A journey over ten years in the making will come to a head on Saturday night as Queensland’s Ben Johnston aims to become only the fourth Australian to ever win a WBC (World Boxing Council) Muay Thai World Title as he takes on Englishman Daniel Edwards at Destiny Muay Thai.
Undertaking a methodical approach to his fight career, Johnston has been slowly climbing the WBC rankings for a number of years now, collecting Queensland, Australian and International titles on his way to fight for the World Title.
With 24 fights for a strong record of 21 wins, Johnston has fought some of the biggest and best names both locally and internationally. For any fighter, whether it be boxing, kickboxing, mma or muay thai, the chance to fight for a world title ranks amongst the biggest feats they can achieve.
Sitting down with Fight News Australia in the leadup to the big fight, Johnston said that fighting for such a prestigious title was something that seemed like a distant prospect.
“This is honestly something that I never dreamed would actually happen when I first started fighting. It was something that I used to think ‘wow, how cool would that be’? So to be actually fighting for it, and feeling as confident as I do, is a strange, but amazing feeling”.
Standing in his way of capturing the green strap will be the tough English fighter, Daniel Edwards. Competing regularly at a high level both in the UK and Europe, Edwards is currently ranked number two in the WBC Light Heavyweight rankings. Travelling to Australia with an impressive fight resume, Edwards last fought in late June at Muay Thai Grand Prix (MGTP) 16 in England where he beat Italian Andrea Rizzi to retain his MGTP World Title.
Knowing that the very best possible opponent will be standing across the ring from him, Johnston has spent most of his training camp in Thailand preparing for the challenge. Training twice a day, for up to five hours a day, Johnston knows he is ready for anything that comes his way on Saturday night.
“Every fight my standard of ‘fit’ changes, where I feel in better shape every time I enter the ring. For this fight, I spent a total of four weeks in Thailand getting my fitness to a peak level. I’ve increased the volume to ensure I have the stamina to push the pace for the whole fight”.
“I know he’s a decent clincher, so I’ve been taking that into account in my preparations. My clinch has always been quite strong too, but I want to leave no stone unturned and there be absolutely no possibility for him to find a hole in my game”.
Currently the WBC International Light Heavyweight Champion, which is secondary to the World title, Johnston and Edwards were given the opportunity to fight for the belt after WBC officials decided that the previous champion, Frenchman Cédric Tousch, had not defended his belt frequently enough and would be placed in recess.
The winner of Saturday night’s main event will be considered the current and true WBC Light Heavyweight Champion but will be mandated to fight Tousch as their first defence at a date and venue to be confirmed.
Like many professional fighters, Johnston also spends his time training others while trying to stay focused on his own bouts. Running ‘The Fight Centre’, a boxing and muay thai gym on the Southside of Brisbane, has helped him look at the sport differently and what drives individual fighters.
“Working as a trainer gives me an understanding as to why people fight. Most people do not actually enjoy fighting, but rather use the sport as a tool to gain a sense of self-achievement. In many ways, I liken it to a marathon runner. I can’t imagine they enjoy what they do, but I can definitely see how satisfied they would be with themselves after completing an event”.
In a sport where money is few and far between, whether it be as a fighter or a trainer, those who dedicate their life to muay thai will often draw on a deeper, more personal reason for doing what they do. Reflecting on his journey so far and the challenge that lies ahead of him, Johnston knows that the belt is only a very small piece of the puzzle.
“I am driven by regret. I don’t believe the world title is going to make me a better person or make life easier for me. But I know that if I don’t give it 100 per cent I will be hating myself after its all over and fighting is no longer an option. Money comes and goes, but you cannot buy an achievement like this. It must be earned”.
Destiny Muay Thai takes place at the Mansfield Tavern this Saturday night and also features a WBC Oceania title bout between David Pennimpede and Bryce Maguire, as well as a WBC Oceania title bout featuring top female talents Rebecca Rooney and Brooke Cooper.