By Jason Cruz
Northwest Asian Weekly
Welcome to another edition of The Layup Drill. In this edition, we take a look at the World Baseball Classic, an honor for a former major leaguer, and a new number one fencer in the world. But first, a little-known boxer from Thailand scored a huge upset.
Rungvisai upsets No. 1 boxer in world
Roman “Chocalatito” Gonzalez is considered the best pound-for-pound boxer in the world. As a Super Flyweight (112-pound division), his quickness, foot movement, and overall skills are second to none. However, Thailand’s Srisaket Sor Rungvisai faced Gonzalez for his World Boxing Council Super Flyweight title last month as part of a big pay-per-view event in New York’s Madison Square Garden. Despite being a huge underdog, Rungvisai knocked down Gonzalez in the first round of the fight. The rest of the 12-round battle went back and forth, and despite the fact Gonzalez fought back and stunned the Thai boxer with some stiff shots, he was able to counter and survive each flurry. Rungvisai earned a narrow victory from the judge’s scorecards.
The upset ended the 46-winning streak for Gonzalez, who was previously undefeated. A rematch is scheduled for June.
For Rungvisai, the win was the highlight of a career in which his professional record is 42-4 and 1 draw. Similar to the Manny Pacquiao story, he came from a very poor family in Sisaket province in Thailand and moved to Bangkok when he was only 13 years old. He learned to box and forged a successful career. Most of his fights have been in Asia, but with his win over Gonzalez, he will be able to obtain bigger fights in the future.
Team Japan impresses at the World Baseball Classic
While Major League Baseball began this month, the World Baseball Classic took place in March. The “WBC” as it is known is endorsed by Major League Baseball and its Players Association, and features many major leaguers that are given a leave from spring training to play.
Notably, they include Mariners Nelson Cruz, Robinson Cano, Felix Hernandez, Edwin Diaz, and Jean Segura. The tournament pits countries against one another with play occurring all over the world. The finals will be held at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles. Chinese Taipei, South Korea, China, and Japan were the Asian countries represented in the 16-country tournament.
Team Japan was impressive during the early rounds of the tournament as it went undefeated. Japan won the World Baseball Classic in 2006 and 2009. This year’s team featured only one current major leaguer, former Seattle Mariner Nori Aoki.
In the end, it was Team Japan that made it to the final four and went up against Team USA in the semifinals, but lost to the eventual winners of the tournament.
Damon to be inducted into Asian Hall of Fame
Former Major League Baseball player Johnny Damon will be inducted in the Asian Hall of Fame at a ceremony on May 13 in Seattle. Damon has earned two World Series rings. He also played for the Thailand National Baseball team in the 2013 World Baseball Classic.
Damon’s mother is a native of Thailand. His father was of Croatian and Irish descent. They met while Damon’s father, who was in the military, was stationed in Thailand.
Damon played for seven major league teams, including the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees. Damon won a World Series with the Boston Red Sox in 2004 and with the Yankees in 2009.
Damon, an outfielder, earned two All-Star appearances and was once the stolen bases leader in the league. He had a career batting average of .284, 2,769 hits in his career, and 408 career stolen bases. He was known for his long flowing hair and full beard with the Red Sox. But after leaving the Red Sox to play for the rival Yankees, he had to abide by the long-time team grooming rules of no long hair and no facial hair.
Damon, 43, resides in Florida with his wife and kids.
Established in 2004, the Asian Hall of Fame honors Asian Pacific Americans across all industries. Among the sports stars previously inducted include Olympic medalists Nathan Adrian and Apolo Anton Ohno, UFC and WEC mixed martial artist Benson Henderson, and Billiards champion Jeanette “The Black Widow” Lee.
Fil-Am fencer is No. 1 in world
Lee Keifer, a two-time Olympic foil fencer, became the first American woman to be the number one fencer in the world. After a first-place finish last month at a tournament in Long Beach, Calif., Keifer earned the top spot.
She defeated Russian Inna Deriglazova, a two-time gold medalist, at the Absolute Fencing Gear FIE Grand Prix.
She was ranked third in the world going into the Rio Summer Olympics, but was upset by then 30th ranked Chinese fencer Yongshi Liu.
Keifer is a senior at Notre Dame and a three-time NCAA Champion. She comes from a family dedicated to the sport, as her sister fences for Harvard and her father once captained the Duke University fencing team.
Despite her top ranking, Keifer plans to pursue medical school after graduation. She indicated that she is not sure if she will compete in the 2020 Olympics.
Jason can be reached at email@example.com.