The first bout of the ONE Featherweight Kickboxing World Grand Prix set the tone for what was to come on Friday, 17 May and beyond with three rounds of non-stop action from two of the best strikers in the world.
Dzhabar Askerov puts on a striking masterclass against Enriko Kehl to win by unanimous decision and advance to the ONE Featherweight Kickboxing World Grand Prix semifinals!Watch the full event on the ONE Super App http://bit.ly/ONESuperApp | TV: Check local listings for global broadcast
Posted by ONE Championship on Friday, May 17, 2019
Askerov had defeated his German rival twice before, and he made it a hat-trick of victories through a unanimous decision he earned by attacking his rival with full force from bell to bell.
Perhaps his intensity was inspired by his first appearance in ONE Championship, or perhaps he raised his game after it was announced in the days before the tournament began that the last man standing would be awarded a US$1 million prize.
In the aftermath of his triumph inside the Singapore Indoor Stadium, the 33-year-old Russian explained how he managed to put on a show, get his hand raised, and move on to a semifinal bout with Samy “AK47” Sana.
ONE Championship: Before this bout, you said you wanted to prove you could still compete with the best in the world. Do you think you did that?
Dzhabar Askerov: I was really pleased when my training partners said that it was a great fight and they saw the Dzhabar from six or seven years ago – motivated to win, fast, and full of fire.
Many ‘well-wishers’ kept saying I was too old and no longer relevant. I really wanted to prove them wrong and I did.
ONE: How much did this match test you?
DA: The fight was very hard, both emotionally and physically. Kehl has always been a difficult opponent for me – he is a very determined guy with a strong character, and he is very strong and well-built.
We faced each other twice in the past. I know him, and I didn’t expect an easy fight. If anything, I predicted he would fight with more force than before.
ONE: What gave you an edge this time?
DA: I think my desire to win was stronger than his. Also, my corner was very active, and gave me many useful instructions – I heard them really well and I felt their support.
ONE: Did he surprise you with anything?
DA: Enriko was a lot faster this time. He must have worked really well on his speed during his training camp. He showed better boxing combinations than before, too.
ONE: What was your game plan, and did you follow it?
DA: My plan was to outdo Enriko with better technique. Many people told me I should have tried to overpower him, but Kehl is bigger than me, so I realized that I had more chances to succeed by being faster and more technical.
Spinning back … in SLOW-MO Watch the full event on the ONE Super App http://bit.ly/ONESuperApp | TV: Check local listings for global broadcast
Posted by ONE Championship on Friday, May 17, 2019
ONE: What made you decide to start throwing your ‘rolling thunder’ spinning kicks? How close do you think you were to a knockout with them?
DA: I just got the idea to throw rolling thunders during the fight because I saw an opportunity.
After I threw the first one, and almost got him in the head, I threw the second one and realized he didn’t have much defense against it. He didn’t counter, so I kept throwing them and inflicting some damage each time.
ONE: How did you feel after the fight?
DA: I was very excited. I was overwhelmed, especially because preparation for the fight was very tough – seven months of diet and hard training.
Now I have to calm down and get ready for the new training cycle, but overall, I am very happy with my performance and my win. I am proud of myself.
ONE: Were you impressed by the other World Grand Prix bouts?
DA: The card was great and full of surprises. Yodsanklai [IWE Fairtex] vs. Sana and [Giorgio] Petrosyan vs. Petchmorakot Petchyindee Academy showed that you should never relax – nothing is set in stone and even the favorites can lose.
These fights proved the tournament bracket is filled with the best kickboxing talent with real masters of their art.
ONE: What did you feel when you found out that the tournament’s winner will get a $US1 million prize?
DA: It is an amazing surprise, but I didn’t think about the $1 million during the fight.
I think that when you are getting ready for a fight, you should always picture yourself as a winner, but when we speak about a tournament, I would rather not get ahead of myself.
My focus was on Enriko, and now it is on Sana. I just want to win my next fight. I will think about $1 million when I have it in front of me.
ONE: How did you celebrate your win?
DA: It was not much of a celebration, but the taste of victory was very sweet, because I drank three cans of Pepsi! Since I signed with ONE, I’ve been avoiding all sugar and baked goods.
It has been seven months of strict food. After the win I also had a burger – boy, it made me happy!
Now, I am going to spend Ramadan with my family. I will abstain from food during the day, but when the sun goes down, I am going to spoil myself a little bit with delicious food.