Singapore-based Japanese striker Hiroki Akimoto is entering the most significant bout of his career thus far, when he takes on dangerous former Top King Muay Thai World Champion “Muay Thai Boy” Zhang Chenglong of China.
Akimoto and Zhang will headline ONE: REIGN OF DYNASTIES II, a previously-recorded event in Singapore set for global broadcast on Friday, 16 October. The bout is a ONE Super Series kickboxing contest in 8-ounce gloves.
Akimoto is gunning for a statement-making knockout victory against a former ONE World Title challenger, and perhaps insert himself into the bantamweight title picture.
“Since joining ONE Championship, I haven’t been able to showcase my power, unable to score a knockout. In this next fight, I want to show fans my power. I am going for the knockout,” said Akimoto.
“If I can win this match, I believe it would put me into the title conversation. If I lose, it would set me back quite a bit. A lot is riding on this fight, so I’m going to give it my best shot and defeat him.”
Like all Singapore residents, Akimoto spent early parts of the year in home quarantine, as the terrible Covid-19 pandemic swept the country. Fortunately for Akimoto, training resources were still available during the ‘Circuit Breaker’ period, albeit in limited capacity.
The Japanese standout says he’s ready to put on an exciting show, and that there should be no excuses if he fails to deliver.
“I am so grateful to be back in the ring after this long layoff. The pandemic has affected the world in a major way. But personally for me, it had no major effect on my training,” said Akimoto.
“I really focused on core training, building up my lower body. I also trained very hard to improve my mobility and range of motion. I just want to evolve day by day, little by little, improving myself daily in training. I want to show all the fans how much I’ve improved.”
ONE: REIGN OF DYNASTIES II is a previously-recorded global broadcast featuring the absolute best in local and international martial arts talent. The audience-free, behind-closed-doors event took place at the Singapore Indoor Stadium, with strict Covid-19 protocols in place.
Akimoto fully expects his main event showdown with Zhang to be a total war, and has prepared himself accordingly to deal with a tricky southpaw. The Japanese warrior is coming into this bout looking to push the pace and go on the offensive, being much more aggressive than in his previous outings.
“I don’t have much experience facing southpaws, so I’ve really been working a lot on that. I’ve been training with some very strong southpaws who can punch really hard. I think I’m ready,” said Akimoto.
“He has a very powerful left straight, a lot of stamina and endurance, and a tough mindset. He’s definitely a worthy opponent. But I think he lacks defensive ability, which is a common weakness for hard punchers. I’d like to attack and test out his defense.”