By Cliff Rold
It is, quietly, one of the better fights made on paper in the sport this year, matching two of the better titlist on the lowest parts of the scale in recent year. Will it play out that way in the ring as well as it does on paper?
For now, fans can know this. The most statistically dominant Flyweight of the last decade and change is facing off with one of the most accomplished opponents of his career. Combined, they are a 32-2-1 in title fights. Both past 30, they might not be in their prime but they can still go.
The champion enters having gone 17-0-1 since his last defeat in 2007. In that span, he’s regained the lineal World Flyweight crown.
The challenger is 31-1 since 2003 and the lone loss was fraught with controversy. While the punches of Rodel Mayol clearly rocked Sosa, so too did a bad butt that had him reeling first. Sosa, who had been planning to move up in weight before the Mayol loss in November 2009, was named the WBC’s mandatory at 112 shortly after. His long wait is over.
Can Sosa travel to Thailand on Friday to score the upset?
Let’s go to the report card.
Current Title: Lineal World/Ring Magazine/WBC Flyweight (2010-Present, 2 Defenses)
Previous Titles: LinealWorld/WBC Flyweight (2001-07, 17 Defenses
Weight: 112 lbs.
Average Weight - Five Most Recent (Recorded) Fights: 111.9 lbs.
Hails from: Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand
Record: 82-3-1, 45 KO
Record in Major Title Fights: 21-1-1, 8 KO (23-1-1, 9 KO including interim title fights)
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Defeated: 8 (Malcolm Tunacao, Luis Lazarte, Daisuke Naito, Gilberto Keb Baas, Tomonobu Shimizu, Julio Cesar Miranda, Koki Kameda, Suriyan Sor Rungvisai)
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced in Defeat or Draw: 1 (Daisuke Naito)
Previous Titles: WBC Jr. Flyweight (2007-09, 10 Defenses)
Weight: 112 lbs.
Average Weight – Five Most Recent (Recorded) Fights: 112.6 lbs.
Hails from: Mexico City, Mexico
Record: 43-6, 26 KO
BoxingScene Rank: #5 at Flyweight
Record in Major Title Fights: 11-1, 7 KO, 1 KOBY
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Defeated: 6 (Gilberto Keb Baas, Noel Arambulet, Brian Viloria, Luis Lazarte, Roberto Leyva, Pornsawan Porpramook)
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced in Defeat: 4 (Ulises Solis, Omar Nino, Issac Bustos, Rodel Mayol)
Pre-Fight: Speed – Wonjongkam B; Sosa B-
Pre-Fight: Power – Wonjongkam B; Sosa B
Pre-Fight: Defense – Wonjongkam B+; Sosa C+
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Wonjongkam A; Sosa A
Sosa is a boxer first, willing to scrap but more comfortable gauging opponents and looking to land an educated left hand. His is consistent with the jab and turns it over effectively as a lead, counter hook, and uppercut. When the jab is working, Sosa also throws a long right hand that can be accurate and exacts a toll over the length of a fight.
Where Sosa is at a disadvantage this weekend is in speed. It’s not as big a disadvantage as it would have been a couple years ago. The champion is clearly slowing down. With nearly 100 fights and a decade among the championship ranks, it’s inevitable. He’s still quick enough to take advantage of Sosa’s flaws. The Mexican has never been tough to hit, through he blocks well. In his career-making win, Sosa took plenty of clean blows from Brian Viloria in 2007. He’ll take them this Friday as well.
And Wonjongkam has the patience, and confidence, to keep landing all night. How Sosa handles the deft southpaw’s ability to counter and cover before being tagged will determine how much trouble Wonjongkam’s 34-year old legs could face. Wonjongkam is intelligent, has seen it all, and still integrates his offense and defense seamlessly. If Wonjongakm starts fast, Sosa could find himself chasing an elusive target and falling even further behind as lead right hooks tally points.
In terms of intangibles, both men give plenty to like. Of the nine losses between the two of them, only three were by stoppage (two for Sosa, one for Wonjongkam). Sosa’s loss to Mayol has been covered. The other stoppage loss for each man was in his first twelve fights. For Wonjongkam, that was 1996.
Wonjongkam and Sosa have serious beards.
They’ve also faced a solid range of opposition, even if Wonjongkam’s career wins total is inflated by a lot of appearance contests. Sosa battled through early losses to emerge as a dominant force among little men. Wonjongkam came back from a loss and draw against Daisuke Naito to best the younger Kameda last year and regain a crown he’d already defended a Flyweight record 17 consecutive times. These are serious professionals.
They’ll make something serious happen in Bangkok before they are done.
What that something serious will be remains to be discovered. The pick here is, whatever it is, it ends up a win for Wonjongkam by comfortable decision. While Sosa may have longer arms, or at least appears to, Wonjongkam’s better speed will allow him to control the pace of the fight and he’ll be comfortable on home turf. Wonjongkam handles physical, aggressive challengers well and he’ll force Sosa to lead. Sosa will have chances. He’s heavier handed and, if he starts to chip away, Wonjongkam could fade late. The thinking here is Sosa will struggle to land consistently enough.
Wonjongkam missed a lot of talented opposition early in his career but he’s making up for some of that with a nice late career renaissance. Sosa will be a fine addition to the tapestry.
Report Card Picks 2011: 34-12 (Pending the Dawson-Hopkins Appeal)
Cliff Rold is a member of the Ring Magazine Ratings Advisory Panel, the Yahoo Pound for Pound voting panel, and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]