Hiroki Akimoto will make his first ONE Bantamweight title defense against the 414-fight veteran Petchtanong Banchamek on November 18, the Singapore based promotion has announced through an Instagram post. The fight is expected to headline ONE 163, which is set to take place at the Singapore Indoor Stadium in Kallang, Singapore.
Akimoto signed with ONE Championship in 2019, following a six-year absence from the sport of kickboxing, during which he competed exclusively in full contact karate. After successfully debuting with the promotion with a decision win over Josh Tonna, Akimoto suffered the only loss of his professional career two months later, at the hands of the future ONE Strawweight Muay Thai champion Joseph Lasiri. Akimoto rebounded by winning his next four fights, including a unanimous decision win over Qiu Jianliang, which earned him the #2 ranking in the Beyond Kick Super Featherweight rankings. In his sole fight of this year, Akimoto beat Capitan Petchyindee Academy in a fight of the year contender, to capture the ONE title and will now look to make a successful start to his reign.
Petchtanong entered 2020 riding a 12-fight winning streak, during which he won the Enfusion and Wu Ling Feng -67 kg tournaments. The streak stopped with a decision loss to Jia Aoqi, which was followed by a stunning six-second knockout loss to the aforementioned Capitan, Petchtanong's first stoppage loss in 13 years. He has fought just once since then, a decision win over Zhang Chenglong on September 24, 2021.
There will plenty of questions as to how a 36-year old Petchtanong will fare against a Champion in his prime, after the most brutal stoppage loss of his career and following a 14-month break from competition. Despite this, he is still supremely experienced, skilled and proved to be quite durable in his other fights. Aside from a Qiu rematch, Petchtanong is the best possible opponent for Akimoto of the fighters currently on the ONE roster.