The Flyweight division really is red hot at the moment and it has such a lovely mix of fighters in it that it's got something for everyone. If you like your wars you have fighters like Koki Eto and Takuya Kogawa, if you like your boxer's you have Kazuto Ioka and Juan Francisco Estrada and if you like your seek and destroy types then you have Roman Gonzalez. It also has one of the sports most talented “spoilers”, IBF champion Amnat Ruenroeng (15-0, 5), who will be defending his title on June 27th against one of the sports most explosive little men, Johnriel Casimero (21-2, 13).
The first thing to note about the contest is that it's the second mandatory defense for Ruenroeng, who has quickly developed an impressive resume. The champion won his title in his 12th bout, beating the under-rated Rocky Fuentes, and has since defended it thrice. The first defense was a voluntary in Japan against the aforementioned Ioka, the second was back in Thailand against McWilliams Arroyo in a mandatory defense, whilst most recent Ruenroeng travelled to Macau and upset for amateur rival Zou Shiming.
The second thing to note is that this bout is in Thailand, a country that renowned for being very difficult for visiting fighters. We're not suggesting that Ruenroeng has had many gifts, though the Arroyo fight certainly could have gone the other way, but we have seen Thai's get some very dubious decisions in their favour at home. It's sometimes joked that a fighter needs to get a knockout in Germany to get a draw and, at times, the same can be said of Thailand. Of course there have been visiting fighters winning world titles in Thailand, notably Manny Pacquiao claimed his first world title in the country, but they are certainly rare.
The champion, a former amateur stand out, has quickly proven his ability and shown why he was fast tracked as a professional. He was a professional for less than 24 months when he claimed his world title and has really grown in to the role of being a world champion. Unfortunately for many of peers, and fans in general, he's not the most attractive fighter to watch but he has a style that he has almost perfect. He's quick, very sharp, accurate and strong. He's far from a big puncher but he's so sharp with his counters and has such impressive reach that he neutralises opponents on the outside and manages to tie them up and frustrate them on the inside.
Whilst Ruenroeng is widely regarded as being a level, or two, behind the likes of Gonzalez and Estrada he's got a style that will make him very difficult to beat and he always seems to look relaxed in the ring, even when he's travelled to face big names in their backyard's.
Aged 35 Ruenroeng is ancient for a Flyweight, in fact he's older than Pongsaklek Wonjongkam was the last time he held a world title, though he's a very young 35 and hasn't got the miles on the clock that many fighters his age have. In fact for a Thai he's really fresh and hasn't been through a gruelling career which has prematurely aged him. He may age over night but it doesn't seem likely, yet.
Whilst the champion has carved out an impressive resume in recent years the challenger hasn't done badly either and in fact the 25 year old Casimero may well be the sports top road warrior right now. His first 13 bouts were all at home in the Philippines though since then he has travelled to Nicaragua, Mexico, Panama, South Africa and Argentina and fought 7 of his last 10 bouts outside of his homeland.
Not only has Casimero travelled but he's done amazingly well on the road. On his travels he has beaten the likes of Cesar Canchila in Nicaragua, Luis Alberto Lazarte in Argentina, in a bout marred by a post-fight riot, Pedro Guevara in Mexico, a win that looks even better now given that Guevara is a world champion himself, and Luis Alberto Rios in Panama.
Casimero is sensationally talented boxer-puncher. He's blessed with lightening speed, real bravery, and spiteful power, something his record doesn't really reflect in terms of numbers. Despite a sub 57% stoppage rate Casimero has impressively stopped the likes of Ardin Diale, Canchila, Lazarte, Felipe Salguero and Armando Santos. He really seems to have grown into his power and, having outgrown the Light Flyweight division, he's certainly growing into a man.
Talking about Casimero as a Light Flyweight, that was here he really made his name. It was at 108lbs that Casimero claimed the WBO interim title and later the IBF title. Back then he appeared to look like a boy though now he's began to look like a man in the ring a trio of stoppages backs that up. The fact Casimero has out grown the Light Flyweight division also suggests that he's grown into being a Flyweight and isn't just some “blown up” fighter from the weight below.
Coming in to this bout the question will be whether or not Casimero can get in and land before Ruenroeng ties him up. If Ruenroeng can keep a busy jab and keep Casimero at range this really could be a very dull, frustrating and one sided bout. If however Casimero can slip the jab, something he has the ability to do, and catch the Thai with his explosive shots then there is a good chance that this ends up having it's moments of real excitement.
For Ruenroeng to win he needs to do what he does so well and use his speed and reach to land single shots at range then frustrate and neutralise his challenger. If Ruenroeng manages that then it'll be an ugly win for the Thai who will add another impressive victory to his record. For Casimero to win he needs to be as explosive as possible and land with his lightning quick shots. If he lands before he gets tied up then there is a great chance that Ruenroeng will be forced to fight back at a pace he's not comfortable with.
Sadly for Casimero we do believe he'll need to dominate to win and, due to the styles, we don't see that happening. Instead we think Amnat takes this with a clear but frustrating decision.
(Image courtesy of Kiatkreerin)
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