WBA Creating Minimumweight Muddle?
By Teodoro Medina Reynoso
Tue, 26 Jan 2021
Saludar (L) and Paradero.
Before the end of 2020, without fanfare, the World Boxing Association (WBA) promoted its long reigning Thai titleholder Thamanoon Niyomtrong AKA Knockout CP Freshmart as its super champion in the minimumweight class.
The move, other than seen as a reward for his long and loyal service to the organization, gives Niyomtrong more leeway and flexibility in scheduling his title defenses in which he has been encountering difficulties in view of the coronavirus pandemic travel restrictions.
Last year, Niyomtrong managed just one fight, a title defense against Norihito Tanaka of Japan as the travel restrictions prevented foreign fighters from entering Thailand, and kept Thai fighters at home.
The year before, Niyomtrong also was reduced to just one fight as he suffered eye injuries in a successful but controversial title defense against Filipino ArAr Andales whom he beat by disputed technical decision. (The Filipino camp complained that they were denied of a legit technical knockout win by the referee in cahoots with the Thai organizers.)
Less title fights, less sanction fees. That's bad for this business of boxing.
On the other hand, the move also gives opportunities for other highly rated WBA fighters in the division to vie for the regular title that Niyomtrong has "left behind" as well as the interim title which is becoming a regular feature in the other divisional championships as dispensed or recognized by the WBA.
More title fights, more sanction fees. Good for boxing business.
But not necessarily for boxing per se.
It could be recalled that also at around the same time late last year, a Philippine fight promoter requested for, and was granted, a sort of official sanction to arrange a fight between two Filipinos for a share of the WBA title in the minimumweight class in view of Niyomtrong's inability to defend his championship either at home or abroad.
That fight between ex WBO titlist Vic Saludar and supposed WBA mandatory challenger Robert Paradero was originally set for December but was moved for next month, February.
Now it has become apparent that the said fight will only be for the WBA interim title following the announcement the other day from the organization calling for negotiations to begin between the camps of ex world titlists Byron Rojas of Nicaragua and Jose Argumedo of Mexico, the top two rated contenders for a fight for the WBA regular title.
It was from Rojas that Niyomtrong won the WBA title in 2016 while Argumedo once held the IBF crown from 2015-2017 before losing the same to Hiroto Kyoguchi, now WBA and Ring light flyweight champion.
Potentially therefore by the start of the second quarter, the WBA will have two other world titlists in the division aside from its super champion Niyomtrong.
How the WBA will manage this muddle it is creating in boxing's lightest weight class would be worth watching moving forward.
Niyomtrong by the way remains the most senior of the world champions in the division following the defeat late last year of fellow Thai Wanheng Menayothin who had been WBC champion since 2014. Menayothin who once held boxing's best record of 54-0 surpassing Floyd Mayweather Jr's 50-0, dropped a decision to another Thai Panya Pradabsri losing his title and undefeated record.
Niyomtrong won the WBA regular title in 2016 after serving earlier as interim champion and winning the youth world crown in his very pro debut in 2012.
He also now holds the distinction as the longest continuously reigning world champion in a single division. (Naoya Inoue currently holds the distinction as the longest continuously reigning world champion but in various weight classes, winning the first of his current three division world championships at light flyweight in 2012. It should have been Donnie Nietes who won his first at minimumweight in 2007 had he not vacated his title in 2019).
The other current regular world titleholders in the minimumweight are Pradabsri (WBC), Pedro Taduran of the Philippines (IBF) and Wilfredo Mendez of Puerto Rico (WBO).
The WBA has done well with Niyomtrong as lone sole champion the past more than four years as the WBC with Menayothin the past six years until his recent defeat to Pradabsri.
Hopefully, the WBA is not unnecessarily creating this muddle at its minimumweight championship setup just to accommodate Niyomtrong.
Or make more money by way of more sanction fees.
The author Teodoro Medina Reynoso is a veteran boxing radio talk show host living in the Philippines. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and by phone 09215309477.
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