Vincent Astrolabio stops, stuns Nawaphon Kaikanha to set up WBC bantamweight title bid
Tensions ran high as Filipino Vincent Astrolabio (19-4, 14 KOs) stopped Thai Contender Nawaphon Kaikanha (58-3-1, 48 KOs) in the WBC elimination bout today at the Bazaar in Rachadadaphisek in Bangkok. The winner will fight current WBC bantamweight titleholder Alexandro Santiago.
This was a very exciting matchup, as both men have unsuccessfully challenged for a world title in the past but fell short in their attempts. Astrolabio, who is rated No. 6 by The Ring at 118 pounds, lost by MD to Jason Maloney in Stockton Arena for the WBO bantamweight title earlier this year. Thai veteran Kaikanha (aka Nawaphon Sor Rungvisai) lost to Juan Hernandez Navarrete for the vacant WBC flyweight title in Bangkok in 2017. An obvious sense of urgency pervaded the fight.
The bout started with Astrolabio pressuring the Thai fighter and controlling the center of the ring, keeping Kaikanha on the back foot and then against the ropes. Astrolabio began landing some hard shots and looked comfortable during the fight.
The home fighter’s team instructed him to fight at a distance and use his footwork more. In Round 4, things seemed to change as Kaikanha found his rhythm and started exchanging with his Filipino rival, getting in some successful counters.
The second half of the fight is when things started to heat up, with the Thai veteran putting some serious pressure to Astrolabio and making it a firefight with hard combination punches to the body and head. Over the next few rounds, Astrolabio started to look fatigued and had no answer for the Thai. Kaikanha added more pressure and volume punching in each round. Towards the end of the fight, Astrolabio looked to have some success with counterpunching but was already down a few rounds.
In round 11, Astrolabio looked to be having some success with his jab to the body and head, mixing in body attacks and hard left hooks. He used great counterpunches as Kaikanha kept walking forward. Astrolabio needed a stoppage to win the fight and ended up sending Kaikanha to the canvas at 1:30 into the penultimate round with a beautifully placed right hand. The Thai seemed to beat the count but looked as though he had wobbly legs. Astrolabio then came in with a series of strong left hooks and referee Yuji Fukuchi had seen enough, stopping the fight at 1:09 in Round 11.
Kaikanha did not seem happy with this stoppage and started protesting. His team did not seem pleased with the result either and felt the fight was stopped prematurely. Tensions rose as fans also expressed their disappointment. Referee Yuji Fukuchi had to face some serious slurs from the crowd. You could argue that Kaikanha did look fine, and it was a world title elimination bout. It would have made sense for Fukuchi to give the fighter time to defend himself. However, in the end it is the referee’s job to keep the fighter safe, and he is the man in charge.
I had the opportunity to talk to team Astrolabio after their win. His manager, commenting on the future of the champion said, “We will return home and begin light training in the Philippines and then fly to the U.S. to finish training camp. I would like Vincent to prepare for three months for his next fight against Santiago. Where the fight takes place depends on Sean Gibbons, but it will be much better if the fight takes place in the U.S. The game plan today was to time Kaikanha and pace ourselves during the fight. We knew Kaikanha wanted to bring a pressure fight to us, but we wanted to remain patient.”
When asked how he felt after his win, Astrolabio commented, “I was fully prepared for this fight. I actually prepared for this fight for three months. I needed to come fully prepared, as my target is to be a world champion. This win is a big victory for myself and my team. I really felt good during the fight and I wanted to time him and win by knockout, as I want to be a world champion”
As for Kaikanha, the veteran had looked as though he was en route to a victory. However, the old boxing adage that “all it takes is one shot” couldn’t hold more true.
I’m not sure what’s next for the former world title contender. He has given us some incredible, high-paced action fights on the boxing scene in Thailand. Now 31 years old and turning pro in 2009, I’m not sure if this is the last time we will be seeing Kaikanha fight for another world title. We will have to just wait and see.
Santiago captured the WBC title with a unanimous decision over Nonito Donaire in July.
Also on the fight card, former Ring/WBC junior bantamweight champion Srisaket Sor Rungvisai took a stay-busy fight that seemed more like a sparring session, with the former champion knocking down and later stopping his opponent in the third round.