Apinun Khongsong feels like he’s been here before—and it only heightens his belief in walking away with the biggest win of his career when all is said and done.
The 24-year old junior welterweight from Bangkok enters his first career title fight in similar fashion to arriving on this stage, hitting the road in hopes of pulling off an upset. His latest attempt comes against one of the very best in the sport, unbeaten and unified 140-pound titlist Josh Taylor whom he challenges this Saturday live on ESPN+ from York Hall in Bethnal Green, England.
“A lot of people underestimate me probably because they don’t know who I am,” Khongsong acknowledged to BoxingScene.com. “All of my fights have been in Thailand and Japan but I will let everyone know who I am after this win.”
Khongsong (16-0, 13KOs) literally punched his way into contention following one of the best knockouts of 2019. The moment came in a one-punch, 5th round flattening of unbeaten Akihiro Kondo last February at the famed Korakuen Hall in Tokyo, Japan. The bout represented the lone career road trip for Khongsong, well worth the risk as he made his way to the mandatory contender spot for the IBF junior welterweight title.
Scotland’s Taylor (16-0, 12KOs) inherited that responsibility following his 12-round win over Ivan Baranchyk to win the title last May in the semifinal round of the World Boxing Super Series tournament. The 29-year old Scottish southpaw would win the tournament outright, edging Regis Prograis in their unification clash of unbeaten titlists last October before signing with Top Rank.
The first order of business was to negotiate a mandatory title fight versus Khongsong, with the bout initially going to purse bid and won by Sampson Lewkowicz’s Sampson Boxing. A default on the session placed the power in the hands of Top Rank, whom originally intended to schedule the bout this past May at SSE Hydro in Glasgow where Taylor beat Baranchyk for his first world title.
Those plans were wiped out by the pandemic, thus leading to Saturday’s encounter with no fans in attendance. Where the fight takes place doesn’t matter to the challenger as much as where the titles will ultimately land.
“It will mean a lot to me to be able to bring home the world titles to all my fans in Thialand,” notes Khongsong, who grew up idolizing Hall-of-Fame countryman and former 115-pound king Khaosai Galaxy. “I know it is hard to get fights made due to the pandemic. I’m just happy to know that I am able to fight and to do so for a world title.
“A lot of people doubted my chances when I went to Japan to fight Kondo. I beat him by knockout in front of his fans. Now I travel (to the United Kingdom) to face Josh Taylor, who the boxing media says is the best at 140. So, I say he is the best in the world at 140 and will beat him to become the best.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox