One of the most controversial bouts last year saw IBF Flyweight champion Amnat Ruenroeng (17-0, 5) [อำนาจ รื่นเริง] successfully retain his title with a decision win over Filipino Johnriel Casimero (21-3, 13). The bout was marred by fouling and wrestling from Ruenroeng, in fact the wrestling completely destroyed any semblance of a boxing contest and annoyingly it was all allowed from referee Larry Doggett, who was embarrassingly bad.
This coming Wednesday, 11 months after their first bout, the men will meet again, this time on neutral ground in China with referee being the world class Tony Weeks. This time around we hope that boxing will be the order of the day, and not wrestling.
At his best Ruenroeng is a real nightmare for anyone at 112lbs. He's 36 but fights like a fresh-faced 20-something year old, he's got great reflexes, he's physically strong, and has freakishly long arms. Despite those traits he is better known for simply being “tricky”, “difficult” and “frustrating”. A fighter who has skills but doesn't rely on his skills and instead relies on tricks, something that seems to be used to cover up what flaws he has, including possible issues with stamina.
When it comes to Casimero the Filipino was a fantastic Light Flyweight, combining skills, power, speed and genuine explosiveness to be an offensive nightmare. He combined those traits with a road warriors mentality and a real mental toughness, a toughness that saw him claim major wins across the planet. At Flyweight he may be outsized and out powered, but he is still explosive and could, potentially, still give some very good fighters some absolute nightmares.
Given how the first fight went we are expecting the rules to be bent by Amnat, but we think that the Thai will be punished for repeated infractions this time around. Notably what pure boxing did occur in the first fight saw Amnat look the better man, getting his shots first and and getting away without taking much in return.
If Amnat can box, and frustrate Casimero legally then there is very little chance for Casimero, who will have little more than a punchers chance. If, however, Casimero can control the action, make it a fight, albeit a clean one, then he has a chance to wear down the 36 year old Thai, who has shown some questionable stamina and is a very advanced age for a Flyweight.
We suspect Amnat will win, we suspect the bout will be messy and dirty but we think the win will be less controversial than the one he scored when the men first met just less than a year ago.
Over the last few years we've seen the lower weight divisions getting attention due to a number of exciting and action based fighters. Through fighters, such as Naoya Inoue, Roman Gonzalez and Juan Francisco Estrada, fans have been given some really fun fights. Whilst it has been those action fighters that have brought the attention to those divisions we also have a few fighters who stand out for other reasons, such as the dirty, tricky and ugly Amnat Ruenroeng (16-0, 5), who is perhaps the most stylistically frustrating of any of the smaller men in the sport.
Ruenroeng came to the attention of the hardcore fans back when he was an amateur though really it was last year that he came out of nowhere to claim the IBF Flyweight title, with a decision win over Rocky Fuentes. The win over Fuentes began a run of great results for the Thai who has since beaten Kazuto Ioka, McWilliams Arroyo, Zou Shiming and Johnriel Casimero, with the wins over Ioka and Shiming coming on the road. The wins haven't always been pretty but they have seen Ruenroeng show various facets to his game, including his boxing ability, physical strength and dirty tricks.
Although Ruenroeng is 35, in fact he's coming up to 36, he's a very young 35 and hasn't been in the wars that age a fighter. In fact he's got the speed, stamina, timing and strength of a much younger man. It's fair to say that he's the youngest 35 year old in boxing today.
On December 7th Ruenroeng returns to the ring for his 5th defense of the IBF Flyweight title as he takes on little known Japanese challenger Myung Ho Lee (19-4-1, 6). For Amnat the bout is regarded as a foregone conclusion before a possible unification bout next year, for Lee however the opportunity is a huge one, and a chance for him to end the rise of the Thai.
The Japanese challenger really is very unknown outside of Asia, though has fought in Mexico once where he gave Edgar Sosa a very tough outing 3 years ago. The Sosa bout, which ended in a majority decision loss for Lee, is really the most notable of Lee's bout, though he has also suffered defeats to Rocky Fuentes and Rey Megrino, whilst also fighting to a draw with Hirofumi Mukai. In regards to wins his most notable came more than 4 years ago when he beat Shin Ono.
Although not considering as one of the best Flyweights in Japan Lee is a man worth giving some attention too. He's one of only 3 men to lose a decision to Megrino, one of the sports most criminally under-rated punchers who has stopped 6 of his last 7 foes including Pongsaklek Wonjongkam and Ernesto Saulong, he was also able to hold his own with 2-time world title challenger Mukai and given his experience he could well ask some genuine question of Amnat.
Although Lee is no pushover, and could well go into the bout with Amnat with a rough gameplan, it is hard to see him becoming the first Japanese fighter to claim a world title in Thailand. The likely outcome is that Lee does give Amnat a few problems, especially if he fights dirty against one of the dirtiest players in the game, but he'll not have the skills to shine when he needs them, like Amnat does. As a result we have to expect the champion to retain with a clear, but rough, decision.
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)
Macau might not be a boxing hotspot yet but it is a growing market and it is somewhere that Bob Arum, one of the world's premier promoters, has targeted as an Asian boxing hub. He has built his small Asian boxing empire on the potential success of one man, Zou Shiming (6-0, 1).
Shiming, a former Chinese amateur star, is potentially the key to opening up not only Macau but China as a whole. His amateur success made him an instant name to remember in the professional ranks and also seemed to make him an instant enemy for many fight fans who were against the hype he was receiving. On march 7th Shiming has a chance to live up to the hype and claim a world title in just his 7th professional bout. Doing so would see Bob Arum's investment in Shiming look like an incredibly shrewd bit of business whilst a loss may well end the Macau experiment, or at least temporarily derail it.
Trying to expose the Shiming myth is a former amateur rival, Thailand's Amant Ruenroeng (14-0, 5), the current IBF Flyweight champion and a serious contender for the 2014 Fighter of the Year award.
Prior to last year only the hardcore were aware of Ruenroeng. He was a solid amateur but not an international star like Shiming. He had however, prior to the start of last year, ran up an 11-0 (5) record and moved quietly into the IBF rankings whilst fans in Thailand had quietly been raving about Ruenroeng and his life, which had turned from crime to a national amateur success story.
In the amateurs these two met thrice with Shiming holding a 2-1 edge in the unpaid ranks. It's fair to say that that rivalry, a friendly but highly competitive one, has helped lead us to where we are. Shiming is looking to repeated his success in the professional ranks whilst Amnat is looking to avenge his losses and continue to develop his professional career, which has been very good so far.
For those who have hated on Shiming since he turned professional in 2013 it's fair to say they have some credit to their views. Shiming has been hyped, he has been over-payed and he has been given preferential treatment. He has however worked hard, quickly developed a professional style and he has been fast tracked. He has however also brought international attention to the Flyweight division, offered some fans a chance to see Flyweights in action and brought HBO camera's to Macau.
On his debut, against Eleazar Valenzuela in April 2013, Shiming looked awful. He was slapping, still looking like an amateur and really didn't impress. It seemed as if Bob Arum had signed a very pricey bust. Fight after fight however Shiming improved. This was seen most impressively in his last two bouts which saw him take wide decisions over Luis De la Rosa and Kwanpichit OnsongchaiGym.
We'll admit we were impressed, for the most part, with Shiming's performance against Kwanpichit. Shiming dropped the then unbeaten Thai numerous and appeared to have secured a stoppage at one point, though Danrex Tapdasan blew the call. He did revert back to type late on and failed to close the show but for a man in the 6th bout of his career and going to his first 12 rounder bout he was impressive.
Shiming's amateur experience is of course one of his big strengths though it's certainly not his only one. He of course has Bob Arum's financial backing and the support of China though he also has blurring handspeed, under-rated power, beautiful combinations and genuine skills. On the other hand he lacks killer instinct, he's not a concussive puncher and he still reverts to slapping at times. There is plenty to be impressed by but there is holes.
For those who haven't seen Ruenroeng we need to ask how you managed to ignore him last year. The rangy Thai is a very relaxed boxer who is wonderful as a counter puncher and sensational as a boxer. His 2014 was a stand out year, and were it not for Naoya Inoue there would be few denying Ruenroeng as the Asian fighter of the year. He began the year by out pointing experienced Filipino Rocky Fuentes in a bout for the IBF Flyweight title, that win alone was impressive and a brilliant way to announce himself on the world stage. In his first defence of the title he defeated the then unbeaten Kazuto Ioka, in Japan, as he neutralised Ioka and made Ioka fight the wrong fight, before then adding McWilliams Arroyo to his list of victims with a narrow points win in Thailand.
All 3 of those bouts were great wins for Ruenroeng though they all seemed to show something different about the Thai. Against Fuentes he managed to move like a ballerina and kept Fuentes from making the most of his relentless pressure, against Ioka the jab was key to stopping Ioka from settling whilst against Arroyo we saw heart and determination as well as some dirty and negative tactics. What they all showed however was that Ruenroeng had very good technique, very solid defense, very quick hands and a relative lack of power. Like Shiming he is good, but clearly lacks in some areas.
When the two men meet we're going to have an abundance of handspeed with a lack of power. It's not going to be explosive but it will be exciting and intriguing with both men knowing what is at stake.
At a neutral venue we would favour Ruenroeng, who appears the more polished professional. But we wouldn't feel confident. In Macau that shifts. We have to favour Shiming, especially with Bob Arum's investment and the potential for Shiming to become one of the sports major cash cows. Regardless of venue however we suspect this will be very competitive with neither man doing much to clearly define himself against his opponent. The rounds will be close, the fight will be close and no matter who wins the loser will feel wronged.
What we expect is almost an amateur-esque contest fought between two very talented fighters who rely on their speed and skills more than their power and strength. Early on we think the bout will be a typical well fought boxing contest with little in terms of clinches or brawling. In the middle and later rounds however we think things could get messy with Ruenroeng trying to mess things up a bit and Shiming reverting to slapping. It's during those rounds that the fight will likely be decided on the scorecards of the neutrals.
We're expecting poor scorecards in favour of Shiming though we're also expecting a fight that will be too close to really call on anyone's card in a fight that will hopefully bring more attention to one of the sports best divisions.
(Image courtesy of http://www.bcmagazine.net)
Amnat returns to Thailand for mandatory against Arroyo and to add to his claim as the break through fighter of the year
When we discuss "Fight of the Year" candidates we all seem to over-look Thailand's Amnat Ruenroeng (13-0, 5) who has really emerged in 2014 as one of the most talented and most criminally under-rated fighters on the planet.
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)
In recent months Japanese boxing has been enamoured with the prodigious talent of Naoya Inoue, the new wonder child of Japanese boxing. Prior to Naoya's emergence as such an outstanding young fighter the Japanese boxing world was celebrating the exceptional talent of Kazuto Ioka (14-0, 9) another young, talented and ambitious young man who was creeping on to the fringes of the pound-for-pound lists.
Ioka, like Inoue, was making his name from very early in his career. He became a Japanese national champion in just his 6th bout before winning a world title in his 7th contest, setting a then new Japanese national record.
The combination of boxing ability, power, speed, and natural intuition in the ring all made Ioka look like a star of the future. A man who was a world champion seemed like to be much more.
Around 16 months after winning his first world title Ioka unified the WBC and WBA Minimumweight titles by defeating Akira Yaegashi. It was just his 10th bout but it was clear that Ioka was something special, even if you did feel he was a little bit lucky to actually get the decision over Yaegashi.
Rather than stay at Minimumweight Ioka set his sights on bigger challenges and quickly moved up to capture a Light Flyweight title. As the WBA Light Flyweight champion Ioka defended the belt 3 times with only Felix Alvarado giving him any kind of a fight.
Now Ioka's attention turns to the Flyweight division where he will attempt to claim the IBF title and become just the second Japanese fighter to be a 3-weight world champion. In the opposite corner to Ioka will be former amateur rival Amnat Ruenroeng (12-0,5) who notably beat Ioka in the 2008 King's Cup in Bangkok.
Whilst Ioka is one of the best in Japan and is a man on a march through the divisions Amnat is a man who is looking for redemption and is proof of what boxing can do to help reform someone. He has gone from prisoner at the dregs of society to a world champion, a hero for his people and a man representing Thailand at the highest level in his sport.
Amnat hasn't had the life of Ioka. He wasn't groomed to be a boxing star following in his uncles footsteps, he wasn't paid vast sums at a young age to become a world champion. Instead Amnat has had to fight hard to get to where he is. He had to turn around his life to go from criminal to boxing champion.
Whilst some will criticise the way in which the Thai won the IBF Flyweight title, taking a decision over Filipino veteran Rocky Fuentes for the vacant belt which had been stripped from Moruti Mthalane, few will criticise his ambition to become a world champion despite starting his professional journey aged 32.
Thanks to Thai promotional outfit Amnat has been able to quickly rise through the ranks and claim a world title, a belt he'll be defending for the first time when he faces Ioka in what looks almost certain to be the toughest bout of his career so far.
Interestingly whilst the men have had different journey's to get to where they are they are relatively similar in their traits. Both are technically good boxers, both are fast, often much faster than their rivals, and both seem to like having space to work with. Unfortunately for the Thai it's where they are different in the ring that we feel this bout will be won and lost.
Amnat hasn't really got much in terms of power or experience. He has done 12 rounds thrice but only the one against Fuentes was really fought at anything close to world level and for that bout Amnat won based on his style and home advantage as opposed to his world class skills. Fuentes was slower than Amnat, less energetic and easier to tag, it made life easy for Amnat to rack up some early rounds and use Funetes's pressure against him. In the middle rounds however Amnat did appear to be feeling the pace and altered his tactics to include less offensive work and more movement. The change helped him take a decision at home though likely wouldn't fair as well on the road.
Quick with his hands and his feet Amnat is a good boxer but here he's facing someone equally as fast though with a lot more to his boxing. Ioka can can box with his speed, he can fight an inside war, as shown in his performance with Alvarado, he can go 12 rounds at a high pace, but most importantly he can take guys out. Ioka's body shots are amongst the best in boxing and when they land opponents know about it, they start to slow and and become sluggish. We expect those body shots to be the difference here with Ioka slowly breaking down the champion who by round 8 or 9 will be looking very uncomfortable before folding soon afterwards.
We imagine that this will look like a game of high speed chess early on but Ioka will take over as the bout develops and come out on top having had a very strong middle section of the fight. His stronger over-all game and his youth will be too much for the much older champion.
(Images: Top courtesy of Boxmob.jp, bottom courtesy of http://www.kiatkreerin.com)
(Video below courtesy of Kiatkreerin.com)
When we talk about modern day "hard luck" stories few fighters rival Rocky "The Road Warrior" Fuentes (35-6-2, 20) a man who has been on the verge of a world title fighter longer than some fighters have even been fighting. Thankfully though Fuentes's fortunes have changed this year and despite having visa issues preventing a bout in Puerto Rico he has come up smelling like roses and landed himself in a IBF Flyweight world title fight, finally he gets his chance.
Fuentes, who has been a professional since 2003 and although he doesn't sport an unbeaten record he does have a claim to being the over-looked fighter on the planet.
With 6 losses and 2 draws on his record some may be ruling out Fuentes as a world level fighter. It's worth noting however that he is currently on a 15 fight winning streak and is unbeaten in 6 years. His last loss came in December 2007 and since then he has improved drastically and gone from being a 21 year old boy to being a 27 year old man. That development hasn't just seen him stacking up wins but also scoring notable wins including a decision over Masafumi Okubo to claim the OPBF Flyweight title, a title he would defend against Shigetaka Ikehara, Hirofumi Mukai and Myung Ho Lee.
Unfortunately for Fuentes he has to travel for his world title fight. It shouldn't be a problem for a man known as "The Road Warrior", though Fuentes is 0-3-1 in Thailand where this bout will be, with 1 of his 2 stoppage losses coming there back in 2004. It is worth noting however that Fuentes hasn't fought in Thailand since he lost to one-time world title challenger Kaichon Sor Vorapin in 2006, when Fuentes himself was just 19.
Not only does Fuentes have to travel for his opportunity but he also has to take on an unbeaten foe in the form of Amnat Ruenroeng (11-0, 5), a Thai who was an amateur stand out and a product of the prison boxing system
Amnat is a fighter who, like many others in the sport, has used boxing to get away from a life of crime. He was sentenced to a long stretch before finding boxing and developing as a fighter and as a person. This development helped him get out of prison and helped him become an example of what boxing can do to help a person turn their life around. He went from burglary to national amateur champion and later competed on the international stage, scoring a notable victory over Kazuto Ioka and reaching the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
In mid 2012 Amnat began his professional campaign. He was already in his 30's but knew that with amateur pedigree and skills he could be moved fast through the rankings. By the end of 2012 he had swiftly advanced his record to 7-0 (3) and seemed set to continue his rise in 2013. Despite his activity in 2012 Amnat spent 2013 much less active but more direct in his bouts. He picked up the IBF Asia Flyweight title and made a beeline for the IBF rankings attempting to fast track himself up to a title fight with that organisation, one that his promoters have good links with.
After the good 2013, in terms of climbing the IBF rankings, it seemed he was set on fighting IBF world champion Moruti Mthalane for the title. Sadly that bout broke down as Mthalane vacated his title rather than fight Amnat for relative pennies. Amnat however has gotten lucky in the fact that the IBF have allowed him to face Fuentes here in what looks like a fantastic match, arguably better than the Amnat/Mthalane bout that was originally announced.
As we know about Thai's they are often promoted in 1 of two ways. They are either given a prolonged start to their career fighting journeymen for years to pick up experience before moving on to a world title fight, or they are fast tracked up the rankings and in to a title fight. Amnat is certainly in the second category though oddly he doesn't fight like a Thai. He's not an out and out pressure fighter like many Thai's but instead he's a calculated boxer with his amateur pedigree certainly shining through. He picks his punches well, uses good straight shots and seems happier to fight at mid to long range than many of his compatriots. He's clearly a product of the amateur scene unlike many Thai's who come from kick boxing.
Whilst the Thai is a "non-Thai" like fighter it's fair to say that Fuentes is pretty much what we expect of a Filipino with power. He tends to be aggressive, with good power in both hands and seems to enjoy a fight. Although sometimes Fuentes looks reckless and he can be dropped he tends to believe in himself in enough to commit to his work to both the head and body. Unfortunately though he has been known to fight to his opponents level and this has seen him making some fights more difficult for himself than they need to be. Saying that however he does tend to make for some very fun fights with multiple knockdowns, as seen in his bout with Juan Kantun last time out.
Although Thai's are generally favoured, almost by default, when fighting at home this is very much a bout that we feel doesn't favour the home fighter. We're really thinking that although Amnat is talented and has home advantage Fuentes will know too much from his lengthy career and simply have too much desire. The Filipino has been made to wait, and wait and wait for his chance and now he has it he won't be wanting to leave the ring with out the belt.
Unfortunately for Amnat his 11 fights haven't prepared him for a fighter like Fuentes. They have been against a much lower caliber of fighter and although he's talented the fact he's 34 and been fast tracked has left him with issues in his game, issues we think Fuentes will take advantage of in the middle and later rounds of the bout as he grinds down the Thai.
Win or lose we expect Fuentes to put on the performance of his life. If Amnat can defeat him then the Thai really will be one to keep an eye on this year as he'll have announced himself in one of boxing's toughest divisions.
For those wanting to watch this contest, it will air live on Thai Channel 7on January 22nd.
World Title Previews
The biggest fights get broken down as we try to predict who will come out on top in the up coming world title bouts.