Amnat began 2014 as a fighter with an unbeaten 11-0 record though had never fought above fringe regional level. Already this year however he has claimed the IBF Flyweight title, with a solid victory over Filipino veteran Rocky Fuentes, and defended it against the previously unbeaten Kazuto Ioka. Usually if a fighter beats guys like Fuentes and Ioka in back-to-back fights they rightfully get raved about but Amnat hasn't had that level of respect as of yet.
The Thai will be looking to score his 3rd win of the year when he returns on September 10th and battles heavy hitting Puerto Rican McWilliams Arroyo (15-1, 13), the mandatory challenger to Amnat's IBF title. A win here for Amnat should make him a cert for any short lists for fighter of the year, or at very last break out fighter of the year. Like his previous 2 bouts this year a win for Amnat is not a given.
The champion is a very highly skilled fighter with an unusual calmness in the ring. Nothing seems to fluster him, nothing appears to worry him and like so many other extremely talented fighters he appears to find that extra half a second as and when he needs it. This in many ways makes his counter punching so beautiful as he rides shots, narrowly avoids then blocks with ease before firing back counters on the ropes. It's a thing of beauty and adds a brilliant dimension to a fighter who is, at his best, a boxer-mover who lands light but sharp shots then moves away before repeating the sharp and accurate shots that often discourage opponents.
Whilst Amnat is a pure boxer with a solid game inside and outside Arroyo is more of a puncher-boxer. He can box but his power is his selling point and he really does have lights out power, as he showed in style against Filipino Froilan Saludar who took just 1 clean punch but was left gazing at the lights unaware he was even in a boxing ring. When you have that sort of power your boxing skills can often decline and that appears to have been the case with Arroyo who was being out boxed until he caught Saludar with a bomb as Saludar dropped his hands slightly and opened the door for the Puerto Rican. His boxing skills are there though we doubt just how much of those skills are still there and haven't been eroded over the last few years which have combined inactivity with a lack of rounds.
Another thing to note going into this bout is that Arroyo won;t just be competing with Amnat but also the conditions in Thailand which are never welcoming to a visiting fighter, on fact Thailand is the worst place to go as a visitor due to the way they stage fights. They are often out doors, in extreme heat, high humidity and in the middle of the day. Whilst not all fights are outdoors even the indoor ones seem to be held in hot and humid conditions, conditions not many fighters are used to. Of course like any country the officials also seem to give the home fighter the benefit of the doubt in close rounds and we've seen some astonishing result come out of Thailand in recent years that have really beggared belief, such as the Jonathan Taconing/Kompaak Porpramook bout or the Yodmongkol Vor Saengthep/Takuya Kogawa fight both of which really should have gone to the visiting fighter. We are expecting better judging here but we do expect Amnat to get the benefit in any sort of a close round.
Saying that however we actually don't think this is a hugely tough bout for Amnat to win a decision in. In fact Amnat's biggest issue will be whether or not he can complete the 12 rounds. If Arroyo can tag Amnat really clean then there is every chance of the title going back to Puerto Rico though we tend to feel that if Amnat if at 90% of his best then that's not going to happen. Instead Amnat is going to get into range, land his shots and get out of there before Arroyo can react. Round after round we will see Amnat piling up the points on the move and he makes Arroyo look like a clumsy operator. Every so often we will see Amnat on the ropes though we don't see him getting caught clean too often and if he is we think he'll ride the shots well to take the sting out of the shots. It is, afterall, what he does so well in between the ropes.
We tend to feel that Arroyo is dangerous enough to keep this exciting and to keep Amnat on his toes, but not busy enough to really test the Thai, barring a lucky bomb and a possible follow up. So far however Amnat's only real struggle has been against the intense pressure and work of Fuentes, two things we don't expect to see from Arroyo.
(Image courtesy of http://www.kiatkreerin.com)