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Schilt, Aerts & Slowinski Shine in Amsterdam
By Monty DiPietro
AMSTERDAM, June 23, 2007 -- Dutch fighters Semmy Schilt and Peter Aerts and Aussie Paul Slowinski were the big winners on a big night at the K-1 World Grand Prix '07 in Amsterdam.

Held at the sold-out Amsterdam Arena, the 18-bout extravaganza featured a Super Heavyweight Title match, a trio of Superfights and a special K-1 Kids match, as well as an eight-man elimination tournament to advance a fighter to this year's K-1 WGP Final Elimination. Undercard action included mixed martial arts and K-1 bouts alike, with DJs and dancers providing entertainment between bouts.

The Main Event was the Super Heavyweight Title Match between Semmy Schilt of Holland and Mighty Mo of the United States. The over 100kg/220lbs weight class was introduced this year, and Schilt claimed the belt in March with a KO victory over Ray Sefo. A no-nonsense slugger, Mo was upbeat regarding his chances here, boasting at the pre-event press conference, "I have a big punch to go with Semmy's big size!"

Mo managed a few promising swipes at Schilt in the first but these were ably blocked. Schilt's strategy meanwhile was to check Mo's advances with low kicks, and this proved effective. When the distance did close the two ended up in the clinch too often -- the referee thrice calling time to implore the fighters to mix it up more. Schilt threw occasional low kicks as Mo continually circled, and as the bout wore on the American seemed less and less inclined to approach.

In the third Schilt was comfortably ahead and opened up some, throwing a couple of high kicks and making contact with a spinning back kick that stung Mo, whose relative lack of aggression made him an easy target. The Dutch behemoth won all three rounds to retain the Belt.

"I am very happy to defend my title," said Schilt in his post-fight interview. "I thought Mo would do more, and I heard he said afterward that his leg was not 100%, but then again every time I beat someone I hear things like that. As for me, I believe in my abilities, and I will fight anyone anywhere!"

Holland loves Peter Aerts. Soft-spoken outside the ring but lethal when the bell sounds, Aerts was the first Dutch fighter to win the WGP (he went on to claim the title three times), and the only fighter to compete in every WGP Final since K-1's inception.

In a much-anticipated Superfight, Aerts faced Bob Sapp of the United States, who last year, right here at the Amsterdam Arena, infamously went AWOL just minutes before his Main Event bout with Ernesto Hoost.

It was clear from the whistles and boos during Sapp's ring entrance and the standing ovation afforded Aerts that the crowd wanted a decisive win from their favorite son. They got the result they wanted, but it went down too quickly to be savored: 1. Sapp bulldozes forward, apparently wanting to bowl Aerts down. 2. Aerts meets him with a knee to the sternum, Sapp falls in pain. 3. The End.

"I'm sorry for such a short fight," Aerts told the crowd from center ring. "Next time, I hope I'll have a real opponent!"

In the card's first Superfight, Dutch kickboxer Melvin Manhoef stepped in against Ruslan Karaev of Russia. Manhoef must have eaten his stroupwafels with extra syrup this morning, because he showed a superabundance of energy, wasting no time closing in and attacking his opponent. It was a Manhoef left hook to the chin at just 31 seconds that did the job, knocking Karaev out cold.

Frenchman Nicolas Vermont's was a man with a mission -- intent on revenging his friend Jerome LeBanner's loss this March against Junichi Sawayashiki of Japan. In the first round of this Superfight Vermont tried a bit of everything -- low and high kicks, straight punches and knees -- but was stymied by Sawayashiki's sound blocking and positioning. In the second it was Sawayashiki who started in with tight combinations, peppering Vermont's left leg with low kicks to force the Frenchman to take a standing count. After resumption Sawayashiki simply went for the same leg to get a second down, then a third for victory.

The eight-man Europe GP elimination tournament kicked off with Bjorn Bregy of Switzerland and Brecht Wallis of Belgium. Bregy won the tournament last year, and started here in fine style, deftly planting a left hook the head to score a down, then laying in with the fists on his sluggish opponent to finish the first round in control. Wallis moved forward in the second but could not sustain attacks, while Bregy picked his spots with straight punches and knees. The third slowed down some, Wallis stepping in but telegraphing his attacks, Bregy better on counters. A unanimous decision and trip to the semis for the Swiss fighter.

The second of the tournament bouts featured a couple of KO fighters, Magomed Magomedov of Belarus and Maksym Neledva of the Ukraine. The pair frequently dropped their guards during the first, Magomedov getting a good kick and punch combination through late in an otherwise uneventful round. Neledva had the fists and low kicks going, but the light-on-his-feet Magomedov slapped in a hard high front kick early in the second, and popped another up late in the round. In the third the ringside doctor had a look at a cut over Neledva's left eye and cleared him to continue. It was the cool Magomedov who made the most of his chances here to pick up the win by unanimous decision.

In the second tournament bracket it was Paul Slowinski vs tough guy Hiromi Amada of Japan.

Standing bolt upright, Slowinski looked a composed and confident combatant here, always closing with punch and low kick combinations, working Amada's right thigh for a standing count then earning the win at just 1:50 when the Japanese fighter turned away in extreme pain.

Finishing off the first-tier tournament bouts were Muay Thai fighters James Phillips of Germany and Zabit Samedov of Belarus.

Samedov worked the body here, Phillips responding with low kicks, and knees when the distance closed. Spirited action from the fast and technical fighters, a terrific Phillips low kick the strike of the round, almost putting Samedov down. In the second Samedov chased his opponent with big punches but aside from an incidental uppercut could not make it past the German's defenses. The third had Samedov again working the body blows against his opponent's high guard, Phillips firing in low kicks. Not a lot of damage evident here, but Samedov had landed more strikes and so judges gave him the decision and a date with Slowinski in the semis.

The first semifinal pitted Bregy against Magomedov. A listless start elicited whistles of disapproval from the crowd, and this set Magomedov to opening up and charging in with roundhouses. The situation suited Bregy, who used his 15cm/6" height advantage and superior power to beat down his opponent.

The intrepid Magomedov came hard at Bregy again in the second, and again paid the price for it. A left hook soon put Magomedov down, but after resumption the Belorussian once again went on the attack. This time Bregy got him in the corner and pumped in the fists, prompting the referee to stop the fight. The crowd gave the spunky Magomedov a huge cheer, and Bregy could only shake his head and frown at the jeers that came up when his own arm was raised in victory.

It was Slowinski and Samedov in the hard-fought second semi. Slowinski looked to be having trouble drawing a bead on the quick Samedov, who shocked his opponent with a right overhand for a down midway through the first. A minute later, Slowinski repaid the favor, scoring a down with a kick to the ribs. A wide-open exchange followed, Slowinski landing a left and Samedov going down for a second time in the round, giving Slowinski the win.

And so the final pitted Bregy against Slowinski. This one started with the pair snapping in one-two punch and kick combinations, Bregy getting a right straight punch in midway through the first, then making partial contact with a knee. But Slowinski remained cool and focused, staying out of serious trouble with good lateral movement. In the second Bregy went with power, landing some solid low kicks, while Slowinski waited for his chances, closing with body blows before finding Bregy out of position and pounding a right hook round to the side of his head. Bregy turned away awkwardly, took a couple of drunken steps, then crumpled ungraciously to the canvas.

The Swiss fighter somehow beat the count but was not in any shape to rally. Slowinski came in quickly on his foggy opponent, pumping in another right to send him back to the mat, where he stayed for a long time. A convincing performance for Slowinski, who will represent Australia at the WGP Final Elimination in Seoul this September.

"I am happy to win, training with Ernesto Hoost helped me a lot," said Slowinski afterward. "I understand now how to adjust my strategy for different fighters, that made a difference today. Now I want to focus on doing the same in September."

In the tournament reserve Gokhan Saki of Turkey beat Mourad Bouzidi of Holland by unanimous decision.

There was also a special K-1 Kids fight between Japanese wunderkind Hiroya, who is just 15, and Roy Tan of the Netherlands, who is 18 years-old. This bout comprised two-minute rounds. A couple of talented and energetic youngsters, with plenty of textbook low kicks and strong evasions and blocking on both sides. Hiroya had the more varied attacks and aggressive style through this one -- employing low and high kicks, a flying knee, and looking confident with his punches to take a comfortable unanimous decision.

Promoter Simon Rutz and his crackerjack crew did a great job, as the K-1 Europe GP '07 ran smoothly before a sellout crowd of 25,000 at the Amsterdam Arena. The event was broadcast live on SBS6 in Holland and Fuji TV in Japan. For delayed-broadcast information in other areas contact local providers. Check the K-1 Official Website (www.k-1.co.jp/k-1gp) for official results and coverage of this and all K-1 events.
 




K-1 WGP in Amsterdam Press Confererence
By Monty DiPietro
AMSTERDAM, June 22, 2007 -- The Netherlands established relations with Japan in 1609 and for some 250 years the Dutch remained the only Westerners welcome in the isolationist archipelago of shogun and samurai. In the 21st century Japan and the Netherlands once again stand together, at the forefront of the world's premier fightsport. Fourteen fighters have won the K-1 World Grand Prix Tokyo Dome Final, and no less than eleven times the laurels have been placed on the head of a Dutchman.

Tomorrow the '07 Europe GP comes to the Amsterdam Arena, and today participating fighters met the media at the Claus Event Center in Hoofddorp, just outside Amsterdam. The press conference was friendly and spirited -- that is, until Bob Sapp took the stage.

Yes, the same Bob Sapp who went AWOL from his main event bout with Ernesto Hoost at last year's Europe GP in Amsterdam.

"You know lost in translation?" said Sapp to the packed but suddenly deathly-quiet room. "Well, last year it was like everything disappeared completely. I'm sorry for the embarrassment to living legend Ernesto Hoost for failing to appear, and sorry to the fans. But, we fixed it up, [local promoter] Simon Rutz played peacemaker and here I am!"

Sapp will fight Peter Aerts, one of the Netherlands' favorite sons. "I understand I may get a lot of boos when I step in," joked Sapp, "but Peter will get boo-hoos because everyone will be crying after I knock him out because the Beast is back!" Again, the room remained uncomfortably silent, until Ernesto Hoost graciously stepped up to the stage to shake Sapp's hand.

Aerts simply smiled. "Well, I am fighting a big strong guy so maybe I have to watch out, but I am gonna beat you Bob!" Now that would probably bring the noise.

Despite the drama involving Sapp's return to Amsterdam, his bout with Aerts isn't the Main Event tomorrow. That honor goes to the Super Heavyweight Title Match between Semmy Schilt of Holland and Mighty Mo of the United States.

Mo was upbeat regarding his chances against K-1's Defending Super Heavyweight and WGP Champion: "I beat big guys, and I have a big punch to go with Semmy's big size!"

Schilt was characteristically reserved: "I am happy to be here and I will show you a great fight!" Informed that Mo had studied tapes of the March 4 fight where Schilt KO'd Ray Sefo to win the Super Heavyweight Belt, the Dutch behemoth did make a foray into humor. "I think it is good that Mo watched that fight, now he knows what will happen to him tomorrow!"

Other Superfights on the card include a matchup between a couple of dynamos, go-get-'em Ruslan Karaev of Russia and Dutch kickboxer Melvin Manhoef; and Frenchman Nicolas Vermont's mission to revenge his friend Jerome LeBanner's loss this March against Junichi Sawayashiki of Japan.

Then there is the eight-man elimination tournament, which will advance a single fighter to this year's K-1 WGP Final Elimination in South Korea.

Bjorn Bregy of Switzerland won the Europe GP last year, he will start drive to repeat against Brecht Wallis of Belgium. The winner there will meet the better man in a bout between a couple of KO fighters, Magomed Magomedov of Belarus and Maksym Neledva of the Ukraine.

In the second bracket it will be all-weather combatant Paul Slowinski of Australia vs tough guy Hiromi Amada of Japan; with Muay Thai fighters James Phillips of Germany and Zabit Samedov of Belarus battling in the last quarterfinal.

The tournament reserve will see Gokhan Saki of Turkey take on Mourad Bouzidi of Holland.

There will also be a special fight between Japanese wunderkind Hiroya, who is just 15, and Roy Tan of the Netherlands, who is 18 years-old. This bout will comprise two-minute rounds and the fighters will wear protective headgear. Ample undercard action will bring the total number of fights tomorrow to 18.

Doors open at 2:30 p.m. and the K-1 Europe GP card bouts start at 6:45 p.m. at the Amsterdam Arena. The event will be broadcast live on SBS6 in Holland and Fuji TV in Japan. For scheduling information in other areas contact local broadcasters. Check the K-1 Official Website (www.k-1.co.jp/k-1gp) for complete post-event coverage.
 




Hawaiian Punch Courtesy Mighty Mo; Hari Wins the Belt

By Monty DiPietro

HONOLULU, April 28, 2007 -- Hard-hitting American Samoan fighter Mighty Mo turned aside three challengers en route to the tournament victory, while Badr Hari donned the Heavyweight Belt tonight at the first major international K-1 World Grand Prix event of the year. Held at a boisterous Neal Blaisdell center in Honolulu, the thrill-packed evening featured a classic eight-man elimination tournament, four Superfights with major K-1 stars; and, in the Main Event, the inaugural K-1 Heavyweight Title Match.

This year, K-1 introduced a 70kg/154lbs - 100kg/220lbs weight class. To earn the honor of fighting for the Heavyweight Belt, 22 year-old Moroccan bad boy Badr Hari and Asia GP 2007 Champion Yasuke Fujimoto of Japan both won tough qualification bouts this March -- Fujimoto beating compatriot Musashi, Hari dispatching Ruslan Karaev of Russia.

Tonight, it was clear from the bell that Hari wanted that new gold and black belt, and wanted it badly. Straight off, the Moroccan stepped in with a couple of low kicks so powerful that they nearly knocked Fujimoto over, then followed up with a high kick that only just missed. Fujimoto tried to get into this one, squaring off against his opponent, but Hari coolly threaded a left straight punch through the guard to drop the Japanese to the canvas.

Fujimoto beat the count and came back intent to mix it up. Hari obliged, and in the clash of combinations got the better stuff through -- a left hook putting Fujimoto off balance, a high kick thwacking the Japanese on the side of the jaw and sending him to the canvas where he lay. The referee took one look at the almost motionless Fujimoto then waved his arms. It was all was over in a scant 56 seconds -- and although everyone calls him the "bad boy," for a moment there the victorious Hari smiled with the vernal joy of a preteen blowing out his birthday cake candles.

"I let my jab work for me and he went down, then I waited for the moment to finish, my policy is the shorter the fight the better," said Hari afterwards. "You fight all your life for this moment, I always dreamed to be a K-1 champion. Now I'm ready to defend my belt against the top contender, people have seen what I can do now and whoever knocks on my door is welcome. I'm 22 so I'm still getting heavier, but if I have to fight over 100kg[220lbs], then I'll go for the Super Heavyweight Belt. And the Grand Prix Final too, this year I want to go for everything!"

In the eight-man tournament, the first bout had garnered keen interest from local fans, as Mighty Mo took on silium wrestler Kyoung Suk Kim of South Korea. Spirited applause greeted Mo's ring entrance.

Built something like a squat tiki, Mo is both accustomed to and very good at taking on taller fighters -- his victory this March over Hong-Man Choi a vivid example of that. Here the 15cm/6" height disadvantage wasn't an issue. Kim tried to use low kicks to keep Mo at bay, but the intrepid Samoan walked straight through these to deliver his punches, and in no time a left hook had put Kim down for the KO win.

The second of the quarterfinal tournament matchups featured South African kickboxer Jan "The Giant" Nortje and the superfly Julian "Towering Inferno" Long, a 216cm/7'1" American boxer making his K-1 debut.

Long did what he had to do here -- move forward quickly with punches before Nortje's low kicks could slow him down. The strategy worked for a time, and after a sloppy exchange Long got a left haymaker round to open a cut on the side of Nortje's eye. A doctor's check cleared the South African to continue, and Nortje finished the round with some hard low kicks.

Kick is what Nortje needed to do, and he sagely stuck with the strategy in the second. After a few hard blows connected with Long's weedy legs, the boxer grimaced and went down. The American barely beat the count, but clearly his right leg was shot. Nortje exploited this by pumping in the low kicks to put Long down again. Under K-1's two-downs-in-a-round rule, Nortje collected the win and advanced to the semifinals.

Twenty-six year-old American kickboxer Patrick Barry is a rising force, training now with Ernesto Hoost's "Team Mr Perfect." In the third tournament matchup tonight he faced his biggest challenge yet in Trinidadian-Canadian slugger Gary "Big Daddy" Goodrich.

Goodridge's do-or-die starts have thrilled fans and earned him legendary status. But Barry must have seen the tapes, because he got the jump on Goodridge here, firing in the low kicks with such speed and ferocity that his opponent never got the chance to fight his fight. The low kicks sent Goodridge to the canvas twice in the early going, the first ruled a slip, the second a legitimate down. It was however a punishing left high kick that proved the decisive blow -- Barry's timing and execution flawless as he caught Goodridge hard on the side of the head, opening a deep gash near the eye and sending a river of blood down Goodridge's face. Goodridge stayed on his feet, but the ringside doctor needed only one look to determine he could not continue. Barry went through to the semis in fine style, upsetting the man many had picked as the favorite to win the tournament.

Wrapping up the first-tier bouts was Japanese scrapper Tatsufumi Tomihira and another tough customer, karate fighter Alexandre Pitchkounov of Russia.

Tomihira and Pitchkounov both tested early with low kicks and jabs before Pitchkounov stepped in with a rapid-fire punching attack and a knee to drop the Japanese fighter for a count. Pitchkounov opened the second with a pretty spinning back kick that just missed, then put Tomihira on the ropes with another series of punches, clocking his opponent hard a couple of times. But Tomihira fights with a lot of heart, and did not go down, and did not stop attacking right through to the end of the round.

Incredibly the gutsy Tomihira took the initiative early in the third, with punch and low kick combinations, but Pitchkounov soon resumed control, beating on his opponent for a down, shortly afterward putting several straight punches right on the button to score a second down and the right to advance.

The applause was louder when Mo made his appearance against Nortje in the first of the semifinals, and a chant of "Mighty Mo" echoed through much of the first. Nortje used the jab to control distance well in the early going, but after he appeared to have hurt his foot while striking Mo's knee, the Samoan snuck in with a left punch to score a down. In the second Nortje led with the left jab again, but was no longer following up with kicks, leaving Mo the chance to get in. This he did midway through, closing for a fistfest, stunning Nortje with a left and then pounding in a herculean right to get the KO win and a trip to the finals.

It was Pitchkounov vs Barry in the second semi, the third time these two have met in the last 18 months. Barry showed impressive focus, positioning and timing here, staying with Pitchkounov through a tentative first. The American has legs like tree trunks, and powered in some hard low kicks to start the second. But Pitchkounov soon saw a chance, firing a high kick up to put Barry down. The success seemed to fire up the Russian, who now took control with low kicks, knees and a couple of spinning back kicks.

The meat and potatoes Barry brought some urgency to the third, in with low kicks, and while neither fighter could dominate here both had chances. Unfortunately for Barry, while throwing a kick late in the round he smacked the top of his foot hard onto Pitchkounov shin. Pain stung the American's face as he stumbled backward and to the canvas, ironically taking a count as a consequence of his own attack. This bit of bad luck, along with Pitchkounov's finesse and experience earned the Russian a unanimous decision and a date with Mo in the final.

The crowd thundered encouragement as Mo marched to the ring for the matchup against Pitchkounov. The Russian got polite applause and he also got a couple of boos. The crowd was pumped, the fighters were too.

Mo put the first bit of pressure in, backing Pitchkounov against the ropes with punches. But Pitchkounov closed up and weathered these, before launching a dandy spinning back kick that caught Mo on the head and sent him down hard. The crowd went silent now, until Mo, bleeding from the back of his head, got to his feet to beat the count. A doctor's check made for a few nervous moments before Mo was cleared to continue.

Now Mo charged forward, bulldozed Pitchkounov onto the ropes, and laid in with the punches, a left hook putting the Russian down and bringing the crowd to their feet. Pitchkounov attempted some fancy kick attacks here, but Mo stuck with a press and punch strategy, and power would prevail over finesse this time.

There were some low kicks and knees and good body blows from Mo in the second round, and again the crowd was chanting his name. The third was Pitchkounov's last chance to equalize, but Mo surprised him with a low kick -- talk about beating a man at his own game -- and because Pitchkounov stumbled away he was assessed a down. Smelling blood, Mo came in quickly after resumption, putting Pitchkounov on the ropes and pounding in the body blows, getting a down with a right hook. Half a minute later Mo visited just about the same treatment on the hapless Pitchkounov, and that was the end. The crowd exploded -- their hero had won the tournament and a spot in this year's K-1 Final Elimination.

"The kick to the head shook me pretty good," said Mo afterward, "but if you're going to hurt me then I'm going to hurt you ten times more! I wanted to return the favor, and all my family and friends and fans gave me energy, I didn't want to let them down!"

There were about 30 of Mo's family members in attendance, most wearing custom-made Mighty Mo T-shirts. They hailed from Hawaii, Samoa and California, said his sister, Becca Taafuli: "This is incredible for our family, it is a blessing!"

A Superfight much anticipated by the Hawaiian fans saw local fighter Mike Malone step in against the gargantuan Hong-Man Choi of South Korea. At the pre-event press conference, Malone made light of his 14"/36cm height disadvantage by climbing atop a beverage case to warmly present Choi with a big jar of kimchi, Korean fermented vegetables.

Malone moved around a lot here, circling before suddenly darting in a punch or a low kick, and it thrilled the crowd when the he managed to connect. It was Choi however who brought more power to his strikes, getting a down first with a knee and then with a left hook. In the second Malone employed a sneak attack, hanging back with a nonchalant look on his face before torpedoing in a kung fu kick. One has to be creative to fight Choi. Malone's punch-and-run technique had everybody excited -- even Choi appeared amused. Midway through the second Malone leapt with a punch that made partial contact, while Choi simultaneously put a left hook in. The two blows put one man down, and that man wasn't Choi.

Malone fought an entertaining fight, repeatedly retreating then charging in despite the fact that Choi's knees were waiting for him. A bunch of downs in this one, which finally ended only because the American had badly injured his leg during one of the exchanges and could not continue. As Malone shook his head in disappointment, Choi walked over, smiled a big wide smile, and wrapped his big arms round the spunky American.

"I ate the kimchi Mike gave me, it was delicious" said Choi afterward. "And he's got cool tattoos! This marks a new beginning for me, and I am looking forward to my next fight!"

A big-name Superfight tonight set two-time WGP Grand Champion Remy Bonjasky of Holland against Brazilian kyokushin karate fighter Glaube Feitosa.

A technical style marked the bout as the pair stood close, guards high and tight, and traded low kicks and the occasional punch, both attempting to find a time and place to plant the high kick only to be stymied by the others defenses, Bonjasky managing to get the fists in a couple of times in the first.

More careful fencing in the second, Bonjasky again managing to get through, this time with a knee while countering a Feitosa straight punch. Plenty of one-two combinations here but few follow-ups and little in the way of killer spirit. Until the third round.

Now, finally Bonjasky became aggressive, with hard low kicks and knees. But again the Dutch fighter did not sustain the pressure, and Feitosa was able to get back in it with a miscellany of attacks, throwing in one 30 second period a jab, high kick, front kick, low kick, hook, body blow, back kick and uppercut. But Bonjasky was blocking all there, and the Dutchman rallied with gusto at the 10-second clapper with a half dozen hooks and a couple of high kicks, making good contact. A smart way to end the fight, which yielded the closest of decisions -- one judge scoring a draw, the other two seeing Bonjasky as just a single point better, but enough for the win.

Twenty-two year-old Japanese judo and kickboxing sensation Junichi Sawayashiki stunned the K-1 world with a victory over Jerome LeBanner at Yokohama in March, in a Superfight tonight he stepped in against South Korean shot putter Randy Kim.

Sawayashiki moved well throughout, light on his feet, circling and picking his spots, snapping in jabs and a high kick that made partial contact in the first. It was more of the same in the second before Kim backed himself onto the ropes and invited Sawayashiki in. The pair mixed it up some with the fists, but Sawayashiki got the better of these exchanges, pelting Kim with hard punches to send him into retreat for a standing count. The battered Kim could not answer the referee's call, and Sawayashiki the wunderkind had another impressive win.

The night's first Superfight saw the increasingly charismatic Aussie Peter Graham take on Jerrel Venetiaan, a Dutch "Team Mr Perfect" kickboxer. This was a tempestuous three rounds, Venetiaan responding to Graham's in-your-face pre-fight staredown by sticking out his tongue and licking at his opponent's chops and nose. Both men started aggressively with quick combinations, Graham using the fists late in the first to score a down that a visibly upset Venetiaan protested to no avail. In an intense second, Venetiaan mixed up the attacks -- alas when he caught Graham below the belt with a hard knee and followed up with a kick to his tumbling opponent's head this prompted a time out and one-point penalty. After resumption, a maddened Graham laid in with the fists, and just missed with a rolling thunder flip kick to end the round. Graham missed once more with the same attack in the third, then switched to right hooks, clocking his opponent several times. Graham was looking somewhat fatigued toward the end, and Venetiaan blasted a few through here, but it was too little too late, and Graham picked up the win by unanimous decision.

In the tournament reserve bout, American kickboxer Billy Hall showed some promise in the early going against his opponent, kyokushin karate fighter Takumi Sato of Japan. But Sato rallied with effective punches midway through the first to notch a couple of knockdowns and take the victory.

There was a special amateur fight before the opening ceremony, conducted with protective headgear. Mighty Mo's son, Mighty Mo Jr., is just 14 years old, and his relative lack of experience got him into trouble against 19 year-old American fighter Ky Hollenbeck, who executed a creative double spinning rear kick midway through the first to drop Mo Jr. for the win.

The K-1 WGP 2007 in Hawaii attracted a crowd of 7,066 to the Neal Blaisdell Arena and was broadcast across Japan on the Fuji TV Network. For scheduling information in other regions consult local broadcasters. For comprehensive coverage of this and all K-1 events visit the K-1 Official Website: www.k-1.co.jp/k-1gp.

All the PHOTOS can be found in the photos section: http://k-1fans.com/photos.htm
 




K-1 WGP in Hawaii Press Conference

By Monty DiPietro

HONOLULU, April 26, 2007 -- Ah, Hawaii! An idyllic archipelago set in azure seas, home of rich traditions, spirited mythologies and brave warrior kings -- a perfect setting for the first major K-1 World Grand Prix international event of 2007. This Saturday night the talent-packed fight card will feature a classic 8-man elimination tournament advancing one combatant to this year's WGP Final Elimination. But there is a whole lot more in store for Honolulu -- Superfights featuring some of the biggest K-1 stars ever; and the Main Event, the inaugural K-1 Heavyweight Title Match.


It will be all guts and glory at the Neal Blaisdell Arena this weekend, but this afternoon, it was sunshine and a little chill time. As the sweet scent of plumeria blossoms and a throng of several hundred fans filled the open-air Ala Moana Center, the warriors-in-waiting took to the stage for a brief press conference, to answer some questions and smile for the cameras.

Badr Hari and Yasuke Fujimoto, who will go head-to-head for the honor of becoming the first fighter to wear the new K-1 Heavyweight Title Belt, looked relaxed and casual -- Fujimoto sporting surfer chic -- but the pair remained quiet, preferring perhaps to make their statements in the ring.

One Superfight very much anticipated by the Hawaiian fans will see local favorite Mike Malone step in against the gargantuan Hong-Man Choi of South Korea. Here, Malone made light of his 14"/36cm height disadvantage by climbing atop a beverage case to warmly present Choi with a big jar of kimchi, Korean fermented vegetables.

"I love kimchi," smiled Choi, "and Saturday I'll show Mike how strong it makes me!"

Malone did not appear intimidated: "In Hawaii we learn to fight in the streets everyday so we're tough, and you'll see -- Choi is going to go down!"

Other Superfights on the card will see two-time WGP Grand Champion Remy Bonjasky of Holland taking on Brazilian kyokushin karate star Glaube Feitosa; and 22 year-old Japanese judo and kickboxing fighter Junichi Sawayashiki, who stunned the K-1 world with a victory over Jerome LeBanner at Yokohama in March, stepping in against Randy Kim of South Korea.

Meanwhile, in the eight-man elimination tournament, the first bout is already garnering keen interest from local fans -- as hard-hitting Samoan Mighty Mo will take on former sumo wrestler Kyoung Suk Kim of South Korea. The no-nonsense Mo, who upset Hong-Man Choi this March, told the media he is simply "getting stronger and stronger." Other first-tier tournament matchups will see South African kickboxer Jan "The Giant" Nortje and the superfly boxer Julian "Towering Inferno" Long of the United States; rising American kickboxer Patrick Barry and Trinidadian-Canadian slugger Gary Goodrich; while Japanese scrapper Tatsufumi Tomihira will meet fellow tough customer, karate fighter Alexandr Pitchkounov of Russia.

A lot of talent and a variety of fighting styles in the tournament tree, promising exciting and hard-fought action right through to the final. Who will be the one to get through? Don't forget to factor in the tournament reserve bout, also one to watch, as Aussie Peter Graham takes on Jerrel Venetiaan of Holland.

There will be a special amateur fight on the card, with Mighty Mo Jr. taking on Ky Hollenbeck.

The K-1 WGP 2007 in Hawaii kicks off at 6:00 p.m. on Saturday, April 28 at the Neal Blaisdell Arena. Tickets cost from US$40-US$500 (plus applicable service charges) and are available through Times Supermarket Stores and Ticket Master, 1-877-750-4400 (8:00 a.m.-8:00 p.m.) or online at www.ticketmaster.com. The event will be broadcast across Japan on the Fuji TV Network. Event Inquiries: K-1 Hawaii Information Office: 1-808-946-1988; or pr@harris-agency.com. For post-event coverage of this and all K-1 events visit the K-1 Official Website: www.k-1.co.jp/k-1gp.
 



Masato & Souwer Perfect at World Max Yokohama '07

By Monty DiPietro
YOKOHAMA, April 4, 2007 -- Masato and Andy Souwer rose to the occasion and dispatched their opponents tonight at the K-1 World Max Elite Showcase in Yokohama. The event featured all World Max Champions, top contenders past and present and a number of exciting emerging fighters keen to stake their claim to a spot at this year's World Max Final Elimination, set for June 28 at the Nippon Budokan.

With its 70 kg/154lbs weight class, World Max serves up an addictive cocktail of technique, speed and energy that has thrilled fans for five seasons. All of tonight's fights were conducted under regular K-1 WM rules (3min x 3R w/ 1R tiebreaker).

The card's Main Event saw World Max 2003 Champion Masato of Japan step in against IKF European Muay Thai Middleweight Champion Ole Laursen of Denmark.

Although he had struggled some over the last several seasons, Masato is still regarded as one of the best all-round K-1 Max fighters, while Laursen is known for his power. In pre-fight interviews the Dane had pledged to use this power from the get-go, to put Masato off his game plan.

Laursen did step forward with punches early on, but Masato met him with low kicks before closing and launching his own volley of fast punches. Laursen attempted to lead with the right but didn't have the speed to pull this off, while a composed and focused Masato repeatedly made the most of his chances. In the second Masato and Laursen both got through with punches. Masato superior with his legwork, Laursen attempting to get past the kicks with overhand punches -- Masato's evasions keeping him out of harm's way.

Laursen closed up on the ropes and let Masato punch away in the third before coming back with the fists, but once more Masato's defenses were sound, and the Japanese fighter came away with a comfortable unanimous decision and sent the message that he is back.

"He's good," said Laursen afterward, "his boxing was better than I expected, he's fast, explosive and has the stamina."

"I am using more combinations now than I used to," said Masato. "Ole kept his guard high, if he had thrown more punches I would have had more chances. I'm happy with the fight, I feel motivated and stronger than ever. This is a great chance for me to get back to the top!"

The penultimate bout featured 2005 World Max Champion Andy Souwer of Holland and this year's winner of the World Max Japan Tournament, Yoshihiro Sato.

This was a fast and technical first -- kicks, knees and punches flying from the start, Souwer making partial contact with a right straight early on. Souwer again got through with the fists in the second but Sato was here to fight, and continued to fearlessly close the distance, intent on using his 13cm/5" height advantage to bring the knees into play. Souwer put speed and power into combinations to check his opponent's advances effectively through the third, connecting with a straight punch and high kick and fighting intelligently right to the final bell to take the unanimous decision.

"It could have been better but I'm satisfied," said Souwer. "Sato's knees are dangerous, I took one in the liver. Of course, when you fight it's impossible to hit without being hit, it was a good fight and I think I fought it the way I had to."

The Defending and sole two-time World Max Champion, Buakaw Por Pramuk of Thailand, is a superb fighter -- lightning quick and equally dangerous with kicks and fists. Here, Buakaw stepped in against Andy Ologun of Nigeria -- a sometimes television personality in Japan who, despite displaying unexpected prowess in his three K-1 ring appearances, had to be considered the heavy underdog in this matchup.

Kickboxing is Buakaw's life, but if Ologun is a dilettante, that was not conspicuous here. Buakaw used front and low kicks to control the distance and pace through the first -- but Ologun got through the round thanks to some deft evasions. In the second Buakaw fired in low kicks, which Ologun was less than expert at blocking, but otherwise the Nigerian stayed out of trouble, and somewhat surprisingly made it through the second round. Buakaw might not have had the killer instinct we've seen him display in the past, but he did put in some solid attacks together again in the third, and it is a minor miracle that Ologun got through this round as well -- bravely launching kick and punch counters even to the last bell. A comfortable unanimous decision for Buakaw, but also a victory of sorts for Ologun, staying with the best of the best for three rounds.

The inaugural K-1 World Max was won by Albert Kraus, and the Dutch boxer remains dangerous in the ring. But here, Kraus took on Japanese fighter Tatsuji, who is pretty good with the fists himself -- and had vowed at the press conference to break Kraus' jaw.

Not surprisingly almost, all punches in the first -- Kraus planting a right hook on Tatsuji's nose from close in. A more aggressive second saw both fighters make partial contact but also block well enough to avoid serious damage. In the third the energy level was pumped up yet another notch. Here Kraus got a right uppercut through, while Tatsuji made contact with straight punches. Again, no significant damage to either fighter. One judge saw a draw and the two others gave it to Tatsuji by a single point, leaving Kraus smiling and shaking his head in disbelief as Tatsuji hoisted the trophy.

In other action, Australian jujitsu fighter Ian Schaffa and Keiji Ozaki of Japan put on a great show.

This was a fast-paced, hard-fought contest, Schaffa scoring big early in the first with a spinning back kick that might have been called a down but was ruled a slip, then removing any doubt soon afterward with a right hook that deposited Ozaki on the canvas. Schaffa overwhelmed his opponent, firing in the fists and earning a standing count at the clapper when a flustered Ozaki turned away from the fight. A Schaffa right hook in the second dropped Ozaki once more, but the Japanese fighter beat the count and gave the partisan crowd cause to cheer with a spinning back kick that sent Schaffa stumbling down, albeit a beat after the bell.

Ozaki threatened again in the third with spinning kicks, all the while stubbornly weathering Schaffa's punches. A good one, the win to Schaffa by a comfortable unanimous decision.

A showdown between a couple of pesky and creative Mongolians saw Jadamba Narantungalag take on Tsogto "Shinobu" Amara.

Amara took the initiative early on, throwing all manner of kicks, but Narantungalag was sound with his blocking and just missed with a knee on the counter late in the first. The two mixed it up some in the second, frequently closing, which led to more fisticuffs and great excitement. Amara wasn't flashy but his combinations impressed the refs through the third. While there was no serious damage done on either side, Amara had a bit more going for him, enough anyway to take a narrow but unanimous decision.

Mike Zambidis of Greece is a power puncher, puts his heart into every fight. So does Japanese kickboxer Kozo Takeda, his opponent tonight. This promised to be a tough contest, and the boys did not disappoint.

Takeda commenced with kicks, Zambidis staying back on fast idle, then suddenly exploding with a flurry of punches. Takeda brought the guard up and took these with no apparent ill effects, but was surprised when Zambidis threw up a couple of kicks. At the clapper, Zambidis delivered another shocker, a leaping right hook that caught Takeda hard on the jaw, dropping him for a count.

Zambidis was creative in the second, fast with the fists and kicks, pumping in body blows, hitting hard and staying hard to hit. Takeda was bruised and bloodied but not beaten in the third, absorbing a bunch of blows but repeatedly coming back at Zambidis with kicks and punches. A spirited performance by both fighters, Zambidis taking the well-deserved unanimous decision with a big wide smile.

Shoot boxer Daniel Dawson of Australia took on Ray Sefo protégé Jordan Tai of New Zealand in a battle of Oceania.

The two tested mostly with punch combinations through the first, Dawson lifting a left high kick up and in for the strike of the round. In the second Dawson worked the body blows and connected with a right upper to the jaw, while Tai sailed a couple of kicks over his opponent's head. In contrast to the easy-going and charismatic style of his trainer and mentor Ray Sefo, Tai often appeared tense, unsure of himself. Not a bad effort to be sure, but not what he needed to win. A unanimous decision for Dawson, who had smartly picked and capitalized on his chances.

South African boxer Virgil Kalakoda and fellow pugilist Hiroyuki Maeda of Japan did a little verbal sparring at the pre-event press conference, each promising to school the other.

Maeda came out like a loaded gun, scattershot punches and kicks backing Kalakoda against the ropes. The South African remained composed, came out circling, jabbing, tossing in a couple of good hard low kicks to end the first. Maeda got inside with body blows in the second, and although Kalakoda saw most of his punches blocked he was better with the low kicks. In the third Maeda stayed with punching attacks while Kalakoda scored with the low kicks and combinations to take the round on all three cards. Both boys had good blocking and evasions throughout, judges regarding Kalakoda favorably with a unanimous decision.

Armenian muay thai fighter Drago declared all-out war on kickboxer Yutaro Yamauchi of Japan. After a spirited series of punching exchanges, Drago unleashed a spinning back kick to drop Yamauchi at the first clapper. Drago got another down early in the second with a punch and low kick combination, and spent the remainder of the round punishing his wobbly Japanese opponent. In the third Drago got a down with a front kick, and the referee called another when Yamauchi crumpled after a low kick. Yamauchi spent the latter half of this one bout battling to stay on his feet until finally, late in the third, the towel came in from his corner to put a stop to the punishment.

In an extraordinary 60kg/132lbs opening fight, Hiroya, a Japanese recent junior high school grad who is just 15 years of age, took on countryman Noritaka Nishimura, a 25-year-old karate stylist making his first appearance in the K-1 ring. Hiroya may be an adolescent but he is no greenhorn -- he has years of kickboxing and muay thai training, and will be building on that while attending high school next term in Thailand.

It would have been good enough for Hiroya to simply show up and stay in the fight. But the wunderkind went far above and beyond that, wowing the crowd with excellent vision, balance, positioning and timing. From the bell, Hiroya came forward smartly with low kicks and punch combinations, and before the first was done he'd downed Nishimura three times to pick up the KO win, to the delight of the crowd. It sounds cliché, but clearly this is a kid with a future!

In the undercard bouts, Yasuhiro Kido beat Kozo Mitsuyama by decision; Pak-Wing Heung earned a referee-stop victory over Satoru Vashicoba; and Yuji Nashiro scored two first-round downs to beat Teppei Yasuda.


The K-1 World Max Elite Showcase attracted a crowd of 11,628 to the Yokohama Arena. The event was broadcast live in Japan on the TBS television network. In other countries contact local broadcasters for scheduling information. Visit the K-1 Official Web Site (www.k-1.co.jp/k-1gp) for official results, photos and detailed coverage of all K-1 events.
 



World Max Yokohama '07 Press Conference
By Monty DiPietro
TOKYO, April 3, 2007 -- With the best of the best scheduled to face-off in 11 bouts, tomorrow's K-1 World Max Elite Showcase event promises to be a night to remember. The Defending and Former World Max Champions will be joined in the ring by the best Max fighters from the past and a number of exciting emerging fighters. The one-match format is an opportunity for these elite warriors to stake their claim for a spot at the World Max Final Elimination, set for this June 28 at the Nippon Budokan.

The 70 kg/154lbs weight class World Max is an addictive cocktail of technique, speed and energy that has thrilled fans for five seasons. All fights are conducted under regular K-1 rules (3min x 3R w/ 1R tiebreaker).

The 22 fighters who will clash at the Yokohama Arena tomorrow shared their thoughts with the media today in a press conference at the Sheraton Miyako Hotel in downtown Tokyo.


In the Main Event, it will be World Max 2003 Champion Masato of Japan and IKF European Muay Thai Middleweight Champion Ole Laursen of Denmark.
Said Masato: "I want this to be a good fight. 'Challenge' is my new motto, and I'm going to challenge myself to perform well!"
Laursen: "Fighting Masato is a big chance for me, I will put 200% of my heart into it and it will be a good fight!"

The penultimate bout will feature 2005 World Max Champion Andy Souwer of Holland and this year's World Max Japan Champion, Yoshihiro Sato.
Souwer: "I haven't fought for a long time now, I know Sato is up and coming and so I'll concentrate and fight hard, I promise a good fight!"
Sato got a laugh from the reporters with a pun on the first character in his native Aichi Prefecture, which is a homonym for 'love.' He then pledged to do his best in the ring.

Armenian muay thai fighter Drago will meet Yutaro Yamauchi of Japan.
Drago: "It's an honor to be here, I will do my best and show you a spectacular fight!"
Yamauchi: "This is my first fight, and I have a strong opponent, I will enjoy it, and put on a good fight!"

The Defending and lone two-time World Max Champion is Buakaw Por Pramuk of Thailand. Tomorrow he will step in against Andy Ologun of Nigeria, a Japanese media celebrity who has shown a surprising prowess in the ring.
Buakaw: "This is a great card, I think every match will be exciting, but I want to make mine the most exciting of all!"
Ologun: "I will fight with a 'never surrender' spirit!"

South African boxer Virgil Kalakoda and fellow pugilist Hiroyuki Maeda of Japan did a little verbal sparring at the press conference.
Kalakoda: "Tomorrow, I will be the teacher and you will be the student, and I will give you a lesson in fighting."
Maeda: "I'm so angry with his remark I forgot what I was going to say! Well, I'm 35 years old, not a student anymore, so tomorrow I will teach him. I'm the man, and he will fall down!"

The inaugural K-1 World Max was won by Albert Kraus, and the Dutch boxer remains very dangerous in the ring. Tomorrow, Kraus will take on Japanese fighter Tatsuji, who is pretty good with the fist himself.
Kraus: "I will do my best."
Tatsuji: "I will be aggressive from round one, my plan is to hit hard and break his jaw."

Shoot boxer Daniel Dawson of Australia will meet Ray Sefo protégé Jordan Tai of New Zealand in the battle of Oceania.
Dawson: "These fighters are the best in the world, I can't wait to win and become a K-1 superstar!"
Tai: "I'm honored to be here and I respect Daniel, too bad he can't win tomorrow."

Mike Zambidis of Greece is a power puncher. His opponent here will be kickboxer Kozo Takeda of Japan.
Zambidis: "I said before, I think K-1 is the Olympics of kickboxing, and I look forward to competing at the highest level tomorrow."
Takeda: "I want to do my best."

A showdown between a couple of pesky and creative Mongolians will see Jadamba Narantungalag take on Tsogto "Shinobu" Amara.
Narantungalag: "I am honored to be here with these talented fighters, I will do my best." Amara: "I want to make a wonderful match!"

Australian jujitsu fighter Ian Schaffa will meet Keiji Ozaki of Japan.
Schaffa: "I will do my best!"
Ozaki: "I want to perform well, win and become famous around the world!"

In an extraordinary 60kg/132lbs opening fight, Japanese recent junior high school grad Hiroya will take on countryman Noritaka Nishimura, a 24-year-old making his first appearance in the K-1 ring. Nishimura joked during his comments that he will have to overcome his 15 year old opponent's superior experience level.
"I'm excited, thanks to all," remarked Hiroya, who will be attending high school and continuing his muay thai training this year in Thailand.

The K-1 World Max Elite Showcase kicks off at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, April 4 at the Yokohama Arena. The event will be broadcast live in Japan on the TBS television network. In other countries contact local broadcasters for scheduling information. Visit the K-1 Official Web Site (www.k-1.co.jp/k-1gp) for official results, photos and detailed coverage of this and all K-1 events.
 



Schilt Captures K-1 Super Heavyweight Belt in Yokohama
By Monty DiPietro
Yokohama, March 4, 2007 -- Defending K-1 World Grand Prix Champion Sammy Schilt of Holland KO'd veteran slugger Ray Sefo of New Zealand tonight to become the first fighter to wear the new K-1 Super Heavyweight Title Belt. Schilt further distinguished himself as the first K-1 fighter to ever knock Sefo out.

With a star-studded card featuring established and up-and-coming fighters alike, the event kicked off K-1's15th season with thrilling fights and a couple of dramatic upsets.

The Fight Entertainment Group (FEG), which governs K-1, debuted two new weight classes here -- the Super Heavyweight division for fighters over 100kg/220lbs; and a corresponding Heavyweight class to accommodate fighters from 70kg/154lbs - 100kg, that is, between the existing World Max and new Super Heavyweight classes.



The Main Event saw Schilt and Sefo fighting for the Super Heavyweight Belt. The pair were fit and focused, and traded low kicks in the early going. Sefo overcame his 27cm/11" height disadvantage with excellent evasions and a tailored arsenal featuring low kicks, spinning back punches, and especially overhand punches and boomerang hooks. Schilt could not corral Sefo or get the knees up to effect, and as the first round progressed Sefo became more ambitious -- eliciting shrieks of approval from the young crowd when he dropped his guard to invite Schilt in. The crowd leapt to their feet when, at the bell, Sefo placed a left hook with enough authority to drop Schilt. On a night full of firsts, this was also the first time Schilt had been knocked down in a K-1 fight.

When the bell sounded to start the second the atmosphere in the Yokohama Arena was electric. Schilt maneuvered his opponent into the corner, attempting to get the knees working, but Sefo squeezed out of trouble, calmly ducked a Schilt front kick and then went on the offensive, charging forward to throw a punch. Alas, Schilt was waiting with a punch of his own, a left straight which, ameliorated by Sefo's forward motion, packed more than enough kinetic energy to drop the Kiwi and earn Schilt both the KO win and the Belt.

"I was fighting with a dislocated toe on my left foot, mentally I was okay, but I couldn't kick the way I wanted to," said Schilt afterward. "Ray had a good flight plan, to get close and punch -- but I'm not that easy!"

Also on the card were a pair of bouts to qualify fighters for the first K-1 Heavyweight Title Match, scheduled for Honolulu, Hawaii on April 28.

The first matchup, a tremendously exciting contest, pitted Moroccan bad boy Badr Hari against Russian dynamo Ruslan Karaev. This was a revenge bout, Hari having bitterly protested that a late hit from Karaev prematurely ended their fight at the Osaka Dome WGP Final Elimination last September.

Here, Karaev came out like a loaded gun -- quickly closing the distance and pumping the fists, while Hari for his part countered the best he could with kicks. The first was fought full-speed, Karaev got a few through, but Hari also made good contact with a high kick. The second was wilder still, Karaev continuing with the fists, Hari throwing all manner of kicks. Karaev continued to press, and Hari would have jackknifed over the ropes midway through, had Karaev not reached over and pulled him back into the ring. As the intensity escalated, Karaev aggressively followed an uppercut with a left hook to score a down.

Hari beat the count, and after resumption arched gracefully to allow a Karaev left to sail past his face, then in an instant fired in a right straight punch -- a superb strike which made full contact and dropped Karaev to the canvas. There was no way the Russian was going to beat the count, the KO win leveling the score for these boys and sending Hari to Hawaii.

"I want to thank Ruslan," said Hari from the winner's circle, "because it takes two to make a fight. Now I want to say that in April, the K-1 Heavyweight Belt will be mine!"

Vying to represent Japan in Hawaii were veteran seidokaikan fighter Musashi and Yasuke Fujimoto, who won the Asia GP last year. The two were tentative in the first, testing with low kicks. Much of the same through the second, low kicks but precious little in the way of follow-ups, the crowd voicing their disapproval as the referee warned both fighters when they went to the clinch. Fujimoto had probably put slightly more stuff across overall, and brought the wider range of attacks through the third and to the final bell.

When the scores were announced, one judge liked Fujimoto, but the others saw a draw, prompting an extra round. Visibly riled, K-1 Rules Director Nobuaki Kakuda briefly stepped into the ring to implore the fighters to pick up the pace. Halfway through the tiebreaker, Fujimoto obliged -- hurling a high kick up to flatten Musashi. With the KO win Fujimoto earned himself a Hawaii Heavyweight Title date with Hari.

"When Kakuda made his comment, it focused me on my fighting," said Fujimoto afterward. "I knew Musashi was hurting, and I picked the right moment for the high kick!"

The evening's action opened with a matchup between French kickboxer Cyril Abidi, making his first appearance in the K-1 ring in a year, and karate stylist Mitsugu Noda of Japan.

Abidi got a left hook and a right front kick through in a less-than-technical first. For his part, Noda was warned some for holding, but also connected with a couple of strikes to keep things close. The Japanese fighter put a flurry of fists through early in the second to score a standing count, and Abidi listlessly rode the ropes for the remainder of the second. Head-to-head contact opened a gash over Noda's eye, but he was cleared to continue after a doctor's check. In the third and final round, after another doctor's check on Noda, Abidi finally managed a sustained attack. But it was too little too late, and judges gave this one to Noda by a comfortable unanimous decision.

Defending K-1 USA Champion Chalid "Die Faust" of Germany was a late scratch with the flu, and so his Golden Glory Gym training partner Gohkan Saki of Turkey laced them up against Japanese tough guy Hiromi Amada in the next fight.

Amada took a heaping helpful of Saki's low kicks in this one. By the second round the cumulative effect of these blows had Amada in trouble, unable to close with punches, wincing in pain. Amada was limping late in the round and turned away from his opponent, for which he was assessed a standing count. Seconds later, at the bell, Amada fell to the canvas, and his corner really had no other choice but to throw in the towel, giving Saki the win.

The card's third bout saw creative Russian kyokushin kicker Alexandre Pitchkounov step in against one of Japan's tallest fighters, 198cm/6'6" kickboxer Hiraku Hori. Pitchkounov looked the hungry fighter here, focused and always better with his attacks, evasions and blocking. Scarcely halfway thorough the first, the Russian just missed with a spinning back kick, but dexterously followed up with a straight left punch to score a down. Soon afterward, it was a couple of left hooks that earned Pitchkounov his second down. At the bell to end the first, Hori was once again on the mat, victim of yet another Pitchkounov left. Three downs in one round and it's game over boys -- an impressive win for Pitchkounov.

Perennial Japanese hopeful Tsuyoshi Nakasako took on Alexey Ignashov's former sparring buddy Zabit Samedov of Belarus in a showdown between karate masters. Samedov's speed and footwork frequently got him inside, and he fought well there. A spectacular leaping punch attack ended the first round well for Samedov, who remained the more aggressive fighter through the second, clocking his opponent with a potent right hook. Nakasako did not make effective use of his reach, and in the third Samedov was again able to move effectively and penetrate at will. The Belorussian was especially good with counters to Nakasako's infrequent, sluggish kick attacks, dominating the fight and earning a majority decision.

Popular French fighter Jerome LeBanner was one of the big draws here, accepting the challenge from Junichi Sawayashiki, a relatively unknown Japanese kickboxer a dozen years his junior and 20kg/45lbs leaner. LeBanner looked relaxed, patiently holding the center of the ring while Sawayashiki played the perimeter. And then it happened -- just as LeBanner stepped forward with a right, Sawayashiki countered with a lightning quick right of his own, dropping the Frenchman. The crowd gasped, then roared their approval. At the bell, LeBanner looked anything but pleased.

In the second again, Sawayashiki circled. LeBanner attempted to cut off the ring, but spent most of his time following and chasing his opponent in vain. Compounding his frustration, when LeBanner did close he was unable to get past his opponent's guard, and saw his right effectively countered. It was one such counter from Sawayashiki -- a hard tight hook late in the third, that cocked LeBanner's head violently to the left, sending his mouthpiece flying and his hopes tumbling. This second down secured a unanimous decision upset win for the 22 year-old Sawayashiki.

Highly-anticipated was the bout between gargantuan Korean Hong Man Choi and American slugger Mighty Mo. This was an exhilarating battle of size versus power, a display destined to top highlight reels for a good long time. Dealing with no less than a 33cm/13" height disadvantage, Mo was determined to get his fists up and onto Choi's noggin by whatever means possible. The American leapt, spun, flew and flailed, and, to the crowd's delight -- finally got results, landing an overhand right late in the first round.

In the second Choi seemed unsure how to bring his size into play, and even as he gazed down on his opponent, in the manner of a bear pondering how to dispatch a pestering hedgehog, Mo did it. And by gosh, he did it good! The Samoan first reached up with his left, coolly lowering Choi's leading arm, then suddenly pumped a hearty right up and over and smack onto the Korean's big jaw. Choi crumpled to the canvas, and he stayed there. A long time.

This was a herculean effort and an epic upset. When Choi finally found his feet, the first thing he did -- humbled some but nonetheless wearing a wide smile -- was warmly congratulate his scrappy opponent.

"He's a big guy, and he seemed to take forever to go down," laughed Mo in his post-bout interview. "I'm not afraid of any fighter, big or small, they all have their weak points, they all go down. The message I have is that Mo is back, and going up!"

The K-1 World Grand Prix -07 in Yokohama attracted a crowd of 9,650 to the Yokohama Arena and was broadcast live across Japan on the Fuji TV network. For television scheduling information in other regions contact local broadcasters.

For official results, fighters' information, and coverage of this and all K-1 events, (including a complete archive of past events), visit the K-1 Official Website (http://www.k-1.co.jp/k-1gp/).
 



K-1 Season 15 Yokohama Kickoff -- Press Conference
By Monty DiPietro
Tokyo, March 3, 2007 -- One of the fastest growing sports in the world, K-1 is now entering its 15th year, with the first event of the 2007 World Grand Prix Series set for the Yokohama Arena this Sunday, March 4. Anticipation is high, and the star-studded card features established and up-and-coming fighters alike.



The Fight Entertainment Group (FEG), which governs K-1, has announced a number of changes to further develop the sport this year, toward the ultimate creation of a quadrennial "K-1 World Cup" beginning in 2010.

"Since we started, K-1 has organized tournaments with the best fighters from around the world," said K-1 Event Producer Sadaharu Tanikawa. "The reaction has been great, and now, for the future, we want to do something new, with title matches and weight classes."

At Yokohama K-1 will introduce two new weight classes -- a Super Heavyweight class for fighters over 100kg/220lbs; and a corresponding Heavyweight division to accommodate fighters from 70kg/154lbs - 100kg, that is, between the existing World Max and new Super Heavyweight classes.

The first-ever K-1 Super Heavyweight Champion will be determined in Yokohama, in about between veteran slugger Ray Sefo of New Zealand and karate giant Sammy Schilt of Holland.

"I was 5% last time I fought Schilt," said Sefo at the Fuji TV open press conference. "This time I'm 100%, so you're going to see power, strength and energy. There's not much to say about Schilt -- he is the champ, he's the man to beat!"

Schilt is also a man of few words. As usual, he kept his comments brief: "I'm happy to be here, and I'm going to put on a great fight."

Also in Yokohama tomorrow, Japanese fighters Musashi and Yasuke Fujimoto will square off for the right to represent their country in the first-ever K-1 Heavyweight title bout, scheduled for Honolulu, Hawaii on April 28. Vying for the other spot in this battle will be Russian dynamo Ruslan Karaev and Moroccan bad boy Badr Hari.

All four of these fighters expressed their appreciation for the chance, and vowed to do their best to get to Hawaii.

Throughout the year, title bouts will be held in both the K-1 Heavyweight and Super Heavyweight classes. The men wearing the championship belts at the end of the year will qualify for the K-1 World GP Final Elimination Tournament, joining the winners of this year's K-1 USA, Asia, Europe, and Repechage tournaments, and the eight participants from last year's WGP Final. The field will be completed by fighters selected by fan balloting. (The World GP continues as an open weight class -- its tournament structure comprising both the Heavyweight and Super Heavyweight classes.)

With the new weight classes, FEG aims to solidify K-1's position as "The World's Fightsport." In 2007, a network of overseas broadcasters will bring World GP action to television viewers in some 135 countries.

Tomorrow's March 4 Yokohama event will also feature Korean gargantuan Hong Man Choi taking on American slugger Mighty Mo in a battle of size versus power. French veteran Jerome LeBanner will be back at it, stepping in against Japanese fighter Junichi Sawayashiki. And another Frenchman, kickboxer Cyril Abidi, will return to action for a fight with Mitsugu Noda of Japan.

Defending K-1 USA Champion Chalid "Die Faust" of Germany will test Japanese tough guy Hiromi Amada, who spent January training for this fight in Thailand; perennial Japanese hopeful Tsuyoshi Nakasako will take on Alexey Ignashov's former sparring buddy Zabit Samedov of Belarus; and creative Russian kicker Alexander Pitchkounov will step up against one of Japan's tallest fighters, Hiraku Hori.

The K-1 World Grand Prix -07 in Yokohama starts at 3 p.m. at the Yokohama Arena. It will be broadcast live across Japan on the Fuji TV network. For scheduling information in other regions contact local broadcasters.

For complete fight card, fighters' information, and post-event coverage on the Yokohama and other K-1 events and fighters, (including a complete archive of past events), visit the K-1 Official Website (http://www.k-1.co.jp/k-1gp/).
 



Direkci Shocks Kraus; Sato Wins K-1 World Max Japan
By Monty DiPietro
TOKYO, February 5, 2007 -- Appearing in his K-1 debut, Murat Direkci needed just 87 seconds to defeat former World Max Champion Albert Kraus in a Superfight; while Yoshihiro Sato defended his Tournament Championship Belt at the K-1 World Max 2007 Japan. Held at the Ariake Coliseum in Tokyo's seaside district of Odaiba, the event kicked off the '07 World Max season with an abundance of thrilling bouts and a couple of stunning upsets.

Since its inception in 2002, K-1 World Max has become a fan favorite in Japan and around the world, mainly because the 70 kg/154lb weight class consistently delivers spirited, fast paced bouts. The Inaugural World Max Final was won by Dutch boxer Albert Kraus, who was but 21 when he captured the title. Kraus was back in action tonight, the heavy favorite to win in his Main Event Superfight with kickboxer Murat Direkci of Turkey.


But Direkci fought like an underdog should -- possessed of and driven by the awareness that he had nothing to lose and everything to gain. The approach paid off. From the bell the Turk charged forward with his fists, and within seconds had put a left punch in on a counter, clocking Kraus on the chin and knocking the former Champion to the canvas. Kraus easily beat the count, shaking his head as if to say that the only hurt was on his pride. But Direkci just kept on coming -- shortly after resumption he stepped in with a left-right combination that dropped Kraus a second time. This time the Dutch fighter was slower getting up. After taking a careful look at Kraus, the referee waved his arms in the air to stop the bout and give Direkci the huge victory.

"It was my night," said a beaming Direkci afterward. "I am an all-round fighter, I knee, kick and punch. In this fight, I saw the chance to punch, so I went with it. Of course, I always go for the KO!"

Two-time and Defending World Max Champion Buakaw Por Pramuk used his preternatural power and prowess with both kicks and punches to earn a convincing KO win over shoot boxer Andy Souwer in the final last June. Tonight, the Thai wunderkind stepped in for a Superfight against Tsogto "Shinobu" Amara, a Mongolian kickboxer and karate stylist.

Buakaw took his time here, tenderizing Amara with occasional low kicks and straight punches through the first, while coolly dodging just about everything that came his way. In the second Buakaw mixed up the low and high kicks, and Amara responded to a Buakaw knee to the midsection by turning away in pain, which cost the Mongolian a standing count. Buakaw worked a full array of attacks in the third, cocking his opponent's head hard with a left hook, then dropping his guard late and inviting Amara to try and hit him -- the failed attempts further fueling the Mongolian fighter's frustration. There are few who come close to Buakaw in the ring, and it was clear here that Amara is not yet one of them. A comfortable unanimous decision.

"This was like a practice fight for me," said Buakaw, "so I dropped my guard and had some fun. My goal this year is to defend my title, and I know that fighters like Masato and Souwer will be coming after me, so I'll have to do my best."

A fighter who certainly did his best tonight was Yoshihiro Sato, who dispatched three challengers to earn the K-1 World Max '07 Japan Championship Belt. The eight-man World Max Japan tournament followed K-1's classic format -- a quartet of first-tier fights advancing winners to the semifinals, the two victors there clashing in the final. All fights were conducted under regular K-1 World Max Rules, three rounds of three minutes each, with one possible tiebreaker round.

Continuing a K-1 tradition, a single non-Japanese was invited to participate -- this time it was Andy Ologun of Nigeria, a sometime-model, television personality and freelance fighter. Incredibly, Ologun scored the evenings' other major upset victory in his bout with kickboxer Takayuki Kohiruimaki.

Kohiruimaki is among Japan's best World Max fighters, having won the Max Japan Tournament in both 2004 and 2005. "Kohi" was cool as always with his low kicks, but throughout the fight seemed hesitant to step in and mix it up with Ologun. For his part, Ologun blocked the low kicks well, and was active and effective with his fists. Kohiruimaki appeared to have underestimated his opponent's arsenal, Ologun working a wide variety of attacks -- jabbing of course but also frequently leading with the quick right, getting in solidly with a left uppercut in the second and bloodying Kohiruimaki's nose. Judges weren't convinced after three, but in the tiebreaker round Ologun was the far more aggressive fighter, firing in five straight punches from the bell and scoring a down with a right midway through to pick up enough points for the upset victory.

The next fight featured 25 year-old boxer Tatsuji and kickboxer Hayato. It was Tatsuji by decision the last time these two tangoed, and so Hayato was looking for a little payback here. But Tatsuji didn't give him much of a chance, swinging away early in the first, connecting with a left hook for a down. Tatsuji worked the body with gusto in a slugfest of a second round, but Hayato weathered the blows and came back with a hard left hook and a couple of nice straight punches. The boys brawled through the third, careening across the ring in a riot of punches, kicks and knees. They did everything but knock each other out, which didn't bode well for Hayato, and when it was over Tatsuji advanced on points.

In the third tournament matchup, shoot boxer Hiroki Shishido took on Keiji Ozaki, a kickboxer appearing in his first K-1 bout. The pair worked the legs through the early going, but it was a right hook on a counter that earned Ozaki a down midway through the first. Ozaki was in the zone again in the second, blocking and evading well and connecting with creative attacks including a flying knee and a spinning back punch. Both fighters opened up in the third, generating numerous chances, Shishido getting in with a spinning back punch. A tough one to call, judges giving it to Ozaki on the basis of his first-round down.

Yoshihiro Sato, who stands 185cm/6'1", started his march to glory in the fourth quarterfinal. The kickboxer turned 26 scarcely a week ago, but had already built something of a reputation for himself over his nine K-1 World Max bouts -- winning the Max Japan tournament last year, upsetting slugger Mike Zambidis and only losing to elite opponents such as Kraus and Buakaw. Sato's opponent here was Yasuhito Shirasu, and from the start the lanky Sato endeavored to use his 15cm/6" height advantage to effect by stepping forward and bringing up the knees. But Shirasu, not surprisingly, had anticipated this tactic and wisely kept a V-shaped guard pressed tightly against his chest. Shirasu powered his way inside in the second, catching Sato on the jaw with a left. The third was both spirited and sloppy, and overall Sato got the better stuff in to take a unanimous decision and moved to the semis.

It was announced prior to the first semifinal that due an injury to his left leg, Ologun was unable to clear the doctor's check and so could not continue in the tournament. Under K-1 Rules, Kazuya Yasuhiro, who had beaten Satoruvashicoba by decision in the reserve bout, took the Nigerian fighter's place against Tatsuji.

The first was fast, Yasuhiro firing in low kicks, both fighters making partial contact with punches but neither putting a great deal of punishment in. Tatsuji was on the sore side of several kicks to the groin in the second, these prompting several time stoppages. Tatsuji got a combination through here but overall the targeting was poor and the blocking was good and, apart from the repeated rattling of Tatsuji's package, neither fighter suffered significant damage. The third was more of the same, Tatsuji delivering a flurry of punches at the clapper to take the win by decision and earn a spot in the final.

The second semi, between Sato and Ozaki, began with Sato again bringing in the knees, Ozaki meanwhile countering with the fists, scoring with a right straight punch early on and later with a hook and a nice spinning back punch. Once more in the second, Ozaki braved the low kicks and knees to close the distance and work the fists, but Sato got a timely hard knee up, and surprised Ozaki with a high kick late in the round to maintain the pressure. The third found Ozaki apparently fatigued, Sato looking the fresher of the pair, still pumping away with the knees and low kicks. Stamina was the difference here, Sato's earning him a unanimous decision and a trip to the final.

And so it was Sato vs Tatsuji. The bell rang and Tatsuji circled, looking for a way in. Sato remained cool, tentative with the jab, putting in merely perfunctory low kicks when Tatsuji approached. Soon Tatsuji took the initiative, coming in with a right straight punch. But Sato was ready -- and burst a knee up to his opponent's jaw, dropping him soundly. Tatsuji beat the count, but 30 seconds after resumption Sato shifted gears and went on the attack, jumping forward with a knee that caught Tatsuji hard on the nose and sent him back to the mat. This time Tatsuji, now bleeding somewhat, went stumbling awkwardly into the ropes as he tried in vain to find his feet. The referee quickly called the fight, and Sato had the honor of the first K-1 tournament victory of 2007.

"I'm very satisfied with the three fights tonight," said a smiling Sato in his post-event interview. "What I want to do now is get my skills up so I can compete at a world-class level."

With his tournament victory, Sato collects 5 million yen in prize money, plus a bonus of 300,000 yen for the KO he scored in the final. He also qualifies for this year's World Max Final Elimination.

There were three undercard bouts on the card: Hiroya TKO'd Akihira Takahashi; Kozo Mitsuyama beat Ash-Ra by unanimous decision; and Yasuhiro Kido scored a KO win over Kenji Kawabata.

Building on expanding interest in World Max, K-1 Event Producer Sadaharu Tanikawa announced that 2007 will see some 20 events featuring World Max contests, both in Japan and in licensed K-1 Fighting Network productions scheduled for Croatia, Sweden, Korea and other countries around the world.

The K-1 World Max 2007 Japan Tournament attracted a crowd of 8,961 to the Ariake Coliseum and was broadcast live across Japan on the TBS Network. Official results for this and all K-1 events can be found on the K-1 Official Website at www.k-1.co.jp/k-1gp.

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K-1 WORLD MAX 2007 Japan Tournament, Press Conference
By Monty DiPietro

TOKYO, February 4, 2007 -- Since its inception in 2002, K-1 World Max has become a fan favorite in Japan and around the world, not least of which because the 70 kg/154lb weight class consistently delivers spirited, fast paced bouts. Last June, Thailand's Buakaw Por Pramuk defeated Andy Souwer to claim the World Max Championship for the second time.

Both Defending Champion Buakaw and inaugural World Max Champion Albert Kraus of Holland will appear in Superfights at this season's first World Max event, the Japan 2007 Tournament, set for February 5 at the Ariake Coliseum in Tokyo's seaside district of Odaiba.

Participating fighters met the media today at the TBS television network's headquarters in downtown Tokyo. The mood was relaxed, the combatants trading the occasional jibe but otherwise restrained with their comments -- one after the other simply pledging to "do their best."

The eight-man tournament will follow K-1's classic format -- first-tier fights advancing a quartet of winners to the semis, the victors there clashing in the final.

Continuing a K-1 tradition, a single non-Japanese will also be competing in the event -- Andy Ologun of Nigeria starting things off with a bout against Takayuki Kohiruimaki. The other fight in the first bracket will feature Tatsuji and Hayato. In the second bracket, it will be Hiroki Shishido vs Keiji Ozaki, and Yoshihiro Sato vs Yasuhito Shirasu.

Buakaw's Superfight opponent will be Mongolian Tsogto "Shinobu" Amara; while Kraus will mix things up with Murat Direkci of Turkey in the Main Event.

All fights will be conducted under regular K-1 World Max Rules, three rounds of three minutes each, with one possible tiebreaker round. The winner of the tournament will collect 5 million yen in prize money, with a bonus of 300,000 yen for each knock out.

Building on the expanding interest in World Max, K-1 Event Producer Sadaharu Tanikawa announced that '07 will see some 20 events featuring World Max contests, in Japan and in licensed K-1 Fighting Network productions scheduled for Croatia, Sweden, Korea and elsewhere.

The K-1 World Max 2007 Japan Tournament kicks off at 5 p.m. Japan time. For official results and comprehensive post-event coverage of this and all K-1 events, visit the K-1 Official Website at www.k-1.co.jp/k-1gp.
 




K-1 Elite to Yokohama; New Weight Class Announced
By Monty DiPietro

TOKYO, January 25 -- K-1 announced today it will launch its World Grand Prix 2007 season with an All-Star event in Yokohama. The fightsport organization also outlined plans to create a new weight class, as well as a program to kickstart the development of young Japanese fighters.

Joining K-1 Event Producer Sadaharu Tanikawa in the Imperial Hotel press conference were a couple of K-1's Japanese stars -- Musashi and Yusuke Fujimoto. These fighters will face one another at this year's first World GP event, set for Yokohama Arena on March 4. Headlining the talent-rich card is a bout between defending WGP Champ Sammy Schilt and Ray Sefo of New Zealand. In other action, Korean giant Hong-Man Choi will step in against American Mighty Mo; Ruslan Karaev of Russia will tango with Dutchman Badr Hari; Chalid "Die Faust" of Germany will take on Japanese tough guy Hiromi Amada; and French kickboxer Cyril Abidi will test Japanese fighter Mitsugu Noda.

Tanikawa also outlined a new K-1 weight classification scheme. "In 1993, when K-1 started, the final eight fighters in the championship tournament were all about 90 kg each," he said. "But in recent years, bigger and bigger fighters have emerged who have good skills. And so, in order to make the sport more competitive and exciting, we will be experimenting this year with a 100 kg (220lbs) weight classification."

The new over/under 100kg weight division will be applied in K-1 Superfights. Overall, the World Grand Prix will continue as an open weight class format.

Also unveiled today was a reality television concept aimed at discovering and developing fighters in this country. The program will take the form of an ongoing competition between two teams -- one coached by Ernesto Hoost, the second by Mike Bernardo. Tanikawa said he hoped young Japanese fighters would flourish under the tutelage of these K-1 veterans. Viewers will follow their progress on the weekly Fuji TV fightsport program "SRS" (Special Ringside).
 




Schilt Wins Again, Akiyama Beats Sakuraba at Dynamite '06

By Monty DiPietro

OSAKA, December 31, 2006 -- Yoshihiro Akiyama defeated Kazushi Sakuraba in the Main Event, Hideo Tokoro upset mixed martial arts legend Royler Gracie, and Defending K-1 World GP Champion Semmy Schilt beat Peter Graham to notch his sixth-straight win tonight at the K-1 Premium Dynamite '06 event at the Kyocera Dome Osaka.

With matchups comprising fighters with all manner of skills, sizes and shapes, Dynamite has become a popular part of the New Year's Eve experience in Japan, appealing equally to martial arts purists and dabblers, appealing even to grandma and grandpa. A live and television audience numbering in the tens of millions watched tonight's 14 bouts -- contested mostly under Hero's mixed martial arts rules, with a quartet fought under K-1 rules.


The main event was a 85kg/187lbs showdown between Japanese fighters Yoshihiro Akiyama, who brought a judo background to mixed martial arts to capture this year's Hero's Light Heavyweight Championship; and Kazushi Sakuraba, whose tremendous achievements in mixed martial arts, not least of which his success against the world-famous Gracie clan, have made him into a living legend.

Both fighters tested with kicks from the bell, Sakuraba lunging in several times looking for a leg takedown, Akiyama backstepping to foil him. The pair fought the first almost entirely on their feet, exchanging a flurry of punches at the midway point. But roughly halfway into the 10-minute first, the pair went to the mat. Here it was Akiyama who got the upper position and put in the punches. Akiyama rained quite a beating on Sakuraba, who was able to partially block many of the strikes, but in no position to launch any counters. Finally, the bell was sounded to stop the bout in favor of Akiyama.

"I am of course happy with the win," said Akiyama from the winner's circle, "but I think it should have been stopped earlier. This was a fight, but it is also a sport. I understand that since I won the Hero's title earlier this year, fighters are going to try their best to beat me, I have to remember that and not be too cocky in the ring. This is a great way to finish the year, and I look forward to spending 2007 as the champion!"

Among the K-1 rules bouts (all fought with a 3min x 5R format) was a matchup that saw WGP '06 Champ Semmy Schilt of Holland step in against World GP in Melbourne '03 Champion Peter "Rolling Thunder" Graham of Australia. Schilt's knees are the most feared weapon in K-1, but Graham positioned and blocked well to stay out of harm's way, and just missed in the first with one of his spectacular rolling thunder flying kicks. Graham was aggressive again in the second, mixing up the attacks well, threading in a good body blow, coming just short with a spinning back punch but also eating a solid left straight. Schilt's size and strength stood him in good stead as usual, and Graham paid a price getting inside.

Graham appeared fatigued by the end of the third, dropping his guard to call Schilt in, an invitation the Dutch fighter declined. Schilt continued to fight cautiously but solidly through the fourth, waiting for his opponent, staying out of the path of another rolling thunder attempt. More of the same in the final round, Schilt jabbing well from outside, clinching and bringing up the knees when the distance closed. Graham's late rolling thunder attempt missed once again, and although Graham scored with a couple of body blows, Schilt was better here, connecting with a hard high kick. Kudos to Graham for staying on his feet, but in the end it was a unanimous decision by a comfortable margin for Schilt.

"It was short notice for the fight but I am happy with the result," said Schilt afterward. "Peter is a strong fighter and always dangerous. Now that it's over I can look ahead to 2007 and becoming a three-time World Grand Prix champion!"

Nicholas Pettas, the Danish karate great who has not competed in K-1 since breaking his leg in a bout with Sergei Gur back in 2002, made his long-awaited return in a K-1 rules bout with Dutch "golden" bad boy Badr Hari.

There was all manner of legwork in the fast-paced first -- Hari firing up middle and high kicks, Pettas in with the low, spinning and ax kicks. Hari used his reach to keep Pettas outside, jabbing and pushing with front kicks. Pettas kept on coming, but appeared to be having a problem with his left arm. Hari's fist connected with Pettas' elbow in the second, and the Dane turned away in pain, the referee stepping in to assess a standing count. Soon afterward, Pettas winced in pain after blocking a kick with the same arm, and his corner threw in the towel, giving Hari the win.

K-1 World Max '03 Champion Masato of Japan took on former Japanese middleweight boxing champion Satoru Suzuki in a 73kg/160lbs weight-class bout. This was a fast and furious fight, Suzuki connecting solidly with the straight punches and blocking Masato's kicks well. But in the second Masato came out much more aggressively, relentless now with his low kicks, and in no time Suzuki's left leg was hurting bad. A couple of kicks dropped the boxer, who beat the count, But with his mobility compromised, Suzuki was no longer able to come forward with the punches. Masato simply picked his spots, getting at the lame leg to drop his opponent twice for the victory.

Japan's strongest K-1 heavyweight, Musashi, went up against the power-first shot-put champion Randy Kim of South Korea in the fourth of the K-1 rules matchups. Winless in four K-1 fights this year, Musashi wanted to finish 2006 on a positive note before his hometown crowd. But Kim took the initiative in the early going, coming in with one-two punch combinations, clocking the Japanese fighter with a straight left. Musashi began to work the low kicks some in the second, but could not sustain pressure. Kim's guard was terribly low and loose throughout the fight, and in the third round Musashi finally exploited this, firing in a right hook and following with a left to put Kim down hard and pick up the win by KO.

Hero's rules mixed martial arts format bouts were the focus here, with keen interest focused on the two Ologun brothers, who hail from Nigeria and have carved out a niche on Japanese television shows. Big brother Bobby, who enjoyed remarkable success in the last two Dynamite events -- dispatching Cyril Abidi and former Sumo Grand Champion Akebono -- faced another big challenge in Korean K-1 fighter Hong Man Choi, who was making his mixed martial arts debut.

All smiles, Choi the loveable brute rapped and danced his way into the ring, followed by Ologun, who wore a Nigerian gown and a headband emblazoned with the kanji for "party."

Ologun charged forward from the bell with his legs flailing, intent on surprising Choi with a flying knee, or perhaps a kick -- this wasn't clear as Ologun's wild trajectory landed him woefully short, and he ended up in a heap on the mat. Choi nonchalantly reached down, grabbed a leg, dragged Ologun to the center of the ring, and began pumping in the fists. Several blows to the face later the referee literally leapt between the pair to stop the bout, waving his arms even as Ologun vainly protested "It's not over!" Called at a mere 16 seconds, this was the fastest win ever recorded by Choi.

The younger Ologun, 23 year-old Andy, faired better when he entertained television personality and sometime jiu-jitsu fighter, Ken Kaneko of Japan, in a 72kg/158lbs match. Kaneko came in quickly looking for a takedown, and while Ologun clearly wanted to fight on his feet, it wasn't long before the pair went to the mat. But Ologun did a fine job in guard, tying his opponent up to repeatedly force standing starts, whereupon he punished Kaneko's right leg with low kicks. The fight went the distance, Kaneko's leg only barely able to support him by time the final bell sounded, Ologun picking up the win by unanimous decision.

In a 70kg/154lbs matchup, it was Katsuhiko Nagata of Japan, a Greco-Roman wrestling silver medallist at the Sydney Olympics, facing countryman Shuichiro Katsumura. A surprisingly spirited start, both wrestlers coming out swinging fast and hard. Nagata got on top of his felled opponent midway through the first, then fired in a dozen punches to earn a referee stop and victory.

Japanese pro wrestler Tokimitsu "Kendo Kashin" Ishizawa shed his mask to face Seidokaikan fighter Taiei Kin, also of Japan. Kin fiercely resisted Ishizawa's early takedown attempts, peppering his opponent with low kicks before firing up a high kick to the jaw to end it in spectacular style.

In a 70kg/154lbs bout, 41 year-old Royler Gracie represented Brazil's foremost fighting family against a mixed martial arts scrapper 12 years his junior, Hideo Tokoro of Japan. The pair went to the mat early and stayed there, twisting and turning for purchase in an exciting first marked by a number of deft reversals. In the second, after an extended period of clinching, Tokoro surprised Gracie with a well-placed jumping knee, following up with punches before going once more to the mat and stalemate. Tokoro was the more aggressive after the standing restart, firing in fists and kicks to end the round. The third saw a lot of good action on the mat, Tokoro creating numerous chances against his experienced opponent. Gracie got into mount late in the round, and went to the side to work a triangle even as the final bell sounded. But this was, as they say, too little and too late, and when the judges' decision was announced it was Tokoro whose arm was raised. A huge win for the Japanese fighter, who was all smiles as he high-fived gleeful ringside fans during his exit.

American-Japanese Former Sumo Grand Champion Akebono was back at it here, lumbering his 210kg/463lbs frame into the ring to meet the 230cm/7'7" Brazilian Giant Silva in a battle of the behemoths. After an early clinching session came dangerously close to spilling over the ropes and into the crowd, the men earthquaked to the mat, where Silva got hold of Akebono's right arm and hyperextended for a submission.

With it's festive New Year's Eve atmosphere, Dynamite provides the perfect vehicle for Japanese fighter Genki Sudo's elaborately choreographed ring entrances. Sudo showed up for his date with American fighter Jackson Page accompanied by a dozen acrobatic dancers in a theatrical treatment which suffused the animism and astronomy-based Mayan rituals of the first millennium with the contemporary bling of a Las Vegas production number.

When the bout finally started, Page rushed past Sudo's peculiar crab-walk and extended-rump defensive posture and quickly effected a takedown and mount. The wily Sudo however turned this to his advantage, squirming to work his legs round Page's head for a triangle choke and submission.

Somewhat anti-climatically, the fight had ended faster than the ring entrance. But Sudo was not done with the dramatics: In his victory speech, he first thanked the crowd for their support, then abruptly announced he was retiring from the fight game effective immediately. He later explained to reporters that a neck injury suffered earlier this year forced him to rethink his future, and said he now plans to spend some time traveling the world and writing.

Norifumi "Kid" Yamamoto of Japan, currently training as a wrestling hopeful for the '08 Beijing Olympics, tested his skills against Hungarian Istvan Majoros, who won the Olympic gold in Greco-Roman Wrestling at the '04 Games.

Yamamoto turned aside Majoros' early single-leg takedown attempt, got into a reverse headlock then pumped up a knee before starting in with the low kicks, which Majoros clearly did not like. The Hungarian wrestler was no more fond of the hard knee visited upon his midsection shortly afterward, and collapsed to the mat. Showing Olympian sportsmanship, The Kid eschewed further hard attacks on his prone and defenseless opponent, waiting instead for the flummoxed referee to step in and stop the fight.

In an undercard bout, Yukiya Naito of Japan weathered some early attacks before getting big Korean Dong Wook Kim on the ground and pounding him into submission.

The K-1 Premium Dynamite event attracted a sellout crowd of 51,930 to the Kyocera Dome Osaka. The event was broadcast live on New Year's Eve on the TBS network in Japan, and in South Korea on MBC-ESPN. Delayed pay-per-view broadcasts will be available in some 50 countries, check with local providers for scheduling details. As always, find comprehensive coverage on the K-1 Official Website (www.k-1.co.jp)
 



K-1 Dynamite 2006 Press Conference

By Monty DiPietro
OSAKA, December 30, 2006 -- It is early afternoon, and 26 kickboxers, judo and karate masters, boxers, wrestlers, Olympic medallists and television personalities sit at a two-tier table stretching the width of the Osaka Imperial Hotel's ballroom. There are hungry up-and-comers and seasoned veterans and revered champions, hailing from 10 different countries. Today they are gentlemen, dressed in suits, posing for the cameras and politely answering reporters' questions. Tomorrow they will be warriors, stepping into the Osaka Dome ring to fight in front of a live and television audience numbering in the tens of millions. The countdown to New Year's Eve has begun, and with it comes the K-1 Premium Dynamite -- the most widely-watched martial arts extravaganza in the world.


Like mochi rice cakes and temple bells, Dynamite has become an integral part of the New Year's Eve tradition in Japan, appealing equally to martial arts purists and dabblers, appealing even to grandma and grandpa. The 13 bouts will be fought mostly under Hero's mixed martial arts rules, with a quartet to be contested under K-1 rules (3min x 5R).

The main event will be a 85kg/187lbs showdown between Japanese fighters Yoshihiro Akiyama, who has brought a judo background to mixed martial arts to capture this year's Hero's Light Heavyweight Championship; and Kazushi Sakuraba, whose tremendous achievements in mixed martial arts, not least of which his success against the world-famous Gracie clan, have made him into a living legend.

Sakuraba, still known as "The IQ Wrestler" for the strategies he brings to the ring, surprised the assembled media by making his remarks in what sounded like Portuguese. Pressed by reporters to clarify, he joked "Well, it was Portuguese, but, just the words I know, like 'fried egg' or 'piece of chicken' and that sort of thing." Both he and Akiyama said they were delighted to be in the main event here and would endeavor to make a great fight of it.

Of special interest to K-1 fans, there was a surprise addition to the card announced today -- Defending K-1 World Grand Prix Champion Semmy Schilt of Holland will step in against Aussie kickboxer Peter Graham.

Schilt is a big man of few words: "I'm glad to be the champ, and will show a great fight."
Said Graham: "It is an honor to fight champ, I have been training with Nicholas Pettas and am thankful for all the support, I will do my best!"

That same Nicholas Pettas, the Danish karate great who has not competed in K-1 since breaking his leg in a bout with Sergei Gur back in 2002, will make his long-awaited return tomorrow in a K-1 rules bout against Dutch bad boy Badr Hari.

"It's been a long time, glad to see everyone again" said Pettas in Japanese. "In the spirit of the 'Dynamite' theme, I want to really show my worth as a fighter tomorrow."
Said Hari: "I had some good and some bad this year, I learned a lot and grew a little! I know that after tomorrow's event, half the guys here will be happy, and half will be crying in their beds because they lost. I plan to be among those celebrating!"

In other K-1 rules matchups, it will be 2003 World Max Champion Masato of Japan fighting hard-hitting compatriot Satoru Suzuki; and Japan's best heavyweight, Musashi, taking on the power-first Randy Kim of South Korea.

Hero's bouts will of course be the focus. Featured fights include a couple of contests featuring the Ologun brothers, who hail from Nigeria and have carved out a niche on Japanese television shows. Andy, the younger, will tango with another television personality, Ken Kaneko of Japan; while Bobby, who has had remarkable success in the last two Dynamite events, dispatching Cyril Abidi and former Sumo Grand Champion Akebono, will face another big challenge in behemoth Hong Man Choi in the Korean K-1 fighter's mixed martial arts debut.

Explained Ologun in the broken Japanese that has become his shtick: "My opponent is big and strong, so my strategy is to eat as much as possible so I can get strong as well!"
Said Choi: "It's my first Dynamite and first mixed martial arts fight, I will make a good start."

Speaking of behemoths, Akebono will be back at it tomorrow, lumbering in against the 224cm/7'4" Brazilian Giant Silva. Who knows what will become of this one.

Those looking for technique over brawn will be watching the bout between explosive Japanese fighter Genki Sudo and Jackson Page of the USA; and the match between Norifumi "Kid" Yamamoto of Japan, currently in training for the '08 Beijing Olympics, and Hungarian Istvan Majoros, who won the Olympic gold in Greco-Roman Wrestling at the '04 Games.

Said Majoros, who will be making his mixed martial arts debut: "I know Kid is excellent in these rules, so I will do my best!"
The Kid told the media he wanted to "win fast, then get home to my daughter."

Royler Gracie will represent Brazil's foremost fighting family in a match against the aggressive Hideo Tokoro of Japan.

Tokoro: "It's an honor to be part of this event, I will try to make my fight the best of all!"
Gracie: "I don't like to spend too much time in the ring, I want to win then go out and celebrate the new year!"

Also on the card, the masked Japanese pro wrestler Tokimitsu "Kendo Kashin" Ishizawa will face Seidokaikan fighter Taiei Kin, also of Japan; Katsuhiko Nagata of Japan will meet countryman Shuichiro Katsumura; and Korean Dong Wook Kim will take on Yukiya Naito of Japan.

The K-1 Premium Dynamite event will be broadcast live on New Year's Eve on the TBS network in Japan, and in South Korea on MBC-ESPN. Delayed pay-per-view broadcasts will be available in some 50 countries, check with local providers for scheduling details. As always, find comprehensive post-event coverage on the K-1 Official Website (www.k-1.co.jp)
 



Unshakable Schilt Repeats as K-1 WGP Champion
By Monty DiPietro
TOKYO, December 2, 2006 -- Seidokaikan karate fighter Semmy Schilt dispatched three challengers at the Tokyo Dome tonight en route to victory in the K-1 '06 World Grand Prix Final. The 33 year-old Dutchman brought the full force of his size (212cm/6'11"; 128kg/296lbs), speed and technique into play to win fightsport's most prestigious title for the second consecutive year. Along with the championship belt, Schilt picks up a first-prize purse of US$400,000.


 
A modern fusion of traditional martial arts disciplines, K-1 is among the world's fastest-growing sports. The WGP Final is the culmination of a year of regional elimination tournaments, and follows K-1's classic tournament format -- eight fighters compete in a quartet of contests with the four victors advancing to a pair of semifinal bouts, the winners there clashing in the final. All fights were conducted under K-1 Rules, three rounds of three minutes each, with a possible tiebreaker.

Schilt and formidable French kickboxer Jerome LeBanner went head to head in the first tournament matchup. From the bell, Schilt controlled the distance with low and front kicks, while LeBanner strove to get inside with the fists. The Frenchman scored from the clinch with a right hook, and blocked well when Schilt attempted knees and high kicks.

The second round saw both fighters staying with textbook kick and punch exchanges, and things looked about even until Schilt got a dandy left high kick up to the side of LeBanner's head for a down. LeBanner tried to get back into this one but Schilt would not let him find his distance. Instead it was Schilt who had the better opportunities in the third, capitalizing with a left hook and making partial contact with a big knee to pick up the unanimous decision. Before exiting the ring, LeBanner fell to his knees, bowed, and apologized to his fans.

The second quarterfinal featured K-1's only four-time WGP Champion, Ernesto "Mr Perfect" Hoost. Appearing in his farewell tournament, the 41 year-old Dutch kickboxer faced a fighter 10 years his junior -- German dynamo Chalid "Die Faust," who prevailed at the USA GP in Las Vegas this April. Hoost stayed center-ring, sticking with the low kicks that have stood him in good stead over the years. Die Faust circled, coming in with aggressive punching attacks. Hoost had a problem with balance early on, slipping on three occasions, but found his feet late in the round, making contact with a high kick.

A cool Hoost moved forward with tight combinations in the second, but Die Faust blocked ably and answered the challenges with punches, and there were some satisfying exchanges here and in the third. Hoost showed good stamina, taking the fight to his opponent, scoring late with combinations, low kicks and punch combinations. When the pair went to the clinch, Hoost pumped in the knees while Die Faust brought uppercuts. One judge gave it to Hoost but the others saw a draw so the bout went to an extra round.

Here Hoost kept moving forward, and his prowess with the low kicks and a nice left straight punch proved enough to secure the victory and a date with Schilt in the semifinals.

In the first matchup of the second bracket, it was Brazilian Kyokushin fighter Glaube Feitosa versus Ruslan Karaev of Russia. The '05 WGP runner-up, Feitosa's legwork is nothing short of masterful, and his boxing skills have markedly improved this year. But Karaev also has a number of creative and dangerous attacks in his arsenal, and as the youngest fighter in the tournament at just 23, had nothing to lose and everything to gain here.

Karaev charged in from the bell with an all-out punch and kick attack, intent on overpowering his opponent. But Feitosa kept his guard up and weathered the storm, then coolly came in with a left high kick that caught Karaev hard on the side of the head. The Brazilian did not relent, following up quickly with punches to force a standing count. The referee took a good look at the stunned Karaev, then waved his arms to stop the bout, putting Feitosa through to the semis.

The last quarterfinal saw '03 & '04 WGP Champion Remy Bonjasky of Holland take on German kickboxer Stefan "Blitz" Leko. The pair tested early with the kicks, and during one exchange, Leko accidentally caught Bonjasky below the belt, prompting a stoppage and doctor's check. Several minutes passed as Bonjasky grimaced in pain. The recovery period was further extended, but Bonjasky remained doubled over. After consultations between the ringside doctor and K-1 officials, a special provision was declared wherein Bonjasky could return to his dressing room for attention. It was announced that the fight would be restarted after the next scheduled contest, a reserve bout.

Alas, Bonjasky was still looking less than 100% when he returned to the ring some 15 minutes later, but the fight restarted with the Dutchman launching proficient high kicks, And then, in a freak of dreadful circumstance, a Leko spinning kick revisited the same soft spot on Bonjasky's anatomy. A look of disbelief flashed across the violated fighter's face as he draped himself over the ropes in distress. The ring doctor once again attended to Bonjasky as Leko was assessed a yellow card for the foul. The bout resumed after some three minutes, Bonjasky working the kicks and knees, Leko countering with punches. Defenses were sound on both sides, and no serious damage was suffered.

In the fast-paced second Bonjasky kept his guard close and high, peppering his opponent with low kicks and getting up with an expert knee, while Leko threaded the guard with a right uppercut. Leko had a hard time getting the punches past in the third, and Bonjasky used the legs well before showing great timing to come in with a tight right hook to score a down. A unanimous decision for Bonjasky.

The first semifinal, between Schilt and Hoost, began with Schilt jabbing and Hoost pestering with quick overhand punches. Schilt got a solid knee up midway through, but this didn't trouble Hoost. There was a spell of tough, in-close boxing early in the second before Schilt began to get to Hoost, who was cautioned twice for clinching. The best strike of the round was a Schilt right hook that caught Hoost unprepared, sending him stumbling but not down.

Schilt's long reach was the difference in the third, as he was able to launch several successful lefts then follow with a knee and close with body blows. Hoost tried till the end to find a way to hurt Schilt, but to no avail. If Hoost was to lose his last bout, there was no shame in doing so to the powerhouse that is Schilt.

Substitutions were effected for the second semifinal after brutalized gonads forced Bonjasky to bow out. It was announced that Leko was also unable to continue due damage to his left leg. And so, under K-1 rules, the winner of the reserve fight was parachuted into the tournament.

That was Peter "The Dutch Lumberjack" Aerts. In the reserve Aerts had met Japanese Seidokaikan fighter Musashi. Late in the first, Aerts surprised Musashi with a right straight punch and laid in with the fists to earn a down, scoring a second soon after resumption to pick up the win. A participant in each and every WGP final since the sport's inception, Aerts' victory afforded him the opportunity to maintain the streak.

Feitosa connected with a hard high kick to rattle Aerts in the first, and made partial contact soon afterward with an axe kick. Aerts however reversed spectacularly in the second, chasing Feitosa with fists, stunning him with a right and a left then bringing up the knee. A devastating right hook put the Brazilian down hard, prompting a referee stop. Aerts sprightly jogged out of the ring, looking to be in great shape for his date with Schilt.

The air was electric as Aerts and Schilt entered the ring for the final. Aerts seized the initiative, rushing right in with overhand punches, then went after Schilt's left leg, targeting it with more than a dozen and a half low kicks in the first round alone. But Schilt used his reach effectively as always, connecting with straight punches then corralling Aerts in the corner and bringing up the knee. Aerts fought a smart fight -- closed up, his defenses were sound and he stayed mostly out of harm's way.

Midway though the second, however, Schilt charged in with kicks and knees to score a down. Aerts appeared fine after the count, and the never-say-die fighter had moments of his own in the round, charging with a right and left straight punch combination that made partial contact and put Schilt on the ropes. In the third The Lumberjack pumped in more low kicks, including one that caught Schilt across the back of the thigh and very nearly felled him. Aerts added some straight punches, but could he not put the hurt on Schilt. For his part, Schilt was always strong with the fists, stymieing Aerts' attempts to get inside. When the distance did close, Schilt had the big knees at the ready. Aerts was tired and a little wobbly by the end of this one, which went to Schilt by unanimous decision.

"I'm very happy," said the repeat Champion in his post-tournament interview. "I'm especially pleased to win with fights against three K-1 all-time greats. I felt pressure this time, more than I want to admit, but now that it's over I just want to have a shower and enjoy my victory!"

"As for next year, I think at this point I can take on anyone, so yes I will go for a third title. I want to thank all my fans, and I want to thank my sparring partners, trainers and manager at the Golden Glory Gym."

Remarkably, three of the final eight in this year's World Grand Prix hailed from a single gym -- Golden Glory, located in the southern Dutch city of Breda. "We are successful because we are like a family," commented Golden Glory's beaming Bas Boon. "Our style is to train our fighters under a certain system, especially developing mental strength. We have an interesting history too, that's all up on our website (www.goldenglory.com)."

In other action on the card:

A Superfight set the wiry Moroccan Badr Hari against K-1 Oceania '06 Champion Paul Slowinski of Australia. The muay thai fighters put on an entertaining show, Slowinski the well-balanced meat-and-potatoes fighter, steady on his feet and good with the combinations; Hari showing superior movement, rhythm and creativity. Hari had the better stuff overall, launching all manner of kicks, swinging the fists with gusto and countering Slowinski effectively throughout. Several times Hari struck with power sufficient to down many fighters, it was a testament to Slowinski's strong chin that he stayed standing and continued to deliver attacks to the final bell. A comfortable unanimous decision for Hari, who, belying his bad boy reputation, appeared disciplined and sportsmanlike here -- thanking his opponent after the bout, vacating the ring when asked.

In the second tournament reserve, Ray Sefo of New Zealand took on Melvin Manhoef of Holland. Sefo had promised that this bout would not go the to the final bell, in fact it barely got past the first bell. Manhoef apparently wanted to take Sefo's head off, and straight off brought a high kick round that sailed just high. Sefo then wasted no time stepping in with a right hook that caught Manhoef awkwardly, on the side of the head. A second right followed and Manhoef went down, where he struggled to beat the count, shakily getting to his feet only to see the referee prudently stop the fight, giving Sefo another addition to his well-stocked trophy case.

In undercard action, Hiraku Hori beat Kyoung Suk Kim by decision, Junichi Sawayashiki beat Mitsugu Noda by split decision, and Takumi Sato KO'd Tsutomi Takahagi.

The K-1 World Grand Prix '06 Final attracted 54,800 to the Tokyo Dome. It was broadcast live in Japan on the Fuji TV network, in Korea on MBC-ESPN, in the Netherlands on SBS6, in Romania on ProTV and in Hungary on RTL Klub. InDemand will show the event in the United States, EuroSport and Canal+ in Europe -- check with local providers for scheduling information. In total, the WGP '06 will be broadcast in 129 countries.
 




K-1 WGP Final'06 Press Conference
By Monty DiPietro
TOKYO, December 1, 2006 -- On this cool and clear afternoon, some 350 Japanese and international media representatives packed the ballroom at the New Takanawa Hotel to meet the eight finalists who will do battle tomorrow in the K-1 World Grand Prix '06 Final, in pursuit of fightsports' most prestigious belt and a first-prize purse of US$400,000.

A modern fusion of traditional martial arts disciplines, K-1 is among the world's fastest-growing sports. The WGP Final is the culmination of a year of regional elimination tournaments, and follows K-1's classic tournament format -- four first-tier contests advancing a quartet of fighters to a pair of semifinal bouts, the two winners there clashing in the final. And so this year's Grand Champion will have to prevail over three consecutive opponents to achieve victory.

When the bell rings tomorrow, these warriors will be all business, but at the press conference today the mood was relaxed, fun -- reserve fighter Ray Sefo posing with opponent Melvin Manhoef's team shirt; quarterfinal opponents Glaube Feitosa and Ruslan Karaev laughing like schoolchildren as they elbowed for position behind the Championship belt.

The favorite here is Defending WGP Champion Sammy Schilt of Holland. If the hulking Seidokaikan fighter is to repeat, he will first have to get past the formidable French kickboxer Jerome LeBanner.

A man of few words, Schilt managed to communicate quiet confidence when asked to comment on the fight: "I will show you a great fight, but for me, Jerome is just one of the three."

Replied LeBanner, who, at the draw in September elected to make Schilt his first fight opponent: "My goal is to reach the title, and I wanted to climb the highest mountain first -- and that is this guy, Semmy."

The second quarterfinal will feature K-1's only four-time WGP Champion, Ernesto "Mr Perfect" Hoost Holland. Appearing in his farewell tournament, Hoost will face the explosive German fighter Chalid "Die Faust."

Hoost: "Of course, all things have to end some time and I have peace with that. I have been fighting for 22 years and that is enough. I trained hard and I feel good, it is my intention to become a five-time champion, and this is what I will go for tomorrow."

Die Faust: "Thanks to my team I'm in great shape, tomorrow will be exciting, this is the best tournament and I have nothing to lose so I will give my best!"

In the first matchup of the second bracket, it will be Brazilian Glaube Feitosa versus Ruslan Karaev of Russia.

Feitosa: "I train with Kyokushin, and they trained me hard -- it will be a great fight!"

Karaev: "It is a great Grand Prix and I want to do my best, especially since my brother, cousin, niece and her husband and their friends have all come here from Russia to support me!"

The last quarterfinal final bout will see'03 & '04 WGP Champion Remy Bonjasky of Holland take on German kickboxer Stefan "Blitz" Leko.

Bonjasky: "It is good to be back, tomorrow will be a great day. I don't have a lot to say but wish everyone good health, and let's have fun!"

Leko: "This year I'm returning after some time away from K-1. I trained really hard, I'm in the best shape of my life and I am going for the title -- good luck to everyone!"

In the first tournament reserve, it will be Peter Aerts of Holland and Japanese fighter Musashi; while Ray Sefo of New Zealand will take on Melvin Manhoef of Holland in the second reserve bout.

A Superfight will set Moroccan bad boy Badr Hari against K-1 Oceania '06 Champion Paul Smolinski of Australia.

The K-1 World Grand Prix '06 Final kicks off at 5 p.m. at the Tokyo Dome. It will be broadcast live in Japan on the Fuji TV network, in Korea on MBC-ESPN, in the Netherlands on SBS6, in Romania on ProTV and in Hungary on RTL Klub. InDemand will show the event in the United States, EuroSport and Canal+ in Europe -- check with local providers for scheduling information. In total, the WGP '06 will be broadcast in 129 countries.
 


 

Europeans Excellent at K-1 WGP Final Elimination
By Monty DiPietro
OSAKA, September 30, 2006 -- Fighters from Australia, New Zealand, Trinidad, Japan and Korea all fell by the way, and, but for a lone Brazilian, it was all about European power tonight at the K-1 World Grand Prix '06 Final Elimination Tournament in Osaka.


While nothing compares with the drama of the eight-men-in-one-man-out K-1 World GP Final, the annual Elimination event has an energy all its own. Here, fighters need not pace themselves for a long night or speculate about potential second and third contest opponents. With just a single bout involved, fighters can undertake differential preparation and focus all their energy on the one man that stands between them and a place at fightsports' most prestigious event, the K-1 Tokyo Dome Final.

The '06 K-1 regional tournament winners and exceptional fighters joined the finalists from the '05 WGP and got down to business tonight at the Osaka Jo Hall. The evening comprised eight one-match bouts (fought under regular K-1 Rules, 3min x 3R), with the eight victors advancing to the Tokyo Dome. The 16 participants had excellence in common, otherwise they were diverse -- a variety of styles, veterans and up-and-comers, finesse fighters and brawlers alike.

The card's first matchup was a battle of newcomers, as the explosive Russian kickboxer Ruslan Karaev, 23, stepped in against Badr Hari of Holland, a 21 year-old muay thai stylist who has countered his enfant terrible image with the improbable sobriquet "Golden Boy." Wearing a Los Angeles Lakers' jersey, Hari lip-synched to Compton gangsta rap during his protracted ring entrance. Karaev counterpointed with a friendly, touch-the-fans-hands stroll to the squared circle, and finally it was time for this much-anticipated showdown.

The fight,, unfortunately, lasted only a fraction of the time the entrances had. Hari made a good start of it, firing in hard low kicks that seemed to sting Karaev. But during a quick exchange, Karaev stepped forward with a left and then a right hook that left Hari slumping against the corner post. Karaev fired in another punch, then a kick before the referee, who was positioned behind the action, stepped forth to call a down. Hari did not stand or assume a fighting pose, and so the fight was called.

Hari and his seconds then closed in on Karaev's corner, protesting vehemently, even as big-screen replays had fans speculating about elbow contact and late strikes. But the bout had been called and the bell had been rung, and that was that. Karaev collected his trophy and left, but a defiant Hari stayed on, and had to be talked out of the ring by K-1 officials. "I stop fighting!" bellowed the infuriated Hari as he marched away, "I tell you now, I stop fighting!" It is a safe bet that we will be hearing more from Hari and his Show Time Team about this -- and a safe bet that the wunderkind will, in fact, fight again.

Gary Goodridge of Trinidad and Tobago by way of Canada was a late substitute here. In the second bout, he took on two-time WGP Champion Remy Bonjasky of the Netherlands.

Bonjasky is terrific with his legwork, while Goodridge brings a power-punch game and is known for fast starts. Goodridge was uncharacteristically cautious in the early going, and that cost him. Bonjasky took the initiative, coming in with a perfect flying knee to score a down midway through the first. Goodridge only barely beat the count, and but for a brief barrage of body blows, never really threatened. The second was similar, Bonjasky controlling the distance, picking his spots and firing in the kicks, blocking well when Goodridge got inside. By the third Bonjasky was completely in control, and put a punishing flying knee up to the face, followed by a couple of punches and a high kick, to lay his opponent out and pick up a ticket to the Tokyo Dome.

The dedicated and technical Kyokushin fighter Glaube Feitosa of Brazil has charted a rapid improvement curve that took him to the final bout at the Tokyo Dome last year. In tonight's third matchup he put his panache up against the power of Oceania GP Champion Paul Slowinski of Australia.

Feitosa was in fine form, rattling Slowinski early on with a right straight punch and laying in the kicks with terrific timing. Slowinski showed his technique with a number of strong punch and kick combinations, and to his credit kept coming in right to the final bell. But where Slowinski was an able craftsman, Feitosa was the consummate artist, deftly snapping in the low kicks, threading through the fists, firing up the preternatural Kyokushin high kicks -- fighting with a poise and rhythm that the increasingly frustrated Slowinski simply could not match. A well-deserved unanimous decision for the Brazilian.

In a bout between karate giants, Defending WGP Champion Semmy Schilt of Holland faced this year's K-1 Europe Tournament winner, Bjorn Bregy of Switzerland. At 202cm/6'8", Bregy is accustomed to out-heighting his opponents. But today he had to look up to Schilt, who at 212cm/6'11 is a veritable tower of power. Bregy also experienced three unwelcome occasions to gaze up at Schilt from the canvas.

The Swiss fighter commenced bravely, but midway through the first, just as he was putting in a left, Schilt countered coolly with a left of his own, outreaching him to score a down. Bregy was obviously hurt quite badly on this exchange, and while he beat the count and continued, he was forced to turn away in pain after taking another punch to the face. This resulted in a standing count, and after resumption Schilt did what he had to do, planting another punch on Bregy's brutalized mug to record a third down and take the KO win. With the way he has been fighting, Schilt has an excellent chance to repeat as champion this year.

Regarded as one of the best K-1 fighters never to win the WGP, the incomparable Ray Sefo of New Zealand faced another veteran, K-1 Repechage tournament winner Stefan "Blitz" Leko of Germany, in the next fight. In a bout in Osaka four years ago, it was Sefo who emerged victorious. Leko was looking to even the score tonight.

These two are friends outside the ring, and the fight frequently suggested this -- as technical exchanges were evidenced more than killer instinct. There were moments to be sure -- Sefo, mostly planted, stepping in with the hard right; Leko always in motion, penetrating with his jabs and straight punches. Both had the low kicks and one-two combinations here and there, but neither could follow up when they might take an advantage. The fellows launched a number of creative attacks, spinning back kicks and punches, side kicks -- but neither could do any damage with these either. Judges couldn't make a call after three, and sent the fight to an extra and deciding round. Here it was more spirited, but, again, very close -- the pair trading low kicks, Sefo dropping his guard to challenge, Leko testing repeatedly with the left and placing low kicks. Judges decided Leko deserved it more, and he was put through to the Tokyo Dome.

"Yes I was careful," said Leko in his post-fight interview, "I used to be more aggressive but now that I'm older I can fight more cleverly. But don't underestimate me, I'm 32 and this is my time, this is my year to win the Grand Prix!"

K-1's only four-time Champion, the 41 year-old Dutch kickboxer Ernesto "Mr. Perfect" Hoost, came out of semi-retirement to fight here. "There is for me no other option," said Hoost beforehand, "than to take the chance, give 100%, and try to make a very good ending to a very good career." In his incredible drive for five WGP titles, Hoost's first hurdle was this year's Asia GP Champion, karate stylist Yusuke Fujimoto of Japan.

Fujimoto did not appear intimidated by his storied opponent, and used his right effectively through the first. Hoost sent in the occasional low kick but otherwise looked tentative. In the second, again, Fujimoto was there with the fists, pumping in a series of unanswered body blows. Hoost started the third with some spark, firing three low kicks, and just missed with the follow-up punches. Late in the round, as Fujimoto came in with a left punch, Hoost quickly blocked and countered. With both fighters off-balance, Hoost caught Fujimoto on the top of the leg with a low kick. The two men tumbled to the mat, and it was the wincing Fujimoto who did not get up. The Japanese fighter couldn't beat the count, and finally limped out of the ring only as Hoost hoisted a trophy in celebration of his qualification for the Final.

Next up, Japanese Seidokaikan stylist Musashi, who was fighting in front of his hometown Osaka crowd, took on Chalid "Die Faust" of Germany, who won the USA GP in Las Vegas this April.

A sprightly start, the two light on their feet, trading punches and kicks alike. Die Faust got the right through a couple of times, while Musashi had plenty of power on his low kicks. In the second round Die Faust stayed with the punches, scoring with a left straight and bringing the right across increasingly well. Musashi threw punches here but could not find his distance or sustain attacks. And so it was up to Musashi to do it in the third -- but Die Faust didn't give him the chance. The German had a high connection percentage with the fists, while Musashi, whose right eye was now swollen shut, tried again and again but couldn't find the target with his high kicks. Die Faust might have pulled back at this point, but did not relent, punching for the points until the final bell. Two judges scored him ahead, while one saw Musashi as the winner. The majority decision was greeted politely by the crowd, who had to be heartbroken -- by both their hometown fighter's loss and by the sad fact that no Japanese fighter had qualified for the Tokyo Dome Final.

Said Die Faust afterward: "There is no better training team than at my gym [Golden Glory]. The way we train is harder than our fights, the way we spar, everyday there is the possibility of a knockout! Musashi is a very good fighter but I was ready, we trained to damage him, and I was ready to go for five rounds if I had to. I am happy that the judges made the correct judgment after three rounds, and I look forward to the Tokyo Dome!"

The Main Event was a battle of power versus size, as kickboxing tough guy Jerome LeBanner (190cm/6'3";120kg/265lbs) of France stepped in against the gargantuan former Silium wrestler Hong-Man Choi (218cm/7'2";163kg/360lbs) of Korea.

There were questions in the days leading up to the event about whether LeBanner would make it to Osaka, and he almost didn't. The fighter is starring in "Asterix aux Jeux Olympiques," a movie now in production in France with a cast that also includes Gerard Depardieu and Zinedine Zidane. There were issues regarding contracting and insurance, but LeBanner benefited from an intervention by the influential actor Alain Delon and was permitted to come to Japan. However, Air France flight delays then further conspired to threaten his participation. LeBanner finally arrived in Osaka mere hours before the fight, and was whisked directly from the airport to the venue.

Showing no signs of jet lag, LeBanner fought a smart first, darting in under Choi's reach to deliver low kicks before rapidly retreating. The speedy sortie strategy was countered by Choi in the second with the distance-creating front kick, but a persistent LeBanner snuck in regardless and valiantly mixed it up with his much larger adversary. Choi pulled the knee up in the third but LeBanner's evasion saved him. The clashes here were spirited, Choi good with an uppercut, LeBanner deking well, reprising the hit-and-run kicking attacks, leaning in with body blows and smacking in a right hook. At the end of it LeBanner was up on one judge's card. But there are three judges, and the other two scored a draw -- so the bout went to a tiebreaker round.

Again, a thrilling bit of combat, Choi in with a right straight punch but misfiring again with the knee, LeBanner circling, taunting even, good again with low kicks and a right straight punch. Judges scored it unanimously now in favor of the Frenchman.

LeBanner was in a great mood post bout and -- this may come as a relief to Monsieur Delon -- had not a scratch on him. "Preparing for this fight was hard," he said, "because I couldn't find a sparring partner that big in France. He is dangerous, his knees are already almost at the level of my head, he's not human!" joked LeBanner. "But he's a good guy and I like him, he's very tough, maybe the strongest guy in K-1, and he has hard bones -- when I kicked him, it hurt my leg! I'm sure with more experience, in two years no one will be able to knock him out!"

With the '06 K-1 World GP final eight now determined, a draw will be held Monday October 2 at Fuji Television's studios to determine the Tokyo Dome matchups.

Tonight's event also featured an emotional retirement ceremony for LeBanner's old nemesis Mike Bernardo. The South African boxer spent time at the K-1-supported booth of Save the Children -- a non-governmental organization active in more than 100 countries and dedicated to improving health and education for needy children. Bernardo later appeared center ring to address his fans: "We have a lot of memories together," he said, speaking in Japanese, "memories that I will never forget. Thank you, and please, never forget me."

The K-1 World GP 06 Final Elimination attracted a crowd of 10,387 to the Osaka Jo Hall and was broadcast nationwide in Japan on the Fuji TV Network and on MBC & MBC-ESPN in Korea. It will be delay-broadcast in 116 countries, check with local networks for scheduling information.
 



K-1 WGP Final Elimination Press Conference
By Monty DiPietro
OSAKA, September 29, 2006 -- From Auckland to Amsterdam, from Tokyo to Las Vegas to Seoul and back again, a year of red-hot regional tournaments have boiled the K-1 fighter pool down from hundreds of hopefuls to 16 survivors. Tomorrow, the Osaka Jo Hall will play host to these warriors in the 2006 K-1 World Grand Prix Final Elimination Tournament.

The event features 2006's winners and exceptional fighters along with the finalists from the 2005 WGP. It will comprise eight one-match bouts (fought under regular K-1 Rules, 3min x 3R), with the eight victors advancing to the December Tokyo Dome Final for a shot at fightsport's most prestigious prize -- the K-1 World GP Crown.


A wide variety of fighters will step into the ring tomorrow -- veterans and up-and-comers, finesse fighters and brawlers alike. Today they met the media at the Osaka Imperial Hotel.

The card's first matchup will be a battle of relative newcomers, as the explosive Russian kickboxer Ruslan Karaev, 23, will see if he can outpower 21 year-old enfant terrible Badr Hari of Holland.

Sporting a dowdy brown V-neck sweater, Hari didn't look like the instigant who socked Peter Graham in the jaw at the New Zealand GP press conference earlier this year. Hari had a new shtick this time. After Karaev described him as "fast," Hari set to slouching in his chair and speaking in the most sluggish of murmurs.

Hari: "Um, (pause) I dunno about Karaev, I guess I just want to knock him out or something. Um, (pause) I forgot my medication so I can't put it in words, um, yeah, um, about the fight, um, I have nothing to say, um, (pause) I hope Ruslan takes his pillow with him because he is going to have an early bedtime and a nice sleep. If he forgot his pillow he can ask Ray Sefo."
Later, when it was the other fighters' turn, Hari repeatedly tugged at the microphone cord like an impish child. The media was generally amused by the antics, some of the fighters looked like they were not.
Karaev: "The best 16 are here and I am proud to be part of it but I want to be in the top eight so I will beat Hari."

Scheduled fighter Peter Aerts was forced to withdraw from the event due to illness, but his substitute, Gary Goodridge of Trinidad and Tobago, said he hopes to make a good go of it against two-time WGP Champion Remy Bonjasky.

Goodridge: "I've got some big shoes to fill because Peter is one of my favorites. Remy is definitely a legend and I'm happy to be here to challenge him. I have dreams and aspirations to be the best, we'll see what happens!"
Bonjasky: "I hope to have a good fight and wish everybody good luck!"

The dedicated and technical Kyokushin fighter Glaube Feitosa of Brazil will match his preternatural kicks against the powerful feet and fists of Oceania GP Champion Paul Slowinski Australia in the third bout.

Feitosa: "Thanks to Kyokushin and my team, this will be a tough fight and I will do my best!"
Slowinski: "Thanks, this is a very big fight for me. I know Glaube is a finalist from last year, so he has pressure. I am a new guy so feeling no pressure, just looking forward to it!"

Defending Champion Semmy Schilt of Holland will face this year's Europe GP Champion, Bjorn Bregy of Switzerland. Bregy put a major stare-down on Schilt when the two posed for the photographers here, an intimidating tactic Schilt simply ignored.

Schilt: "He stared at me so what? I can stare back but that doesn't solve anything -- tomorrow we will decide. I'm happy to be here, and will do my best!"
Bregy: "I will fight the Champ and that is a big challenge so I'll try very hard. Like Semmy said, we will decide tomorrow in the ring!"

The incomparable Ray Sefo of New Zealand will face another veteran, K-1 Repechage tournament winner Stefan "Blitz" Leko of Germany.

Sefo: "I have lots of respect for Stefan as a fighter and a person, I remember I told him he was my pick to win Vegas last month, now it is somewhat ironic that we are matched together here. When you have a personal relationship you know that sometime you will have to fight, this is it, best of luck to all!"
Leko: "I am in good shape, I fought Ray eight years ago in Osaka and he won, so I will win this time, and yes, good luck to everyone!"

K-1's only Four-time Champion, the legendary Dutch kickboxer Ernesto "Mr. Perfect" Hoost, is coming out of semi-retirement to tango with the this year's Asia GP Champion Yusuke Fujimoto of Japan.

Hoost: "I am glad to be back, tomorrow I will give 100% and hope to be in Tokyo in December in my bid to become five-times K-1 Champion!"
Fujimoto: "It's my first time in the Final Elimination and I am meeting Ernesto Hoost who is a great fighter! I will do my best!"

Japanese Seidokaikan stylist Musashi will be fighting in front of his hometown Osaka crowd tomorrow when he takes on the USA GP winner Chalid "Die Faust" of Germany. The two engaged in a friendly bit of banter here.

Musashi: "I am well prepared and in great condition, I know Chalid is very strong will do my best!"
Die Faust: "I respect Musashi, he's fought the best, but I think it will be like he's fighting two people tomorrow! I have one favor to ask him, if he will give me his [rather snazzy] shoes after the fight?"
Musashi: "My shoes? I'll think about it, [laughing] I know Chalid has a fast car, maybe he'd let me take a drive in it?"
Die Faust: "It's a deal, next time you come to Germany!"

Finally, in a battle of power versus size, it will be Frenchman Jerome Le Banner and the gargantuan Hong-Man Choi of Korea. It was announced that LeBanner was delayed en route to Osaka and could not attend the press conference. But Choi said he was ready and waiting.

Choi: "I look forward to seeing Jerome as soon as possible, I have been working very hard to be the champion this year!"

All the action kicks off at 4:00 p.m. Japan time on Saturday September 30 at the Osaka Jo Hall. The K-1 World GP 06 Final Elimination will be broadcast nationwide in Japan on the Fuji TV Network and on MBC & MBC-ESPN in Korea. It will be delay-broadcast in 116 countries, check with local networks for scheduling information.
 



K-1 World GP Showdown in Osaka Preview

By Monty DiPietro
OSAKA, September 27, 2006 -- Another year of regional and elimination tournaments are behind us, and now the stage is set for the first phase of the 2006 K-1 World Grand Prix Final. This Saturday, September 30, the Osaka Jo Hall will play host to 16 of the world's top warriors -- this year's tournament winners and exceptional fighters along with the finalists from 2005 -- as they go head-to-head for a shot at fightsport's most prestigious prize -- the K-1 World GP Crown.

The annual Final Elimination Tournament will comprise eight one-match bouts (regular K-1 Rules, 3min x 3R), with the eight victors advancing to the December 2 Tokyo Dome Final.

The variety of fighters this year is impressive. The incomparable Ray Sefo of New Zealand will face another veteran, K-1 Repechage tournament winner Stefan "Blitz" Leko of Germany; while in a battle of newcomers, the explosive Ruslan Karaev of Russia will see if he can outpower Dutch enfant terrible Badr Hari.

Technical Kyokushin fighter Glaube Feitosa of Brazil will match his kicks against the hard-hitting Oceania GP Champion Paul Slowinski Australia; and in battle of power versus size it will be Frenchman Jerome Le Banner and the gargantuan Hong-Man Choi of Korea.

Dutch kickboxer Peter Aerts will step in against compatriot Remy Bonjasky in a battle of fighters with five WGP titles between them; while Defending Champion Semmy Schilt, also of Holland, will face this year's Europe GP Champion Bjorn Bregy of Switzerland.

Finally, K-1's only Four-time Champion, the legendary Dutch kickboxer Ernesto "Mr. Perfect" Hoost, will tango with the K-1 Asia GP Champion Yusuke Fujimoto of Japan; and Japanese Seidokaikan fighter Musashi will go against the USA GP winner Chalid "Die Faust" of Germany.

The action kicks off at 4:00 p.m. Japan time on Saturday September 30. The K-1 World GP 06 Final Elimination will be broadcast nationwide in Japan on the Fuji TV Network, and delay-broadcast in some 95 countries -- check with local suppliers for scheduling information.
 



Souwer Super at World Max Champions' Challenge
By Monty DiPietro
TOKYO, September 3, 2006 -- Andy Souwer, Albert Kraus and Buakaw Por Pramuk all won their bouts tonight at the at K-1 World Max Champions' Challenge. Now in its second year, the Champions' Challenge is a one-match format event featuring previous K-1 World Max champions and emerging talent. All bouts are contested under K-1 Rules -- three three-minute rounds and a possible tiebreaker.

In the Main Event it was local favorite Takayuki Kohiruimaki taking on Max 2005 Champion Andy Souwer, a Dutch shoot boxer. Kohiruimaki lost to Souwer by decision last summer, so this was touted as a revenge match for the Japanese kickboxer.

Kohiruimaki took the initiative early, testing with the jab, stepping in with low kicks, looking smart with combinations, getting a kick up to Souwer's head. But in the second it was Souwer who took the lead, unleashing a flurry of punches that sent Kohiruimaki reeling. Souwer boxed fast and hard here, chasing Kohiruimaki round the ring, and at the end of the round the desperate Japanese fighter was shown a yellow card for excessive clinching.

The third once again saw Souwer relentless with the fists, a bloodied Kohiruimaki finally succumbing to the beating by falling to his knees. To his credit Kohiruimaki held on to finish this one, which went to Souwer by a comfortable unanimous decision.

"I thought he's be more aggressive," said Souwer post-bout, "and so from the second I fought like a tiger. I wanted the KO but anyway I am happy to have the win. I wanted to show fans here the spirit of shoot boxing!"

Tatsuji of Japan met Mike Zambidis of Greece in the card's first matchup. Zambidis showed good movement, coming in low with the right and knees, clocking his opponent soundly with a right midway through the first. Tatsuji was quick and creative, and in the second got a couple of punches in, but these didn't have much on them. The bout ended in thrilling fashion, both men swinging away, Zambidis getting the better stuff through and picking up the win by unanimous decision.

Nigerian Andy Ologun, the younger brother of popular Japanese television performer Bobby Ologun, made his K-1 debut here against Kazuya Yasuhiro. Ologun got a couple of decent high kicks up and showed some skill with the jab and knees, but otherwise the more-experienced Yasuhiro had the upper hand in this one, out-maneuvering and out-striking his opponent to take the victory by majority decision.

Japanese kickboxer Hayato stepped in against 19 year-old Artur Kyshenko of the Ukraine in the next bout. Both men had some solid legwork, but Hayato was better with the fists, stepping in to score with quick combinations and the right straight punch. Kyshenko had the blocking working well, and kept pressuring with the kicks, but had trouble finding his distance and seemed frustrated, frequently clinching and throwing his opponent. A close one that judges sent to a tiebreaker round. The extra round was full of action, Hayato's fists proving the difference as the Japanese fighter took the win.

Japanese karate stylist Yuya Yamamoto took on Farid Khider of France in the following fight. Some dandy spinning attacks, creative evasions and fancy footwork from the Frenchman, who also planted a couple of nice punches. Yamamoto seemed unsure how to answer, and in the third stepped inside more. There was some slugging, however more frequently the pair got deadlocked in the clinch. Another majority decision here, in favor of Khider.

Hiroki Shishido of Japan met the Defending World Max Champion Buakaw Por Pramuk of Thailand in the next fight. Shishido came out with fervor, his kicks flying. But in an instant, the cool Buakaw showed why he is the best -- deking with the right then firing a fluent left to the side of his opponent's head for the down. Shishido didn't move, and Buakaw had the KO win in just 15 seconds.

Naoki Samukawa of Japan and Armenian muay thai fighter Drago did battle in the next contest. The spirited Drago was aggressive and had both the legs and fists working for him -- connecting with a good high kick in the second. Samukawa weathered the attacks well, but in the third Drago dropped him with a right straight punch. An impressive performance from the Armenian, who picked up the unanimous decision by a comfortable margin.

Flashy Japanese fighter Genki Sudo tangoed with Aussie Ian Schaffa in the next bout. Sudo was characteristically entertaining here, after an elaborately choreographed ring entrance commenced to crab-walking and teasing. But Schaffa's no-nonsense approach stood him in good stead as the Aussie got a couple of good straight punches through. In the second Schaffa showed he knew a trick or two himself, twisting a spinning back kick that caught Sudo on the jaw and put him down. Sudo beat the count but couldn't get back into it, turning away when Schaffa came in again, prompting a referee stop.

Hiroyuki Maeda of Japan and Virgil Kalakoda of South Africa went at it in the next matchup. Maeda didn't waste any time, coming in fast and furious, scoring a down with a left straight punch just seconds into the bout. Kalakoda blocked well and put in more counters as the fight progressed, and had bloodied Maeda's left eye by midway through the second. This prompted a check by the ringside doctor, who stopped the fight, as Maeda's ability to see was unacceptably compromised. The Japanese fighter was visibly disappointed, as were many in the crowd, but safety must come first.

Yoshihiro Sato of Japan met the very first K-1 World Max Champion, Albert Kraus of Holland, in the next fight. Kraus is a solid boxer and showed that here, leading well with the left and frequently bringing the right up and over. Sato got a good knee up in the first, and in the second was aggressive with the low kicks. Kraus meanwhile stayed with the fists, clocking his opponent with a couple of rights in the last half of the second. A Kraus uppercut was the best strike of the third, the Dutchman had couple of other punches connect here and simply was the better fighter, taking the win by majority decision.

In the undercard bouts, Jordan Tai of New Zealand beat Shinobu Tsogto Amara of Mongolia by unanimous decision; and Japanese fighter Satoruvashicoba made short work of countryman Taka Osamitsu, scoring three downs to win at 1:55 of the first round.

The event attracted a crowd of 9,950 to the Ariake Coliseum and was broadcast live on the TBS Network in Japan. For time-delay broadcast information elsewhere please contact local networks.
 




K-1 World Max Champions' Challenge Press Conference
By Monty DiPietro

TOKYO, September 3, 2006 -- Fighters met the media today in advance of the K-1 World Max Champions' Challenge event. Set for Monday night at the Ariake Coliseum in bayside Tokyo, the Champions' Challenge card has 10 bouts in K-1's World Max (70kg/154lbs) weight class). Now in its second year, this is a one-match format event featuring previous K-1 World Max champions and emerging talent alike.


In the Main Event it will be Takayuki Kohiruimaki of Japan taking on the 2005 World Max champ Andy Souwer Holland.
Said Kohiruimaki: "I have gone through a lot since I started in 2000 and now I am here, even though Andy is younger than me, I respect him very much. I lost against him last time, this time we'll make a great fight!"
Souwer: "I also respect Kohiruimaki, and I am also sure it will be a great fight!"

Japanese boxer Tatsuji will go against another slugger -- Mike Zambidis of Greece.
Tatsuji: "I want this to be an interesting fight, there will be plenty of punches and I will win!"
Zambidis: "I'm sorry I lost my last fight here in Japan, but this time I am ready and I will do better!"

Nigerian Andy Ologun, the younger brother of popular Japanese television performer Bobby Ologun, makes his K-1 debut against Kazuya Yasuhiro.
Ologun: "There is a Japanese saying, 'you will be a master of what you practice' and tomorrow I will show that in the ring."
Yasuhiro: "I'm happy to be here and will enjoy it!"

Japanese kickboxer Hayato steps in against 19 year-old Artur Kyshenko of the Ukraine.
Hayato: "Aim for perfection bring it all -- that's what I have in mind!"
Kyshenko: "Best wishes to all, I will do my best!"

Japanese karate stylist Yuya Yamamoto will take on kickboxer Farid Khider of France.
Yamamoto: "Tomorrow will be my first fight in a while so I am a little anxious and feel fresh. I will show my presence and win!"
Khadir: "We are as they say 'the gentlemen of the ring' and so I want to put on a super show for everyone!"

Hiroki Shishido of Japan meets two-time and defending World Max Champion Buakaw Por Pramuk in the Thai's first bout since recapturing the crown..
Shishido: "I will show how strong shoot boxing can be."
Buakaw: "As Champion I want to put on an exciting fight please look forward to it!"

Kickboxer Naoki Samukawa of Japan will take on Armenian Muay Thai fighter Drago.
Samukawa: "It's my first K-1 fight, I have big bones so it was hard to lose weight -- I had no lunch today, so I have no energy to explain my plan -- tomorrow I will do my best."
Drago: "I am honored to be here will show my very best."

The flashy Japanese fighter Genki Sudo will entertain Ian Schaffa of Australia.
Schaffa: "Sudo has an unusual and exciting style I have trained very hard to fight against him will put on a good fight tomorrow."
Sudo: "Happy to be back I appreciate my opponent will show courage tomorrow."

Hiroyuki Maeda will step in against Virgil Kalakoda of South Africa
Maeda: "Virgil is a world-class boxer and I would have to say he is a superior fighter but that gives me more reason to challenge! I will be a man and show my spirit and do my best."
Kalakoda: "I am in very good condition, I promise a very good fight and I will be victorious!"

Yoshihiro Sato Japan will meet the very first K-1 World Max Champion, Dutchman Albert Kraus.
Said Sato: "I will not be a burning heart in the ring, I will be calm and strong, like the blue fire."
Kraus, speaking in Japanese, said simply that he would do his best.

In undercard bouts it will be Shinobu Tsogto Amara of Mongolia vs Jordan Tai New Zealand and Japanese fighters Satoruvashicoba and Taka Osamitsu.

All bouts will be contested under K-1 Rules (3Min. x 3R w/ Ext.1R).

The event starts at 18h00 on Monday September 4 at the Ariake Coliseum and will be broadcast live on the TBS Network in Japan. For time-delay broadcast information elsewhere please contact local broadcasters.

 



Leko Wins K-1 World GP '06 in Vegas
By Monty DiPietro
LAS VEGAS, August 12, 2006 -- German fighter Stefan Leko, who remarked afterward the result was "never in doubt," powered his way to victory today at K-1 World GP '06 in Las Vegas II tournament at the Bellagio Hotel and Casino. In Superfight action on the card, Ray Sefo brutalized Azem Maksutaj.

The event continues the last-chance repechage format that has become a summer tradition for K-1 in Sin City. The year's tournament runners-up, along with regional tournament winners and other impact fighters competed in a classic eight-man elimination tournament for the chance advance to Osaka and the 16-man Final Elimination this September.

The first tournament bout featured Alexey Ignashov of Belarus and boxer Imani Lee of the U.S.

Ignashov is K-1 superstar-in-waiting, a muay thai stylist who won the Europe WGP '03 in Paris, but has been dogged by untimely injuries and irregular performances since. Today, the Bellagio odds board had Iggy at 8/5, making him the favorite to win the tournament.

Ignashov started with low kicks, but Lee was good on the counters, punching hard and reddening the Belorussian's right eye with a tight left hook. A cautious second had neither fighter appearing willing to commit, Lee surprising Ignashov with a couple of kicks, Iggy answering in kind. Ignashov was listless again in the third, this eliciting scattered jeers from the crowd. Finally Ignashov's low kicks came in succession, and now Lee's leg was hurting. Still, Ignashov did not go in for the kill, the only decisive strike he attempted was a high kick that sailed over Lee's head. To his credit Lee stepped in with punches throughout.

An unusual tally -- 30-27 on the first judge's first card for Ignashov , 30-27 on the second for Lee. The third card had it 29-28, Ignashov advancing on the narrowest of split decisions.

The second quarterfinal pitted perennial contender Michael McDonald of Canada against Ariel Mastov of Israel.

A popular fighter in Vegas, McDonald had already won three K-1 tournaments here, while fellow muay thai stylist Mastov was added as a late substitute.

A thrilling first round, McDonald's focus and positioning excellent, the Canadian firing in the right straight punches, mixing it up well and scoring a down with a left hook. Mastov had some razzle-dazzle here, spinning in several back kicks, but McDonald was good with his blocking and evasions.

McDonald started the second with a high kick, and while Mastov showed finesse with Kyokushin-style legwork, McDonald remained in control, and got the hard right in again and again -- only Mastov's good chin keeping him standing.

Further creative kicking attacks from the Israeli in the third, but these did not make contact. For his part, McDonald put the right when he saw the chance but was mostly content to ride it out and advance on points. This he did by unanimous decision to get to the semifinals.

Starting the second tournament bracket it was Stefan "Blitz" Leko of Germany and American Scott Lighty.

A veteran kickboxer, Leko is the complete K-1 fighter -- technical, fast and powerful. He won the Vegas GP in 2001, defeating Peter Aerts in the finals with a right straight punch KO that has been replayed numerous times on ESPN highlight reels. Leko was the second favorite here at 5/2. Lighty, meanwhile, has emerged as K-1 USA's great white hope. The no-nonsense muay thai fighter came into the last Vegas event as a 22/1 longshot but used a good all-round set of skills to make it to the finals. Lighty was ranked significantly better at 8/1 this time.

A fast and spirited first, both in with hard low kicks, Lighty circling, just missing with a couple of high kicks, stepping forward aggressively with the fists -- Leko also punching late in the round. In the second Leko took the initiative, firing low kicks and straight punches, stepping in to put the American on the ropes and work the body blows.

Leko kept the pressure on in the third, scoring an early down with a left hook, chasing Lighty with a flurry of fists after resumption, easily dropping him with the right for a second down and the KO win.

The last quarterfinal set Gary Goodridge of Canada by way of Trinidad and Tobago, against Carter Williams of the U.S.

Goodridge is a brawler and proud of it. Williams, meanwhile, is the street-kid-turned K-1 powerhouse who won the USA GP in 2003.

Williams did everything right in the first -- he was loose, quick, and mixed it up with low and high kicks, power punches and knees. But the American could not drop Goodridge. In the second Williams stepped in and pumped in body blows, fired in the low kicks and tight hooks and brought up the knees, but still could not drop Goodridge.

And then all hell broke loose. Goodridge planted a right atop Williams' head, then snuck a tight left hook in for a down. Seconds after resumption, Williams closed the distance and put a right hook in to down Goodridge and equalize. The crowd went wild. Williams kept the pressure up through the balance of the second, driving three unanswered knees up, and in the third again the American was more aggressive, connecting with knees, low kicks and a right upper to stay in control.

A great fight for Williams, who smiled repeatedly during the action, looking to have overcome the nervousness that had hamstrung him in the past. A unanimous decision putting Carter into the semis.

It was announced that Alexey Ignashov had sustained an injury and could not continue, and so under K-1 tournament rules Imani Lee took his place against Michael McDonald in the first of the semis.

A slow first round brought boos from the crowd before the pair closed and mixed it up at the clapper, Lee smacking McDonald with a right hook to the side of the head to score a down. Unfortunately for Lee, he put an extra punch in on his prone opponent, and this cost him a one-point penalty.

McDonald circled, intent on staying outside in the second, but Lee cut off the ring well, forcing McDonald into the corner then unleashing a barrage of punches. McDonald escaped this time, and finally found success with low kicks, stinging Lee bad. McDonald finished with some power punches and knees but could not fell Lee.

McDonald eschewed the low kicks through most of the third round before he got to Lee late, rattling him with a right hook. This one went the distance and was close, Lee had to curse his foul in the first, for McDonald got the narrow but unanimous decision to advance.

It was Leko and Williams in the second semifinal. The contest started tight, both fighters focused and intense. Leko missed with a spinning back kick, and Williams made him pay by answering with a spirited punch and knee attack that left the German's nose bloodied. Both had their chances here but it was Leko who capitalized, spinning another back kick in just past the midway point in the round. The kick connected hard with Williams' right side, lower ribcage, dropping the American to the canvas in a heap of pain. Williams could not recover, so Leko had the KO win and a date with McDonald in the finals.

Leko and McDonald were tentative through the first, McDonald circling, testing with the jab, Leko with his guard high and close, snapping in the occasional low kick, but really neither fighter had good chances here. The second, unfortunately, was not any more exciting. Leko was determined to press here, and McDonald's response was to close up and take the punches. Leko finished each attack with a low kick, scoring points here while McDonald was looking increasingly out of it. Then, suddenly McDonald responded to a Leko attack by waving his hands in front of his face, shaking his head, and turning away. There were gasps and boos from the crowd even as Leko raised his hand in victory. That was that, the referee stopped it as McDonald could not continue -- Leko had won.

McDonald would explain later that he had aggravated an injury to his right hand in the first fight, and the hand had got worse as the night went on. "When I punched Mastov, I felt the pain shoot up to my elbow," he said. "I want to apologize to all my fans, this was not a Michael McDonald performance."

"It was not a good way to win," said Leko in his post-event interview, "but I came here knowing there was no chance I would lose today. I'm happy to be back in K-1, and I know this year my place is in the final eight!"

With his tournament victory Leko advances to the K-1 Final Elimination tournament in Osaka next month. If he wins his single-elimination bout there, he will get his wish, going to the Tokyo Dome as one of the WGP '07 final eight.

In Super Fights:

K-1 veteran slugger Sefo has power, a great chin, and an uncanny ability to both read and unnerve his opponents. The Kiwi recently bought a $2.6 million dollar home in Las Vegas, and said pre-event he hoped to make a good impression on his new neighbors. His opponent here was another KO-oriented fighter, Azem Maksutaj of Switzerland.

The two traded low kicks to test from the start, then got down to business. Sefo's early spinning back kick got through to Maksutaj's midsection, but the Swiss fighter shook it off. This was the beginning of what would become a pattern -- Sefo punishing, Maksutaj persevering. Sefo scored his first down countering a Maksutaj low kick, smashing a right hook in on his opponent's jaw. Maksutaj had combinations going, but Sefo's blocking was sound, and the Kiwi charged in with a right straight punch late in the first to score a second down. Maksutaj, of course, got up -- although his face was badly bruised. It would get worse.

The second saw Maksutaj once again quick and clean with the combinations, Sefo absorbing it all in style and when he saw the chance, socking Maksutaj with a right hook for another down.

Maksutaj kept on coming, both fighters striking and smiling through the third. Sefo repeatedly dropped his guard here to invite his opponent in. When Maksutaj answered, Sefo floored him with a left hook. In case you are counting, that was the fourth down for Sefo. The fifth came seconds later, via a spinning back kick. Incredibly, Maksutaj still wanted to get up. The referee decided the Swiss fighter had shown more than enough tenacity, and called it at 2:02. A great effort by both fighters, a great win for Sefo in front of his new hometown crowd.

"Azem showed great spirit," said Sefo afterward, "he is a real warrior. I'm happy to win, and now I'll be heading to Japan to train for Osaka. I'm looking forward to the event, I'm going to be 100% ready!"

Another Las Vegas resident, Dewey Cooper, made his K-1 debut in Japan seven years ago and is a regular participant in K-1 events in Vegas. Here, the 31 year-old faced a tough challenge in Ruslan Karaev of Russia, a dynamic fighter who won the K-1 in Las Vegas last August.

Karaev was the odds-on favorite to win this bout and did not disappoint, immediately coming out with a low kick, then closing with the fists and tossing up a high kick. He kept pushing through the first and second rounds, while Cooper could only manage occasional pressure with his counters -- doing best with a right hook midway through the first and a couple of hooks soon afterward.

Alas, for every strike that Cooper managed to get through, Karaev easily put in two or more. The Russian was solid through the entire three rounds, focused and always quicker and more powerful in close to pick up a well-deserved unanimous decision.

In a K-1 World Max (70kg/154lbs weight class) Superfight, it was Americans Fernando Calleros, a kempo karate fighter; and Duane "Bang" Ludwig, a muay thai stylist.

Early in, Calleros forced Ludwig into the corner and brutalized him with all manner of punches, and Ludwig was barely able to get out of it. Ludwig began throwing in low kicks, but had his high leg strikes blocked well. Midway through, Calleros put a left then right hook in for a down. Ludwig rallied somewhat late in the first and was the more aggressive fighter through the second, throwing low and high kicks and always looking to get the knee up -- Calleros shaking his head, "no," after all contact.

A fast-paced third -- Ludwig frequently taking the initiative, going mostly with knee and kick attacks, also pumping in a number of body blows midway through. Calleros had his stuff on as well, but was bleeding badly from the right eye by the end of this one.

An exhilarating contest, scored a unanimous draw on all three cards. Ludwig grabbed the ring announcer's microphone, asking if the crowd "would like to see us fight another round?" There was a cheer of approval, and a smiling Calleros stepped to center ring to oblige, but the fighters were promptly reminded that it is officials and referees who are in charge of the rules, not fighters.

In a tournament reserve bout, American Steve Steinbeiss defeated compatriot Dustin Hanning by unanimous decision.

In undercard fights, it was Justin Smith over Sean O'Haire by KO; Christine Toledo over Jennifer Nguyen by unanimous decision; and Andreas Sprang beating Jamie Fletcher by majority decision

During the event, famed American fighter Brock Lesnar entered the ring to announce that he had come to an agreement to fight in the first American production of FEG's popular mixed martial arts "Hero's" fight series. The bout is expected to take place in February, the venue and Lester's opponent will be announced when finalized.

The K-1 WGP '06 in Las Vegas II -- Final Elimination Quarterfinals attracted a sellout crowd of 4,526 to the Bellagio Grand Ballroom. All bouts were be contested under regular K-1 Rules

The event was broadcast live on the Fuji Television Network and Fuji Satellite TV in Japan, and on MBC and MBC/ESPN in South Korea. It will be time-delay broadcast on EuroSport across Europe, ProTV in Romania, inDemand in the United States, Viewers' Choice in Canada and GroboSat in Brazil. In all, it will be seen in over 100 countries, please check with local broadcasters for scheduling details.
 




K-1 World GP Final Elimination Tournament Quarterfinal -- Press Conference
By Monty DiPietro

LAS VEGAS, August 10, 2006 -- The season's major international tournaments are done and the stage is set for the K-1 World Grand Prix '06, when this year's top fighters and last year's finalists go head-to-head at the Final Elimination in September at the Osaka Dome. There remain but a pair of spots for that 16-man single-elimination event, and this Saturday night at the Bellagio Hotel and Casino, eight hopefuls will fight their hearts out hoping to grab one.

The K-1 World GP '06 in Las Vegas II continues the last-chance repechage format that has become a tradition for K-1 and Sin City. The year's tournament runners-up, along with regional tournament winners and other impact fighters will compete in a classic eight-man elimination tournament for the chance advance to Osaka.

Today at the Bellagio, MGM Mirage Sports Events Director Bob Halloran, a great fan of K-1, presided over a press conference where fighters met the media. "Go ahead and ask whatever you like," Halloran smiled to reporters, "this is different from boxing, we have got real gentlemen on this dais!"

The first bout will feature Alexey Ignashov of Belarus and Imani Lee of the U.S.

Ignashov is a K-1 star who won the Europe WGP '03 in Paris, but has been dogged by untimely injuries since. Having trained over the last year in both Japan and New Zealand, the 28 year-old muay thai fighter says he is both mentally and physically ready this time: "It's my first time here in USA and I mean to make the best impression possible!" Fans are expecting no less -- at press conference time, the Bellagio odds board had Iggy at 3/2, making him the clear favorite to win the tournament.

But first he'll have to get past Lee, a tough former boxer who has taken to K-1 in a big way "When I first saw K-1," said Lee, "it was like a dream come true. It's boxing and kickboxing at the same time, and since my last K-1 fight, I've worked with my trainer Eddy Millis to develop complete K-1 skills, so I can fight not only my hands. I'll show everyone Saturday!"

The second quarterfinal matchup will pit perennial contender Michael McDonald of Canada against Ariel Mastov of Uzbekistan.

McDonald is popular here, having already won three K-1 tournaments in Las Vegas. The early money places him as the second favorite to repeat, with odds of 5/2. "I'm here to do my best," said the soft-spoken muay thai fighter, "and come the end of the night I'll be the one with my hand raised."

Ariel Mastov is a late substitute for scheduled fighter Jeremy Williams, who was not cleared due a stipulation by the Nevada Boxing Commission. Said Mastov: "I feel much better to be in the tournament instead of fighting in the reserve bout, this change gives me a real chance to progress in K-1."

Starting the second tournament bracket it will be Stefan "Blitz" Leko of Germany and American Scott Lighty.

A veteran kickboxer, Leko is the complete K-1 fighter -- technical, fast and powerful. He won the Vegas GP in 2001, defeating Peter Aerts in the finals with a right straight punch KO that has been replayed numerous times on ESPN highlight reels. "I'm in best shape of my life," said Leko, "I will win this to get to the last 16 in September."

Lighty, meanwhile, has emerged as K-1 USA's great white hope. The no-nonsense muay thai fighter came into the last Vegas event as a 22/1 longshot but used a good all-round set of skills to make it to the finals. Lighty looked delighted to be back and ranked significantly better at 8/1 this time. "I am here to chew bubble gum and kick ass," he laughed, "and I brought a lot of bubble gum"

The last quarterfinal sets Gary Goodridge against Carter Williams of the U.S.

Goodridge was a late substitute here when visa problems kept Magomed Magomedov out of the United States. The Trinidad-born, Canada-based fighter is a brawler and proud of it.

"I was in Jamaica last week, I drank a little and partied some, then got back home and got the call at 1:00 am yesterday," said Goodridge. "So I'm here and now it's time to man-up. My plan is always the same, to win early!"

A troubled street kid turned K-1 powerhouse, Carter Williams is another good bet to triumph Saturday, sitting at 7/2 on the odds board: "I am back in hard training, doing lots of running. K-1 has to do with heart, so this time no matter what, I will keep on going!"


In Super Fights:

K-1 veteran slugger Sefo has power, a great chin, and an uncanny ability to both read and unnerve his opponents. The Kiwi recently bought a $2.6 million dollar home in Las Vegas, and said he hopes to make a good impression on his new neighbors. "I always feel welcome in Vegas, I'm ready to go, my opponent is a KO artist himself, we have similar styles so it will be a great fight!"

That opponent is muay thai fighter Azem Maksutaj of Switzerland, who said simply that he was "Glad to fight a big star like Ray Sefo."

Another Las Vegas resident, Dewey Cooper, made his K-1 debut in Japan seven years ago and is a regular participant in K-1 events here. The 31 year-old makes up for a lack of size with a smart technical fighting style and a devil-may-care approach.

"The psychological thing of a Superfight is easier for me," said Cooper, "there is less stress than wondering who I might fight next in a tournament Saturday I got one guy to defeat, so let's see what the hell happens!"

Cooper will have his hands full with Ruslan Karaev of Russia, who won the K-1 in Las Vegas last August. Karaev is a dynamic fighter known for his explosive starts. "I trained back home in Russia this time," said Karaev. "I appreciate Dewey's style, but he should count on me to win!"

In a K-1 World Max (70 kg weight class) Superfight, it will be Americans Fernando Calleros, a kempo karate fighter; and muay thai stylist Duane Ludwig.

Ludwig is an easygoing and well-liked boy-next-door type. He is also one of the hardest punchers in K-1 Max. "Well, win lose or draw I want to have a good fight," said Ludwig, who turned 28 earlier this week. "I'm sure it will be a good fight!"

Calleros said he had developed a new sense of purpose in the ring, and pledged to give it his all on Saturday.

The K-1 WGP '06 in Las Vegas II -- Final Elimination Quarterfinals kicks off at 7:00 pm at the Bellagio Grand Ballroom. All bouts will be contested under regular K-1 Rules.

The event will be broadcast live on the Fuji Television Network and Fuji Satellite TV in Japan, and on MBC and MBC/ESPN in South Korea. It will be time-delay broadcast on EuroSport across Europe, ProTV in Romania, inDemand in the United States, Viewers' Choice in Canada and GroboSat in Brazil. In all, it will be seen in over 100 countries, please check with local broadcasters for scheduling details.
 




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