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Zamboanga all set for tough trek to title

Zamboanga all set for tough trek to title

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Denice Zamboanga isn’t one to suffer from a lack of confidence. —ONE CHAMPIONSHIP

Written off by both the reigning champion and a former top-ranked contender, Denice Zamboanga’s already long and winding path to ONE’s atomweight summit looks even more challenging.

Just don’t count the Filipino as among those who think so.

“It’s really good for me,” Zamboanga told reporters in a virtual chat on Tuesday, reacting to not-so-pleasant forecast made by titleholder Angela Lee and perennial challenger Mei Yamaguchi.

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“It’s going to be my advantage. It keeps me motivated. A lot of people are underestimating me,” she went on.

Both Lee and Yamaguchi picked Seo Hee Ham over Zamboanga, now atomweight’s No. 1 contender, in the opening of the Grand Prix on Friday at the Singapore Indoor Stadium.

Zamboanga and her South Korean foe will be joined by six other women in a bracketed you-or-me contest that will determine the rightful challenger to Lee’s reign that has spanned over five years. The showcase unfolds in the promotion’s first-ever all-female card, which kicks off at 7:30 p.m.

It could be recalled that the 24-year-old grappler was being groomed for a title bout after dispatching of one foe after another since her promotional debut in late 2019. ONE’s head honcho Chatri Sityodtong finally awarded Zamboanga a shot at Lee’s crown in a card that could not be scheduled because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Pregnancy

Months later, Lee announced her pregnancy, virtually keeping her off the circle until late 2021.

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Not a fan of staying idle, Zamboanga proposed through an Instagram post in October 2020 that Lee “should do the respectable thing and vacate the … belt.”

Lee, one of the promotion’s finest talents, declined.

“I waited years for the opportunity and once I captured the title, I didn’t allow anyone to take it from me. If no one took it from me, then why should I give it up,” the Singaporean star wrote on a Facebook post.

The promotion chose to resolve the situation by pitting Zamboanga and seven other fighters against each other by way of the Grand Prix.

Zamboanga, despite having collected three convincing promotional victories—including one against Yamaguchi—had been thrust into the tougher task of winning three more times just to challenge Lee.

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Zamboanga seems to have gotten her work cut out for her in facing Seo, a striker so excellent she draws comparisons to the legend Wanderlei Silva.

But that’s the kind of odds she prefers.

“Having Seo first is a great match for me because I think she is a very dangerous opponent,” she said. “If I go through [her in] the first round, I think the next round would be easy for me.”

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