Srisaket Sor Rungvisai returns to defend his WBC Super Flyweight title in a bout that could change the future of the entire division.
This Saturday, WBC Super Flyweight World Champion Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (46-4-1, 41KOs) will step into the ring to defend his title for the third time when he takes on Mexico’s Iran Diaz (14-2-3, 6KOs) in a 12-round bout scheduled to take place inside Bangkok’s Impact Arena.
It will be the first time that Sor Rungvisai has defended his title on his home soil, and the 31-year-old is ready to put on a show when he steps into the squared circle on Saturday night.
“I am extremely excited to be fighting in front of my fans in Thailand. This is going to be the first time that I get to defend my World Title in Thailand since my three successful fights in the USA, so it is going to be very special. I can’t wait to get in the ring and give all my fans a great fight. I really appreciate their incredible support all along,“ Sor Rungvisai said when FanSided him asked about his upcoming bout.
Currently ranked No. 8 in Ring Magazine’s pound-for-pound list, Sor Rungvisai has recently won over a host of new fans after defeating Roman Gonzalez on two successive occasions and then backing up his victories over the Nicaraguan by defeating Juan Francisco Estrada, all in the space of one year.
Sor Rungvisai was one of the breakout stars of HBO’s Superfly series, headlining two of the three Superfly events, which were designed to promote fighters from the super flyweight division.
However, Sor Rungvisai ‘s bout with Diaz will not be televised by any of the usual suspects associated with boxing title bouts but by ONE Championship, Asia’s largest sports media property and the world’s largest martial arts organization.
The Singapore-based promotion started off with a focus on MMA, but has now expanded its sights to include a variety of martial art disciplines. Access to some of the world’s top Muay Thai practitioners has allowed the company to hold high-quality stand-up bouts alongside MMA bouts while maintaining and expanding their audience.
When holding their events, ONE Championship will have their fighters compete inside either a five-sided ring or a traditional MMA cage. The decision on whether an event uses the ring or the cage is made according to the makeup of bouts for the card in question, as this weekend’s event is headlined by a boxing bout the entire card will take place inside a ring.
ONE’s fans have become accustomed to seeing multi-discipline bouts taking place on the same night and so the Sor Rungvisai-Diaz clash which will be preceded by a championship kickboxing title fight, is not something local audiences will find unusual.
In this case, the term local audience may be something of a misnomer when you consider that the local audience for ONE Championship is made up of densely populated countries throughout Asia. This year they have been averaging 11 million viewers per event and are forecasting that those numbers will continue to grow as the company expands and breaks into new markets.
It’s those types of numbers alongside the promotional power and ONE’s focus on building stars within the region that made it an easy choice for Sor Rungvisai and his promotional team at Nakornloung Promotion to decide to partner up with ONE Championship.
“I had been at a ONE Championship event earlier this year in Thailand, and it was mind-blowing. ONE Championship’s level of production and excitement was truly world class,” Sor Rungvisai said.
For Sor Rungvisai promoters, working with ONE Championship offers them not only a platform in which to increase Sor Rungvisai’s profile in Asia but to also promote the sport of boxing.
“There are so many opportunities for Srisaket with ONE Championship, and we are excited with all the possibilities. One thing is for certain, this is a great step forward for both Srisaket and boxing in Thailand and Asia,” said Thainchai Pisitwuttinan of Nakornloung Promotion.
It’s a sentiment shared by ONE founder and CEO Chatri Sityodtong.
“Boxing is and always will be a global sport. It’s a sport that is followed not just in Asia, but in the entire world. As such, it is understandably very massive. We think that right now, boxing is in a great position in Asia, and with a champion like Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, we have a pathway into the future,” Sityodtong said.
When asked about the company’s future plans for the sport he replied,
“At the moment, I can’t really say. You’ll just have to wait around to find out. However, we are definitely planning to announce some very big news soon. Boxing will always be in the heartbeat of martial arts in Asia, and I can’t imagine martial arts without it. It’s a huge part of our culture and every Asian nation practices it.”
While he may not be giving anything away just yet, a cursory look at Ring Magazine’s rankings reveals a large number of ranked fighters based in the Asian region. These fighters generally fall between the strawweight and super flyweight divisions, divisions that have historically not been as popular as some of the others in the sport.
If this weekend’s bout is a success, it could open the door for ONE Championship to take the lead in promoting the lighter weight classes, which would mean far greater media exposure for the divisions in question. For boxing as a whole that development, if it happened, could only be viewed in a positive light.