Yokkao’s next event will be hosted at the Macron Stadium in Bolton on the 13th October. In addition to a strong line up of the UK’s best talent, Yokkao have also announced the first bout in the main event. This will be fought between the young rising star Jonathon Haggerty and Thailand’s own Superlek Kiatmoo9. Both men have fought on Yokkao before and have already made names for themselves as the top of the new generation of Muay Thai fighters.
Haggerty trains out of The Knowlesy Academy and as previously mentioned has already had a large number of successful fights with many of the country’s top promotions. Haggerty is currently ranked at number one in the UK at Super Featherweight (130lbs). This is a position he has managed to achieve in just over 10 professional fights and one which he does not appear to be vacating anytime soon.
Haggerty last fought on Yokkao back in March of this year, on that occasion taking on the tough Keith McLachlan. Haggerty started quickly throwing the switch high kick in the opening seconds. This is a tendency he has in the opening of his fights. He has scored many early stoppages with this technique such as when he fought James O’Connell. Here he tripled up a switch high kick causing a count and the fight being called off in the first five seconds.
With McLachlan he kept the pressure on, keeping him guessing by feigning kicks and disrupting the Scotsman’s rhythm with teeps whenever he looked to get settled. Rather than head hunting Haggerty opted to keep McLachlan guessing by working both the body and McLachlan’s lead leg. The end came in the opening seconds of the second round, Haggerty performed a beautiful shuffle back to left high kick catching McLachlan and triggering a count. Although the Scotsman made the count he was put down almost instantly by a jumping round kick, securing the knockout win for Haggerty.
Haggerty has also fought on Muay Thai Grand Prix, taking on Ross Cochrane. Once again, he was able to achieve a first-round stoppage. This time by doubling up and uppercut, causing Cochrane’s body to move ahead of his feet. Using the angle Haggerty finished the fight with a brutal knee to the head.
The only time we have really seen Haggerty struggled was in October 2017 when he took on veteran Ja Kiatphontip. Ja is currently ranked at number one in the lightweight division (135lbs) and had 200 fights compared to Haggerty’s 11. From the outset the main difference from his other fights was that Haggerty was not the one pressuring. For the vast majority of the fight Ja kept in Haggerty’s face not allowing him any breathing room. Even after Haggerty scored with a kick Ja would stay in range to land one of his own.
This meant Haggerty was on the back foot and had limited scope for setting up his own offence. The energy expenditure is also completely different for the two fighters. It is many times more difficult for a fighter to score whilst moving backwards than it is when on the offensive. Coupled with Haggerty’s tendency to start extremely quickly meant the pace would take a toll on him. Although Haggerty was by no means laying back and allowing Ja a free ride, he was visibly frustrated by the end of the second round and starting to tire.
Ja picked up the pace in the 3rd round in typical Thai fashion and began to clinch more with the Englishman. Here was were the experience gap showed with Ka able to take Haggerty’s back in the clinch and deliver a number of hard knees. The grinding nature of the clinch battle took a toll on the already tired Haggerty. Round four was much the same with Haggerty trying to score whilst Ja continually moved forward with his kicks and attempting to engage Haggarty in a clinch battle.
The fifth round was one of Haggerty’s strongest with him able to pressure Ja effectively for the first time. He was able to use his powerful switch kicks but it was too little too late with him receiving his first professional loss. There are a number of points that can be taken from this fight, Haggerty took on an elite Thai fighter and put up a strong resistance in a grinder of a fight. It is very noticeable though how much Haggerty prefers to fight on the offence (as do most fighters). That being said, at no point was Haggerty in any immediate danger of being finished nor did he look like his was going to stop trying to score.
Superlek will probably be less well known having spent most of his fighting career on the Thai circuit and only having fought once on Yokkao. Fighting out of the famous camp that he takes his namesake from, Superlek has already made a name for himself when he knocked out Pornsanae Sitmonchai in 2014. Unlike the aggressive style of Haggerty, Superlek invited the pressure from the Pornsanae for much of the first round. It seemed like Pornsanae has the round in the bag, that was until Superlek pulled a right high kick out of nowhere and knocked him out.
Superlek fight record shows that this was no mere fluke. Superlek is one of the most technically adapt Thai fighter active. He excels at inviting his opponents to come forward and then countering their aggression by slipping out of the way and throwing his own kicks. In his bout against Seksan he demonstrated exceptional skill in shutting down his boxing heavy opponent. Superlek would either jam his opponent with a jab or teep before the combination could get flowing or slide back and throw a kick. He also showed a lovely lean back to kick counter which landed flush on his opponent.
His defence against kicks is even more impressive. As an exercise, watch his fight against Sangmanee. Count how many kicks Sangmanee throws and then total up how many landed. Two completely different figures. He was able to read the kicks coming in with phenomenal ease, even when Sangmanee tried to double up in an attempt to score. Whenever Superlek threw a kick his leg came straight back ready to check any counter making this a frustrating bout for his opponent.
Superlek’s only outing for Yokkao came when he took on the unbelievably tough Chris Shaw. Shaw is currently ranked number two at 140lbs and at the time of the bout had 38 professional fights. This was the most untraditional start to a fight I have seen from a Thai. Immediately Superlek began swinging wide hooks and using an upward elbow to crash through the guard of Shaw in the opening seconds. Shaw received several severe cuts which were quite severe and the round was interjected by the referee stepping in to wipe Shaw’s face. A head kick by Shaw only served to aggravate the Thai. Shaw displayed his grit surviving the round despite the lacerations and Superlek throwing everything but the kitchen sink at him.
Shaw was more alert the second round and gave a more competitive account of himself. Although Superlek was as aggressive as the first round it was clear that the Thai had thoughts about his pacing. Thai’s traditional start very slowly the first two round, preserving themselves for the later higher scoring rounds. By the 3rd round Superlek fought more like expected moving backward and countering with kicks to Shaw’s lead leg. In the final two rounds Superlek had obviously used more of his tank in the opening two rounds than was wise, as he relied more heavily on the teep to break the action and gain some breathing space. Despite this Superlek was able to gain a comfortable decision victory over the Scot.
Possibly the most interested factor in this fight is that both fighters should be able to slip into their favourite style as it does not interfere with the other. Haggerty generally prefers to be the aggressor and enjoys being able to dictate the pace and have space to use his favourite weapons. Superlek prefers a more edging counter game, most of his best work has come from him edging around the ropes and executing well timed counter strikes.
Superlek has excellent evasive skills and his ability to check kicks is enough to give even the best Thai boxer fits. Haggerty cannot expect any free opportunities to score, a key for him will probably be his feints. These would make him more unpredictable and hopefully stop Superlek from intercepting or countering his strikes. Haggerty should also be prepared for a five round fight and potentially conserve more energy in the opening rounds to avoid slowing down in the later stages. Trying to take Superlek out in the opening round would be a gamble. Expend too much energy and failing to knock your opponent out in the first generally results in you losing on points over the course of a five-round fight.
The final key for Haggerty will be his combinations. The difficulty with checking as many kicks as Superlek is that you spend a lot of the time on a single leg. A simple solution would be to keep boxing the Thai until he is unbalanced enough that they put the leg down. Then a kick is more likely to land. This is easier in theory than practice and the raised leg can still be used for push kicks or as a block in a clinch.
Superlek will most likely look to do what has made him so successful. Keeping edging around the ropes to frustrate Haggerty. From then build using his trademark right kick whilst using his powerful front kick and jab to keep his opponent at a distance. He has shown he has wickedly fast right high kick which can be used if Haggerty becomes overly aggressive and leaves himself open. This would be more likely to happen if Superlek refused to engage early in the fight. This could prompt Haggerty to open up more to try and catch Superlek.
Looking at the fight objectively it’s hard not to give the nod to Superlek in terms of the advantage. He has the experience advantage and an extremely tricky style to solve. That being said, Haggerty cannot be counted out, he has the tools and the coaches to deliver. He will need to stay disciplined, keep a tight defence and avoid becoming frustrated which could lead to errors on his part.