Lion Fight returned to California for Lion Fight 27. It was an exciting night of Muay Thai action that saw Tiffany Van Soest claim a second title in the co-main event while Fabio Pinca retained his in the main event. The lone negative on the night was the ridiculous split-decision in the Gaston Bolanos and Kronphet Phetrachapet fight.
Despite the referee’s and the two judges incompetence Bolanos and Kronphet were able to put on an incredible fight. And while the loss is a blemish on Bolanos’ previously perfect record his performance was outstanding.
Kronphet is an experienced fighter with more fights than all of Bolanos’ previous opponents combined. This was a fight that Bolanos was supposed to lose and learn from as a young phenom in the sport. Only he did not follow that script.
Instead, Bolanos came out and put on an amazing performance. One that both announcers Pat Miletich and Michael Schiavello thought Bolanos won as did most of the fans in attendance and watching at home. The problem for him was that two of the judges scored it for Kronphet.
To illustrate how bad this decision was I am going to break it down round-by-round.
The fight started slowly as each fighter was gauging the other. They exchange catching each other’s body kicks after Bolanos had landed a solid leg kick. Neither could dump the other. Then Bolanos landed a couple of light strikes to the face, catches another kick from Kronphet and proceeded to dump him to the ground. One minute in and Bolanos has a slight edge.
During the next 30 seconds, Bolanos landed a nice one-two combo. The only strikes landed by either fighter. In the next half of a minute, Kronphet landed a couple of teeps while Bolanos was able to land a nice four-punch combination.
They clinched up for a moment before the referee stepped in. Bolanos landed a leg kick while Kronphet countered with one to the body. Bolanos presses forward landed another two-punch-leg-kick combination into a clinch. From there he landed a knee to the body against the ropes. Kronphet countered with a knee to the groin that stopped the action.
When it resumed Bolanos again walked Kronphet down, checked a leg kick and then landed another two-punch-leg-kick combo. The round ended with Bolanos landing a light body kick that was countered by a hard one from Kronphet. It was the best strike from Kronphet but it is not enough to take the round.
This is easily Bolanos’ round. He was the aggressor. He landed the higher volume of cleaner strikes consistently throughout the round. It is hard to envision a scoring system that would award the round to Kronphet.
I have 10-9 for Bolanos after one matching Pat Miletich’s scorecard.
The second round started out with more action from Kronphet. They exchange some lower kicks and each landed some punches. Kronphet is more aggressive and active. One minute in and he is starting to win the round but it was still very close.
In the second minute, both fighters were more active. Kronphet landed a hard kick to the body and Bolanos counters with a solid one to the leg. Bolanos landed a nice punch combination and then a step-through elbow catches Kronphet on the side of the face.
Going into the last-minute of the round Bolanos started to edge ahead.
Kronphet again with the hard kick to the body. Moments later Bolanos countered with a hard front kick to the face and a grazing left hand to the head. They clinched up and the referee quickly broke them apart. After the break, Bolanos landed a quick one-two combination that Kronphet slightly negated with a teep to the body.
Over the next ten seconds, Kronphet landed two solid round kicks to the body while Bolanos countered with several punches, an elbow, a leg kick, a knee to the body and a body kick of his own.
They clinched up for several seconds with neither fighter gaining an advantage going into the last ten seconds of the round. A right hand from Bolanos, a knee from Kronphet and a knee from Bolanos into another clinch is how the round ended.
Schiavello instantly noted how hard of round it was to score as it ended. Miletich scored it for Kronphet and I can see how he got there. It is a close round, one that could go to either fighter.
The round started with Bolanos landing the right hand and a front kick to the face. Kronphet came back with another two kicks to the body. They were answered by a kick from Bolanos to Kronphet’s body. Then Kronphet responded with another audible kick to the body. Bolanos with a one-two to the body. A partly blocked jumping knee from Kronphet and a partly blocked spinning elbow from Bolanos.
Then a leg kick, two punches, and a body kick from Bolanos. They clinched up and the referee quickly separated them. Kronphet went right back to the body with a kick and Bolanos returned one of his own. A couple missed strikes and another clinch.
The referee let them work a little in the clinch for a refreshing change. Bolanos landed two knees and an elbow to Kronphet’s one knee strike.
We are one minute into the round and it is another close one but Bolanos is getting the better of the exchanges.
The one thing to note is that Kronphet has landed more round kicks to the body that have been easier to see and Bolanos’ body is showing some redness and bruising from the kicks, but Kronphet does not get bonus points for that. However, some poor judges are influenced by such factors.
Bolanos landed a solid straight left to the body right into a hard right leg kick. Kronphet missed with a left and grazed Bolanos with a right hand that resulted in another clinch. Bolanos promptly dumped Kronphet down hard.
They each block the next few strikes from the other. A clinch, then another exchange in which they both miss before Bolanos landed another hard leg kick. They each grazed the other with an elbow but neither did any damage.
A body kick from Bolanos and a right hand from Kronphet led to a clinch and a dump from Bolanos.
They again each miss before Bolanos landed a right hand and then a knee as they clinch up. Kronphet then dumped Bolanos down. Bolanos got up and landed a step in elbow which was countered by another body kick from Kronphet. A front kick to the leg from Kronphet and a body kick from Bolanos followed by a couple of misses takes us to the end of the round.
Another close round but Bolanos was consistently landing more strikes in the exchanges. Miletich scored it for Bolanos due his landing more, being more aggressive and more explosive. The key is that Bolanos landed more strikes.
On Miletich’s scorecard, it is 29-28 Bolanos after three rounds. I agreed with it watching the first time and still do on the second run through.
The round opened with Bolanos landing a punch, Kronphet a body kick. Then Kronphet caught a body kick after it landed. Moments later Bolanos does the same and then dumped Kronphet to the ground. On the way down Bolanos caught Kronphet with a legal knee though the referee warned him about it. Went Bolanos threw and landed the knee none of Kronphet’s body was touching the canvas making it a perfectly legal knee.
When action resumed there were two leg kicks from Bolanos, a body kick from Kronphet and a body kick from Bolanos. Then a right hand to the body and another leg kick from Bolanos. They again exchanged leg kicks and then a three-punch combo from Bolanos ended with Kronphet’s head snapping backwards from the final uppercut. Bolanos avoided a head kick and landed one to Kronphet’s body.
We were now almost a minute into the round when Kronphet caught another body kick after it landed. He tried to dump Bolanos before instead driving him into the ropes followed by a jumping knee that Bolanos easily blocked.
Classic move from the wily veteran who tried to use the ropes to add momentum to his strike. Bolanos showed that while he may be young with many fewer fights he still knows the sport. He showed excellent balance and awareness of what was happening at the moment and was ready for it.
They each then miss a couple of punches that resulted in another clinch. Kronphet landed one knee to Bolanos’ two. Moments later a one-two from Bolanos slip through and then a spinning back elbow that found Kronphet’s chin.
A body kick from Kronphet answered by two punches to the head by Bolanos. Into another clinch. Each fighter landed three knees before the referee once again separated them early. As Schiavello noted “two world-class Muay Thai stylist in the clinch, let them throw.”
The fight entered the final minute of the fourth round. Body kick from Bolanos, body kick from Kronphet then a leg kick from Bolanos. A right hand from Bolanos to the body that was quickly answered by a right to the head from Kronphet. They each miss their way into a clinch and as they started to knee each other the referee once again stepped in.
After they again missed their way into another clinch Bolanos landed a solid two-punch, left to the liver right hand to the head, combination. Kronphet was forced to clinch up and again they each can only land one knee before the referee separated them. A grazing right hand from Kronphet and a grazing elbow from Bolanos end the round.
Miletich again scored the round for Bolanos making it 39-37 going into the final round. Again, I find myself agreeing with his score card.
The fighters embraced when they get to the center of the ring and the referee quickly broke it up. There will be no extended hugs of any kind with this referee.
They each missed several strikes before landing one. Kronphet came with another kick to the body while Bolanos landed a left hand to the head. A hard kick from Bolanos was blocked by Kronphet and Bolanos then evaded a leg kick from Kronphet. Bolanos then came in with feinted left-hook that led right into a spinning back elbow that caught Kronphet.
They then exchanged kicks to the body. With just two minutes left in the fight Bolanos was riding the momentum of the fight. Then we get one of the most active exchanges as Bolanos fired off a multi-punch combination with Kronphet trying to answer. Bolanos easily outstruck him during the exchange with five solid shots to one from Kronphet.
It was the best flurry of the fight from either fighter. You could feel the young fighter gaining more confidence as he continued to land the better strikes.
A body kick from Kronphet that Bolanos caught led to another clinch. Neither fighter landed anything before they break apart.
The final minute of the fight started with Kronphet missing a head kick and Bolanos landing a leg kick. Then another one-two combination from Bolanos landed. Then another one-two followed by a kick to the body that Kronphet caught. Then Kronphet tried to dump Bolanos. Instead, Bolanos kept his balance, avoided a right hand and landed another spinning back elbow to the face. It was the cleanest one of the fight to this point.
In the next exchange, it was Bolanos landing a solid kick to the body with the both of them missing with many other strikes.
There is now 30 seconds left in the fight.
Another spinning elbow from Bolanos grazed off the top of Kronphet’s head. They clinch up again and Bolanos landed a knee. Kronphet responded with one of his own and once again the referee stepped in as they both were working.
In the final seconds, Kronphet landed a right hand to the face after Bolanos just caught him with a front kick that slid off the side of the face.
At the end, Miletich scored it 49-46 for Bolanos. I could and can easily see that score. I could also see how you could give rounds two and three to Kronphet for a 48-47 score but still with Bolanos winning the fight. I have a hard seeing where you could give any other round to Kronphet not based on the judging criteria. Bolanos landed more strikes, was the aggressor in the fight and got the better of the fight in clinches.
Both Miletich and Schiavello reacted with “wow” upon hearing the scores. After Schiavello pointed out that the referee robbed the fight of some of its action he noted that the decision was a controversial one. While Miletich said, “I’ve never been more sure of someone winning a fight quite frankly.” Obviously referring to Bolanos.
Schiavello’s final words succinctly summed up the fight, “Terrible refereeing very questionable judging.”
It is a little strange that the two Thai judges were the only two people outside of Kronphet’s camp that seem to think that he won the fight. It is sad to see such a result after a beautiful fight from both fighters.
This should have been a story about the emergence of a young talented fighter. One that faced a veteran fighter with over ten times the number of fights and passed the test. Instead, we have to talk about bad judging and less about the beautiful Muay Thai action.
Gaston Bolanos is still a talented young fighter with a bright future. And as a fighter who challenges himself, chances are he will lose another fight in his career facing the top talent from around the world. It is just sad to see the first one come this way, less at the hands, elbows, knees, and feet of his opponent and more from the hands of the judges.