At 37 years old, Petchtanong Petchfergus said he was desperate to crown his long career with the biggest prize of all, and he did that on Saturday, November 19.
Akimoto started to string his combinations together early at the Singapore Indoor Stadium, mixing punches with kicks and switching his targets.
Petchtanong, the division’s #3-ranked contender, allowed the Japanese man to come forward and took aim with crunching left knees and kicks when he got too close.
The Bangkok native was even more on point with his counters in round two. Akimoto walked in with punches, but the veteran repeatedly scored with his left knee to the body and head, as well as kicks and straights from his southpaw left power side.
Akimoto entered round three with the right side of his body scorched from his challenger’s attacks, and it wasn’t just physical damage.
The defending titleholder seemed more reluctant to throw his strikes because he was constantly walking into Petchtanong’s left-sided counters.
While the Japanese dynamo managed to score with some left hooks and right kicks, the Thai landed the more hurtful kicks and knees.
The usually relentless Akimoto was clearly out of sorts coming into the championship rounds. His output was lower as he searched for a way to land his shots without getting countered.
Petchtanong upped the ante with his left body kick and, although the Japanese man did have some success replying with low kicks, the power differential was clear.
Akimoto knew he had to do something drastic in the final round. He came out with intent, swinging with his left hook and adding his right kick behind it.
Still, Petchtanong kept his cool and waited to fire back with his left kick and left knee every time his opponent closed the distance.
Both men were still firing as the bout reached its five-round conclusion, and the judges were left to render their decision.
Two of them sided with Petchtanong, earning him the win by split decision, giving him his 358th career victory, and crowning him the new ONE Bantamweight Kickboxing World Champion.
In his post-fight interview with Mitch Chilson, the elated Thai legend said:
“I was surprised [it was a split decision], but I was really confident that [the judges] would be fair enough and I would win today.”