The decision loss of our very own John Riel Casimero in the hands of Amnat Ruenroeng on June 27 this year made me look at the state of the flyweight division a second time. And I found out how interesting that division is considering its current depth of talent.
The Ring’s champion for the flyweight (112 pounds) division is Roman Gonzalez from Nicaragua who sports an impressive (and scary) record of 43-0 with 38 knockouts. He also ranks second in the The Ring’s Pound-for-Pound list right behind the still undefeated Floyd Mayweather Jr. Well, that is interesting enough!
The No. 1 contender in The Ring flyweight rankings is Mexico’s Juan Francisco Estrada (32-2 with 23 KOs) while Ruenroeng (16-0 with 5 KOs) is No. 3. Not surprisingly, our very own Brian Villoria (35-4 with 21 KOs) is at No. 4. Casimero (21-2 with 13 KOs) is ranked tenth in the list of contenders of The Ring for the flyweight division.
If this was the 1980s or even the 1990s, boxing promoters would have found a way to match Gonzales, Estrada and Ruenroeng or even Villoria against each other just to find out who among them is really the best. And if that happens, I don’t see Ruenroeng surviving more than five rounds with either Gonzales or Estrada or the distance against Villoria.
Despite beating Casimero and Zou Shiming (6-1 with one KO) on March 7 this year, Ruenroeng has yet to prove he deserves to be among the top five flyweights in the world today. Since winning the International Boxing Federation world flyweight championship on January 2014 by beating Filipino Rocky Fuentes (35-8-2 with 20 KOs) by unanimous decision, the Thai defended his title four times twice by unanimous decision (over Casimero and Shiming) and twice by split decision. If that sounds impressive, that means your benchmark of a prolific National Basketball Association player is one who scores 10 points a game.
Notably, Casimero’s camp scored Ruenroeng’s roughhouse tactics that resulted to their world title fight being marred by wrestling and holding. Ruenroeng, however, deserves credit for beating Shiming convincingly.
But to become a world flyweight champion worthy of recognition from fans and writers, Ruenroeng must face better opposition like Estrada or even Villoria.
As for Villoria, he still has the chance to become flyweight champion again. The Filipino was a titleholder in the flyweight and junior flyweight divisions. What could also make the flyweight division more interesting is Donnie Nietes’ campaigning in that division. Nietes (35-1-4 with 21 KOs) has turned back all challengers in his reign as minimum-weight (also called straw weight at 105 pounds) and junior flyweight (108 pounds) to become the Filipino boxer with the most title defenses beating the great Gabriel “Flash” Elorde.
While it would be unwise for Nietes to take on Gonzalez immediately because that would be a bit suicidal, he has the chance to beat Estrada and Ruenroeng. But allowing Nietes to face Villoria is unthinkable because pitting world-class Filipino boxers against each other seems taboo to local boxing promoters and managers.
In case Nietes relinquishes his world junior flyweight crown to campaign at flyweight, there would be no shortage of Filipinos who can take his place at the top of The Ring rankings for the 112-pound division.
Ranked fifth in the list of contenders by The Ring at junior flyweight is Filipino Randy Petalcorin who has an impressive record of 23-1-1 with 18 KOs and holds the World Boxing Association crown. Two other Filipinos are also ranked by The Ring in the list of contenders for 108 pounds: Milan Melindo (32-2-2 with 12 KOs) and Rey Loreto (20-13-0 with 12 KOs) who holds the International Boxing Organization crown. With three other Filipinos included in The Ring’s list of contenders at junior flyweight, Nietes can consider campaigning at flyweight to make that division more interesting.