the round from the challenger, but we had also been a sensational start to it by Wanheng.
The great effort late by Wanheng had seen him finish strong, but was it going to be enough as we headed to the score-cards? The general feeling was that he maybe deserved a close win, but that's not what the judges saw, giving the bout to the challenger, and the new champion.
With this win Panya will be the new torch bearer for Thai boxing, along with stablemate Knock CP Freshmart and the aging Srisaket Sor Rungvisai. This was a close win, a controversial win, but a career defining one, and one which moves Thai boxing on to the new generation. Panya isn't the best of the new of Thai's, and trust us there is a lot of promising Thai's coming through, but he is, for now, the face of the new wave of Thai's.
As for Wanheng he put in a fantastic effort, but he fought like a man who knew the deck was stacked again him. It was as if his promoter told him he needed a knockout to win and he fought like it. That's not to say he was dominant here, but he certainly put in a big shift through out, a surprisingly big effort for a 35 year old Minimumweight with numerous niggling injuries who had stated that he wanted to retire in the summer. We suspect this was his farewell to the sport, and what a farewell it was. This was a fantastic bout, and one that we suspect many waking up in Europe to watch, genuinely enjoyed! This was a fantastic battle and proof, if anyone still needed it, that the Minimumweights can bring the heat and give us great action bouts!
One of the talking points will be the judging, and it's one of those where we don't really want to cast accusations on the judges. Though we do suspect they'll be aware of Wanheng's comments regarding retirement, and his age, and will know that the 29 year old Panya keeps the title in Thailand, something that that a Wanheng retirement may not have done. That may, may, have influenced some of the scoring in closer rounds. Either way we have a new champion, we have seen Wanheng's reign ended, his unbeaten run falling at 54.
Fans of Mayweather rejoice, you can finally point at Wanheng and his "1".
Just moments ago at Korakuen Hall we saw a new WBO Flyweight champion being crowned, in surprisingly 1-sided fashion. On paper the bout looked like a 50-50 clash, but it ended up being a coming out performance for a Japanese fighter who showed he really was something special. Not just a really good fighter, but a special one.
The man in question was Junto Nakatani (21-0, 16) [中谷 潤人], who had long been seen as one of the brightest hopes in Japanese boxing. He was up against Filipino Giemel Magramo (24-2, 20) in a bout that promised to be a really good one.
On paper it was Nakatani's skills, southpaw stance and size, against Magramo's toughness, power and aggression. Both men had impressed in the past, both men had looked really good in their other notable bouts, including an excellent win in China for Magramo last year.
In the ring however it was a a one sided procession. A beating. A bout between men who didn't look like they belonged in the same ring together.
From the off it was clear Nakatani had the size, reach and speed to make things easy at range. He could have boxed completely off the back foot against the slower, cruder Magramo. He however elected not to do that, at least not entirely. He spent much of the opening round boxing at range, but stepped on the gas late in the round and began to genuinely hurt the Filipino with his solid left hands, and his excellent body shots. It seemed like we were set to get a very early finish.
The fact the opening round was as one sided as it was seemed to make Magramo change his mentality, and in round 2 he began rushing in more and more. That wasn't a good idea as Nakatani was dominating on the inside, especially with his wicked body shots and uppercuts. It was another punishing round from the Japanese fighter who seemed determined to damage Magramo.
To his absolute credit however Magramo kept soaking it up, and as the rounds went on he was taking a real beating. Rounds 4, 5, 6 were punishing ones, with Nakatani bossing the fight at range, and dominating up close. It was supposed to be Magramo having success with the men together, but instead he eating leather, consistently. He was having his insides mashed with body shots, and his jaw cracked with uppercuts. It was decidedly one-way traffic and Magramo seemed to have no plan B. His only plan was to get inside, and that was a plan that was just leading to him being tagged over and over, and over.
In round 7 we finally began to see Magramo's resistance and toughness fall apart, with the Filipino clearly hurt towards the end of the round. It seemed as it he was finally coming to terms with the fact he had no answer.
The following round Magramo's toughness failed him. His heart and determination didn't, but durability did, as Nakatani finally dropped him. It had been coming since the end of round 7 and finally it occurred, with Magramo looking exhausted, broken and beaten. He got to his feet, at the count of 9, but Nobuto Ikehara looked at him and waved off the bout. It was a clear case of a former fighter doing what he should do in the referees position. He was looking at a man who had offered little threat, had lost 7 rounds, had been dropped, and needed saving from any more damage. Magramo had no answers for Nakatani at any point, and the referee knew it.
With the win Nakatani sets himself in a really good position. We suspect that Angel Acosta will be in the hunt for a title fight. Alternatively bouts against the likes of Ryota Yamauchi or Sho Kimura would be easy to make. As for Magramo, it is going to take a long, long time to come back from this. He never looked in the fight and is clearly a level, if not two, below world class. He got his game plan horribly wrong, had no plan B and really just took a beating by someone better in every area.
After close to a year out of the ring we saw the long awaited ring return of WBA "Super" and IBF Bantamweight champion "Monster" Naoya Inoue (20-0, 17) [井上 尚弥], who was fighting for the first time since his WBSS triumph last November. Not only did we see Inoue, but we saw him in Las Vegas for the first time, and as a Top Rank fighter, for the first time.
In the opposite corner to the Monster was Australian challenger Jason Moloney (21-2, 18), dubbed "Mayhem". A talented, brave, confident fighter who was looking to make a name for himself. The Australian had talked a good fight before hand, entered full of confidence and seemed to genuinely believe he could shock the boxing world.
Before we got to the opening bell the fighters came out to almost the music you'd expect them to. Moloney, the challenger, came out first to the classic "I come from a Land Down Under" by Men At Work, a song long that many Australian fighters come out to. Inoue on the other hand came out to "Departure" by Japanese composer Naoki Sato, a song that we have seen Inoue use in his ring walk numerous times, including a live performance a few years ago by Akira Jimbo.
The opening round saw both men fighting relatively evenly. It wasn't a typical feeling out round, but it wasn't a round where either man landed too much in terms of power shots. It was very much a round where both men used a lot of jabs, set a high tempo, but boxed within themselves. There was respect from both, and both men took their time to see what the other hand, whilst staying busy themselves.
In round 2 we again saw the jabs of both men being the most used punches, however we did begin to see Inoue going into his arsenal of weapons. By the end of the round we were seeing Inoue's right hand and a left hook, very late in the round. It was a competitive round, as was the first, but both were Inoue rounds, with out too much discussion.
By round 3 we had started to see Inoue changing his tactics. He was starting to get more aggressive, more confident, and was starting to walk down Moloney. To his credit the Australian was taking clean shots really well, including a series of big right hands at the end of round 3, but it did feel like Inoue was starting to feel alarmingly comfortable.
That comfort level for the champion rose again in rounds 4 and 5, as he went into seek and destroy mode, applying intense, and persistent pressure. It was a credit that Moloney was surviving, though he was trying to do more than just survive, and landed one or two shots of his own. Sadly for him those shots did next to nothing to discourage Inoue, who was quickly realising he could take whatever Moloney was going to land without issue. Moloney however, wasn't afford the same benefit and in round 5 he was wobbled for the first time, and was forced to hold on late in the round.
Inoue continued to fight on the front foot in round 6, but it was actually a counter that proved to be his best asset, as he dropped Moloeny for the first time in the bout, doing so with a counter left hook. Moloney was up quickly, but Inoue could smell blood, and spent much of the round piling on the punishment as Moloney began to have his body and confidence eroded.
It seemed like it was only a matter of time until we'd see the end, though how would it come was unclear. As we entered round 7 the referee was making it clear that he wouldn't allow the punishment to continue for too much longer, Moloney's corner were also aware their man was taking a lot of punishment.
They weren't needed however as Inoue closed the show with a massive counter right hand late in round 7. The shot was a beauty, landing clean as a whistle. It dropped Moloney, who then crouched before trying to get up, then stumbled as he tried to get to his feet. He knew where he was, but his body didn't want to do what he told it. The referee instantly waved it off.
Following the win Inoue mentioned that he wanted to face either WBO champion John Riel Casimero or WBC champion Nordine Oubaali, who defends his title in December against former Inoue foe Nonito Donaire.
Interestingly the big worry coming into this was whether Inoue's right eye would hold up, after it was injured against Donaire last November. It did. There was no notable swelling or damage after the fight. Whether it continues to hold up in the future is unclear, but the way it was after this fight was certainly a positive.
Amazingly Inoue's title defense here was only the third time a Japanese world champion has successfully defended a world title in Las Vegas. He follows in the footsteps of Toshiaki Nishioka and Tomoki Kameda. His win was also the first time a Japanese fighter has beaten an Australian in a world title fight away from Japan.
As for Moloney it is going to be hard to comeback from this. He didn't get smashed to bits, or take a career ending amount of punishment, but his confidence, which was sky high when he entered the bout, will take some real rebuilding after this loss. He did however show toughness, bravery, and survived longer than most would have expected.
For both men it's unclear what will be next. We suspect Inoue will want to fight back in Japan in early 2021, potentially the Casimero fight or a mandatory defense of one of his titles, whilst Moloney will need to rebuild his confidence, but hopefully will face a fringe level type of guy, rather than dropping to facing really low level opponents. He's better than that.
World Title Results
Whether you like them or not World Titles add prestige to any bout as a result we've included the results of world title bouts in this special section.