After 16 Years And A World Title, Kotetsu Boku Is Still Not Satisfied

Despite all his success, Kotetsu “No Face” Boku (25-11-2) is still on a mission to test his limits.

The Japanese competitor has already clashed with several of Asia’s best martial artists, claimed the ONE Lightweight World Title, and though 40 years young, he shows no signs of slowing down. In fact, he may be ready to speed things up.

On Saturday, 5 August, he will meet the Philippines’ Eric “The Natural” Kelly (12-3) in a featherweight showdown at ONE: KINGS & CONQUERORS, which broadcasts live from the Cotai Arena in Macao.

“This match will turn out to be exciting, for sure. I will do my best to finish him in any way I can,” Boku says. “I am training hard with the Krazy Bee crew. I am taking more time to maintain my body so I can train harder every day.”

Kelly is a wushu-based athlete who started his professional mixed martial arts career with a bang. He tore through the local competition en route to becoming a national featherweight champion, and continued his success with ONE Championship after debuting in the promotion’s first-ever event.

However, he experienced his first blemish against fellow countryman Honorio Banario when they contested for the inaugural ONE Featherweight World Championship in February 2013.

Although “The Natural” strung together a trio of impressive victories — including a US$50,000 Warrior Bonus-winning submission over Rob Lisita — to get back into title contention, those efforts were derailed last year with back-to-back losses against Ev Ting and former ONE Featherweight World Champion Narantungalag Jadambaa.

Though Boku respects Kelly’s talents, he still believes he is the better striker of the two.

“His strength is his strong heart and excellent grappling techniques,” Boku says of his opponent. “But my advantage is when it is a standup fight.”

Boku’s striking and knockout power have been the cornerstones of his illustrious career.

Ever since his first match in 2001, the Krazy Bee product has produced 12 knockouts, with all his victories in ONE Championship ending via strikes. That elite striking was on full display in his promotional debut back in October 2012 against Zorobabel Moreira, which earned him the inaugural ONE Lightweight World Championship.

Six months later, after conquering the lightweight division, he lost the belt to Shinya Aoki in his first title defense, and then experienced mixed results for the next year and a half.

A change was in order, and “No Face” was committed to turning the tide. In 2015, he dropped down to featherweight, rededicated himself to his training, and plugged the holes in his techniques. That gave his career a new spark, as he won four of his next five bouts, including victories over Vincent Latoel and Timofey Nastyukhin.

“I think my recent success is because I have been working very seriously on improving my skills. I am always looking forward to the battles I am going to face. Of course, I am aiming to conquer two weight classes,” the Japanese veteran says.

Already having previously reigned over the lightweight division at one point, Boku’s attention is now at featherweight, and he plans to continue his campaign against Kelly on 5 August in Macao.

While he most certainly would love to wear the prestigious ONE Featherweight World Championship in all of its glory, there is something else that is driving him. It is the same thing that has driven him throughout his 16-year career.

That is the spirit of competition.

“My motivation is that I want to know my limit,” he says. “I have already come a long way, so I would like to fight until I am 100 per cent satisfied.”