After a frustrating few months, Tukkatatong Petpayathai and Hiroaki “Kaibutsukun” Suzuki are both aiming for a highlight-reel KO to catapult themselves back into the ONE Super Series World Title conversation.
This Friday, 8 November at ONE: MASTERS OF FATE, these two men will go to battle in a Muay Thai bantamweight contest, and you will struggle to find a more high-level match-up anywhere outside The Home Of Martial Arts.
Tukkatatong is a two-time Muay Thai World Champion with an outstanding record of 242-33-2, while his Japanese rival is 41-12-1 (1 NC) with a Shootboxing Lightweight World Title to his name.
The Thai hero is particularly keen to put on a show in Manila, Philippines, because of his disappointment with his last performance, and a long layoff since.
Although the 32-year-old from Evolve in Singapore looked superb in his unanimous decision win against Ognjen Topic, he tore a ligament in his knee, and his ability to compete to his full potential was severely compromised.
After 14 months to heal up, he expects to be back to full strength, and he wants to make up for lost time by scoring his first finish on the global stage.
“I didn’t fight for one full year, which is quite a long time,” he says. “The feelings of seeing my friends compete really made me want to fight again. I kept training for an entire year, and tried not to be discouraged.
“My last fight was very substandard, but I am not thinking too much about it. This next fight has to be fun, and exciting – my fans have been waiting a full year to see me return to action.
“In this fight, I will definitely be changing my style to fight more aggressively than before. I think that I can win, and that this fight I must win by KO!”
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Suzuki, too, will aim to redeem himself for his last match-up after he fell short in his ONE Bantamweight Muay Thai World Title challenge against another icon from Thailand.
Although there was no shame in losing to the great Nong-O Gaiyanghadao – particularly after going the distance with him – the 35-year-old from Toyohashi believes he could have done much more.
“I overthought things too much in my last match and I couldn’t fight well, so it’s not just about Muay Thai [this time] – I’m going into battle,” he says.
That does not mean Suzuki will be overly gung-ho in his approach, however. There are few men in all of martial arts with as much skill and experience as Tukkatatong, and the Bellwood Fight Team product knows he will have his work cut out to find a way to defeat him.
“His veteran Muay Thai technique is strong – classic Muay Thai,” he adds. “I can’t be careless even once. I’m going in completely focused.
“I think perhaps he’ll use his distance control well to stop my attacks. So, it’ll be a case of me breaking that down. I’m always the smaller one, so there’s no difference. It’s the same as usual for me. I’ve fought someone 20 centimeters taller than me, so even with the height difference, there’s no problem.
“I haven’t yet shown my dangerous side, so I’m planning to expose his weaknesses as we fight.”
Whatever comes his way, Tukkatatong is usually unflappable in the Circle, and it seems like that will not change in the Mall Of Asia Arena.
Though he respects his rival’s skills, he believes he has a clear route to victory – one that may have been inspired by what his teammate did to Suzuki in May.
“He has good hands, and will wait to throw them, but I am much more versatile as a fighter,” says the man from Singapore.
“I think my opponent’s weakness will be his ability to defend. I feel like when I throw leg kicks and body kicks he won’t be able to block them.”
One thing that has changed is that he seems more excited than usual after his long layoff. After 277 professional bouts, a 278th could feel like just another day in the office, but Tukkatatong is fired up to put on the best show of his ONE career and stake a claim to challenge for gold.
“I’m going into this fight 100 percent. Training is going awesome and I have so many amazing training partners to work with,” he adds.
“The goal is to become the ONE Bantamweight World Champion, whether Muay Thai or kickboxing.”
His excitement is matched by his opponent, who is desperate to recapture the explosive form that saw him become his division’s number one contender at the beginning of this year.
“I live by the martial arts, so I want to show everyone my strength as a professional fighter in ONE Championship. I want to show them a different flavor of me,” Suzuki says.
“I have to redeem myself. My teammate, Taiki Naito, just won in Jakarta by KO, so as his sempai I can’t lose, so of course, I want to take the win.
“Hiroaki “Kaibutsukun” Suzuki is coming to fight at the forefront of ONE Super Series, so don’t miss it!”