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Srisaket Sor Rungvisai: From humble beginnings

The Thai champion has come a long way to be one of boxing’s top fighters.

Srisaket Sor Rungvisai v Roman Gonzalez Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images

It’s been a crazy 18 months for Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (46-4-1). 18 months ago, ‘SSR’ was struggling to make a name for himself outside of his native Thailand. Winning a string of six-rounders in his home nation - culminating in a fourth-round knockout of Oley Taladklangladsawai in December 2016 - Sor Rungvisai got the call for a WBC world championship fight at super flyweight, travelling to the US for the first time in his career to challenge the then, 46-0 world champion, Roman Gonzalez. Despite already holding this title between 2013-2014, nothing could prepare him for the scale of the event he was about to take part in; his life was about to change forever...

In the boxing world we are seldom left waiting long for the next ‘rags to riches’ story. A sport where fighters dedicate every inch of their bodies and every ounce of passion to their cause throws up some equally heartbreaking and heartwarming tales. From humble beginnings in the Si Sa Ket province of rural Thailand, Srisaket Sor Rungvisai had a dream waiting to be fulfilled; through dedication, guts and a little help along the way, Thailand’s finest pugilist fulfilled those dreams in an astonishing night against the Nicaraguan.

Winning a razor-sharp majority decision - in which many classed as the Fight of the Year - Sor Rungvisai handed Gonzalez his first loss, destroyed his reputation as the sports ‘pound-for-pound’ champion, and with that, took the green and gold belt back to South East Asia, becoming a household name overnight and a national hero in Thailand.

Wisaksil Wangek - as he is otherwise known - had muscled his way into the upper-echelons of the 115-pound division. Cementing his fantastic 2017 with a rematch victory over the Nicaraguan courtesy of an emphatic fourth-round knockout, the 31-year-old underlined his status in the division, and with that, a target was placed on his head.

Now, ranked in many onlookers ‘pound-for-pound’ top 10 lists, Srisaket is focusing on the future as he looks to continue winning belts, making money and inspiring others to follow in his footsteps.

Back-to-back wins over Gonzalez were followed by a majority decision over Juan Francisco Estrada on the ‘Superfly 2’ card, and a first-round knockout of the overmatched Young Gil Bae in front of his home fans in Bang Phun, Thailand.

Speaking with Thainchai Pisitwuttinan, Srisaket’s young and successful promotor, it was clear how his team at Nakornloung Promotion were overwhelmed by the support and attention that Srisaket has harvested. With more focus worldwide on the ‘little guys’ of the sport than ever before, targeting big fights around the world is an immediate priority for the team as they look towards the show in Bangkok on October 6.

Speaking to Srisaket and his team earlier this year, it was clear that the 31-year-old was still a little overwhelmed by the success that has come his way. When asked what his alternative to boxing would have been, Srisaket gave a candid response:

”I guess I would be at home in Si Sa Ket province in the rural part of Thailand, living a simple life. I have been through many difficult times. I have been a trash collector and a security guard. I used to pick up food from trash bins to eat and survive. Boxing has changed my life and the lives of my loved ones. I am extremely grateful for all the opportunities that I have gotten, and I am working my hardest to be the best I can be.”

Thankfully, he got his break in the fight game, however, it’s been a rocky road. When talking about his road to becoming world champion, it didn’t always seem like a realistic expectation.

”No, I did not think that I would become a world champion. There was a point when I was asking myself why was I still fighting when I could not win a fight and whether I should even continue to fight. I was just hoping that I could get to fight on local TV and become a WBC Asia champion. Fortunately, my career turned around after I got to be with my current camp, Nakornloung Promotion. After I started to win fights, I thought to myself that I could do this as well. And I started to dream about being a world champion then.”

Since regaining the WBC title, life is a lot different for the ‘SSR’:

”It has been amazing, and I am incredibly grateful. Thai people are very supportive, and I would like to train my hardest and fight the hardest for them. I met the Prime Minister of Thailand, and he said to me that the WBC super flyweight world title belt does not only belong to me but it also belongs to all the Thais. That is how I feel, and it motivates me to train very hard every day.”

With the ‘Superfly 3’ show taking place on September 8 without Sor Rungvisai on the card, Juan Francisco Estrada (36-3, 25 KOs), McWilliams Arroyo (17-3, 14 KOs) and Donnie Nietes (41-1-4, 23 KOs) will all state their claim for a fight with the WBC king. With Donnie Nietes and Aston Palicte (36-4-0) fighting for the WBO version of the superfly world championship, a unification between the winners of this fight and the fight on October 6 is a distinct possibility.

With the smaller weights gaining greater exposure with the help of Tom Loeffler and HBO’s ‘Superfly’ events, there is now a chance for Sor Rungvisai to take back from the sport which he has given so much to. With the World Boxing Super Series gaining serious momentum with their successful first season, a superfly version of the tournament would be a joy to watch.

The 115-pound division is littered with talent: Kal Yafai, Jerwin Ancajas, Norberto Jimenez, Rau’shee Warren, Rex Tso... the list of fighters (to accompany those mentioned above) goes on and on. An eight-man tournament to find the 115-pound king would be hard to top.

This being said, Srisaket still needs to get past Iran Diaz on October 6; a man of his integrity won’t be overlooking the challenge of the Mexican. Speaking at the press conference, the champ detailed his joy at being able to come home and perform in Bangkok: “I am excited to showcase my skills at home in Bangkok. As a world champion boxer, this is a rare opportunity for me to be able to compete in front of my people. I will do my best to retain my title. I am very deep in preparations right now for one of the most significant bouts of my career.”

We won’t have to wait long for his next step. Fighting five times since December 2016 has seen the Thai fighter establish a growing fan base across the globe; let’s hope there are plenty of big nights left in the incredible story of Srisaket Sor Rungvisai.

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