Starting his career in 2012 at the age of 32 Amnat Ruenroeng (20-3, 6) was always up against it in regards to Fight of the Decade honours, and in fact a general chance to shine. He was too old, and turned pro way too late in the decade to really achieve much. At least that's what we'd have assumed. In fact he only just missed out on the top 10, and did more in 8 years as a professional than most do in significantly longer careers. During his title run he had made a mark on the sport with 2 huge upsets on foreign soil, and notched a couple of other notable wins. Though he he didn't exactly shine, or look great in some of those wins.
Amnat won the IBF Flyweight title in January 2014, in his 12th professional bout. He had only debuted in May 2012 and had raced through the IBF rankings to become the mandatory challenger for Muroti Mthalane. Sadly Mthalane and Amnat wouldn't clash, with Mthalane vacating the belt, rather than travelling to Thailand for a poor payday. That lead to Amnat beating Filipino veteran Rocky Fuentes for the title and begin his messy yet remarkable reign.
Less than 4 months after winning the title Amnat travelled to Osaka and beat Kazuto Ioka in his first defense. The bout was a close one, but given he had travelled to Japan and still got the decision it was an impressive result, even if the performance wasn't amazing. Amnat's second defense was a foul filled, ugly affair against McWilliam's Arroyo. This was controversial and messy, but another big name on his record. Amnat's third defense saw him to Macao and upset local star Zou Shiming, to get a second huge road win. Another messy win followed as he defeat John Riel Casimer in another messy and foul filled wrestling contest.
After an easy defense against Myung Ho Lee we would see Amnat lose in a rematch to Casimero, ending his remarkably messy reign. From there he never really bounced back, going 3-2 (1) in the professional ranks, whilst dipping his toes in kick boxing and Olympic boxing.
Amnat will be remembered for his foul filled bouts, his use of the dark arts, judge throws, headlocks, bear hugs and bending the rules as often as possible. His big wins tended to come with an asterisk due to how badly officiated the bouts were, but few fighters can claim a run like he had over Ioka, Arroyo, Shiming and Casimero. For a guy who turned pro in his 30's his achievements are brilliant, but not quite enough to get his way into our top 10 fighters for the decade.
Images courtesy of:
Image of Amnat courtesy of http://www.kiatkreerin.com
Image of Ioka courtesy of http://ameblo.jp/ioka/
Image of Eto courtesy of http://www.zimbio.com
Image of Shiming courtesy of http://www.toprank.com
Image of Muranaka courtesy of http://flash-akabane.com
All other images courtesy of boxrec.com
With the year coming to a close we've decided to try and remind everyone of the key events of the year month by month, starting with January
On January 3rd, just days into the year we saw the first upset of the year as unheralded Filipino Alie Laurel went to Thailand and stopped the previously unbeaten, and world ranked, Tiger Tor Buamas in 5 rounds. The bout was for the WBO Oriental Bantamweight title that Tiger had won just a few months earlier when he stopped Alvian Bias, incidentally that was also in the 5th round, and it was expected that Tiger would secure another relatively straight forward win to defend the belt. Instead Laurel proved he wasn't just the typical Filipino who travels to Thailand to lose and instead he battered Tiger until the referee was forced to save the home fighter.
Interestingly the Filipino turned turned 22 the following day and would certainly have had a memorable birthday with his newly won title.
We had the first OPBF title bout of the year on January 11th and saw a new champion crowned as Lightweight prospect Masayoshi Nakatani came of age in a big way and out pointed Yoshitaka Kato. The bout was a huge step up in class for the Ioka gym prospect, who at time was fighting for just the 7th time as a professional, though it was a step he managed, despite a wobble or two. Since the win Nakatani has managed to defend the belt twice and has looked better with each defense. As for Kato he has since defended the Japanese title twice and will be looking to score his third win of the year this coming weekend when he fights against nemesis Nihito Arakawa in what will be a 3rd meeting between the two tough Lightweights.
Less than a week after Nakatani had won the first OPBF title fight of the year we saw the first Japanese title fight of the year. This came on January 17th and saw Go Odaira claim the Japanese Minimumweight title with an excellent decision win over Masashi Tada for the previously vacant belt. Since the winning the belt Odaira has defended it twice and will next been seen out on December 31st battling against Katsunari Takayama for the IBF Minimumweight title. If Odaira wins that he deserves to be given a lot of credit for a career defining year. Sadly we've not seen Tada return to the ring following this loss.
Whilst a Filipino had beaten a Thai in the first upset of the year we actually saw Thailand getting the last laugh of the month with Amnat Ruenroeng defeating Rocky Fuentes on January 22nd for the IBF Flyweight title. It was the first time either man had been in a world title bout and unfortunately for Fuentes he came up short in what was his 44th professional bout whilst Ruenroeng, fighting for the 12th time, became a world champion within 2 years of his debut. Since the bout the two men have certainly gone in different directions with Fuentes recently being stopped by Roman Gonzalez whilst Ruenroeng has defended his title twice defeating Kazuto Ioka in Japan and McWilliams Arroyo in Thailand in a mandatory defense.
Amnat's year has been so good that he is now being mentioned in the 2014 Fighter of the Year mix, a great achievement for someone unknown by most at the start of the year.
(Image, of Amnat landing a right hand on Fuentes, courtesy of Johnny Chaichotchuang)
When we have some free time we're hoping to add a series of fun articles to the site. Hopefully these will be enjoyable little short features