With an anticipated heavyweight title fight coming this weekend between two big lumps with knockout power, you could be forgiven for not realising an early contender for 'fight of the year' is also about to take place.
This Saturday-January 17th, at the Korakuen Hall in Tokyo-Jomthong Chuwatana defends his OPBF super featherweight title against former world title challenger Daiki Kaneko.
Why should you care?
Well first, and foremost this bout looks to have title implications. With the OPBF being closely tied to the WBC, perhaps the winner will get a shot at Japanese bulldozer Takashi Miura.
Also, these two match up well. Don't be put off by the fact that they have only combined to knock out a little over half of their respective competition. Both Chuwatana and Kaneko carry a sizable dig, and have aggressive styles that will surely blend to create beautiful violence.
Not enough to make you care?
Let's look at the participants and how they measure up and maybe you will.
Record: 8-0 (4)
Ranking by Governing Bodies: WBC (#12)
Titles Held/Defended/Challenged: Thailand national super featherweight title, OPBF super featherweight title (3 defences), WBC Asian Boxing Council Continental super featherweight title
Since the 1940s, Thailand's best battle hardened Muay Thai warriors have been putting on boots and ditching six of their most powerful weapons to battle it out with the best practitioners of the sweet science.
Their professional combat background has allowed the Thais to move up the boxing ranks quickly, unlike storied amateur boxers who tend who be moved in a way that their intangibles could be tested before they take on world class opposition.
Saensak Muangsurin, won the WBC light welterweight title in just his third professional fight with heavy hands, an iron chin and years of pro fighting experience. Sagat Petchyindee fought for the WBC super bantamweight title in the same amount of fights, but unfortunately for him the man in the opposite corner was pound-for-pound great Wilfredo Gomez. The legendary Samart Payakaroon faced former world title holder Netrnoi Sor Vorasingh in his pro debut, and sparked out Lupe Pintor in just his twelfth outing. The great bantamweight Veeraphol Sahaprom won and lost the WBA title within five fights.
These are just a few examples that prove that a Muay Thai background gives Thais a good enough grounding that they don't need to pad out their records too much.
There aren't too many top class Muay Thai fighters turning over today, which is why many of the highly-ranked Thais have padded records, facing off with regional talent for at least thirty fights before finally making the step up.
Just why the top Muay Thai fighters stay in their national sport in the modern era would be another debate for another time.
One who has made the transition is Jomthong Chuwatana, who also happens to be one of the best punchers of the past era of Muay Thai. Not so much a knockout artist, but definitely heavy handed and a focused body puncher in a sport that focuses on the unprotected bony weapons.
The highest honour a Muay Thai fighter can hope to achieve is to win a championship from one of the two main Bangkok stadiums, Lumpinee and Rajadamnern. A Rajadamnern champion at bantam and featherweight, as well as holding the fringe WBC title (yes, that WBC) Jomthong moving over to boxing carries on the tradition of fighters like Saensak Muangsurin and Veeraphol Sahaprom.
Pretty much faultless so far as a pro, Jomthong might not have stopped all of his opponents thus far, but he has hurt them all. As you would expect from someone who has spent most of his life dodging kicks, elbows and knees he is defensively aware, and doesn't need to rely on slugging to find openings.
This highlight video features both Muay Thai and boxing savagery
Perhaps his most impressive victory came in South Korea, beating hometown fighter Dong-Hyuk Kim to a pulp and forcing a stoppage in nine rounds. While Dong-Hyuk Kim might not be that impressive a name to have on your resume, the fact that he'd previously been ten rounds with the heavy handed Ji-Hoon Kim should prove a bit about Jomthong's offensive prowess.
I had the pleasure of seeing Jomthong ringside in a car park in Bangkok, where he pummeled tough Filipino journeyman Ronald Pontillas over the championship distance. In this fight, Jomthong showed that although he knew his way around the ring and applied pressure intelligently he is generally one dimensional.
He continues to compete in Muay Thai, which makes me wonder whether he's completely focused in making the transition to boxing.
This lack of development nearly came to a head when had a brief scare against decent but unspectacular Koseki Namaka in his last bout, suffering a flash knockdown. He came back to take control and won a clear decision over twelve, and he'll need to use that experience if he is going to beat Kaneko and move on to challenge for world honours.
Record: 21-3-3 (14)
Ranking by Governing Bodies: N/A
Titles Held/Defended/Challenged: Japanese super featherweight title (5 defences), WBA world super featherweight title (lost 12-round unanimous decision to Takashi Uchiyama)
Daiki Kaneko is a very tough customer indeed.
Calling him 'the third best super featherweight' in Japan isn't selling him short. He is behind two very respectable champions.
Takashi Miura, the WBC champion at 130lbs, is a thug in the ring who crushes opponents with his paving slab fists.
Takashi Uchiyama, the WBA champ, is a far more textbook puncher who looked to be on his last legs a few weeks ago making the latest defence of his WBA title.
His last defence before that, exactly a year before, was against Kaneko.
Watching the fight, you can see why Uchiyama needed a year off.
Kaneko seemed outclassed for most of the fight, but not the extent that he needed to be pulled out of the fight. Battered around the face, Kaneko showed he is very much the stereotypical Japanese fighter, keeping himself in the fight with guts and pulling himself back into the fight with punching power.
Briefly staggering Uchiyama with a left hand, Kaneko kept on top of the champion and dropped him with a booming overhand right.
This seemed to give Kaneko a second wind, and Uchiyama had a torrid time in the last two rounds.
A clear loss for the challenger, but one that showed he was world class.
Aside from the Uchiyama bout, Kaneko has mainly faced off with his fellow domestic fighters. Some good opponents, but no one exemplary.
Kaneko is well-muscled at the weight and physically strong. He doesn't have much in the way of defence, but he does use a variety of punches and mixes up his attack well. He pushes his jab rather than snaps it, but in close he can crack his man with hurtful uppercuts and hooks.
Jomthong Chuwatana has had close to 250 professional fights dating back to when he was eight years old, but Kaneko is much more experienced in straight boxing and has been twelve rounds with the best in the division. He'll need to use that experience to his benefit.
My prediction for this bout was going to be that Kaneko would win a close and competitive decision in a great fight due to the bout being on home turf.
Following Jomthong on Facebook, he has looked soft in the weeks leading up to this bout, but as he is an expert at cutting weight I was going to give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he'd come in strong.
After the weigh-in today, I'm going to change my prediction.
@asianboxinghttps://twitter.com/asianboxing">@asianboxing> Jomthong failed 2 times at the weigh-in then passed at the 3rd attempt. Kaneko has suddenly been HUGE favorite I think.— ジーコ@WBC暫定名誉休養王者 (@zeeko3) January">https://twitter.com/zeeko3/status/556012865740488704">January 16, 2015
Asian Boxing has a photo of Jomthong looking very drawn at the weigh-in.
I think Jomthong will still be dangerous for the first five rounds, but although I fancied the Japanese fighter to win in a distance fight I now fancy Kaneko to force a stoppage sometime after the eighth round.
Where can I see it?
Asian Boxing has the scoop on the broadcasting arrangements,
Whilst the fight is likely to be brilliant there were some worries that it would go untelevised. Thankfully however that won't be the case and the bout will be aired live on NTV G+ in Japan with repeats to follow on January 25th and 26th, giving fans a great opportunity to watch the bout even if they don't get to see it live.
Sadly we do need to say that NTV G+ is a subscription channel and is hidden behind a paywall even for fans in Japan. This will mean that international fans will almost certainly be unable to see it live on Japanese TV as Japanese subscription channels are notoriously difficult to stream in the west. There is however hope that Thai TV will pick up the fight, afterall Jomthong is a big name in his homeland courtesy of his Muay Thai career which has been genuinely excellent.
Sadly regarding Thai TV we've not had any information as of yet, though we do have our fingers, and toes, crossed that they will be showing it live.
My man in Bangkok has assured me that although it isn't showing up on TV listings yet, it's probably because Thai channels are notoriously bad at updating their schedule. Keep checking out the comments section or follow me on Twitter (@ferociousflea) because as soon as I know, you will know.
So, has this whet your appetite for what promises to be a titanic tussle?