By Jake Donovan
Wanheng Menayothin has been cleared to make a voluntary defense of his strawweight title in his next bout, as per the World Boxing Council (WBC). The bout is due to come in early February at a location to be determined at home in Thailand.
The unbeaten 29-year old won the crown with a 9th round knockout of Oswaldo Novoa in November.
Menayothin’s coronation was expected, but Novoa gave a brave effort on the road in what turned out to be one of the year’s best fights. Accumulation and relentless pressure eventually won the fight for Menayothin, who was actually stepping up considerably in class despite his opponent viewed going in as the weakest of the strawweight titlists at the time.
Reports from our friends at AsianBoxing.info suggest the first challenger to the Thai’s title reign will be unbeaten Filipino southpaw Jeffrey Galero (11-0, 5KOs). The bout – which will air on Thailand’s Channel 7 - will mark Galero’s first title fight, and also his first outside of Philippines.
The approval of a voluntary defense almost always means that the defending titlist will then next have to defend against the mandatory challenger. Menayothin could be free and clear for the foreseeable future, however.
A title eliminator was ordered by the WBC during its annual convention earlier this month in Las Vegas. Hard-luck contender Denver Cuello was due to face Panama’s Carlos Ortega at some point during the first quarter of 2015. However, those plans took a hit later in the week, when Ortega – a WBC “Silver” strawweight titlist - suffered an upset knockout loss to ring novice Ricardo Perez on December 20 in Cancun.
Even if the mandatory mess is sorted out by the time Menayothin returns to the ring in February, chances are he will manage at least one more voluntary defense.
The field will be wide open, given all that is going on in the division these days. Katsunari Takayama faces Go Odaira this New Year’s Eve in a rare vacant unification title fight, with two belts on the line – both of which were vacated by Takayama’s prior conqueror Francisco Rodriguez Jr. Shortly after Menayothin’s ring return, South Africa’s Hekkie Budler faces former champ Jesus Silvestre in Monaco.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene.com, as well as the Records Keeper for the Transnational Boxing Ratings Board and a member of Boxing Writers Association of America. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox