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Top Line 105lb Clash Fails to Satisfy as Niyomtrong Edges Rojas

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  • Top Line 105lb Clash Fails to Satisfy as Niyomtrong Edges Rojas

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    By Matt McGrain

    While the usual hysteria surrounds the forthcoming match between the second and third best heavyweights in the world, a meeting between the second and third best minimumweight fighters passed with considerably less fanfare in Chonburi, Thailand today, as Thai Thammanoon Niyomtrong (also known, understandably, by the catchier name “Knockout CP Freshmart”) defeated Byron Rojas, out of Nicaragua over twelve rounds in a rematch of their unsatisfactory 2016 encounter.

    Unsatisfactory only in that it featured numerous clinches instigated by Niyomtrong in a poorly refereed contest that saw an ABC strap pass from the Nicaraguan to the Thai in circumstances which, if not quite objectionable, were questionable.

    The intervening years had seen an abuse of the bauble Niyomtrong carried as obscene as anything observed at the higher weights; in five defenses the Thai matched only one fighter who could arguably have been named among the best ten fighters in the world in his weight class, his 2018 defense against Chinaman Chaozhong Xiong, who could, at an absolute stretch, be seen as elite.

    That fight aside, Niyomtrong has happily tread water and absorbed currency.

    Rojas, meanwhile, has fared little or no better, his two round defeat of 15-14 journeyman Eddy Castro likely as low as either man has stooped in protecting status and engineering a rematch that remained of interest.

    That interest was drawn because it would settle the claimant for the #2 spot behind the clear world’s best at the 105lb limit, Wanheng Menayothin, who famously overhauled Floyd Mayweather’s 50-0. Menayothin is now wielding the paper record of 52-0 with his most recent victory over a fighter named Mekiston Marganti who boasts a ledger of 2-10-1 by BoxRec.

    Minimumweight is a more complex disaster than almost every other division.

    Niyomtrong, then, has supplied some much needed clarity with a twelve round decision over Rojas and this time it is likely indisputable that he deserved the victory.

    The Thai’s big problem in his last contest with Rojas was his slow start and the impression that this slow start only wavered when Rojas began to struggle for fitness. Fresh from a victory over the legitimate Hekkie Budler, Rojas was favored to win that fight, so when Niyomtrong began to close the gap as the rounds elapsed, stamina was a handy alibi, and one not without merit. In truth though, Niyomtrong is a difficult fighter to box. Powerful if not as concussive as his now inexplicable moniker of “Knockout” seems, he is rough, expert on the inside, and qualified in slowing a fight to the desired pace. Add, yes, his almost perpetual home-advantage and you have a recipe for dominance at the poundage.

    So it proved for Rojas, who was able to recreate portions of his fast early start from their first contest but who appeared to succumb both to an inherent inability to sustain a fast pace that he himself sets and who also remains vulnerable to Niyomtrong’s vicious body-attack which was perhaps the outstanding feature of the first third of the fight.

    Come the fourth, the clinches began, and with them, Niyomtrong’s dominance. Rojas’ superiority, brief and such as it was, was fed by space. Niyomtrong denied it and with a sense of inevitability that made his absence of panic in the first two rounds more understandable. Niyomtrong knew where he was headed and it was exactly where he had been in their first contest.

    While it would be an exaggeration to call his edge irresistible, it was consistently enough for him to edge narrow rounds throughout the central part of the contest; however, Niyomtrong faded dramatically in the final two rounds, faded fast enough that it seemed a bizarre and unearned victory. The Nicaraguan bombed and surged his way through those final two rounds, while Niyomtrong gave ground and tried for clinical counterpunches that his heart was no longer behind. The final bell was a clear relief to him in what had been a hotly contested and rambunctious if untidy contest.

    The judges rendered the bout 116-112, 115-113 and 117-111 for Niyomotrong.

    The result leaves Niyomtrong and Menayothin the clear top two in the division. One might imagine this would make for an easy showdown at the lightest of all the weight limits, two Thais meeting for superiority in a weight class they traditionally hold sway in. Unfortunately this is not the case. Menayothin has literally no preference as to who he faces, allowing a promoter keen to milk all the cash he can from his charge to make all fistic decisions; Niyomtrong, too, seems content to minimize risk, his clashes with Rojas, for all that they are meaningful, the single glaring exception to a rule he has held to for a number of years.

    Best for boxing would have been a Rojas victory. But bitterness is unreasonable given that boxing’s ills are self inflicted. Both Menayothin and Niyomtrong, somehow, are allowed to call themselves champions. Why risk diminished earnings by setting that status on the line against a live opponent?

    Still, hope springs eternal, and promotional rivalries do not last forever. That a great fight can be made is the first requirement for a great fight and these two Thais fulfill that requirement, if nothing else. Seeing them in a ring together is unlikely, but it is not impossible.

    In the meantime these two potentially great rivals must, somehow, content themselves with treading water in exact proximity to one another.