For much of the last decade the “lower weights” have been the most exciting, most interesting and more varied divisions in the sport. That was again seen when we had a talented, but frustrating, spoiler up against a flawed but exciting puncher.
The bout in question was the second meeting between Amnat Ruenroeng (17-1, 5) [อำนาจ รื่นเริง] and Filipino Johnriel Casimero (22-3, 14), a rematch that came after last year's farcical and foul filled bout in Amnat's native Thailand.
The bout started much like their first. From the opening bell it seemed like Amnat was sharper, stronger, faster and and physically the better fighter. He seemed able to box when he wanted and wrestle when he wanted, almost trying to bully the Filipino mentally, and in fact seemed to stiffen the Filipino part way through the round. The second followed a similar pattern with the Filipino being made to look second best to the defending the champion.
In round 3 Amnat sent Casimero to the canvas, though rightfully it was ruled a push with Amnat scarcely hiding his dirty tactics and dark arts.
Surprisingly the bout flipped on it's head in round 4 when Casimero landed a sweet counter up top that sent Amnat down. The shot would have dropped anyone in the division and Amnart unsurprisingly dropped hard, though amazingly got back to his feet. Although he got up he never seemed to recover and Casimero went on the hunt, smelling blood. Several waves of the Casimero storm were thwarted, with Amnat blocking, holding and spoiling his way through some of the round but a left hand to the body put the Thai down for the count.
With the win Casimero becomes a 2-weight world champion, having previously been the IBF Light Flyweight champion, and leaves the Flyweight picture looking extremely exciting, with him, Roman Gonzalez, Juan Francisco Estrada and Kazuto Ioka all holding titles. As for Amnat this could be the end, unless he fancies a trilogy with Casimero, he's getting on in terms of age and after a stoppage loss like this he may find it very hard to get notable opponents to face him and his dark arts style.
The intriguing Flyweight division really does have a bit of everything involved in it with the aggression of Roman Gonzalez, the action of Diago Higa, the the boxing of Juan Francisco Estrada and the trickery of Amnat Ruenroeng (17-0, 5). It was that trickery that was on show earlier today when Amnat recorded the 5th defense of his IBF Flyweight title and over-came the gutsy Myung Ho Lee (19-5-1, 6), of Japan.
In the opening round it looked like the bout was going to be an easy one for Amnat who looked too fast, too skilled, too smart and too accurate for the Japanese challenger. It was a round that saw Amnat showing off what he can do when he's not holding, fouling and wrestling.
The second round was a much more competitive one as Lee came out firing, showing real aggression and arguably showing the key tactic to beating the Thai. The challenger closed the distance, was in Amnat's face and forced the Thai to fight and an uncomfortable pace. It was a round that the judges likely scored to the champion but was one that could easily have gone to Lee who really pressed the fight and made Amnat look uncomfortable.
Amnat saw off the early storm and came back in rounds 3 and 4 with some brilliant work, hurting Lee in both rounds, though also showed his lack of killer instinct letting Lee recover without really turning up the heat on either occasion. Despite the lack of an early finish Amnat was impressive during these rounds and an uppercutt in round 4 was nothing short of exceptional showing just how clever and intuitive he is in the ring.
With Amnat failing to see off Lee when he had a chance it was clear that Lee was going to come back into the fight and in round 5 he really pressed the champion, whilst Amnat had a serious lull through much of the round. It was another round that could have gone to the challenger with little debate whilst the champion fought in some very limited spurts and had little success with his counters and traps. It was one of the best rounds for Lee who showed that he was still really in the fight.
Although Amnat is well known for putting on some dreary action we must say that round 6 was brilliant from both men who spent some prolonged periods trading shots in the center of the ring. The action did have lulls through out but was a really good solid round with both fighters having notable success and being forced to take some solid shots during a round of brilliant 2-way action. Sadly for Lee it was a round where Amnat's slightly more varied offense took him the round, but it seemed to show that Lee was forcing Amnat out of his typically slow paced style.
Lee may not have taken round 6 but he really seemed to grow and took the fight to Amnat once again in round 7 as the champion was forced to fight Lee's fight. The Thai held, spoilers, ran and did his best to avoid the rampaging challenger who looked determined to make a statement with a very impressive effort during the round. In a favourable venue the round would have seen Lee close the gap on the scorecards, and in fact the bout could have been 67-66 leading into the final 5 rounds, on the actual cards however things were never going to be that close.
Round 8 started slowly with Amnat holding, holding and holding though he came alive after that slow start and hammered Lee with right hands late in the round. It wasn't the best round but it was a clear round for the champion who simply out landed and neutralised the challenger, who had began to build some momentum over the previous few rounds.
Amnat's success continued in round 9 as he landed some very solid right hands early, though the most notable part of the round was the fact the Thai was deducted a point. The deduction, for holding, seemed to spur on Lee who finished strongly following a slow start to the round. It was a clear 9-9 round but one that seemed to suggest that Amnat was beginning to walk a tight rope with the referee who was unlikely to let him away with the holding that has become one of his trademarks in the ring.
Knowing that he still had half a chance to claim an unlikely win Lee put his foot on the gas and tried to break down the Thai. In round 10 the tactic failed to pay off with Amnat landing counters almost at will. Lee brought the pressure but seemed to fail in terms of connecting with the shots he needed to. Despite the action of the fight the round was really notable for a judo-style-throw from Amnat, a throw that went unpunished from the referee.
For the final two rounds Lee again continued to press the action, force the pace and really make Amnat uncomfortable. As a result the 11th round was a clear one for the challenger who made Amnat look like a tired fighter, unable to string any sort of offensive salvo and instead resort to holding, running and a simple and move. Sadly for Lee his tactic failed to get him success in the final round, as he was instead dropped, though he claimed it was a slip, securing Amnat a 10-8 round which could easily have decided the bout.
At the final bell Lee looked dejected, as if he knew he could have made the fight closer. Amnat however celebrated, as if the win was secure, easy and clear.
The judges sided with Amnat's view point, scoring it 118-108 and 117-109, twice. The scores weren't reflective of the fight, but they did get the right winner. One thing the fight did show however is that Ruenroeng doesn't like pressure, doesn't like someone in his face and doesn't like to have an opponent forcing the pace. He may have come out with the win here, but the bout seemed to show that Roman Gonzalez would have an easier time with him than some may have expected, in fact it's Gonzalez's style that would be the dominant one if the two men wee to meet in 2016, as has been mentioned in recent weeks.
Our great sport may be the “Fight Game” but there are rules to it, it's not a street fight, and it's not a barbaric event with a “free-for-all” mentality. Sadly for those who tuned into to Mono 29 on Saturday to watch the IBF Flyweight title bout between unbeaten Thai Amnat Ruenroeng and Filipino slugger Johnriel Casimero, the rules were essentially bent, broken, buckled, destroyed and ignored in a bout that may go down as the worst officiated bout of the decade. So poorly enforced were the rules that referee, Larry Doggett, mat as well have been on another continent. Instead Mr Doggett was in the ring and was part of the farce, possibly even exacerbating the problems.
From the opening this was a wild one, with in seconds the fighters had come together with Amnat wrestling, using his physical strength to bully Casimero who was thrown to the canvas within 30 seconds. It should have been an indication to the referee that he would need to get a grip on the fight quickly, and that if he didn't things were going to become downright appalling. Unfortunately the referee let it slide.
Despite the early “physical activity” there was some good boxing by Amnat in the opening stanza with the Thai landing some beautiful counters as Casimero charged in looking to land a solid shot. Ruenroeng often saw the Filipino's lunges coming, stepped back and countered. There was some real sweet science when Amnat decided to box. Sadly though the round ended in slightly sour fashion with Amnat swinging for Casimero well after the bell, the shot missed but the intention seemed to be there, and it was clear the referee was willing to turn a blind eye.
The second round again saw some classy work from the Thai who scored a knockdown with a solid counter and appeared to have Casimero under his control with both the counter-punching and the wrestling. Unfortunately though the wrestling was just starting to get worse and the referee's ineptitude was only just starting to show.
The third round was where things really began to fall apart. Casimero appeared to land a solid counter of his own that dropped Amnat, that however was, very questionably, ruled a slip. From the on Amnat began to flaunt the rules, throwing Casimero down, hitting on the break and, twice, holding Casimero against the ropes. Notably there was also a very long break for Amnat to have his shoe laces tied. There was little in terms of notable boxing, other than knockdown that wasn't.
The fouls that were evident in round 3 became worse in every progressive round from then on with Amnat showing off a bigger variety of illegal tactics than legal ones. They included a number of headlocks in round 4, judo throws in round 5, Amnat trying to shovel Casimero out of the ring in round 6, a choke hold in 7 and a full on mount in round 8. Not only was Amnat breaking the rules regularly but he was also being rewarded for them with a terribly called knockdown in round 7 coming following several illegal moves from the Thai.
By the start of round 9 it was looking like there was only 2 possible results. Either Amnat was going to win by decision, or Casimero was going to lose by DQ, losing his temper and hitting the referee, who really did deserve to be “take one” in the name of justice. What made everything worse however was the fact Amnat was more than capable of out boxing the Filipino, in fact he did so every time the fight actually resembled “boxing”. The Thai was able to avoid shots, counter with ease, land the telling blows, but unfortunately he couldn't help himself to break the rules at every opportunity.
The referee, finally, did something in round 11 when he deducted a point from Amnat. It was, however, little more than a token gesture by a referee who had no intention of disqualifying Amnat for what had been a disgraceful performance.
The 12th saw a desperate, frustrated and clearly annoyed Casimero swinging for the fences. For the most part he was again wrestled away, pushed down and generally neutralised as Amnat showed off his physical strength. There was however little landed cleanly by either man.
Come the final bell there was no doubting the winner with Amnat clearly taking the decision. Whilst he had fouled continually through the course of the bout he had also landed almost every telling blow, with his counters being eye catching when he let them go. With the win he managed to notch his 4th defense whilst extending his unbeaten record to 16-0 (5). For Casimero the loss drops him to 21-3 (13), and is his first set back since 2011, though we'd not be shocked to see a petition from his team to the IBF for an immediate rematch.
Sadly whilst Amnat's record now looks really good, especially with wins over Kazuto Ioka, McWilliams Arroyo, Zou Shiming and Casimero, he didn't manage to do himself any favours here. A potential unification bout with Roman Gonzalez or Juan Francisco Estrada simply won't interest anyone who saw today's bouts and it's also unlikely he'll lure any big names over to Thailand to fight him. As for Casimero, he must have felt like he did when he was in Argentina having chairs hurled at him following his win over Luis Alberto Lazarte. The Filipino has now faced two of the dirtiest fighters of the last decade, both on the road, and will have every right to be aggrieved about the officiating here.
As for the referee himself, he needs to be kept away from a boxing ring, in future. Maybe MMA is more his scene.
In the past we've seen various countries become linked to poor decisions. Countries where a visiting world champion needs to score a knockout if they are to retain their world title. Countries that are next to impossible to take home the win unless you do something very special. They have notably included German, the UK, the US, Thailand and Argentina. We expected to see Macau added to that list at the start of today when Thailand's Amnat Ruenroeng (15-0, 5) traveled to the gambling hotspot of Asia to defend his IBF Flyweight title. Amnat was up against Chinese cash cow Zou Shiming (6-1, 1) a man ear marked for a world title by Top Rank and a man who was potentially the key to opening up the Chinese boxing market.
At the end of the day however we were pleasantly surprised by the judging. For once they got it right. The judges got the fight right and didn't care about who won or lost, just about doing their job and getting the right decision. A real novelty in boxing.
Before we go any further let's just begin with an admission. The fight wasn't great. In fact it was one of the worst world title fights we can remember seeing in recent years. It was however intriguing and telling with both men showing flaws in their game plans as well as their strengths.
The fight started slowly with both men trying to see what the other had. It was very technical but very dull and frustrating with neither man really wanting to let their hands go. Instead we got a round that saw a lot of posturing, a lot of posing and a lot of feinting. In terms of actual punches the most notable thing was the jab of Amnat which appeared to be the only punch with any real consistency. It was a less than thrilling round but was a clear round for the defending champion.
In the second round we saw one of the very few talking points as Shiming scored a controversial knockdown of the champion. It appeared that Amnat slipped but the referee seemed to suggest a punch had landed. It was a harsh call but one that secured Shiming his first round of the fight, a 10-8 round. Immediately after the knockdown Shiming looked confident but refused to gamble, almost as if he knew it wasn't a real knockdown.
In round 3 we did some fire works early on but they didn't last too long with Amnat wisely using his jab to keep Shiming at range and by the end of the round Shiming looked clueless. So clueless in fact that he began to walk over to Amnat's corner until the Thai pointed him in the right direction and laughed at his foe. In some ways this mistake from Shiming summed up the fight, he didn't seem to know quite where he was or what he was supposed to be doing. All too often he found himself on the outside tasting Amnat's jab or rushing in wildly and missing, being made to look awfully silly courtesy of Amnat's clever footwork and frustrating holding that blunted Shiming's few worth while attacks.
Through the middle rounds Shiming let things slip away. He tried to come forward and he tried to act as the counter puncher but neither tactic worked as Amnat continued to use his feet and jab to blunt any momentum Shiming managed to build up. It was negative from Amnat but effectively and helped make Shiming look genuinely inept as the Chinese fighter plodded forward, refused to let his hands go and got picked off, time and time again.
Shiming's few rounds of success in the middle came in rounds 7 and 9 but even those were rounds that could easily have gone Amnat's way. Shiming was simply unable to get going, and when he did he was tagged as Amnat began to mix up both his jab and right hand. The straight right of the champion regularly sliced through the guard of Shiming whilst the short uppercuts from the champion were a thing of beauty when Shiming didn't seem to expect them.
By the start of round 10 Freddie Roach had sensed his man, the challenger, was behind. He urged Shiming to pick it up. It was clear that Roach thought his man was behind and needed to pick it up. Unfortunately for Amnat the best he could do was look silly as he chased shadows, looked amateur like and lost. It was again a case of Shiming simply not being good enough. As hard as the challenger tried he simply couldn't have any sustained success, the best he had was an occasional connect which always seemed to be answered seconds late. Even worse for Shiming was the penultimate round which saw Amnat picking up the pace and showing how world class ability as he landed a number of hard right hands. It was a round that showed how good Amnat really is, but was merely a glimpse of his overall ability.
In the final round it seemed Amnat was confident he had done enough and he did next to nothing for the entire round which he spoiled and gave away. Shiming didn't so much win it as being given it. It was however a consolation round for the challenger who had simply not done enough to win.
There was a few moments of worry after the final bell. Could the judges be set to steal the title from the champion? Could Shiming have been set for a belated Christmas present? Thankfully the answer came quickly and was a resounding no as all 3 judges scored the bout 116-111 to Amnat proving that sometimes they do all get it right.
From what we understand Amnat's next defense will come against the fan friendly Johnriel Casimero of the Philippines. That should be a much better bout than this one, which was a stinker, though there is talk of Amnat delaying that to face a voluntary challenger next time out instead. As for Shiming it's a giant question about where he goes next. He could look at claiming an OPBF title or another fringe title but on the back of this fight he really needs to buckle down and change how he fights.
For us the loss for Shiming is a double edged sword. It's fantastic that Amnat's run continues. He's a great story and the type of person who deserves success. He's gone about things the hard way and defended his title in both Japan, against Kazuto Ioka last year, and now Macau. Sadly however the loss for Shiming will see US TV again ignoring the Flyweight division and probably also a lot of Asia. Shiming was a reason for HBO to be interested in both the Flyweights and Macau, and we may end up losing the opportunity to see regular bouts involving the likes of Rex Tso, who won a FOTY contender on the undercard, and IK Yang, who looked sensational on the same under-card. Hopefully the loss for Shiming won't be the end of Macau boxing for Top Rank though there is a good chance that it will be scaled back. Sadly.
Today we had the third Flyweight world title bout inside a week and although it was the least interesting bout on paper it turned out to be the most competitive as Amnat Ruenroeng (14-0, 5) narrowly retained his IBF Flyweight title with a split decision over mandatory challenger McWilliams Arroyo (15-2, 13).
The fight, like many, started slowly with both men trying to feel out the other. This slow pace suited Ruenroeng down to a tee as he pecked away with his jab and made the most of his long reach and quick hands. It wasn't so much that Ruenroeng won the round however as Arroyo did little to try and win it.
After the slow opening round the bout slowly warmed up as Arroyo picked up the pace and forced Amnat to revert to a counter puncher through rounds 2,3 and 4. These were very competitive rounds though they all seemed to be the champions rounds, marginally, courtesy of the flashier and more eye catching combinations that he was landing after Arroyo landed heavier but single shots. It was a case of "what do the judges like?" though on quantity it was certainly the champion who appeared to be opening up a notable lead.
The momentum shifted notable in round 5 as Ruenroeng began to look tired and and the determined challenger began having more and more success it was another close round though one that certainly seemed like an Arroyo round with Ruenroeng holding more and throwing much less. The shift towards Arroyo continued in round 6, his best round, as he dropped Ruenroeng hard just moments after being pushed over himself. On replay the knock down appeared slightly dubious though it was clear that Arroyo had the power to hurt Arroyo even if the show did look to be landed behind the head. Prior to the knockdown we had seen both men trading combinations in the stand out round of the fight.
Despite being badly hurt in round 6 Ruenroeng bounced back in round 7 and looked like a man possessed, or like a man who had had some Kratingdaeng, and took the fight to Arroyo from the bell. Unfortunately it wasn't long before Ruenroeng began holding and spoiling the work of the challenger who looked determined though frustrated due to the tactics of Ruenroeng which won't have won him international fans though will have pleased those who came to see their man retain his title.
From round 8 onwards both men began to look notably tired and struggled to get much clean and sustained offensive work between them. Arroyo went looking for hayemakers whilst Ruenroeng tied him up, wrestled him and generally tried to steal rounds in what was becoming a messy fight between tired men. For Arroyo however this seemed to help him as Ruenroeng's work rate continued to drop and he was trying to steal rounds on one or two bursts whilst Arroyo brought pressure throughout, most of was thwarted though the negativity of Ruenroeng didn't do him favours with the judges.
Going into the championship rounds it appeared that Arroyo would need another knock down to have any chance of winning. That however never came as a tired Ruenroeng did enough to holding him self up, stall the action and, several times, take Arroyo down with him, including what appeared to be a professional wrestling move at one point.
By the final bell both men appeared exhausted and didn't seem to know who had won. Fans on twitter seemed to feel Ruenroeng had done enough and although the judges w-ere split they too agreed that the Thai had just done enough to retain his belt with a split decision winning courtesy of scorecards that read 115-114, 114-113, 113-114. Cards that suggest they had several 10-10 rounds and acknowledging the possible lack of a clear winner in several rounds.
On the back of this performance Naoya Inoue will likely be hoping to get a fight with Ruenroeng later this year though Zou Shiming's team may also have seen the flaws with Ruenroeng that could give them hope of taking the IBF title early next year. Arroyo, for all his power and determination, didn't look like a world champion in the making and Ruenroeng didn't really resemble much of a world champion, with his holding and spoiling, in what was certainly a competitive but second tier world title bout at Flyweight. The two men who were in the ring here are a clear level below both Roman Gonzalez and Juan Francisco Estrada, though in fairness Gonzalez and Estrada are elite level fighters in the best division in the sport.
(Image courtesy of http://www.kiatkreerin.com)
When we talk about achievements in boxing it's hard to believe only 1 Japanese fighter in history has ever become a 3-weight world champion, Koki Kameda. Just two weeks ago we saw Hozumi Hasegawa fail in his attempt to become a 3-weight world champion when he was stopped by IBF Super Bantamweight champion Kiko Martinez in a bout that left no doubt about the winner or the officiating.
Earlier today we saw Kazuto Ioka (14-1, 9) fail in his attempt to become a 3 weight world champion as he was defeated by Thailand's Amnat Ruenroeng (13-0, 5) in a decision that has certainly raised a few eyebrows, notable due to one baffling card.
Ruenroeng, defending his IBF Flyweight title for the first time since winning it, with a decision victory over Rocky Fuentes earlier this year, was a big under-dog. He was priced, with British online bookmakers Bet365, as a 3 to 1 under-dog though he had a real reason to win, a rumoured huge money clash with Chinese star Zou Shiming.
Unfortunately neither man started the fight like they wanted to win it. The opening round saw very little from either man. It was effectively a stalemate with neither man landing more than 1 or 2 shots of note. The second was somewhat similar though it did seem like 2 combinations from Ioka won the round for him. It was a weird to the fight tactically from both men. Ioka applied somewhat ineffective pressure, staying just outside of range and following Amnat whilst Amnat moved around the ring with out throwing much of note. It was frustrating to watch and it seemed like we weren't going to see a fight breakout.
In round 3 the action began to take off with Amnat finally letting his hands go with some sort of offensive work. It was amazing to see the visiting fighter take until round 3 to get going but when he did throw his shots looked lovely, they were crisp, fast and accurate even if they did lack any major power on them. It was with out a doubt an Amnat round and the first clear round of the fight
Following the loss of round 3 Ioka kicked in to gear and seemed to turn up the heat a bit in round 4. Amnat was equal to it with his lovely jabs, effectively and relaxed defensive work. Although Ioka seemed to be stepping on the gas he still didn't do enough to clearly take the round and there was a possibility that he was 3-1 down after 4 rounds. We had it 38-38 but could have under-stood someone having it 3-1 Amnat.
The fifth was another close one with Amnat's defence and fast rangy punches working well whilst Ioka was starting to land his own right hand and solid shots to the body. It was, at times, messy but the action was slowly building with both men finding their feet in the bout and both managing to go through the gears. It was still strange however that Ioka's pressure was still rather subdued as if he felt he was tiring Amnat out without putting his own foot fully on the gas.
In round 6 Ioka managed to cut the distance off and landed nice shots to both the head and body of the defending champion. The pace suddenly rose from the challenger and he was finding a desire to take the fight to Amnat, despite being tagged with a monster right hand. The best punch of the round was a right from Amnat but over-all the better and more sustained work was from Ioka who looked like he was coming good in the fight. The same success for the challenger was seen in the seventh round as Amnat began to look a little bit tired and sluggish. It was as if Ioka could sense Amnat was struggling and was going totry and turn the screw whilst he had an opportunity.
After 7 rounds we had the bout even 66-67 to Ioka and at worst you had to have given Ioka at least 3 rounds, 2,6 and 7. He had clearly won that trio whilst Amnat had clearly won rounds 3 and 4.
The eighth round was another clear round, this time for Amnat who stopped Ioka's momentum with his busy jab and and quicker hands. It was really impressive from Amnat who, at 34, looked smooth and rapid fire despite being ancient for a Flyweight. This rund saw the bout tied up on our scorecards as we went into the final 4 rounds of the bout.
In round 9 the fight started to progressively turn uglier. Ioka started to walk in a bit more and whilst he was fed a steady diet of jabs he managed to land solid body shots and a cracking left hand before the Thai began holding. The holding resulted in Amnat taking a shot to the back of the head, which he complained about, and was then followed by some wrestling as Amnat seemed to prove his physical strength over Ioka. The early jabs from Amnat were forgotten by the bell as Ioka landed yet another notable body shot with Amnat trying to hold him. It seemed clear that Amnat was struggling and the holding was a result of the Ioka getting to him more frequently than he had earlier.
Despite the holding Amnat didn't seem to be tired, he was standing in his corner between rounds whilst Ioka was looking the more tired man, almost as if the men had traded ages. The 25 year old Ioka was working harder for his successes and did seem tense, both could have resulted in his more tired look, but Amnat at 35 looked as fresh as a daisy stood waiting for the next round.
The holding from Amnat continued in round 10 and finally the referee had had enough and took a point from the champion. The rest of the round was pretty close though Amnat did flirt with a second deduction as he wrestled with Ioka before the challenger mounted a late offensive charge. It was another of the bouts many close rounds, though could have been scored either 9-9 or 10-8 to Ioka.
With a possible 10-8 in round 11 it seemed almost certain that Amnat needed to pick up the pace, especially fighting away from home against a popular and unbeaten fighter. Instead Amnat did the same as he had in a number of the later rounds. He held, he spoiled, he complain about being hit and he fought negatively with Ioka bringing the fight and action to him. It seemed almost impossible to give Amnat the round and, when added to the 10-8 round from the previous round, it seemed likely that Amnat's title was slipping away with out the champion caring too much about it.
Amazingly there was no urgency from the champion in the following round and this was punctuated by Amnat basically running around the ring inthe final few seconds before landing an uppercut. It seemed like one of two things had happened in his head. He had either given up his title willingly or had been tipped off that the fight wasn't being score closely. It was impossible for him to have felt that comfortable in the final round on foreign soil with out one of those two things going on in his hand. He had countered well through much of the fight but had also lost a number of rounds clearly and there was no way to argue that this was anything but close.
The score cards were read out relatively quickly, the first card favoured Ioka, the second was to Amnat and then the third was to Amnat as he secured a split decision.
What we didn't full know immediately after the fight was what the cards actually said, though moments later TBS showed the cards which read 114-113 Ioka, a close score that demonstrated the competitive nature of the fight, 115-112 to Amnat, another close and competitive card even if they did feel Amnat won 8 of the 12 rounds. The other card however read a frankly ridiculous 119-108 to Amnat, a card that has to go down as the worst of the year so far.
Although we had felt Ioka had done enough the fact two judges disagree is fair enough, it was a close fight. What we learned from watching the fight however was interesting. Firstly Ioka's lack of head and upper body movement was mystifying, his head was, round after round, a stationary target making it easy for Amnat's rangy shots to land. As for Amnat he looks like a nightmare for anyone. He's rangy, tricky, calm, relaxed and has very fast hands which could well see him beating anyone in the division on his night.
Another thing that needs mentioning is the Shiming bout. That is rumoured for November in Macau and would be a major pay day for Amnat, we don't mean to start conspiracy theories but there was no chance Ioka was going to go to Macau so could the 119-108 card have possibly been a political card with that bout in mind? Something to think about and if Amnat/Shiming happens it'll be interesting to see if the same judge is anywhere on the show.
One final thing to note, promise this is the last one, this is the second notable win for a Kiatkreerin fighter against an Ioka fight in the last few months following Amnat's stablemate Fahlan Sakkreerin Jr's victory over Ryo Miyazaki on New Years Eve.
(Image courtesy of Johnny Chaichotchuang)
It's not rare for Thai fighters to be fast tracked to world titles, as we've seen over the years with the likes of Saensak Muangsurin, though usually when Thai's are fast tracked to a boxing world title they've previously been an elite level kick boxer, as was the case with Muangsurin. Today we saw a man without the kick boxing background successfully claim a boxing world title in just his 12th professional bout.
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.
World Title Results
Whether you like them or not World Titles add prestige to any bout as a result we've included the results of world title bouts in this special section.