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The Ring All-Star Report Cards: Pongsaklek Wonjongkam

Fighters Network

Note: This feature originally appeared in the October edition of THE RING magazine. The November issue, with Floyd Mayweather Jr. on the cover, is on newsstands now. The cover story is titled: “10 Guys Who Would Have Kicked Mayweather's Butt.”

It was out with the old and in with the new as THE RING composed this year’s All-Star Report Cards. Gone from last year’s survey are such old warhorses as Bernard Hopkins, Roy Jones, Ricky Hatton, Shane Mosley, Juan Manuel Marquez, Chris John and Israel Vazquez. In place of those fighters were newer, fresher names like Yuriorkis Gamboa and Timothy Bradley, a sign that new blood is being pumped into the sport. Meanwhile, names like Sergio Martinez and Pongsaklek Wonjongkam show that our All-Star list always has room for veterans, provided they’re still producing in the ring.

Aside from the youth movement, other trends have emerged this year. For instance, there is a noticeable dip in Mexican or Mexican-American fighters among our 20 All-Stars. When THE RING first compiled this roster in 2003, there were five such fighters listed; this year, there is one. Also, the number of fighters born in the United States shrunk from 13 in 2003 to a measly four this year. Lopez and Miguel Cotto are U.S. citizens by way of Puerto Rico, but they didn’t learn their stuff in the American amateur system, so they can’t be counted. Brits are on the rise, though. There was only one Brit All-Star in 2003, but three made the list this year, sans Hatton.

Perhaps you’re wondering why some of your favorite fighters didn’t make the list, but rest assured that many other fighters were given close consideration. It’s just that some fighters seem to lose fights as we’re creating our list, and others just fall a bit short in terms of box office and general excitement value.

The 20 fighters who made it weren't chosen solely on their ability to sell tickets and attract cable customers but the ability to fill seats definitely plays a big part in our selection process. Some fighters, Nonito Donaire for example, might not yet be a legitimate star on the level of Floyd Mayweather Jr. or Manny Pacquiao, but we felt he can compete with the best in terms of talent, and is certainly on his way to stardom.

Those who were removed from last year’s list are gone because they simply didn’t do enough to merit inclusion this year. The one exception is the late Edwin Valero. He made it last time, and there was every reason to believe he’d repeat.

With that in mind, here are the 2010 All-Star Report Cards. The fighters are judged on talent, achievement, marketability, support system, and growth potential. They are presented in order of weight class, starting with the heavyweights.

The is the final blog post in the series.

Today: Pongsaklek Wonjongkam

Flyweight champion
77-3-1 (41 KOs)

TALENT: Thailand’s living legend is an intelligent, fluid fighter who has mastered the basics of boxing and executes them with businesslike precision. A southpaw with better than average power, one of Wonjongkam’s favorite tactics is a combination to the body followed by a fast uppercut to the chin. The savvy ring technician is gutsy too. A 2002 bout with journeyman Ronnie Canete saw Wonjongkam dropped and nearly stopped in the first round, but he regrouped and knocked Canete out in the third. Grade: A

ACHIEVEMENT: Although many of his opponents could be politely referred to as “less than challenging,” Wonjongkam has had enough career highlights that we’ll forgive the large number of tomato cans on his record. For instance, Wonjongkam won the WBC flyweight title by beating Malcolm Tunacao in March 2001 and held the belt until July 2007, setting a division record of 17 successful defenses. Wonjongkam’s four-bout series with Daisuke Naito began with Wonjongkam scoring a spectacular 34-second knockout of Naito in 2002, the quickest KO in flyweight title history. Wonjongkam beat Naito again in 2005, but Naito defeated Wonjongkam for the title in 2007, ending Wonjongkam’s 55-fight undefeated streak. In 2008, the two rivals fought to a draw. In March 2010, Wonjongkam added to his legend by journeying to Tokyo to defeat the notorious Koki Kameda via majority decision, regaining the WBC title and THE RING championship in the process. Grade: A

MARKETABILITY: Smaller fighters such as Vic Darchinyan, Nonito Donaire, and Jorge Arce grabbed a little bit of the American spotlight in recent years but not so with Wonjongkam. Coming from the rice fields of Korat to become an almost iconic figure in Thailand, Wonjongkam could’ve worked well on America’s story-heavy TV. He’s also a quietly charismatic character who doesn’t shy away from the spotlight. Regrettably for American fans, Wonjongkam remained in the Far East, fighting opponents mandated by the WBC. However, Wonjongkam has found financial success in Japan, where he has made decent money via television rights. It’s doubtful he could cut the same sort of deals with American networks. Grade: B

SUPPORT SYSTEM: Thai promoter/manager Virat Vachchiraratanawongse has been accused of overprotecting Wonjongkam, luring unsuspecting challengers to Thailand, where they wilt in the Bangkok heat. Some feel that Wonjongkam would have already fought in the U.S. if not for the headstrong Vachchiraratanawongse. In Thai culture, however, a fighter is essentially working at the whim of his promoter. Considering that Wonjongkam has picked up some good paydays for a flyweight, the arrangement seems to be working. From an American perspective, the alliance may appear stifling, but in Thailand it’s de rigueur. Grade: B+

GROWTH POTENTIAL: At 32, Wonjongkam has said he wants to fight once in America before he retires, but it’s unlikely. A fifth bout with Naito would create interest in Tokyo, as would a rematch with Kameda. But a surprisingly close decision over unknown Suriyan Por Chokchai in his last fight raised questions about how much he has left. Wonjongkam seems a lock for the International Boxing Hall of Fame. Grade: B

Previous All-Star Report Cards

Wladimir Klitschko
Vitali Klitschko
David Haye
Tomasz Adamek
Andre Ward
Mikkel Kessler
Carl Froch
Lucian Bute
Sergio Martinez
Paul Williams
Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.
Miguel Cotto
Floyd Mayweather Jr.
Manny Pacquiao
Timothy Bradley
Amir Khan
Yuriorkis Gamboa

Nonito Donaire