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Fighters make a fight, not the belt on offer, 29/10/2009

Pongsaklek Wonjongkam's withdrawal from his top-of-the-bill fight in Krabi last week left a big hole to fill and promoter Piyarat Vaciraratanawongse was, unfortunately, only able to rustle up a poor contest involving Noknoi Sithiprasert as a replacement.

Light-flyweight Noknoi faced Filipino Joel Rafols, who had lost his last three fights including two in Thailand this year against Wandee Singwangcha and Chatchai Sor Tanayong.

Noknoi had little trouble becoming the third Thai to beat Rafols when he stopped him in the eighth round of a scheduled 10.

To show the gulf in class between them, the computerised ratings place Noknoi as the 52nd best light-flyweight in the world while Rafols is placed 196th at flyweight.

They rate Noknoi as the fourth best in this country behind Wisanu Pornobnum, Kompayak Por Pramook and Pigmy Muangchaiyaphum while Rafols is the 30th best flyweight in the Philippines.

Clearly it was a marking time fight for the 22-year-old from Krabi, who now has a 24-4 (17KOs) record and holds the lightly-regarded WBC Youth title.

Although WBC officials who make money from these "Youth" contests may try to paint them as meaningful, the fact is they lack credibility because there is no ranking system in place.

Almost anyone can challenge for the belt, which leaves the door open for "Youth champions" to hand pick weak opposition while their handlers bid for sponsorship on the basis of the matches being title fights.

That's not to say any of the other belts are better or worse as rankings from all sanctioning bodies are open to interpretation.

Pongsaklek's illness threw last week's promotion into turmoil because it was the only Queensbury Rules fight on the card, which was supported by an eight-man Muay Thai elimination tournament.

Former WBC flyweight champion Pongsaklek had been set to defend his "interim" belt against Filipino Richard Garcia but became sick and was ruled out at short notice.

The "interim" belt was originally introduced to keep a division active if a champion was unable to defend due to medical or legal reasons, although it has since been awarded to fighters even when a champion was perfectly active (as in Pongsaklek's case).

Interestingly, one of the fighters in the Muay Thai tournament was Panomroonglek Kratingdaenggym, who is also a highly-ranked Queensbury Rules boxer.

Panomroonglek has a pro record of 27-0 and is the number one ranked challenger to WBC flyweight champion Daisuke Naito, yet Petchyindee Boxing Promotions seem in no rush to get him that fight as they are concentrating on Pongsaklek winning it back.

Personally, I would have liked to see Panomroonglek step in to fight Garcia last Thursday. It would have been a much more meaningful and even match than Noknoi v Rafols, and would also have been a worthy fight to have as the showpiece event on such a heavily-sponsored televised show.

Instead, Panomroonglek lost on points in his first Muay Thai fight and so only made a cameo appearance.

His boxing career appears to be in limbo and that may be due to politics. Panomroonglek was once a WBC Youth champion but he passed the upper age limit and was forced to ditch it.

The Petchyindee camp stay away from the WBC-affiliated Asian Boxing Council titles and instead go the "Youth" and "interim" route so Panomroonglek has nowhere to go as long as he sticks with the WBC.

Last week's top-of-the-bill can be viewed sympathetically because it was arranged at the last minute but today Thangthong Kiattaweesuk (13-0) defends his IBF Pan-Pacific bantamweight belt against China's Wang Jun Hui live on the same station, Channel 7. Wang is listed as 5-8-1 and has already been beaten by Chatchai and Noknoi.

Only sponsors and television companies can change these kinds of fights. They pay the piper so they can call the tune and demand quality control.

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