By Thomas Gerbasi
When it comes to the story of Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, one of the lasting touchstones is the time when the future WBC super flyweight champion walked 60 miles to Bangkok in search of a job.
Even imagining a trek like that is hard to comprehend, but you would assume that it’s during such an exhausting journey that a teenager can dream. Of better days. Of a new life. Of anything not requiring a 60-mile walk.
“I did not dream much because I had to focus on getting a job and surviving in that moment,” Sor Rungvisai said through a translator. “The reason why I went to Bangkok in the first place was to prove to people back in my hometown, basically my family and my girlfriend’s family, that we could survive on our own.”
When asked if he proved his point, Sor Rungvisai laughs before saying yes, and as he approaches his Saturday rematch with Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez, things couldn’t be better for the boy who once couldn’t dream. In fact, the annoying cliché of “living the dream” couldn’t be more apt for the 30-year-old, whose victory over Gonzalez in March didn’t just earn him the WBC title for the second time in the frontrunner for 2017 Fight of the Year, but it has taken him to a new place back home in Thailand.
“Life has been great and it has improved,” he said. “I got a great reaction and great feedback from all the fans in Thailand. There should be a lot of viewership for this coming fight because of the last time, and I met with the prime minister of Thailand and I was also appointed to the police department of Thailand.”
Yes, Sor Rungvisai is now a police officer, but fighting crime is more of a post-boxing career than something taking up his time between training sessions.
“I will focus on boxing first,” he said. “The thing with the police right now is that the appointment is structured in a way that it does not interfere with my boxing career and training. It’s more for the future, after my boxing career.”
Good call, especially since his career couldn’t be going better. Winner of 16 straight since his last loss to Carlos Cuadras in 2014, Sor Rungvisai shocked the world when he handed Gonzalez his first defeat, but maybe we shouldn’t have been so surprised. Fighters like him are cut from a different cloth than most. There is an urgency to his attack, a refusal to be broken. And that can only be built by times much tougher than those that happen between the ropes.
“It’s tough in different ways, both boxing and life,” he said. “Back in the time when I was working as a trash collector and security guard, I had to work very hard in terms of hours. I had to start from 6am until almost midnight every day. But now with boxing, the sport itself is tough, but I only have to train for several hours a day and I have time to rest and take care of myself as well. So it’s tough in different ways.”
His response is delivered in an almost matter of fact manner, like everyone goes through the experiences that made him. But most don’t, so when you hear his story and see how far he’s come in his 30 years on the planet, you have to smile and appreciate that his battles have already been won. And he is smiling, especially after seeing that before his second consecutive bout in the United States, he is being adopted by Stateside fight fans.
“I’m extremely proud of myself, I’m very happy and I’m starting to feel like the U.S. is my second home now,” he beams before the main event at StubHub Center in Carson, California.
But Sor Rungvisai’s work is far from done yet, and he’s ready to put in 36 minutes’ worth against Gonzalez once more.
“This time it will be better than last time because I had more time to train and prepare,” he said. “The last time, we had less than two months to train for the fight. This time, we had four full months to prepare. So it’s going to be better this time and I don’t feel pressure at all this time. It’s just like last time and it will be a tough fight for Roman Gonzalez, for sure.”