The next world title fight to take place in Asia is one of the most over-looked Bantamweight title bouts in a while and sees the attention of the division turn to Thailand where a local champion makes his first mandatory defense, against a criminally under-rated contender.
The champion in question is the very experienced Pungluang Sor Singyu (52-3, 35) who will be making the second defense of the WBO Bantamweight title as he goes up against the talented and over-looked Marlon Tapales (28-2, 11) of the Philippines. Between them the men are just 50 years old but have 85 bouts and 80 wins combined!
The 26 year old champion, enjoying his second title reign, is one of the few Thai's who has got a “padded” record but shown he can hang with world class fighters. His first loss was a close one on the road in 2009, to future world title challenger Stephane Jamoye, his second was another close one on the road to Paulus Ambunda whilst his most recent was a KO loss in the US to Tomoki Kameda, his most notable bout so far. In all of those losses he proved he was a handful and had Kameda worried before the Japanese star landed one of the best body punches landed in recent years.
Whilst those losses have all been set backs he has scored notable wins over AJ Banal, in the Philippines and Ryo Akaho, to begin each of his title reigns, and also scored a recent win over Filipino Jetro Pabustan, in what was a really messy bout plagued by headclashes. Other somewhat decent wins include victories over Monico Lurente and Eden Sonsona, credible oriental level wins.
In the ring the champion is a smiling ball of aggressive energy. At 5'4” he's a tiny Bantamweight but uses his lack of height well to make a difficult target, he comes forward and he tried to break down opponents with intense pressure and accurate punching. He may not be as skilled as countrymen like Wanheng Menayothin or as powerful as Srisaket Sor Rungvisai but he's still a real nightmare and the sort of fighter who can give most Bantamweights on the planet a really nasty time in the ring.
Aged 24 the challenger will be getting his first crack at a world title but is regarded by some hardcore fans as one of the better fighters not to have won a world title. Although relatively unknown by the wider boxing fan base he already holds wins over the likes of Randy Petalcorin, Warlito Parrenas, Rey Megrino, Hayato Kimura and Shohei Omori. He was also really unlucky when he fought to a majority decision loss to David Sanchez in his most recent loss.
Tapales has been beaten twice. Once was the aforementioned defeat to Sanchez whilst the other was a 6th round TKO loss to Brix Ray back in 2009. That loss to Ray was an upset and will be a black mark on his record, however that loss came more than 7 years ago and Tapales is a far different fighter today to what he was back then, as a teenager.
In the ring Tapalese is a careful fighter with a good guard and subtle footwork however it's his timing that appears to be his greatest quality and the shots he caught Omori with last year were perfect timed lumps of dynamite. He may not have a reputation as a puncher but he certainly possess some solid bang in his left hand, a good energy in the ring and under-rated skills with some lovely speed thrown in as a bonus. There are flaws in his defense but there's enough in there to be a potential handful for anyone in the division. Interestingly he's also going to be one of the very few Bantamweights smaller than Pungluang.
In the ring we're expecting Pungluang to look to bring the pressure and then for Tapale to respond, looking catch him with counters and make the most of his danger left hook. Pungluang is tough though and given the advantage in Thailand he'll be strongly favoured to claim a decision. For Tapales to win he will likely need a KO, something he can get, but we suspect he won't here and instead Pungluang will retain by a decision in a thrilling bout that sees home advantage pay dividends for the Thai.
Last year we saw Thailand's Pungluang Sor Singyu (51-3, 35) [ผึ้งหลวง ส.สิงห์อยู่] become a 2-time world champion as he scored a 2nd round TKO win against Japan's Ryo Akaho to claim the WBO Bantamweight title, for the second time. He returns to the ring on February 12th to make the first defense of that title as he takes on little known Filipino fighter Jetro Pabustan (26-2-6, 7), in a voluntary defense of the title before a meeting later in the year with Marlon Tapales.
The experienced Thai, who turned professional back in 2004 after a long Muay Thai career, didn't have an amateur career but seemed a natural at boxing and less than 2 years after his professional debut he won bis first title, the WBC Youth title. As the WBC Youth champion he ran up some solid wins, over the likes of Monico Laurente and Eden Sonsona before losing in his first bout outside of Thailand, a very controversial loss to Stephane Jamoye in Belgium.
The loss to Jamoye was a set back for the young Thai but he rebuilt well and in 2009 he travelled to the Philippines for his second fight away from Thailand. This time he managed to score a win on his travels, stopping AJ Banal to claim the WBO Bantamweight title in a minor upset. Sadly Pungluang's reign was short lived, losing the title in his first defense as he went to Namibia and was beaten by Paulus Ambunda.
Following Punglunag's loss to Ambunda the WBO title went on a weird journey which saw Tomoki Kameda claim the title from Pungluang's conqueror before defending it against Pungluang, stopping the Thai with a vicious body shot, and Alejandro Hernandez. A third planned defense, against WBA “regular” champion Jamie McDonnell didn't sit well with the WBO who stripped Kameda and ordered the bout between Pungluang and Akaho, which Pungluang won in Ratchaburi.
In the ring the Thai is a smiling assassin. Since the loss to Jamoye back in 2009 he has gone a very impressive 28-2 (21) and is 5-0 (4) since losing to Kameda. He is a pressure fighter who described himself in a recent interview as “diligent” and that hard work shows with the Thai capable of keeping up a great pace for 12 rounds and being tough, with his only loss being the one to Kameda from a truly sickening body shot.
Whilst we know a lot about the champion, the same cannot be said of the challenger, who we really don't know a great deal about, and who we surprisingly lack solid footage of. The lack of footage, and wider knowledge, sees Pabustan living up to his nickname of the “Silent Operator”, with very few people raving about the 26 year old southpaw.
Stood at 5'7” he's a tall Bantamweight, and from his record it's clear he's a hard man to beat, with just 2 defeats from 34 bouts. Incidentally both of those losses, as well as 4 of his wins and 5 of his draws, have been technical decisions, suggesting that Pabustan's bouts are full of head clashes, and that may be an issue here. It's probably the fact he's a southpaw that there's so many headclashes in his bouts but it's very notable than 11 of 34 bouts have ended in a technical decision.
Although Pabustan has gone about things quietly there are some note worthy names on his record. These include Monico Laurente, who beat him in 2014, as well as the once touted Kenny Demecillo and former Minimumweight title challenger Vergilio Silvano. Sadly those three names aside it's hard to describe Pabustan's competition as being anything better than Filipino domestic level.
Notably Pabustan has never fought away from home and has never gone 12 rounds coming in to this one.
Whilst it can be hard to predict a bout on so little information we can't really imagine how Pabustan can win given, with his lack of experience, limited power and the fact the bout is in Thailand. He is the taller man, and is a southpaw, but he'll need to have the performance of his life to over-come Pungluang here.
In boxing the greatest rivalries not only give us a lot of fights but also manage to have exciting, competitive and compelling contests. Of course the biggest rivalry in the sport is the Mexico Vs Puerto Rico rivalry which has given us so many memorable bouts in both countries. To some the Asian equivalent is the Japan Vs Thailand rivalry which has, at times, given us some amazing bouts, again in both countries. Sadly however this rivalry lacks something, it lacks the “competitiveness” in Thailand where Thai's have thoroughly dominated with an incredibly record against Japanese fighters in world title fights.
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)
Right now the Bantamweight division is one of the most interesting in Asian boxing. At the top of the tree we have WBC champion Shinsuke Yamanaka, arguably the best pound-for-pound fighter currently plying his trade in Asia, and close behind him with have a list of other top fighters each looking for their chance to claim a world title at 118lbs.
That list, which include Ryosuke Iwasa, Malcolm Tunacao, Suriyan Sor Rungvisai, Tepparith Kokietgym, Marlin Tapalaes, Mark Anthony Geraldo, Richard Pumicpic, Panomroonglek Kaiyanghadaogym, Kentaro Masuda, Daiki Kameda and Drian Francisco amongst others is just showing the depth in the division and just how cramped it is up there for contenders, who really should be fighting between themselves to try and earn a mandatory position.
Between the contenders and Yamanaka is current WBO champion Tomoki Kameda (29-0, 18) who will be defending his WBO title for the second time as he takes on mandatory challenger Pungluang Sor Singyu (46-2, 31). This bout has been an on-going saga that began at the start of the year and will finally come to an end when the men finally get in the ring together on July 12th and battle it out in Las Vegas.
The bout is in Las Vegas after the camps of the two fighters agreed to have it outside of their respective homelands. For Kameda that was an obvious move as he can't actually get a license in Japan unless he wants to move gyms, something he has been unwilling to do so far. As for Pungluang we can only assume he has been offered a handsome pay package to give away home advantage, a price that Kameda's have been willing to pay due to the poor history Japanese fighters have had in Thailand. As a result the bout won't be shown live in Japan and due to the other bouts on the show in the US the bout is unlikely to be shown to the masses in the US, though is expected to feature on Sho Extreme as well Boxnation and, fingers crossed, a Thai channel as well.
Thankfully despite the issues surrounding the bout it does actually seem likely to be a brilliant clash between two men widely regarded as being amongst the top 10 in the Bantamweight division. Stylistically we're expecting something a bit special with the styles of the two men likely to gel very well and we're expecting it to also be competitive.
Of the two men the most versatile is Kameda who can fight on the front foot or the back foot. He's shown great footwork against pressure and he's also shown that he can take the initiative when wants. Compared to his brother's he's by far the most rounded of the 3 Kameda's though, just like Koki and Daiki, he does have his flaws and one of which is his lack of power which often fails to stop fighters trying to walk him down, and sometimes his mentality which can make fights closer than they should be.
With Kameda being able to box on the front foot with intelligent aggression or the back foot with sharp counter punching he does seem like a hard man to beat though we tend to feel that his lack of power would leave him in problems if an aggressively minded fighter had decent footwork, something Paulus Ambunda, his best opponent to date, lacked.
In Pungluang we have a somewhat basic fighter but one who does a lot of the basics very well. He's a come forward pressure fighter, like most Thai's, who keeps it tight defensively, applies very intense pressure and attacks both the head and body well. Although short for the weight he cuts distance very well and is extremely strong, tough and hard working.
Although fundamentally predictable Pungluang is a fighter who appears to be draining both mentally and physically. He won't back off from a fighter, he won't stop coming forward and he won't stop trying to beat you down. This draining effect of Pungluang's as seen when he scored his most notable win, a 9th round stoppage against AJ Banal.
What we're expecting to see is a determined and fired up Pungluang applying his typical pressure against Tomoki and the Japanese fighter being forced to box off the back foot. This should be similar to Tomoki Kameda's fight with Ambunda though we do think that Pungluang will manage to up the ante and get closer to Tomoki. If the Thai can get close, work the body and really take the fight to the champion then we actually feel we may see the title change hands here and Pungluang could well become a 2-time world champion.
From what we understand this is likely to be Kameda's last fight at Bantamweight before he moves up to Super Bantamweight. We actually think the young Japanese fighter will be better suited to 122lbs but he's trained hard for this one and would hate to leave the division following his first loss. We don't think he'll cut corners but we do fancy the Thai to take advantage of any struggles Tomoki has at making 118lbs.
(Image courtesy of OnesongChai)
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.