DERRY KICKBOXER Brian Houston believes the timing is perfect to challenge for a shot at the ISKA professional world super heavyweight title next month.
The 21 year-old Creggan man will travel to Belgium on Feburary 2 to challenge the reigning world 95kg Oriental Rules champion, Mamadou Keta, in his own backyard.
I’m fighting at a heavier weight while this guy is coming down a weight. He might be stronger but I’m going to be faster.Brian Houston
Billed as ‘The Battle of San Marco’, it’s set to be the biggest test of Houston’s career, but he insists it’s too good of an opportunity to turn down.
It’s a risky challenge given he’s never fought at 95kg but the heavy-handed Mayhem Martial Arts fighter is confident he can bring the prestigious world title back to Derry.
“It’s a brilliant opportunity,” said Houston. “The head of ISKA in Ireland contacted my coach and he offered it to me and I couldn’t say no.
“I’m not going there to make up the numbers. I’m going over there to win!”
Houston was crowned a world amateur kickboxing champion at just 18 years old and boasts Irish senior, Commonwealth, Five Nations and European titles on his well decorated CV - but he’s fully aware of the step up in class in the pro ranks.
The Circular Road native will need to be at his best as he faces the big-punching Belgian on his own patch. It’s also his first ever time fighting at heavyweight but he’s unfazed by the obvious dangers involved.
“It’s up to heavyweight this time but it doesn’t really matter. Once you get up over 90kg, any opponent can knock you out, so it doesn’t matter to me.
“I’m fighting at a heavier weight while this guy is coming down a weight. He might be stronger but I’m going to be faster.
“I’m not going to be stupid about it. I’m going to go in and fight smart. I’ve seen his videos and he throws big overhand rights so I’ll not do anything stupid and end up being caught. I’ll pick him off and, hopefully, finish him in the later rounds.”
Victory in the Belgian village of San Marco would edge Houston closer to his dream of competing in the world’s premier kickboxing league, ‘Glory’ which brings with it huge monetary benefits plus the opportunity of sponsorship deals.
“It doesn’t faze me at all going to Belgium. This is only the start of it. Once I win this fight, there’s many more to come. Hopefully, I can get into ‘Glory’ to fight all over the world in the light heavyweight division. This is just a stepping stone. Once I win this, it will open more and more doors for me.
“When I won my world title, I was only 18. I’m 21 now, three years down the line and I’ve matured a lot more. It is a big step up in class but it’s something I’m ready for.
“I’m a big boy so 95kg probably suits me a lot better,” he insists. “I won’t have to cut too much weight. I started training just before Christmas. I’ll be sparring for the next five weeks and I’ve been doing a lot of conditioning and strength work.
“I’ve trained all over Christmas but it will be all worth it come February 2 and, if it wasn’t for Mayhem, it wouldn’t happen.”
Meanwhile, Houston’s sparring partner at Mayhem, Eamon Deane - the current Irish ISKA champion - will travel to Lincoln in England on March 24 to take on the English champion, Ash Griffith, as the Derry club’s new year begins with a bang.