One of the great things we've been able to do since we began this site was get an insight on a number of Asian fighters before they manage to have a chance to fight on a global scene. Whilst a good number of fighters we talk about won't fight in the US or the UK, a handful will, and have. That insight can lead us to getting excited about contests that others perhaps aren't as excited about as others. We covered one of those previously in a "What a Shock", when we looked at Rey Loreto's win over Nkosinathi Joyi, but that isn't a one off and today we get to cover another such upset.
March 18th 2017
Madison Square Garden, New York, New York, USA
Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (42-4-1, 39) Vs Roman Gonzalez (46-0, 38) I
In March 2017 little known Thai Srisaket Sor Rungvisai made his US debut taking on pound-for-pound king, and defending WBC Super Flyweight champion, Roman Gonzalez. Going into the bout few thought this was anything more than a mismatch.
The unbeaten Gonzalez was the face of the little men at the time, the Nicaraguan had become only the second fighter in history to win world titles at Minimumweight, Light Flyweight, Flyweight and Super Flyweight. He had not just accomplished that feat but had done so whilst compiling a 46-0 (38) record and beating a real who's who of modern day little men. These included Yutaka Niida, Katsunari Takayama, Juan Francisco Estrada, Francisco Rodriguez Jr, Akira Yaegashi, Edgar Sosa, Brian Viloria and Carlos Cuadras. A resume worthy of a Hall of Fame position.
Not only was Gonzalez beating top fighters but, for the most part, he was destroying fighters. He was an offensive machine, with sharp combinations, heavy shots, smart offensive movement, an ability to close distance at will and he was just fantastic. He was really highly skilled offensively minded fighter with power taking on the best. Everything a fight fan should appreciate.
Srisaket on the other hand was an unknown outside of the most hardcore of hardcore fans. Despite being a relative unknown we were lucky enough to have seen a number of his bouts prior to this and knew what to expect. He had proven to be an offensive tank. He had faced some very limited competition, and made light work of them whilst staying busy, but he had also showed what he could do against world class talent. In 2013 he had battered defending WBC world champion Yota Sato into submission, in a hugely impressive performance, he had been in the ascendancy when Jay Nady stopped his bout with Carlos Cuadras in 2014, giving Cuadras the technical decision, and had earned a second shot in 2015 when he had smashed Jose Salgado. Despite earning a shot following the win over Salgado the WBC weren't quick to enforce his mandatory fight, and Carlos Cuadras was in no rush to face him. As a result it took almost 2 years for Srisaket to get a shot at reclaiming the title.
In the ring Srisaket isn't, and wasn't at the time, the quickest, the smartest, or the smoothest, with some very questionable balance issues. That however ignores what he is, which is incredibly strong, huge at the weight, a powerful tough, heavy handed southpaw with impressive stamina. He's the sort of fighter that you look at and think he should be easy to beat, until you see him pressing and pressuring and landing his thudding, brutal heavy shots.
For most this was a formality for Gonzalez. Another win for Gonzalez, and one against a Thai with a padded record and no name value. For others, those who had followed Srisaket, this was a potential banana skin for the "Chocolatito". Gonzalez was the smaller man, by far, his style looked suited to Srisaket and this would be his first bout in years without Arnulfo Obando in his corner, following Obando's death in 2016.
The ingredients were in play for a shock and that's what we got.
The opening stages of the fight saw Srisaket show some respect to Gonzalez and see what the Nicaraguan legend had. As the round grew however Srisaket's confidence began to grow as well and he began to land some solid left hands whilst barely flinching at what he was being hit with. Within just 2 minutes was obvious that the natural size difference was going to be issue and soon afterwards Gonzalez was dropped, securing the Thai a huge 10-8 round to begin the bout.
Those over-looking the Thai were suddenly sitting up and taking note.
Srisket's good start continued to grow in round 2, as he began to force his will on Gonzalez. We were seeing a man doe to Gonzalez what we had seen Gonzalez do to so many others, and push him back, bully him, and win the inside war. We had saw Gonzalez show flashes of his genius but the round was another for the Thai.
Srisaket then came out firing left hands to begin round 3 as Gonzalez struggled with the unorthodox approach, size, freakish physicality and southpaw left of Srisaket. A headbutt, leaving Gonzalez cut over the right eye, didn't help things either. It was an accidental clash, from the southpaw-righty dynamic, but did seem to break Gonzalez's momentumn just was he was starting to build it. To his credit Gonzalez did managed to find his groove again before the round was over.
In round 4, for the first time, we seemed to see Gonzalez rock Srisaket, but the Thai refound his balance before the two men began to go to war on the inside. The skills of Gonzalez, as always, were a joy, landing the cleaner, more effective punches, but they were taken easily by Srisaket who's own shots seemed to much more powerful, and he would manage to get Gonzalez onto the ropes and cover up. It wasn't silky skills controlling from Srisaket but was his sheer presence giving Gonzalez problems, despite Gonzalez landing some huge bombs through the round.
From here on we got something special from both men. Gonzalez was fighting like a man on fast forward, easily out speeding, out punching and out moving the slower clumsier Thai. For Srisaket however when he was landing Gonzalez was feeling it, every shot landed by Srisaket seemed to lift Gonzalez or force him backwards. It made for an amazing action fight with awesome 2-way action.
In round 6 the headclashes, which were accidental and came due to both men wanting to be on the front foot and exacerbated by the stances, saw Srisaket being given a warning. That seemed to inspire a new gear from Gonzalez, who really picked up his pace. That was until late in the round when Srisaket was actually deducted a point for the headclashes, with the headclash leaving Gonzalez a bloodied mess. That, along with a strong round 5, helped Gonzalez battle his way back into the contest after his worrying start, and it seemed like Srisaket was maybe starting to fade just as Gonzalez was moving into top gear.
Despite seeming to lose the play Srisaket then began to find his second wind in round 7, backing up Gonzalez and putting his foot on the gas once again. He began to let his shots got when Gonzalez was up close, and managed to land his solid left hooks. The pressure from Gonzalez was being used against him as Srisaket picked his moments and fought more intelligently than we expected. Gonzalez still showed touches of brilliance but Srisaket could see blood and seemed to hurt Gonzalez late in the round. That lead to a string of strong rounds from Srisaket who seemed to realise that his very early success had been erased from round 3 to round 6 by the brilliance of Gonzalez.
Before we started round 9 both men were looked at in the corner by medical staff, before the bout resumed and we got more of these tiny titans unloading huge shots on each other. Once again we saw a smarter gameplan from Srisaket than we expected, with the Thai backing off at times and made Gonzalez come to get him, picking his spots, and then rocking Gonzalez on to his heels. For a man who had impressed us with his pressure against Sato this was footwork we weren't expecting from Srisaket, who choose when the men stood and traded and when there was going to be separation.
With blood pouring out of Gonzalez face, from the cut right eye, the Nicaraguan showed amateur heart to continue marching forward, taking the fight to Srisaket in an exciting round 10 and then again in round 11. Whilst each round was hard fought and competitive these two seemed like they were among the most competitive and may well have been the two rounds that, essentially, decided the fight. All 3 judges gave them to the Thai.
With the bout being ultra close we went into the final round and surprisingly it was the champion who got into top gear. The round started in fantastic fashion with toe-to-toe action, with big shots being thrown once again. The great start didn't last and when Gonzalez seemed to build some momentum we saw Srisaket get on the retreat. With around 90 seconds of the round remaining the Thai seemed confident that he had done enough, electing to spoil, hold and move before trying to steal the round late on. What maybe wasn't clear at the time, though was after the bell, was that Srisaket had also been busted open in the round, with blood dripping from his right eye, likely from other minor but regular headclashes.
After 12 rounds of incredibe Super Flyweight super action we went to the scorecards. Scores of 114-112, twice were read out along with a score of 113-113. Thankfully for the Thai, and for the sake of this article, the two 114-112 scores favoured Srisaket, who scored one of the most significant upsets in recent years.
The call of "New" sent Thai commentators into fits of joy, and the fans of the lower weights into shock.
Following the bout there was much discussion over the scoring, the headclashes, and the WBC's own accidental foul rule, which if applied properly would likely have resulted in Srisaket having an extra point deducted.
The controversy was, to some extent, put to bed when the two men rematched, with Srisaket stopping Gonzalez in 4 rounds to retain his title. He then added a major win over Juan Francisco Estrada, though lost a rematch to the Mexican. Amazingly Gonzalez bounced back from the two losses to the Thai to claim the WBA title with a stoppage win over Kal Yafai, to claim yet another world title and further enhance his legendary status as one of the finest smaller weight fighters of all time.
Sadly this bout did kill a mooted dream fight between Gonzalez and Naoya Inoue, with any hope of seeing Inoue against Srisaket dashed by the WBC playing mandatory catch up, due to the long wait Srisaket had had. Instead of seeing that bout we ended up with Srisaket being mandated to face Gonzalez, then Estrada, with Inoue announcing himself on the Bantamweight scene rather than sticking around at Super Flyweight.
For those interested we found some odds available for this bout:
Gonzalez 1/11 to win
Srisaket 13/1 to win
A few years ago we were getting the brilliant "Super Fly" shows in the US, highlighting one of the best division's in the sport at the time. Whilst those shows did shine a light on the division they have, seemingly come to a complete end and fans are unable to access the division in the same way. With that in mind volume of "5 Bouts to enjoy during Isolation" is focused completely on the Super Flyweight division. All the bouts featured have taken place in the last 15 years and all are fantastic. We start with a Rookie of the Year, and finish with one of the best bouts featured on a Super Fly show.
Seiya Meguro (5-0, 3) vs Keisuke Iwasaki (4-1, 1) 
Akira Yaegashi (26-6, 14) vs Hirofumi Mukai (16-5-3, 6) 
Rex Tso (19-0, 12) vs Ryuto Maekawa (11-0-1, 7) 
Kohei Kono (17-3, 7) vs Teppei Kikui (21-4, 4) III 
Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (42-4-1, 39) Vs Roman Gonzalez (46-0, 38) I 
Thinking Out East
With this site being pretty successful so far we've decided to open up about our own views and start what could be considered effectively an editorial style opinion column dubbed "Thinking Out East" (T.O.E).