ONE Championship presenter and commentator Steve Dawson gives his take on a blockbuster Bangkok bout.
Christian Lee’s career is a fascinating story, still being told and a long way from its final episode.
ONE Championship’s next event, WARRIORS OF THE WORLD at the Impact Arena in Bangkok, will provide the scene for its next installment – by far the most significant to date – and the man who will have a major part in how the tale unfolds is Japan’s Kotetsu Boku.
In 2016, at 5-0, with all wins coming inside the first round, Lee faced Martin Nguyen. At the time, it was a significant step up for the youngster, but one that was due. So taken was I with Lee’s sprint from the starting blocks of his professional career, that I predicted a stoppage win.
I was wrong. Nguyen won via technical submission with 30 seconds left in the opening stanza. In 2017, the Australian went on to have the best calendar year in ONE Championship history, and is now the reigning ONE Lightweight & Featherweight World Champion.
Lee’s loss, a little surprising at the time, has therefore been put in crisp perspective. His comeback has seen him win two in a row, first another first-round win against Wan Jianping, and then a battle that showed his grit via a third-round armbar of Keanu Subba.
Kotetsu Boku is a ONE Championship favorite. A former ONE lightweight world champion, Boku will always be remembered for the knockout that clinched him the title against Zorobabel Moreira.
Now at 40 years of age, Boku is on a two-bout winning streak, with Timofey Nastyukhin and Eric Kelly as his victims. The fans love Boku, because of his off-the-wall persona, likable aloofness out of the cage, and one-punch knockout power inside it.
This one will be a don’t-blink contest. Lee is an all action, full-steam-ahead athlete, and Boku will love that he won’t have to go hunting for his opponent.
In 39 bouts, Boku has had just the single submission victory, and that’s unlikely to be his mode of victory here. 12 decision wins is nothing to be scoffed at, but he’s unlikely to outwork Lee.
The best bet for the Japanese veteran is to slow Lee down with leg kicks, and then fell him with solid hands. Boku has never been stopped by strikes, and I don’t see Lee being the first to start a trend.
The Singapore lion, however, can become the sixth man to submit Boku, and this is probably the second most likely outcome after a decision win for Lee.
At every stage, Lee’s night will be vulnerable to Boku’s power though, and who’s to say that a lesson-packed loss won’t be any better for Lee’s career than a pleasing win?
Steve Dawson is a ONE Championship presenter and commentator, a Fox Sports presenter and an author of sporting biographies. He can be found on Twitter & Instagram as @Gulasahi and on Facebook as Steve Dawson.