WBC Special Preview: Panya Pradabsri vs. Norihito Tanaka II
Second bite at the cherry
By James Blears
WBC Strawweight Champion Panya Pradabsri (39-1, 23KO) defends his green and gold title for the fourth time, in Rayong, Thailand, on June 28th, this time against a familiar face, old rival Norihito Tanaka (20-9, 10KO).
These two 105-pounders clashed on August 30 last year and the champion won via UD with scores of 118-110, 116-112 and 119-110.
On paper it appears a comfortable, easy victory, but studying the tape of the fight proves otherwise. For a golden-oldie veteran, Japan's Tanaka led Thailand's Panya a spritely merry dance, attacking from the first bell to the last chime in the 12th.
Bangkok boxer, Panya, who stands five feet-four inches tall is four inches loftier than the compact Tokyo fighter, who had to get in real close to land his punches. In so doing he was precisely picked off by the confident champion, who caught him to the head with combinations, uppercuts and went downstairs with an effective body attack. But this didn't slow or deter the sturdy 38-year-old veteran, who kept coming forward and landing some of his own punches, especially the right hook.
It proved to be a demanding workout for Panya, known as Petchmanee CP, who kept his wits about him and prevailed on points, but plain sailing, it wasn`t.
Panya was supposed to fight Yudai Shigeoka on April 16th, at the Yoyogi National Gym in Tokyo. The only other time he'd ever strayed and ventured outside of his homeland of Thailand, was when he lost a MD to ex-WBC Champion Chaozhong Xiong, way back on October 3, 2017 at Datong University Gym in China. But before this scheduled fight against Shigeoka, Panya fell ill, being hospitalised with strep throat and a fever.
Shigeoka fought anyway, defeating Wilfredo Mendez for the WBC Interim title, by seventh round KO. If Panya wins this upcoming bout, Shigeoka who has been waiting patiently, must be next on the list.
Former Japanese champion, Tanaka, who is WBC #10, has previously unsuccessfully twice contested a world title. This is his third and final try. If he wins, aged 38 and four months, he would shatter Hozumi Hasegawa's record as the oldest Japanese world champion, who holds the record at 35 years and nine months.
Carefully weighing up the dotage challenge he accepts, “Considering my age, this will be my last chance to win a world title. I've been training well and I'm going to give it my all to take the belt from him.”
While Panya, who is 32, six years his junior, but has already accumulated a wealth of experience. He fought more than 200 Muay Thai bouts before switching to boxing.
In November 2020, he won a convincing UD, to shear the title from the head of vastly experienced Wanheng Menayothin, who was then 54-0, 18 KO, and in a rematch, delayed by his own Father's passing and the following period of mourning, he repeated the feat, but even more impressively on the scorecards.
At this weight category, there aren't exactly an ample supply of opponents, but one of the biggest challenges is strictly maintaining the very low weight.
Years ago, the great Ricardo “Finito” Lopez confided that he followed a Spartan oriental type of diet. No chocs, nor bread, potatoes or any hint of dessert. And strictly no lapses, even on Christmas Day or New Year's Eve. Ricardo, who was relatively tall for the category at almost five feet-six, was never more than a couple of pounds above the divisionss stipulated limit out of competition, come rain or shine.
10 months ago Tanaka caught too much leather coming in, before he was able to land any meaningful punches of his own in response. The ratio appeared at least three to one. To stand any chance he'll have to attack sooner and in a more sustained manner.
Panya is a highly intelligent fighter who learns and adapts quickly. This time he'll avoid being driven to the ropes, backed up or cornered, and resist the temptation to fight toe to toe, by using his longer reach to pick off the short stature opponent. His superior hand speed, timing and ring generalship should serve him better this second time around. So it's bound to be even tougher for the veteran!
Panya got hit with some decent shots last time, but he didn't panic or instinctively retaliate, patiently biding his time and picking his openings with care and effective guile. On this occasion he will need to establish himself appreciably earlier and soften up the ageing Japanese fighter with more of those sinking body shots.
Tanaka can consider himself rather lucky to get this second bite at the cherry in the twilight of his career. For him it must now be absolutely all or nothing.
On paper, this should be plain sailing for Panya. But when an opponent hasn't got time left, has nothing to really lose, but absolutely everything to gain, it can be a dangerously unpredictable scenario.
Is Hasegawa's record in jeopardy? Were soon going to find out!
Tale of the Tape
PANYA PRADABSRI (Thailand)
WBC Strawweight World Champion
DOB: February 21, 1991
Residence: Bangkok, Thailand
Birthplace: Nam Yuen, Thailand
Record: 39-1, 23 KOs
World title fights: 4-0, 0KOs
Height: 5’4″ – 162cm
Manager: Kokiet Panichyarom
Promoter: Kokiet Group Promotions
NORIHITO TANAKA (Japan)
WBC #9 Strawweight
DOB: February 21, 1985
Residence, birthplace: Tokyo, Japan
Record: 20-9, 10 KOs
World title fights: 0-2
Height: 5’0.5″ – 154cm
WBC Top 10
1. Ricardo Lopez (Mexico)
2. Oleydong Sithsamerchai (Thai)
3. Wanheng Menayothin (Thai)
4. Hideyuki Ohashi (Japan)
5. Eagle Kyowa (Japan)
6. Wandee Chor Chareon (Thai)
7. Jose Antonio Aguirre (Mexico)
8. Hiroki Ioka (Japan)
9. Napa Kiatwanchai (Thai)
10. Kazuto Ioka (Japan)
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