Srisaket Sor Rungvisai Set For Emotional Bangkok Return

By James Goyder on August 14, 2018
Srisaket Sor Rungvisai Set For Emotional Bangkok Return
“Fighting professionally was the only way I could get some money.” (Photo: James Goyder)

“I know how difficult it is. I do not want people to be discouraged. We cannot choose our lives, but we can choose to change it and work for our dreams…”

Srisaket Sor Rungvisai didn’t exactly arrive in Bangkok in a blaze of glory. He first moved to the country’s capital with his girlfriend as a 13-year-old and, with no friends or family to support him, the teenager sometimes struggled to find enough food to eat.

“On some difficult days, I had to collect the food from trash to cook and eat to survive because I did not have enough money,” he recalls.

Srisaket found employment as a security guard in a shopping mall and would later work as a trash collector. It was an inauspicious start to working life and an experience which many young men from Thailand’s rural north east will have undergone, moving to Bangkok in search of a dream which rapidly turns sour.

But things didn’t turn out too badly for Srisaket. He is the reigning WBC 115 lb. champion, the undisputed super flyweight king and ranked as the #7 pound-for-pound boxer on the planet by The Ring. For his last fight in the US he received a purse of $250,000. It’s safe to say the 31-year-old won’t be rifling through trash cans any time soon.

Next up for Srisaket is the sort of opportunity he could never have dreamed about a couple of years ago. On October 6th he will be headlining a card put on by ONE Championship, Asia’s premier MMA promotion, at the 11,000 capacity Impact Arena in Bangkok. Thailand’s best boxer is going to compete on the biggest boxing event in recent Thai history.

His opponent is Iran Diaz, a Mexican currently ranked #13 by the WBC. Having beaten top ranked contender Juan Francisco Estrada in his most recent title bout Srisaket will be confident of victory and this time he will have the crowd firmly behind him. After three consecutive title fights on foreign soil he’s defending the belt in his homeland.

Srisaket made his name by beating Roman Gonzalez twice last year. The first win came by way of mixed decision and was regarded as one of the biggest upsets of the decade. At the time Chocolatito was seen as being the pound-for-pound king but the Thai send him sliding from the rankings with an emphatic knockout in the rematch.

Srisaket was suddenly on the boxing map but it wasn’t his first taste of glory. In fact it wasn’t even the first time he had won the WBC 115 lb. belt. That moment arrived in 2013 when he stopped Yota Sato in Thailand to claim the vacant title. But the title didn’t exactly bring him fame and fortune, back then he was relatively unknown outside of boxing circles.

Prior to the bout with Gonzalez at Madison Square Garden he was fighting novices on undercards in front of a handful of spectators. Just three months before Srisaket became the first fighter to defeat the Nicaraguan he found himself facing a debutant called Oley Taladklangladsawai on a Thursday afternoon in Nonthaburi. It was all a long way from New York.

The Gonzalez win was a major upset in more ways than one. Going into 2017 Srisaket was winless in four bouts outside of his native Thailand. But this was largely because he entered the sport with very little preparation or training after just a handful of Muay Thai fights in his native province.

Srisaket didn’t initially set out to become a champion. Without a formal education to fall back on he settled into boxing because he simply couldn’t see another option.

“I didn’t have the right qualification to earn decent office jobs [so] fighting professionally was the only way I could get some money. It was also something I liked, and it was a fun challenge. I saw it as a way to help better my life and future.”

The results of fights in the provinces are seldom recorded but Srisaket officially made his pro boxing debut in 2009, travelling to Tokyo to take on a former world title challenger. It was no surprise when he was stopped by Akira Yaegashi. At the time he was nowhere near ready to step in with an elite level opponent,

“I needed the money very badly so I accepted the fight even though I didn’t have much time to prepare and didn’t really know how to box. I just knew that boxing has similarities to Muay Thai,” Srisaket said

At the start of his career Srisaket accepted three fights in quick succession in Japan. He was outmatched and out of his depth and by 2010 had acquired a pro record of 1-3-1. There was nothing to suggest that he would eventually become a world champion but the Thai was just happy to no longer be collecting trash.

“There were only two paths to choose for me at that time; to become a boxer [or] to keep on working as a trash collector. I chose the path to become a boxer because at least there’s some hope in this career,” he said.

Srisaket’s career would take an upturn when Nakornlueng Promotions spotted his potential. In 2009 he had fought to a draw with Nawaphon Por Chokchai, one of their top prospects. This performance made a big enough impression for the boxer to get himself a contract and with it a platform with which to build his career more carefully.

A more meticulous management paid dividends and led to a 26-fight winning streak. At first Srisaket was beating handpicked opponents with little to no experience but when the time came to step up he was ready. He claimed a WBC regional title at 115 lbs. in 2011 and defended it a handful of times before winning a world title in the same division two years later.

When Srisaket started out he had modest ambitions so winning the world title was beyond his wildest dreams.

“I never thought that I would come this far or even get to be a world champion,” he said. “I only aspired to win a regional title and maybe get on television. I wound up doing so much more.”

Srisaket would successfully defend the WBC 115 lb. belt against Hirofumi Mukai the same year. At this stage his career had gone full circle; from being flown into Japan to pad the record of local fighters to beating Japanese opponents in world title matches in Thailand. But this career trajectory dipped when he was beaten by Carlos Cuadras in 2014.

The fight took place in Mexico, the homeland of the then-undefeated Cuadras. Srisaket was unfortunate in that he was deducted a point for an unintentional headbutt which cut his opponent, with the fight going to the scorecards after just nine rounds. But it left him without a title to his name and an uninspiring 0-4 record in fights outside of Thailand.

But Srisaket went back to the drawing board and won 15 straight fights in Thailand. This run earned him a shot at Gonzalez and the rest is history. Since the start of 2017 he has won fights at Madison Square Garden, the StubHub Center and The Forum and established himself as the best boxer in the division. His next fight will be broadcast live in Thailand by two separate TV stations and another six figure payday awaits.

His career has had its ups and downs but Srisaket hopes his story will inspire others.

“I know how difficult it is. I do not want people to be discouraged. We cannot choose our lives, but we can choose to change it and work for our dreams,” he said.

ONE Championship primarily hosts MMA (mixed martial arts) bouts as well as Muay Thai and kickboxing fights. Matches can take place in either a cage or a ring with the latter being employed when the promotion makes its first ever foray into the boxing business on October 6th. Srisaket was at the last event in Bangkok and it’s fair to say he was impressed.

“I was at ONE Championship’s event in Bangkok earlier this year, and it blew my mind with its production, entertainment, and fights. I am happy and honored to take part in this historical ONE Championship event and would like to thank everyone who made this possible,” he said.

Combat sports are popular in Thailand with live Muay Thai or boxing on TV nearly every day. But very few fighters will ever be invited to meet the Prime Minister, or subjected to intensive media scrutiny into their personal life. Srisaket has experienced both and is now a household name in his homeland.

Having fought in some of the most prestigious boxing venues the US has to offer the 31 year old is coming home. As a teenager he arrived in Bangkok without a penny to his name. On October 6th he will walk out in the biggest indoor venue the city has to offer with a world title wrapped around his waist.

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  1. Swans 11:41am, 08/16/2018

    jermell charlo, gervonta davis, and leo santa cruz ? ahead of Naoya Inoue…... u guys are smoking crack…....- P4P if Inoue was in any of these guys weights- i could only sea Davis surviving(not winning) if he elected to box smart, Charlo style would play right into Inoues devastating atack/body shots….- Leo Santa Cruz ..... not enough of a puncher to keep inoue off him 8 or 9 rounds in a valiant attempt, no doubt but would no make the 12…...these Rankings are a joke…how do u have Mikey garcia ahead of Golovking….?

  2. Thrashem 03:34pm, 08/15/2018

    Good to hear these rags to riches stories. The best have come out of the ghettos. Thanks for some history on “the kat”.
    Gonzallas was stupid to fight him so soon after first beating. He should have taken the time to heal and compose himself. The second fight was an execution!
    Arguello warned him about pride!

  3. BT 11:33am, 08/14/2018

    Thanks for a full and well-written article. Informative about all the right stuff without the drama details.

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