BOXER Srisaket Sor Rungvisai once collected garbage to make a living. Yet every “slumdog” dreams of becoming a somebody.
On Sunday, the Thai scored a stunning victory over Nicaragua’s Roman Gonzalez in New York to win the world championship, for the second time in his career.
The odds were unquestionably stacked against the 30-year-old in his quest to reclaim the World Boxing Council superflyweight title that he lost three years ago. The Nicaraguan champ, one year his junior, is considered one of the world’s best pound-for-pound fighters.
The Si Sa Ket native, however, proved more than a match for Gonzalez, a former world champion in four weight divisions who boasted an unbeaten record in 46 fights prior to his bout against the top-ranked Thai challenger.
Srisaket could not have asked for a better start to his debut at Madison Square Garden, a venue deemed as the cathedral of boxing, when he managed to down his rival with a body blow near the end of the opening round.
Gonzalez’s face was stained with blood from the third round after an accidental clash of heads caused a gash on his right eyebrow. However, it seemed to spur the champion into action as he started to put the challenger on the back foot, having weathered serious pressure from the Thai in the early stages.
A point deduction against Srisaket in the sixth round seemed to tip the balance in the champion’s favour. Nevertheless, the Thai regained his composure and looked to get better of his opponent by trading blows in the following rounds.
Knowing that he was ahead on the scorecards, the Thai preferred not to engage in exchanges in the final round with Gonzalez, whose face by now bore marks of a battered fighter. The Madison Square crowd made their feeling clear by loudly booing him, something the Thai is unlikely to care about as he ran out a deserved winner with a majority decision.
Even though the country has produced a host of world champions, Srisaket became only the second Thai fighter after Saman Sorjaturong to win the world championship of three major organisations on American soil.
His historic success, coming with his humble background, has made his resume all the more impressive. When Srisaket was only 13, he decided to try his luck in Bangkok. Without money, he had to travel by foot to seek job in Bang Na district. Soon, he became a garbage collector at a shopping mall in the area.
Life in the capital was tough for the provincial boy. Srisaket used to take out wasted food such as fish past by its sell-by date from the garbage just to survive for another day. Fortunes took a turn for the better when he met Surachart Pisitwuttinan, known as “Sia Hui” in boxing circles, the owner of Nakhonloung Gym. He never looked back.
After being crowned the new champ, Srisaket was asked how he felt to be a world champion at Madison Square Garden after being a garbage collector in Bangkok.
However, part of the question was lost in translation and the Thai simply said: “To win against Roman really impressed me. I would like to thank all the Thai people for their support. To be honest, Roman was so strong and he kept punching. I won today because of the support from the whole country.”
Government spokesperson Lt Gen Sansern Kaewkamnerd, meanwhile, said prime minister Gen Prayut Chanocha congratulated Srisaket on his historic triumph and called on youths to follow his example.
“The prime minister really admires Srisaket for his determination and boxing without fear. He showed his mental strength, which enabled him to beat the champion in front of the whole world today.
“All is down to training and preparation, both physical and psychological. The prime minister would like to see youths follow Srisaket’s example. We can succeed in anything if we show determination. With good preparation we can overcome any big obstacle,” Sansern said.