Traditionally, Thai boxers are very tough to beat in their homeland but are notoriously bad travelers. In 2012 Pungluang Sor Singyu won the vacant WBO bantamweight crown when he stopped AJ Banal in a close fight in the Philippines.
However, in his first defense five months later, Pungluang was forced to go on the road to Namibia. This time he would lose a competitive decision to Paulus Ambunda.
The 26-year old has rebounded to win three fights since the reverse to set up a meeting with Tomoki Kameda for his old title on Saturday at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Kameda, the youngest of a popular trio of boxing brothers from Japan, is undefeated in 29 fights and will be making the second defense of the belt he took from Ambunda.
Pungluang (46-2, 31 knockouts) comes from a poor family in Uthai Thani, which is situated in the middle of Thailand, north of Bangkok. After winning the title, the deeply spiritual fighter spent 14 days as a monk.
Though Kameda-Pungluang isn't part of the Showtime Pay-Per-View headlined by Canelo Alvarez vs. Erislandy Lara, it is one one of the fights that will be included on Showtime Extreme.
Pungluang spoke to RingTV.com through translator Siraphop OneSongchai Ratanasuban a week ago from the OneSongchai gym in the Samutsakorn province:
Anson Wainwright – You challenge Tomoki Kameda for the WBO bantamweight title. What are your thoughts on fighting Kameda and for your old title?
Pungluang Sor Singyu – I know his style, I used to train with him. I must train hard to beat him. I have confidence that I can do it. I am good with my Philippine trainer here.
AW – The fight takes place in Las Vegas. You have shown in beating AJ Banal in the Philippines that you are more than capable of upsetting the odds away from home. What would you say about that?
PSS – It is normal because I am not in my hometown, so everyone thinks we are the underdog. AJ Banal, he is my best challenger, he is very sharp, and very dangerous when I beat him because I prepared well. I studied his videos for long time. I cried when I got the world title, I was so happy.
AW – After winning the title, you were a Buddhist monk for 14 days, can you tell us about that?
PSS – It was good and I learned a lot from being a Buddhist. The Buddha explained that life means problems, stress and pain. These problems are caused by our ignorance, confused emotions and negative actions. As we decide everything with our own minds and we can all change our minds, it is possible to end problems and pain by changing our own minds and leading a wiser and more positive life. Once we completely understand the world, we can make an end to all our suffering and go to Nirvana. Buddha teaches me to be a good person:
1. Right view – The right way to think about life is to see the world through the eyes of the Buddha – with wisdom and compassion.
2. Right thought – We are what we think. Clear and kind thoughts build good, strong characters.
3. Right speech – By speaking kind and helpful words, we are respected and trusted by everyone.
4. Right conduct – No matter what we say, others know us from the way we behave. Before we criticize others, we should first see what we do ourselves.
5. Right livelihood – This means choosing a job that does not hurt others. The Buddha said, "Do not earn your living by harming others. Do not seek happiness by making others unhappy."
6. Right effort – A worthwhile life means doing our best at all times and having good will toward others. This also means not wasting effort on things that harm ourselves and others.
7. Right mindfulness – This means being aware of our thoughts, words, and deeds.
8. Right concentration – Focus on one thought or object at a time. By doing this, we can be quiet and attain true peace of mind.
AW – You lost the WBO 118-pound title five months after beating Banal, when you traveled to Namibia and lost a decision to Paulus Ambunda. Tell us about that fight and the experience of fighting in Namibia?
PSS – The promoter treated us well. I just had to lose some weight. The promoter gave us breakfast, lunch and dinner. We love African people, they are very nice, friendly and love boxing. They are black color and so nice in smiling with bright white teeth. He is a good boxer with nice character, calm, sincere, and funny. I love African people who are nice, kind, not want to work, and enjoy eating meat. I think they are good to hang out with, they are easygoing people.
We got on a plane in Bangkok, traveled to Namibia with Air Namibia traveling 24 hours, stopping at Dubai, then Johannesburg, and last stop at Windhoek, Namibia. It is the other side of the world, I think. It takes so long but it does not bother me, I can sleep at all times. I just felt tired when I arrived in Namibia.
AW – Since then you've had three fights, you won them all inside the distance. How have you been able to rebound from the title loss?
PSS – I watched the videos and my Filipino trainer teaches me. I think I will do the same as I did successfully before. I love [to win] inside the distance [and fight on the inside]. I did improve my training a lot. I think Buddha blessed me [so] I will win this fight.
AW – What was your youth like?
PSS – My parents grew sugarcane and potatoes, then, due to the drought, they changed their careers to sell noodles. Like chicken noodle in a soup selling a bowl to people for a dollar. I had to fight professional Muay Thai to feed my family, amateur Muay Thai does not earn money. I had my first fight when I was 12 years old.
AW – How did you become interested and then take up boxing?
PSS – I liked it when I was 12 years old. I did not go to amateur Muay Thai because it takes lots of time to invest before you earn money. I went directly to professional Muay Thai from earning 0 Baht to almost 100,000 baht (about $3,000), then I turned to professional boxing. My manager thinks I will do better as a world boxing champion because of reputation, and money. It is not much different training than Muay Thai, but of course more well known internationally.
AW – Training in Thailand is notoriously tough, tell us about a typical day for you?
PSS – I get up at 5:30 am and run 10 km. Some days we work on speed, sparring half an hour non-stop, control weight. I train two sessions daily, Monday to Saturday, first begins at 5:30 am to 10:30 am, second from 4:00 pm to 8:00 pm.
I think boxing is good for the mind, body, and spirit. I run for one and a half hours and or skip rope for 30 minutes, stretching 30 minutes, shadowboxing 30 minutes, heavy bag 60 minutes, pads with professionals 60 minutes, light sparring 30 minutes, stretching and cool down for 30 minutes.
AW – Tell us about yourself and your life away from boxing?
PSS – I love to watch the movie “King Naresuan.” I love action movie stars. I don’t like drama.
Bualuang Sor Singyu, featherweight WBO Asia champion, is my best friend.
If I am not a boxer, I will be a soccer player. I want to be a world champion again. I train hard and sometimes get discouraged, but I am still determined to train.
I love to feed fish, not for fishing, but just feeding them. I love soccer. I love chicken fighting as well. I love to spend time with my family. I have two kids now. Life is happy, I do not have to be rich, just to live self sufficiently. We want to live with less materials. We are happy with what we have now, what Buddha gives us. I grow and eat my own vegetables. I go buy things that I don’t have, but I do not want too much technology.
AW – What goals in boxing do you have?
PSS – My dream is to become world WBO champion in 118 pounds again.
AW – In closing do you have a message for Kameda ahead of your fight?
PSS – We will see you in the ring. We shall do our best in the ring to see who is the best.
Questions and/or comments can be sent to Anson at [email protected] and you can follow him at www.twitter.com/AnsonWainwright