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Prison Pugilist Falls Short in Bid for Title

BY Scott Mallon ON November 09, 2005
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Klong Luang Prison, Pathumthanee, Thailand – Promoted by Naris Boxing Promotions

It certainly wasn’t Muhammad Ali or even Laila Ali, but short of a prison break or Miss Thailand jumping into the fray, the championship bout between Nanako Kikuchi and Nongmai Sor Siriporn couldn’t have been more exciting.

Late replacement Nanako Kikuchi (6-1-1) of Japan used an effective body attack to wear down Thailand’s Nongmai Sor Siriporn (0-1) en route to winning the vacant WBC women’s strawweight championship via seventh round TKO. The two women provided the crowd with a fast-paced, action-packed scrap that left few in attendance disappointed.

“The Punching Prisoner” gave a valiant effort but was repeatedly turned back by the stronger, faster and more skilled Kikuchi. The Japanese fighter controlled the bout from the outset, punishing the game Thai time and time again with wicked left hooks to the liver and straight right counters to the head. By the end of the third stanza the body shots of Kikuchi had taken their toll. When the bell rang to signify the end of the round, Sor Siriporn collapsed into her corner, gasping for air. The doctor took a look into her corner and quickly determined she was capable of fighting on.

Kikuchi kicked it into overdrive in round four, dominating Sor Siriporn and looking to end the bout. Only the bell saved the withering Thai and it became more and more apparent to those in attendance she was now fighting on heart alone and was totally spent. The gutsy Sor Siriporn somehow managed to survive rounds five and six, occasionally gathering enough strength to throw a few combinations but doing little damage and only prolonging the inevitable.

In the seventh round Kikuchi bolted out of her corner, guns blazing, pummeling Sor Siriporn with accurate combinations and nonstop punching. The sheer volume of punches finally became too much for the exhausted Thai, who had begun to turn her back when referee Bruce McTavish stepped in to stop the beating fifty seconds into the round.

"Nanako was fast and aggressive and that's why I couldn't do anything at all," Nongmai said dejectedly. “She was better and stronger. Her right was hard and I need more experience to become a better boxer.”

The fight was broadcast on Thai TV and garnered worldwide attention; foreign media from the U.S., Italy, France, Germany and Japan traveled to the Land of Smiles to witness what Thai promoter Naris Singhawancha billed as the “First Ever World Championship Held in a Prison” and the “Very First Time in a Thai Correctional Facility.” The event had been plagued by problems from its inception and was nearly cancelled when Sor Siriporn’s original opponent, Carina Moreno, withdrew from the main event due to a respiratory ailment. Enter the #11 ranked Kikuchi, aka “The Genius Girl,” who stepped in on only a week’s notice to save the show.

While the fighters did their part in putting on a good show, critics had been less than kind before the bout; some saying it was a politically motivated event, others declaring it a complete sham. The always controversial WBC was criticized for sanctioning the bout, as Sor Siriporn had no verifiable professional fights on her ledger. The WBC fired back at the allegations stating the record keepers were at fault and those searching her records were simply incorrect.

“Her record is 8 wins without a loss” flatly stated one WBC official. All of the eight wins were said to have come in fights which took place in Thailand.

Sor Siriporn set the record straight after the bout: “I didn’t expect to win the fight but I gave my all and did the best I could. After all, this was only my first professional fight.” Apparently the WBC form of record keeping leaves something to be desired.

The main criticism launched at the WBC was the inexplicable manner in which a fighter with zero fights manages to ascend the WBC rankings, attaining a number three position and then getting a title shot. Perhaps Sor Siriporn was fortunate; an untold number of fighters with thirty, forty or even fifty fights never manage to secure a title shot. Fighters work hard at their craft; they sweat, they bleed and they give their all for one shot at the title, only to be denied by politics, money, or some other intangible which leaves them grasping for an explanation.

Sor Siraporn is serving a six-year sentence for drug dealing and is due to be released in approximately fourteen months. She plans on continuing her boxing career and hopes to get another shot at the title, possibly in a rematch with Kikuchi.

Nanako Kikuchi goes back to Japan the new strawweight champion of the world. A little over a week ago, she was just another boxer struggling to make a name for her self. She now goes home with a new name, “the champ.”                                                            * * *

News and Notes

The on-again/off-again soap opera doubling as a possible championship fight between Pongsaklek Wonjongkam and Jorge Arce is apparently off once again. It looks as if these two kids will never take the walk down the aisle.

So far the timeline for this love affair reads as follows:

Wonjongkam and Arce originally scheduled to fight July 30th, 2005 on the undercard of the Christy Martin-Lucia Rijker fight to determine WBC flyweight championship.

Due to “irreconcilable differences” and depending on whom you believe, Wonjongkam calls the wedding off and eventually Bob Arum cancels the entire event.

July 30, 2005 – Jorge Arce gets second best when he wins the vacant WBC “interim” flyweight championship when he TKO’s Angel Priolo in the third round.

October 7, 2005 – The WBC publicly announces “World champion Pongsaklek Wonjongkam of Thailand must next fight No. 1 ranked official challenger Rosendo Alvarez of Nicaragua.”

October 7, 2005 – Jorge Arce holds back from expressing his true feelings about his future dance partner, "He doesn't want to fight, he's going in circles, and he’s scared."

October 8, 2005 – Interim titleholder Jorge Arce knocks out Hussein Hussein in the second round to defend his “title.”

October 10, 2005 – Wonjongkam defeats Daisuke Naito via TD7October 16, 2005 – The Bangkok Post publishes an article claiming WBC Puppet master Jose Sulaiman has given Wonjongkam and Arce until October 30th to negotiate a settlement to determine where their mandatory bout should be staged. If no negotiation can be reached, the match will then go to purse bids.

October 31, 2005 – The WBC reports Pongsaklek Wonjongkam re-injured his hand in his last fight in Japan. It becomes clear the marriage is postponed once again.

A spokesperson from Pongsaklek’s camp substantiated the injury, however numerous others, including the champion’s own promoter, emphatically deny this.

Rumors begin to circulate about Arce being too dangerous at this point in his career and not exactly the marrying type for Wonjongkam. The he said/she said war of the words has reached the finish line and the ultimatum has been given: “Marry me or we’re finished!”

Fans and fighters deserve to know when these two lovebirds are going to set the date.  One of these fighters is going to fade away, never to be seen again but if we’re lucky, Poppa Don King will show up in the nick of time with a shotgun to force the issue.

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