Next Friday, 6 December, the Chinese hero will compete for the inaugural ONE Strawweight Kickboxing World Championship against the legendary Sam-A Gaiyanghadao in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
It is a daunting task. Sam-A is an icon of Muay Thai who has already won one belt in The Home Of Martial Arts – on top of many other World Titles in a career that has seen him win an astonishing 367 contests.
However, though Wang’s experience pales in comparison, the 24-year-old has proved himself as the world’s best by winning a World Title before his arrival in ONE, and he believes the time is right for a younger star to come to the fore.
“I belong to the new generation,” he says. “Sam-A was a legend of his time, but that’s in the past. I will face him with confidence and without fear.”
The athlete from Zhoukou in Henan province brings a 24-3-1 kickboxing record into this contest, and a great deal of momentum from a two-year, eight-bout winning run. His hot streak culminated with the capture of a World Title in August.
That booked his ticket to the global stage, and “Golden Boy” did not disappoint his new employers when he roared to a first-round TKO against Federico “The Little Big Man” Roma with an explosive burst of boxing.
Wang admits he was a little anxious about his first appearance in the world’s largest martial arts organization against a decorated World Champion, but that did not show when he knocked his opponent down three times to claim a spectacular victory.
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“[Roma] was bigger than me, and I felt sure he would be stronger than me, so I was cautious. But once we were in the Circle, I felt he was not as tough as I’d imagined,” he says.
“I established my pace, and then I knocked him down. I knew he would rush in then because I’d already got a points advantage, so I retreated, looked for an opening, and then knocked him down again.
“I knew if there are three counts in a single round, the match will end, so I needed to punch heavily.”
He did just that to force the stoppage with just a second remaining before the bell, and celebrated with an outpouring of emotion.
His spectacular success was the culmination of a life spent in martial arts, beginning when Wang was just a boy, when his father took him to a Shaolin temple to learn kung fu.
Since then, he has sacrificed a ‘normal’ life to chase his dream of achieving martial arts greatness, and he was delighted to be offered that chance soon after.
“Golden Boy” was surprised to receive the chance to face a man he admires in what should the sternest test of his career, but he insists he is ready.
“After beating Roma, my manager asked if I wanted headline at ONE, with a title fight on 6 December,” says Wang.
“I said yes, right away. I really want this belt. I didn’t even know at that time who the opponent would be. Then, a few days later, they sent over the info and I thought, ‘Hey, isn’t this the guy I used to watch a lot? It was Sam-A Gaiyanghadao. I was very surprised. When I first started training, I used to watch his videos.
“He’s fought over 400 matches. His advantage is he’s very experienced, but I think my stamina is better, I’m younger, and for sure, my willpower is stronger.”
The man from Henan believes he will have the edge in other areas as well.
Sam-A may be a Muay Thai master, but he is new to kickboxing, and Wang says he will have the antidote to the incredible counterstriking his rival brings to the Circle
“With my attacks, I can break his controlling defense. I hope I can find an opportunity to finish him as he is a southpaw,” he says.
“As Sam-A Gaiyanghadao is older than me I plan to gas him out in the first two rounds, then create a faster pace. In later rounds, I will use my cardio advantage to drag him down.
“[Sam-A], you are a legend. I respect you, but your time will pass, and my time will come. I will bring a good fight to you, and then I will bring the belt back to China.”