NEW YORK–The storied history of Madison Square Garden is a deeply layered one. And many of its chapters are filled with some of the greatest heavyweight boxing bouts of all time: “The Fight of the Century” between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier, Joe Louis vs. Rocky Marciano, and Lennox Lewis vs. Evander Holyfield to name a few.
GLORY is bringing kickboxing to “The Big Apple” later tonight with GLORY 43 at the Theater at Madison Square Garden, and Benjamin Adegbuyi (28-4), the No.1-ranked contender at heavyweight, is in awe of New York fight history and anxious to make his mark here.
“Man, it’s crazy, you know?” said Adegbuyi, who faces Guto Inocente in the main event, “because just me being here in MSG it’s an honor. Let’s say, 10 years ago, I was not fighting professional. So before me a lot of great fighters fought here like Muhammad Ali, and Mike Tyson. It’s just an honor to be here. It’s exciting.
“You can’t not be a fan of Muhammad Ali, Mike Tyson, Joe Frazier, and all the people that fought here. It’s exciting. I can’t wait until Friday night to put on a great show.”
Adegbuyi, 32, has been on a tear as of late, winning six straight fights, including the GLORY 35 “Contender” tournament, which normally earns the winner an automatic title shot. However, Adegbuyi has fought for the title twice, losing both times to current champion Rico Verhoeven, who he now trains with. So, the promotion has been putting off the trilogy fight the last several months.
That presents a unique challenge for the Transylvania-born kickboxer because while he waits for the coveted third title shot, he must continue to hold on to his spot as the No.1-ranked contender in the division.
“Mr. Gentleman” says he’s up for the challenge.
“Man, it’s in my genes,” he said. “I don’t like to lose. I like to be No.1. I want to be the champion. But now GLORY decided different. But every time I have to fight I have to prove that I’m there for a reason. I fought my way up to there, so when Guto comes–or anybody else–I have to just show them that it’s hard to get there.”
What challenges does Inocente, 4-1 in GLORY, present to him?
“I respect him as a fighter,” said Adebguyi. “He is an unorthodox fighter. He has experience. I can’t underestimate him. I have to be very sharp and very focused.”
Inocente lost his last fight at GLORY 39 to Jamal Ben Saddik and the Brazilian heavyweight looked sluggish at times in the three decision victories prior to the loss. Adegbuyi gave his assessment on why that is.
“I think he is not a natural heavyweight,” said Adegbuyi, who is now 8-2 in GLORY. “He’s big. He’s 256 [pounds], more than me now. But before [he was fighting at] 95kg. I was always a heavyweight. So, I think the extra pounds on him affect his movement and everything. But, you know, he’s still sharp. He still has his game. I have to be focused.”
Adegbuyi just completed his third fight camp under renowned trainer Dennis Krauweel at Superpro Sportcenter. The results have been positive and obvious to see in the No.1-ranked contender’s most recent performances.
“It’s a great camp,” said Adegbuyi, who will have family in New York to watch his fight. Although his wife Alanna and their son Patrick will not be in attendance. “When you train with the best you become better. Dennis is a top trainer, you know?”
Early on in his kickboxing career, Adegbuyi was fighting over the 260-pound mark, but now that he’s fighting in the 250s, he’s been looking slimmer and trimmer. Seeing him in person ahead of GLORY 43, he looks to be in peak physical shape. So Does Adegbuyi feel he’s in the best shape of his professional career now?
“I think so,” he said. “I think I can move better. I can be sharper at this weight. I feel good and you will see Friday night.”
Should he prevail on Friday night, will he be calling for a title shot?
“I always want a shot,” he said. “Last year I won the contender tournament. Whenever GLORY is ready, I’m ready.”
As for a third potential showdown with Verhoeven, Adegbuyi said, “It’s really a professional way of treating things. We actually don’t think about the day when we have to fight. We are just professional. We enjoy, we train, we help each other. When we have to fight, then we start thinking about what to do.”
For now, though, he’s just thinking about fighting at “The World’s Most Famous Arena” and turning in a great performance for the GLORY fans.
“Exactly. I’m just thinking about fighting Guto and putting on a show. When you fight at MSG you have to put on a show. I’m looking forward to it.”