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"If you work hard you can do anything" - How world champion Joseph Lasiri went from 0-4 to so much more

Joseph Lasiri makes an impact with an impressive victory at ONE 157
Joseph Lasiri makes an impact with an impressive victory at ONE 157
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Timothy Wheaton

Joseph Lasiri has risen to the apex of the Muay Thai world, and it was not an easy rise. One of the best strikers on earth today captured the ONE Strawweight Muay Thai World Champion. However, it was a challenging path to get this far.

Not only did Lasiri struggle with consecutive losses in Muay Thai, but also with school, football, life, and family. His story is of resilience, never giving up, and overcoming doubts.

The Italian-Moroccan fighter may be a ONE Championship titleholder today, but Joseph Lasiri has been counted out for much of his life. Speaking to ONE Championship, Lasiri brought up his resilience:

“Nobody showed me how to be resilient, or the importance of resilience. I think resilience and heart are God’s gifts and are innate in me.”

With four siblings in northern Italy, his parents had to work constantly to provide for their family. Lasiri explained that life may have been difficult, but his parents had a good heart.

Lasiri was a troublesome child and struggled to focus in school. He was argumentative, distracting, and overly competitive. Though he may have struggled in school, he found a love of sport.

Football is where he channeled all of his passion and emotion. Unfortunately, he was quickly doubted in this sport for simply being too small in stature. Being told that he was unable to do anything lit a fire in him. He pushed even harder in his next sport.

“I started martial arts after getting kicked out of my football team for being too small – I was a lot smaller than all of the other kids. I had a vendetta about being excluded from football because they told me that I couldn’t do something,” Lasiri told ONE Championship.

Being cast aside in school and now football, he was even more determined to succeed than before. He joined the art of 8 limbs, Muay Thai, and fell in love and dedicated himself to this sport. Starting at 17, he put everything he had into this sport until he had to support his family.

Due to economic issues, many families in Italy began to struggle. Lasiri sacrificed his progress and passion to ensure his family would be taken care of. He moved to London, where he barely spoke English, and took up work there to provide for his family back home.

“Living and working abroad is not easy at all. You are confronted with many uncomfortable experiences, such as being lonely, isolated and facing language barriers. For this reason, this experience was not perfect, but I learned much more to overcome adversity and stand back up every time I failed. Facing your fears is an opportunity to start from scratch and get stronger than before,” said Lasiri.

Fortunately, he was still able to train Muay Thai while he was living there. Working full-time, training, and providing for his family, while struggling with the language and loneliness taught Lasiri a lot about resilience and strength.

He returned home to Italy and began to blaze through the Muay Thai world. He quickly picked up multiple national titles for Muay Thai in Italy, more titles in European championships, and captured the WBC Muay Thai World championship before signing with ONE Championship.

The Italian fighter was incredibly promising and would even fight in ONE Championship's very first Muay Thai fight. However, his struggles were only beginning.

“Facing many difficult situations in life makes you stronger. I am able to accept and adapt to any situation. This doesn’t mean I don’t feel the intensity of the events or problems, it just means I always try to find a good way to deal with it. It’s exactly the same in martial arts – what makes you a great fighter is to have the power to face stronger opponents and find a way to put them in difficulty,” said Lasiri.

Joseph Lasiri in ONE Championship

In four Muay Thai bouts in 12 months, he would lose all four. However, he faced legends such as Sam-A Gaiyanghadao, Singtongnoi Por.Telakun, and a former champion in Jonathan Haggerty. Lasiri got frustrated without a victory in the organization.

He defeated hometown hero and future champion Hiroki Akimoto in Tokyo, Japan before dropping another bout to Mongkolpetch Petchyindee Academy. At this point, he knew he had to make a change. The Italian striker would change weight classes and begin working with Angelo Valente of Kick And Punch Milano.

"The new division helped me a lot from the mental point of view. Having the opportunity to compete in a heavier division against elite athletes and champions gave me an incredible mental confidence to fight in the new division. It was an incredible opportunity to get moved to my [more natural] weight division, and I took the chance and exploited it with two wins,” said Joseph Lasiri.

From switching camps and weight divisions, Joseph Lasiri would now win two out of his next three bouts, a marked improvement. One of these wins was a first-round knockout of Asahi Shinagawa, which earned him a title shot.

Check out Lasiri's win over Shinagawa below:

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At ONE 157, Joseph Lasiri was to face the toughest test of his career. He had 42 wins and 12 losses to his record and was scheduled to face reigning champion Prajanchai P.K. Saenchai, who held 338 wins and 52 losses in his professional career starting at age 14.

Prajanchai held multiple titles in stadiums in Thailand, the ONE Championship title, among others. The fighter is an expert in the striking arts after spending a lifetime in the sport.

The combat sports world doubted Joseph Lasiri. However, coming into the title fight, Lasiri brought up big plans. Even being so bold as to say he wanted to push the champion so hard that Prajanchai would quit. Something that has never happened before in nearly 400 bouts.

“My focus will be to make Prajanchai quit, mentally. I will not focus on his boxing skills, but I will focus on imposing a super-high rhythm that even a champion like Prajanchai cannot bear," said Joseph Lasiri.

He had very few supporters going into this fight as most pundits assumed he could not stand in front of a great fighter such as Prajanchai. Even the champion Prajanchai gave him little respect and said that he should have little to worry about in the fight.

From the opening bell of round one, it was clear this was the new Joseph Lasiri. He pushed champion Prajanchai to land well and stay aggressive. He refused to take the stool between rounds one and two and had a huge smile.

Early in round two, it was a closely contested bout, which meant Joseph Lasiri had already performed better than most people expected. At the midpoint of the round, Lasiri landed an uppercut which changed the tone of the fight. No longer closely contested, Lasiri began to dominate.

"The Hurricane" is putting it on Prajanchai! 🌪️#ONE157 | #ONEChampionship | Watch.ONEFC.com https://t.co/eq8pceCuUQ

Prajanchai was bloodied and retreating. Joseph Lasiri began to land more strikes on his opponent, and his confidence began to grow. The Italian challenger landed better and more strikes in round three as well. It was clear that he was in control and hurting his opponent.

After a dominant round three for Lasiri, the champion took enough. His corner implored him not to, and the officials were confused about what was happening. But Lasiri pushed Prajanchai to quit. Between rounds three and four of their championship match, Prajanchai gave up his title on the stool. Shockingly, Lasiri forced the champion to quit.

Watch Lasiri celebrate his title win below:

WHAT AN UPSET! 😱Joseph Lasiri 🇮🇹 claims the ONE Strawweight Muay Thai World Title with a SHOCKING third-round TKO of Prajanchai PK.Saenchai 👑#ONE157 | #ONEChampionship | Watch.ONEFC.com https://t.co/PDwV74XjP9

Joseph Lasiri, unable to focus on school, too small for football, struggled to support his family, could scarcely get a win in ONE, has now pushed the Thai champion to quit and give up his title on the stool. He has proved to doubters and his opponent truly who is the best striker. Prajanchai is no longer the champion. Joseph Lasiri is the new king.

He held the title with a massive smile, cheering and singing with his team. In the post-fight press conference, he said:

"Thay only say, 'Joseph Lasiri cannot fight Prajanchai.' I know before the interview. I know that people think about this... My goal was to come here and prove myself and to other people that if you work hard you can do anything. Because of your emotion and personality."

Edited by Matt Boone
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