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Fighting ontwo fronts is a special skill : On July 10th , 2008
Getting to the top of the professional ladder in one sport is difficult enough so managing it in two is a very special achievement.
Several of Thailand's boxers also maintain their places at the top in Muay Thai while continuing to fight in Thailand's national sport between Queensbury Rules contests (or is it the other way around?).
Last Friday night at Lumpini Stadium, Panomroonglek Kratingdaenggym outpointed Nongnaen Kiatprathum with a brilliant display on a show held in conjunction with Petchyindee Promotions and General Methi Thamrangsee of the Royal Thai Army.
Panomroonglek is the current Muay Thai Lumpini super-flyweight champion and also the international boxing WBC number one flyweight challenger to champion Daisuke Naito, from Japan.
I'm sure some people will think that because both are combat sports and take place in a ring that it is not really a big deal to be extremely proficient in both disciplines.
However, although there are many similarities, I believe the fundamental differences make it extremely difficult to be good at both of them (particularly when you are switching between codes for each fight).
Effective punching in boxing comes from a solid foundation in the feet while the Muay Thai stance needs to be different, with leverage required to launch, and defend against, attacks from the legs and knees.
Also boxers don't have to worry about elbows while in close, grappling behind the neck and throws.
I sometimes wonder how a fighter like Panomroonglek can remember which style he is competing in when he is under real pressure during a bout.
It must take real self-control not to use an elbow when he sees an opening in a Queensbury Rules contest or stand rooted to the spot throwing combinations in Muay Thai.
The fact he can do both speaks volumes about his natural ability and discipline.
WBC flyweight champion Naito is set to defend against Tomonobu Shimizu in Japan on July 30, but Petchyindee Promotions are working hard to get Panomroonglek a shot at the belt.
It's a smart move because Naito is beatable. I doubt Shimizu will be able to topple him but Panomroonglek might be able to.
Shimizu certainly didn't look very good when he was beaten by former WBC flyweight champion Pongsaklek Wonjongkam in Saraburi in April 2007.
In fact the most memorable thing about that fight was the exploding gas-filled balloons at ringside that enveloped many spectators in a ball of fire.
If Naito v Panomroonglek can be made and the Thai wins it will be a historic achievement for a fighter to hold a WBC world title and also be the Lumpini Stadium champion in Muay Thai at the same time.
To illustrate it isn't easy to excel at both, WBC-ranked super-bantamweight Saenghiran Lookbanyai got knocked down and outpointed (I thought unfairly) in a Muay Thai fight at Channel 7 Stadium last Sunday afternoon.
Saenghiran was put on the canvas by a hard right hand in the fourth round, then roared with a superb final session that was brilliant to watch.
Saenghiran always gives value for money but luck often appears to desert him.
He was stopped by Napapol Kiatisakchokchai in 10 rounds last September in a WBC super-bantamweight final eliminator after pasting Napapol early on.
It was the best fight in Thailand last year but that will be of little consolation to Saenghiran, who needs to start winning again.
He is ranked ninth in the world by the WBC, one place above Poonsawat Kratingdaenggym (who is ranked the number one contender by the WBA) while Napapol is third.
Last week Napapol signed to fight Toshiaki Nishioka on September 15 in Japan for the WBC super-bantam "interim" title because champion Israel Vazquez is recovering from his ferocious trilogy with Rafael Marquez.
If Napapol can win there, he too deserves real praise for perseverance.
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