Now that 2016 is in the books, Combat Press is taking a look back at the best that the sport of kickboxing had to offer. Over the next few weeks, Combat Press will announce its award winners in multiple categories, covering everything from the action in the ring to the biggest stories surrounding the sport.
The fighter who proved his ability on the highest stages more than any other relative unknown was the unheralded Muay Thai to kickboxing convert Superbon Banchamek, also known as “Superball.” The 26-year-old Thai native has been nearly unbeatable since making his transition to kickboxing and primarily Kunlun Fight.
Superbon suffered his only loss since the end of 2013 in his first fight of the year. He fell short against Sittichai in the semifinals of the 2015 Kunlun Fight 70-kilogram tournament at Kunlun Fight 37. Sittichai knocked out Superbon in the first round on his way to becoming the pound-for-pound best in the world.
The loss would become a reset point for Superbon. After winning 11 straight fights leading up to the bout, Superbon immediately restarted his winning streak with a victory over Phuket Top Team’s Al Mansouri at Kunlun Fight 38. He qualified for the 2016 70-kilogram tournament with two big knockout victories in one night over Zhang Chunyu and Martin Gano at Kunlun Fight 40. After making it to the final four of the 2015 tournament, the expectations for Superbon’s tournament run were once again high.
Superbon made a return to Muay Thai in the form of the F.M.A. World Muay Thai Championships 2016 in Jonkoping, Sweden. The event, run by the International Federation of Muay Thai Amateur, featured fighters with both pro and amateur experience. Superbon made easy work of fellow Kunlun fight veteran Andrei Kulebin, Ukrainian Stomatov Oleksandr and Canadian Muay Thai fighter Sean Kearney over the course of the week-long event.
The rising star made his return to kickboxing against Khayal Dzhaniev, one of the last men to defeat his training partner, Buakaw. Superbon made quick work of Dzhaniev with a series of head kicks in the first round at Kunlun Fight 48. The win moved him into the quarterfinals of the Kunlun Fight 64-man tournament against the top-ranked fighter in the world, Sittichai, the man who handed him his only loss in his past 20 fights.
Superbon battled Sittichai in a back-and-forth fight at the highest level in China at Kunlun Fight 53. Superbon’s boxing ability earned him the close decision victory and his spot in the final four for the second year in a row. Superbon avenged his loss against the fighter who won the Combat Press 2015 Kickboxer of the Year to garner the attention of kickboxing fans, especially the Chinese fans as the market continues to grow exponentially in the region.
Superbon finished the year on top of the Chinese kickboxing scene after picking up the biggest win of his career. He furthered the hype when he toppled Cedric Manhoef and knocked out Jomthong Chuwattana on the first day of 2017 at Kunlun Fight 56. Superbon has now won 21 of his past 22 fights, and his stock is higher than it has ever been. Superbon is now one of the top foreign fighters competing in the promotion. He should be given more opportunities for big fights as he continues to grow his star in China alongside Buakaw, his training partner and one of the world’s most popular fighters.
Other finalists: Cédric Doumbé, Anatoly Moiseev, Hideaki Yamazaki, Tenshin Nasukawa, Matt Embree, Guto Inocente, and Artem Vakhitov
Make sure you check out the rest of the Combat Press 2016 Kickboxing Award winners.