Chicago, Illinois was the scene of a successful debut for Thailand-based French welterweight Antoine Pinto (131-36-1) earlier this year as he took a decision win over local favorite Richard Abraham.
Now he’s hoping a second appearance in ‘Chi-town’ will be equally fortunate as he prepares to enter the Welterweight Contender Tournament at GLORY 44 CHICAGO later this month.
The tournament is a four-man affair and in the semi-final stage Pinto is matched with Casey Greene (5-7) of Los Angeles, who started his GLORY career as a middleweight but is now down at welterweight and still seeking his first win at 170lbs.
“Casey is quite big from what I have seen and his stats suggest he’s going to be heavier and bigger than me in the ring, but that’s about all he has, to be honest,” shrugs Pinto.
“I don’t see anything in him to be worried about. I saw him posting on social media about how he will win this tournament and go forward for a title shot and I am like, come on man, you have more losses than wins, be realistic.
“I see him like a free ticket to the final for me. Not that I am overlooking him - he is big and he has some power. I don’t want to pick up too many injuries before the final so I will be trying to take him out as soon as possible if I can.
“I don't think he has a good chin and if I see the opening, 100% I am going after it, I will try and take him out. I don't think he is experienced enough or has faced enough good guys to be able to protect himself when I go in to hurt him.”
Pinto, born in France but raised largely in Thailand due to his family relocating there when he was young, is a Muay Thai stylist since his pre-teen years. With kickboxing being scored differently and placing more value on boxing than Muay Thai does, he’s been altering his training of late.
“I've been working hard on my boxing for over a year now, I’ve got a really good boxing coach, a former champion,” he says.
“You didn't see much boxing from me in the fight with Abraham but that was because I didn't really need it. I had the fight at the distance I wanted it and was able to use kicks. There was no point in me closing distance and looking to box because it would be putting myself in unnecessary danger.
“But in this fight with Greene it will be different. I will take more risks if it means I can finish the fight, because that way I can get to the final quicker.”
In the tournament’s other semi-final match, Karim Benmansour (48-7-2) meets Harut Grigorian (44-11), who was last seen on the receiving end of a nasty and controversial knockout blow from Murthel Groenhart, who himself will headline GLORY 44 CHICAGO in a title challenge against Cedric Doumbé.
“Benmansour and Harut are both tough, that’s going to be a hard fight. Harut is a really heavy puncher with a lot of experience but i don't know if he will be able to land on Benmansour, who is so evasive,” muses Pinto.
“If Harut can land on him he can win, but Benmansour has such an unorthodox style, that’s going to be difficult. And outside of punching and forward pressure, Harut doesn't really have anything. He's not a varied guy.
“Harut isn’t the kind of guy I would have to fear. I don't fold under pressure and I have more tools than him. He’s maybe better suited to kickboxing scoring than I am but technically he has nothing for me to worry about. Benmansour is much more technical than Harut but I feel like he is not as technical as me.
“Either way, whoever I meet in the final, it’s going to be fun. Though I am surprised to see Harut back in the ring again so soon after a knockout like that. I think he should have taken a long time off. He’s usually very tough but he could be more susceptible to another knockout right now. But that’s his decision.”
There is a 12-hour time difference between Thailand and Chicago, so Pinto is currently switching his sleeping schedule around so that he is on Chicago time between now and arriving in the US for the tournament.
For him, that kind of detail reflects the thoroughness of his preparations. He has won tournaments before, including 8-man versions, and he feels that he has built himself a platform for success. His focus now is on victory and then what comes afterwards.
“For winning the tournament? Yeah, I want the title shot, of course,” he says, before offering his opinion on who he thinks will take the win in the welterweight title fight which headlines GLORY 44 CHICAGO.
“I think Cedric Doumbé has the edge over Murthel Groenhart. He’s the guy I will be challenging. He’s a really smart fighter and he is still coming up, he’s only getting better, whereas Murthel has been fighting the same way for years,” he says.
“Murthel will lose to Doumbé the same way Nieky Holzken did. To be honest, the only guy that I see beating Cedric Doumbé is me.”
GLORY 44 Chicago will be carried live on ESPN3 at 11 p.m. ET / 8 p.m. PT on Friday, Aug. 25.
Tickets for GLORY 44 Chicago and GLORY 44 SuperFight Series are on sale now, available for online purchase at searscentre.com and at the Sears Centre Arena box office.