Never underestimate a Thai fighter.
When Argentina’s Lucas Matthysse (38-4, 35 KOs) meets Thailand’s virtually unknown Tewa Kiram (38-0, 28 KOs) for the vacant WBA welterweight world title on Saturday Jan. 27, at the Forum in Inglewood, don’t forget about the past.
Back in 1995, at the very same Inglewood Forum, recall an event that featured Mexico’s ultra-popular Humberto “Chiquita” Gonzalez facing a similar unknown Thailand product named Saman Sorjaturong for the light flyweight world title. History was made.
With thousands of screaming fans in favor of Mexico’s Gonzalez, who was fresh off winning a trilogy against the mighty Michael Carbajal, the challenger Sorjaturong arrived with a mere hundred fans carrying Thailand’s blue and red colored flags into the arena.
Gonzalez was a boxer-puncher who had staved off repeated attacks from Arizona’s Carbajal in epic fights that cracked the million dollar barrier for the weight class. After a second consecutive win against the Phoenix native he was defending the WBC and IBF light flyweight titles against Sorjaturong. Very few outside of Thailand knew much about the challenger.
The unknown Sorjaturong showed speed, cunning and a solid chin as he traded blinding and thudding blows with Gonzalez that summer night. A stunned crowd saw the title change hands by seventh round knockout. The only cheers heard were the few hundred fans gathered near the tunnel as they waved the blue and red flags of Thailand.
Was it a quirk?
Sorjaturong continued as champion for another five years and successfully defended the world title a total of 10 times from 1995 to 1999. Incidentally, his win over Gonzalez at the Forum was voted Fight of the Year by Ring Magazine in 1995.
Just recently we saw another Thai fighter show the world what they are capable of doing when Srisaket Sor Rungvisai handed Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez the first two defeats of his splendid career.
Now we have this tall undefeated welterweight named Kiram who has never fought outside of Thailand. But that can also be an advantage when few know his weaknesses, yet he knows theirs.
“I’ve studied the tapes of him (Matthysse),” said Kiram at Westside L.A. Boxing Club last week. “We have prepared accordingly and we have a plan.”
Argentina’s “La Maquina” Matthysse has built a reputation as one of prizefighting’s most feared sluggers. But he will be the much shorter guy when he enters the boxing ring on Saturday. The last time he faced a much taller guy he got whipped by Viktor Postal at the nearby StubHub Center. An injured eye forced him to stay away from the fight game for a couple of years. He returned last year and looked rusty against Emmanuel Taylor in Las Vegas. Of course he won by knockout.
“I feel good. I’m still young,” said Matthysse, 35, while in Indio, Calif. “Ask me again when I turn 40. I still have the desire inside.”
Both welterweights are big punchers and each expects a lot of fan support from their countrymen.
“Yes I heard a lot of people from my country will be here,” said Kiram, 25, who stands close to six-feet tall. “I want to take the title back to Thailand.”
It will be televised by HBO.
Venezuela’s Jorge Linares (43-3, 27 KOs) defends the WBA lightweight world title against Mercito Gesta (31-1-2, 17 KOs) a speedy southpaw from the Philippines. It’s the co-feature on HBO.
It seems like decades have passed since Linares first stepped into the American spotlight in July 2007. That night he stopped Oscar Larios for the featherweight world title and showed off his glittering fistic skills. He looked unstoppable.
Two years later he was stopped by Juan Salgado and all the glitter was rubbed off with a dirty towel.
But the fighter known as “Nino de Oro” continued to impress many with his abundance of can’t-miss talent. Then he lost to less talented Mexican boxers in back-to-back- bouts.
It didn’t stop the former stablemate of the late great Edwin Valero. Now here we are six years away from his last loss to Sergio “Yeyo” Thompson and Linares seems better than ever. Four wins against top British fighters with three taking place in enemy territory can establish an aura of invincibility.
Has Linares finally caught up to early lofty expectations by experts?
“No Mercy” Gesta has also endured a somewhat similar trajectory as Linares.
The southpaw boxer-puncher looked unbeatable when he was tearing up Southern California opponents from 2007 to 2012.
Gesta, 30, has tremendous talent and speed and never seemed to be flustered by any opponent. Then he met Miguel Vazquez for the lightweight world title and the Mexican fighter known as “El Titere” flustered him like he flustered dozens before him with his bouncy puppet-like style.
“I learned a lot from that fight,” said Gesta when in Santa Monica last month. “I tried too hard to knock him out.”
Now Gesta has paired with wizard boxing trainer Freddie Roach who formerly trained Linares a few years ago. Any time you have Roach on your side it’s like bumping up the boxing IQ a few dozen points.
But don’t expect bad words toward each other. Both Gesta and Linares are class guys.
“I respect Mercito’s talent and expect a very good fight,” said Linares.
A few other bouts not available on HBO must be watched in person. First there is local L.A. fighter Tenochtitlan Nava (7-0) matched against Francisco Esparza (6-0-1) of Las Vegas. Esparza, known as “El Alacran,” is trained by Hall of Fame fighter Fernando “El Feroz” Vargas. This featherweight contest is a guaranteed fire fight.
A middleweight bout features North Hollywood’s Ferdinand Kerobyan (7-0) against Lucius Johnson (4-1-1), a fighter out of Compton who has faced better competition. But who knows what happens when these middleweights collide. I’ve never seen a bad performance from an Armenian fighter yet.
Several other fights are planned including the return of the Filipino sledgehammer Romero Duro (15-1, 13 KOs). This guy puts other guys to sleep. He has scary power and faces Mexican veteran Yardley Armenta Cruz (22-9, 12 KOs) in an eight round lightweight clash.
Tickets begin at $10 for this pretty evenly matched fight card. It’s always great to see fights at the Forum. Doors open at 3 p.m. Phone number for box office (310) 330-7300.
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