Mexico’s Juan Hernandez (34-2, 25 KOs) inflicted a first defeat on top-ranked challenger Nawaphon Nakhonloung AKA Nawaphon Kaikanha (36-1, 28 KOs) by knocking out the Thai fighter in the third round to snatch the vacant World Boxing Council (WBC) flyweight title at Bangkok's Nimibutr Stadium on Saturday evening.
Unbeaten in 36 fights since turning professional in 2010, the 25-year-old Nawaphon started slight favourite in a bout that pitted the top two fighters in the 112-pound division against each other for a belt left vacant after Nicaragua’s Roman Gonzalez decided to move up a division.
In front of a 2,500-strong crowd at the indoor venue -- unusual in a country where boxing typically takes place outside in makeshift arenas -- the home fighter immediately took the fight to the Mexican, five years his senior.
However, it quickly became clear that Hernandez was opting not to engage at close range, preferring to adopt skirmish tactics in the opening two rounds.
With Nawaphon looking comfortable in the early stages of the bout, few could have envisaged his dream of winning the world championship would come to such a sudden and brutal end in the third round.
The Nakhon Ratchasima native was first sent to the canvas by a huge left hook, rising to take a standing eight count. The Mexican then swarmed over him with a flurry of blows, forcing the referee to call a halt to the fight.
Prior to the fight, Hernandez predicated a knockout win to the Thai press: "I have come here to win. Nawaphon is a good boxer but I am confident that I will win by a knockout. Many Mexicans will watch me on TV so I will fight for them. I don't have any problems with the weather here."
Currently, Thailand has only two world champions in Wanheng Menayothin (WBC minimumweight) and Knockout CP Freshmart (WBA minimumweight).