Fans expected a fast and furious showdown between Jonathan Di Bella and “Fighting Rooster” Zhang Peimian for the vacant ONE Strawweight Kickboxing World Title, and the two striking prodigies delivered with a five-round battle for the ages.
Italian-Canadian star Di Bella took home the belt via unanimous decision in the main event of ONE 162 on October 21, sealing the deal with a dramatic knockdown of the Chinese teen phenom deep into the fifth round.
As expected, the match started at a frenetic pace inside the Axiata Arena in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Both men slammed in hard low kicks, and Zhang connected with some punishing left hooks. The Montreal native grew into the fight and repeatedly found a home for his straight left, while the 19-year-old “Fighting Rooster” punished the thighs of his rival.
The action picked right back up when the second stanza got underway. The 26-year-old Di Bella popped out straight punches and left kicks and had the edge in the boxing exchanges, but Zhang drilled in more low kicks to batter the lead leg of his foe.
“Fighting Rooster” bit down on his mouthpiece and charged in with big right hands and left hooks in the latter half of round two, although Di Bella did a good job of countering the Chinese slugger with his lead hook.
The Team Di Bella Kickboxing representative then showed his boxing pedigree with a sharp jab in round three, while Zhang clearly felt his low kick strategy was paying dividends. “Fighting Rooster” added in some nasty body shots, which left openings for Di Bella’s right hook to come back into play.
The intensity didn’t let up in the championship rounds. “Fighting Rooster” replied to Di Bella’s strikes with crunching low kicks, but the Canadian-Italian had his straight left cocked and waiting to fire back.
From there, Zhang dealt some damage with his left hook, and the pair traded hard combinations with just as much ferocity as in the opening stanza.
Everything was up for grabs heading into the final frame. And despite absorbing some heavy left hooks and right hands early on, Di Bella ultimately landed the game-changing shot. After coming up short with a cross-hook combo, he uncorked a stunning left high kick that slammed straight into the Chinese athlete’s jaw.
Zhang went down and barely made the count, but somehow, he managed to stay in the fight. Di Bella poured on the pressure in search of the finish, and while he couldn’t quite seal the deal, it was clear the knockdown – and the 10-8 round – would have a huge impact on the result.
All three judges sided with Di Bella to crown him the new ONE Strawweight Kickboxing World Champion after an all-time classic matchup on the global stage.
Still perfect at 11-0 in his professional kickboxing career, the Canada-born star is now the first male North American World Champion in ONE’s all-striking divisions.
He also represents the start of a new era by claiming the belt left vacant by former titleholder and Thai icon Sam-A Gaiyanghadao.