MCC Hall, The Mall Bangkapi, Bangkok, Thailand
Referee: Malcolm Bulner (Australia)
Television: Channel 7 Thailand
Promoter: Naris Singwancha Promotions

July 18, 2006

It was a rarity; a Filipino, Juanito Rubillar, who could truly fight, was coming to Thailand to face ex-champion Wandee Singwancha. What made it even rarer was the fight was for a title, albeit one of those “extra” titles known as an interim title. Rarely do I get excited about a fight which takes place inside of Thailand, but I definitely looked forward to this one.

Juanito Rubillar came with credentials more impressive than usual for a Filipino fighter visiting Thailand. He’d been in with Manny Pacquiao conqueror Medgoen Singsurat (L by KO9), flyweight champion Pongsaklek Wonjongkam (L by KO4, L by D10) and with everybody’s favorite little man, Jorge Arce (L by UD12 – 2x). He arguably beat Arce in their rematch – in other words, he wasn’t just a punching bag, he could actually fight. In fact, so much so, I picked him to win.

Since being knocked out twice in 2003 by current IBF Flyweight champion Vic Darchinyan, Wandee Singwancha had been quietly fighting the usual Filipino suspects; Lee Escobido (UD6), Jojo Bardon (UD6), Jun Arlos (D12), Jun De Asis (UD6), as well as a Chinese fighter, Li Yao Bo (UD6), who was making his pro debut. He also fought and defeated Juanito’s big brother, Ernesto Rubillar (TKO8), giving little brother another reason to win – revenge.

The first round was a feeling out round with much of it being used to prod for weaknesses. Both fighters used pawing jabs to calculate their distance and tentatively followed up with their combinations. Singwancha moved to his left, outside of the southpaw Rubillar’s right jab, a tactic he would use throughout the bout. There was little action but towards the end of the round, the Thai landed a nice left hook to the body followed by a straight right to the pit of the stomach.

Singwancha scored with two lead rights to the head of Rubillar during the first minute of round two, but received a thumping overhand left in response. Both fighters were beginning to let go of their hands but Rubillar was missing more than he was landing. The Thai moved in and out effectively, sliding left and using the lead right effectively. Just before the end of the second round, he bounced a right off the forehead of Rubillar but the Filipino countered with a left at the bell. The fight was on.

Rubillar picked up the pace in the third round, landing combinations to the body and providing nothing for the slightly bemused Singwancha to hit. The Thai knew what was at stake though and stepped up his own game, capturing rounds four, five and six. All through the fight Singwancha used the lead and counter right effectively and this, coupled with his superior foot speed and clockwise movement, ultimately proved to make the difference in the outcome.

The fight moved in to the phone booth in rounds seven, eight and nine with the two continually jockeyed for positioning. Rubillar scored with the better shots when toe-to-toe but Singwancha launched his own body attack, turning the tide in the seesaw battle. Singwancha scored with a quick three punch combination before scoring again with the lead right to close out the round.

The final portion of the fight remained close with Rubillar desperately trying to catch Singwancha, who was boxing smartly. Rubillar was more active in the final three rounds but was missing much of what he threw at the Thai. The tit-for-tat exchanges on the inside favored neither of the fighters but on the outside, the movement of Singwancha made it difficult for Rubillar to land any clean blows.

Rubillar threw his arms up at the end of the fight, thinking he was victorious, but none of the judges shared his feeling – winner and new WBC interim light flyweight champion via unanimous decision – Wandee Singwancha.

Judges scores: Brad Vocale (AU) 117-111, Takeaki Kanaya (JP) 117-113, Jae-Bong Kim (KOR) 117-113

The Sweet Science scored it 117-113 (two rounds even).

A Sidebar to Singwancha-Rubillar

Before the fight, Filipino fans around the world expressed doubt Juanito Rubillar could win a decision in Thailand. The feeling was that anything less than a KO would result in a hometown decision for Singwancha. As a fan, it’s easy to get carried away with nationalistic feelings. Rubillar lost the bout by not doing enough in the first half of the fight and you just can’t do that when fighting on the road. He didn’t come on strong enough until the later rounds (7th); by then it was too late. The fight was close and scored quite fairly. The decision had nothing to do with the fight being in Thailand or Rubillar getting ripped off. He got defeated in a close, competitive fight, plain and simple – no additional help from the judges necessary.

BTW – I picked Rubillar to win. I personally don’t care where anyone’s from – I just tell it like I see it. All I care about is whether or not I get to see a good fight!

It’s no surprise the vast majority of Thai fighters are over-hyped and can’t fight nearly as well as their records indicate. As I’ve said before, when you always know who’s going to win, it takes the fun out of the sport. It’s catching up to the Thais as more and more of their fighters are getting beat on a regular basis as soon as the fight outside of Asia.

Pongsaklek Wonjongkam may very well be the best flyweight in boxing but the plain truth is he’s piled up wins over fighters who are at best journeymen and don’t belong in the top twenty-five, much less the top ten. Most boxing fans in Thailand haven’t a clue whether an opponent is worthy or not and since Wonjongkam isn’t fighting in the US, the promoters and sponsor (Red Bull) don’t care what anyone outside of Thailand thinks. The Thais, with the help of El Presidente Jose Sulaiman, will hang on to the championship as long as humanly possible, even if it means breaking its own rules (Wonjongkam hasn’t faced a mandatory in almost three years).

In the case of Rubillar, while he lost a close fight, he shouldn’t have been fighting for an interim title in the first place. He was due a title shot at Brian Viloria and got screwed. An interim title was originally intended to be used when a champion was unable to fight for a period of up to one year. Viloria is fighting in the first week of August, just three weeks after Rubillar’s fight.

Absolutely unbelievable.

Quick Notes

Talks are in the works for a fight between the WBA’s #1 ranked lightweight, Prawet Singwancha, and WBA lightweight champion Juan Diaz for late this year, early next year. The fight would be in the U.S., probably in Las Vegas, and so far no further details have been released other than negotiations are proceeding and the fight is a possibility. Prawet Singwancha has yet to defeat a top-ten fighter and is yet another tale of a fighter being ranked far higher than he should be.

Another fighter from the Singmanasak camp, former super featherweight champion Sirimongkol Singwancha, is supposedly slated to fight Jose Armando Santa Cruz for the WBC’s version of the lightweight title in Croatia during the WBC’s annual convention. Cruz is scheduled to face David Diaz but the reality is there is very little chance of the fight actually coming off. The Thai press has also been letting it be known they want Sirimongkol Singwancha to fight Manny Pacquiao.

Why? I have no idea…I don’t make the news, I just write about it.