Muay thai fighter Nhất to face tough teen rival at ONE Championship

June 05, 2024 - 07:51
The flyweight showdown between Việt Nam's Muay Thai legend Nguyễn Trần Duy Nhất and youngster Johan “Jojo” Ghazali  is one of the key matches at the ONE 167 event at the Impact Arena in Bangkok.

Muay Thai

Nguyễn Trần Duy Nhất will face tough rival Johan “Jojo” Ghazali in his next fight at the ONE Championship on June 8 in Thailand. Photo courtesy of Duy Nhất

HÀ NỘI Việt Nam's Muay Thai legend Nguyễn Trần Duy Nhất may respect youngster Johan “Jojo” Ghazali, but the teenager still wants a knockout when they fight each other at the ONE Championship on June 8 in Thailand.

Their flyweight showdown is one of the key matches at the ONE 167 event at the Impact Arena in Bangkok.

“Johan Ghazali is a young one that is absolutely on the rise. He is strong, fast, and athletic, probably a great combination from his Malay and Westerner parents," said Nhất.

"His knockout power is no joke, either. In comparison, I’m not as athletic as he is. A fight with him is not going to be easy.

“Johan started training and fighting when he was just a boy, so even with the age difference, I won’t treat him like a young fighter with little experience.”

Ghazali, 17, is much less experienced than 35-year-old Nhất, who has won the world championship title seven times.

A poster for the fight between Nguyễn Trần Duy Nhất and Johan “Jojo” Ghazal. -- Photo ONE Championship

The rising star is known for his impressive winning streak of five matches, of which four were KO wins. The most notable was Ghazali's KO in just 36 seconds against Edgar Tabares, a stalwart boxer, last December.

The praise has come thick and fast for Ghazali, with many likening him to longtime ONE Flyweight Muay Thai World Champion Rodtang “The Iron Man” Jitmuangnon.

“Yes, Johan’s style is quite similar to Rodtang. Both have nice striking skills, knockout power, the same aggressiveness, and a crazy ability to absorb damage. I can see why people are comparing them," Nhất said.

“He is no doubt a talented fighter. I do believe one day, he will rise to the same height as Rodtang.

“Johan is brave, aggressive, and puts a lot of pressure on his opponents. It reminds me of how I had fought in my younger years as a fighter.”

Despite seeing Ghazali as a future superstar in the division, Nhất believes there is a route to victory at ONE 167. His experience and composure will be an asset as he tries to find openings in the heavy attacks of his younger rival.

“He has the mind of a relentless brawler. He launches himself into the fray and fights with all the fire in his soul. He punches with 100 per cent power, which makes him quite a scary opponent when engaging in a battle," he said.

“But his strengths are also his weaknesses. Putting too much power on each and every strike is not always wise.

"I’m curious to see how he will act if his striking combos get countered or aren’t as damaging as he wanted, and what he will do if he doesn’t get the upper hand in exchanging strikes. I will test those in the fight.”

The world champion learnt a lot after a tough defeat to Denis Puric last December. Ghazali is a similarly intense opponent that he plans to utilize this time around.

“I’m going to have a better, faster starting pace. The fight with Puric gave me a big lesson that sometimes I should be more of a brawler," he said.

“I’m going to start the fight more aggressively, exchanging punches, and make him deal with my elbows if he is coming in close. Johan will probably start the fight at a really fast pace, so I believe there will be a knockout win for one of us.”

On the other side, Ghazali has been an absolute force since his ONE Championship debut in the ONE Friday Fights event series last year.

Johan Ghazal is a rising star in the world of Muay Thai. Photo ONE Championship

The Malaysian-American Muay Thai prodigy says he won’t take Nhất lightly, and that he's well aware of the Vietnamese man's devastating head kick.

“I will say that he’s really versatile. He has everything. He has hands, he has elbows, he has knees, he has kicks. But the one thing that stands out is his head kicks," said Ghazali.

“You know, I’ve seen him throw a few head kicks, and they can get dangerous. But I’ve prepared for it. I’m ready for it. So we should have an answer for whatever he throws. We’re ready.”

Ghazali disagreed that inexperience will be his disadvantage in the upcoming bout.

“I feel like the advantage I have in this fight is my youth. I’m younger, I recover faster, I’m stronger, so I feel like this is something I can guarantee on my end," he said.

“But because he could be tough, I think I’m going to be in for a tough start. But I do know he will get tired in the later rounds, which then make it easier for me to knock him out.” VNS