Davao’s Loreto fails in title bid

Davao City’s Rey “The Hitman” Loreto failed in his bid to wrest the WBA minimumweight title on Saturday with a unanimous decision loss to defending champion Thammanoon Niyomtrong of Thailand.

According to a report by Philboxing.com, Loreto started strong then faltered in the middle rounds and survived a knockdown to launch a desperate rally in the homestretch but couldn’t sustain a consistent attack in the fight held in Chonburi, Thailand.

The report said Loreto, 26, got off to a blistering start as he raked Thammanoon with right jabs and left straight-right uppercut combinations to sweep the first three rounds. The Thai’s left eye began to close early in the fourth but Loreto appeared to lose steam as the champion seized the initiative with power body shots. With Loreto showing signs of slowing down, Thammanoon stepped up the pace and fought like a dervish, reminiscent of Manny Pacquiao. He charged in, pulled back and held Loreto’s head down when they came close. Thammanoon took control of the fight starting the fourth. He darted in and out, banged the body and counterpunched masterfully to the delight of the cheering hometowners.

In the ninth, Thammanoon broke away from a clinch and landed a right cross to the face as an off-balance Loreto retreated, causing a knockdown. Referee Rafael Ramos, a Texan of Puerto Rican descent, gave Loreto a mandatory eight-count. It seemed like Loreto was more embarrassed than hurt. In the 10th, Loreto got his second wind and went for broke. Behind on points, Loreto knew his only chance to wrest the crown was to score a knockout. Loreto threw caution to the wind in the 11th and in a wild sequence, missed a haymaker that nearly struck Ramos.

Both fighters gasped for air in the final round. They wrestled each other to the canvas and on another occasion, Thammanoon pushed Loreto down. When the final bell rang, Thammanoon’s left eye was swollen shut and Loreto’s left eye was badly bruised. Thammanoon, who made it a habit to end every round by raising both arms, did enough to turn back Loreto.

Judges Takeshi Shimakawa of Japan and Ferlin Marsh of New Zealand saw it both 117-110 for Thammanoon, a former Muay Thai fighter known as Knockout CP Freshmart. Judge Ignacio Robles of Panama scored it 115-113, also for the Thai. The Star had it 115-112 for Thammanoon.

GAB chairman Abraham Mitra, who was at ringside, didn’t object to the decision but expressed disappointment in the way Ramos worked the fight and the lopsided scorecards of two judges. “Just like the fight of Sen. Manny (Pacquiao) against (Jeff) Horn, it’s hard to decide in terms of scoring as the referee kept on warning Thammanoon but let him get away with it,” said Mitra. “The Thai has won all his fights in his country but if outside, I’m sure he’ll lose. We will now closely look and caution any Filipino to fight in Thailand. We may eventually hold issuance of authority to fight in Thailand until they (Thai authorities) shape up and promise to be fair.”

Mitra said Loreto was remorseful after the bout and apologized for losing. “Rey told me it’s been five years since he fought at 105,” said Mitra. Loreto, once the IBO lightflyweight champion, went down to the 105-pound division to challenge Thammanoon. The records show that Loreto hadn’t fought as a 105-pounder since 2009. The drop in weight could’ve caused Loreto to weaken as his punches didn’t appear as potent as they were when he campaigned in the 108-pound ranks.

GAB commissioner Fritz Gaston, who was also at ringside, said he spoke with Ramos and questioned the knockdown. “I thought Rey was pushed,” said Gaston. “But the referee called it a knockdown. I wanted him to know our opinion. They’ll review the video to check.”

In flashes of brilliance, Thammanoon resembled Pacquiao, particularly in charging in with both fists flailing to force Loreto to backtrack. The Thai had the clear edge in volume punching and landed the cleaner blows. He countered with a high level of accuracy. While Loreto used combinations to take the early lead, he couldn’t maintain the same level of intensity in the middle rounds and resorted to throwing a punch at a time. Turning the tide in the fourth, Thammanoon blasted Loreto’s midsection like punching the heavy bag and it sapped the Filipino’s energy. The ninth round knockdown was the climax of Thammanoon’s furious assault.

To his credit, Loreto came back in the 10th and 11th to try to save the sinking ship. But there was little left in his tank in the final round as Thammanoon held on to eat up the time with wrestling tactics. The win raised the Thai’s record to 16-0, with 7 KOs while Loreto’s mark dropped to 23-14, with 15 KOs.