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Rejuvenated kickboxer restarts career after layoff


Former world champion kickboxer Shawn Yarborough knew he was too good to be struggling the way he was inside the ring.

Physically, he felt fine. He was in as good of shape as ever and his work ethic was never in question.

Something just wasn’t right.

Yarborough had gone from one of the best in the world to a 4-4 stretch in which he was going through stretches of being too passive inside the ring and losing decisions against opponents to which he still believes he was superior.

“It got to a point where I’ve been doing this all these years and who is this guy I’m fighting?” Yarborough said after a training session at One Kick’s Gym in Las Vegas last week. “Not to disrespect an opponent or anything, it’s just like, ‘This fight does nothing for me as far as ranking and all of that. What am I shooting for?’ ”

He really couldn’t answer the question, so Yarborough stepped away for a while. He feels rejuvenated now and is ready to compete for the first time in nearly two years on the Kickboxing Empire card at Planet Hollywood tonight.

Yarborough feels the landscape of the sport has changed with more television coverage and media exposure, so there is some light at the end of the tunnel.

He’ll be fighting for the new International Kickboxing Association Light Cruiserweight Intercontinental Championship against Pavel Turuk, who was one of the fighters to defeat Yarborough during his slide.

Fighting “is so mental. If your head is not totally where it’s supposed to be, if you’re somewhere else for a split second, it can cost you a fight. Mentally, it just wasn’t there,” he said. “I think I needed a break to get the hunger back.”

Now he wants to get a belt back. Yarborough was the World Boxing Council Muay Thai champion until he was stripped of the title in 2011. He said the organization was upset he took a fight for another promotion even though he didn’t have an exclusive deal.

The ordeal had a great deal to do with his mental slump. He said he found out when one of the students he trained told him he had read the news on the internet.

“They stripped my belt from me. That kind of stuff messed with my head. Nobody beat me for my belt and you’re just going to take it away from me because I took another fight, but I’m not under contract with you,” he said. “I felt like everybody was against me. It’s hard.”

Yarborough, 38, isn’t sure how long he wants to keep fighting. He said it will depend on how he fares and how quickly he can get the major fights he desires.

He is sure that he is ready to get in the ring tonight, though.

“I know this feeling that I have. I’m ready to scrap. I’m ready to do this. It’s not like a routine thing. I’m ready to go and I know it,” he said. “People in the gym keep telling me, ‘Don’t forget how good you are. You’re a talented dude.’ I just hit a rough patch. That happens to fighters.”

The card, which is headlined by an IKA heavyweight championship bout between Hicham Achalhi and Luis Tavares, begins at 7 p.m.

Contact reporter Adam Hill at ahill@reviewjournal.com or 702-224-5509. Follow him on Twitter: @adamhilllvrj.

GUSTAFSSON MOVES ON FROM JONES WITH LONDON MAIN EVENT

Alexander Gustafsson thought he had done enough to take the Ultimate Fighting Championship light heavyweight title from Jon Jones in September.

When Jones was declared the winner by the judges, Gustafsson believed he had at least done enough to get another shot at the belt.

Instead of a rematch, Gustafsson will try to make his case for another title shot when he fights Jimi Manuwa tonight in the main event of UFC Fight Night 37 in London.

The loss to Jones snapped a six-fight winning streak and was just Gustafsson’s second defeat in 17 professional bouts. He will look to start a new winning streak against Manuwa, a 14-0 British fighter who has never been taken the distance.

A lightweight bout between contenders Michael Johnson and Melvin Guillard is also on the card. Johnson has looked rejuvenated in winning two consecutive fights after back-to-back losses.

Also, Brad Pickett makes his flyweight debut against Neil Seery, and welterweight prospect Gunnar Nelson fights Omari Akhmedov. The event airs exclusively on the UFC’s Fight Pass streaming service, beginning live at 9:30 a.m.

 

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