Finger Post Boxing (July 13, 2017)
Picture this: Floyd Mayweather, fresh of his win over Andre Berto, doesn’t retire. He decides to defend the WBC and WBO welterweight title and add another world title belt in the process. His opponent: the man widely seen as the second best fighter in the division. This kid is a young, hungry, 26-year old undefeated champion with a 7-0 record in championship fights. He’s coming up on a reign of three years as champion and has beaten some of the top fighters in the division.
You can stop scrambling to Boxrec.com to count the number of title defenses Keith Thurman, Danny Garcia, or Kell Brook had when Floyd fought Berto. It’s not any of them. I’m talking about Thai fighter Thammanoon Niyomtrong, aka Knockout CP Freshmart.
Now right off the bat, I’m not sure what the meaning of his nom de guerre is, although I will note that American boxing fans have always been intrigued by the ring names of several Thai fighter’s. Several notable fighters from Thailand used the ring name “3-K Battery” (Yodsanan 3-K Battery, Fashan 3-K Battery, Medgoen 3-K Battery, Pandang 3-K Battery, and Chokchai 3-K Battery) after the motorcycle and automotive battery company based in Thailand. Now, before we start knocking them, just remember that it wasn’t that long ago that fighters stepped into the ring with Goldenpalace.com painted on their backs. Besides, unusual nicknames are as old as the sport. If I want to get really deep in the weeds, these guys have nothing on a guy from 1895 from Colorado who fought Young Peter Jackson. His name was Professor Snowball and on that warm July night in Colorado he set a record that has held up longer than any other in the annals of sports: least intimidating nickname ever. Although it should be noted that Professor Sunshine gave him a run for his money in 1902. Nonetheless Sunshine earned some bonus points for winning his only professional fight in Salt Lake City against Professor Pistol. I am not sure what institution of higher learning gave Pistol, Sunshine, and Snowball their doctorate degrees, but I’m leaning towards Ohio State. (Go Blue).
Now Niyomtrong (15-0, 7 KOs) has been completely unknown in the United States, through no fault of his own. Unfortunately fighters in the minimumweight division have been ignored by American fight fans ever since Ricardo Lopez retired. I don’t know what it will take to fix the exposure problem for him since he’s certainly earned some respect based on his accomplishment in the ring. I don’t know, maybe a new and even catchier nom de guerre. His Boxrec photo sort of looks like Keanu Reeves, and his last name starts with “Niyo”, so I don’t know; maybe he should call himself “The Matrix” and come out into the ring in a black trench coat. That might actually start trending on YouTube.
But as awesome as it would be to have a fighter named Neo fight as “The Matrix”, let’s be honest, it won’t happen. Unfortunately Niyo is going to continue to get a lot less attention than his skills warrant.
And that’s a shame, because right now the minimumweight division looks poised to enter something of a renaissance. Niyo may be a great fighter, but he is nonetheless forced to play second fiddle to the man regarded as the best minimumweight in the world: his countryman, Chayaphon Moonsri (47-0, 17 KOs).
Now I’m not knocking that fact. I think Moonsri should be ranked as the best fighter in the division. But it’s by an inch, not a mile. Moonsri has a record of 8-0 in world title fights, and some Western eyes are going to be looking toward Thailand in the coming months as he closes in on one of the last great records in boxing: Rocky Marciano’s 49-0 record. Yeah, Floyd tied it and looks poised to break it in September when he takes on Conor McGregor. But wouldn’t it be a statement if Moonsri can get to 49-0 and then challenge his undefeated Thai opponent in a unification bout? That would be an appropriate fight for such a legendary record. I don’t know if it is a pipe dream or not, I don’t know what boxing factions in Thailand it would involve. And as I have zero knowledge of what theThai boxing scene looks like I really don’t know if the parties involved would even be open to fighting each other. Maybe this unification fight would involve too many diverse factions in Thai boxing.
But if Mayweather-Pacquiao taught me anything, it was that money talks. And I would think (hope?) that a Moonsri-Niyo fight would have the potential to be very lucrative for everyone involved. Who knows, maybe the 3-K Battery company can swoop in and make it happen.
And I should add, that would just be the beginning. The best part of a unification fight is the excitement wouldn’t have to end there.
Whoever comes out of that fight could then step into the ring against a fighter who may very well be the second incarnation of Arturo Gatti: Japan’s Tatsuya Fukuhara (19-4-6, 7 KOs). Fukuhara, the WBO 105-pound champion, doesn’t have as flashy a record as the two Thai fighters, but what he has plenty of is heart and grit. Any fight with him would be an all out war and if American boxing fans could get the opportunity to see a Niyo-Fukuhara fight, or a Moonsri-Fukuhara fight, I have no doubt that it would revitalize interest in the division.
But all of that is dependent on Niyomtrong winning this Saturday as he defends his title against Rey “Hitman” Loreto (23-13, 15 KOs) of Davao City, Philippines. Now on paper this looks like it should be an easy win for Niyomtrong, but I wouldn’t completely count out the Hitman just yet. He has only been stopped once in his career and he is coming into the fight on the heels of a seven fight win streak which includes a first round KO over South African contender Nkosinathi Joyi (whose record at the time was 24-3, 17 KOs). The Joyi fight was for the IBO light flyweight title in Joyi’s backyard. The Hitman is a naturally bigger man, usually fighting at 108-pounds, and as he showed against Joyi, he can win in hostile territory.
So what will happen in Thailand this weekend? Most likely Niyomtrong, aka Niyo, aka The Matrix, aka CP Freshmart will come out on top. He looks like he could be the total package and despite the Hitman’s KO in South Africa and his 6 knockouts in his last seven fights, I still think Niyomtrong has enough skill to shut down Loreto’s offense.
From there, big things may be coming to the sport. If Niyomtrong wins we might just end up seeing the biggest fight to ever hit the 105-pound division before the end of 2018.
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