On May 2, in Rachasima, Thailand, Wanheng Menayothin, also known as Chayaphon Moonsri, equalled Floyd Mayweather’s 50-0 by dispatching Panamanian Leroy Estrada in five rounds.
A youthful and spritely southpaw, Estrada had talked a good fight in the days preceding this contest and probably he delivered on his words in the first, out-working Menayothin and landing several stiff jabs and a clutch of left hands to the belly. The WBC minimumweight champion, for his part, moved in with his gloves up, occasionally dropping them to his hips in apparent disdain for his opponent’s punching power, applying pressure and beginning the ominous and by now familiar task of dialing in his power punches.
Menayothin threw no jab. Like Roy Jones, he doesn’t need it, although as a rule Menayothin does not display these skills against ranked contenders. This is because he does not, as a rule, fight ranked contenders. Contenders ranked by the WBC, yes, but contenders ranked by either The Ring or the TBRB, no.
Estrada looked every inch underqualified early in the second after being hit with a straight right and flapping in return. Things got decidedly worse for the youngster in the third when a similar punch deposited him neatly on his trunks with a sheepish look on his face. Essentially unhurt and cognizant of the referee’s count, I think it was nevertheless clear to him by now what is meant by “levels” in the sport of boxing. Estrada is a regional level fighter, and for all that Menayothin is only a regional world champion – and yes, in the abused and degraded world of championship boxing, that does make sense – he was still clearly two or three classes above his fiftieth opponent.
Another right dropped Estrada for a second time a minute later. The challenger was boxing very square and snatching at his chances, inviting the counter. Menayothin really does excel at finding such shots, however. For all that, he struggled to put away his inexperienced challenger in what remained of the round, young Estrada always ready to throw a shot back despite a harrowing close to the session.
Outclassed, hurt and far too brave for his own good, Estrada could easily have been rescued by either the corner or the referee in the fourth and this is the most salient point in appraising the reign of King Menayothin: someone could get hurt.
Estrada, simply, was not in a class where he was able to defend himself against a fighter of Menayothin’s ability. Of course, any two professional adults are entitled to sign any match they choose within the rules of the sport, but by sanctioning this mismatch, the WBC has condoned it.
They have condoned the battering of an inexperienced, under-qualified fighter by a much better fighter on the championship stage. Dropped for a fourth and fifth time in the fourth round, the Panamanian looked like he would not regain his feet from the latest knockdown but showed great heart to get himself back to his feet and back to his corner as the bell rang.
To be fair to the referee and to the corner that irresponsibly, in my view, sent him out for the fifth, Estrada looked fairly lively early, moving well and jabbing well. This is not the point though. The point is that Estrada was so discombobulated internally that anything that landed directly upon him above the shoulders was disturbing him. The referee, probably cognizant of the situation, stopped the fight after the first knockdown of the fifth round and Menayothin had equalled Floyd Mayweather’s 50-0.
I wish I could say it was not always thus.
In nine successful title defenses, Menayothin has faced one of the ten best fighters in his division only once, Saul Juarez, a fighter of seemingly decent pedigree whose form has gone off something of a cliff since he stepped up to the higher level. Juarez was ranked number 8 by TBRB when Menayothin out-pointed him.
Oswoldo Novoa was in possession of the WBC trinket at minimumweight when Menayothin ascended. Novoa’s record of 14-4-1 has since descended to 14-8-3. TBRB ranked him at number 6. Menayothin stopped him late.
Finally, Florante Condes was ranked at number 9 by The Ring back in 2011 when Menayothin out-pointed him 116-112 on all cards.
Other than that, Menayothin has feasted on WBC sanctioned no-hopers, regional titlists, professional losers and payday journeymen. He beat some good fighters, but never a very good fighter. He has shared the division with Hekkie Budler, Kosei Tanaka, Katsunari Takayama, Moises Fuentes and has fought none of them. The other outstanding minimumweight in the world currently is a fellow Thai, Thammanoon Niyomtrong. They will not fight.
The saddest thing, perhaps, is that Menayothin, who has never fought outside of Thailand and probably never will, is likely a very good fighter himself. He has a really nice slip-right, an old-school multi-purpose left-hook, presumably a very decent chin (and the fact that we cannot yet be sure tells you everything you need to know about the level of competition he has faced) and some nuanced takes on strategy and tactics that make him an interesting watch.
There is, however, no point in discussing these here. Menayothin might do interesting things, but until he does them against someone interesting, who can really say they care?
Menayothin’s 50-0 “achievement” has been celebrated in some corners of the internet today, but not by me. Rather than an achievement, I see it as a shame; a shame for the boxing public, a shame on the WBC and a shame for the fighter.
In an era of meaningless ABC title reigns, Menayothin’s is the definitive meaningless ABC title reign.
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