The strawweight equivalent of Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao is finally upon the boxing masses.
It’s no longer the unification bout that the sport has long craved, but Thammanoon Niyomtrong and Wanheng Menayothin are set to meet years after a fight was first discussed. Niyomtrong’s WBA “Super” strawweight title will be at stake for the Thai superfight, which will take place on July 20 in Chonburi, Thailand.
The long-awaited clash between two of the best strawweights of the last ten years was formally announced by Bankgok’s Petchyindee Academy.
Niyomtrong (23-0, 9KOs)—better known as Knockout CP Freshmart—picks an exceptional opponent for his one granted voluntary title defense before being ordered later this year to face his mandatory challenger.
Boxing’s long-reigning active male titlist, the 31-year-old from Surin, Thailand has held the WBA “Super” title since a twelve-round, unanimous decision win over Byron Rojas in their June 2016 title consolidation clash. Those successful defenses have followed for Niyomtrong, including unanimous decision victories over former WBC title claimant Chaozhong Xiong and—in a rematch—Rojas in back-to-back fights in 2018.
In his most recent start, Niyomtrong put the “knockout” back in Knockout CP Freshmart with a fifth-round stoppage of Robert Paradaro in their entertaining slugfest last December in Phuket.
All but two title defenses overlapped with the six-year reign enjoyed by Bangkok’s Menayothin (55-2, 19KOs or 56-2, 20KOs; more on that later), whose birth name is Chayaphon Moonsri but is better known by his alias. Towards the back half of his title reign, Menayothin gained a cult following with his most ardent followers referring to him as the true ‘TBE’ [‘The Best Ever’].
The claim was an obvious dig at Mayweather, who adopted the persona towards the end of his legendary career upon retiring for good with a perfect 50-0 record in 2017. It picked up steam as Menayothin reached the mark and surpassed the mark in back- to-back title defenses in 2018. A twelve-round win over Pedro Taduran—who later went on to win the IBF strawweight title—saw Menayothin briefly enjoy immortality status in hitting 51-0, one year almost exactly to the day of Mayweather’s tenth -round knockout of Conor McGregor in August 2017.
Menayothin spent his next several fights wiping his ass with Mayweather’s resume, only for the pandemic to leave him stuck at 54-0. The sport and much of the world coming to a screeching halt ruined plans for his April 2020 US debut, having abruptly announced his retirement later that June.
The sport’s longest-reigning unbeaten titlist at the time quickly had a change of heart, although his return to the ring also produced the end of his run. A November 2020 clash with countryman Panya Pradabsri at City Hall Ground in Nakhon Sawan saw Menayothin suffer an upset twelve-round, unanimous decision to end his WBC title reign after six years and twelve successful title defenses.
Just one win has followed—a 3rd round knockout in a walkover fight over Jinnawat Rienpit last October at the same location, which also hosted the rematch with Pradabsri this past March. Menayothin once again came up short, although in a closer fight than suggested by the unanimous scorecards of 117-111 in favor of the defending WBC titlist.
Menayothin has since returned to the ring in what was originally a fourth-round knockout in an oddly scheduled rematch with Rienpit this past May 24. Official records keeper BoxRec.com recognizes the fight as a No-Contest due to Rienpit having suffered a second-round stoppage just ten days prior, citing that Thai rule should have placed him under a 30-day suspension. There is no indication that the local commission overturned the official verdict.
Regardless, Menayothin is without a belt heading into the matchup that was called upon by diehard boxing fans for much of the latter half of the 2010s. Meanwhile, Niyomtrong will attempt his eleventh overall title defense before bracing himself for a possible title consolidation clash with secondary WBA titlist Erick ‘Mini Pacman’ Rosa (5-0, 1KO) later this year.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox