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PONGSAKLEK KEEPS RACKING UP DEFENCES : On November 26, 2006
When Filipino Malcolm Tunacao kayoed Thailand's Medgoen Kratingdaenggym in round seven at Udon Thani on May 19, 2000 the world of boxing, especially experts in this part were stunned by the result. No-one expected the Thai who had kayoed Manny Pacquiao in three rounds in Nakhon Sithammarat eight months before to lose to the Filipino.
But Tunacao was a former amateur with a polished orthodox boxer's stance and was armed with a sharp left jab and a penetrative right cross.
He baffled the Thai right from the start and took the title away in the seventh round by knock out.
The Petchyindee Boxing Camp, which had produced superb flyweight world champion Chatchai Sasakul, didn't know how to regain the title.
They wondered whether Chatchai should be re-introduced.
The late Papa Boonyong, a well-known matchmaker, and Khun Virat Vachiraratanawongse, the chairman of Diamond Boxing Promotions sought advice from this writer who picked Pongsaklek Wonjongkam, though a light-flyweight at that time, to beat Tunacao.
Thus was born the new challenger for the world flyweight title.
He was, at that time, a former minor belt holder at junior flyweight with a record of 40 fights and suffered two defeats to the same fighter _ Jerry Pahayahay of the Philippines.
He lost via a points decision in Sakon Nakhon on December 22,1995 and suffered a knockout defeat in the fifth round in Kalasin on July 11, 1996.
His manager, Khun Virat matched Pongsaklek a third-time against Pahayahay and after a bruising battle, Pongsaklek outpointed the tough Filipino on February 27,1998 on Samui Island.
March has been Pongsaklek's lucky month. For, it was on March 28 that he registered a first round technical knockout win over South Africa's Mzukisi Skali to win his minor title and it was on March 2, 1991 he won the WBC flyweight title via a first round knockout win over Malcolm Tunacao in Phichit.
Pongsaklek has written glorious chapters in his boxing career, which still flourishes today.
Born on August 11,1977 Pongsaklek started young, fighting Muay Thai when he was 10-years-old.
He received 100 baht as his purse for his first appearance when he registered a three-round points victory.
Father Chaiyant Wonjongkam, who is a garage-owner, and housewife mother Sathit were proud of their son.
Like most Thai boxers and Muay Thai exponents Pongsaklek moved to Bangkok very young, at the age of 17, and sought to advance his career in the metropolis where the money was good.
His big day arrived on December 21, 1994.
That's when his manager, Khun Virat gave him his first Queensbury rules fight at the Lumpini Stadium and he came through with flying colours.
The southpaw demolished his opponent, Bernard Davalos of the Philippines, in three rounds.
Still weighing far less than a junior-flyweight, he took on fighters who weighed much more and registered six short route victories, all against tough Filipino opponents, before he suffered his first setback, a points defeat at the hands of Pahayahay.
Two more short route wins and his second setback also came against Pahayahay, who knocked him out in round five in Petchaboon.
But Khun Virat had tremendous faith in his fighter. He knew that he was going to make good.
It was 1996, with the 21-year-old displaying promise, his mentor and manager, Khun.Virat gave him two tough assignments before pitting him against South Africa's Mzujisi Skali for the WBU junior flyweight title and Pongsaklek came through with flying colours.
He took on a variety of tough opponents in his next 25 fights and defended his WBU title with honour.
In Pichit, the fight between Pongsaklek and Tunacao was organised by Maj Gen Sanankachornprasat and a big crowd witnessed the contest.
It was a big occasion for Pichit.
Pongsaklek's manager and mentor Khun Virat, who is well-known by many top leaders and political heads has taken big fights all over the kingdom.
He picked Pichit to expose his new boxing hero, Pongsaklek and what an exciting exhibition, the young boxer came up with.
Though it was short and sweet, the young Thai wrote a fantastic chapter for the country and the sport.
Yes, Pongsaklek is one of the top stars in boxing. He possesses an enviable record in the sport.
He has beaten many fighters.
When Alex Baba of Ghana came in 2001 to Hat Yai, one of the many provincial cities in which Khun Virat exposed his champion, the Ghanian threatened to take away the title, but Pongsaklek beat him convincingly.
When a tough Japanese fighter Daisuke Naito took on Pongsaklek in Khon Kaen in 2002, once again Pongsaklek proved that he was in a of class of his own.
He knocked him out in 34 seconds, which is still a record.
Filipino Randy Mangubat went to Songkhla in 2003 and convinced his handlers that he would end Pongsaklek's reign.
But it was the champion who displayed outstanding ability and came through with flying colours via a convincing points win.
Australia's Hussein Hussein arrived in Bangkok with an entourage of followers, including trainer, and former world champion, Jeff Fenech, believing he could end Pongsaklek's reign.
Again it was Pongsaklek who took the honours.
In a brilliant 12-rounder at the Lumpini Stadium on November 14, 2003 he came through with flying colours as Fenech looked for excuses for the defeat.
Trash Nakanuma of Japan, backed by an outstanding record, tried to beat Pongsaklek in Yokohama in 2004. Again it was the Thai who outclassed his opponent with an easy points victory. Luis Angel Martinez of Mexico challenged Pongsaklek in Khon Kaen, but he disposed of his opponent in the fifth.
Another Japanese challenger, Noriyuki Komatsu, claimed he had the ability to handle Pongsaklek if he was given the opportunity to fight him in Osaka.
The brilliant champ, inspite of the cold winter in January, registered a fifth round technical knockout victory.
He beat Naito again via a technical decision in October last year in Tokyo then beat Mexican Gilberto Keb Baas in Chainat.
Two more wins, over Japan's Daigo Nakahiro and Mexico's Everardo Morales, also in Bangkok, in 2006 saw him lined up against South Africa's Monelisi Myekeni, in the much awaited contest in Korat on November 17.
The result, I am sure is fresh in the everyone's minds. Pongsaklek registered a unanimous points victory.
Yes, it has been a fairytale run for Thailand's 10th world flyweight champion who has established a world record with 16 unbeaten defences, ever since he beat Tunacao that hot afternoon in 2001.
Thailand previous world flyweight champions were the late Pone Kingpetch, Chartchai Chionoi, Berkrerk Chartvanchai, Venice Borkorsor, Sot Chitalada, Muengchai Kittikasem, Chatchai Sassakul, Metrgoen Singsurat and San Sor Ploenchit.
Of them Sot Chitalada had the longest previous run of seven defences, although the above boxers all fought at a time when there were far fewer belts on offer.
That said, Pongsaklek deserves to be named alongside those greats.
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