This coming Saturday we'll be focusing on the action in Glasgow, Scotland, where Naoya Inoue and Emanuel Rodriguez battle in their WBSS Bantamweight semi-final. It's worth noting that Inoue isn't the only unbeaten Asian fighter on the card however, with Thailand's Downua Ruawaiking (15-0, 12), aka Apinun Khongsong, also on the card as a reserve for the WBSS tournament at 140lbs.
The 22 year old Thai was announced for the show last week, and at the time of writing his opponent for the show still hasn't been announced, and his appearance will be his first bout in Europe following 15 straight bouts in Asia. The travel, however, shouldn't be an issue with Downua having scored his best win on the road, and secured himself a future world title fight whilst outside of his native Thailand. Despite that we're probably right in assuming most fans, especially those focusing on the main WBSS bouts in Glasgow, don't know anything at all about the unbeaten Thai, making him an ideal subject for one of our "Fighter Focus" articles, and as usual we'll begin with some factoids
As with many Thai fighters there isn't a lot public about Downua's early live other than that he was born in the summer of 1996 in Trang. He was born Apinun Khongsong, though like many Thai's he adopted a fighting name, Downua, and took a name of a sponsor. For those unaware this is how most Thai's get their unique names, and why their "surnames" seem to change, with sponsors and gyms changing. Downua has reportedly had 2 notable sponsor names, originally "Sakkreerin", like that of stablemate Fahlan Sakkreerin Jr, and now Rauwaiking, like many others in the Kiatkreerin stable.
Whilst little of Downua's amateur career can be found he told journalists in Japan, earlier this year, that he had had over 100 amateur bouts becoming part of the national team in his teenage years. Those claims were also reported in the Thai press back in 2017 from his promoter, Ekkarat Chaichotchuang
Those amateur claims seem to be backed up by his style, which is similar to that of a Western professional, rather than a former Muay Thai fighter who has converted to boxing. He is quick on his feet, has good technical skills and makes the most size. Those skills were clear early on. In his second recorded bout, a meeting with Matthis Bernot, he showed an aggressive but technical style boxing behind his jab, looking to counter his man and controlling the range behind his straight shots and footwork.
As is typically the case with Thai's Downua was busy early in his career, fighting monthly between June 2017 and December of that year. On the whole his opponents were novices, though he did end the year with a semi-notable victory against Indonesian veteran Heri Andriyanto. Sadly this was a bout with Andriyanto after the Indonesian started to put in poor performances, and was 8 years removed from him going the distance with Yoshihiro Kamegai and more than 5 years after he'd gone the dirstance with Shuhei Tsuchiya.
Downua would stop Andriyanto in 2 rounds, to move to 6-0 (4), stopping the Indonesian in the same round as Koki Inoue had done 3 months earlier. That was followed up 2 months later by a big step up in class, as he faced Yuta Maruoka for the IBF Pan Pacific title. This title meant something to the Kiatkreerin stable, with Patomsuk Pathompothong, also known as Komsan Polsan having previously held the belt before losing it in Macau to Ik Yang. Downua would have no problem with Maruoka, taking him out in the first round to claim the title. He dropped Maruoka with a huge right hand in the early moments and whilst Maruoka would get back to his feet he was set straight back down by another right hand, and then again soon afterwards forcing the referee to stop the action.
Like many Thai's Downua fought in a stay busy bout after winning a belt, taking out Indonesian journeyman Eddy Comaro in the third of a scheduled 6 rounds. This was followed by a straight forward defense against Filipino visitor Junar Adante. This was a very uninspiring first defense against a man who had been stopped in 4 of his previous 5, and had fought much of his career at Super Bantamweight. The over-matched Adante was dropped from a right hand up top and decided enough was enough, making it clear he didn't want to continue.
Thankfully Downua was stepped up after the farcial bouts with Comaro and Adante, taking on former Filipino amateur talent Adam Diu Abdulhamid, in a bout for the IBF Asia title. The under-rated Abdulhamid had not read the script and had come to upset the Thai pressing Downua backwards and showing good defense to avoid the shots of Downua whilst cutting the distance. For the first time the Thai was tested, and only narrowly pasted the test, taking a very close unanimous decision.
Unsurprisingly, after the close call, Downua was given a lengthy rest before being allowed to get some more seasoning. After an 8 month break he swiftly took out Rusmin Kia Raha, Jasen Egera and Ray Rahardjo, in a combined 12 rounds over 7 months. Those wins lead to another step back up in class, and he shined as he beat down Sonny Katiandagho in 3 rounds. This was the first time that Downua really impressed, showing great timing, handspeed, movement and skills to take out the under-rated Katiandagho.
In a way the win over Katiandagho opened the eyes of those who had followed him, including our selves, and seemed to build the belief in the youngster again, following the worries that Abdulhamid had put into the mind of his team. That rebuilt belief lead him to travel to Japan to face Kondo this past February in an IBF world title eliminator. At the time Downua was ranked #7 by the IBF, Kondo was #4. Not only was Kondo higher ranked, more experienced and more proven, but Kondo was also fighting at home, fighting his 39th bout at the Korakuen Hall. Despite being the under-dog Downua impressed, boxing well behind his jab before taking Kondo out with a brutal uppercut, and planting himself as top contender for the IBF crown.
Although he's not well known outside of Asia the unbeaten Thai will look at this weekend to announce himself as one to watch, and despite "only" being a reserve for the WBSS this is a great chance for Downua to make an impression on a whole new audience, and continue his march towards an eventual world title bout. His style is one that should appeal to Western fans, he's heavy handed, a good boxer-puncher and although still a baby in terms of his place in the sport, is clearly a fighter looking to build on a career best win only a few months ago. He's one to keep a very close eye on.
When we have some free time we're hoping to add a series of fun articles to the site. Hopefully these will be enjoyable little short features