54-0 – Is boxing’s best record a sham?

James Dielhenn

Senior Boxing Journalist @JamesDielhenn

“Despite sporting success he remains humble” – the ‘Dwarf Giant’ rightfully occupies a piece of history that will take some beating

Last Updated: 22/06/20 12:45pm

Wanheng Menayothin retires with a 54-0 record
Wanheng Menayothin retires with a 54-0 record

Boxing’s tiniest champion had its fattest record. He was “one of the best fighters in the world” but nobody saw him fight – now after 54 wins in a row he has vanished quietly into the darkness.

Wanheng Menayothin, the WBC minimumweight champion from Thailand, has retired with his stat-busting 54-0 record intact but frustratingly before ever making the US debut that was promised when he signed to Oscar De La Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions. His unique and unusual record warrants scrutinising.

Is he harshly treated or vastly overrated? Nothing about Menayothin makes sense – he is the dominant force in his division but also has gaping holes in his career and obvious questions to answer. With help from those who know him in Thailand plus his promoters in the US who did not see retirement coming, Sky Sports have unravelled the full story about the man behind those mythical numbers.

Menayothin last fought in October 2019
Menayothin last fought in October 2019
Menayothin fought all 54 times in Thailand
Menayothin fought all 54 times in Thailand

Floyd Mayweather’s 48th win was in the richest fight of all time against Manny Pacquiao – Menayothin’s was in a six-rounder against Jack Amissa who had already lost 44 times. Menayothin surpassed Mayweather’s famous 50-0 record two years ago by beating Pedro Taduran, perhaps his greatest win, before adding three more victories for good measure.

And that is the crux of comparing numbers on a sheet of paper. Of course Menayothin could rack up 100 unbeaten fights without ever being comparable to the achievements of the mighty Mayweather, who became a five-weight world champion and household name.

Menayothin’s 54-0 record counts for something, but what exactly?

His retirement, aged 34, brings an oft-asked question into sharp focus now. His record is a mish-mash of beating genuine top contenders and weird time-filling six-round bouts against no-hopers.

The frustration is that, last year, he penned a new promotional deal with Golden Boy and planned to fight in the US, outside of Thailand for the first time. It was an opportunity to expand his horizons and for people for finally to judge him for more than the numbers. That will no longer happen.

“He was set to make his US debut in April, we were excited about that but obviously it didn’t happen,” Golden Boy president Eric Gomez told Sky Sports before Menayothin’s retirement.

“When you have a fighter like him with a remarkable record, it is very exciting.

“A few years back we heard of him. He has an incredible record.”

Golden Boy insisted he was the real deal and they planned to prove it: “That’s the idea. To expose him in the US. To get him publicity in the US, because he really is a terrific fighter. He’s very, very good. The best guy in his division. He’s one of the best fighters in the world.”

At first glance it seemed a smart move. The minimumweight division is dominated by boxers from Asia and Central America, and although Golden Boy have zero minimumweights currently on their books, they hold sway with boxers from the Central American market.

“There are a lot of fighters in Mexico, as well,” Gomez explained. “He’s in a weight division that you normally don’t see in the States. But the attraction of the undefeated record? People in the US will be interested to see him.”

Regrettably, now they won’t.

Menayothin battled out of his poor upbringing
Menayothin battled out of his poor upbringing
Menayothin made 12 title defences
Menayothin made 12 title defences

“I have decided that it’s good to stop boxing,” read a social media post from Menayothin. “My parents, siblings have never been in boxing. I’m decide everything for myself. I know how I feel. No one knows my body as much as I do. Everyone needs money. But I would like to heal my body.”

The reality is that, similar to the slum-to-Senator story of Manny Pacquiao in the Philippines, Menayothin’s career has been a raging success in that it dragged him out of abject poverty.

“Like most Thai boxers, he came from a poor family,” a source in Bangkok told Sky Sports.

His knuckles have slowly and agonisingly dragged Menayothin out of Maha Sarakham, an under-privileged city where rat is eaten for dinner.

“He has a good life but is not very rich because most boxers in Thailand only get a small sum from a fight (the biggest share goes to their manager or promoter),” Sky Sports’ source continued.

“He has a normal and private life. There has been very little news about his private life.

“He is one of Thailand’s best sportspeople. He surely is, in a country which does not have a lot of world champions in sports.

“He is quite famous in Thailand. But he is still much less famous than the country’s top athletes in other sports such as football (Chanathip Songkrasin), golf (Ariya Jutanugarn) and badminton (Ratchanok Intanon). He is even less popular than dethroned world boxing champion Srisaket Sor Rungvisai.”

Sor Rungvisai caused a major upset by twice beating Roman ‘Chocolatito’ Gonzalez for the world super-flyweight championship three years ago in his first two fights on US soil. By fighting stateside, his profile back home grew to a level that it hadn’t in 47 previous fights.

All 54 of Menayothin’s fights have been in Thailand and so it seems unusual that he has retired when on the brink of his big chance in the US, which brought Sor Rungvisai such rewards.

“Wanheng should be more famous when he fights, and wins, in the US after signing a deal with Golden Boy Promotions,” said the source.

It would be a marvellous turnaround if Menayothin had learned from Mayweather, whose record he has bettered, by retiring prematurely and forcing a better offer to tempt him back. But is that within his personality?

“Despite sporting success, he remains humble,” Sky Sports’ source said. “But his life has become much better than most of his compatriots.”

Perhaps, for Menayothin, that is enough.

Menayothin signed with Golden Boy but his US debut was cancelled
Menayothin signed with Golden Boy but his US debut was cancelled
WBC president Mauricio Sulaiman with Menayothin
WBC president Mauricio Sulaiman with Menayothin

He was born Chayaphon Moonsri but, as is customary in Thailand, is known by a ‘stage name’ given to him by a sponsor. Wanheng CPF is a local food company who attach their name to the world champion boxer. He was previously known as ‘Kaiyanghada’ which translates as ‘Five-Star Grilled Chicken’.

Likewise Wisaksil Wangek is sponsored by a beverage company to be known as Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, and Thammanoon Niyomtrong is sponsored by a convenience store to brilliantly call himself Knockout CP Freshmart.

Menayothin first boxed in 2007 and, seven years and 35 fights later, became a world champion. You can’t accuse him of not having patience.

What you might accuse him of is a lack of credible opponents which renders his 54-0 record dubious.

He beat Oswaldo Novoa to win the WBC minimumweight title, an opponent who has lost 10 out of 28.

Menayothin made 12 successful defences of his belt against rivals from the Philippines, South Korea, Japan, Mexico, Australia, Panama and South Africa.

But only three opponents in his 54-fight career were unbeaten.

Since becoming world champion in 2014 he has plumped up his record by winning six non-title six-or-eight round bouts, against boxers who currently have a combined 102 defeats.

But context is everything and, in boxing’s tiniest weight division which has a maximum limit of 7st 7lbs, there just aren’t the contenders to put together a stellar résumé. For example the only undefeated contender in WBC’s top 10 is Japan’s Ginjiro Shigeoka, a 20-year-old who has had just five fights.

The other champions are Wilfredo Mendez (WBO), Pedro Taduran (IBF) and Knockout CP Freshmart (WBA).

Puerto Rico’s Mendez has spent his whole career at home plus nearby Panama and Colombia. Menayothin beat Taduran two years ago. The real question mark must be in Menayothin’s compatriot Knockout CP Freshmart.

Two undefeated world champions who only fight in Thailand, why didn’t they meet to decide the rightful No 1? It seems incredible they managed to avoid each other.

That is a blemish on the recently concluded career of Menayothin, the 5’2” history-maker nicknamed ‘the Dwarf Giant’.

But what a career it has been. Fought exclusively in the slums and the shadows, it somehow caught the attention of Floyd Mayweather in Las Vegas. Menayothin held a genuine world championship for six years and strung together a run of wins which will take some beating. If he decides never to return, he rightfully occupies a place in history that he legitimately fought for, and which 54 rivals failed to take away from him.

Source : Sky Sports