There might not be a better way to launch the Lion Fight 37 main card than with a showdown between top prospects culminating their rivalry with a trilogy bout.
That’s the case as Jafar Toshev takes on Geoffrey Then in a lightweight clash that gets the world-class Muay Thai event underway on Friday, July 28 at Foxwoods Resort Casino in Mashantucket, Connecticut. Their bout – would certainly qualifies as a potential show-stealer – leads off the main card airing live on AXS TV Fights in the United States, and on Fight Network throughout Canada, Europe, Africa, and the Middle East.
The two young and exciting fighters split their previous two bouts in the amateur ranks. Three long years in the making, the pair will square off again both holding 1-0 records as pros.
In the midst of preparing for their bout, both took some time to look back and forward on their rivalry and where they are headed under the Lion Fight banner.
Q: Jafar might have a slight advantage since he has fought with Lion Fight before and dealt with the nerves of being on TV. It was also a highly successful debut with a spectacular knockout. How did you feel coming away from your debut?
JT: I waited so long for the opportunity to fight on Lion Fight. I was supposed to fight as an amateur on a couple of other occasions but either I had to pull out or he pulled out. I started to believe that the opportunity would not come. The knockout was great. Funny thing, my coach was telling me in over 30 amateur matches I never got a knockout and my first pro fight I got one. I wasn’t really nervous. All through my amateur career, Kru Miguel made sure that I always fought the toughest guys in my division. He believed that if I was going to make a career of this I had to take the tough fights as an amateur to prepare me for pro. No cherry-picking.
Q: Geoffrey, you now have the opportunity to make your pro debut on the biggest stage in Muay Thai. How are you approaching the event?
GT: I’m beyond excited. Not only is this on Lion Fight which has been a dream come true for me, but it’s against Jafar – someone who I’ve been wanting to get back in the ring with for quite some time now. That it is on TV makes it that much more exciting for me.
Q: Jafar, what is your take on the first two fights against Geoffrey?
JT: The first fight, I was a little nervous. I was still getting acclimated to fighting in New York. I wasn’t aggressive enough and he dictated the pace of the fight. The fight was pretty close, but the better man won that day and it was Geoffrey. The second fight, I was motivated mostly for two reasons. One being that the first fight was really close and I felt I could beat him. The second was that he was trash-talking on social media about how I would be an easy fight. That made me angry and I used that anger to push myself even harder. I never trash-talk my opponents on social media. I let my fighting do all the talking. The third fight is going to be amazing. We are both pros. I’ve felt what he’s got, he’s felt what I’ve got. We have a mutual respect for one another and now we get the rubber match. I’m excited for this fight for sure.
Q: Your turn, Geoffrey. Let’s get your perspective on the previous two fights against Jafar?
GT: The first one was in 2012 and I honestly don’t remember much. I swept him a couple times, kept the pressure on him, and won the fight. Our second fight was my first time fighting a five-round fight and I took the fight with two weeks’ notice, so I was a little worried about my conditioning leading up to the fight. I came out slow in the first two rounds. By the third round, Jafar was slowing down and I was starting to turn up. He won the first two rounds. It was a close round third, but he cut me with an elbow. I have a pretty scar above my right eyebrow because of it, which won him that round. I won Rounds 4 and 5. I’m pumped up. Jafar is a cool dude. I respect him and his style. I think we make for an exciting fight and I’m looking to repay him for this pretty scar I have now.
Q: So guys, what would winning the trilogy mean to you? Looking ahead, Lion Fight is determined to find the best American stars in Muay Thai along with bringing top-tier international talent as well.
JT: Two fights is way too early to think about being the next big star. This division is stacked with really good fighters, so I take one fight at a time. If it puts me on track then it puts me on track.
GT: I’m not sure how the rankings work and where beating Jafar will put me, but I’m only getting better and I’m ready and excited for the step up in competition.
The trilogy bout between Toshev and Then is part of the Lion Fight 37 card topped by a pair of title fights. In the main event, two-division champion “Smokin” Jo Nattawut puts his super welterweight belt on the line against legendary 400-fight Thai combatant Petchtanong Banchamek. The co-main event will see the crowning of Lion Fight’s first-ever cruiserweight champion as unbeaten rivals Chip “The Surgeon” Moraza-Pollard collides with Paul “The Reaper” Banasiak.
Tickets for Lion Fight 37 are available at https://www.foxwoods.com/Lion-Fight/.
Lion Fight 37 airs live on AXS TV Fights and Fight Network beginning at 9 p.m. ET / 6 p.m. PT.