by Cliff Rold
The best strawweight in the world isn’t always a celebrated position.
Ricardo Lopez, Ivan Calderon, and Roman Gonzalez all managed to exceed the reach of the 105 lb. division. Few others have been as lucky. It’s not that there haven’t been some great fights to achieve notice even without those names.
Akira Yaegashi had gems with Pornsawan Porpramook (a BoxingScene Fight of the Year) and Kazuto Ioka. Eagle Kyowa-Rodel Mayol and Francisco Rodriguez-Katsunari Takayama (another BoxingScene Fight of the Year) were also gems.
Still, at the lowest rung on the scale, it’s often hard to sustain attention or excitement. This week, it at least deserves a mention. Thailand’s Wanheng Menayothin (48-0, 17 KO) will attempt the eighth defense of his now three-year title reign.
If he wins, he hits win number 49 and would have a chance to pass Floyd Mayweather (50-0) for the most wins without a loss or draw among world champion boxers.
Of course, the number only matters if Menayothin never loses. Even then, does it really matter all that much at all?
For promotional purposes, somewhere in the last generation, heavyweight great Rocky Marciano’s 49-0 became something fighters in other divisions started talking about besting. It wasn’t always like that.
When Julio Cesar Chavez built his record to 87-0 prior to a draw against Pernell Whitaker in 1993, it’s hard to recall much talk about Marciano. Chavez’s camp was talking about 100-0.
Larry Holmes, when he got to 48-0, certainly generated conversation about the fabled 49. That made sense. Holmes was chasing the best win total without a loss in boxing’s unlimited division.
Heavyweight is just a different ball game.
Maybe not as much as it seems.
How many even hardcore fight fans are really all that tuned in to what Menayothin is doing? It doesn’t mean the 32-year old Thai can’t add substance to the number. His defense this week doesn’t look foreboding on paper; most of them haven’t. Challenger Tatsuya Fukuhara (19-5-6, 7 KO) is coming off a tough loss for the WBO title. He’s not a big puncher. Menayothin is at home.
49 should happen.
If he gets to 50, and even 51, it will garner notice but what he does with those numbers will determine how much they mean. If he never loses, Menayothin as it stands will be a nice answer to a trivia question.
If he can add some unification before he’s done, it will lend substance to his numbers. Joe Calzaghe’s undefeated mark didn’t quite get to 49 but the fact that he captured all the belts available during his reign at super middleweight, exiting with three of the most recognized four, added greatly to his long run in the class.
Still, there is something to be said for winning and Menayothin does that. He’s good enough to get to 48-0 and far enough ahead of his class for more wins to look possible. It’s hard for many to get interested in fighters who weigh 105 lbs. but chasing 51-0 is worth a look, even if only for the novelty.
It won’t be what Mayweather or Marciano did, but it might pick up that last pie piece in Trivial Pursuit some day.
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]