For Eduard Folayang, being a ONE lightweight champion feels sweeter the second time around.
Folayang schooled a younger Amir Khan at Mall of Asia Arena on Friday, punishing his Singaporean opponent with a variety of striking combinations, including spinning heel kicks and sharp elbows en route to a unanimous decision win.
Not only did he reclaim the crown a day after his 35th birthday, but he also joined his fellow Team Lakay fighters Kevin Belingon, Geje Eustaquio and Joshua Pacio who are also champions in their respective divisions.
“It’s a very rare opportunity to be standing with my fellow champions here,” said Folayang on Friday’s post fight press conference where he was joined by his champion teammates.
The “Landslide” feels that he couldn’t have won the crown if not for his teammates’ help. Then there are also the critics, whom he felt motivated the team.
“I’m so grateful to my coach and my teammates, whom we help each other so we can be able to get these belts and of course to all those bashed us and supported us,” he said.
The victory was a redemption for the Benguet native, who came back from a painful knockout defeat to Martin Nguyen almost a year ago.
But winning back the belt wasn’t that easy for Folayang. After Nguyen vacated the throne, Folayang had to go through a pair of Russian grapplers to secure the title shot.
Then there’s Khan, a Muay Thai expert with deadly knockout power.
With his experience and unpredictability, he schooled Khan, surprising the younger fighter with spinning heel kicks and sharp elbows. Khan tried his best to counter Folayang’s offense, but appeared a step slower and couldn’t pin down Folayang’s timing.
This was more than enough for him to secure the unanimous decision.
Folayang said his key to beating Khan was his ability to adjust midway the fight.
“Being flexible in martial arts is a very big advantage,” he said.
“Kapag magsi-shift siya ng stance, papaluin ko ang lead na paa niya, pero hindi ko matantiya ang distance. Hinahanap na lang natin kung paanong masolusyunan ’yun. And noong naramdaman ko na during the clinch, parang napaka-open niya para sa turning elbow ko and I was able to capitalize on that. And of course iniwasan ko ’yung left hand at left na paa niya, kasi kung makikita mo from first to fifth round ’yun ang ginagamit.”
For more sports coverage, visit the ABS-CBN Sports website.