By Thomas Gerbasi
The toughest 115-pound fighter in the world is now the toughest policeman on the force in Sisaket Province, but crime fighting isn’t cutting into Srisaket Sor Rungvisai’s day job as the WBC super flyweight champion yet.
“I started with the police already, but it’s not impacting my training as a boxer,” Sor Rungvisai said through a translator on Monday. “The only responsibility I have as a police officer right now is to train as a boxer and defend the world title. Occasionally, I have to go to my police force for some activities, but I don’t have to be there full-time.”
Back in action for a Feb. 24 title defense against Juan Francisco Estrada at The Forum in Inglewood, the 31-year-old is determined to keep the belt as he makes his third consecutive United States appearance. But first, there is a little time left for a final victory lap as he celebrates the most important year of his pro career.
For a fighter who prides himself on staying busy, having fought nine times in 2014, six times in 2015 and five times in 2016, Sor Rungvisai had a relatively sedate 2017 on paper, but when you look at the man he beat twice this year – Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez – it makes all the sense in the world that Sor Rungvisai is being considered a strong candidate to win Fighter of the Year, Fight of the Year and Knockout of the Year awards.
“I feel very happy that 2017 happened the way it did, especially with the knockout,” he said “I had a dream that I would be considered to get one of the biggest knockouts of the year, so I’m very proud. I think I’m the first Thai considered for such an award.”
He may be the first Thai to break the mold of fighters from that nation. For years, Thai boxers were known for the offense-minded attacks and toughness, but once outside the country, more often than not they weren’t able to match their home success. But in March, Sor Rungvisai got a chance to regain his WBC 115-pound crown when he met up with Gonzalez at Madison Square Garden, and he made the most of the opportunity as he dropped the unbeaten Nicaraguan en route to a 12-round majority decision win in a fight that was an action-packed instant classic.
With Gonzalez going from 46-0 to 46-1, a rematch was inevitable, and six months later, the two met again at the StubHub Center in Carson. Sor Rungvisai made sure there would be no 12-round war the second time around, as he scored a stunning fourth-round knockout of Gonzalez.
“I did not think it would be as close as the first one because I trained very hard and I was very confident,” said Sor Rungvisai. “But it ended faster than I thought. I didn’t think it would end in the fourth round; I thought I would stop Gonzalez in the later rounds.”
Next up is Mexico’s Estrada, who earned his shot at the belt on the September undercard of Sor Rungvisai-Gonzalez 2 by winning a close decision over the man who took Sor Rungvisai’s title the first time, Carlos Cuadras. If you’re playing boxing math, Estrada could pull off the upset, but then again, Gonzalez beat “El Gallo” in 2012, so that cancels out that theory.
In the real world of fight breakdowns, the key to the bout may be the same one that may have led Sor Rungvisai to victory over Gonzalez twice, and that’s the reality that Estrada’s best work thus far came at 112 pounds, where he ruled from 2013 to 2015 before moving to 115 in 2016. He’s won three straight in his new division, but he is also facing someone who has spent the majority of his career super flyweight, and while Sor Rungvisai is giving up an inch in height, he does believe his comfort in his division has been a key part of his rise.
“Yes, I think that’s one of the reasons why I’m successful now,” he said. And while that success in the ring is in the numbers, as he’s 17-0 with 15 knockouts since his loss to Cuadras in 2014, he’s also pulled off an even more impressive feat in making fans far from Thailand invest in him.
“I’m very happy and I’m very proud that I now have fans around the world, especially in the U.S.,” he said. “It’s something that I always dreamed of.”
Now he’ll look to make more of his dreams a reality in 2018. The formula? What got him here in the first place.
“Everything will be done in the gym,” Sor Rungvisai said. “So I’ll train harder, I’ll take care of myself better and the results will show.”