Bokang “Little Giant” Masunyane believes he’s the toughest matchup for any fighter in the strawweight division, and he intends to show it when he faces Rene “The Challenger” Catalan on Friday, 4 December.
The South African sensation wants to continue his meteoric rise to the top by making a statement against the former ONE World Title challenger at ONE: BIG BANG inside the Singapore Indoor Stadium.
“I’ve always said, ‘Give me the best and toughest guys,’ and Catalan is top three in the division,” Masunyane states.
“He has the experience and he is a veteran. I know that beating him will be a big achievement for me and put me closer to the World Title.”
Sawada had amassed three straight submission victories at that point — two in Rich Franklin’s ONE Warrior Series, and a stunning first-round finish in his big show debut — but “Little Giant” was clinical in shutting out his opponent for a lopsided victory.
Masunyane’s dominance over the seasoned “Dragon Boy” might have shocked some fans that had not seen him in action before, but he was not surprised by his decisive win.
“It was one of the toughest fights I’ve had. I know the guys in Asia have great stand-up and Sawada’s ground game really surprised me, but I believe my skill set also stood out,” Masunyane says.
“As much as I respect everyone in my division, I think I am the toughest fight for anyone. I showed my will to win in my debut. Whoever fights against me is going to have it tough.”
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The upcoming battle against Catalan is the perfect litmus test for the 26-year-old’s lofty aspirations.
“The Challenger” has faced off against a who’s who of the strawweight division, including four ONE World Champions — reigning king Joshua “The Passion” Pacio, and former titleholders Alex “Little Rock” Silva, Yoshitaka “Nobita” Naito, and Dejdamrong Sor Amnuaysirichoke.
However, Masunyane is unfazed by his rival’s resume.
“Unfortunately for Rene Catalan, he is the guy that is in my path, so I just need to eliminate him to get to the title shot,” he asserts.
“Yes, he has some good skills, but to be honest, I am never worried about any of my opponents. I have watched some of the videos to see what he is good at, but I do not feel threatened by anyone in the division — not just Rene Catalan.
“I feel like I am something special, and I am going through the whole division to become the World Champion. I respect him, but he has never fought somebody like me, and I am going to dominate him from the get-go until the end of the fight!”
Masunyane is certainly not short of self-belief, but with a 7-0 professional slate and an unbeaten amateur career, he has the right to that confidence.
Catalan will not be a pushover for anyone, but the #3 strawweight contender has something “Little Giant” wants, and that is a prominent place in the ONE Athlete Rankings.
The wrestling specialist will give it his all to leave the Singapore Indoor Stadium with a big scalp, fueled by his bigger ambitions of World Championship glory.
“I’m hoping Catalan brings his A-game because he’s got a lot to work on in order to beat me. There’s no way I see myself losing this fight,” Masunyane asserts.
“I’m not going to give up. I am not going to lose, because I am meant to be a World Champion. The new African king has arrived. Everyone better be ready for me!”