England’s Steve Wakeling sealed his return to the top echelon of Muaythai boxing last Saturday night, January 8, with a masterful ring performance against Thailand’s WBC super-middleweight world champion Jaowchalam Chatkranokgym at a temporary boxing arena erected at the Tip Plaza Complex on Pattaya Beach Road.
Wakeling was making his comeback to the ‘big time’ after losing his middleweight world title to Thailand’s Lamsongkram in 2007 and then later taking a two year hiatus from the sport. He spent the last month training hard at the Sitsongpeenong gym in Thailand and in December made a successful return to ring action with a warm-up fight at the Lumpini Stadium in Bangkok.
England’s Steve Wakeling has his arms raised by Pattaya Mayor Ittiphol Khunplome, right, and Gen. Kovid Bhakdibhumi, left, after being presented with the WBC belt.
The fight against Jaowchalam last Saturday was the highlight of a veritable feast of Thai boxing, held in downtown Pattaya for the first time, and the event attracted a large crowd of eager fight fans, tourists and local officials alike.
The preliminary bouts saw a four-man knockout tournament at the 70kg weight limit featuring boxers from four different nations.
Up first was Germany’s Andi Rogner against Sweden’s Dan Magnusson and the German fighter wasted no time in outlining his determination to put on a good show as he overpowered his Scandinavian opponent, forcing the referee to stop the bout in just the second round.
Germany’s Andi Rogner receives the winner’s trophy from Mayor Ittiphol after winning the 4-man “1-King” knockout tournament.
In the other semi-final, Thailand’s Saentiennoi edged a close points decision over France’s Yacine Darkrim to set up an intriguing final against Rogner. The fight went the full distance with the Thai boxer being wary of Rogner’s power and the German struggling to overcome the wily tactics of the experienced Thai. At the final bell Rogner was declared the winner, his aggression in the earlier rounds swinging the judges’ decision his way.
The stage was then set for the main event of the evening and the ring was cleared as various dignitaries in attendance were introduced to the audience prior to the introduction of the two fighters.
Wakeling’s hard training at Sitsongpeenong appeared to have paid off as he entered the ring in superb physical condition to face the challenge of champion Jaowchalam. The fight got off to a cautious start however as both boxers tested each other out with probing kicks but for the most part kept each other at distance.
Jaowchalam started the more aggressive of the two in the second round but Wakeling showed some clever defence and nimble footwork to avoid the Thai’s powerful kicks and then countered with some kicks and punches of his own as the round drew to a close.
The 26 year old Wakeling, from Beckenham in southwest England, came out strong in the third round but Jaowchalam was equal to the task and it was impossible to choose between the two fighters after the first nine minutes of action.
Wakeling, right, faces Thailand’s WBC Muaythai world champion Jaowchalam Chatkranokgym in the third round of their fight at the Tip Plaza Complex in Pattaya, Saturday, Jan. 8.
The fourth round would prove to be decisive however, and Wakeling, now growing in confidence, went on the offensive and caught his Thai opponent with a series of short rights to the head before dropping him to the canvas with some vicious knee thrusts to the chest and head area. The champion managed to beat the count but was sent sprawling again soon afterwards following another flurry of punches and kicks from the Englishman. This time the referee decided the Thai was no longer in a fit state to continue and stopped the fight, much to the apparent joy of the new champ.
WBC Muaythai Chairman, Gen. Kovid Bhakdibhumi, and Pattaya Mayor Ittiphol Khunplome entered the ring to present the WBC world super-middleweight champion’s belt to the delighted Wakeling who is now firmly back in the spotlight as one of the big names in Muaythai boxing.
“I had a break and then was able to look objectively at what I wanted …and getting back the WBC green and gold belt was on the top of the list,” said the overjoyed Englishman.
The championship in Pattaya was a promotion by The Champions Club Thailand and a portion of the proceeds raised from the event will be donated to the Pattaya Orphanage to mark Thailand’s Children’s Day.