On Saturday, September 26, unified world super-lightweight champion Josh Taylor (16-0, 12KOs) defends his WBA Super, IBF and Ring Magazine titles to mandatory challenger Apinun Khongsong (16-0, 13KOs) behind closed doors at the BT Sport Studios in Stratford.
BBN’s Editor, Tim Rickson, previewed the entire six-fight card:
Josh Taylor vs Apinun Khongsong
‘The Tartan Tornado’ defends his world titles to his IBF mandatory challenger ‘Downua Ruawaiking’.
24 from Thailand, Apinun Khongsong began his journey to a world title shot when he won the IBF Pan Pacific super-lightweight title within 92 seconds in February 2017 in just his seventh professional contest. Not only was it his first time fighting for a title but also his first time going up against a winning fighter.
Another three successful defences later, coupled with the addition of the IBF Asia super-lightweight strap, Khongsong had earned the number one spot with the International Boxing Federation and won the mandatory position to challenge the world champion Josh Taylor.
Khongsong is tall and rangy, with a sharp jab and stand up tall style. He possesses power and has been known to knock opponents out cold with a single punch.
In his second to last fight, he faced Japanese lightweight champion Akihiro Kondon (32-9-1, 18KOs) and was drawing on the cards until he produced a stunning uppercut that ended the fight almost instantly in round five. The round preceding that saw Khongsong’s head snapped back regularly by the former national champion, who once took Sergey Lipinets (16-1, 12KOs) the 12-round distance when challenging, unsuccessfully, for the IBF World super-lightweight title. From Kondo’s nine defeats, Khongsong was the only one to inflict a stoppage.
As their records are almost completely identical, with the challenger actually having an extra KO on his 16-0 record than the champion – 13 to Taylor’s 12 – it’s worth delving into the shared stats a little deeper.
Both boxers stand at 5ft 10” so have a very similar reach and stature. Of their 16 pro contests to date, Khongsong’s opponents’ records equal to 182-147-19, whereas Taylor’s is far more impressive at 283-68-14.
13 of Taylor’s foes were fighters with winning records, Khongsong has fought just eight, which is only half compared to the Scot’s 81% stat. On top of that, Taylor has taken on and defeated four unbeaten prospects – Ohara Davies (15-0); Ryan Martin (22-0); Ivan Baranchyk (19-0); Regis Prograis (24-0) – but the Thai fighter has never faced anyone unbeaten ever.
The Prestonpans puncher has only completed 90 rounds of a scheduled 152 (59%); the Bangkok boxer has served just 62 from 138 (45%).
Both boast three first rounds and three second round stoppages, but Khongsong has KO’d three in the third compared to Taylor’s one. 11 of Khongsong’s fights finished before the midway mark, two more than Taylor’s number of nine.
The above stats favour the challenger, but that’s due to the level of competition he has faced. Taylor has an incredible record of 4-0 against former or current world champions, whereas Khongsong can only lay claim to defeating a world title contender.
Taylor is the world’s number one 140lbs fighter, who has seen off all competition. He is proven at the very top, but Khongsong isn’t proven yet and doesn’t have any names on his resume that could command respect, with the exception of the clinical KO over world title contender Kondo, but that doesn’t measure up to defeating two unbeaten world champions in a row.
Taylor likes to fight in close quarters and at mid-range, where his blistering hand speed, sensational reaction, exceptional awareness and high work rate fatigues his opponents and breaks them down. It would be very interesting to know just what percentage of Taylor’s attacks are body shots, which he whips in relentlessly with spite. Barely anything comes back his way, his rivals struggle to land on him at all and even when they do, it’s absorbed on the gloves.
Khongsong will likely aim to box on the outside and use his range to full effect, but someone of Taylor’s quality will fight the fight the way he wants, dictating the pace and range.
I envisage Taylor taking a few rounds to get to his IBF mandatory challenger before making his mark, so I’m not expecting anyone to be blasted away early. Khongsong will likely start very brightly on the backfoot and utilise his jab and one-twos to try to keep Taylor at bay. This is the biggest fight of his life, so he will come in fit and sharp and eager to capitalise on his chance. Therefore, I predict he will be competitive and lively for the first three or four rounds or more.
This will only work for so long as Taylor begins to close the distance, pick him off and up the pressure. My prediction is that Taylor will gradually break Khongsong down, find more and more openings and force a stoppage from past round six. It’s difficult to put a number on it because Khonsong’s chin has never been tested, so you have to go by Taylor’s track record. Only three from nine have made it to the championship rounds with Taylor and they were current or ex world champions. Therefore, my prediction is that Khongsong won’t reach round 10.
Charlie Edwards vs Kyle Williams
Former WBC World flyweight champion Charlie Edwards (15-1, 6KOs) begins his campaign up at bantamweight against ex-England titlist Kyle Williams (11-2, 1KO).
Wolverhampton’s Williams has only won one from his last three bouts, losing in the fifth round to Kash Farooq (13-1, 6KOs) in their British bantamweight title fight 19 months back, then a split decision defeat in his last fight with Ionut Baluta (13-2, 2KOs) with the vacant WBO European bantamweight title on the line.
The 28-year-old has won Midlands and English titles but fell short at British level. 27-year-old Edwards has conquered at English, International British and World level in his approaching six-year-long career.
So Edwards will be the firm favourite in this fight, but the question is whether he can win via stoppage or not. The Midlander misses a lot of shots and you can envisage the former world titlist completely outboxing him on the inside and outside. Edwards’ superb footwork should allow him to avoid almost everything Williams can possibly offer to dominate in stylish fashion, landing plenty of devastating punches with his rapid hand speed and classy counter punching ability.
Edwards is an expert of drawing opponents on and setting traps, so I can see him making Williams miss regularly and making him pay until he forces the stoppage in the early to mid-rounds, possibly between rounds 3-5, in my opinion.
Willy Hutchinson vs TBA
Scotland’s ‘Braveheart’ Willy Hutchinson (12-0, 8KOs) fights for his first title in his second 10-round contest for the vacant IBF European super-middleweight belt.
In his last fight, just one month ago, he made short work of Bolton’s Ben Thomas (2-3-3, 1KO) in just 129 seconds of a schedued 10-rounds. Willy was patient and kept up with his moving opponent catching him with a single right hand over the top to score the first knockdown. A couple of heavy uppercuts and unrelenting attacks later and the fight was stopped at 2:09 in the first round, just as Thomas went down for a second time.
The 22-year-old from Carstairs has only fought one winning opponent so far so hasn’t been tested yet. His opponent is yet to be named but you would hope that whoever it is will provide the Scot with a thorough examination that he will hopefully pass.
Previous contenders for the newly-formed belt have been Czech champion Robert Racz (22-2, 19KOs) and European champion Ronny Landaeta (17-2, 11KOs). Either of those would be welcomed opponents by fight fans.
David Oliver Joyce vs Ionut Baluta
Rio 2016 Olympian Davey Oliver Joyce (12-1, 9KOs) defends the WBO European super-bantamweight strap he won by beating former world champion Lee Haskins (36-5, 14KOs) earlier this year in February.
The 33-year-old’s 14th foe is former WBO European bantamweight champ Ionut Baluta (13-2, 2KOs), who won said title by beating the aforementioned Kyle Williams by split decision. But his best career win came in his last fight with former IBF World super-bantamweight champion TJ Doheny (22-2, 16KOs) in March this year, who he outpointed over eight rounds.
The Romanian was on the backfoot for a lot of the fight against the Australian but countered superbly to rack up the rounds to win on points 78-74, 78-74 and 77-74.
Joyce can be hit, even veteran Haskins got to him in the first round of their fight, until he snapped into action to increase the pressure and work rate to win in the fifth round.
The Irishman will want to win this contest early because if it goes to the scorecards it could be close, as Baluta has an eye-catching style that could sway a lot of the rounds his way.
George Davey vs Jeff Thomas
York’s George Davey (2-0) takes a step up to meet with a winning fighter, Jeff Thomas (12-7-3, 1KO), 38 from Lancashire. The super-welterweights lock horns over four rounds.
Davey is trained by former European champion Henry Wharton and is a two-time Haringey Box Cup champion. He left his family home in sunny Lanzarote to focus on his professional boxing career.
Eithan James vs TBA
Unbeaten Eithan James (3-0) gets back to the ring for the first time since February. The 20-year-old from Northampton fights in his fourth four-rounder against an opponent yet to be named.
Winner of five national amateur titles, ‘Jammy’ is trained at the thriving iBox Gym in Bromley by Alan smith and Eddie Lamm alongside Dennis McCann and Mickey Burke Jr.