For this week's one to watch we're going to go over and focus on Thailand for a compelling match up that, in all honest, we didn't think we wanted, until we saw the two men in the ring essentially announcing the bout live on Work Point TV. From the moment they did that we have been massively excited about the contest and the compelling mash of styles.
The One to Watch?
Pungluang Sor Singyu (54-8, 36) Vs Amnat Ruenroeng (20-4, 6)
November 7th (Saturday)
It's rare, at least in Thailand, to get two pretty well known domestic fighters in the ring against each other. Typically Thai shows are "big name against unknown" or "rising prospect against faded fighter" here however we have two past their best former world champions facing off in what looks like a match watering, well matched and truly intriguing match up. This isn't one we expect will be a war, but we are anticipating a very, very interesting contest.
Of the two men we would assume that the 40 year old Amnat Ruenroeng is the more well known fighter. The former IBF Flyweight champion is a truly compelling character who was once in prison due to drug offenses, before turning his life around, having success in amateurs and then in the professional ranks. At the age of 34 he won the IBF Flyweight title and defended it against some top fighters, such as Kazuto Ioka, McWilliams Arroyo, Zou Shiming and John Riel Casimer, before losing the belt in 2016. It was assumed that would be the end of him, but he later went to the Olympics, fought Tenshin Nasukawa in kick boxing, and has a boxing resurgence in 2019.
Now aged 40 it's fair to ask what Amnat has in the tank, though he showed he was very much a tricky master last time out, giving Srisaket Sor Rungvisai a real test in August and the awkward, frustrating Thai is certainly not shot, but is shop worn.
Despite being less well known Pungluang Sor Singyu is a 2-time WBO Bantamweight champion who has been a professional since 2001, and is still only 31. Some how. He first won the WBO Bantamweight title in 2012, beating the popular AJ Banal, but lost the belt just 5 months later, to Paulus Ambunda. He worked his way into a second world title shot, and was giving Tomoki Kameda fights before being taken out by the brilliant Japanese fighter. when Kameda vacated the title Pungluang had his second reign, beating Ryo Akaho before losing the bout in a great bout against Marlon Tapales.
In recent years Pungluang has toiled a little bit, going 2-4 following the loss to Tapales, but scored a notable upset earlier this year, against Campee Phayom, and that has opened the door for a fight like this, for him.
What to expect?
One thing we expect with Amnat bouts is that they can get ugly, and Pungluang isn't against making fights ugly himself, when he needs to. So there is a risk that this could end up being a mess. Thankfully however we expect that risk will be somewhat low, with the weight, Featherweight, being one that would favour Pungluang in an up close wrestling match.
Instead we expect to see Amnat trying to play the role of move-boxer, getting on the outside, jabbing, slipping, tiping Punluang. The younger man will be coming forward, looking to throw his own heavy, straight shots, trying to get inside and work away with hooks. Interestingly Amnat is probably the naturally longer, taller man, and he'll try to use that to his advantage early on. As the bout goes on however we expect his legs to slow, and for Pungluang to try and ground down the veteran.
In regards to outcome this is a very, very hard one toi predict, and we wouldn't be surprised by a close decision either way.
The bad news?
For once there isn't really any bad news. The bout is an interesting one, it'll be available for free on WP Boxing's YouTube and Facebook pages and, better yet, it won't clash with Dynamic Glove, as the Japanese show will be shown on Tape Delay and not live!
Although we're seeing more boxing in the East there is still a disjointed feel to lots of things, with bouts being cancelled, and events being changed almost daily. Thankfully though Thailand seems to be on top of things, and we're now starting to see some regular action from "The land of Smiles".
With that said this week's "One to Watch" is coming from Thailand and is a bout that has seen more attention than a typical all-Thai bout!
The One to Watch?
Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (47-5-1, 41) Vs Amnat Ruenroeng (20-3, 6)
August 1st (Saturday)
It's rare to get a bout in Thailand that has some interest in the west, but that's exactly what we have here with a bout between two former world champions who meet in the main event of a WP Boxing event. The bout won't just be a rare bout between two well known Thai's but will also likely lead the winner into another world title fight. This is a bout that has significance well beyond the realms of Asian boxing, despite featuring two Asian fighters. This has implications on the world scene.
The WP Boxing is also proof of concept behind "studio boxing" with all the events being held at the Work Point Studio in Bang Phun. We've seen BT Sport trial something similar, but the WP Boxing series dates back a few years now and they almost all run from a studio with no issues at all. For a small event in the west this may end up being something we get to see more of in the west.
We suspect almost every fan to know something about Srisaket Sor Rungvisai. The 33 year old from Si Sa Ket is a 2-time WBC Super Flyweight champion, one of the hard hitting hitting fighters in the lower weights and a human tank. He is best known for his wins over Roman Gonzalez, both of which came in 2017, but other notable wins include victories over Juan Francisco Estrada, Jose Salgado and Yota Sato. He's a power punching and aggressive Super Flyweight and a physical monster who is looking to become a 3-time world champion.
Aged 40 Amnat Ruenroeng is an ancient "smaller man", but he's had a strange career in general. He made his professional debut at the age of 32, won the IBF Flyweight title at the age of 34, and scored a string of notable wins when he was the IBF champion. During his title reign Amnat beat the likes of Kazuto Ioka, Zou Shiming, John Riel Casimero and McWilliams Arroyo. Although a talented boxer he was a master at bending the rules, knowing how to foul and get away with it. He's not typically a physically imposing fighter, but he is a surprisingly strong one.
What to expect?
We'll be honest we actually see this as being a bit of a mismatch. Although both men are former world champions Srisaket is still in, or around, his prime. Amnat on the other hand is very much coming towards the end of his career. Not only that but Amnat is also the naturally smaller man, despite having slight edges in height and reach he is less powerfully built than Srisaket. It's also worth noting that Amnat has suffered a lot of punishment in recent years, including a KO loss to John Riel Casimer, a TKO loss to Nawaphon Por Chokchai and a loss in a kickboxing bout against Tenshin Nasukawa.
We expect to see Srisaket struggle early on with the tactics and jab of Amnat, but after 3 or 4 rounds we suspect that Srisaket's strength and power will begin to break down the 40 year old, who will begin to look for a way out by rounds 5 or 6.
The bad news?
For one of the few times in this series there really isn't too much bad to talk about. The bout will be streamed for free, via Matchroom and Work Point, there's no paywall or tape delay issues. Maybe the one issue is the fact the the bout is a mismatch and the it's on at an awkward for a Western audience, but it's still worth tuning in for.
Takahiro Onaga is a regular contributor to Asian Boxing and will now be a featured writer in his own column where his takes his shot at various things in the boxing world.