On August 7th we see Ryo Akaho (26-1-2, 18) attempt to change the fortunes of Japanese fighters facing Thais in Thailand as he takes on the highly experienced Pungluang Sor Singyu (50-3, 34), in a bout for the WBO Bantamweight title, a title that Pungluang has previously held.
Akaho is one of the many Bantamweight contenders from Japan. He's not one of the top names in the division, like Shinsuke Yamanaka or Tomoki Kameda, but he has been in and around the world rankings for years and has slowly worked his way to this title shot.
Technically Akaho is flawed, he's wild, he's not the most natural of boxers. What he is however is heavy handed, tough and comes to fight. He's a fighter at heart who has tried to become a boxer, but has reverted to type time and time again. He fights with the intention of knocking every opponent out and whether he manages or not it won't stop him trying.
In the ring Akaho can be out boxed, as seen in his 2012 loss to the slippery Yota Sato, who made Akaho look fundamentally flawed. That bout was a WBC Super Flyweight title fight and although Akaho was clearly beaten it did seem clear that he was at least partially weight drained, and since then he has thrown off the shackles of the 115lb weight limit to move to Bantamweight, a weight that suits him more.
Pungluang on the other hand is, arguably, the top Bantamweight in Thailand, though he is given a really good run for his money by the excellent Suriyan Sor Rugnvisai. In the ring he's a typical Thai in many ways, an out and out pressure fighter who will be coming forward relentlessly and trying to get in the face of any and every opponent. Stylewise he's a nightmare to fight and won't give fighters a second to breath.
Pungluang is not only a nightmare stylewise but he's tough and like so many Thais is happy to take a shot to land one. Where falls short however is his speed, technical ability and his lack of a plan B. Pungluang only has a single game plan, but it is generally a very good one. Against quicker fighters however he can be made to look slow and clumsy, as he was against Tomoki Kameda who stopped him last year with a crunching body shot.
Although a natural fighter at Bantamweight Pungluang is very short at the weight. He has the typical “stocky” build of so many Thai fighters and it helps him employ his style, slipping shots and coming forward. If a fighter has a good jab they can try to keep Pungluang at range, but it does take a lot of energy and effort to prevent him from coming forward round after round. Over 12 rounds his pressure really does take it's toll.
In a neutral country this would be a 50-50 fight. Pungluang has the the experience and style to make life difficult but Akaho has a notable size advantage and the edge in power. It would make for a great fight on neutral soil. In Thailand however the advantages in terms of conditions, weather, officiating, and time all favour the home fighter. Those advantages, we suspect, will be the difference and will help Pungluang pick up the title and become a 2-time champion in a bout that will be packed with action and exciting.
(Image courtesy of http://www.onesongchai.com)