By James Goyder
Srisaket Sor Rungvisai made a triumphant homecoming tonight. The Thai defended his WBC super flyweight title in front of a sold out Impact Arena in Bangkok, dispatching with Mexican challenger Iran Diaz courtesy of a lopsided decision win.
Srisaket won the belt by beating Roman Gonzalez by decision in 2017. He went on to defeat Chocalatito by KO the same year and then outpoint Juan Estrada in February but all three bouts took place in the US and this was his first time defending the title on Thai soil.
The title fight headlined ONE: ‘Kingdom of Heroes’ which also featured 13 kickboxing, Muay Thai and MMA bouts. But Srisaket was the main attraction for the fans in attendance and he started strongly against the unheralded Mexican challenger relentlessly attacking the body in the opening round.
The pace slowed in the second stanza but Diaz was doing too much backtracking to have any chance of winning the round. It was the same story in the third with Srisaket sporadically throwing punches to the body and head, with his opponent pawing with the jab to try and keep him at bay.
Srisaket sneaked a straight left through Diaz’ guard at the start of the fourth but landed a right hand right on the bell. There was no power behind it but it snapped the Thai fighter’s head back and was the Mexican’s best shot of the fight.
When Srisaket did appear to have Diaz hurt the challenger would stand his ground and trade and this happened at the end of the fifth, although it was the Thai who got the better of the exchange. In the sixth the Mexican reverted to backtracking and trying to use his jab to slow the Thai’s advances.
Diaz did clip Srisaket with a right hand in this round but there was no power behind it and the champion answered with a hard left of his own upstairs. In the seventh the champion started to come forwards with more purpose, finding a home for his left cross to the body with the Mexican looking like he might be hurt.
Srisaket landed a left hook to the body at the start of the eighth and he was able to unload after trapping Diaz against the ropes, only for the Mexican to circle out and escape. The most dramatic moment of the fight came when the challenger landed an uppercut which dropped the champion, who was back on his feet in a flash.
It looked a knockdown but the referee ruled it a slip and Srisaket finished the round strongly, backing Diaz up with left hooks to the body. He was down again in the ninth and, while a right hand might have connected, this time it really did look like a slip and the referee elected not to intervene.
The round finished with Diaz trapped against the ropes eating punches. With the WBC’s open scoring in effect the Mexican knew he wasn’t going to win a decision and settled on a strategy of trying to stay away from Srisaket’s power shots long enough to see out the fight.
The tables were turned in the final round with Srisaket using his head movement to evade Diaz’ punches. The fight finished with the Mexican frantically attacking and he had to be physically restrained by the referee when the final bell sounded although by this stage it was too little too late.
The scorecards read 119-109, 120-108, 119-109 in Srisaket’s favour meaning the referee’s decision not toaward a knockdown had absolutely no bearing on the outcome of the fight. He improves to 47-4-1 while Diaz drops to 14-3-3.
Srisaket looks set to rematch Juan Estrada in 2019 while Diaz will presumably go back to fighting in his native Mexico after coming up short in his first international assignment. It was a triumphant night for Thai boxing, but the only disappointment was that the best super flyweight in the world couldn’t finish the fight.