Zamboanga Expects Best Version of Lee When the Two Meet in the Circle

ONE Championship top female atomweight contender Denice Zamboanga is holed up in Pattaya after travel restrictions stemming from the Covid-19 pandemic marooned her in Thailand.

It couldn’t have worked out better for Zamboanga, who is right where she needs to be, preparing with her team at Fairtex for the biggest challenge of her young career.

The 23-year-old Filipina earned a shot at the ONE Women’s Atomweight World Title currently held by Singapore’s Angela Lee following a dominant unanimous decision victory over highly-regarded Japanese veteran Mei Yamaguchi last February. Zamboanga put together a masterful striking performance for three rounds to outgun Yamaguchi and claim the victory.

The win solidified Zamboanga’s place among the atomweight ranks. She’s currently the number one contender just behind the champion Lee, and is rightfully next in line to compete for the ONE World Title.

Zamboanga knows the mountain she has to climb to reach the pinnacle of her quest for a world championship, and she hasn’t let up, despite the circumstances.

“This pandemic hasn’t stopped me from training hard. I never stopped training and I’m working towards my goals,” said Zamboanga. “I train everyday because you never know when it will be time to step inside the Circle again and prove yourself. I have to stay ready.”

The mountain that stands before Zamboanga comes in the form of Lee, who is arguably ONE Championship’s top female talent.

Lee has held the ONE Women’s Atomweight World Title since 2016, when she became the youngest mixed martial arts world champion in the history of the sport. The Singaporean has remained unbeaten at atomweight since, effecting a reign of dominance that saw Lee defeat whoever ONE put in front of her.

Though many fans and experts point to Lee’s stand-up game as her biggest weakness and one that Zamboanga may be able to exploit, Lee has shown great improvement in this area in recent bouts. Her grappling game, however, remains her biggest asset. Lee is extremely dangerous on the ground, and has finished eight of her 10 opponents, including seven by submission.

To say that Zamboanga has her work cut out for her is an understatement. If she can beat Lee, it would certainly mark an upset of epic proportions. Zamboanga knows exactly what she’s up against, and is training accordingly.

“Obviously, Angela’s wrestling and grappling are her greatest strengths. But her striking is good too. I don’t consider striking as her weakness. I think she’s a very well-rounded fighter. At this level, I don’t think it’s smart to underestimate anybody, especially a fighter as talented as Angela. I’m going into this expecting the best version of Angela Lee possible,” said Zamboanga.

“She can go in there and knock me out. She’s working just as hard as I am at the gym. That’s the mindset I have heading into this fight. I have to prepare myself to bring my absolute best into the Circle because that’s what it’s going to take to win.”

Though details of the bout have yet to be revealed, Zamboanga fully expects news to hit soon after the situation with Covid-19 eases and ONE Championship is able to resume holding its events.

For now, Zamboanga is perfectly fine honing her skills and fine-tuning her game in preparation for what she believes will be an explosive Fight of the Year candidate.

“I don’t think this is going to be easy at all. It’s probably going to be the toughest fight of my career. I’m looking forward to the challenge and being pushed to my limit. It’s going to be a great fight. We’re going to put on the fight of the year,” said Zamboanga.

Zamboanga is deep in training alongside teammates ONE Atomweight Muay Thai World Champion Stamp Fairtex and ONE Flyweight Muay Thai World Champion Rodtang “Iron Man” Jitmuangnon. She is accompanied by her older brother Drex “T-Rex” Zamboanga, himself a titleholder in another organization.

They are working hard to prepare Zamboanga for her first shot at the ONE World Title. And while Lee is admittedly an athlete Zamboanga looks up to, the Filipina warrior promises she’ll be ready to seize the moment once the Circle door closes.

“I have all the respect in the world for Angela and what she has accomplished so far in her career. The way she trains and competes, it’s extraordinary. She’s a strong and highly technical fighter. But I have strength too. And most importantly, I have the heart. The world will see two pretty girls put on the performance of a lifetime. I’m ready to go to war,” said Zamboanga.

“Angela, I’m a huge fan. You’re my idol. But because I respect you so much, I have to give it my best. I owe it to the fans and I owe it to you. When we meet in the Circle, it’s fan versus idol. I can’t wait to get in there and mix it up.”

Author: Robert Belen

Robert Belen is a long-time combat sports writer for dSource Boxing. An avid sports fan, he knows no fear nor partiality in his reporting. If you have a problem with him, tell it to his face. (We bid you not.) You can follow him on Twitter @robertbelen

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