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".
Earlier today in Thailand fans saw WBC Minimumweight champion Wanheng Menayothin (54-0, 18) [วันเฮง ไก่ย่างห้าดาวยิม] continue his reign, the longest of any active male world champion, as he easily over-came mandatory challenger Simpiwe Konkco (19-6-0-1, 7), from South Africa.
The bout started fairly quietly but competitively, with the first couple of rounds not really having much between. With the bout being in Thailand however Konkco should have been aware that he'd need to do more than he was to get those early rounds against the unbeaten Thai, who had the fans behind as he has had through his career.
Sadly for Konkco his chance to get into the bout and get a toe grip was lost, and from then on the bout never really saw him getting into it. Instead it saw Wanheng relaxing, finding his rhythm and really just boxing his way through the rounds, leading to him having a clear lead when the open scoring kicked in after round 4. By then all the judges had Wanheng in a comfortable lead with scores of 39-37, twice, and 40-37.
With Wanheng finding his Groove he began to press more, and made Konkco look out of his depth. The South African challenger had skills, but landed little, and did little offensively. On the other hand Wanheng landed clean shots, flashy little combinations and forced the challenger onto the back foot. The Thai would even manage to put Konkco down at the end of round 7, with a shot that landed a moment after the bell.
By the end of the 8th round, when we again had the open scoring kick in and with scores of 79-72, 79-71 and 78-72. By then it was incredibly clear that if Konkco wanted to win he'd have to go for it. Instead he chose to try and play safe and went through the rounds without taking risks, happy to just take a decision loss, with Wanheng out working him and out boxing him.
After 12 round there was no discussion about the decision, with Wanheng taking the win thanks to scores of 116-110, 117-109 and 118-109, all of which seemed to be giving Konkco more credit than he deserved.
Despite being a mandatory Wanheng made this seem easier than some of his voluntary defenses. Konkco offered so little that he didn't test the Thai at all, in what could be his final world title shot. Whilst the win for Wanheng sees him move to 54-0 bigger tests will come, and the plan now is for the Thai to make his US debut in 2020. As
Earlier today we saw unbeaten Thai veteran Wanheng Menayothin (53-0, 18) [วันเฮง ไก่ย่างห้าดาวยิม] make his 11th defense of the WBC Minimumweight title, doing so against former WBO king Tatsuya Fukuhara (21-7-6, 7) [福原 辰弥], with a technical decision.
The bout started pretty evenly, though it seemed like Fukuhara had done enough the take the opening round. Sadly the Japanese fighter was cut in round 2, from a clash of heads, and from then on Wanheng would begin to look like the sharper man, getting his shots off better, landing cleaner and being the one with the more eye catching blows.
Although the better blows were from Wanheng Fukuhara wasn't there to make up the number and the Japanese fighter tried to press the action, come forward and set a higher work rate. The contract in styles made the rounds feel close, but like Wanheng was taking them, something that was back up on the open scoring at the start of round 5
The two would remain competitive at times, though it continued to feel like Wanheng's quality was the difference maker. Fukuhara really had some great moments, including a flurry of body shots in round in round, but it wasn't to be enough, as Wanheng remained composed and on his feet, loking to attack after Fukuhara's assault.
Sadly in round 8 a clash of heads saw Wanheng cut, taking us to the scorecards early on. The judges, unsurprisingly, had him winning, moving 53-0 and securing his 11th world title defense. For Fukuhara it's a second loss to Wanheng and sees him pushed don the pecking order another world title bout.
We have often applauded fighters for chasing history, it's why we have been to vocal in our support of fighters like Naoya Inoue and Kosei Tanaka. Of course historical achievements can questioned, such as a fighter who wins a serious of vacant titles or a fighter who pads their record, but it's nice to see fighters do historical things. We mention that as today WBC Minimumweight champion Wanheng Menayothin (51-0, 18) [วันเฮง ไก่ย่างห้าดาวยิม] notched his 10th defense and over-came gallant Filipino Pedro Taduran (12-2, 9) to move to 51-0.
Now whilst Wanheng's achievement isn't actually a record, a number of fighters have had better starts to their career, it is potentially setting the stage for history as he has now surpassed the 50-0 record of Floyd Mayweather Jr, who holds the most statistically impressive unbeaten record of any retired world champion. A record that would end tomorrow if Wanheng decided to retire following today's win.
The fight saw Taduran getting into Wanheng's face from the off, with his pressure being impressive straight away. Sadly for the challenger Wanheng's defense and counter punching was equal to the aggression and pressure of the challenger with the champion often landing clean crisp counter shots that caught the eye in the opening round. In the second round both men increased their output, giving us a thrilling round of none stop action, and it seemed like they had both agreed that they would go for a stoppage win with one of the rounds of the year. The round however took a toll on both men and both seemed to slow down in the rounds that followed. Despite the slow down the pattern of the bout during the other early rounds continued, with Taduran pressing and Wanheng countering, with some eye catching and solid shots.
It was a case of accuracy over work rate, and the judges seemed to take Wanheng's side after 4 rounds, scoring the contest 40-36, twice, and 39-37 in favour of the Thai.
The bout continued to slow in the middle rounds, which appeared to suit the more technically solid Wanheng. Taduran still had some solid moments, particularly in round 6 when he managed to get off some solid body shots on the inside and backed Wanheng on to the ropes, but took some heavy punishment of his own. The challenger was also beginning to battle the referee who, very harshly, took a point from the Filipino for a low blow that really really didn't deserve a punishment of any kind. It was harsh certainly didn't help the challenger, but the judges did seem more impressed by him in the middle rounds, with the open scoring showing the scores of 78-74, twice, and 79-74. He was still well behind, but the judges were starting to give him more credit.
The 9th round was one of the most compelling. Wanheng seemed to win the first half of it, he landed some really nasty shots but part way through the round the referee adjusted the champions trunks. Following that Taduran seemed to sense something and let his shots go in a way we hadn't seen since round 2, it forced a response from Wanehng as the two began to trade. The intensity from Taduran continued in the early part of round 10, before Wanheng began to re-establish his control with his defense and clean counter shots.
The result was made a total formality in round 11 when the referee again got involved to the detriment of Taduran, deducting a point from the Filipino for leading with the head. He had been warned about it a number of times, but the deduction seemed harsh, especially given the previous deduction for low blows. It essentially put the bout to bed, despite being a good round for the challenger who showed his desire. Sadly his technical faults showed up and he still took some solid counters.
With the decision essentially in the bag Wanheng seemed happy to spoil and stall through the final round. Taduran, still wanting to win, fought hard but never looked like downing the champion, who held and complained and danced through much of the round.
The win for Wanheng seems him retain the gold and Petchyindee promotions will be happy that their man is still the champion, and has reached the marvellous mark of 51-0. They however will know their man will need to perform better if he intends to win a planned bout in Japan in December. Away from home he may not get the breaks given to him here. He would have still won with out the deductions, given the scores were 118-108, 115-111 and 117-110, but they would certainly have made things a lot more interesting going into the final few rounds.
For Taduran the shot did seem to come a little too early. Given another year or two of seasoning, some technical work on his offensive and balance, he could have potentially over-come Wanheng. Instead he'll have learned a lot in defeat, and will likely improve as a result. He will be wondering why there was a referee with next to know world title experience in the middle of the ring with him but the tough conditions in Thailand have given him a huge platform to build from. And he really did impress here, especially in the rounds when he upped the pace and really let his hands go.
The career of Floyd Mayweather Jr ended last year, at least for now, with the American having amassed an excellent 50-0 professional record. A number his fans celebrated, despite win #50 coming against the debuting Connor McGregor. Mayweather's record is a very impressive one, but today it was tied, as Thai fighter Wanheng Menayothin (50-0, 18) [วันเฮง ไก่ย่างห้าดาวยิม] matched the figure, and recorded his 9th defense of the WBC Minimumweight title. Not only that but he did it in amazingly dominant fashion.
The unbeaten champion was up against young mandatory challenger Leroy Estrada (16-3, 6) from Panama and the bout looked like a man against a child.
The energetic and naturally quicker Estrada had a decent first first round. He looked busy, confident and aggressive as he used his southpaw jab and straight left hand to score with what were clean, but relatively harmless shots. It seemed like all the powerful blows came from Wanheng, but there was few of them, with the Thai instead choosing to use the round to see what the visitor had. Unfortunately for Estrada it was as good as things got for him, and whilst it was a solid round for the challenger, he didnt look like he had the power, the output or the tenacity to really trouble the champion, who looked very relaxed and confident.
The second round saw Estrada try to continue to use his speed and jab, but by now Wanheng was beginning to move through the gears, and rocked Estrada early in the round. A right hand late on again stung the challenger. It was clear by the end of the round that Wanheng had the power to hurt the challenger and was starting to get his timing down as well. Going into round 3 it seemed less a case of whether Wanheng was going to reach 50-0 and more a case of when. That when seemed "soon" when Estrada was dropped early in round 3 as he began to look like a child in there against a more mature, stronger fighter. Estrada showed his heart to get up but was hurt again by a right hand, and dropped with about a minute left, this time his legs were gone. Another right hand saw Estrada wobble again, and it looked like the referee could have jumped in before the challenger fired back and showed signs of fighter.
The third round was a huge 10-7 round for the champion, but Estrada's fight kept him in the bout. Sadly it was for nought as he was again dropped twice in round 4, with Wanheng again dominating the challenger, dropping his man with a big right hand early in the round before scoring another knockdown late to secure back-to-back 10-7 rounds. At the end of the end of the round it seemed almost certain the referee would step in, if not Estrada's corner given that the open scoring had the bout 39-33, twice, and 40-32, in favour of the Thai. Instead Estrada went out for round 5, and was finally stopped, following the bouts 5th knockdown.
For Estrada the bout was a bit of a beating, and one prolonged by a referee who really seemed to hate the challenger, and it showed that whilst he's a very good fighter he's not a top tier one. As for Wanheng, who scored his first stoppage since May 2016, the win sees him match Mayweather's figure and further cement his reign as the WBC champion.
(Image courtesy of Thairec.com)
Boxing has a number of records, which seem odd and look rather unreal. One of those is the record of Japanese fighters in Thailand in world title fights, a record that stands at 0 wins, 23 losses and 1 draw. The latest of those losses however was a controversial one, as WBC Minimumweight champion Wanheng Menayothin (49-0, 17) [วันเฮง ไก่ย่างห้าดาวยิม] retained his title with a very questionable win over former WBO champion Tatsuya Fukuhara (19-6-6, 7) [福原 辰弥].
On paper it looked like a mismatch in favour of the Thai, who was looking to equal the 49-0 record of Rocky Marciano and record his 8th defense. It was however the total opposite of what we expected, with Fukuhara setting an insane pace in the opening round and forcing Wanheng to fight fire with fire. It was as if no one had told Fukuhara that he was there to lose, and instead of being respectful of Wanheng's unbeaten record he went straight at the champion. To his credit Wanheng did fight back, and landed the better shots, but was very much taken by surprise by the intense work rate of the challenger.
Wanheng managed to have better success in rounds 2 and 3, as he landed the bigger shots, and actually started round 3 with the initiative, something he hadn't done in the first two rounds. Despite starting well Fukuhara came back at him later in the round, showing good variety and the high tempo which had caused so many issues for Wanheng, not only in the opening stages of this bout bus also against Melvin Jerusalem.
Wanheng also had credible success in round 4, arguably his best round of the fight, as he forced Fukuhara to fight at range, made the most of his technical abilities and prevented the challenger from unloading with volume. It was a round that showed the skill level differences between the two men. After 4 rounds the champion was up on the score-cards, with all 3 judges favouring the local, and although it felt like he was fortunate to be in the lead it wasn't out of the question for him to be up.
The success of Wanheng continued in round 5 as he managed to make the most of his heavier hands, but he wasn't able to discourage Fukuhara who continued to press the action and ended the round looking like a man possessed, despite eating the best Wanheng had to offer. In round 6 Wanheng's pace seemed to drop off as Fukuhara managed to again cut the distance, get to work and press with not only his volume but also some very solid shots, including a big head shot mid-way through the round. Wanheng did land his own stiff right hand late in the bout, but it seemed like a clear round for the challenger.
Fukuhara's success seemed to grow from there, as he pressured Wanheng with serious intensity, landing not only flurries to the body but also some really eye catching head shots, including a big uppercut. Wanheng returned the favour with some body shots of his own, but was clearly out worked through the round, and appeared to be showing signs of tiredness as Fukuhara refused to back off. The challenger was even more intense and driven in round 8 as he thoroughly out worked Wanheng, landing bigger and heavier shots on to a champion who was looking at the referee for every minor incident. It was looking like the champion was frustrated by the fact Fukuhara was always in his face and always refusing to back off, despite the clean shots the champion had been able to land.
With the champion looking like he was flagging the open scores after round 8 seemed like they were going to be very interesting, bizarrely however they were all widely in favour of Wanheng, reading 80-73, 79-73, and 78-74. It seemed clear at this point that Fukuhara wasn't only up against the unbeaten champion, but also the judges.
Knowing that he wasn't going to get the decision Fukuhara changed his tactics in round 9. The high energy and intense assaults were put on the back burner as he looked to land bigger, heavier shots. Those became the key in round 9 as he landed some big shots which seemed to force Wanheng to on to the back foot. Wanheng had his moments, but was again out worked, and out landed by the challenger. Fukuhara continued to look bombs in rounds 10 and 11 as Wanheng looked more and more tired, struggling to even raise his arms at the end of round 11. Fukuhara seemed to ignore his defense at times, instead choosing to just chase Wanheng and unload, and the only real breaks in action happened when Wanheng tired up the challenger, or complained about some small issue, with the referee starting to seem like yet another opponent for the challenger.
The final round saw Fukuhara go all out for the stoppage. He combined power shots with volume and an insane intensity that saw him jump on Wanheng at every opportunity. It was a thrilling final round that saw Wanheng being forced to respond with power shots, until he was spent and forced into pure survival mode. It was a thrilling all action effort from the challenger, but given the scores after round 8 it was clear it wasn't going to be enough to see the title change hands.
With the judges scoring the bout in favour of Wanheng he had now scored 8 defenses, but this is the second time where he could be regarded as very fortunate in recent times, and it does seem like his reign is living on borrowed time. For Fukuhara the bout seems to suggest he can continue fighting at world level, and will almost certainly get another shot down the line.
Earlier today fans in Thailand saw WBC Minimumweight champion Wanheng Menayothin (47-0, 17) [วันเฮง ไก่ย่างห้าดาวยิม], retian his title, as he over-came Tanzanian born Australian based fighter Omari Kimweri (16-4, 6) in a tougher than expected bout.
Straight from the off the challenger looked to make a statement and opened up with an aggressive salvo, which saw him set his stall out and tell the champion that this wasn't going to be easy. Things got worse for Wanheng late in the round, when a headclash left him looking badly cut around the left eye, and could well have resulted in a technical decision. The cut clearly shook Wanheng who struggled to get through the later stages of the opening round and he looked genuinely buzzed. It was however a cut that brought about a point deduction from Kimweri, as part of the WBC's accidental foul rule.
Kimweri's aggression was again notable in round 2, as he looked to once against put Wanheng on to the back foot. This time however Wanheng had started to become aware of what was coming back, and landed some solid right hands of his own.
Having started to relax in to the bout Wanheng slowly but surely moved through the gears, taking rounds 3 and 4 to establish a clear lead on all 3 cards when they were first made public.
In the middle rounds Wanheng continued to dominate, landing numerous right hands as a tired looking Kimweri backed up more, and fired back less. By the end of round 8 it looked like the challenger was clearly fading and it was looking like he may end up being stopped.
As we've seen from the Thai in the past he eased off in the later rounds, knowing he had a wide enough lead to take the decision, which he did with scores of 117-110 and 118-109, twice, to retain his titl. Despite the wide cards he was put under genuine pressure easy,and following the cut it did look like we could have been heading to the cards very early. It was a bad cut, and the work his team did in controlling it was impressive, it could have ended the fight but it didn't, and thats, in part, thanks to the experience of the officials, including the brilliant Bruce McTavish who again showed why he's one of the more highly regarded referees in the Oriental region.
(Image courtesy of Thairec.com)
It's fair to say that January 2017 has been a slow burner, but today we had the first world title bout to be held on Asian soil for the year. The bout saw the unbeaten Wanheng Menayothin (44-0, 17) [วันเฮง ไก่ย่างห้าดาวยิม] narrowly retain the WBC Minimumweight title with a very close win over rising Filipino Melvin Jerusalem (11-1, 7). Although Wanheng won, and recorded the 6th defense of his title, it was actually the Filipino who came out with the enhanced reputation and it's fair to say that Wanheng will have been glad to have faced Jerusalem now, rather than in 12 months time.
The Filipino started hot and clearly won the first 2 rounds, using his speed, movement and work rate to make the champion look slow and sluggish. Although Jerusalem wasn't hurting the Thai he was putting him totally off his game and make life look easy as he prevented Wanheng from firing anything of note in his direction. In round 3 the Filipino slowed a tad and the champion managed to do just enough to impress the judges into giving him rounds 3 and 4, though both were close and likely would have gone to which ever fighter was at home.
After 4 rounds there was little complaining with the open scoring, with all 3 cards reading 38-38. Jerusalem took those cards as sign that close rounds weren't going to be his and he seemed to do enough late in round 5 to take the round, and sneak back into the lead. Sadly for the challenger that lead wouldn't last long with Wanheng spoiling through much of round 6 before landing some really eye catching shots late that would have left a lasting impression on the judges. Those shots seemed to spur on Wanheng who intelligently spoiled in round 7 to frustrate the Filipino and landed just enough to take the round.
The momentum continued to go with Wanheng who had a 10-8 round in round 8 when Jerusalem was deducted a harsh point for a low blow. The shot was low, but the deduction was harsh given it was a first offense in an other wise clean bout. That 10-8 round helped Wanheng hold a the advantage on the open scoring after 8 rounds, with a lead of 77-74 -twice and 78-74.
Round 9 was another where Wanheng seemed to spoil and bully. He pushed and threw a tired looking Jerusalem to the canvas whilst the challenger tried to land flurries in little raids. Unfortunately for the Filipino he looked too tired to get in and out before being tired up and tagged by single shots. The round, however, was one of the closer ones with it being perhaps the key swing round for the fight.
In the final 3 rounds a lazy and tired Wanheng did very little whilst a tired, and very arm weary, Jerusalem put it all on the line. It was as if Wanheng knew he'd done just enough and Jerusalem knew he'd have to secure a 10-8 round. That showed more as the final 3 rounds progressed, with Jerusalem doing everything he could in the final round to turn things around.
Sadly for the Filipino his great effort wasn't quite enough to over-come Wanheng, with the judges favouring the local fight with scores of 114-113, twice, and 115-113. We had it 114-113 to Wanheng, but feel that the Filipino came out looking like the fighter going places, whilst Wanheng is probably coming to the end of his long career. For Jerusalem the bout could either make him a new jewel for ALA or, possibly, the next Filipino to avoid, in a similar vein to Rey Loreto and Jonathan Taconing. If ALA can get Jerusalem some good 12 rounds through this year he really could be a very big force over the next decade or so.
The Minimumweight division is without a clear #1 however Thailand's Wanheng Menayothin (43-0, 17) [วันเฮง ไก่ย่างห้าดาวยิม] strengthened his claim to be the best in the division today as he over-came mandatory challenger Saul Juarez (23-5-1, 12) to retain the WBC title.
The bout was Wanheng's 5th defense of the title and was by far the toughest with the Mexican having the skills to ask questions of any one in the division. Those skills were on show particularly in the early rounds with very little to separate the men during the first 4 rounds. The first two were very quiet with a chess match mentality from both but the bout built to an exciting 4th round with the men engaging in a high skilled war that saw both men prove their offensive capabilities.
After 4 rounds the scorecards read 38-38, 38-38 and 39-38, with the WBC open scoring being in effect. The card were spot on with very, very little to split the men and no real argument if a round had been scored 10-10, like one was on one of the cards.
Wanheng managed to establish a lead in the middle sector of the fight as he neutralise much of Juarez's work with his defense and sharp counter skills. Juarez had his jab countered by straight right hands and much of his other work was blocked with Wanheng establishing himself as the boss in the ring. By round 8 there was no doubting the man in the lead, but the question was “how clearly was he winning?”
On the open scoring the judges had it 78-74, 78-75 and 77-75 for the Thai. Giving him the bout by 4, 3 and 2 points going into the final part of the bout.
Knowing he was behind Juarez tried to turn the bout around but Wanheng seemed to do enough in rounds 9 and 10 to move further ahead, putting himself out of reach of Juarez on the cards, barring a knockdown. With that lead stretched the Thai then cruised through the final 2 rounds, doing little more than he had to whilst Juarez looked to turn it on and take the fight to the champion, in what proved to be a futile effort.
With the result all but known going to the final bell Juarez seemed happy that he'd done enough against a genuine top contender, whilst Juarez seemed to know that defeat was heading his way, as was confirmed when the cards were read out loud confirming that Wanheng had indeed retained his title.
On paper the bout will be close, with cards ranging from 115-113 to 116-112, but in reality Wanheng eased off giving the final 2 rounds away and could have really made that wider if he'd wished. That has lead to criticism of the open scoring, which didn't really help this bout, but the right man won and it was a genuinely engaging bout for the most part, with rounds 4, 5 and 8 being particularly good rounds. The fight saw both show off good defense early on, it saw Wanheng show off his offensive capability through the middle and saw Juarez go all out late in the contest.
Sadly with the division lacking in terms of depth right now we're not expecting to see Wanheng in with anyone too tasty next time out, though we wouldn't be shocked to see him in the ring again before the year is over as he continues one of the sports active longest unbeaten runs.
This week is a good one for Asian boxing fans with the Orient playing host to a trio of world title fights. They began earlier today with a WBC Minimweight title fighter between unbeaten champion Wanheng Menayothin [วันเฮง ไก่ย่างห้าดาวยิม] and Japanese challenger Go Odaira [大平 剛]. The bout, a relatively low key world title bout for those outside of the East was Odaira's second shot at a world title and was Wanheng's fourth defense of the title that he won in late 2014, when he stopped Oswaldo Novoa.
On paper it was a mismatch, with the champion boasting an impressive 40-0 (15) record coming in to the bout against Odaira's 12-4-3 (1) record however Odaira's team been planning for this challenge for several months and seemed confident of scoring the shock win.
The preparation of the challenger was obvious in the first round as the visitor fought to orders, using a lot of movement to try and get in and out. The output from the challenger was relatively low compared to the division's usual high intensity, but it was significantly more than we saw from Wanheng who applied very conservative pressure. Although Wanheng was very limited with his output the locals cheered every shot and he did land the best punch of the round, a straight right hand late on. It wasn't enough to steal the round, but it was clear that the power and physical strength both lay with the champion.
The second round was much like the first, with Wanheng doing very little other than applying intense and educated pressure on to the Japanese challenger. Odaira was the man letting his hands go, in short bursts, and then trying to get away. It was intelligent from Odaira but as the round came to a close you could almost see Wanheng shifting up a gear, which is exactly what he did in round 3.
Odaira's early success was essentially wiped out in round 3 as Wanheng went on to the offensive and a sweeping right hand caught the challenger, who was dropped. Odaira got up from the knockdown but it seemed to further spur on the champion who could almost smell a win. Wanheng continued to bully the challenger, who did well with his movement to see out the storm without taking too much punishment.
By round things weren't looking good at all for Odaira who simply couldn't create the distance he needed and was on the receiving end of more solid shots. The only thing really keeping Odaira fight was his movement, which was helping him get off the ropes, but his output was dropping and he was forced to taste the under-rated power of Wanheng, who almost scored a second knockdown late in the round, rocking the challenger with a right hand.
Although we had given Odaira the first 2 rounds the judges disagreed, and when the open scoring was shown after 4 rounds the judges all had Wanheng in a comfortable lead, with scores of 40-35, 39-36 and 39-36, again.
Odaira's discomfort from round 4 was made worse in round 5 as his counter shots simply bounced off Wanheng who was in seek and destroy mode. It didn't take long for Wanheng to corner his foe, and this time Odaira's fancy footwork wasn't able to come to his help, instead he was forced to take a series of hard right hands. Those shots bent him over and seemed to have him read to go before a final shot, albeit to the back of his head, sent him down. Immediately the referee waved the bout off.
Although the finishing blow was a foul it did seem like one caused by Odaira bending over and the Japanese fighter didn't complain about the stoppage, instead he congratulated the champion, now 41-0 (16), who looks set to defend against Saul Juarez in the summer.
For the challenger, now 12-5-3 (1) this was a second loss in a world tile fight and it seems unlikely he'll get another given he's 31 and has 2 stoppage losses in his last 3 bouts.
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.