Hiroki Akimoto Has Sights Set On Reclaiming Kickboxing Gold From Two-Sport King Jonathan Haggerty

Hiroki Akimoto won the Bantamweight Kickboxing World Championship over Capitan Petchyindee at ONE X

Hiroki Akimoto has his heart set on regaining the ONE Bantamweight Kickboxing World Title.  

The division’s former king plans on kickstarting his road back to the gold against “Demon Blade” Wei Rui at ONE Fight Night 22: Sundell vs. Diachkova on Prime Video, before picking a fight with reigning titleholder Jonathan “The General” Haggerty.  

However, Akimoto is not looking past Wei in his return to the ring at Lumpinee Boxing Stadium in Bangkok, Thailand, on Friday, May 3.

It’s because of the Chinese star’s incredible resume that the Japanese athlete thinks victory will put him next in line for Haggerty’s strap. 

Knowing the kudos a win over Wei would bring him, Akimoto said: 

“Since my opponent in this fight is also a strong fighter, if I can win this one decisively, it should lead to a title fight. So, while every fight is a must-win, I want to leave an impact and show people that I’ve become even stronger.” 

Wei is a former K-1 and KLF Kickboxing Champion who brings a massive 69-3 record with him to his ONE debut.

The Tangshan Wenlv Xiaoqi Gedou representative is widely considered one of the top pound-for-pound kickboxers in the world, so his debut could shake up the existing bantamweight top order. 

As the #1-ranked contender, Akimoto’s job is to defend his spot and seal the next shot at Haggerty when the two-sport ONE World Champion is ready to defend his belt. 

If he can do that, the 31-year-old would love to duke it out with “The General” before the year is out – especially in front of a home crowd in Japan. 

He said: 

“Whoever wins this fight will likely be the next in line for the title shot, so I’m definitely aware of that.  

“If there’s another event in Japan, I’d like to have the title fight here. But since Haggerty is a two-sport champion who also needs to defend his Muay Thai belt, I’d like to fight him before the end of this year if possible.” 

Hiroki Akimoto Would Thrive In A ‘Slugfest’ Against Jonathan Haggerty  

Hiroki Akimoto is quick to praise Jonathan Haggerty, but he thinks his experience in the kickboxing rule set will give him an advantage if they do face off.  

Despite the reigning ONE Bantamweight Muay Thai World Champion spending most of his career in “the art of eight limbs,” Haggerty jumped at the chance to go for a second belt in a different sport.  

“The General” looked comfortable with the change of pace when he demolished Fabricio “Wonder Boy” Andrade for the then-vacant bantamweight kickboxing strap last November, but Akimoto is still not fully sold on his capabilities in the kickboxing ranks.

The Japanese star said: 

“When it comes to Muay Thai, one thing that stands out is Haggerty’s unique footwork. That allows his punches to really extend. So those qualities may translate to kickboxing as well, but I still see him as a Muay Thai fighter.  

“He’s strong for sure, but I’m not particularly scared of him as a kickboxer.” 

Akimoto recognizes that Haggerty’s range and long limbs could present some issues in a potential meeting between the pair, but he’s confident he would find a way around it.  

Believing he could outhustle “The General,” the Japanese star would plan to drag things into the trenches to give himself an edge.

Visualizing a future clash, Akimoto offered: 

“In the first half, I may struggle with managing the distance, but I want to make adjustments. I think it will turn into a slugfest. And in that type of fight, I think I’d have a considerable advantage. I believe I’m stronger in terms of power and physical strength.” 

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