The famous fighting street in Bangkok, where men gather to brawl, throwdown, and box, was where Senad Gashi eased into his training camp for his upcoming WBC Interim title bout against Kevin Lerena several weeks ago.
It was the perfect place for the Kosova-born fighter to mix with a range of international opponents, all there to soak up the unique atmosphere that surrounds the steamy streets on this famous strip.
Gashi has no illusions about the task at hand. Asked his impression of Lerena, he says simply, “powerhouse”.
Gashi himself is no shrinking violet. “I’m explosive, left-handed and I punch very hard with both hands,” he said. His record confirms as much: 26 stoppages in 27 fights points to a man who doesn’t hang about.
Little has come easy for Gashi since his family fled Kosova during the war. As refugees in Germany, they re-started their lives with nothing.
After watching a Rocky movie, Gashi resolved to do the same. He wanted to be successful so that he could support his family, not least his mother and father, whom he calls his hero. “He supported me all my life.”
Gashi took up boxing in Germany, won several Albanian national titles and turned professional in 2014. Having mixed with the likes of Derek Chisora and Carlos Takam, he’s been at the sharp end of several gruelling fights, although he says his toughest opponent remains himself.
“The toughest is always me, the man in the mirror,” he says wistfully. His motivation, in turn, comes from his desire to “be better than yesterday”. If he does so, he reckons, he can take care of his family.
Now back in training camp in Germany – he arrives in SA on November 20 – Gashi insists he has a plan to derail Lerena at Emperors Palace on November 25.
“He has good power in his left hand, I know that. But he never had a long amateur career and in the later rounds this will expose his weaknesses. You box for 10-15 years, it becomes part of your consciousness. I’m planning to win.”
It’s a habit Gashi has become used to with his past six fights yielding as many wins, admittedly none of the opponents the class of Lerena, who is always well conditioned and fights busy. Gashi won’t have to go looking for him and, being a southpaw too, has few concerns about the challenges posed by left handers.
It points to a fascinating fight between two big men with a big point to prove. Lerena may be favourite, but Gashi will be betting on himself.