This Saturday, 16 November “The Boxing Computer” Yodsanklai IWE Fairtex will return to action as he aims to add another chapter to a long history of success in China.
After a short hiatus from the ring, the icon from Thailand will look to return to winning ways when he takes on Jamal “Kherow” Yusupov in a 73-kilogram catch weight contest at Beijing’s Cadillac Arena.
This match will be Yodsanklai’s first since his epic, three-round war with Samy “AK47” Sana in May that shook the martial arts community.
Though he was disappointed to lose the competitive contest via decision and see his eight-year undefeated streak come to an end, the Nong Bua Lamphu native has taken it all in his stride like a true martial artist.
“I’m definitely upset about my loss, but it just wasn’t my night,” he says.
“It is a just part of sports – there is victory and there is defeat.”
The six-month break from competition has been good for the multiple-time Muay Thai World Champion, who has used the time to rest his body so he will be back to full strength for his return.
Now that the date is set, Yodsanklai has resumed his usual intense training regime. He has also moved his training camp from the Fairtex Training Center in Pattaya, Thailand, to his second home, IWE Combat Club in Kunming.
That has cut down his traveling time during the crucial final days before he steps under the lights, and allowed him to reunite with the coach that was with him every step of the way during his remarkable unbeaten run.
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“I feel really normal in training, the break hasn’t been a big deal at all,” he says.
“I’ll be training in China with my old trainer Kru Ched. Everything is going great, but I know I’ve really got to motivate myself here.”
Yodsanklai is keen to get back in the win column, but he knows that is far from a foregone conclusion against an experienced veteran who is based in Beijing and has three Russian kickboxing and Muay Thai titles to his name.
However, this bout will be the first time Yusupov has competed in ONE’s 4-ounce gloves, whereas his rival has already shown how dangerous he can be with them on.
“The Hero” had to wear larger equipment on his hands for the ONE Featherweight Kickboxing World Grand Prix, but he is looking forward to his return to “the art of eight limbs” and the chance to use the tools that helped him to score stunning stoppages of Luis Regis and Andy Souwer.
“I prefer the small gloves. They are really fast and fun. I’ve gotten used to them,” he says.
“Knockouts can and will happen in the small gloves. It is whoever makes the first mistake. You can’t get hit with these gloves. I’ve got to be really technical, counter, and not be careless.”
“Kherow” should provide an interesting test for Yodsanklai. Just like the man who last defeated him, he will have a height and reach advantage, and he should be comfortable competing in his hometown.
However, although the Thai legend admits feeling a weight of expectation on his shoulders, he has never doubted his ability to use his precision and power to pick his opponent apart. There are few men in the world who can stand up to the force of his fists or his trademark roundhouse kick.
Plus, he is just as likely to be the favorite among the local fans because of his long run at the top of his sport, as well as his history of competing in China.
The 34-year-old has never lost in China in more than a dozen bouts over the past decade, and he wants to maintain that record with a highlight reel stoppage.
“I’m feeling the pressure for this fight. I want to impress my Chinese fans!” he says.
“I don’t know if I can knock him out, but I will try.”