One of the things we all agree with is that it's better to stop a fight too soon than too late. None of us watch this sport to see people suffer serious injuries, permanent damage or worse. Sadly though some bouts we see the referee decide that it's never too soon to stop a fight, and as a result we end up with a super early stoppage, of a fighter who really didn't need stopping or saving. Today we have one such fight as we share another Controversial Clash.
Ratanapol Sor Vorapin (29-2-1, 23) Vs Gustavo Vera (8-2, 7)
For this bout we go back to late 1996, over in Udon Thani, Thailand. At this point in time Ratanapol Sor Vorapin was one of the more notable Minimumweights out there. At this point he was enjoying his second reign with the IBF title, after originally losing it on the scales, and was looking for his third defense of this second reign.
Although somewhat forgotten now Ratanapol was one of the Thai stars of the 1990's and one of the few Minimumweights with genuine power. He didn't like bouts going long, and only 1 of his previous 12 had gone the scheduled distance. Whilst that said something about his competition, and we suspect even the most ardent of fans would struggle to name some of Ratanapol's opposition, it also spoke about his attitude in the ring. He threw heavy leather, in conditions that weren't great for visiting fighters, after all Thailand is an awful country to fight in as a visitor.
In November 1996 it was the turn of Gustavo Vera to face Ratanapol. Vera was a Venezuelan puncher who's competition, up to this bout, had been awful. He had been stopped in his previous bout, just weeks earlier, by Jose Bonilla. Other than Bonilla the only other name of note that Vera's had faced was Lee Sandoval, who had been stopped by Ratanapol earlier in 1996...and had beaten Vera in Nicaragua.
Although clearly not a suitable challenger Vera came out with some early confidence and did try to come forward early on. Within seconds however it was clear he shouldn't have been getting a world title fight. He did all sorts of things very wrong. He leaned over his own shots, put little into things and looked technically very poor, perhaps even nervous. Despite his flaws he did actually have some success, before being dumped on his ass towards the end of the opening round.
Despite being down Vera got back up. He was there to fight for a world title, and wasn't going to let his chance go that easily. Not only that but the knockdown seemed to be more a balance issue than him being hurt.
Then we went into round 2 and once again Vera looked wrong, but had moments. His awkward, unorthodox, novice like technique managed to some genuine success against the champion. He was however under pressure when Ratanapol finally opened up, and was forced to hold on before seemingly turning the tables and turning the bout into a shoot out. Instantly it seemed like the Venezuelan had decided that, win or lose he was going out on his shield.
He was then dropped. Fully aware of where he was he watched the count and seemed to beat it. At least that's what we thought and he thought. It wasn't what the referee, Bunruang Thakamfoo, thought as he waved the bout off. Much to the protestation of Vera and his corner who were clearly dissatisfied with the count.
Whilst we suspect the result would have been the same with out the questionable ending, there was only ever going to be one winner, it doesn't take away from the fact this feels like a very, very premature stoppage of a bout that could, and should, have gone on a little bit longer.
Sadly for Vera this would be his only world title fight, and his record after this is certainly not an impressive one, though he did share the ring with some notable fighters including Lorenzo Parra and Cesar Canchila after this loss.
Ratanapol on the other hand managed 3 more defenses before losing the belt in 1997 to Zolani Petelo and came up short in 2 attempts to win a Light Flyweight title. He fought on until 2009, before retiring after a loss to Rey Megrino of the Philippines.
An interesting aside - Vera's previous opponent, Jose Bonilla, fought in Thailand on the same day as this bout and upset Saen Sor Ploenchit for the WBA Flyweight title.
(For those wanting to forward to the start of the fight, the bell goes around 2:50 in the video)
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