The Dutchman battled his English opponent over three rounds and impressed the fans in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam with his heart and skill.
“I had a lot of good responses from the fight, everybody was crazy about it,” Verbeek recalled. “Some guys think Juan was the winner. But I knocked him down for a 10-8 and had a good second round, so I was confident I was the winner.”
Even though Verbeek scored a powerful knockdown in the first round, Cervantes answered the referee’s count with ease, then responded with strikes of his own. Impressed by what he saw, the Sokudo Gym representative commended his English rival’s toughness and skills.
“Juan was a really tough fighter,” Verbeek said. “I gave him the eight count with a right hook. But Juan is especially a Muay Thai fighter, and I knew it would be difficult to fight him as he has a different kind of style [than] me.”
Even though Verbeek wanted a knockout win, he chose not to underestimate Cervantes’ power and experience.
“I wanted to knock him down for the second time, but my trainer told me to keep watching him because he would take a risk,” the athlete from the Netherlands said. “I thought I could take the risk and it might go wrong, or I could fight the next round and try to knock him down again.”
Instead, the 24-year-old did his best to engage the Englishman, but remained cautious of his opponent’s long knees and kicks.
“Cervantes did a good job, he kept me at a good distance, and it was difficult for me to keep the pressure on him and be close to him,” he said.
After a good first round of action by the Hoorn native, his opponent knew he had to make amends and dialed up the pressure in the second frame. But Verbeek held out till the round ended.
“The second round was also good for me, but in the last minute, Juan came back very well with a lot of knees and kicks,” the welterweight kickboxer explained. “He hurt me a few times with the knees to the body, especially to the liver, and it made me tired more quickly.”
In search of a climactic finish, Cervantes unleashed a flying knee, which wobbled the Dutchman in the third round.
Amazingly, Verbeek shrugged off the powerful hit and pressed forward.
“I didn’t want to lose in the third round, I kept fighting with my character. It was difficult, but I took it,” Verbeek recounted.
The two-time World Fighting League World Champion defended well against the subsequent barrage that followed and willed himself to the final bell after three exhausting rounds.
“You live so long for this fight, and you work so hard for it, you don’t want to give it up,” he said. “You want to give everything in your body to win.”
Verbeek may have left Ho Chi Minh City the victor, but the Dutchman believes he has something to learn from his battle against Cervantes.
“It was my first time in ONE,” he said. “I made some mistakes in the fight also. I talked to my trainers, and we know what we need to work on.”
The 24-year-old has a bright future ahead of him in ONE Super Series, and to him, this win is the first step to greater things.
“I’m looking forward to my next fight for ONE. I don’t know who will come to the welterweight division, but I want to be the next World Champion, so I will take on anybody,” Verbeek added.
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