After his recent campaign at lightweight, the Thai star will both drop back down to featherweight on Friday, 28 February to face the Team Lakay veteran and kickstart a winning streak to take him back to the top.
“OneShin” believes his bout with the Filipino hero – who will also return to featherweight – has all the ingredients for an exciting battle and it is one he has been looking forward to since 2012 when he first joined ONE.
“We have both been in ONE for a long time. When I made my debut, he was on the same card,” he says.
“I’m sure we both thought we would be future opponents back then. We’re like friends now – it’s always a happy feeling when I see him and we share a similar kind of experience – but I’m excited to face him.
“He was the champion at featherweight and I saw fans saying to him, ‘Wow, you’re back to your first division, everything is going to be good.’ I just have to remind them that I’m getting back to my best division too, so it is going to be fun!”
Their mutual return to their original weight class adds an extra level of intrigue to the bout, especially when Wiratchai described how he is much better suited to being a few kilos lighter.
He admits an encounter with one of the promotion’s bantamweights taught him that he was making a mistake by continuing to face off against much bigger men.
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“I’m happy that I’ve been dealing with those people at lightweight – they’re so strong – but I don’t need to prove to anyone that I can stay around. I want to see where I can be at my best,” he explains.
“I was talking to my coaches and discussing it a lot, and my strength and conditioning coach said we could get my body fat percentage down quite easily.
“I think when I really realized it was when I was in the locker room with Mark Abelardo from Fairtex, and I was like, ‘Well he’s my size in the off-season and I’m fighting at lightweight!’ I was shocked, but that was like a call to me to go to featherweight.”
Even though they are on good terms, neither Banario or Wiratchai is likely to give an inch in the pursuit of victory.
The Thai expects a battle that will be won by the finest of margins, as two savvy strikers try to find a route to victory in the stand-up exchanges.
“He is from Team Lakay and they have that wushu style – more range-work, but not very accurate with punches compared to a boxer or Muay Thai fighter,” the Bangkok native says.
“The side-kick is strong and it is going to be annoying to try to pass through, but I think compared to the other Team Lakay members, he has better boxing and good defense with his hands high because he has been knocked out before.
“I think the difference between us is we love to play the distance game, but they like to throw bombs when somebody gets in the range like a machine gun. For me, it is my accuracy – waiting to throw the right shot to get the knockout. It will be quality versus quantity.”
With a lot on the line in Singapore and the sacrifices he has made to get back down to featherweight, Wiratchai just wants to put on a performance that is worthy of his ability and hard work in training so he can prove he is still a force to be reckoned with.
“After I lost last time, I’ve been figuring out what I need to work on and fixing myself,” he adds.
“I’ve worked harder and I’m feeling more focused than ever. I don’t want to waste all that time and all that hard work. I feel like all of my coaches and training partners have put everything into working with me, so I just want to make them proud.
“I want to put pressure on him and keep pressing, and then take the finish if it’s there, but you never know.”