Hiroki Akimoto is ready to be back in the ring. And with ONE Championship planning to return to his homeland, the Japanese fighter thinks he’s the perfect next opponent for ONE Bantamweight Kickboxing World Champion Jonathan Haggerty.
Akimoto has an impressive ONE record. Starting in 2019, the 31-year-old kickboxer made a five-fight winning streak. His last victory over Capitan Petchyindee in March 2022 allowed him to snatch the bantamweight kickboxing title. This joy, however, was rather short after his belt was taken by Petchtanong Petchfergus in November of the same year.
Now, after more than a year of rest, Akimoto is determined to have his first comeback fight. The Japanese kickboxer has a few names in mind, including Nong-O Hama, Alaverdi Ramazanov, Felipe Lobo, and Superlek Kiatmookao. According to Akimoto, he finds no issue in getting a fight against any of them. Yet, he has his top pick: Haggerty, the current title holder in his division.
The fight between the two makes a lot of sense. Aside from a possible event ONE could arrange in Japan, Akimoto is in a good spot to challenge Haggerty as he’s still the #1-ranked bantamweight kickboxing fighter under ONE. With this, Akimoto’s eye is set on the title shot.
“My skills deserve a title shot,” the fighter told South China Morning Post. “Haggerty versus Akimoto will be the most exciting fight for the fans, that’s why fans are talking about it. That’s the reason I should get the title shot.
“If Haggerty goes to a different division, maybe it’s not me, but if Haggerty is fighting bantamweight kickboxing, the opponent has to be me. If there’s a Japan event, of course I definitely want to fight there.”
The bantamweight kickboxing contender is confident about facing Briton, saying the fight between Haggerty and Fabricio Andrade lacked speed from both fighters.
“I expected a fast fight because it was a bantamweight fight, but I didn’t see a lot of speed from both fighters,” said Akimoto. “I think I have more speed [than them].”
According to Akimoto, he’s “ready to fight any time,” whoever ONE picks for him. A fight against Haggerty is possible, but a lot could still happen to change that. With the British fighter sporting a pleasing record, he’s a hot commodity among other fighters. Aside from his possible bout against the winner of the Nong-O Hama vs. Nico Carrillo Bantamweight Muay Thai fight, ONE Championship head Chatri Sityodtong is planning a fight between featherweight champ Tawanchai PK Saenchai and Haggerty.