The Great Featherweight Debate: The Gordian Knot of 65 KG and Several Ways to Cut It

Mar 29, 2024
Petchpanomrung lands a high kick. Photo: GLORY Kickboxing
Breaking down the ever-evolving Featherweight division.

There exist a great many evils in the world, and all right-minded individuals agree on the most pressing and urgent of them all: the distressing frequency with which I see opinions about kickboxing that are not my own.

Rankings are a contentious thing, an attempt to bring order to chaos which frequently engenders further chaos, or diplomatic incidents with Eastern European nations. What often lies at the heart of the problem is that we all have a common definition of the word, but we lack a common definition of how to arrive at its end result. In Beyond Kickboxing's rankings, the 65 KG weight class exists as a subset of under 67.5 KG, but by far its best and most active constituent members are 65 KG fighters. With the events of RISE El Dorado 2024, there now exist several possible answers to the question who is the best 65 KG kickboxer? We’re going to prosecute them all.



Fighter of the Month – Petchpanomrung.
Photo: GLORY Kickboxing

The case for:

Petchpanomrung is the steady, dependable GLORY champion. Like promotional comrade Rico Verhoeven, the results are undeniable even if they're not always enjoyable. Before his loss to Chadd Collins at the end of 2023, you'd have to reach back to 2017 to find his last loss in kickboxing. When reaching that far and deep, while blowing off the cobwebs you'd also have to brush off the many vocal critics who maintain that Petchpanomrung was robbed. Petchpanomrung is such a victim of his own success that he’s had to expand his horizons both outside of his own weight class, towered over in a loss to Tyjani Beztati, and his own organization, splitting time between RISE and GLORY.

If to you, rankings are an attempt to use the totality of the best available evidence to determine who is the best, your answer is probably Petchpanomrung. His body of work dwarfs all others, his losses in the division are few, far between, and hard-fought. His record in the division as it stands is as close to unimpeachable as it gets.

The case against:

The simple, plaintive cry: What have you done for me lately? Petchpanomrung is undeniably great, and that's not at issue. But there's a fact that flowery prose or heaping praise on his accomplishments can't nullify – he lost a title fight to Chadd Collins. A loss outside the division and his showings in Muay Thai shouldn’t be considered for a divisional ranking in kickboxing, but it makes you think, doesn’t it? Petchpanomrung has been at the top for so long that doubt starts to creep in, is he losing a step? Has he lost it already? If Petchpanomrung is on the downside, if you rank based on who you feel is the best fighter in the world, at best you're conflicted, at worst, he's not that guy.



Miguel Trindade lands a left hook.
Photo: GLORY Kickboxing

The case for:

The argument in favor of Miguel Trindade as the #1 65 kG fighter in the world is as brief and to the point as his last fight. He fought Chadd Collins, and less than three minutes later he was the winner. If the rankings are an attempt to memorialize who is probably the best fighter in a division, Chadd was #1, and Miguel beat the #1. By the transitive property, Miguel Trindade is the best 65 KG fighter in the world. To deny this is to deny the evidence of your own eyes.

The case against:

The problem with this belief is that it exists in a world without hypotheticals. Consider the Hong Man Choi problem. When FEG had an iron grip on the best Heavyweight fighters in the world, they also had broadcast partners with ratings expectations. One of their more outlandish curiosities to catch channel hoppers was the 7'2" Hong Man Choi. Choi was, put gently, as good a kickboxer as a giant with a background in the Korean traditional wrestling sport of ssireum could be. Paired in his homeland with 2005 World Grand Prix winner Semmy Schilt, one of the best in the world, Choi walked away with a split decision that he earned by two accidents of birth: being Korean and being very tall. You would be hard pressed to find anyone who watched the fight and concluded that Choi was one of the best kickboxers on the planet.

You may conclude that this is fine, it will all work itself out. Any temporary embarrassment will come out in the wash, as anyone unable to defend the #1 spot would no longer be #1. This runs afoul of the other, much more likely hypothetical. Kickboxing is deeply fractured. While RISE and Glory are collaborating today, tomorrow Glory may have another new CEO who is less inclined to follow his predecessor's playbook. What do you do if your pond turns to separate, unconnected pools? What if your #1 signs with ONE and fights mixed rules bouts from here to eternity?

This also avoids some of the reality on the ground here, for as emphatic as the win over Chadd Collins was, Trindade is not far removed from a close split decision to action merchant Berjan Peposhi. If we try to linearize this problem, and can only look forward and not back, won't we just end up tying ourselves in knots?



Photo: AFF

The case for:

Chadd Collins is a busy man, roaming from country to country, division to division, winning wherever he finds himself. Just a month before dethroning Petchpanomrung, he took a Muay Thai bout at 63.5 KG. He placed the final stone of a 10-fight winning streak across sports and weights by taking one of Petchpanomrung's belts and wringing a fight of the year candidate out of him. He beat the RISE champion from the division above him, the RISE champion from the division below him, and a Shootboxing champion. He's done all he could possibly do, and he slipped up against Trindade. Should we knock him off the position he slowly built for himself on the basis of one quick loss? His streak isn't as long as Petchpanomrung's, but it’s not meaningless either. If you let your thoughts and feelings influence you, not the simple wins and losses, there's a good chance Chadd's your man. He didn't earn the spot on the back of just one fight, and he shouldn't lose it either.

The case against:

Again, the simple fact of the matter is he has a loss that's too stark to hand wave away, and if we then look at the resume he’s built over a period of time, it's impressive, but it's not as long as Petchpanomrung's. Should you really consider Muay Thai wins in a kickboxing ranking? Sure, they serve as evidence that he's a great fighter, but they exist in a related but separate sport. His weight hopping is impressive, but it's also within a narrow band. Miguel Trindade has also fought as high as 68 KG and as low as 63.5 KG between 2021 and 2023. Square peg, round hole. He has to re-earn that hard won spot, unless your metric is just that you think he'd win. And if that's the case, good for you, don’t let anyone ever convince you otherwise. Seriously don't. Posting never led to anything good.



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Photo: RISE

The case for:

What if, when push comes to shove, the degree to which you are built different is just too overwhelming? What if winning or losing is not enough, what if your guy simply has to look insanely cool on the way there? How many of those other guys are on a streak of three equally outrageous knockouts? Zero, that's how many. Forget the fact that Vidales made him taste the canvas first, the rule of cool dictates that keeping your hands at your waist to draw GLORY's internally second ranked man in and then wiping him out with a single punch gets you bonus points. Who cares how many years Anvar Boynazarov had been away from the sport, doubling up on the body kick like the man in front of you is a pad drill builds a highlight reel, builds a legacy. There will always be a space in your heart for Masaaki Noiri, and Kento Haraguchi is the best 65 KG fighter in the world because he looks the best doing it.

The case against:

For all his flair and preternatural talent for turning lights off in the fanciest of ways, when it mattered most he couldn’t stop Petchpanomrung from completely nullifying him. Worse still, putting him in boring fights. He's been fighting mixed competition on a path orthogonal to the Thai, a bout that is seemingly all but officially announced for the GLORY title, but it's a hurdle he hasn't yet jumped. Perhaps he will this time, perhaps we shouldn’t read too deeply into a COVID-era 3 round fight and should put more stock in the 6 round one where he had more success, but regardless of the accounting: he must beat Petchpanomrung to get there.

Wherever you fall on this contentious issue, the good news is that for the foreseeable future, RISE and Glory are working together, and at the end of this year there is scheduled to be a 65 KG tournament featuring fighters from both organizations. And fortunately, nobody has ever debated the validity of a tournament win, or whether multiple fights in one night is really the best way to determine who the best fighter in a division may be.