Despite the rivalry being a great one it has seen Thailand use home advantage to great effect, and that was seen again today as Pungluang Sor Singyu (51-3, 35) scored a surprise stoppage of Ryo Akaho (26-2-2, 18) and left Japanese still looking for their first world title victory in the land of smiles.
Prior to the bout the Thais played games, as they often do. The two men were in the ring for more than 20 minutes for the first punch was thrown. Whilst they were in the ring introductions were given to every one, from the judges and referees to the sponsors. Those introductions were then followed by national anthems as the Thai's stalled, and tried to break the concentration of the visitor before a punch was even thrown. It wasn't unexpected but it did look like it worked with Akaho looking frustrated as the camera zoomed in on him waiting for the fight to start.
As soon as the fight started it was clear that the build up had frustrated Akaho who began by throwing some ridiculous shots. Pungluang wasn't looking great himself but seemed to know that if he kept getting into Akaho's head this was going to be easy. As part of getting to Akaho the Thai held, hit behind the head and bent the rules, without breaking them. He took a warning from referee Robert Byrd inside the opening stanza but it was clear that Akaho wasn't enjoy it as he complained several times to the referee. Other than the dirty action the opening round was close, intense and it looked like both were going to go for an early finish.
In round 2 Pungluang seemed to jump start the round, immediately taking the fight to the visitor who was caught in his own corner. Akaho escapes the situation and manages to have some success of his own before being turned in a neutral corner by Pungluang. The movement of Pungluang, and the frustration of Akaho, saw the Japanese fighter sending himself into the turnbuckle head first. Instantly Pungluang smelled blood and unload with Akaho unable to respond, or defend himself. The assault was vicious and quickly sent Akaho down, where he remain until the bout was stopped.
Whilst Pungluang did appear to land a shot to the back of Akaho's head, it did look like an innocuous blow with the other shots in the sequence being the ones that ended the bout. Those were landed whilst Akaho seemed to be trying to grab the ropes to steady himself, and as a result he left himself open to some clean bombs which landed hard.
For Akaho this is a second disappointment at the world level after a previous loss, at Super Flyweight, to Yota Sato. Amazingly the loss has seen Japanese fighters fall to 0-3 in Bantamweight title bouts outside of Japan this year, with losses also coming for Tomoki Kameda and Ryosuke Iwasa. As for Pungluang it's a career defining victory and sees him becoming a 2-time world champion. The interesting question now is what Pungluang does in his first defense as he will now become a marked man for fighters like Ryo Matsumoto, Zhanat Zhakiyanov and Shohei Omori, all of whom may have the backing to get the Thai outside of his homeland.