Amongst the most hardcore of fight fans, interest is growing in an extremely brutal combat sport: Lethwei. Also called Burmese bare knuckle boxing, Lethwei is far older than other combat sports like MMA, as there are records of matches taking place as far back as the third century in Myanmar.
Lethwei, nicknamed “The Art of Nine Limbs” because it includes head-butts, punches, elbows, kicks and knees, is considered one of the most violent sports in the world. Clinches, sweeps, and throws are accepted techniques as well, which makes the sport even more dangerous.
Just like combat sports fans are starting to appreciate Myanmar’s signature martial art, fighters are as well. One such fighter is Italian Thai boxer and kickboxer Samuel Toscano.
Besides punching people in the face for a living, Toscano, a Bellator kickboxing veteran, teaches science, chemistry, and biology at a high school in Italy.
“I used to work for a chemical factory but that just didn’t work for me. I need real interactions with people and teaching does the trick. Being able to help young students to learn something new is what satisfies me the most”, Toscano told BJPENN.com. “My students know about my second life. They support me, watch my matches. Some of them even make fun of me when I lose — in a friendly way, of course. I liked it, but at the same time I feel the pressure of not disappointing them.”
This Friday, Toscano will have his first Lethwei bout, but he has many Muay Thai and kickboxing bouts under his belt.
“The passion for Lethwei began last year thanks to World Lethwei Championship [WLC] and their ambassador Dave Leduc. Their marketing strategies and Leduc’s ability to reach people really hit me. Plus, back then I needed new motivations, new inputs”, Toscano recalled. “I didn’t make major adjustments to my style, though. The biggest differences are fighting bare-knuckle and throwing head butts. We can’t try those things during the sparring, for obvious reason, so that worries me a little but we will see during the match how it goes.”
The kickboxing bout Toscano had under the Bellator banner didn’t go as planned, as he lost via first-round knockout against Christian Zahe.
“If the opportunity comes, I’d gladly take it in order to avenge my loss in Bellator, but as for now I’m fully focused on Muay Thai and Lethwei,” Lombardia’s Toscano said. “The only issue [with Lethwei] is that you can find events only in Myanmar, even if I know WLC is trying to expand their business in the US and other countries. This Lethwei bout won’t be one-and-done bout. I’m working really, really hard in order to continue competing in this sport in the future, like I already do with Muay Thai.”
Samuel Toscano will face the local favorite Saw Kaung Htet in his own backyard, in front of a hostile crowd.
It will be an absolute exciting match-up to watch the European fighter Samuel Toscano taking on the local favourite Saw Kaung Htet!Who do you think will leave the mark in the ultimate proving ground?
Live on @UFCFightPass
FUSO Myanmar, Speed Energy Drink and Popular Plastic Group pic.twitter.com/9cNmSXBSZ5
— World Lethwei Championship (@WorldLethwei) January 16, 2020
“I studied my opponent, I’ve watched a lot of his matches. He’s a tough guy. [He] can fight in both stances, he’s an elite striker, and has a good chin as well. More important, though, watching his fights I noticed how he improves from fight to fight. But I’m coming fully focused and well prepared. Even if the whole crowd will chant against me, I won’t care. When I fight, my opponent is the only one I care of.”
This article first appeared on BJPENN.com on 1/28/2020.