Amnat Ruenroeng’s backstory has been a source of fascination for those western journalists and fight-fans interested in the more obscure corners of the fistic globe. Ruenroeng appeals to the old-school in all of us; ex-con makes good in the most savage of noble pursuits, what would have become of him without boxing? People eat that stuff for lunch.
Sometimes though, boxing doesn’t remove the jailhouse from the fighter so much as enhance it. Think Tyson and the ear or Liston and that probable dive in Maine. Usually though, the jailhouse in the fighter is controlled by the rules at hand, by the unshakable truth of combat and a referee who, at the very least, is determined to protect the fighters to hand.
Those essential tenants were abandoned today in Bangkok, Thailand where the visit of the #10 flyweight John Reil Casimero (out of the Philippines) to the back yard of the #3 flyweight, Ruenroeng, descended into farce. Instead, Ruenroeng was allowed to break almost every single rule of the ring by a referee Larry Doggett who was very clearly guilty of at the least ineptitude. Like much in life that is truly ludicrous, it was funny and tragic in equal measures.
Things got off to an alarming start, with Casimero rushing Ruenroeng and landing a right hand to which the Thai responded with a charge, grab and judoesque throwdown. That the referee neglected to rub down Casimero’s gloves was a shadow of things to come.
Perhaps as much as the next minute was fought clean, which is frustrating because it showed what an interesting contest was to hand – Casimero leading with straight punches and charging, the more skilled Ruenroeng trying to outwait him with baited counterpunches. Ruenroeng received a stern warning for wrestling with about a minute left to go in the first but Doggett neglected to break a clinch in the final seconds, instead allowing the two to hug it out for an inordinate length of time, and then failed to take any action when Ruenroeng aimed a savage right hand at Casimero after the bell.
Ruenroeng scored a legitimate, fast-handed knockdown near the beginning of the second but Casimero appeared only to have been flashed and when Ruenroeng went back to work it was with a stern jab to the middle of the body rather than power-shots aimed at the head. This was good strategy. The guillotine choke-hold he placed on Casimero as the round wound down was a little more questionable, however.
So was his determination to wrestle Casimero to the ropes and pin him there at the opening of the third; the Filipino got in on the fun appearing to drive a knee into his opponent’s thigh as he was pinned there. After Ruenroeng finally obeyed the referee’s command to break or fight out, the two swapped jabs until Casimero caught his man with a counter-hook every bit as sweet as the one that Ruenroeng had used to drop him in the second – only for the referee to inexplicably rule a slip. Ruenroeng, upon regaining his feet, launched himself at Casimero and placed him in the guillotine once more. Doggett did not even issue a warning. A deliberate trip followed, then another attempted throw. Finally Daggitt called time…but only to arrange for Ruenroeng to have his bootlace re-tied.
More wrestling and another throw followed in the fourth, after which Ruenroeng attempted to bow in apology only for the long-suffering Filipino to try to take his head off with a haymaker. Ruenroeng responded with a rear naked choke hold and a punch to the back of the head. The referee, again, refused to take action. Astonishingly, Casimero then got a telling off after being placed in another guillotine and responding with a low blow. He shook his head in disbelief as immediately upon resumption of the action, Ruenroeng once again appeared to try to lock in a rear choke. He then threw Casimero to the floor; then a choke hold; then a throw; then he wrestled Casimero to his haunches and punched him while he was down – at no time did Ruenroeng ever find himself in close lateral proximity to Casimero without inexplicably placing his forearm across the Filipino’s throat; at no time did he find himself in an elevated position without trying to sink in a guillotine – but he would also happily leap in – literally, leap forwards – and go for the hold. In the sixth he pushed Casimero through the ropes and appeared to try to throw him from the ring. It was the height of surreal.
I will spare the reader a continued description of every foul either man sunk in; suffice to say that while Doggett’s performance was bizarre, so was Ruenroeng’s. The Thai has a fascinating history, is ranked #3 in the world and the division’s king Roman Gonzalez has HBO exposure. Doubtless the broadcast giant will be looking for worthy and interesting opponents for Gonzalez and doubtless Ruenroeng fits that bill. He has excluded himself from a career payday with this performance; the amount of clinching alone is enough to prevent an HBO executive picking up the phone, never mind the most bizarre pattern of fouling I have ever seen in a “title” fight. Presumably the IBF, whose trinket the two wrestled over, will want to investigate not only Ruenroeng’s performance but also that of Doggett – only idiocy or corruption can explain his behaviour.
Ruenroeng achieved full mount after a throw in the eighth in a final nod to the MMA/boxing hybrid the bout had clearly become, a contest that seemed to embody the worst of those two separate worlds; Casimero probably should have quit the ring at around this point. He would have been entitled and I suspect most neutral observers would have sympathised. He stayed and fought on, receiving repeated warnings for borderline low-blows from a referee who should never be let anywhere near a boxing ring ever again, under any circumstances.
He belatedly issued Ruenroeng with a point deduction in the eleventh, arguably as many as ten rounds too late and by which time any chance Casimero had of establishing and executing any gameplan had been destroyed by literally dozens of dangerous fouls. A unanimous decision in favour of Ruenroeng (now 16-0) was the result, for what little that is worth; hopefully Casimero (drops to 21-3) will get another shot at the Thai on more neutral ground.
There’s no point in him – or anyone else – travelling to Thailand to take on Ruenroeng in the light of this debacle.