The Thai, Amnat Ruenroeng (12-0, 5) may only be a professional novice but he had earned his world ranking with the IBF by playing the clever political games that fighters can do in a multi-title boxing world. Unfortantely his opponent, Filipino Rocky Fuentes (35-7-2, 20), had been unable to play those games and was, finally, getting his first chance despite having been a world raked fighter for a number of years.
Unfortunately for Funetes life was made harder as he had everything against him. The conditions in Thailand are never nice for a visiting fighter and thr crowd, which cheered every time Amnat landed, can't have done Fuentes any favours with the judging. Despite this he showed why some rate him as one of the best active fighters not to have won a world title.
The fight started well for Amnat who showed impressive hand speed in the early rounds. Fuentes's game plan was obvious, apply a lot of pressure and make Amnat work for every second of every round, something that the Thai had never had to do before. Early on the Thai, with fresh legs and movement, coped with the pressure well and was able to land numerous eye catching counters. For Fuentes however the counters weren't much of an issue, Amnat simply didn't have the power to bother him.
After Amnat had won the first few rounds with his sharp snappy punching he began to feel the pressure and early in round 4 the Thai was forced to throw Fuentes down and to hold the Filipino, both of which got the Thai warned by the referee.
Unfortunately as Fuentes seemed to be coming back in to things the TV broadcast cut away to a speech in Thai. We'll admit we're not sure what was said though we are aware that Thailand is currently in a state of emergency and the announcement was likely due to that. Unfortunately for us in the boxing fraternity it saw us missing most of round 4 and the entirety of round 5.
When we get back to the fight it seemed that Fuentes had began to really take charge as he dominated round 6 and appeared to be beating up on the Thai who was forced to eat shots inside and really take a bit of a pounding. It was looking like Fuentes's pressure wasn't just beginning to pay off but was starting to force the Thai to wilt in front of our eyes.
Unfortunately just as soon as Fuentes seemed to be taking over the fight he let Amnat off the hook and despite applying a lot of pressure in round 7 he was unable to get his shots off and really make another statement in the round. Had he been able to do that against the fancy Dan style foot work of Amnat in round 7 we feel he may have managed to have the title back to the Philippines.
Having all but given away round 7 Fuentes knew he had to step it back up and that's exactly what he did in round 8 as he forced Amnat to take shots, clinch and spoil merely to survive, it appeared we were on the verge of a capitulation from the Thai who had never been forced to work as hard in his career. The work rate and pressure of Fuentes was taking it's toll both mentally and physically with Amnat backing off relentlessly and trying to win rounds on his light but sharp straight punching. Unfortunately for Fuentes, knowing he was the visitor, every shot Amnat landed was cheered to the rafters.
As both men began to tire they began to lose their footing and slip. and this started to make things a bit messy though it was obvious that there was more fight in Fuentes than in Amnat who appeared happy to survive rather than fight. He appeared to feel that he had done enough to win the decision aswe went through the championship rounds. As we found out, the judges agreed giving Amnat the decision in an incredible close and very well contested bout that could easily have gone either way.
We're hoping that Fuentes will get a second world title chance in the near future whilst for Amnat this was a perfect way to announce himself on the world stage, even though he was fortunate to win. For a man with just 12 professional contests this is a major achievement and to be crowned the IBF champion so early is impressive. At 34 though he'll be hoping to make the most of his reign before father time gets the best of him.
Unfortunately we've been told that the scores were 116-112, 116-112 and 117-111 all in favour of Amnat and all probably a bit too wide, though there is no real complain about the winner.