June 19th, 2024

Canadian flyweight Denis Puric no stranger to tough fights in Thailand

By Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press on June 5, 2024.

BANGKOK — Canadian Denis (The Bosnian Menace) Puric celebrates his win in a Muay Thai bout with England’s Jacob Smith in the One Championship promotion, in Bangkok in an April 5, 2024, handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-One Championship, DuxCarvajal, *MANDATORY CREDIT*

Having survived a fight in a Thai prison, there isn’t much that fazes Canadian kickboxer Denis (The Bosnian Menace) Puric.

The 39-year-old Puric, now fighting under the One Championship banner, has seen it all.

The Hamilton-based fighter is back in Thailand, this time facing local favourite Rodtang (The Iron Man) Jitmuangnon in the co-main event of “One 167: Tawanchai vs. Nattawut II” on Friday at Bangkok’s Impact Arena.

Puric is no stranger to Thailand, having lived and trained there. One of his early bouts there was behind bars, when he was brought in to fight an inmate as part of the country’s Prison Fights program.

“it was definitely an experience,” Puric said with a laugh. “It was a good experience. I enjoyed it. It was kind of crazy but it was a cool experience.”

The Thai inmates in the program fight for reduced prison time, so are extremely motivated. And Puric’s opponent wasn’t your average inmate. He had a fight background.

“And what do you think they do in there? They’re fighting for freedom. So these guys are training like crazy, all day, every day.”

Puric lost the bout, which was staged in the prison courtyard. But he got to walk out of the prison.

“That time,” he said with a belly laugh.

Puric had his own brushes with the law as a younger man with his MMA career in Bellator hampered by difficulties entering the U.S. “because I got into trouble with police as a young kid “¦ hanging out with bad people.”

The Puric-Rodtang matchup is a flyweight kickboxing bout with Rodtang’s One Championship Muay Thai world title not on the line.

“He’s the best Muay Thai guy around right now so I’m super-excited to share the ring with one of the best guys out (there),” said Puric. “He’s a tough guy, very strong, durable. But he’s never fought somebody with my kind of power either. We’ll see how that goes, man.”

Under the One Championship promotion’s rules, kickboxers competing at bantamweight or lighter wear eight-ounce boxing gloves with knockouts via punch, kick, or knee (no elbows or throws allowed). In Muay Thai, the fighters wear four-ounce mixed martial arts gloves with knockouts via punch, kick, knee, elbow, or legal throw.

Puric’s first four fights in One were Muay Thai bouts. But he is well-versed in kickboxing.

“It; doesn’t matter to me, man. They can make whatever they want,” he said. “I think they’re a little bit worried about losing their champion. This is why they probably made it a kickboxing match, because I didn’t ask for that.”

Currently ranked No. 2 among Muay Thai contenders in One Championship, Puric expects to show up in the kickboxing rankings after Friday’s fight.

Rodtang, who had more than 250 wins by the time he turned 21, defeated England’s Jonathan Haggerty in August 2019 to win his Muay Thai world title.

The 26-year-old Thai, returning from a nine-month injury absence, is also ranked No. 1 among One’s flyweight kickboxing contenders. The kickboxing championship belt belongs to Thailand’s (The Kicking Machine) Superlek Kiatmoo9.

Puric joined One Championship in 2022, compiling a 3-2-0 record. But the five-foot-four 135-pounder has won his last two outings, winning a decision over England’s Jacob Smith in April and a second-round KO of Vietnam’s Nguyen (No. 1) Tran Duy Nhat in December, both at Lumpinee Stadium in Bangkok.

He has also fought in Singapore and Malaysia for One.

Puric has his own gym in Hamilton called Soi Dogs MMA but often trains elsewhere, to get away from distractions.

Puric came to Thailand in February to prepare for his April 5 fight against Smith. He was offered the Rodtang fight soon after so he stayed in Thailand.

Feeling he gassed out in the win over Smith, Puric hired strength and condition coach Shaun Kober to help him prepare.

“We’re going to make sure that that doesn’t happen this time around because it’s the biggest fight of my career,” Puric said.

Kober is a former Australian army sniper who has worked with the UFC’s Tai (Bam Bam) Tuivasa and Peter Yan, among other athletes. He also served as head fitness coach at the renowned Tiger Muay Thai camp in Phuket.

Puric, who has been coming to Thailand since 2010/11, recalls making 2,000 Thai Baht or $75 for his first bout there.

Born to Bosnian parents in Slovenia, Puric and his family lived in both countries before fleeing the war-torn region in 1997 to move to Canada. They lived in Regina and Winnipeg before settling in Hamilton two years later.

Puric continued his taekwondo studies and went on to became a multiple Canadian champion, eventually competing in several combat sports. He compiled at 8-5-0 record in MMA, breaking Canadian Chuck (The Energiza Bunny) Mady’s jaw in a 2011 Bellator TKO win in Rama, Ont.

Tawanchai PK Saenchai defends his featherweight Muay Thai title against No. 3 contender (Smokin) Jo Nattawut in Friday’s all-Thailand main event.

Follow @NeilMDavidson on X platform, formerly known as Twitter

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 5, 2024

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