Historically, there’s scarcely been a time when the Asian brethren failed to leave an indelible, elite level impression upon our sport. From the earliest days of the Philippines’ Pancho Villa (Asia’s first world champion in boxing) and Flash Elorde, to Japan’s Fighting Harada and Thailand’s Khaosai Galaxy, there’s been no shortage of talent from our friends residing in the Far East. Most famously, Manny Pacquiao carried his country, continent and culture on his back, claiming scalps from 108-154 pounds. As the “Pac Man” places the finishing touches, the cherries on top of his illustrious career, there’s not one but two fellow Asian pugilists etching their names in our memories as well. Srisaket Sor Rungvisai and Naoya Inoue are garnering pound for pound recognition worldwide; and in what can only be deemed a treat, these men are both fighting this weekend on separate cards accessible to American viewing audiences.
Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (46-4-1, 41 KO’s) vs. Iran Diaz (14-2-3, 6 KO’s)
The pursuit of becoming one of the best in your sport usually consists of beating the best within it. Well, when Wisaksil Wangek, professionally known as “Srisaket Sor Rungvisai” lifted the WBC super flyweight championship from undefeated perennial pound for pounder, Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez, it raised eyebrows. Rendering “Chocolatito” motionless, flat on his back in their immediate rematch signaled to the world Sor Rungvisai was no fluke and arguably one of the 12-15 best fighters on the planet. Rungvisai will make the third defense of his title against the unheralded Iran Diaz from Mexico.
The bout will take place Saturday, October 6th from Rungvisai’s home country of Thailand, and will be presented absolutely free on Youtube, courtesy of “ONE: Kingdom of Heroes” (5AM CST). The card will feature a mixture of Muay Thai, MMA, kickboxing and boxing. While anything is possible, it’s next to impossible to imagine Diaz having much success, never mind beating his aggressive, hard-punching southpaw foe. As such, Rungvisai is heavily favored by early KO.
Naoya Inoue (16-0, 14 KO’s) vs. Juan Carlos Payano (20-1, 9 KO’s)
The following day, Sunday, October 7th, Naoya “Monster” Inoue makes the first defense of his WBA 118-pound belt against Juan Carlos Payano. Kick- starting the World Boxing Super Series’ Bantamweight Tournament, featuring all but one of the reigning titlists within the division. The bout will broadcast live on DAZN (6AM CST) from Inoue’s homeland of Yokohama, Japan.
Without a doubt, Inoue is one of the ten best boxers alive, arguably top five. But lower weight, non-American fighters rarely get that type of love on high profile pound for pound lists. Inoue more than passes the eye-ball test however. Since his 6th pro fight, he’s ran roughshod over elite level opposition, winning world titles at 108 and 115 before picking up the 118-strap in his last bout, a 1st round KO of Jaime McDonnell. Imagine if Inoue hadn’t skipped 112; he’d have ruled four different weight classes in a mere 16 outings! Inoue’s ambitious, skilled, fast, and punches very hard for a man his size. He also seems to enjoy inflicting pain on his opponents, which is always an asset in the hurt business. Inoue doesn’t just want to win, he wants to make a statement, an examples out of those foolish enough to step in the squared circle with him.
Payano is next in line to test Inoue’s waters. He’s a rugged Dominican with a win and a loss to 3-time U.S. Olympian, Rau’Shee Warren, and he’s never been stopped. Pugilism Company fully expects that streak of fortune to painfully come to an end this Sunday.