The country began 2012 with four world champions: Pongsaklek Wonjongkam (WBC flyweight), Suriyan Sor Rungvisai (WBC bantamweight), Kompayak Por Pramuk (WBC light-flyweight) and Tepparith Kokietgym (WBA bantamweight).
By the end of the year, all of them had lost their crowns. Worse still, Pongsaklek, Kompayak and Tepparith were dethroned after knockout losses.
WBO Pungluang Sor Singyu now stands alone as Thailand’s only champion after stopping AJ Banal in the ninth round in the Philippines.
Pongsaklek lost his flyweight title after a shock loss to Filipino Sonny Boy Jaro in Chon Buri in March, and Suriyan was defeated by Yota Sato in Japan in the same month.
Kompayak was stopped in the sixth round and lost his title to Adrian Hernandez in Mexico before Tepparith was knocked out in the fourth round by Kohei Kono in Tokyo on New Year’s Eve.
On the same day, Pornsawan Por Pramuk failed to win the vacant WBA minimum-weight title, a split-decision loss to Ryo Miyazaki in Osaka prompting the Thai fighter’s camp to complain he was robbed.
Petchyindee’s Piyarat Wachirarattanawongse admitted his camp had a bad year, with two of his boxers, Pongsaklek and Kompayak, losing their titles.
“Our performance in 2012 was much less impressive than in 2011,” he said.
“Pongsaklek lost because he is old, although he did his best. For Kompayak, to fight a Mexican boxer is Mexico is never easy and we had to accept that.”
While Pongsaklek, 34, announced his retirement after the defeat, Kompayak, who is ranked third in the 112-pound division, may get a shot at regaining the title.
Apart from Kompayak, Piyarat has three other boxers who are likely to earn title shots this year: Wanheng Menayothin, ranked second in the WBC 105-pound division; Noknoi Sitthiprasert, the top contender at 112 pounds; and Oledong CP Freshmart, ranked third in the 115-pound class.
“I am quite confident that we will have two world champions this year,” said Piyarat, who nominated Wanheng and Oledong as his favourites.
In domestic boxing, Piyarat predicted continuous growth, thanks to a more stable political situation, with more sponsorship expected.
The Galaxy camp, who saw Pornsawan suffer a controversial loss to Miyazaki, also experienced the frustration of Poonsawat Kratingdaenggym failing a blood test ahead of a championship fight.
He was scheduled to challenge WBA super-bantamweight champion Guillermo Rigondeaux in Texas but the fight never took place after the Thai failed a blood test.
However, camp boss Niwat Laosuwanwat was satisfied with his domestic business.
“I organised 16 boxing events in 2012 and all were successful,” Niwat insisted.
Niwat said his camp would become much stronger this year because he does not see boxing purely as a business – but also as a sport.
“It is not necessary for my boxers to win every fight. I love to see entertaining fights which will help attract sponsors,” Niwat said.
Asked about his boxers’ chances of challenging for world titles, Niwat identified former champion Denkaosan Kaovichit as the best bet, while Teerachai Kratingdaenggym, ranked 11th in the WBA welterweight division, may have to wait another year.
“At 21, Teerachai is still young but has a bright future,” Niwat said.
“For Poonsawat, if the doctors give him the green light to continue fighting, we will keep supporting him.”
Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, meanwhile, is assured of a title shot this year. He has been chosen ahead of former champion Suriyan to challenge super-flyweight champion Sato, who dethroned Suriyan.
“The fight is likely to take place in Thailand in April,” Srisaket’s manager, Surachart Pisitwutthinan, said.
Although Srisaket is less experienced and less skilful than Suriyan, his hands are more powerful: “I need such a powerful boxer to avoid an unfair decision, particularly when you fight overseas,” Surachart explained.
Srisaket holds a 16-1-1 record, with only one of the 16 winning bouts lasting the distance. Sato successfully defended his title on Dec 31, with a unanimous win over compatriot Ryo Akaho.
Should Srisaket beat Sato, as his handlers expect, Suriyan will have to move up to the 118-pound division.
Pariyakorn Rattanasuban, the country’s only female boxing promoter, saw her highly-rated boxer Chonlatarn Piriyapinyo lose to WBA super-featherweight champ Chris John in Singapore.
Pariyakorn believes Chonlatarn needs more experience to get another chance, although he has received several offers since.
His fight came three weeks after Pungluang, also managed by Pariyakorn, stopped Banal to win the WBO bantamweight title.
This year, Pariyakorn said, her main stars will be Pungluang and Kwanpichit Onesongchaigym.
Pungluang has agreed to a mandatory fight against Paulus Ambunda in Namibia on Feb 3.
“After carefully discussing with all concerned parties, we agreed for Pungluang to fight in Namibia,” Pariyakorn said.
“This is because we are confident that Pungluang will retain the title. We believe that Paulus is not as tough as Banal.”
Pungluang, 24, holds a record of 43-1-0 with 28 KOs while Paulus is at 19-0-0 with 10 KOs.
Meanwhile, Kwanpichit is now ranked third in the WBO flyweight division and is expected to earn a title shot later this year.
“I am thrilled that I have more experience in this business,” said Pariyakorn, daughter of renowned promoter Songchai. “We have more sponsors and some of them are new ones. This is a good sign.”
Pariyakorn, though, has every right to be nervous ahead of Pungluang’s first defence of the WBO bantamweight title in Namibia.
If he wins, Pariyakorn will be busy for the rest of the year. But if Pungluang loses, it will be a major loss – not only for Pariyakorn and her fighter, but for the country, as he is Thailand’s only champion.