Battle-tested veteran Kotetsu “No Face” Boku has always been a skilled martial artist making the best of every single opportunity that comes his way.
The 40-year-old Tokyo, Japan resident is on a two-bout win streak, and is steadily making his way towards a shot at the ONE Featherweight World Championship. His path to the gold could become much clearer soon enough.
On Saturday, 9 December, the former ONE Lightweight World Champion will square off against Singapore’s Christian “The Warrior” Lee (7-1) in a three-round featherweight battle at ONE: WARRIORS OF THE WORLD, which take place at the Impact Arena in Bangkok, Thailand.
“I think if I win,” Boku begins, “I might be in a pretty good place to get a title shot.”
This bout is a classic battle between the old lion and the young lion.
The young lion, in this case the 19-year-old Lee, has looked phenomenal ever since making his professional debut with ONE in December 2015.
All seven of his wins come by stoppage, with his most recent victory over Malaysia’s Keanu Subba being the only match of his to make it out of the first round. Lee continues to build upon his skills, and is only getting faster and stronger.
Despite Lee’s talent and immaculate 100 percent finishing rate, Boku (26-11-2), who has about five-times the amount of cage experience over his Singaporean rival, believes his veteran knowledge will provide him with an edge.
What’s more, all six of his wins in ONE Championship have come via knockout, giving him the second-most in promotional history. A KO win in Bangkok would allow him to tie the record, which is currently held by Lee’s Evolve MMA teammate Amir Khan.
“I am older now, and it is interesting to test myself against the younger guys like Christian,” the Japanese athlete says. “He has got a lot of spirit, and he is pretty aggressive. But he is not as experienced as I am, so I feel like I will have the advantage there.
“The thing about the cage is there is a lot to it, and a lot to learn. You cannot get by on spirit alone. I think my experience helps a bit, because he still has a way to go to get to where I am.”
Boku, an entertaining character who wears a mask on his march to the cage, has been competing in martial arts since 2001. During his tenure, “No Face” won both the Shooto Lightweight Title and the ONE Lightweight World Championship.
After losing the coveted lightweight belt, Boku dropped to featherweight, and he has won five of his last six bouts since the move down in weight class.
The Japanese athlete last competed at ONE: KINGS & CONQUERORS last August, where he defeated the Philippines’ Eric “The Natural” Kelly in an exciting clash. In heroic fashion, Boku was knocked down in the opening two stanzas, but rallied back with relentless striking and earned a TKO stoppage late in the third frame.
For 13 minutes and 37 seconds, “No Face” showed heart, courage, durability, and most importantly, wisdom. The latter is something only a seasoned veteran like Boku could possess after years of experience.
“To be honest, I was a little surprised. He came out hard and got me good once. It was not like a flash knockout or anything, but it knocked me down,” Boku admits.
“I always train hard in the gym to be able to overcome situations like that. It took some time, but I was able to get him in the end. My stamina is never an issue, so it was just a matter of time.
“Every match is important, and so is every victory. I have been in some tough bouts before, and I would say that one was pretty standard.”
Boku’s resurgence continues with the next important challenge of his career, as he draws Lee in Bangkok.
The Japanese competitor is not keen on letting the judges decide his fate, however.
Ever since his first professional contest 16 years ago, he has concentrated on finishing his opponents and achieving a definitive victory. In fact, half of his 26 wins come by knockout, and he is looking to elevate that ratio this coming Saturday night.
After all, he is an entertainer, and he wants to capture everyone’s attention.
“There is something special about martial arts competition that you do not get with movies, music, other sports. They are all great in their own right, of course. But martial arts competition just has a feel like no other,” Boku says.
“I think of the cage as the ultimate entertainment. So, I do it for the fans’ sake. Everyone wants to see finishes, so I want to finish my opponent whenever I can. In this matchup, I will seek the KO as I always do.”
Beyond the knockouts, captivating victories, entertaining cage antics and the potential title opportunity that could await him in the future, the Tokyo native is motivated to positively influence everyone all around the world.
Similar to how he was inspired by his martial arts heroes Rumina Sato and Kid Yamamoto, Boku wants to touch people through his performances.
“I want to be able to show people that even a guy like me can do amazing things with the right mindset. The chance to really move people, that is what’s so great about this sport.”