By Jake Donovan
Anselmo Moreno is officially back in the title picture.
The former longtime bantamweight titlist never really went anywhere, but is now guaranteed an opportunity to become a two-time champ after thoroughly outboxing Suriyan Sor Rungvisai over 12 rounds Saturday evening in Panama City, Panama.
Scores of 117-110 (twice) and 116-112 rang in favor of Moreno, who is now in line for a rematch with unbeaten bantamweight champ Shinsuke Yamanaka.
With the legendary Roberto Duran and recently crowned super featherweight titlist Jezreel Corrales looking on at ringside, Moreno showed flashes of his old brilliance in piling up rounds versus his visiting opponent from Thailand.
The crafty southpaw veteran registered the bout's lone official knockdown, which came in round two when Sor Rungvisai was caught with a power shot after attempting to protest a body shot that he felt was a low blow. Moreno should have been credited with a second knockdown later in the round, only for the sequence to go largely ignored by referee Jay Nady.
To his credit, Sor Rungvisai shook off the effects from the round as well as having to combat a partisan crowd. He handled himself well in round three, although the formula applied didn't work as well over the long haul. Rushing in head-first and hoping to create openings provided short-term success, but Moreno quickly adapted and went on to conduct a masterful boxing lesson.
It wasn't until the fight was far out of reach that Sor Rungvisai was able to make the necessary adjustments and turn the tide. Perhaps it was out of desperation, knowing he needed a knockout to win. Whatever the case, he caused Moreno to sweat out the championship rounds before awaiting the final decision.
Once the bell rang to end the 12th and final round, it seemed to be a mere formality to have Moreno's hand raised in victory. It's precisely what took place, with the 30-year old boxer improving to 36-4-1 (12KOs).
Stunningly, the win was his first in more than two years. That statistic is due to inactivity as well as bad luck in back-to-back defeats that many felt could have easily gone his way.
Moreno's six-plus year title reign came to an anti-climactic close, suffering a technical decision loss to Juan Carlos Payano in a six-round cut-shortened title fight in Sept. '14 in Mesquite, Texas. He wouldn't fight again for another 52 weeks, traveling to Japan to take on Uchiyama in a bout many felt would end his stay at the championship level.
Instead, he turned back the clock in delivering a masterful performance in a nip-and-tuck affair, only for the decision to go against him in the end. While the World Boxing Council (WBC) wasn't in a position to reverse the decision or mandate a rematch, the Mexico-based organization provided him the opportunity to earn a second crack at the long-reigning champ from Japan.
Moreno did just that, while bumping another top contender from the queue in the process.
Sor Rungvisai has a nine-fight win streak snapped as he falls to 46-7-1 (23KOs). The 27-year old slugger - a former super-flyweight titlist - is now 0-5 outside of his native Thailand, included a spirited but losing effort versus Yamanka in his title Oct. '14 title challenge in Japan.
Yamanaka was looking at a rematch regardless of who won on Saturday. It turned out to be the boxer long - and still - regarded as one of the best bantamweights in the world.
The bout aired live on TV Max 9 in Panama, and via tape delay on TyC Sports in Argentina and the United States.
Jake Donovan is the managing editor of BoxingScene.com. Follow him on his shiny new Twitter account: @JakeNDaBox_v2