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.