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2009-04-29
THE HISTORY OF THE FLYWEIGHT DIVISION SINCE JANUARY 1937- Part V
(Pictured: the reigning lineal and WBC champion Daisuke Naito)


Part IV ended with the year 2006. The lineal championship still belonged to WBC champion Pongsaklek Wonjongkam. Vic Darchinyan held the IBF and IBO titles and Omar Narvaez was still the WBO champ. Injured WBA champion Lorenzo Parra was inactive but the WBA crowned an interim titlist before the year was over, former WBA light flyweight champion Roberto Vasquez.

We start Part V with 2007, a year in which only one of the fighters who began the year as a flyweight champion was still a flyweight champion when the year ended.

Wonjongkam was the first of the flyweight champions to fight in 2007. The lineal and WBC champion TKOed Filipino Lito Sisnorio in the fourth round of a non-title bout on January 26. Sisnorio had lost four of his last five bouts prior to meeting Pongsaklek but his only win during that period, which was sandwiched right in the middle of his defeats, was a fifth-round stoppage of previously unbeaten Fahpetchnoi Sor Chipattana. (Tragically, Sisnorio would die from injuries suffered in his next bout, a KO-4 loss to former lineal and WBC champion Chatchai Sasakul.)

Darchinyan was the first of the flyweight champions to defend his title in 2007. On March 3, he scored a frightening TKO-12 over former IBF junior flyweight champion Isaac Burgos. Burgos was rushed to a hospital and went emergency brain surgery. The operation was successful and Burgos survived.

A week after Darchinyan's almost tragic victory, Narvaez made his first defense of the year and tenth of his reign. He won a 12-round, unanimous decision over the Frenchman Brahim Asloum, a former WBA flyweight title challenger who would win the WBA light flyweight title before the year was over.

Parra became the first of the flyweight champions to lose his title in 2007. He failed to make the flyweight limit, weighing in at 116 3/4 pounds, for his third bout with Sakata, and lost the WBA championship on the scales. The title was on the line only for Sakata when the two fought on March 19. Had the Japanese challenger lost, the title would have remained vacant at least until the WBA decided whether or not to promote interim champ Vasquez to full champion status. Sakata spared the WBA championship commitee from having to make that decision. After a close first round, he pounded Parra in the second. The Venezuelan failed to come out of the third round, choosing to remain sitting on his stool after the bell rang. Sakata was declared the winner at fourteen seconds of the third round.

On April 6, Wonjongkam made the 17th successful defense of his lineal and WBC titles. After a proposed superfight with undefeated former WBA light flyweight champion Koki Kameda failed to materialize, he had signed to meet another Japanese contender, Tomonobu Shimizu. He stopped the 10-1 Shimizu in the seventh round, breaking the 25-year-old challenger's nose in the process. The total number of his bouts belied the extent of Shimizu's skill. A clever boxer, Shimizu owned wins over Hiroyuki Hisataka, Kenji Yoshida, and, in his bout before challenging Wonjongkam, Chitpattana. He would go on to win the Japanese national title and challenge for the WBC belt again.

July 2007 drastically altered the flyweight landscape. On July 1, Sakata "unified" the WBA title by winning a 12-round, unanimous decision over Vasquez. Unlike their somewhat controversial first meeting, there was no doubt as to won their rematch.

Six days afterwards, Darchinyan was shockingly upset by Glenn Donaire's younger brother, Nonito. The IBF and IBO champion was dethroned when after being floored by a devastating left hook in the fifth round, he was obviously in no shape to continue.

Darchinyan, though, would bounce back. He's since won the IBO, IBF, WBC, and WBA titles at 115 and is now scheduled to challenge for the IBF title at 118.

The long, record-setting reign of Pongsaklek Wonjongkam came to an end on July 18. Wonjongkam had agreed to defend his title against old rival Daisuke Naito for the third time because of financial considerations. There had been an offer to meet Darchinyan in a unification bout but the offer to fight Naito was accompanied by a possible paycheck more than three times what had been offered as compensation for fighting "The Raging Bull."

Wonjongkam fell behind in his bout with Naito and, although finishing strongly, lost a unanimous decision.

In the next flyweight title bout, Narvaez, the only one of the flyweight champions at the beginning of the year to still hold his championship, easily turned back the challenge of Marlon Marquez. On September 14, he stopped the Nicaraguan in the fourth round. Marquez' record showed losses to Vasquez and Mexico's Alejandro Hernandez but he did own a 12-round, unanimous decision over his countryman Evert Briceno, a former WBO junior flyweight title challenger.

Naito made the first defense of his lineal and WBC titles on October 11. He faced Daiki Kameda, Koki's younger brother, and, after a foul-filled fiasco, retained his title by unanimous decision. Daiki and his father, trainer Shiro Kameda, were suspended as a result of their actions during the bout.

Sakata and Donaire also retained their titles before the year was over. On November 11, Sakata fought to a 12-round draw with the 40-1 Denkaosan Kaovichit, whose only loss was to then WBA champ Eric Morel in 2002, and, on December 1, Donaire halted former Darchinyan challenger Luis Maldonado in the eighth round. Maldonado had won four in a row including an IBF eliminator over American Sergio Espinoza since losing to Darchinyan.

Narvaez made the first flyweight title defense of 2008. On January 25, he won a 12-round unanimous decision over former Olympian Carlos Tamara of Colombia, who earned his shot by upsetting then WBO #1 ranked Alejandro Hernandez.

Naito retained the lineal and WBC championships with a 12-round draw against Wonjongkam on March 8. Had the wild punching Naito been more accurate, he would have won. On the other hand, had the accurate punching Thai southpaw been busier, he won have regained the titles.

Three weeks later, Sakata met former OPBF light flyweight champion Shingo Yamaguchi, who had previously challenged, unsuccessfully, for the WBA light flyweight title. Yamaguchi, a veteran with wins over Wyndel Janiola, Nobuaki Masuda, Bert Batawang, Munetsugu Kayo, and Junichi Ebisuoka, lost on points after 12 hard-fought rounds.

Narvaez traveled to Spain to make the 13th defense of his reign. He stopped former European champion Ivan Pozo in seven rounds on May 9. Pozo would go on to regain the European diadem in 2009.

On July 30, Sakata and Naito fought, but not against each other. Sharing billing on a card at Tokyo's Yoyogi First Gym, the two champions defended against two of their countryman. Sakata won a 12-round, unanimous decision over Hiroyuki Hisataka, who owned victories over the Filipino knockout artist Batawang, future Thai champion Yuchi Eausampan, then Philippine Boxing Federation champ Federico Catubay, and, in his most recent bout, perennial contender Hussein Hussein.

Naito, behind on all three official scorecards, rallied to knock out former Wonjongkam challenger Tomonobu Shimizu in the 10th round.

Narvaez tied Miguel Canto for the second most successful title defenses by a flyweight champion, when, on September 20, he outpointed the aforementioned Alejandro Hernandez in title defense #14. Hernandez had defeated Jose Alberto Cuadros since losing to Tamara and owned wins over Abel Ochoa, Zacarias Chan, then South American and Argentine champion Raul Eliseo Medina, Gilberto Keb Baas, Jonathan Perez, and Marlon Marquez.

IBF and IBO champion Donaire was inactive for most of the year. A proposed big money defense against Hussein Hussein in Dubai, United Arab Emirates failed to materialize. Hussein went on to fight in an IBF eliminator against South African Moruti Mthalane and lose by unanimous decision. In his only title defense of 2008, Donaire, on November 1, defeated Mthalane, stopping the mandatory challenger in the 6th round.

Naito gave Yamaguchi a shot at the lineal and WBC titles on December 23. Daisuke had a much easier time than Sakata did. In control for most of the bout, Naito, well ahead on the judges' cards, stopped Yamaguchi in the 11th round.

On the last day of the year, Sakata became an ex-champion. He was knocked out in the second round of his rematch with Denkaosan Kaovichit.

So far in 2009, Narvaez has moved closer to Wonjongkam's record, Donaire has made a impressive defense in what may be his last appearance as a flyweight, and Wonjongkam has captured the interim version of his old WBC championship.

On February 7, in a "Battle of the Unbeatens", Narvaez retained the WBO for the 15th time (two shy of Wonjongkam's mark) by stopping WBO #1 ranked Rayonta Whitfield in th 10th round. Whitfield, an American, was the WBO's mandatory challenger and had defeated Luis Doria, Tamara, Jair Jimenez, Domingo Guillen, future WBO interim min-flyweight champion Manuel "Chango" Vargas (in a WBO eliminator), and Wilfrido Valdez.

Donaire, after tentative plans to challenge for the vacant WBO junior bantamweight title did not pan out, decided to stay at 112 for one more defense of his IBF belt. On April 19, he took on undefeated American Raul Martinez who came down from the super flyweight/junior bantamweight class for the bout. Martinez, the reigning IBA and NABF champion at 115 pounds, had hoped to duplicate Donaire's feat. Donaire was the reigning NABF super flyweight champion at the time he came down a division to challenge and dethrone Darchinyan. The tough Texan, with wins over Andres Ledesma, Alex Becerra, Ilido Julio, Alex Baba, Benjamin Garcoia, former WBO champion Isidro Garcia, and previously undefeated Victor Proa, whom he knocked out in one round, proved to be no test for the dynamic Donaire. Floored four times during the bout, Martinez was finally rescued by referee Pete Podgorski in the 4th round.

Five days after Donaire's victory, Wonjongkam, who had posted four straight wins over unheralded opponents since his draw with Naito, fought Mexico's Julio Cesar Miranda, who had stopped highly regarded Omar Salado in a WBC eliminator. At stake was the vacant WBC interim title. After 12 rounds, the former champion won by unanimous decision. The scores by which Wonjongkam came won, 117-111, 119-110, and 118-109, did not reflect the effort put forth by the game, hard-punching Miranda. Wonjongkam deserved the victory but in no way did he have an easy time attaining it.

Both lineal and WBC champ Naito and WBA beltholder Kaovichit are scheduled to make optional defenses on May 26. Naito will be facing Xiong Zhao Zhong in Shanghai, China. If the Chinese challenger wins, it could possibly be the biggest upset in flyweight history and possibly in the entire history of professional boxing. Kaovichit will be fighting at home in Thailand against former WBA title challenger Hiroyuki Hisataka who has knocked out unranked Yuki Takahashi since losing to Sakata.

The splintering of the flyweight title will continue on June 27 when a bout the WBA has sanctioned for its vacant interim title will take place In Mexico. Undefeated former WBA light flyweight champion Koki Kameda, the WBA's # 1 contender and official challenger, will be taking on Salado, who, since losing to Miranda, has outpointed California-based Brazilian Jose Albuquerque.

So, we're up-to-date and I think we can plainly see that Naito is indeed the lineal champion. His title's lineage dates back to the January 8, 1975 bout between Shoji Oguma and Miguel Canto. That's thirty-four years of uninterrupted history. It's a lineage The Ring recognized and endorsed until stopping publication in 1989 at a time when Yong Kang Kim was not only the WBC titlist but the lineal champion and The Ring's champion. When The Ring resumed publication under new ownership, it adopted a policy of just listing the top ten for each division. When The Ring decided to again recognize the "real" champion of each division, they "started anew"- in other words, they chose not to trace the lineage of any of the titles and acted, at least when it came to world titles, as if boxing began after 2000. Thus, true flyweight champions Sot Chitalada (in his second reign, The Ring recognized his first), Muangchai Kittikasem, Yuri Arbachakov, Chatchai Elite-Gym (AKA Dutch Boy Gym, AKA Sasakul), Manny Pacquiao, Medgoen 3-K Battery (AKA Singsurat), Malcolm Tunacao, Wonjongkam, and Naito have been denied their due. Those men weren't simply WBC champions. They were lineal champions who should have been or, in the case of Naito, should be recognized as such by "The Bible of Boxing." Fortunately, the International Boxing Research Organization-affiliated Cyber Boxing Zone does recognize the true lineage and thus affords these fighters the lineal designation.
 
Article By: Ken Pollitt