KUCHING: Rising star Muhammad Johan Ghazali Zulfikar continued to show his promise at this year’s Youth World Muaythai Championships in Antalya, Turkey which ended yesterday.
The SMK St Thomas student, who will turn 13 next month, fought his way into the Junior Aged 12-13 Boys 44kg final in the tournament held under the purview of the International Federation of Muaythai Associations (IFMA).
Johan, whose nickname is ‘Jojo’, staged a gritty performance in Saturday night’s showdown against Viacheslav Evsiukov of Russia who capitalised on his strength and experience to win.
Finishing joint third were Amir Abbas Asghari (Iran) and Ismail Khassiyev (Kazakhstan).
No one was more proud of Johan’s achievement than his mother Jennana Johnson.
“I think Russia is strong – they dominated the tournament. Jojo could have fought better (but) it just wasn’t his day.
“Next year, Inshaa Allah, he’ll win gold,” said the mother of four when contacted yesterday.
Jojo, who is Malaysian youth muaythai champion for three consecutive years since 2017, was also the bronze medallist at the IFMA Youth Championships in Bangkok in the past two years.
After the Antalya meet, he will head for a tournament in Bangkok to be staged at the famous Lumpini Stadium on Oct 15.
“It will be a 45kg bout, but I have no idea whom he will fight with. It will be his first time going to the Lumpini. He is very excited, of course,” said Johnson, whose two other sons are also into muaythai.
Elias, aged 17, will be sitting for his SPM examinations this year, so he’s taking a break.
Mikail, 10, will represent Sarawak for the national championships at Bukit Jalil from Oct 11 to 13.
Johnson, 40, and husband Zulfikar Mohd Ghazali, 43, have been active in muaythai since they were young.
Johan started to train seriously four years ago and is currently with coaches Addy (A Karadech) and Joy (Samai Intasri) under SS Fighters.
“I would like to give a big thank you to the coaches and Mr Sulaiman Salleh of SS Fighters, Sarawak Muaythai Association, Muaythai Malaysia, and everyone who have supported Jojo’s muaythai journey these past few years.
“This Turkey trip wouldn’t have been possible without the support,” Johnson said.
The IFMA Youth World Muaythai Championships 2019 attracted 1,300 participants representing 75 countries.
It was announced yesterday that Malaysia will host next year’s tournament.