Josh “Timebomb” Tonna is ready for the single biggest fight of his life.
Although Tonna was offered the World Title clash with the dominant legend in late August, he’s been preparing for this moment since early 2019.
“I’ve had a hunch with the way I’ve been training that one day this opportunity would come,” the 32-year-old Canberra native says. “So, I’ve been training for over a year.”
While Tonna is finally getting his shot at the belt, he experienced a rough start to life in ONE Super Series.
In his promotional debut at flyweight in July 2018, “Timebomb” went toe-to-toe with fellow promotional newcomer Petchdam “The Baby Shark” Petchyindee Academy. Unfortunately, he suffered a devastating second-round knockout loss, which he called one of the toughest moments of his career.
Upon reflecting on that difficult stretch, Tonna realized changes were needed in order to achieve greater success. He began working with a new strength and conditioning coach named Steven Bingley, started training with Kieran Walsh at Muay U, and surrounded himself with motivational individuals who built up his confidence and improved his mindset.
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Tonna brought the new version of himself into battle against Yoshihisa “Mad Dog” Morimoto in July 2019, and he wound up beating the Japanese athlete via unanimous decision. Next, he moved down to his natural weight class in February 2019 and knocked out five-time Muay Thai World Champion Andy “Punisher” Howson in their strawweight encounter.
The Aussie’s extraordinary turnaround was fueled by those individuals he’d begun working with – and whom he did not want to let down.
“I was like, ‘Man, I can’t lose in front of these guys.’ That was part of the motivation as well,” he says.
“I have these really inspirational men behind me, so I had to perform. And it’s not pressure or anything. I’m just inspired that I have people who want to come and watch me fight and people like this who are in my corner, so I have to perform as well.”
All of this helped the Australian go from an underdog to the #1-ranked contender in the ONE Super Series Muay Thai strawweight division. He’s now been awarded a World Title shot for those efforts, but it will come against a seemingly invincible force.
Indeed, Sam-A has been absolutely dominant ever since participating in the promotion’s first-ever Muay Thai bout in January 2018, where he beat Lasiri via TKO in the second frame.
That helped lead to the creation of ONE Super Series, where the Thai has become a top star. Though undersized in the weight class, he captured the inaugural ONE Flyweight Muay Thai World Title by knocking out Sergio “Samurai” Wielzen with a spectacular elbow attack just four months later.
When Sam-A lost the belt in May 2019, however, he moved down to the newly created strawweight division, where he continued his reign of dominance.
First, he knocked out Daren Rolland in October 2019 before switching sports to defeat “Golden Boy” Wang Junguang via unanimous decision to earn the inaugural ONE Strawweight Kickboxing World Title.
Finally, he made history by defeating Australian prodigy Rocky Ogden to become both the inaugural ONE Strawweight Muay Thai World Champion and the first male to hold two ONE World Titles in different sports.
Tonna has paid a lot of attention to Sam-A, which includes studying the characteristics that have made him elite.
“He has been able to find a way to very quickly figure out how to dismantle everyone. His timing and his ability to read his opponents [is sharp],” the Canberra resident says.
“And his left kick and his left cross are dangerous. Those two together, along with his tricking, his feinting, and his teeping – that will be the hardest things to deal with.”
But even with Sam-A’s impeccable timing, crisp southpaw weapons, and immense speed, Tonna believes he’s found some holes to exploit.
More specifically, the Australian believes he’ll need to create openings, tire Sam-A out, and become a little tricky himself in order to secure the bout-ending finish he dreams of.
“At the start, it’s going to be kicking him and then, later on, it’s going to be changing those kicks every now and then to knees. [I’ll need to] disguise them as knees,” Tonna explains.
“The knees will really hurt him because he drops his hands a lot when he checks, and then, I’m going to kick his head. That’s the end – I think I’ll kick or punch him and knock him out.
“I think I’m going to stop him. That’s the plan. I’ve only trained to smash him.”
A finish might be the only way Tonna can lift the belt off of Sam-A’s waist, and he’s been putting in the time and effort needed to accomplish that.
The Aussie is doing strength training sessions up to three times a week, is sharpening his Muay Thai techniques six days per week, and is constantly running so he can be in pristine shape for the main event clash.
He hopes that ultimately, all the preparation will lead to a ONE Strawweight Muay Thai World Championship – an accolade that would completely change his life.
“There are so many things that could come out of it, like building a legacy,” Tonna says.
“There is also building up the gym that I train at and help Kieran run, and I want to bring ONE Championship to Australia. I want to be the face of ONE in Australia for Muay Thai and kickboxing, and I want a career in ONE afterwards.
“I feel like there are a lot of potential things that could come out of this. The fight is bigger than I am, and a lot of people can benefit.
“I know how skilled Sam-A is and all that stuff, but I think when it gets really hard, it’s going to be who wants it more, and I’m telling you, I’m willing to die in the cage. There is too much on the line.”