Senzo Ikeda holds a perfect professional boxing record and is a former Pancrase flyweight champion. He’s about to fight on the historic ONE: ‘Century’ card but the 37 year old’s career could have turned out very differently.

He believes he was knocked out in the opening round in his pro boxing debut. But the bell came to his rescue and Ikeda would go on to score a fourth round stoppage win,

“I was knocked down in the last 10 seconds of the first round and completely lost consciousness, but I was saved by the bell. I don’t remember anything, but I came out and fought desperately, and won in the fourth round,” he recalls.

It was a baptism of fire for the fighter who found out the hard way that no amount of sparring can prepare you for the experience of being punched full force by an opponent in 10oz gloves,

“I was over-confident in my pro debut. I was nervous, but I thought I could win easily. When the fight started I took a huge punch, and I thought, ‘That really hurt!’ It was like being hit by a baseball bat, and I thought, ‘This guy is good!’ I had to get active or he was going to beat me.”

Slow start

Ikeda’s success story has been an unlikely one. He started out in boxing two decades ago motivated more by boredom than dreams of titles or glory,

“I left junior high school, and I had nothing to do. I found boxing at around 16 years old, and I thought it would be good to make myself strong,”

He was far from a model student and says his lifestyle at the time was not really conducive to being a successful prize fighter,

“At that time, I was heading down a bad path, hanging out with some bad guys getting into trouble. I realized I had to change myself (but) I had a weak mentality, and I just couldn’t keep at it. In the first two years, I gave up and went back again over and over. The training was strict, and I was not achieving anything.”

New direction

That experience would serve Ikeda in good stead when he decided to turn his back on the sweet science. Despite his immaculate record, international opportunities were not emerging and he made the brave decision to start from scratch as a mixed martial artist,

“I knew my mentality had been weak but I’d quit boxing (and) I had to make that weak version of me stronger. I had to overcome my weakness and change myself.”

It’s not easy to go from being an undefeated contender in boxing to becoming a novice in a completely new sport. Ikeda acknowledges it was difficult to begin with,

“At first, they were all over me in training. I was getting taken down and submitted constantly,”

Big ambition

Eventually he found a way to utilize his boxing skills in a different ruleset,

“I started to figure out the movements more, and was finally able to use my striking.”

He lost his first two MMA fights. But Ikeda learned fast and by 2018 he was the flyweight King of Pancrase, defending his belt by stopping Yuya Wakamatsu in the final round of a barn burning brawl.

Ikeda’s ONE Championship debut didn’t exactly go to plan. He dropped a decision to Danny Kingad in Tokyo but the veteran will be back at the Ryogoku Kokugikan on October 13th, facing ONE Warrior Series veteran Lito Adiwang.

It will be Ikeda’s second fight in succession against a Team Lakay member. And he already has his sights set on a third fighter from Baguio,

“Now, the most important thing for me is becoming the ONE strawweight champion. Joshua Pacio is the best right now, and I want to work my way to a match with him.”

At 37 age is not exactly on Ikeda’s side. But the Japanese strawweight says he is continually learning and is determined to show his improvement at ONE: ‘Century’ on October 13th,

“In mixed martial arts, the techniques and possibilities are endless. Some think that being 37 is old for a fighter, but the attraction of mixed martial arts is you can keep learning and getting stronger. Age is not important.”