Panya Pradabsri enjoyed his quickest title fight to date.
The moment came in repeat business with Tokyo's Norihito Tanaka, whom the reigning WBC strawweight titlist stopped in the eighth round of their title fight rematch. Pradabsri floored Tanaka in the opening round and steadily picked him apart before the challenger's corner literally waved the towel to force the stoppage Wednesday in Rayong, Thailand.
Pradabsri didn't waste any time during his first fight in ten months—which came in a decision win over Tanaka who also hadn't fought since their August 31 clash in Nakhon Ratchasima.
The defending titlist welcomed the attack of the 38-year-old Tanaka, whom he floored less than 30 seconds into their rematch. A counter left hook sent Tanaka to the canvas, though the fiery challenger beat the count and initiated several exchanges during an entertaining opening round.
Both fighters went on the attack in a blazing-fast second round. Tanaka came forward and was successful at times on the inside. The other occasions saw the local favorite unload with his right uppercut which was on point throughout the contest.
Pradabsri had Tanaka hurt on several occasions during round three. The uppercut was again key in causing the damage. Tanaka was driven to the ropes where Pradabsri unloaded a barrage of punches as the referee looked in but allowed the action to continue. Tanaka survived the onslaught and managed to impose his will in a fourth round that saw Pradabsri briefly slow down his high-octane attack.
Open scoring—employed by WBC in many regions, including Thailand—had Pradrabsri ahead 40-35, 39-36 and 39-36 through four rounds. He added to his lead in the fifth, which saw Tanaka stand directly in front of the WBC titlist. Blood began to flow from a cut just outside the right eye of Tanaka, whose will was unquestioned but who was outgunned.
Pradabsri found his desired space to gain leverage on his straight right hands to the body which visibly forced Tanaka on his heels. Tanaka didn't wilt and closed the gap in round seven. Pradabsri stood his ground and connected with right hands to the body and uppercuts to the chin. Tanaka largely headhunted and missed with his left hook.
The heart and desire of Tanaka were once again on display in round eight. The three-time title challenger waded through a sea of power shots just to get off his own right hands. He was too brave for his own good, as Pradabsri picked apart Tanaka from the outside until the challenger's corner literally ran to the ring with towel in hand which forced the referee to stop the contest.
Tanaka fell to 20-10 (10KOs) and suffered the third defeat in his last four fights. All three have come in Thailand and in strawweight title bids; he dropped a twelve-round decision to WBA champ Thammanoon Niyomtrong (Knockout CP Freshmart) in March 2020 prior to his two shots at the WBC strap.
Pradabsri advanced to 40-1 (24KOs) with the win, which also marked his fourth successful title defense. His reign of five title fights spanning nearly three years has come versus just three separate opponents.
In addition to the two defenses versus Tanaka, Pradabsri twice faced and defeated Chayaphon Moonsri (55-3, 19KOs; b/k/a Knockout CP Freshmart)—first to win the title in November 2020 and then in their rematch last March. Wedged in between those two fights was a November 2021 decision win over Thai southpaw Danai Ngiabphukhiaw.
The win was his first inside the distance since a March 2021 fourth-round knockout in a non-title fight. His previous four title fights all went to the scorecards.
Next up for the long-reigning WBC titlist will be a consolidation clash versus interim title holder Yudai Shigeoka. They were due to meet April 15, only for Pradabsri to withdraw after he was hospitalized due to illness.
Shigeoka (7-0. 5KOs) went on to face former WBO strawweight titlist Wilfredo Mendez, whom he battered in a seventh-round knockout to win the interim WBC strawweight title. Promoter and former three-division champ Koki Kameda previously told BoxingScene.com that he plans to have the mandatory enforced as early as the WBC will allow.
The bout aired live on true4U and its accompanying YouTube channel.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox