Pong and Naito fought in four battles that helped define the weight class in the past decade.
Now that 2009 is getting close to wrapping up, it means this decade is almost over. Before the end of the year, I hope to get through all the weight classes, presenting to you some choices for the best fighter in a given weight class in the decade. I'm not going in any particular order here, but we'll get through all 17 weight classes.
When voting, please only consider the time that the fighter was in the specified weight class during this decade. Also, I'm not going to count obvious ballot stuffing when I tally these up at the end of the year.
Flyweight in the 2000's has been one of those strange divisions where there are obviously a number of guys who are pretty good, but it's hard to tell who was the best simply because the better fighters in the class almost never fought each other. Pongsaklek Wonjongkam and Omar Narvaez each had huge title defense streaks, but even Joe Calzaghe would complain about how weak their competition was. Others generally avoided each other as well, with guys like Arce, Donaire and Darchinyan preferring to plow through guys who were in the bottom half of or just outside of the weight class' top 10. Unfortunately, the lack of money in the weight class, together with the fact that little guys tend to come from specific different corners of the world, means that this division will probably always be pretty fragmented in the future.
Jorge Arce - Arce went 9-0 at the weight in the middle of the decade, and in what seems like a strange glitch, six of his fights were for an interim title where he never got to fight for the main belt. All nine wins came by way of knockout, including two bloody wars with Hussein Hussein, two wins over Adonis Rivas, and wins over Rosendo Alvarez and Angel Priolo.
Vic Darchinyan - Raging Bull went 14-1 in the weight class, where he was able to build a reputation as an awkward, extremely hard hitting fighter. Wins include Wandee Singwancha (twice), Ireme Pacheco, Jair Jimenez, Diosdado Gabi, Luis Maldonado, Glenn Donaire and Victor Burgos. After cutting a swathe through good but not great competition, the gravy train ended when he faced Glenn's brother Nonito, who managed to knock out Darchinyan in pretty spectacular fashion.
Nonito Donaire - Donaire is actually only 5-0 at the weight, as up until the Darchinyan fight, he had almost always fought at 115 or 118 (and a couple of times, even at 122). The big win here is over Darchinyan, who was possibly the top fighter at 112 at the time, but who had not yet established himself as the pound for pound force he would become after his loss to Nonito. Other wins include Raul Martinez, Morute Mthalane and Luis Maldonado.
Eric Morel - Morel went 6-1 in the decade in the Flyweight division, all of which were title bouts. Wins include Sompichai Kratingdaenggym, Denkaosan Kovichit and Isidro Garcia. His lone loss came to Lorenzo Parra.
Daisuke Naito - Naito has gone 20-2-2 in the weight class, including going 1-2-1 against Pongsaklek Wonjongkam. His other draw came against Takefumi Sakata. Other key wins include Salaryman Teppei, Hiroshi Nakano, and Daiki Kameda. While he's generally fought the best Japan has to offer, the only time he's left Japan, he was knocked out by Pong in 32 seconds, and he really hasn't faced anyone else of note besides Pong and the Japanese fighters. He does have a December fight against Koki Kameda, but I doubt the outcome of that fight would change voting here.
Omar Narvaez - Narvaez is a southpaw cutie from Argentina who currently has the longest title defense streak out there. He's gone 30-0-2 in the weight class, with his entire career spanning the 2000's. He won a WBO belt in only his 12th fight, and he's kept it since them, fighting whoever are the worst fighters he's able to get away with and racking up 16 defenses. Granted, he's had a couple of decent mandatories and has been able to beat them, but he's definitely more concerned with his streak than anything, and his opposition reflects that. Key wins include Adonis Rivas, Everardo Morales, Rexon Flores, Brahim Asloum, Rayonta Whitfield and Omar Soto.
Lorenzo Parra - Parra went 14-1 in the weight class during the 2000's, including 6 title bouts. Key wins included Eric Morel, Takefumi Sakata (twice, both times in Japan), Brahim Asloum and Yo Sam Choi. In a third defense against Sakata that was mandated by the WBC, he struggled immensely to make weight, coming in 4 pounds over, and was summarily knocked out in his weight drained state. However, while at the weight, he was a force at 112, although he wasn't necessarily able to make an impact at higher weights.
Takefumi Sakata - In his favor, he almost certainly faced the toughest roster of opposition in the 2000's of any flyweight. On the downside, his record in the weight class was only 20-5-2, probably losing more fights against that tough competition than he won. He did at one point run off five title defenses. He went 1-2 against Lorenzo Parra, 0-1-1 against Denkaosan Kaovichit, 1-1 against Roberto Vasquez, 1-1 against Trash Nakanuma and had a draw with Daisuke Naito.
Pongsaklek Wonjongkam - Pong has gone 42-1-1 at 112 in the 2000's, including 33 straight victories and 17 title defenses. The major issue, however, is his level of competition and the fact that he's rarely left Thailand. Most notably, he is 2-1-1 against Daisuke Naito, including a knockout victory that set the record for fastest ever knockout in a flyweight title fight. Other notable wins include Malcolm Tunacao, Alex Baba, Hidenobu Honda, Hussein Hussein, Trash Nakanuma and Julio Cesar Miranda. As impressive as the title defense streak is, most of it is pretty empty, much like Narvaez's, although in his prime he crushed Naito like a walnut. Only when he was 29 year old and starting to slow down a tick was Naito able to garner a win. The two should be fighting for a fifth time not too long from now.
Who was the best Flyweight of the 2000's?
Jorge Arce (15 votes)
Vic Darchinyan (70 votes)
Nonito Donaire (36 votes)
Daisuke Naito (4 votes)
Omar Narvaez (3 votes)
Lorenzo Parra (2 votes)
Takefumi Sakata (1 vote)
Pongsaklek Wonjongkam (14 votes)
Other (Please specify in comments) (1 vote)
146 total votes