Josh “Timebomb” Tonna has tremendous respect for the ONE Strawweight Muay Thai World Champion.
The Canberra native, who is currently the number-one ranked athlete in the division, has long admired the reigning two-sport strawweight king, Sam-A Gaiyanghadao. In fact, the legend’s performances often leave him in a state of awe.
Despite his deep admiration, Tonna believes that he deserves the next crack at the gold and is quite confident he can pull off the upset.
“Sam-A is a phenomenal athlete. He has proved it in every fight and has an IQ to match. It seems that he can adapt to every [opponent] and is always a step ahead. I think he’s beautiful to watch,” the 31-year-old confesses.
“I think Sam-A’s ability to make you doubt yourself and hesitate is what wins the fights, on top of everything else.
“[But] he is just a man. He has been beaten. We have seen that. I respect everything he has done, and you can’t deny it. But I feel I’m the best challenge for him before anyone else.”
Lately, Tonna has been making a solid case for himself.
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Though Howson entered the strawweight match-up as a five-time Muay Thai World Champion, “Timebomb” fearlessly went toe-to-toe with him at the Istora Senayan.
It was an exhilarating back-and-forth encounter that ended in the second round, when the Canberra resident swung a looping right hand, grabbed the back of his rival’s head and neck, and drove the head into his knee for the highlight-reel knockout.
Tonna defied the odds and finished a decorated veteran in extraordinary fashion, and he thinks that deserves consideration for a title opportunity.
“I feel I have earned a shot with my last win and performance,” he says. “I was heavily doubted in that one and proved everyone wrong. I believe in myself and my abilities, and I also want to show the Aussie battler spirit.”
If this match were to be granted, he would need to produce another spirited performance to take the belt from the living legend.
Sam-A is a true legend of the sport. He has over 400 professional bouts to his name and is considered to have some of the fastest kicks in the game.
The Evolve representative immediately made his mark in ONE Super Series when he knocked out Sergio “Samurai” Wielzen to claim the inaugural ONE Flyweight Muay Thai World Championship.
Although Sam-A lost the gold to the much bigger Jonathan “The General” Haggerty in May 2019, he moved down a weight class and went on an absolute tear.
First, he knocked out French striker Daren Rolland in a Muay Thai bout last October, and then he switched sports and defeated Chinese warrior “Golden Boy” Wang Junguang via unanimous decision to take the inaugural ONE Strawweight Kickboxing World Title in December.
To top it all off, he produced a masterclass against Rocky Ogden to add the inaugural ONE Strawweight Muay Thai World Championship to his collection.
Tonna has watched every single one of those matches closely, and while he holds those three strawweight challengers in high regard, he understands Sam-A is a polished technician.
“I feel Daren, Wang, and Rocky didn’t do anything wrong, really,” he says. “They are great warriors, but it just wasn’t their night. Anyone can beat anyone on any day. It just depends who turns up, and who wants it more.”
Right now, “Timebomb” wants nothing more than his turn to face the legend and he is already preparing in case the opportunity arises.
The COVID-19 pandemic has made it difficult for athletes all across the globe to train and maintain their fitness, but the potential title shot has motivated the Aussie to keep his skills sharp and remain physically fit.
Nothing is guaranteed, but Tonna has a strong feeling – and the last time he had a feeling like this, the bout came to fruition and he left the ring with his arm raised.
“I’m telling you, I have been training for this fight for longer then Sam-A has been. I know it’s coming, and I know I can win,” he states. “It’s like the fight with Andy Howson – I wanted it and I trained long before it was official.”
Only time will tell if it becomes a reality.