Iran Diaz Faces Uphill Struggle Against Srisaket Sor Rungvisai

By James Goyder on September 29, 2018
Iran Diaz Faces Uphill Struggle Against Srisaket Sor Rungvisai
Sooner or later Srisaket will surely connect with the sort of shot that stops Diaz. (ONE FC)

The 31-year-old won his first major title in 2013 and is already a veteran of six world title fights, three of which were held on foreign soil…

Srisaket Sor Rungvisai’s rise has been sudden and unexpected but it certainly didn’t happen overnight. The 31-year-old won his first major title in 2013 and is already a veteran of six world title fights, three of which were held on foreign soil.

The global perception of Srisaket was altered permanently and radically by his back to back wins over Roman Gonzalez in 2017. Those victories established the Thai as one of the top ten pound-for-pound boxers on the planet and the undisputed number one at 115lbs.

He followed them up with an action-packed majority decision win over Juan Estrada and a quickfire demolition of Young Gae Bil. The latter match was Srisaket’s first in Thailand since 2016 and did not have his WBC Super Flyweight belt on the line

After taking on the #1 ranked contender in his two previous title defenses Srisaket faces Iran Diaz in Bangkok on Saturday night. This title fight headlines a ONE Championship card at Impact Arena and the Thai finds himself facing unheralded Mexican challenger Iran Diaz.

This is a voluntary title defense, meaning that anyone ranked in the top 15 by the WBC is eligible to fight for the belt. Diaz is currently the #12 contender which means that, on paper at least, he is unlikely to test Srisaket to the same extent that either Gonzalez or Estrada did.

But boxing matches are fought in the ring, not on paper and Diaz holds some surprise wins against big name opponents. The Mexican has beaten Luis Concepcion and Hernan Marquez with this pair of victories putting him in contention for a first ever world title shot.

Against Marquez, a southpaw with proven punching power, Diaz was constantly circling to his left. In his most recent fight, against undefeated prospect Adolfo Castillo, the 28 year old stood his ground more, seizing the centre of the ring and taking the fight to his undefeated opponent.

However it was Castillo who appeared to be in the ascendancy when the fight was called off due to an accidental clash of heads at the start of the third round. The win over Marquez was more instructive, the first of two back to back decisions for Diaz against former WBA 112lbs champions.

Marquez tired severely towards the end of this ten-rounder. After chasing Diaz around the ring during the early rounds he simply ran out of stamina and finished the fight in retreat mode, struggling to cope with the barrage of jabs and crosses coming from the fitter, younger man.

He didn’t seem to succeed in hurting the veteran but Diaz did a good job of putting him on the back foot with his punch output and forward movement. He certainly didn’t win that fight convincingly, but in front of his hometown crowd the Sonora native did enough to take it on the scorecards.

The Conception fight also took place in Diaz’s hometown and featured another nasty clash of heads, with the Mexican badly cut in the eighth round. This time he chose to fight off the back foot for the entire 10 rounds and did an excellent job of picking the two-division world title winner apart with accurate shots.

The fact that Diaz has suffered two bad cuts in the last year, both above the eye, must be a concern for his corner, particularly as Srisaket is a southpaw. However it’s probably towards the lower end of the camp’s list of problems as they prepare their charge for his first ever world title tilt.

Stamina has never been an issue for Srisaket, who has gone the distance in two of his last three championship fights. He’s proven in the past that he can keep coming forwards for 12 rounds if necessary and the champion will look to apply constant pressure to Diaz right from the opening bell.

Srisaket also has 41 stoppage wins to his name. The majority of them have come at the expense of distinctly average opposition but he has also finished highly ranked fighters like Jose Salgado, Yota Sato, Hirofumi Mukai and, most famously of all, Chocolatito.

Interestingly Srisaket’s most recent fight was at 120lbs which suggests he might be struggling to make the super flyweight limit. At this stage there looks to be more chance of the Thai fighter losing his title on the scales than there is of Diaz winning it in the ring.

But if Diaz’ camp are clinging to the hope that Srisaket will have weight issues then it can only be a feint one. The champion tipped the scales at 124.7lbs at the WBC’s mandatory 30-day weigh-in earlier this month, nearly 2lbs under the limit set for a super flyweight fight.

Diaz has two upset wins against former world champions on his record but they have both been ten-rounders in his hometown. Traveling to Bangkok to take on the #1 ranked super flyweight in a world title match is a totally different type of challenge for the Mexican.

The strategy will probably be the same one he employed against Conception. Diaz will be on the back foot during every round but will try to use his superior height and reach to snap back Srisaket’s head with straight punches while staying away from that devastating right hook.

Srisaket looks to be the smaller man but that’s possibly the only factor that isn’t in his favor. The champion is more experienced, hits harder and comes into this fight full of confidence after the wins over Gonzalez and Estrada, as well as the one round blowout of Gil Bae.

Sooner or later Srisaket will surely connect with the sort of shot that stops Diaz in his tracks. The Mexican does not have fantastic head movement and needs to stay out of the pocket if he wants to avoid being hit, something that will be difficult to do for 12 rounds.

Diaz has a history of being cut, which could be an issue against the southpaw. And he also has a tendency to make the most of borderline low blows which could make the referee’s job interesting as Srisaket is a good body puncher.

So there are several outside factors which could dictate the course of the fight. But Srisaket will be a heavy favorite and fans who head to the 11,000 capacity Impact Arena hoping to see the Thai champion score a stoppage are unlikely to be disappointed.

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