Forced to re-earn rightful title shot, Zamboanga suffers controversial defeat
The pain of the defeat, of the abrupt end of a campaign, was still alive when Denice Zamboanga practically answered journalists’ questions at midnight on Saturday from her hotel room in Singapore.
“I am speechless right now,” she said.
The top-ranked contender was forced to rise to the challenge in an Atomic Weights Grand Prix just to challenge champion Angela Lee, a privilege she already had at the end of 2020 but lost without it being her fault – Lee took a break because she got pregnant.
Zamboanga rose to the challenge but controversially lost to Korea’s Seo See Ham, one of Asia’s deadliest strikers, in the all-female Empower card at Singapore Indoor Stadium late Friday night.
“If they can see again [the] fight and they can re-decide who really wins, that would be great, ”said the 24-year-old Filipina, her voice creaking.
Zamboanga lost to Seo by split decision despite an assertive performance every round, shooting for one out after another and even connecting a few sharp strikes.
But it all – along with an emphatic double-legged pullout – barely convinced two of the three judges in the fight.
“For me, I really did my best and everything. Even if you (guys) were reviewing the fight, she didn’t do anything, ”Zamboanga said.
“I was in control. I even took (away) his strike. I still can’t believe it, ”she added.
The result also raised eyebrows on social media, with some foreign fight scribes even attributing the fight to Zamboanga, who entered the clash with an immaculate professional record of 8-0.
There was, however, no doubt in Seo’s mind that she had won the competition.
“I really don’t understand why this is causing some controversy,” the Korean ace said with the help of a translator.
“Just look at our faces,” she noted with reference to the gash on Zamboanga’s forehead. “The faces speak of the result.”
It should be noted, however, that the cut to Zamboanga was the result of an inadvertent head butt and not something inflicted by Seo.
The Asian promotion uses the Global Martial Arts rule set, which marks a fight in its entirety, as opposed to judges scoring the turn-based fight. The criteria for ONE judges are: KO, damage, strike and ground control, with eliminations and aggression carrying the least weight.
“In my opinion, I think she (Zamboanga) should study the rules first,” Seo said.
“Because if she knows the rules from start to finish, I think she would agree that I won the fight,” she added.
Chatri Sityodtong, founder and big boss of ONE, who usually quickly shares his post-fight thoughts on Facebook, has yet to comment on the contest.
It may be recalled that Sityodtong also invoked the world rules in the third flyweight title clash between Geje Eustaquio and Adriano Moraes of Team Lakay in January 2019.
“I had Geje winning a very close fight until Adriano locked onto the knee pad,” he once wrote in a long post. “Adriano won the fight on that knee pad (because the rest of the fight was very close). If you see the criteria above, a KO or close bid is the most important criteria (other than a KO or an actual bid).
Lee was watching the fight closely. She wasn’t the type to add salt to Zamboanga’s wounds, however, despite their history of gossip.
“That’s why it’s important to always finish your opponent and never leave him in the hands of the judges,” Lee wrote on Instagram.
Interestingly, that was almost the exact quote from Zamboanga, who is hopeful that a crack in her belt always presents itself to her.
Zamboanga is expected to return immediately to Thailand, his current home ground, and undergo mandatory quarantine. But isolation is furthest from his mind.
“I’m going to spend my forties eating a lot of donuts,” she said.
When asked how soon she expects to be back in the ONE circle, the Quezon City native replied, “tomorrow”.
Earlier in the evening, Filipino American Jackie Buntan claimed her third consecutive victory in Muay Thai at the expense of Daniela Lopez.
Meanwhile, Xiong Jing Nan retained her strawweight title with a one-sided performance against repeatedly world champion jiujitsu Michelle Nicolini.
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