After a change of scenery, Panpayak Jitmuangnon is ready to showcase new tricks when he returns to the ONE Championship Circle this Friday, 20 May.
The Thai star moved to coach and train at Evolve in Singapore earlier this year, and he expects to display a different level of power and speed against Josue Cruz in their ONE Flyweight Muay Thai World Grand Prix alternate bout at ONE 157: Petchmorakot vs. Vienot.
In the process, he wants to reward his new teammates for their efforts while competing in his adopted hometown at the Singapore Indoor Stadium.
“The Angel Warrior” said:
“I’m now working and training at Evolve. My trainer is Kenneth, the same one who is always sparring with [ONE Bantamweight Muay Thai World Champion] Nong-O [Gaiyanghadao]. He has helped me unleash my potential – the intensity of my punch and my pace. Now, my focus is on improving my punching skills and elbows.
“Training here is different because there is more weight training, and we have advanced sports scientists to help us train better. I intend to put on the show because my team expects this fight to turn out well.”
Panpayak will also be facing something of an unknown entity in Cruz, who is making his ONE Championship debut on Friday.
The man nicknamed “Tuzo” hails from Mexico and brings a 17-1 record into this Grand Prix alternate bout.
But while the newcomer will be motivated to face the most high-profile opponent of his career on the biggest stage of all, “The Angel Warrior” is unfazed. He’s a veteran of almost 300 career fights with multiple Muay Thai World Titles on his resume – and he’s aiming to end this contest early.
The Thai striker said:
“[Cruz’s} fighting style is no different from most foreign fighters. As far as I’ve studied him, he has strong punches and kicks. So I have to defend, dodge, and find a window to counter. But I think his Muay Thai skills are still not on the same level as mine. I think I’m better than him.
“Personally, I hope to win by knockout. I can’t guarantee it, it depends on chance. But if I get the chance, I will knock him out.”
Panpayak Would Be ‘Uncomfortable’ But Ready To Fight Rodtang
Panpayak Jitmuangnon’s next goal is a decisive victory over Josue Cruz – although he knows it could lead to a huge opportunity.
That’s because ONE 157 will also feature the entire ONE Flyweight Muay Thai World Grand Prix quarterfinal round, and if anything happens to one of those winners, one of the alternates could step into the semifinals.
Still, “The Angel Warrior” is only concentrating on the things he can control.
“I’d prefer to focus fight by fight. A chance to go for the World Grand Prix might just be an extra bonus for me. But now, I want to give a better performance than I’ve ever had before.”
If the #3-ranked flyweight Muay Thai contender does find his way into the Grand Prix bracket, he would have a chance to claim the tournament’s coveted silver belt.
At the same time, it might lead to a troubling matchup against close friend and reigning ONE Flyweight Muay Thai World Champion Rodtang Jitmuangnon.
Panpayak spent a long time training alongside “The Iron Man” at the famed Jitmuangnon Gym in Bangkok, and he would prefer to avoid a hard-fought battle with his former stablemate.
However, he also accepts that it might need to happen in the future – and he would do whatever is necessary to compete for the top prize.
“The Angel Warrior” added:
“Yes, I might be somehow uncomfortable with fighting him because we always spent time training together. But if that day comes, I am ready to fight.”