WORLD kickboxing champion Tony Stephenson wanted a new challenge to whet his appetite this year – and he has got his wish.
The Bantry man (28) will fight for a professional world kickboxing title on home soil in West Cork this summer.
This will be the first time that a professional kickboxing event will be held locally and it’s a major coup for West Cork Kickboxing Club, a breeding ground for European and World champions in recent years.
Two-time world amateur champion Stephenson will fight for the vacant WAKO Pro welterweight continuous world title against a yet-to-be-named opponent.
‘It’s a vacant title, no-one is holding it, the last person who held it retired and no-one took it, so it’s up for grabs,’ Stephenson told The Southern Star.
‘Because I won the world title in my weight at the amateurs, I’m in the position where I can fight for it if I want, but I have to get an opponent for it.
‘My opponent has to be from the top ten ranked welterweight kickboxers in the world so we are looking at possible opponents and it’s going to be a great event and fight for sports fans in West Cork to enjoy.’
This will be a rare chance for local sports fans to watch a professional kickboxing event in West Cork on Sunday, August 9th.
The plan is for more elites from West Cork Kickboxing Club to fight on the night with Stephenson topping the card as the main attraction.
‘This will be a different type of fight, something I have never done before,’ he explained.
‘But more than anything else I am just excited to have people who know me locally get the chance to watch me fight live for a change.
‘It’s great for people in West Cork to watch this live and experience the atmosphere for themselves – it’s going to be a great occasion.’
There are some main differences between amateur and professional kickboxing.
‘This will be over seven rounds compared to three rounds in amateur. No head-guards will be worn. We have to fight on a podium more than an actual ring so it will be elevated. The winner at the end gets the title belt and there is money on the table,’ Stephenson said.
Late last year the Bantry man won his second WAKO World Kickboxing Championships title, in the -69kg category, ten years on from his maiden win at the top level. He’s won the biggest prize on offer in amateur kickboxing and his latest target is huge motivation for the year ahead.
‘It’s a completely different way of structuring my training, I’m going to have to be fit over seven rounds more so than fast and explosive over three. Saying that, if I can stop the fight early I will,’ Stephenson added, as West Cork Kickboxing Club looks to pull out all the stops and make this an unforgettable sporting experience.