Bokang Masunyane will return to the ONE Championship Circle on Friday, July 22, at ONE 159: De Ridder vs. Bigdash in an attempt to get back in the win column and cement his status as one of the top strawweight contenders against Hiroba Minowa.
But he was never supposed to get this far.
Bokang Masunyane: “I’m Living a Giant Life”
Masunyane has had many obstacles to overcome, and the 5’1″ has managed to climb over them all to get to the sport’s global stage.
“I remember at school one of my teachers, he was also the vice-principal, Mr. Fencer. A few times, he actually said to me he’d love to write a book about the story of my life and call it ‘Little Giant’ before I even started fighting or anything, back when I just wrestled,” recalled Masunyane.
“He was inspired by my life story. And he told me that one day, he’d like to write a book about that.
The “Little” portion of the nickname was obvious. But the “Giant” part of the nickname is all about his heart. The heart that has allowed him to ascend to the top of the sport and become a beacon for others who can point to him as an example of what is possible.
“I’m not supposed to be at ONE Championship. I’m not supposed to be at the highest level. I’m not supposed to be able to live as a young, independent man. I’ve been in a space where there was no hope for my future. And honestly, I never thought as a young kid I would have ended up in the place where I am today,” said the South African.
“Life has given me an opportunity to become the best I can possibly be. And I believe that’s where the ‘Giant’ comes. The ‘Giant’ comes within the heart, within the greater life that I’m living, the great life that God has granted me, the opportunity that God has granted me. So I believe that ‘Giant’ comes out of that greatness that I’ve got to experience. If you look at where I come from, I’m not supposed to be having this.”
“I believe I’m one of the lucky few individuals in South Africa. Just because there’s so many people that have been in situations like mine, or even worse than mine, and they’re not lucky enough to be at the space that I am.”
“And I’m grateful for that, and I believe that’s where the ‘Giant’ comes in. I come from a little world, but I’m living a giant life.”
Masunyane’s success has already inspired the next generation. The South African star receives messages from bullied kids who want to emulate his path into martial arts.
That inspiration is all a part of “Little Giant’s” ultimate plan.
“So for me, that’s the goal. And not just to inspire people that are being stigmatized for their body or size. For me, it’s to inspire the rest of the world, starting with my country first,” said Masunyane.
“If I can inspire my country, my people, I’ll be very happy and represent my country at the highest level. This is one of the biggest martial arts organizations that I [can] fight in, and the fact that I’m in the top three, it’s actually amazing.”
“I want the big organizations to see me and be like, ‘Yeah, because of this guy, we want to look for fighters in Africa, we want to find fighters in South Africa,’ and vice versa. I want fighters from South Africa or from Africa to be like, ‘Yeah, because of this guy, I worked hard to be in the biggest organization or to even become a World Champion.'”
His next opportunity to inspire the next wave of African talent will come on July 22 at ONE 159.
A victory over Minowa will keep Masunyane on the hunt for the ONE Strawweight World Championship and move him one step closer to legendary status as a hero for all who were told they were not good enough.
ONE 159 airs live and free at 6 a.m. EST/3 a.m. PST on watch.onefc.com.