PASAY CITY, Philippines – At 36 years of age and with 55 fights in the record books, welterweight Dennis Laurente is in a race against time to achieve his long-awaited goal of fighting for a world title.
Laurente has lost just once since 2006 and has been ranked in the top 15 of the WBC’s ratings for several years, competing on the undercard of three Manny Pacquiao fights in America. However, he has also languished in obscurity, with many of his toughest bouts being buried deep on undercards or on scarcely attended club events.
His dream was thrown on life support when he lost an eight-round split decision to Miguel Cotto sparring partner Kenny Abril in Las Vegas this past December, the night before a Juan Manuel Marquez right hand brought the Pacquiao era of boxing to an abrupt end on the other side of town.
Yet Laurente soldiers on, facing an overmatched Thai opponent named Manopnoi Singmanasak at the Midas Hotel & Casino in Pasay City, Philippines. Early on, it looked as if Laurente would be in for another long night, as he squared up and negated his own southpaw edge to trade uppercuts on the inside with the 19-year-old Thai, who had at one point lost seven straight fights over a 14-month period beginning in 2011.
Once the heavy leather began flying, Singmanasak’s fragility began to betray him once again. Having been knocked out 11 times prior to Saturday night, Singmanasak was down on the canvas in round one on a left hand in close. In round two, Laurente sent his opponent back down a second time from a right hook. A heartbeat before Singmanasak’s knee touched the canvas, Laurente walloped him again with a hard looping left hand. Singmanasak rose again.
Laurente finished him off moments later when Singmanasak lunged in to even the score, opening him up for three straight left cross counters. A fourth left cross put Singmanasak down a third time, prompting the referee to halt the bout at the 2:33 mark.
The win raised Laurente’s record to 45-5-5 (26 knockouts), while Singmanasak dropped to 10-16 (6 KOs).
“I’m still hoping to get a title shot,” said Laurente afterwards, as he lingered in a crowd that included lookalikes of Manny Pacquiao, Freddie Roach and Nonito Donaire Jr.
Laurente’s promoter Johnny Elorde, who is the son of International Boxing Hall of Fame inductee Gabriel “Flash” Elorde, says that he had petitioned WBC president Jose Sulaiman about a title shot for Laurente, who remains ranked no. 14 by the Mexican-based organization, but with Floyd Mayweather Jr. permanently camping out as their welterweight titleholder as he shifts between 147 and 154, the prospects look bleak for the time being.
“I hope we can have a title shot by next year,” said Elorde. “We’ve talked already to Jose about Dennis. We’re trying to attend a convention so we can push him. It’s very hard to be rated at welterweight.”
While Laurente waits for his first title shot, Jonathan Taconing (16-2-1, 13 KOs) is staying busy as he awaits his second title opportunity. The light flyweight contender from Zamboanga del Norte added another win to his record with an easy first round knockouts of Rambo Sithsaithong (8-4, 4 KOs) of Thailand. The southpaw Taconing lifted Sithsaithong’s head with a left uppercut, and as the Thai poised for a follow-up head shot, Taconing went to the body with both hands, knocking him out for the count at the 2:05 mark.
There was some concern initially for Sithsaithong, who remained on the canvas for several moments as emergency personnel administered oxygen. The Thai was removed from the ring on a stretcher and taken to a local hospital, halting the action as event organizers waited for the ambulance to return before fights could resume.
Taconing’s first title shot, which took place last May in Thailand, ended in a controversial technical decision loss for Taconing. Facing then-WBC light flyweight titleholder Kompayak Porpramook, Taconing was the victim of dubious officiating and judging, as the Korean referee Jae-Bong Kim separated them as Taconing pounded Porpramook along the ropes in round five to deduct a point for an accidental headbutt. The bout was halted after that round due to a seemingly inconsequential cut on Porpramook’s left eye, with two judges awarding a decision win to Porpramook despite being dominated for the most part. The third judge had the bout even.
The night also featured the Elorde brothers, the sons of promoter Johnny Elorde and the grandsons of Flash Elorde, with both earning knockout victories against Thai opponents.
Juan Martin Elorde (15-1, 7 KOs) had shown vast improvements since his lone career defeat in 2010 on the undercard of Pacquiao-Antonio Margarito in Texas. In his last outing, the 28-year-old Elorde made up ground with a 10-round decision victory over Maxsaisai Sithsaithong, who entered with a record of 12-1, in March to win the vacant WBO Asia Pacific super featherweight title.
If that victory made headway towards bolstering Elorde’s credentials as a fight, his bout with Rajakru Sor Rungwatana (0-3) accomplished little more than padding his record. The left-handed “Bai” Elorde stormed out of the corner against his smaller opponent working the body effectively with straight lefts. Near the end of the first round, a right hook to the midsection destabilized Sor Rungwatana, dropped him forward.
Elorde would score three equally ambiguous knockdowns the following round before the referee halted the bout at the 1:49 mark of round two.
Earlier in the night, the younger Elorde brother Juan Miguel Elorde (13-1, 5 KOs) scored a solid technical knockout victory over Pinsanuthep Kiatchaiyong of Thailand at 1:02 of the sixth round. The featherweight Elorde, 26, had boxed a controlled fight against his shorter Thai opponent, countering effectively with the left hook whenever Kiatchaiyong lunged in.
While his older brother is an aggressive southpaw, “Mig” Elorde is a laid-back orthodox boxer, content to pick his opponent off as he attacks.
It seemed as if Elorde would have to settle for a decision victory, but after a left hook to the body set up a left hook to the chin that knocked Kiatchaiyong’s head to the side. Elorde continued to punch, landing a solid right cross as his opponent in the following beat, driving him to the ropes. A volley of unanswered punches followed, punctuated by a left hook that caused Kiatchaiyong to slump behind his gloves, compelling referee Ver Abainza to halt the bout at the 1:02 mark.
Elorde has now won three straight since sustaining his only loss in 2011 to Jerry Guevara in Las Vegas on a card held the night before Pacquiao faced Juan Manuel Marquez for the third time.
“After their losses, they improved a lot,” said their father/promoter Johnny Elorde. “I don’t push them to train now, they train hard for themselves. I just support them.”
Ryan Songalia is a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA) and contributes to The Ring magazine and GMA News. He can be reached at [email protected]. An archive of his work can be found at www.ryansongalia.com. Follow him on Twitter: @RyanSongalia.