World Memorial Hall, Kobe, Japan – Aging warriors eventually simply become old and the transition can often be unpleasant. In boxing it can be downright brutal. Veeraphol Sahaprom of Thailand painfully found out the difference between youth and a 37-year-old past his prime when he was knocked out with one punch by WBC bantamweight champion Hozumi Hasegawa in round nine of their scheduled twelve-round championship contest. Hasegawa had previously defeated Sahaprom on points in April of last year but the Thai had guaranteed a victory and promised this fight would be different from the first.

This was to be the Sahaprom’s final, shining moment, but the Thai looked every bit his age against the sharp-punching southpaw. The former champion walked straight in without the use of his jab and was unable to contend with the Hasegawa’s hand speed and side-to-side movement. Hasegawa showed signs of improvement and proved he’s the real deal. His chances against any of the top-ten fighters in the bantamweight division are good and this includes Rafael Marquez.

Hasegawa started quickly, opening the fight on his toes, snapping out his jab and looking untouchable until Sahaprom scored a solid left-right at the end of the round. The first round set the pattern for the fight. Hasegawa moved but never ran; Sahaprom shuffled in but rarely caught the champion with anything of great consequence.

In the third stanza, Hasegawa found a home for the uppercut when he connected with a crunching shot to the jaw of Sahaprom. Hasegawa would use the punch throughout the bout with great effect. Sahaprom executed a persistent body attack, but Hasegawa employed his own strategy, sliding to his right, away from the powerful right hand of the Thai.

A minute and a half into round six, the champion staggered Sahaprom with left uppercut-left hook combination and became the hunter. He pressed the befuddled Sahaprom into the corner and unleashed an all-out assault. With thirty seconds left in the round, Hasegawa scored with another big uppercut, again discombobulating the former champion. Sahaprom refused to lie down however, scoring his own left hook at the bell.

Sahaprom implemented a body attack in an effort to slow the speedy Hasegawa but had little success until round seven when several thudding rights slowed the champion. The following round, Sahaprom had his best round, throwing caution to the wind, chasing Hasegawa, desperate to land a finishing blow. Hasegawa was ineffective offensively for the first time in the fight, concentrating on his defense, calmly sliding to his right, avoiding the bullish rushes of Sahaprom and wisely biding his time.

The end came suddenly in round nine. Hasegawa strode confidently across the ring to his opponent. Sahaprom let go of a straight right and at the same instant, Hasegawa missed with a straight left but then followed up with a right hook which landed flush to the temple of Sahaprom. The Thai crumpled to the canvas and then tried valiantly to rise, but stumbled, unable to gather his stances. Referee Guadalupe Garcia wisely waived off the contest just 19 seconds into the round.

The light-hitting Hasegawa downplayed the knockout, praising the aging Sahaprom. ''He is a really strong fighter and I could not have predicted the outcome of the match,'' said Hasegawa. ''I'm not strong enough, I was just lucky.''

Hasegawa moves to 20-2 with seven KOs while Sahaprom falls to 52-3-2, 37 KOs. All three judges had the bout scored 77-75 in favor of the Hasegawa at the time of the stoppage. The Sweet Science had it 78-74 for Hasegawa.

Sahaprom, a two-time WBC bantamweight champion and one of Thailand’s all-time greats, goes home to Nonthaburi, Thailand to ponder his future.


Quick Notes

The bantamweight division is ripe with talent, both young and old.

TSS top-ten bantamweights:

1) Rafael Marquez (Mexico)
2) Jhonny Gonzalez (Mexico)
3) Hozumi Hasegawa (Japan)
4) Silence Mabuza (South Africa)
5) Genaro Garcia (Mexico)
6) Cruz Carbajal (Mexico)
7) Ricardo Vargas (Mexico)
8) Veeraphol Sahaprom (Thailand)
9) Ratanachai Sor Vorapin (Thailand)
10) Vladomir Sidorenko (Ukraine)

* * *

On the under card of the Hasegawa-Sahaprom fight, knockout artist Edwin Valero saw his incredible streak of first-round knockouts come to an end when Genarao Trazancos of Mexico made it to round two of the scheduled six-round lightweight bout. With the win, Valero improves to 20-0 with 20 KOs while Trazancos drops to 21-8-1.

* * *

When Chris John of Indonesia defeated Juan Manuel Marquez via unanimous decision a few weeks ago in the battle in Borneo, more than a few people were surprised, including myself. I picked Marquez via TKO in 10. In the end though, I scored the fight 116-110 (8-4 minus the two low blows) and, simply put, John simply did more of what was needed to win. He threw more punches, landed more clean shots, showed better defense and stood up to Marquez when necessary. Marquez, however, did not earn the title – the key word being EARN

To those who feel John’s victory was a hometown decision or Indonesian chicanery, claims of skullduggery without proof are an insult to Chris John. John left his family and newborn daughter to train for three-plus months in Australia in preparation for the fight. He is a talented, dedicated and deserving champion who beat Marquez fair and square.

* * *

Chances of a Pongsaklek Wonjongkam-Jorge Arce matchup look to be dwindling. Wonjongkam has been hesitant to face the Mexican slugger and Arce has stated he will be moving up after his bout with Rosendo Alvarez. There is a chance Wonjongkam’s next bout will come against South African fighter and WBC International champion Monelisi Mhikiza Myekeni, but this has yet to be confirmed. The date of his next fight will be on May 1st in Bangkok, Thailand.

* * *

In the first defense of her WBC women’s light flyweight championship, Nanako Kikuchi of Japan is slated to face Siriporn Sor Siriporn on May 10. Siriporn is currently incarcerated in the Central Correctional Facility where she has approximately two years left of a four year sentence. She is also the gym mate of Nongmai Sor Siriporn, Kikuchi’s last opponent.

Fight Results

March 20, 2006
Somsak Sithchatcawal TKO10 Mayhar Monshipour

Somsak shows the heart of a lion and takes out the equally gritty Monshipour!

March 24, 2006
Yodsanan Sor Nanthachai TKO2 Fernando Montilla

Will Sor Nanthachai go the way of Ratanachai Sor Vorapin and Veeraphol Sahaprom or can he claw his way back to a title?

March 25, 2006 – World Memorial Hall, Kobe, Japan
Hozumi Hasegawa TKO9 Veeraphol Sahaprom

This seems to be the end of the line for the former champion from Thailand. In with the old, out with the new; Hasegawa looks to have the goods.

Edwin Valero (19-0, 19 KOs) TKO2 Genaro Trazancos  (21-8-1, 12 KOs)

Let’s not get too picky, nineteen out of nineteen is still perfect – just because Valero hasn’t knocked out all of his opponents in the first round doesn’t mean it’s the end of the line of the Venezuelan. Fans anxiously await the day he’ll fight someone topnotch.

Upcoming Fights
May 6, 2006 – Tokyo Japan
Rodel Mayol vs. Eagle Kyowa
WBC Minimumweight title

May 10, 2006 – Bangkok, Thailand
Siriporn Sor Siriporn vs. Nanako Kikuchi
WBC Women’s Light Flyweight championship
Nongmai Sor Siriporn vs. TBA

May 13, 2006 – Waterfront Hotel, Lahug, Cebu City, Cebu, Philippines
Randy Suico vs. Kongtoranee Por Surasak
Vacant OPBF Lightweight title

May 20, 2006 – Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan
Jimrex Jaca vs. Nobuhito Honmo
Malcolm Tuñacao vs. Yasuo Kijima
OPBF Bantamweight title

May 20, 2006 – Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA, USA
Rey ‘Boom Boom’ Bautista vs. TBA
Z Gorres vs. TBA

July 16, 2006 – Araneta Coliseum, Manila, Philippines
Manny Pacquiao vs. Oscar Larios