Fuentes gets his second world title shot of the year, unfortunately for him it comes against Chocolatito
Boxing has always had unfortunate fighters who, in a different era, could have been a champion. The fighters that always seem to be frozen out or only get a chance on foreign soil or against a completely sensational talent. It appears that popular Filipino Rocky Fuentes (35-7-2, 20) maybe one such fighter. In a different era or with a big promoter behind him we have no doubts that Fuentes would have held a world title. Sadly however he is fighting now and the Flyweight division is the toughest division in the sport right today with his upcoming opponent, WBC Flyweight champion Roman Gonzalez (40-0, 34) being possibly the best fighter on the planet today.
The 28 year old Fuentes began his career aged just 16 and in just his 4th bout he had a man's life on his hands after the death of John Eman Juarez. For many young fighters that would have been it and lesser fighters would have walked away from the sport, for Fuentes however it was one of many disappointments as he began one of the sports true hard luck careers.
Fuentes would begin his career 8-0 before quickly dropping to 9-3-2 as he had to travel for fighters losing 3 of 4 bouts on the road. Sadly for Fuentes it was on the road that he had to spend much of his career with bouts taking place in Thailand, Indonesia and Japan. The travels saw him gain the well earned moniker of the "Road Warrior" though he began fighting better on the road than at home and scored notable wins over Yuki Nasu, Masafumi Okubo, Shigetaka Ikehara, Yasuto Aritomi and Hirofumi Mukai as he won and defended the OPBF Flyweight title. In total Fuentes would make 6 OPBF title defences in less than 3 years whilst also fighting other non-title bouts. It was a case of fighting and waiting, waiting for his well earned world title fight. Unfortunately the wait was a frustrating one as he scored 15 straight wins and 22 wins from 23 contests and saw a man he beat, Mukai, get a WBC title fight just 4 months after Fuentes had beaten him.
Fuentes got his first world title bout earlier this year in his 44th professional bout and unsurprisingly he had to go on the road again. Sadly that took him to Thailand, a country renowned for being difficult to win in, and unfortunately he came up short against unbeaten Thai Amnat Ruenroeng in a very competitive bout. The loss wasn't a bad one for Fuentes but it was certainly a hard one to swallow considering what he had done to earn a shot in comparison to Ruenroeng who was fighting for just the 12th time as a professional.
For those who haven't seen Fuentes in action you've been missing out. At his best he's an intelligent pressure fighter with heavy hands and an exciting in the ring. He's not the most polished fighter out there but he is a fighter who always seems to be be in entertaining scraps, such as his contest with Juan Kantun that saw 4 knockdowns and when he needs to box he can though we get the feeling he prefers to force the action in an attempt to make a point and keep the judges from trying to take the fight away from him. Sadly for a fighter with his style he perhaps lacks a tiny bit in terms of power, though he is certainly not feather fisted by any stretch of the imagination.
As mentioned above Fuentes will be up against Roman Gonzalez, a man who needs no introduction at all and a man every fight fan should be full aware of. The Nicaraguan fighter a born fighter with a mentality that has shown he wants to prove he's the best no matter where that sees him fighting. As a result he has fought many of his most significant bouts in Japan where where he claimed his first world title, with a 4th round TKO against Yutaka Niida in 2008, made the second defense of his WBA Minimumweight title against Katsunari Takayama in 2009, claimed the WBA interim Light Flyweight title with a 2nd round KO against Francisco Rosas, and most recently claimed the WBC Flyweight title with a victory over Akira Yaegashi. Despite beating many of Japan's finest he hasn't become public enemy #1 but instead has been accepted by the Japanese fight fans who have warmed quickly to the Nicaraguan terror.
For those who haven't seen Gonzalez they've been missing out on the sports best offensive fighter, most frightening pressure fighter and possibly the best combination puncher in the sport. Built like a mini-tank Gonzalez employs exceptional footwork, insane strength, frightening speed, spiteful power and a mind blowing array of punches thrown in crisp and sharp combinations. There has been no proven way to make him look bad and only a handful of fighters have even made it to the final bell against him with the most recent of these being Juan Francisco Estrada back in November 2012, Estrada has since gone on to become the other leading fighters at Flyweight. Amazingly Estrada is the only man in the last 12 fights to see out the distance with Gonzalez who has been on a real tear through the lower weights in recent years.
Watching Gonzalez is a genuine pleasure as he stalks his pray with intense pressure, breaking them mentally by never backing up and breaking them physically with his arsenal of heavy shots. In some ways he's the antithesis of Guillermo Rigondeaux and whilst he has a similarly high skill level to Rigondeaux and Floyd Mayweather Jr he has the mentality of fighting offensively and given fans a show that ends with a knockout. Sometimes it sees him leaving himself a little bit open to counters but by then an opponent is usually to beat up to take advantage as Gonzalez goes for the finish.
With both fighters enjoying a fight, both sharing a mentality of fighting on the front foot and both wanting to impress we suspect we could be in for a high octane affair here with both likely to end up trading on the inside in some highlight reel exchanges. Unfortunately for Fuentes that could be the worst idea with Gonzalez being defensively tighter and offensively more explosive, faster, more effective and all-round better. For fans however we suspect this could be a short lived but thrilling war before Fuentes is ground down, like in the middle rounds of a very memorable contest.
It's a real shame that Fuentes gets his second world title fight against a monster like Gonzalez though at the moment the Flyweight division is genuinely the toughest in the sport and a loss to Gonzalez is nothing but expected for everyone currently competing in the division.
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
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.
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