Thursday, February 02, 2023  |



Amnat Ruenroeng: ‘I will make more money after I beat Zou Shiming’

Photo Credit: Chris Farina/Top Rank Promotions

Photo Credit: Chris Farina/Top Rank Promotions

On Saturday, IBF flyweight titlist Amnat Ruenroeng steps into the ring to face former amateur rival Zou Shiming. The bout takes place in the opulent surroundings of the Cotai Arena at the Venetian Resort in Macau, China, a far cry from his humble beginnings on the streets of Thailand.

Ruenroeng (14-0, 5 knockouts) and Zou (6-0, 1 KO) share a storied rivalry and have met on three occasions; the Chinese challenger holds a 2-1 advantage.

It’s not something Ruenroeng is concerned about.

“I know him very well in amateur boxing,” Ruenroeng told through promoter Jimmy Chaichotchuang. “I do not see any advantage because amateur is different to professional boxing.”

Ruenroeng enjoyed an outstanding 2014, which led many experts to pick him as their “Fighter of the Year.” The 35-year-old won the vacant title in January of last year with a wide points decision over top contender Rocky Fuentes. He successfully defended his belt twice, caused a huge upset when he outpointed the outstanding Kazuto Ioka in Japan and closed out the year with an off-the-canvas, split decision over mandatory challenger McWilliams Arroyo.

We’re all familiar with the story of Bernard Hopkins’ time at Graterford State Penitentiary, in comparison to Ruenroeng’s tale. In 2006, he went to jail for a third time, sentenced to 15 years for committing robbery. Boxing proved an unlikely salvation for the Thai boxer and he took part in the prison boxing program which saw him win a national title the following year.

After the victory, Ruenroeng was released from prison for good behavior. He would go on to represent his country at the 2008 Olympics.

The second-grade dropout and former drug addict freely admits, “I should still be in jail.”

Ruenroeng-Zou headlines the HBO2 telecast (via delay, 5:00 p.m. ET/PT) ably supported by Glen Tapia and Daniel Dawson, who clash in a scheduled 10-round, junior middleweight bout. The undercard also features two rising Chinese fighters, Ik Yang (who will face Patomsuk Pathompothong in an IBF junior welterweight title eliminator) and junior bantamweight Rex Tso (who will meet Michael Enriquez).

Anson Wainwright – What are your thoughts on facing Zou Shiming?

Amnat Ruenroeng – Zou Shiming is my good friend from the amateurs. I fought him three times. I lost two and won one. It is good to fight him again, this time in professional boxing.

AW – Having shared a ring with him, what do you see as his strengths and also weaknesses?

AR – His strengths are speed, jabs and very good movement. His weakness is that he only has a few fights in professional boxing.

AW – Is it a concern for you that you’re fighting in his homeland? Do you feel you may need to knock him out to win?

AR – I can fight everywhere in the world. I can win on points or knockout. I do not care.

AW – In your last fight, you won a close split decision over McWilliams Arroyo last September in Thailand. You showed heart to get off the canvas to win. Tell us about that fight.

AR – Arroyo is good fighter. I try the best to win the fight. Arroyo did not hit me; I slipped on the canvas. I stood up and controlled the rest of the fight.

AW – You previously went to Japan and caused an upset when you beat Kazuto Ioka. Do you think the experience of traveling and fighting as the underdog will help you for this fight?

AR – I went to many countries, USA, China, Russia, Cuba, Mongolia, South East Asia including Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia when I fought as an amateur. It helped me to fight abroad.

AW – What was your amateur record?

AR – I am not sure but I had about 100 fights.

AW – You turned 35 last December. For a flyweight, that is considered old.

AR – I am old but I feel I am young boxer. I think this is my prime now at 35 because I am the champion. I want to fight more.

AW – This will be a career-high purse for you. How much does that mean to you, especially having come from the hardships you’ve had to endure?

AR – It is a big fight for me, to fight Zou Shiming, who is two-time Olympic gold medalist. It feels good to fight him and beat him in professional boxing. I will make more money after I beat Zou.

AW – Your life before boxing was very eventful. Could you tell us about it?

AR – I was a kid on the street. I never knew who my father was. My mother never told me who he was. I lived by fighting. My life is boxing and boxing only. I was a street fighter. I grew up on the streets, fighting for a living. I could not go to school because my family is very poor. Muay Thai changed my life. I could help my family by fighting in Muay Thai and I became the Muay Thai champion. I lost the title later and had no money to save my family. I committed a robbery and went to the jail. I did not know the lawyer and I thought my life was going to end in jail. But I was very lucky. Jail had an inaugural boxing project for prisoners to participate in a national amateur tournament. I learned amateur boxing in jail. I won all my fights and became a national amateur champion.

After I got out of jail, I represented the Thailand team and fought in my first international tournament, “The King’s Cup.” I beat Zou Shiming, then a high-profile boxer. Before the fight, my team did not expect me to beat Zou Shiming because I was a replacement boxer – but I did it.

AW – Tell us about when you beat Zou.

AR – I beat Zou Shiming in the 2007 “King’s Cup” international amateur boxing tournament in Thailand. Zou outclassed Thailand’s Suban Pannon in the 48 kilogram (about 106 pounds) final at the Asian Games in Doha, Qatar in December. The Chinese aimed for him to become his country’s first-ever Olympic boxing champion at the 2008 Beijing Games. Pannon wanted to avenge his defeat against Zou but he got injured in training. He was ruled out of the “King’s Cup” and replaced by me from the B-squad. I lost to Zou Shiming in 2010 in the Asian Games final in China. I believe I should have won that fight and beat him very clearly. Zou Shiming got the gold medal. I got the silver medal.

AW – Let’s talk about the flyweight division; it has gotten a lot of praise because there seems to be so many top fighters there currently. As a champion in that weight class, what are your thoughts on the division and current champions?

AR – All the champions are great boxers. Flyweight is a hot division because we have many top fighters. If we can fight each other, we will find out who is the best.

AW – You have managed to turn you life around for the better; however, I’m sure you’re not finished yet. What goals do you still have?

AR – My goal is to be unified flyweight champion. I want to fight other champions and make history.

AW – In closing, do you have a message for Zou?

AR – I will do my best against Zou Shiming. The best man will be the winner in the ring. Good luck.

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