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K-1 Max Japan Press Conference

By Monty DiPietro

TOKYO, February 3, 2006 -- To kick off The Year of the Dog, K-1 is unleashing 14 top World Max fighters in the Japan Max Tournament, set for Saturday, February 4 at the Saitama Super Arena.



Former World Max Champion Masato of Japan will meet Aussie Ian Schaffa in the Main Event Superfight, and eight hopefuls will square off at the World Max Japan Tournament. Also on the card are former World Max Champ Buakaw Por Pramuk of Thailand, and the explosive Greek Mike Zambidis.

All bouts will be contested under K-1 Rules, 3Min x 3R with a possible tiebreaker round, two in the final.

The Japan Tournament first quarterfinal pits the experienced Seidokaikan fighter Kazuya Yasuhiro against the dynamic Hayato. Both told the 300 media people covering the press conference that they would do their best.

Also pledging to put up a good fight were bad boy boxer Tatsuji and Yuya Yamamoto, who will tango in the second quarterfinal. A smiley Yamamoto added that he hoped his age (at just 21 he is the youngest fighter in the tournament) would stand him in good stead.

The third bout will see the mean-looking Akira Ohigashii take on the tall and uber-conditioned Ryuki Ueyama. Both men sad they were happy to be here and would give it their all.

Also enthusiastic both on the eve of the event were a couple of powerful kickers, Yoshihiro Sato and Akeomi Nitta, who will mix it up in the last of the quarterfinals.

In the reserve fight, Hakuto will step in against Yasuhito Shirasu. An interesting card, with experience and youth, speed and power. Who will earn a spot at the World Max Final Elimination this spring? We'll know tomorrow.

In Super Fights:

Masato, the "Silver Wolf," a supremely-balanced fighter and former World Max World Champion, will take on power-puncher Ian Schaffa of Rings Australia.
Said Masato: "Schaffa has speed and power, I'll match it with speed and power."
Schaffa: "Masato thinks he's faster than I am, but my fighting spirit will get me the win!"

Fierce fighting machine Remigijus Morkevicius of Lithuania will go against speedy Japanese fighter Shingo Garyu in what promises to be a tough Superfight. An uncharacteristically shy Morkevicius wished everyone luck, while Garyu got a laugh by saying "Honestly, tomorrow is my chance to become famous -- I want to become famous!"

Buakaw Por Pramuk of Thailand, who won the Max Final in 2004, is one of the world's best kickers. Here he will test his skills against squat Greek slugger and KO master Mike Zambidis.
A reserved Buakaw promised to please his Japanese fans, while Zambidis put it simply: "I am here to fight hard!"

The K-1 World Max Japan '06 Tournament starts at 16h00 Jpn time on Saturday February 4 at the Saitama Super Arena just north of Tokyo. The event will be same-day broadcast in Japan on the TBS Network, in other locations check with local broadcasters for time-delay scheduling.
 




K-1 Story .. Kudos for Kid Dynamite!

By Monty DiPietro

OSAKA, December 31, 2005 -- Norifumi "Kid" Yamamoto beat Genki Sudo to become the first fighter to wear the Hero's Middle Weight Championship Belt. Yamamoto needed less than one round to achieve the feat at the Osaka Dome K-1 Premium Dynamite event.

There is no bigger holiday in Japan than New Year's, and no more popular way to celebrate December 31st than the K-1 Premium Dynamite extravaganza. Dynamite '05 featured seven fights contested under Hero's mixed martial art rules and four K-1 and K-1 World Max bouts.

Osaka Dome is smaller and "more intimate" than its Tokyo counterpart. Moreover, Kansai fans are uncommonly boisterous. The fight action, the festivity of the season and a singing-in-the-ring performance by Rock 'n Roll legend Eikichi Yazawa combined to make this an unforgettable night.



The Main Event, the Hero's Middle Weight Championship Tournament Final, was a showdown between two dynamic Japanese fighters -- Genki Sudo and Norifumi "Kid" Yamamoto. Sudo is very good on the ground, while Yamamoto is an aggressive fighter with superior strikes. Pre-event, a cocky Yamamoto quipped that the bout "will be a piece of cake, I can just relax and take it easy -- the win will naturally follow." As it happened he was right about the result -- but it was not exactly "a piece of cake" getting there.

Both these boys had won their previous three fights to get to the final, and so the atmosphere was electric as they made their ring entrances. Speaking of ring entrances, Sudo's was, as always, spectacular -- a dazzling postmodern pastiche of cyborgs, geisha and electrobeat. One wonders who Sudo spends more time with -- his trainer or his choreographer.

Sudo started the bout with his sly, turned-sideways circling routine -- a unorthodox approach that appears comic only until Sudo unleashes one of his equally unorthodox but lethal attacks. Yamamoto stayed center ring, focused and cautious, and watched Sudo circle.

Sudo landed a couple of good side kicks, then Yamamoto engaged him, and in the frantic exchange Sudo ended up on his back. But the fighter was good with the bicycle kicks to keep The Kid at bay, then with incredible speed jolted to his feet again. Yamamoto looked tentative for a time, off his game even, before throwing a couple of low kicks and executing a takedown. He went to the mat in Sudo's guard, but there was little action there, and the referee called for a standing start.

And then it happened -- Sudo missed with a straight punch, and Yamamoto countered with a right hook that caught his opponent on the side of the face and sent him down on his back. The Kid wasted no time moving in, and rained punches down even as the dazed Sudo struggled to get the legs up to defend. A punch glanced off Sudo's face, and another hit him on the chin, cocking his head back. Quickly the referee stepped in and stopped the fight. Sudo got to his feet immediately, and was less than pleased with what he considered an early stoppage.

Yamamoto's wife and two children joined him in the ring for an emotional victory celebration. Later, proudly wearing the Hero's Belt, the Champ had this to say:

"When Genki hit me early on, his finger must have scratched my right eye, because I couldn't see very well at all for some time. But then I threw that right hook -- I didn't expect it would connect but it did, which was lucky as it got me out of trouble!"

"I trained so hard for this bout that I wasn't able to celebrate Christmas with my kids. When they came into the ring afterward, I was so happy I cried. Now our celebration has begun! Happy New Year everyone!"

The Dynamite card started off with a quartet of Hero's Rules bouts (5Min x 3R unless otherwise noted).

Peter Aerts of Holland, a Three-Time K-1 WGP Champion, stepped in against Shungo Oyama of Japan in the first matchup. This was over in a flash -- Oyama charging forward looking for the leg takedown, Aerts sprawled to foil him, throwing a good right straight punch. But a persistent Oyama did get the takedown, and with relative ease twisted a heelhook on his Dutch opponent to force a tapout barely a minute into the contest.

Another K-1 veteran, hard-hitting French Kickboxer Jerome LeBanner, took on big bad Alan Karaev of Russia in the second bout. A former arm-wrestling and amateur Sumo Champion, the 180kg/397lbs Karaev was winless in two mixed martial arts attempts coming into this fight.

LeBanner started out with a couple of kicks, but Karaev quickly closed the distance and got a takedown which he took to a full mount position. A good bit of wriggling earned LeBanner a reverse, and soon the Frenchman was in a backmount. But Karaev escaped, and the two soon went back to their feet. LeBanner fired in punches that put Karaev off balance, following with a sloppy takedown that backfired -- and now Karaev was up in mount position again. The pair stayed there, locked up, until the bell ending the first.

In the second round, LeBanner boxed and threw low kicks from the start, which a fatigued Karaev did nothing to counter. LeBanner then got the middle and high kicks up to hurt his opponent, and now looked in control of the fight. A middle kick dropped the listless Russian, whereupon the referee stepped in to stop the punishment. A convincing display of patience, power and prowess by LeBanner to take the KO win.

Next up, a truly weird occurrence. As freestyle wrestler Yoshihiro Nakao of Japan and American mixed martial arts fighter Heath Herring made their way to the center of the ring for the referee's instructions in advance of their bout, a cocky Nakao put his face up in close to Herring's. The Japanese fighter might have been thinking stare-down and psych-out, but an apparently homophobic Herring had a very different interpretation, and immediately clocked Nakao in the nose, knocking him out cold.

"That was an illegal act!" screamed an indignant Herring even as trainers scrambled to attend to Nakao, "He tried to kiss me on the lips like a homosexual -- I'm not gay!"

After much confusion and consultation, Nakao was helped out of the ring, and it was announced he would be examined by doctors to see if he might fight Herring later on the card. But the clearance was not given, and in an unusual decision, Herring was disqualified and Nakao awarded the win for a fight which, technically, had never actually started.

A 75kg/165lbs weight class bout set for 5Min x 2R (with a possible tiebreaker round) featured Olympic wrestling Gold Medallist Katsuhiko Nagata of Japan in his K-1 debut against Remigijus Morkevicius, a tough striker from Lithuania.

Nagata quickly scored a deft single-leg takedown, and went to the side mount. But the Japanese fighter couldn't do any damage, and soon Morkevicius was in guard, striving to get the legs up. Nakao looked confident here, and was able to pass on occasion with punches, but for the most part Morkevicius' positioning, with his arms wrapped round Nakao's head, kept the fight in a stalemate. Twice the pair were stood up due a lack of action, and twice Nakao got a fast takedown, only to have things end up in the same deadlock.

The second was similar, Nakao on top, Morkevicius keeping him tied up, both men tossing only perfunctory strikes -- Nakao with the fists toward his closed-up opponent's head, Morkevicius with the heels to Nakao's kidneys. Again the two were restarted, Nakao avoiding the Lithuanian's strikes by coming in to the clinch then twisting a down to return to the mat and the same position. In the end, judges liked Nakao's aggressiveness, and rewarded him with a unanimous decision.

A series of K-1 Rules bouts followed (3Min x 3R with a possible tiebreaker).

The first saw K-1 star Remy Bonjasky of Holland, a Two-Time World Grand Prix Champion, going up against Sylvester "The Predator" Terkay of the United States. Bonjasky is masterful with the flying knees and kicks, while Terkay is all brute strength. Imagine Porsche versus Bulldozer -- the Porsche is a finely-tuned performance machine, but it can do precious little when pinned against a wall. That's what happened in this surprisingly close contest.

Bonjasky started with a high kick, but Terkay got a hold of the leg and marched the Dutchman back to the corner and put in punches. The Predator repeatedly corralled Bonjasky into the corner or put him against the ropes to pound in the fists, and Bonjasky closed up repeatedly in response.

Through the fight Bonjasky elected to go with single-strike attacks, but Terkay was good with his blocking on most of the high stuff, and looked able to absorb the low kicks. He also kept on coming with the punches.

In the second Bonjasky got a dazzling high kick up and in, but Terkay looked good throwing some low kicks of his own. At one point, after The Predator put in six unanswered punches to his opponent's head and midsection, it looked as if Bonjasky might fall.

But Bonjasky stayed up and stayed in it, and in the third kept his guard high to weather the storm even as the tough Terkay bulldozed forth with Bob Sapp-style haymakers. Bonjasky finally got a flying knee up here, and unleashed a flurry of punches at the clapper to make it close. A good hard performance by Terkay in a fight that could have gone either way. One judge gave the bout to The Predator, while two liked Bonjasky -- who had to be happy to get out of this one with the split decision.

Japan's best K-1 fighter, Musashi, took on powerhouse Bob "The Beast" Sapp of the Unites States in the next K-1 Rules fight. Before this one, Sapp joked, "There is no question Musashi has conditioning and technical ability, the only question is -- will we still be friends after I knock his ass out?" Musashi responded with a laugh, "Yes, Bob, I do hope we can continue our friendship!"

Sapp, as usual, had an aggressive start, coming in on Musashi with the big fists. Sapp led well with the jab, Musashi the southpaw switching to orthodox to match up. Musashi didn't get the low kicks going well here, and Sapp surprised with a nice high kick which, however, missed. Musashi stayed cool even as Sapp put in some solid body blows. The American looked focused and disciplined here. Well, at first, anyway.

In the second, Sapp revisited his bad boy past. After Musashi had twisted away on the ropes, Sapp pummeled him, twice, in the back of the head. The fouls dropped Musashi, prompting both a red card and a time stop.

A valiant Musashi recovered and was cleared to continue by the ringside doctor. But from the resumption, Sapp chased him with punches to score a down. Musashi just barely made the count, and only got out of the round when the fatigued Sapp simply stopped attacking.

The third was another story, as a revitalized Musashi took the fight to Sapp. Fighting now from the southpaw stance, Musashi's evasions were much improved, and he rallied with a variety of excellent punch and kick combinations before getting a devastating middle kick in. As Sapp winced in pain and doubled over, the ref stepped in to call a standing count. Musashi finished the fight with punches, outperforming his opponent to earn the victory by unanimous decision.

"I knew, fighting Bob, that something, um, strange might happen," said Musashi in his post-bout interview. "He did start strongly, and so I thought I would wait for him to run out of gas. When he did, that's when he gave me the hits to the back of the head. Well, after that I decided to do my thing!"

Hopefully, the two are still friends.

Next up was a highly anticipated fight between former World Max Champion Masato of Japan and compatriot Akira Ohigashi (this a 72kg/159lbs weight class bout). Ohigashi, a former Japan Super Welterweight Boxing Champion, had to be looking to get in fast with the fists, before Masato could wear him down with his kicks.

Masato's left leg was said to be suspect from an earlier injury, but the fighter wasted no time getting in and stinging Ohigashi with the low kicks. By midway through, Ohigashi's left leg was badly hurt, and although he wailed with the fists Masato saw everything coming his way and displayed superior evasive techniques to stay out of harm's way. When Masato scored a down with a low kick at the clapper, it was clear Ohigashi was in way over his head.

The second saw a hit-and-run Masato totally frustrate his opponent, connecting at will with high kicks and punches. But it was the low kicks to Ohigashi's left leg that did the most damage, dropping the boxer three times to secure Masato the KO win.

Topping off the K-1 Rules contests was a bout featuring the finest Dutch fighters past and present -- Defending World Grand Prix Champion Semmy Schilt and Four-Time Champion Ernesto "Mr Perfect" Hoost. Schilt is a giant of a Seidokaikan Karate fighter who blossomed this year, breezing through the opposition at Paris before capturing the crown at the Tokyo Dome scarcely six weeks ago. For Hoost, who has battled injuries, the last day of 2005 marked his first fight of the year.

The first round was technical but nasty, both men testing with low kicks, looking for their chances to follow up. Hoost was cool and looked good threading in the right overhand punches, but an undaunted Schilt was always in forward motion, launching hard fast textbook combinations to effect.

Early in the second, Schilt pumped a hard left knee up to score a down. The ringside doctor had a good long look at Hoost's face, and with the bleeding from the nose unabated after several minutes, stopped the fight, giving Schilt the win.

"I came here as the World Grand Prix Champion because I won in November," said Schilt post-bout, "but now that I have beaten Ernesto, I have to say I feel like the true Champion!"

From there it was back to Hero's Rules, and a David versus Goliath matchup. American former Sumo Grand Champion Akebono brought a whopping 130kg/280lbs weight advantage to his fight with Bobby Ologun of Nigeria. Ologun is a popular television personality in Japan, and a sometime-fighter who shocked the Osaka Dome crowd a year ago with a mixed martial arts win over French fighter Cyril Abidi.

The first round saw Ologun trying a hit-and-run tact, but Akebono managed a bearhug that gradually evolved into a takedown. He then lay almost motionless atop Ologun, apparently intent on smothering him into submission. Ologun opened the second with a kick, but soon Akebono was atop him again, and writhe as he may Ologun could not shed the big blanket of blubber. With the action stalled a break was called and the two stood up.

Ologun circled, searching for a point of attack, while Akebono used glacier-like speed to somehow close his opponent into the corner and push, apparently intent on crushing him into submission. The third was different -- both stayed on their feet. Ologun circled, firing in the occasional low kick, Akebono waiting and waiting before suddenly lunging out to hit Ologun with an open hand, apparently intent on swatting him out of the ring.

These two will not enter the K-1 pantheon for their performances here, but they did give it a go, and produced a bout that was a bit of fun to watch. Ologun got the unanimous decision to remain undefeated in Hero's.

Anyone disappointed with the lack of technical excellence in the previous thingy had to be delighted by the next match -- a special format (10Min x 2R to KO/submission) bout which pitted the experience of Royce Gracie, a 39 year-old Brazilian Jiu-jitsu master bred of the sport's premier fighting family, against the intrepid 28 tear-old grappler Hideo Tokoro of Japan.

This was one of those engaging bouts which you are more than content to see end in a draw (Gracie had requested special rules stipulating that if there was no KO or submission, the fight would not go to a judges' decision).

Both men gave their all in this fight. Tokoro got an early high kick in and then a left punch before going down after a mix-up. Gracie held the Japanese fighter's feet, looking to pass before electing to go into Tokoro's guard. The aggressive Tokoro soon reversed, and much of the rest of the fight was spent with Royce in guard. This illustrated, however, just how good the Gracies are in guard position, as the left side of Tokoro's face was repeatedly punched, his kidneys repeatedly heeled.

Gracie mostly kept his legs clamped tightly round Tokoro's waist, and despite executing several slams Tokoro could do nothing to shake his opponent. The grappling was close and tough, every muscle working constantly for an inch of advantage. When the two broke, it was clear Tokoro was at his best in the transitions, connecting with a high kick, and storming in to pass with punches before Gracie could get him down and tie him up to start working the fists and heels again.

In the second Tokoro tried a flip kick but this backfired and Gracie got into a side mount. There followed a thrilling series of rapid reversals before the two ended up standing in the clinch. Gracie got the next mount, and had Tokoro twisted up well, but the slippery Japanese fighter brought cheers from the crown with his ability to squeeze, buck or squirm out of just about anything.

That is, until Gracie got him in a backmount. Now things looked bad for Tokoro, as Gracie put in more punches -- but try as he might, Gracie could not work the choke that would force the submission.

"There are no easy fights," said Gracie afterward. "Tokoro is always aggressive and so very dangerous. I wasn't perfect, but I think it was a great fight even though it ended in a draw." Indeed.

The K-1 Premium Dynamite! attracted a sellout crowd of 53,025 to the Osaka Dome and was broadcast across Japan on the TBS network and on a time delay in Europe on EuroSport.

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Countdown to Combat: K-1 Dynamite!

By Monty DiPietro

OSAKA, December 30, 2005 -- There is no bigger holiday in Japan than New Year's, a time comprised of countless age-old traditions. The munching of mochi (sticky rice); the liberal imbibing of sake; and the loud ringing, at midnight, of the neighborhood temple bell 108 times have been joined recently by a new way to celebrate December 31st -- the K-1 Premium Dynamite extravaganza.

Dynamite brings millions upon millions of Japanese television viewers an all-star night of fightsport action. Set for tomorrow evening at the Osaka Dome, Dynamite '05 will feature seven fights contested under Hero's mixed martial art rules and four K-1 and K-1 World Max bouts.

In a press conference at the Osaka Imperial Hotel, the 22 Dynamite combatants shared their thoughts on the eve of the event.


First, in Hero's Rules Bouts (5Min x 3R unless otherwise noted):

The Hero's Middle Weight Championship Tournament Final will be a showdown between two dynamic Japanese fighters -- Genki Sudo and Norifumi "Kid" Yamamoto. Sudo is good on the ground, and will probably try to take the fight there. Yamamoto, meanwhile, is an aggressive fighter who may choose to stand and strike. But who knows what these two have in mind or how it will play out? We'll find out tomorrow.
Said Sudo: "My condition is good, my status is good, and I'll show that in the fight!"
Replied Yamamoto: "This will be a piece of cake, I can just relax and take it easy -- the win will naturally follow."

American former Sumo Grand Champion Akebono will lumber in with a tremendous weight advantage on his opponent Bobby Ologun of Nigeria.
Akebono: "Thanks to all, I will do my best."
Ologun: "Akebono's face looks scary, but I'm ok -- I practiced for a year, so I will show what I can do tomorrow!"

A special format (10Min x 2R) bout will pit the experience of Royce Gracie, a Brazilian Jiu-jitsu master bred of the sport's premier fighting family, against the intrepid Hideo Tokoro of Japan.
Gracie: "Victory is something you have to earn, tomorrow I will give all my heart in the ring to do so!"
Tokoro: "I'm excited to be in Dynamite, fighting Royce Gracie! It's too much, I will do the very best I can!"

A 75kg/165lbs weight class bout set for 5Min x 2R (with a possible tiebreaker round) will feature Olympic wrestling Gold Medallist Katsuhiko Nagata of Japan and Remigijus Morkevicius, a lightening quick striker from Lithuania.
Nagata: "It's my pro debut tomorrow. I'm honored to be with these great fighters, I practiced hard to be able to put on a great performance."
Morkevicius: "Happy New Year everyone! My opponent is a gold medallist , so it's an honor to be in this fight. My strong point is on the physical strength side, and I'll show that tomorrow."

French K-1 veteran Jerome LeBanner will take on big bad Alan Karaev of Russia.
LeBanner: "Happy New Year, see you tomorrow, that's all!"
Karaev: "I'll echo Jerome, I want to wish Happy New Year's as well, and I will show my best tomorrow."

Peter Aerts of Holland, a Three-Time K-1 WGP Champion, will tango with Shungo Oyama of Japan.
Aerts: "I've got nothing much to say except it's a big fight and I'll do my best!"
Oyama: "Peter is strong, I have great respect for him. I am shaking with anticipation, and will do my very best!"

Yoshihiro Nakao of Japan will tackle American Heath Herring.
Nakao: "I'll do my best with this great opportunity. I think Herring is the kind of go-to fighter who will bring out my talents."
Herring: "Bring it on, I'm ready to do what I do best!"


In K-1 rules bouts (3Min x 3R with a possible tiebreaker):

There will be a highly anticipated match between former World Max Champion Masato of Japan and compatriot Akira Ohigashi (this a 72kg/159lbs weight class bout).
Masato: "I'm guessing the first round will be something to see, as my opponent will try his best to knock me out. Well, I'll have to do the same!"
Ohigashi: "I'm happy to be here but pleasure is not the thing, I want to be strong and show what I can do against Masato!!"

Japan's best K-1 fighter, Musashi, will take on powerhouse Bob "The Beast" Sapp of the Unites States.
Musashi: "I'll do my best, I hope it will be a good fight."
Sapp: "There is no question Musashi has conditioning and technical ability, the only question is -- will we still be friends after I knock his ass out?"
(When he heard this, Musashi laughed, responding, "Yes, Bob, I do hope we can continue our friendship!")

In a bout featuring the best of Holland fighters past and present, Defending World Grand Prix Champion Semmy Schilt will take on Four-Time Champion Ernesto "Mr Perfect" Hoost. Schilt is a Seidokaikan Karate fighter who blossomed this year, breezing through the opposition at Paris before capturing the crown at the Tokyo Dome scarcely six weeks ago.
Schilt: "I'm very glad to be here as the K-1 Champ, and I'll live up to it by showing you a great fight!"
Hoost: "I'm glad to be back -- the last day of 2005 will be my first fight of the year! It was my wish to fight the new Champ, and I'll show you my best for sure!"

Dutch K-1 star Remy Bonjasky, a Two-Time WGP Champion himself, will step in against Sylvester "The Predator" Terkay of the United States.
Bonjasky: "It feels strange not to be Champ, but I'll do my best to fight like I am tomorrow!"
Terkay: "I came to Osaka looking for a hard fight, and I'm happy I will fight a classy guy who's one of the best in the world. This gives me a chance to show what I can do."

The K-1 Premium 2005 Dynamite will be broadcast across Japan on the TBS network and on a time delay in Europe on EuroSport. For other scheduling information contact local broadcasters.
 




K-1 2005 Final Story: Schilt Unstoppable at K-1 World GP '05 Final
By Monty DiPietro

TOKYO, November 19, 2005 -- Dutch fighter Semmy Schilt turned aside three challengers to win the K-1 World Grand Prix '05 Final at the Tokyo Dome tonight. The 32 year-old Seidokaikan Karate fighter recorded a convincing unanimous decision in his first bout against Ray Sefo, and went on to KO Defending Champ Remy Bonjasky in the semis, then Glaube Feitosa in the final to emerge triumphant.


Schilt's karate background affords him superior speed and stamina -- he won the WGP in Paris this May, and coming into today's Final he was widely regarded as the best of K-1's big fighters (height 212cm/6'11"; weight 121kg/267lbs). Schilt becomes the fourth Dutchman to win the K-1 World GP, and the first Karate fighter to wear the crown since the late great Andy Hug in 1996. Along with fightsport's most prestigious Championship, Schilt picks up US$400,000 in prize money.

The eight-men-in-one-man-out K-1 WGP Championship tournament is the culmination of scores of fight events held round the world over the last year. All fights were contested under regular K-1 rules -- three rounds of three minutes each. The judges -- from Japan, the United States, France and Holland -- could call for a possible tiebreaker round in the event of a draw, and for two possible tiebreaker rounds in the final.

The card's first matchup pitted two-time Defending K-1 WGP Champion Remy Bonjasky of Holland against Hong-Man Choi of South Korea.

A former Silum wrestling Champion, Choi debuted in K-1 this year and came into the Final undefeated in six matches, having used his size more adeptly than some other K-1 behemoths. Choi is a national hero in Korea, and a sizable contingent of fans flew in from Seoul to cheer him on today. The sleek and lethal Bonjasky, meanwhile, is known for his spectacular flying knee and kick attacks. But his fans had to be wondering if he could get those up and in on the 218cm/7'2" Choi.

Bonjasky mostly eschewed the fancy stuff here in favor of a smart and precise attack built on low kicks. From the bell the Dutchman was light on his feet, kept his guard high and close, and snapped in hard low kicks. Choi led with his left jab and was solid on counters, and early on corralled Bonjasky into the corner to pump in some fist. Late in the first, Bonjasky saw a kick answered aggressively by a charging Choi, but neither fighter dominated in the round, which was scored a draw on all three cards.

The second saw Bonjasky launch a flying kick, only to have Choi answer again with punches. Bonjasky's low kicks were working better, and looked to be stinging Choi now. But the Korean used his reach well to control the distance, and again Bonjasky could not mount sustained pressure. In the third Bonjasky was the aggressor again, working the hit and run low kick attacks before landing a high kick to the left side of Choi's head. Choi's game was all counters, and he was not half-bad with these -- judges however liked Bonjasky's superior aggression and awarded him a slim but unanimous decision and a trip to the semis.

The second bout saw Schilt take the first step toward his Championship in a contest with Ray "Sugarfoot" Sefo of New Zealand. Schilt towered 28cm/11" above Sefo, but the Kiwi warrior hoped to counter that with techniques acquired while sparring with the also very tall Jan "The Giant" Nortje. An iron-jawed slugger, Sefo came into the tournament as many experts' pick to win.

Alas, it was not to be, as an all business Schilt took the fight to Sefo, who really did not look his usual self here. Schilt initially used front kicks and jabs to control the distance, and when Sefo stepped in with the fists Schilt went to the clinch and brought up the knees. Schilt got five knees to Sefo's head in the first round alone. And then it got worse.

In the second Schilt had low kicks working well, and although Sefo made some contact with a dandy spinning back punch and a right overhand, he was rattled badly when Schilt followed a left high kick with a straight punch. By the start of the third Sefo was bloodied and all but beaten, but to his credit Sugarfoot kept calling Schilt in, hoping against hope that he might get a hook round and in to score a down. But Schilt was in control, with all manner of kick and punch attacks. Sefo took a standing eight near the end of this one, which went to Schilt by unanimous decision.

The third quarterfinal was a showdown between a couple of K-1 veterans, French fighter Jerome Le Banner and Peter Aerts of Holland.

LeBanner brings preternatural aggression to the ring, tagged by many as the best K-1 fighter never to win the WGP. Aerts meanwhile is the consummate cool customer, a technical fighter with great kicks who has won the WGP three times. Incredibly, Aerts has appeared in each and every K-1 Final since the sport's inception (13 straight, a record that probably will never be broken). In the three previous meetings between these two, Aerts had the edge, 2-1.

LeBanner the southpaw got the best blow through in a tepid first, snapping Aerts' head back with a right straight punch. In the second LeBanner came alive with the fists, backing Aerts onto the ropes and finding his spots with deadly precision. Aerts' low and middle kicks were not enough here, as LeBanner began to take charge.

But Aerts picked up his pace in the third, and connected with middle kicks in the early going. LeBanner threw some kicks of his own, but half-heartedly -- as he clearly was more comfortable with his fists. The highlight of the round occurred when both fighters connected at the same instant with right hooks -- and LeBanner's mouthpiece went flying. Aerts won the third on all cards, but judges saw the fight too close to call, and so a tiebreaker round was prescribed.

Here both fighters looked fatigued, but it was Aerts -- the oldest guy in the tournament at 35 -- who launched more attacks, striking with the legs and bringing up the knees. The huffing and puffing LeBanner didn't have any more gas in his tank, and that sad fact was noted by the judges. They gave the decision to Aerts, and now all three Dutch fighters were in the semis.

In the last quarterfinal matchup, it was Japan's favorite son, Seidokaikan fighter Musashi, taking on 22 year-old wunderkind Ruslan Karaev of Russia.

Musashi's steady hard kicks earned him runner-up honors in the last two WGP Finals, while K-1 newcomer Karaev has overwhelmed opponents with his lightning quick, non-stop attacks. Karaev did high altitude training in Karuizawa, Japan in preparation for this fight, with a mind to improving his breathing and stamina.

The Russian dynamo came out like a loaded gun, pelting Musashi with kicks. Karaev kept the pressure up with a mixed bag of attacks including a spinning back kick, and some blistering punch and kick combinations. Musashi was good with his blocking and evasions, though, and always there with the low kicks. The second saw a more confident Musashi holding his ground, landing a right hook on a counter and good with the low and middle kicks, while Karaev connected with a right uppercut and a spinning back punch.

The third followed a pattern -- Karaev in with punches, Musashi ably blocking then countering with hard low kicks, but in the final seconds pattern suddenly disappeared and the boys went instead to a slugfest, and Karaev might have got the best of that wild exchange. Judges saw a draw and called for another round.

Here Musashi worked the hard low kicks and these stung Karaev. A break was called when Karaev accidentally head-butted Musashi, and after resumption we had another frenzied finish. Karaev made contact with a left straight punch and a spinning back kick while Musashi kept his legs busy to the end. A close fight which went to Musashi by decision.


The first of the semis saw Bonjasky fight his second big opponent -- and a more daunting one -- in Semmy Schilt.

This one lasted scarcely two minutes, as Schilt took the initiative from the bell, pumping in punches, kicks and knees while Bonjasky remained on the ropes, closed up in defense. Schilt's power got him through the defenses easily enough, and after a left knee to Bonjasky's head left the Champion badly shaken, Schilt followed up with punches and a hard front kick to score a down. Only 30 seconds after resumption, it was a knee to the abdomen that felled Bonjasky for a second time, ending the bout and putting Schilt through to the final.

Before the second of the semis it was announced that slotted fighter Peter Aerts had suffered cracked ribs and could not continue in the tournament, and so his place would be taken by the winner of the first reserve match.


That bout had Brazilian Kyokushin Karate master Glaube Feitosa fighting Trinidad and Tobago tough guy Gary Goodridge.

Goodridge had worked the body blows from the start, while Feitosa kept his guard high and countered with adroit legwork. Feitosa dislodged both Goodridge's tooth and mouthpiece with a frontkick in the second, and added fists to his arsenal here. For his part Goodridge initiated very little through the round, and was bleeding badly from the nose and mouth. Goodridge did step in with punches in the third, but Feitosa settled into a defensive posture to ride out the round and collect a comfortable unanimous win.

And so it happened that the victory got Feitosa a spot in the semis against Musashi.

The two were tentative from the start and the first round was about even -- a technical fight with the two kickers predictably trading kicks, neither able to dominate. But suddenly, just seconds from the bell, Feitosa surprised Musashi with a quick right straight punch to the kisser, and scored a down.

Seeing his chance, Feitosa was uncharacteristically aggressive in the second, charging in with kicks and punches, pushing Musashi across the ring not once but twice before finishing with a perfect flying knee to the nose to drop the Japanese fighter hard. Musashi didn't even try to beat the count, and that was that -- in an improbable scenario, Feitosa was now the man who would face Schilt in the final.

The final was a rematch of the Osaka Elimination bout between these two in September. Feitosa lost that fight by decision, and the Brazilian had no more luck tonight, as his Cinderella run was abruptly stopped by a Schilt knee in the first round.

Schilt did not give Feitosa a chance to work his magic, coming in fast and hard from the bell with punches and knees. Feitosa strived to counter from close in with overhand punches, but it was no use, as Schilt got his left knee up and dropped his opponent hard just 48 seconds into the round. A convincing victory to finish a perfect tournament for Schilt.

"I want to thank all my fans and friends who supported me," said a beaming Schilt, who picks up US$400,000 in prize money along with the crown. "I was motivated to win and I did it! I'm also glad I could give the fans some good fights! My goal is to keep the title next year!"

In the second reserve we had another thrilling bout, between Croatian Kickboxer Stefan Leko, making his return to K-1; and Badr Hari of Holland, making his K-1 debut.

After parading blissfully through what seemed the most protracted ring entrance in K-1 history, the lanky Hari got down to business, snapping up high kicks and threading in an excellent body blow in the first. Meanwhile, Leko stayed back and looked for chances. But surely Leko -- a technical fighter who has been all but deified by K-1 purists -- was going to pick it up in the second?

Well, no. What did happen in the second is Hari wheeled off a brutal spinning back kick and smacked Leko hard on the jaw with his heel. Leko was out cold even before his limp body crashed to the canvas. A highlight reel blow and a terrific win for Hari, who showed good sportsmanship by helping Leko to his feet some minutes later, when the dazed German had finally opened his eyes.

All in all, a super Final, which attracted a crowd of 58,213 to the Tokyo Dome. The event was broadcast live in Japan on the Fuji Television Network and Fuji Satellite TV; in South Korea on MBC/ESPN; and on Canal+ in France. It will be delay-broadcast on EuroSport across Europe, on ProTV in Romania, ViaSat Sports in Denmark, GroboSat in Brazil and on TV New Zealand. In total, the K-1 WGP '05 Final will be seen in some 90 countries -- check with local broadcasters for scheduling details.

Congratulations to the
NEW K-1 2005 CHAMPION

SEMMY SCHILT


All Photos and Videos in the K-1 and K-1 Multimedia Forums
 




K-1 World GP 2005 Final Press Conference
By Monty DiPietro
TOKYO, November 18, 2005 -- After a dozen K-1 Grand Prix Finals, the world's premier fightsport's popularity shows no sign of abating. This year interest is keener than ever, and more than 350 people crammed a press conference today in advance of the K-1 World GP '05 Final, set for Saturday November 19 at the Tokyo Dome.

The eight-men-in-one-man-out Championship tournament is the culmination of scores of fight events held round the world over the last year. Survivors on the long road from preliminaries to qualifiers to eliminations, the final eight met the media at the Shin Takanawa Hotel today to share their thoughts on the eve of the Final.


The first matchup pits Remy Bonjasky of Holland against Hong-Man Choi
of South Korea.

Bonjasky is the two-time Defending K-1 WGP Champion, but on stage today he found himself looking up at the 218cm/7'2" Choi. Known for his spectacular flying knees, Bonjasky has to be hoping he will be able get those up on his opponent tomorrow. "We trained hard and I feel good and I am looking forward to fighting a guy his size," said Bonjasky. "I also want to wish good luck to all the fighters in the tournament."

Choi, who has looked more in control of his size than other K-1 behemoths, was characteristically modest: "I debuted this year and I have the least experience of anyone here," he said. "I'm still learning so I feel no pressure. I'm very happy to be here and it is an honor to fight Bonjasky, I will do my best!"

The second bout will see Ray Sefo of New Zealand take on Dutch fighter Semmy Schilt.

Another big guy, Schilt's karate background affords him both speed and stamina. At 210cm/6' 11" he will tower 28cm/11" above his Kiwi opponent. Schilt is a man of few words: "I'm glad to be here and I will show you a great fight!" is all he said.

A squat slugger with an iron chin, Sefo is a warrior who likes to use occasional ring theatrics to taunt his opponent. In preparation for his fight with Schilt, Sefo has been training with the very tall Jan "The Giant" Nortje. Like Schilt, Sefo was brief here: "Best of luck to the other fighters, and to my opponent -- well, ring the bell and let's get it on!"

The third bout is a showdown between a couple of K-1 veterans, as French fighter Jerome Le Banner will take on Peter Aerts of Holland.

LeBanner brings preternatural aggression to the ring, and is widely regarded as the best K-1 fighter never to win the WGP -- this mostly due untimely injuries. But he is back and he is healthy. "Peter opened his door to me when I was younger," said LeBanner. "I respect him greatly, and tomorrow we'll make a great fight for K-1 fans around the world!"

Aerts is a technical fighter with great kicks who has won the WGP three times. Incredibly, Aerts has appeared in each and every K-1 Final since the sports inception (13 straight, a record that probably will never be broken). "I have known Jerome for a long time and I can see today he looks very strong," laughed a self-effacing Aerts. "So I'll ask him -- please don't do too much tomorrow!"

In the last matchup, it will be Japanese Seidokaikan fighter Musashi taking on Ruslan Karaev of Russia.

Musashi's hard kicks earned him runner-up honors in the last two WGP Finals. Today, Japan's favorite son looked relaxed, fit and ready. "Ruslan is good and has speed," said Musashi, "I know I have to expect a great fight tomorrow!"

An experienced fighter who is nonetheless new to K-1, Karaev has overwhelmed opponents this year with his lightning quick, non-stop attacks. "I am honored to be here in the final eight and I promise to give 100%!," said the Russian dynamo. "Musashi and I are good friends, but the fight and the friendship are different things."

In the first reserve fight, it will be Trinidad and Tobago tough guy Gary Goodridge taking on Brazilian Kyokushin Karate master Glaube Feitosa. These two tangoed in the Las Vegas this year, with Feitosa's kicks earning him the win.

Said Goodridge: "You know, people get lucky in Las Vegas, I'm not saying anyone here did, just that I wasn't lucky last time. This time, I will guarantee a 100% performance."

Feitosa: "I will fight a good fight against Gary, because I know the reserve bout winner has the chance to get into the tournament."

In the second reserve, it will be Croatian Stefan Leko, making his return to K-1, against Badr Hari of Holland.

Said Leko: "I feel really good, and it's a pleasure to be back in K-1!"

Badr: "Itís my first time in K-1, I will win, no doubt about it, and we'll have a big celebration party after the fight!"

Also at the press conference, K-1 Event Producer Sadaharu Tanikawa introduced a couple of K-1 legends -- four-time WGP Champ Ernesto Hoost, and K-1's first ever WGP Champ, Branco Citatic.

Said Tanikawa: "The 2005 K-1 Final will reach fans from Korea to France, from New Zealand to Brazil. This year we took K-1 events to many places -- Honolulu, Paris, and Seoul, South Korea -- where they are having something of a K-1 boom. And we are already planning for 2006, when we hope to have 20-30 tournaments, and go to the United States, New Zealand, and Holland. I thank God for the great matchups we got this year, they are very exciting and I'm looking forward very much to the Final!"

The K-1 World Grand Prix Championship is most prestigious fightsports title of its kind. The November 19 Final be broadcast live on the Fuji Television Network and Fuji Satellite TV in Japan, on MBC/ESPN in South Korea, and on Canal+ in France. The event will be delay-broadcast on EuroSport across Europe, on ProTV in Romania, ViaSat Sports in Denmark, GroboSat in Brazil and on TV New Zealand. In total, the Final will be seen in some 90 countries -- please check with local broadcasters for scheduling details.
 




Experts' Picks for the K-1 World GP '05
By Monty DiPietro
TOKYO, November 16, 2005 -- As the countdown continues to the K-1 World Grand Prix '05 Final, speculation is rife regarding who will earn fightsports' most coveted crown.

Set for November 19, the K-1 Final is the culmination of scores of fight events held round the world over the last year. Survivors on the long road from preliminaries to qualifiers to eliminations, the final eight will step into the ring at the Tokyo Dome this Saturday evening knowing they are but three wins away from the richest and most prestigious fightsports title of its kind -- the K-1 World Grand Prix Championship.


Powerhouse nation Holland will be well represented at the Dome -- with three-time WGP Champion Peter Aerts; the mammoth Semmy Schilt, and of course the Defending Champion, Remy Bonjasky all on the card.

Not surprisingly, many watchers are excited at the prospect of Bonjasky taking an unprecedented third consecutive WGP title. Brice Hoarau of the French fansite MuayThaiTV says he has no doubt Bonjasky will prevail; while veteran American fight writer Stephen "The Fight Professor" Quadros reckons if it isn't Bonjasky it will be one of the other Dutchmen.

"Remy technically has a more complete set of tools at this point than anyone else in the tournament," says Quadros, "but I think his biggest problem will be if he faces big Semmy Schilt in the semi-finals. Since this is Schilt's first K-1 World GP he will be extra sharp and focused. Semmy's height (210cm/6' 11") and reach will be a major problem for anyone on the roster. I have always predicted that Schilt would take the final tournament if and when he entered it."

"Actually, there is a very real possibility that we could see an all-Holland final match," reckons Quadros, "with Bonjasky and Schilt potentially squaring off on one side of the bracketing, and former three-time K-1 champ Peter Aerts waiting on the other end."
"For me, it looks like Holland will have its fourth K-1 title!"

Quadros is not the only expert who thinks Schilt's size and skills afford him an excellent chance in his first WGP final. Marko Ervasti, Editor of Fighter Magazine in Sweden, picks Schilt as his tournament dark horse. But as for who has the best chance to win it all, Ervasti figures two-time runner-up Musashi will become the first-ever Japanese WGP Champion.

Musashi is also tipped as the man who will wear the crown by Ricardo Diez Sanchis, Content Director at CrossCombat Magazine in Spain. Meanwhile, Sanchis names big Hong-Man Choi of South Korea as his possible dark horse in the tournament.

Over in Poland, Andrzej Strauss, K-1 Editor at the mmaniacs.pl fansite, selects Schilt as his dark horse, and for his favorite picks Ray "Sugarfoot" Sefo of New Zealand. A popular choice -- as Sefo emerged the clear overall favorite of the experts polled.

Frederic Rousseau of Punchmag in France figures Sefo's "iron chin" will get him through, adding he thinks Schilt will give the Kiwi his biggest challenge.

Stuart Tonkin and Tobian Martinsson of the fansite kakutougi.info concur: "Looking at what the top eight have accomplished as of late, we're expecting a Sefo vs LeBanner final. Semmy Schilt has yet to face a power puncher at the level of Ray. Previous performances and records aside, fight day is a new day. It's K-1 and anything can happen. But at the end of the night, we believe Ray Sefo will be crowned K-1 Champion."

Michael Schiavello wears many hats. The New Zealander is K-1 Commentator for Fox Sports Australia and TVNZ New Zealand, and an Editor at International Kickboxer Magazine. He is also very familiar with Sefo, and is sure Sugarfoot's time has come.

"This has been a form year for Sefo, having dispatched of Kaoklai with relative ease in the qualifiers," says Schiavello. "With Ray taking on Schilt you probably have the biggest height differential ever encountered in a GP. But Ray's been training extensively with Jan The Giant (210cm/6'11) in preparation for that. He's in the best physical shape he's been in for years, and like a fine bottle of wine just keeps getting better with age."

Schiavello picks Ruslan Karaev as his dark horse, as does Jeroen Winters of MartialArtsNews in Holland. As for the championship crown, Winters is probably the only Dutch K-1 expert who doesn't think it will end up in his country.

"The 2005 final line-up is a card of real full-contact martial artists," says Winters. "We will have a winner who knows what it is to make a comeback after a serious injury and who is fully entitled to become the K-1 champion -- and that is Jerome LeBanner!"

"Jerome is in great shape and very eager to get this title because he's running out of time since he is almost 34 years old," says Winters. "It would be a nice early birthday present for the giant French fighter."

Finally, Japanese sportswriter Takao Matsui of Kakutogi Tsushin (Martial Arts Magazine) says he also believes LeBanner is the most likely tournament winner. Echoing the sentiments of many in Japan, Matsui says Schilt is the dark horse who might just power his way through the field to an upset victory.

So there you have it -- a survey of experts and every one of the final eight gets mentioned at least once -- a wide open Final awaits this Saturday!

The tournament reserve bouts will see Gary Goodridge fight Glaube Feitosa; and the much-anticipated return to K-1 of Stefan Leko, whose opponent will be announced at the pre-event press conference Friday November 18.

The K-1 World Grand Prix '05 Final will be broadcast live on the Fuji Television Network and Fuji Satellite TV in Japan, in Korea on MBC/ESPN and on Canal+ in France. The event will be delay-broadcast on EuroSport across Europe, ProTV in Romania, ViaSat Sports in Denmark, GroboSat in Brazil and on TV New Zealand.
 




Stars Shine at K-1 World Max
By Monty DiPietro
TOKYO, October 12, 2005 -- On a card replete with elite talent, Dutch fighters continued their dominance of things K-1 as Andy Souwer and Albert Kraus both won at the K-1 World Max '05 in Tokyo. The one-match showcase event, held at the Yoyogi Olympic Complex, also saw impressive performances from Greek slugger Mike Zambidis and Lithuanian dynamo Remigijus Morkevicius. Meanwhile, Japanese newcomer Yoshihiro Sato upset the trimmed-down Kaoklai Kaennorsing, a former K-1 World GP Tokyo Dome Finalist making his World Max class debut here.

The fights were contested under regular K-1 Max Rules -- three rounds of three minutes each, with one possible tiebreaker round; with the card's first two bouts conducted under Hero's Mixed Martial Arts Rules.


Shooto Boxer Andy Souwer took on veteran Japanese kickboxer Kozo Takeda in the main event. Souwer captured the 2005 World Max crown by beating three opponents at the final in Kanagawa this July, while 32 year-old Takeda packs a record of 39 wins (30 by KO) in 57 fights.

Takeda started by firing in four unanswered low kicks, and kept the attacks focused through a fast-paced first. By midway through the round, Souwer was in trouble, clearly favoring his left leg. But the second saw the Dutch fighter back Takeda to the ropes and lay in with punches. Souwer threw a dozen before Takeda attempted to counter with a left, leaving himself open for the split-second Souwer needed to connect soundly with a left hook, felling Takeda for the KO victory.

"I wanted to mix it up more," said Souwer post-bout, "but he hurt my leg early and I couldn't put any power behind my kicks. I had to switch to the punches and go all out, and it worked!"

Also highly anticipated was the penultimate bout pitting Kaoklai Kaennorsing of Thailand against challenger Yoshihiro Sato of Japan. This was Kaoklai's debut in World Max -- the Thai fighter shed eight kilograms to make the weight class, actually tipping the scales in with room to spare at 69kg. Kaoklai became the only fighter ever to compete in both K-1 and World Max weight classes, but the quick-slim might have taken its toll on his power and stamina.

Kaoklai had the low, middle and high kicks working, but they were not as hard as they have been in the past, and Sato displayed solid blocking throughout. Both fighters had their chances, Kaoklai going with the fists some, Sato always cool and bringing the knee up well. The fighters engaged with similar styles and this frequently brought the bout to the clinch.

In the end, neither fighter dominated and one judge saw a draw, but Sato squeaked out a majority decision.

"I know Kaoklai only got this fight a couple of weeks ago," said Sato in his post-fight interview, "and I think having to lose all that weight so quickly meant that he was not 100% tonight. But I'm happy with the result, after my last fight [a loss by decision against Virgil Kalakoda], I felt like I let down my fans, so I wanted to make it up to them this time with a win."

It seems like only yesterday that Albert Kraus of Holland became the first-ever World Max Champion, and the 25 year-old World Max "veteran" showed tonight that he still has what it takes, notching a convincing win against 35 year-old former Japan Super Welterweight Champion Akira Ohigashi.

Kraus used his legs plenty tonight, looking a more complete K-1 fighter with an arsenal that included his punches of course but also included hard low kicks, high kicks, knees, and even a spectacular overhead flip. It was the low kicks that did most of the damage, and Ohigashi was limping badly by the end of the first. In the second Kraus scored a down with a low kick to his opponent's left leg, and really the Japanese fighter should have thrown in the towel at this point, because it was clear their man was suffering and almost immobile. Instead, all Kraus had to do was fire in another low kick for another down, and then do the same thing a third time to end the fight.

Said Kraus afterward: "I didn't plan a specific strategy for this fight, I wanted to improvise. Ohigashi has great spirit, but speed-wise I think I was better and that made the difference!"

Mike Zambidis of Greece turned the body blow machine on early in his bout, pummeling Japanese boxer Satoru Suzuki. The Greek fighter then surprised many with a series of good hard low kicks and flying knees. Having added some new tricks to his attacks, Zambidis too looked a more complete K-1 fighter, and although Suzuki got one or two combinations working, he was outclassed here. Zambidis wore down the Japanese fighter's left leg with low kicks, forcing a referee stop in the second for the KO win. Where many fighters might have pumped there fists in the air in victory, Zambidis showed superior sportsmanship as he stepped in on Sato, who was wobbling and about to fall, and pulled the fighter back to his feet with a congratulatory embrace.

Remigijus Morkevicius of Lithuania came out like a loaded gun against Japanese fighter Kazuya Yasuhiro. Morkevicius was fast and just relentless with his punching and kicking, fighting in the terrifically exciting go-to manner of a Ruslan Karaev. Yasuhiro has a great chin and is no slouch -- the Seidokaikan fighter made some good efforts in the second and late in the third -- but this about was as one-sided as a fight can be. Twice in the first the Lithuanian Muay Thai stylist downed Yasuhiro, and twice in the second did the same. In the third, again, Yasuhiro hit the canvas twice. Scored 30-21 on all cards for Morkevicius.

Australian Muay Thai sensation John Wayne Parr has been working on his boxing, not only training but also competing, putting together a decent 10-3 record in pugilistic pursuits since 2002. Here he used those skills to beat Japanese Muay Thai fighter Kinami. This was a fast-paced fight, Parr always faster with his straight punch and low kick combinations to take a well-deserved unanimous decision.

Jiu-jitsu fighter Ian Schaffa of Australia used hooks to score a couple of quick first round downs and hung on to beat Muay Thai fighter Akeomi Nitta of Japan by unanimous decision.

Making his K-1 debut, Indian fighter Black Mamba used a left straight punch to score a first round down against kickboxer Hayato, but the Japanese fighter rallied impressively in the second, recording a down with a right backhand blow just 15 seconds in, then finishing the Indian Muay Thai fighter off with a right hook just seconds after resumption.

In the Hero's mixed martial arts rules bouts, Yoshihiro Akiyama of Japan worked the ground-and-pound on Michael Lerma of the United States, forcing a referee stop just midway through the first round; while Japanese fighter Hideo Tokoro needed barely a minute to submit American Gabriel Lemley with a triangle.

In undercard K-1 Max Rules action, Kazuki Hamasaki KO'd Hakuto; Yuya Yamamoto beat Ash-Ra by unanimous decision; and Shinro Garyu beat Samir Berbachi by second round TKO.

The K-1 World Max '05 in Tokyo attracted a crowd of 11,800 to the Yoyogi Olympic Complex and was same-day broadcast across Japan on the TBS television network.

*All Photos of this event Here
 




K-1 World Max '05 in Tokyo Press Conference
By Monty DiPietro

TOKYO, October 11, 2005 -- The 20 fighters who will do battle in the K-1 World Max '05 in Tokyo weighed in and met the press today at the New Takanawa Hotel in central Tokyo. All fighters made the 70kg limit, and looked to be in great shape for the all-star showdown, which is set for tomorrow evening at the Yoyogi Olympic Complex in Tokyo.

Eight fights will be contested under regular K-1 Max Rules -- three rounds of three minutes each, with one possible tiebreaker round. The first two bouts on the card will be conducted under Hero's Mixed Martial Arts Rules.

The quality of the participants has attracted extraordinary attention and more than 200 attendees turned today's press conference into a standing-room-only affair.


All eyes were on the two men who will clash in the main event -- Shooto Boxer Andy Souwer of Holland and Japanese fighter Kozo Takeda. Souwer captured the 2005 World Max crown by beating three opponents at the Final in Kanazawa this July, while 32 year-old Takeda packs a record of 39 wins (30 by KO) in 57 fights.

Souwer appeared relaxed, and promised to put on an exciting fight at Yoyogi. Said Takeda, whose aggressive style makes him the perfect opponent for Souwer: "It's the main event, and so as a Japanese fighter I will go into it fearless and I will fight hard."

Also highly anticipated is the penultimate bout pitting Kaoklai Kaennorsing of Thailand against challenger Yoshiro Sato of Japan. This will be Kaoklai's debut in World Max -- the Thai fighter shed eight kilograms to make the weight class, actually weighing in with room to spare at 69kg. Kaoklai becomes the only fighter ever to compete in both K-1 and World Max weight classes. Having beat K-1 big boys like Alexey Ignashov and Mighty Mo, Kaoklai promises to be a major force in World Max.
Kaoklai: "This is new for me, to fight in Max, I think its a great chance and I'll do my best."
Sato: "I have trained hard and will fight with all my heart."

Also appearing tomorrow will be the first-ever World Max Champion, Albert Kraus of Holland, who will step in against Akira Ohigashi.
Kraus: "I have learned and I have improved and I believe I will win."
Ohigashi: "I come from boxing and this is my K-1 debut, so I will do my very best!"

In other bouts on the card:

The first mixed martial arts matchup will see Hideo Tokoro of Japan and American Gabriel Lemley do battle.
Tokoro: "I mean to do my best."
Lemley:" I have seen some of Tokoro's fights and I respect his ability, but I will put on a good fight!"

Also in mixed martial arts rules, Yoshihiro Akiyama of Japan will take on Michael Lerma of the United States.

Meanwhile back in World Max Rules, Akeomi Nitta of Japan will fight Ian Schaffa of Australia; Japanese fighter Hayato and Indian fighter Black Mamba will mix it up; and Australian sensation John Wayne Parr will meet Japanese fighter Kinami
Said Parr: "I'm excited to fight Kinami, we both have been in Thailand and have Muay Thai training so I think it will be a beautiful fight!"
Kinami: "This is a great chance for me, I will try to make an impact!"

Remigijus Morkevicius of Lithuania will challenge Japanese Seidokaikan fighter Kazuya Yasuhiro, who drew a laugh with his comments: "Well, its been raining in Tokyo for the last several days so I haven't been able to do my laundry. But the forecast is for fair skies tomorrow so first I'll wash my things, and then go and clean up at the fight!"
Said Morkevicius: "I am just happy to have this opportunity, I know my opponent is strong so I will try my best to put in a great performance for the fans!"

And Mike Zambidis of Greece will slug it out with Satoru Suzuki.
Zambidis: "I am a boxer but I have trained to do everything I can to make this an exciting fight!"
Suzuki: "Zambidis is a very good fighter, he and I both have KO punches, but I believe I will be the one who gets the decisive blow in first."

The K-1 World Max '05 in Tokyo event kicks off at 17h30 and will be same-day broadcast across Japan on the TBS television network.
 




K-1 World GP '05 Final Draw
By Monty DiPietro

TOKYO, September 25, 2005 -- This year's K-1 Final Eight fighters were determined with fists and feet at the Osaka Dome on Saturday. Today, in front of hundreds of fans and media at the outdoor arena of the Roppongi Hills Complex in Tokyo, a draw was held to establish who will fight whom at the November 19 Tokyo Dome Final.



The pairings were determined under K-1's traditional selection system, which combines elements of choice with a bit of good old fashioned luck. All eight fighters first reach in turn into a box to blindly choose from balls, these bearing the numbers one through eight. Next, fighters proceed, in the order dictated by their number, to the stage. There they are free to stand in any available fighters' spot indicated as A through H. This becomes the tournament tree -- A vs B and C vs D being the first bracket; E vs F and G vs H being the second.

Generally, fighters opt to position themselves in earlier bouts (positions A and B being the first fight), as these spots on the card will afford longer rests for those who advance. But after the first selection has been made, strategy also enters into the process. If, for example, the selector likes his chances against someone already committed, he can place himself beside that fighter if the position is still available. Or, if the selector prefers to avoid an already committed fighter, he can install himself elsewhere -- beside either another fighter or a vacant position.

Picking along with Defending WGP Champion Remy Bonjasky of Holland today were Peter Aerts (Holland), Hong-Man Choi (South Korea), Ruslan Karaev (Russia), Jerome LeBanner (France), Musashi (Japan), Semmy Schilt (Holland) and Ray Sefo (New Zealand).

Sefo got first ball, and installed himself in position "C," the red corner of the second bout. Next up was Hong-Man Choi, who elected to avoid Sefo and instead take the blue corner for the first bout. When Bonjasky selected third, he was faced with the choice of taking a second bracket berth or else lining up beside either Sefo or Choi. After careful consideration, Bonjasky decided to step into the red corner of the first bout and a date with Choi.



Said Bonjasky: "I chose Choi because he is the new guy in K-1, and he's a great guy and I want to test him. He's big and tall, but I think if I jump then I can reach him with my knees!"

Semmy Schilt had the next number and rather venture into the second bracket, walked straight up and paired off with Sefo.

"I had a feeling beforehand that I was going to end up fighting one of the big guys, either Choi or Semmy" said Sefo, "and that prediction came true. I have another prediction, which I am going to keep to myself for now, but you will all find out when the night of the Final arrives."

Jerome LeBanner then went to the red corner for the third bout, giving the next selector, Ruslan Karaev, the opportunity to step in beside him. But Karaev declined, preferring to take his chances in the fourth bout. Musashi drew the seventh ball, and was so had the choice of either LeBanner or Karaev. After a quick huddle with his brother Tomo, the Japanese fighter planted himself in the red corner of the last match, beside Karaev. It therefore fell by default to Aerts to fight LeBanner in the third bout.

Said LeBanner, "I would have preferred to fight a young guy, because Peter is my friend, but as Peter knows it's friendship outside the ring and war inside the ring!"

After Karaev remarked that he was going to focus his training on defensive techniques in advance of the Final, Musashi drew a laugh from the crowd with his comments: "If Ruslan wants to fight more defensively, then I will oblige him by fighting even more aggressively!"

The K-1 World Grand Prix 2005 Final is set for Tokyo Dome on Saturday November 19. It will be same-day broadcast across Japan by the Fuji TV Network.
 




Dutch a Treat at K-1 Final Elimination
By Monty DiPietro

OSAKA, September 23, 2005 -- Forget tulips, cheese and Vincent Van Gogh -- for K-1 fans, Holland is known principally as a producer of premier K-1 fighters. For the second consecutive year, there will be three entries from the Netherlands at the K-1 World Grand Prix Tokyo Dome Final, this after all participating Dutch fighters emerged victorious at today's K-1 '05 WGP Final Elimination Tournament at the Osaka Dome.

The event featured combatants from a dozen different nations -- K-1 GP '05 Tournament-winners along with the '04 Final Eight -- in a one-match elimination format. The seven winners here now qualify for the K-1 WGP Tokyo Dome Final this November 19. (Remy Bonjasky, who fought and won in a Superfight tonight, had already earned a bye to the Final as the Defending WGP Champion.)


The first matchup on the card featured Ray Sefo of New Zealand and the 80kg Kaoklai Kaennorsing of Thailand. Both the smallest and youngest-ever K-1 Tournament Champion, Muay Thai wunderkind Kaoklai is precise and relentless with his low kicks; while veteran Sefo is murder with the fists, and considered one of the best K-1 fighters never to win the WGP Final.

This was a surprisingly one-sided fight, as Sefo led with a right straight, then surprised Kaoklai with a low kick that put the Thai off-balance. As usual, Sefo repeatedly dropped his guard and invited his opponent in, answering Kaoklai's kicks with punches. This was expected to be all feet versus fists, but Sefo threw many more kicks than usual throughout the bout.

Although it wasn't always pretty, there was plenty of hard core action, as the two men repeatedly charged at one another. In the second Sefo cut off the ring, turned sideways in defense against the kicks, and amid the chaotic clashes was able to score a down with a right hook which caught Kaoklai round the side of the head. Again in the third Sefo taunted the Thai, who was woefully unable to work kicks to keep the distance as he has in the past, and tried instead to hurt Sefo with his hands. It was in vain, as Sefo dominated in every respect to take a comfortable unanimous decision.



The second bout saw Russian dynamo Ruslan Karaev, who pounded his way through the Las Vegas GP Repechage tournament last month, step in against Rickard Nordstrand of Sweden. A finalist in the K-1 Scandinavian '04 GP, Nordstrand was named as a late substitute when four-time K-1 WGP Champion Ernesto Hoost was forced to withdraw due an aggravated leg injury.

Karaev started strong and swift, rattling Nordstrand with a right then laying in with brutal combinations. Nordstrand had some good hard low kicks here -- and his conditioning as a player in the Swedish Elite ice hockey league stood him in good stead as he proved able to absorb a lot of punishment.

Karaev launched his spinning back kicks in the second, and got a good right through to stay in control. In he third round the Russian put a dandy spinning back punch in right on the money. To his credit, Nordstrand read Karaev better as this fight went on, and stayed in the thick of it to the end, frequently stinging Karaev with the low kicks but unable to score the down he would need to inch up on the scorecards. In the final analysis Karaev was simply the more aggressive and better fighter, and took the unanimous decision.

Brazilian Kyokushin fighter Glaube Feitosa wowed Las Vegas fans when his kicking prowess carried him to victory at the K-1 USA GP earlier this year. Here he went up against Semmy Schilt of Holland, whose lethal combination of technique and power carried him to victory at the K-1 Europe GP in Paris this May.

Schilt brought a 20kg/50lbs weight and 18cm/7" height advantage to this dance, and easily controlled the distance throughout with low kicks and one-two straight punch combinations. Feitosa didn't look like he knew what to do here, tossing several meek jabs in early but otherwise mostly closed up tight on the defensive. In the second again, Feitosa struggled to get within striking distance, and when he did was met with the clinch and messed up with big Dutch knees. When the deadly Kyokushin high kick finally materialized late in the third -- connecting with Schilt's head and stunning him -- the crowd cheered, but for the judges it was too little too late. A unanimous decision for Schilt.

Jerome LeBanner defeated compatriot Cyril Abidi in a grueling Paris Superfight to earn his place here. The Gaul's opponent tonight was Gary Goodridge, a Trinidad and Tobago-born brawler who makes his home in Canada. Goodridge got his spot on the card by taking this year's K-1 Hawaiian GP in convincing fashion.

These two fighters are friends outside the ring, and have similar builds and similar styles, marked by explosive starts aimed at the quick KO. But this one was all LeBanner, as the French powerhouse barreled in with hard low kicks and a brutal one-two punch combination from which Goodridge never recovered. A LeBanner left straight punch rattled Goodridge before a right high kick to the head put him down. Seconds after resumption LeBanner's relentless low kicks hurt Goodridge badly and earned the Frenchman a second down. Goodridge limped to the corner and closed up, hoping to recompose and get out of the round, but LeBanner just kept on coming, firing in a barrage of blows to force a referee stop even as Goodridge went tumbling once again to the canvas. An overwhelming display of power that saw LeBanner return to the form that had made him such a force in K-1 in years past.

Said LeBanner post-bout: "It's all about training. I've had the same team since my Paris fight with Abidi, and I will take them with me to the Tokyo Dome and all the way to victory."

Peter Aerts of Holland met American Mighty Mo in the fifth tournament bout. Three-time K-1 WGP Champion Aerts is a seasoned fighter with a complete arsenal of technical attacks, while Mo is a heavyset power puncher possessed of almost superhuman strength.

Aerts aggressively fired in hard low kicks from the start. Mo was not immediately proficient with his defenses, and wobbled under the Lumberjack's attacks. However, the American soon began to bring the leg up in response, and contact with Mo's knee opened a cut on Aerts' right shin. This prompted a doctor check, but Aerts was cleared to continue. Now Mo laid in with body blows, and threw a few kicks of his own, but Aerts was always better with the counters, and planted some good punches of his own, while Mo missed repeatedly with his signature overhand right. Like LeBanner before him, the ageless Aerts was at the top of his game, and early in the second put a middle kick in that dropped Mo to the canvas, wincing and clutching at his right knee. Mo struggled to beat the count but his feet would not hold him, and Aerts had the win.

Francois "The White Buffalo" Botha of South Africa faced Musashi in the next contest. Among the crew of former boxers who have tested their skill in the K-1 ring, Botha has probably adapted the best. But he had his hands full here against Musashi, a Japanese Seidokaikan Karate fighter who has evolved from also-ran status into one of the best in the sport, finishing second at the K-1 Final the last two years running.

Botha took the center of the ring and led with the jab, his right cocked and waiting, while Musashi circled, firing in the low kicks. Some of these connected solidly, but Botha also clocked Musashi more than once with the right and delivered some good body blows. Musashi stepped in and boxed some in the second, and brought the left kick up nicely here, connecting with Botha's head and midsection, but Botha was otherwise capable on defense. Musashi was seeing Botha's right now, staying out of harm's way while scoring points with his low kicks and a nice left.

In the third Musashi was better with quick combinations, Botha missing again and again with the right. Although Botha's blocking was good throughout, his jabs were the only offence he had going, and these were no match for the power strikes the Japanese fighter threw back. A fairly close fight, with Musashi taking a unanimous decision.

In the battle of the behemoths Main Event, it was American Bob Sapp (200cm/6'7"; 145kg/319lbs) against South Korea's Hong-Man Choi (218cm/7'2";161kg/355lbs). The 24 year-old Choi has plenty of speed for a big guy, and won the K-1 Asian GP in Seoul this year. The always explosive Sapp, meanwhile, overcame his discipline and stamina deficiencies to become this year's improbable Japan GP Champion. Both men stepped into the ring undefeated in K-1 this year.

Both men bulldozed in from the start, flailing punches punches and more punches. This was both a wild fight, and a purist's nightmare as most punches missed, some were blocked, and but a few found their target. Sapp threw a couple of solid low kicks here before the pace slowed down to the point where the two fighters were standing motionless, staring at one another while panting for breath.

The rested combatants started the second round in aggressive fashion, wildly flailing punches punches and more punches. Again, a purist's nightmare as most punches missed, some were blocked, and but a few happened to find their target. And, again there was a slowdown and then more standing and panting, which prompted the referee to call time and remind the fighters that they were here to fight. Obediently, Sapp and Choi resumed wildly flailing punches punches and more punches. And again, most punches missed, some were blocked, while but a few found their target.

In the third, both fighters recommenced wildly flailing punches punches and more punches. But there ensued a sloppy clinch, from which Choi brought a knee up squarely to Sapp's face. This was the decisive blow. A stung Sapp turned away and as Choi pursued him Sapp was assessed a standing count. His nose badly bloodied, Sapp showed some spunk after resumption, varying his attacks somewhat and managing to get a knee of his own up on his opponent, but Choi fought through to finish with a win by narrow majority decision.

Again, definitely not a purists' fight, more a war. The crowd was engrossed, and the fighters' battered faces post-bout testified to the brutality of the action.

"I should have used the knees more," said Sapp afterward, "but that's the game. In the end, I beat myself."

Said Choi: "It was a tough fight. So far I've only been working on one-two punch combinations. I will try to learn more for the Tokyo Dome."

Although he was forced to withdraw from the tournament, Four-Time WGP Champion Ernesto Hoost of the Netherlands made the trip to Osaka to deliver a message to his fans:

"I have had an injury to my left leg, the fibula head bone, for almost 2 years now, and it's not getting better. I must be realistic, I turned 40 this year and I'm not getting any younger or stronger, and so at this point I've made the decision not to compete in tournaments anymore. I have not planned my retirement fight yet, because I think I could still do Superfights, but not before the end of this year at the earliest."


There were also a pair of Superfights on the Osaka card:

In a highly-anticipated matchup, Defending WGP Champ Remy Bonjasky met Belorussian challenger Alexey Ignashov, who is coming off a knee injury which prevented him from training properly for almost one year.

Bonjasky started in with low kicks, which Ignashov coolly answered with left straight punches. Ignashov put a good right punch in to the body and a hard knee up midway through the first, all the while using the left jab to control the distance. But the fighters appeared overly cautious through the first, and lack of aggression was to mar the entire bout. In the second Ignashov started with a promising hard low kick before the fight again settled into a minimal strike-and-counter pattern. Ignashov worked the body again here, and there were a few good kicks from both men, but neither mounted sustained pressure.

Bonjasky boxed in the third, keeping his guard high and affording Ignashov little opportunity to work anything but low kicks. Given that these two are counted among the hardest and most creative kickers in the sport, this was another relatively listless round. Judges didn't see a winner and so called for a tiebreaker.

With the fight up for grabs, again, unfortunately, there were long stretches of inactivity in the extra round. Bonjasky was however a little better, initiating more attacks, connecting with a left and following that with a good middle kick. Bonjasky launched one of his flashy flying knees, and although he missed he deserves credit for at least trying. As the round wore on, for his part Ignashov appeared content to let the clock run out. Judges saw Bonjasky as marginally more aggressive and so awarded him the unanimous decision.

"It wasn't my best fight" understated Bonjasky later.

In the other Superfight, Seidokaikan legend Nobuaki Kakuda of Japan tangled with Australian George "The Iron Lion," the brother of famed former K-1 fighter Stan The Man.

Kakuda looked right fit for a 44 year-old, and traded hard low kicks with his opponent in the early going. But midway through the first, The Lion got in with a left straight to the snout to score a down, and kept the pressure up through the end of the round. In the second, Kakuda fed The Lion a few good fists and was alert with his evasions. The third saw an agile Kakuda put the Aussie off-balance with a left straight and work the right to effect. But that was not enough to overcome the down, and judges unanimously scored the contest in favor of The Lion.

In an undercard fight, Alexandre Pitchkounov of Russia used tight combinations to beat French fighter Rani Berbachi by unanimous decision.

The World Grand Prix 2005 Final Elimination in Osaka attracted a crowd of 31,800 to the Osaka Dome. It was same-day broadcast in Japan on the Kansai and Fuji TV network, in South Korea on MBS ESPN and in New Zealand on TVNZ. There will be delayed-broadcasts on Eurosport across Europe, Viasat in Scandinavia, ITV in the UK and Astro in Malaysia. For scheduling information in these and other locations, check with local providers.

All Photos of this event Here
 




World Grand Prix 2005 Final Elimination in Osaka Press Conference
By Monty DiPietro


OSAKA, September 22, 2005 -- Many warriors were called, and the few who were chosen met the press today in advance of the K-1 '05 WGP Final Elimination Tournament. Set for tomorrow at the Osaka Dome, the event will feature this year's top fighters and the '04 finalists in a one-match elimination format to qualify seven men for the K-1 WGP Tokyo Dome Final this November. (Remy Bonjasky, who will be the eighth fighter at Tokyo, earns a bye as the Defending WGP Champion.)

A couple of Dutchmen and a pair of Americans are among the combatants from a dozen different countries who fought their way through elimination and qualifying tournaments to get to Osaka. For many K-1 fans, this tournament, with its card of do-or-die bouts featuring all-fresh fighters, is every bit as thrilling as the Tokyo Dome Final.


In the first matchup, it will be Ray Sefo of New Zealand taking on Thai wunderkind Kaoklai Kaennorsing in what promises to be a battle of punches versus kicks. Muay Thai master Kaennorsing is both the smallest and youngest-ever K-1 Tournament Champion, while veteran slugger Sefo is widely considered, along with Jerome LeBanner, as the best K-1 fighter never to win the WGP Final.

Sefo: "It's an honor to be here among the top 16, and I am ready. I wish good luck to all."
Kaennorsing: "I hope to make a strong impression on all my Japanese fans".

The second bout will see Russian dynamo Ruslan Karaev, who pounded his way through the Las Vegas Repechage tournament last month, taking on Rickard Nordstrand of Sweden. Nordstrand was named as a late substitute when four-time K-1 WGP Champion Ernesto Hoost was forced to withdraw due an aggravated knee injury.

Karaev: "I am so happy to be fighting in such a big place as Osaka Dome, I can't really say any more about my opponent because of the last-minute change, but I hope to win and move into the top eight for Tokyo Dome."
Nordstrand: "I'm very happy to get this chance, I will do my best and hopefully it will be enough to win!"

Brazilian Glaube Feitosa was adopted by the Vegas fans when his kicking prowess carried him to victory at the Battle at the Bellagio earlier this year. Tomorrow he will step in against Semmy Schilt of Holland, who powered his way through the field the win the Paris '05 GP.

Feitosa: "I am honored to represent Kyokushin Karate and I hope to put on a great fight."
Schilt: "I will put on a great show."

It also was in Paris that Jerome Le Banner defeated compatriot Cyril Abidi in a grueling Superfight to earn his place here. The Gaul's opponent tomorrow will be Gary Goodridge, a Trinidad and Tobago-born brawler who makes his home in Canada. Goodridge got his spot here by winning the K-1 Hawaiian GP in convincing fashion.

LeBanner: "I am happy to be here, this is a special match for me because I respect Gary very much. But it's business tomorrow, we will have a great match."
Goodridge: "Jerome and I are friends, and I have respect and admiration for him. I would say there are four heavy punchers in K-1 -- [Ray] Sefo, Mighty Mo, LeBanner and myself. I have fought all of them and I have been knocked out by all of them! So, I promise if Jerome beats me tomorrow I will support him at the Dome. And, I hope he will do the same and work my corner if I win. Merci, mon ami!"

Peter Aerts of Holland will meet American Mighty Mo in the fifth tournament bout. Aerts is a three-time K-1 WGP Champion, smart with his balanced technical attacks, while Mo is a power puncher possessed of almost superhuman strength.

Aerts: "It's going to he hard because I know Mo's a good fighter, but I'll do my best."
Mo: "It is an honor to fight Aerts. I will show my best abilities tomorrow."

Francois "The White Buffalo" Botha of South Africa will meet Musashi in the next contest. Botha is a former boxer who has adapted well to K-1, while Musashi is Japanese Seidokaikan Karate fighter who has evolved from also-ran status into one of the best, finishing second-place in the K-1 Final the last two years running.

Musashi: "Botha is a strong fighter, but I have prepared well and will do my best."
Botha: "I'm still learning, and they say you learn through your mistakes. But I will not make any mistakes tomorrow!"

In the battle of the behemoths Main Event, it will be American Bob Sapp (who received a spirited rendition of "Happy Birthday" from the assembled for turning 31 years-old today) taking on Hong-Man Choi of South Korea. Choi is a big guy with speed, while the always explosive Sapp has overcome his stamina deficiencies of late to show he can go the distance.

Sapp: "They call Choi a giant, but tomorrow I think they'll just call him knocked out! Maybe I'll use a left hook, but Peter Aerts is suggesting a high kick. Anyway, I guarantee the giant will fall!"
Choi: "He'll KO me? No way! Sapp is babbling and I have nothing to say about that, I'm just here to fight."



Although he was forced to withdraw from the tournament, Ernesto Hoost of the Netherlands made the trip to Osaka to deliver a message to his fans:

"I have had an injury to my left leg fibula head bone for almost 2 years now, and it's not getting better," said the somber four-time WGP Champion. "When I was kicking in training it gave me pain, so my choices were either to fight in a bad condition, or to not fight at all. I decided on the second. My goal was to become a five-time WGP Champion but I must be realistic. I'm not getting any younger or stronger, and so I've made the decision not to compete in tournaments anymore. I have not planned my retirement fight yet, because I think I could still do Superfights, but not before the end of this year at the earliest."



There will be a couple of Superfights on the Osaka card:

In the first, which has the makings of a classic, Defending WGP Champ Remy Bonjasky will take on Alexey Ignashov of Belarus.

Ignashov: "This is a very important time for me. I had a knee injury last year and I couldn't train properly, but now I am recovered, and I want to repay my fans, who stuck with me through the difficult times, and show that I am back!"
Bonjasky chose to deliver his press conference message to the tournament fighters: "I wish you all good luck, show your spirit!"

In the second Superfight, Japanese veteran Nobuaki Kakuda will tangle with Australian George "The Iron Lion," the brother of legendary K-1 fighter Stan The Man.

Kakuda: "I fought Stan the Man 10 years ago, but I was not at my best unfortunately. Now Stan is retired, but I am happy to have a chance to fight his brother George. I will do my best."
"Iron Lion": "This is my first K-1 fight, but I did all my homework. I respect Kakuda, he fights with great spirit, and I will give it my best shot."


The World Grand Prix 2005 Final Elimination in Osaka kicks off at 16h00 local time on Friday September 23 at the Osaka Dome. It will be same-day broadcast in Japan on the Kansai and Fuji TV network, in South Korea on MBS ESPN and in New Zealand on TVNZ. There will be delayed-broadcasts on Eurosport across Europe, Viasat in Scandinavia, ITV in the UK and Astro in Malaysia. In these and other locations, check with local providers for broadcast schedules.
 


 


HERO'S: Kudos for Sudo & Kid Yamamoto
By Monty DiPietro

TOKYO, September 7, 2005 -- Japanese fighters Genki Sudo and Norifumi "Kid" Yamamoto won their respective brackets in the eight-man Hero's Middleweight World Championship 2005 Tournament today at the Ariake Coliseum in Tokyo's trendy Bayside District.

With their victories, the stage is set for a dramatic New Year's Eve showdown at the K-1 Premium Dynamite 2005, where Sudo and the Kid will fight for the first Hero's Middleweight Championship Crown.

Continuing its association with the new Hero's productions, K-1 contributed fighters and support to tonight's mixed martial arts event. All tournament bouts were in a 70kg (154lbs) weight class and comprised two five-minute rounds fought under mixed martial arts rules.


Kazuyuki Miyata met Genki Sudo in the first matchup, and there was plenty of acrobatic action from these two Japanese fighters. Miyata got on top in the first, but Sudo was good with the fists in a second round marked by frequent reversals. Sudo had a strong finish, working the armbar seconds from the final bell to submit his opponent and advance.

In the second bout, Japanese fighter Hiroyuki Takaya beat Remigijus Morkevicius of Lithuania by TKO. After a powerful punch-up start to the first, the pair went to the mat where Takaya stayed on top but was only rarely able to sink the punches, and failed in his attempts to hyperextend the Lithuanian's arm. The fighters remained on their feet through the midpoint of the second, and although Morkevicius's rampant elbows earned him a yellow card, his fists were good through these exchanges. But Takaya got the full mount again late in the round and worked the fists enough to earn a referee stop and pick up the win.

Brazilian Royler Gracie turns 40 this year, and here the living legend stepped in against Norifumi "Kid" Yamamoto of Japan, a fighter 12 years his junior. Alas, this time youth won over experience. The two stood and struck through most of the first -- a lone takedown ending in stalemate when Gracie tied Yamamoto up from the guard position. They were on their feet again in the second when Yamamoto deftly countered Gracie's flying knee attempt with a jaw-rattling right hook to flatten the Brazilian and pick up the KO victory.

The last of the quarterfinals featured Japanese fighters Caol Uno and Hideo Tokoro. Uno had the better punches from the bell, and when Tokoro ended up on his back Uno remained standing and made some nice passes to rack up the points, although he did eat a heel when one of Tokoro's bicycle kicks connected. Uno got the fists flying again in the second to bloody his opponent's nose, and dominated once more when the fight went to the mat to win by unanimous decision.

In the first semifinal, Genki Sudo, always sideways and in motion, peppered Hiroyuki Takaya with spinning back kicks and punches. But Takaya remained unimpressed by the razzle-dazzle, scoring some no-nonsense punches of his own as the pair stayed mostly on their feet. In the second Takaya cut off the ring to effect, was sunk by a slip, which allowed Sudo to leap onto his back and work first a rear naked then a triangle choke to force the tap-out.

The second semi was all vertical, and saw Kid Yamamoto speeding punches in on Caol Uno, who showed he had the footwork and evasive techniques to stay out of harm's way -- most of the time. Yamamoto got a couple in, and hurt Uno with a knee, but could not mount sustained pressure in the first.

In the second Yamamoto got the right straight punch then a right hook through to bloody Uno's left eye, prompting a doctor check. Three doctors worked on Uno's face for three minutes before he was cleared to continue. Last-chance, Uno wanted the takedown, but when he closed the distance The Kid greeted him with fists, exacerbating the mess on his face and leaving the referee no choice but to step in and stop the bout, giving Yamamoto the win.

Yamamoto and Sudo took center ring after the tournament, thanking the crowd and pledging to do their best when they meet to finish their business on New Year's Eve.


In other action on the card:

K-1 veteran Sam Greco of Australia punched the trunks off Shungo Oyama of Japan in the Main Superfight. Greco put his right to work from the get-go and, after setting Oyama to wobbling barely halfway through the first with a well-placed knee, brought the right into play again to deliver the coup de grace.

There was grappling galore in the second Superfight, as Akira Kikuchi and Kiuma Kunioku of Japan stayed on the mat throughout. Both men had their moments, Kikuchi always looking for the submission, the slippery Kunioku content to put the punches in when he could. Judges saw a draw after two and called for a tiebreaker round, which they scored in Kikuchi's favor.

In the third Superfight, Yoshihiro Nakao of Japan used an armbar to submit Fai Falamore of New Zealand.

In the tournament reserve fight, it was Koutetsu Boku of Japan over Brazilian Hermes Franca by decision; while the opening match saw Atsushi Yamamoto of Japan beat compatriot Katsuya Toida.

The Hero's Middleweight World Championship Tournament 2005 drew a crowd of 9.950 to the Ariake Coliseum, and was same-day broadcast on TBS in Japan.

 




Karaev Victorious in Vegas; Mo Bashes Botha
By Monty DiPietro
LAS VEGAS, August 13, 2005 -- You can't spell 'Mirage' without 'rage' -- and that is exactly what 22 year-old Russian kickboxer Ruslan Karaev brought to the ring at the Mirage Casino and Hotel tonight, brutalizing three challengers en route to victory in the K-1 World Grand Prix 2005 in Las Vegas II.

The 14-bout event featured an eight-man elimination tournament comprised of fighters from seven countries, along with a couple of Superfights. All matches were fought under regular K-1 Rules (3Min x 3R w/1R tiebreaker):

In the first of the tournament quarterfinals, Canadian fighter Michael McDonald took on Azem Maksutaj of Switzerland. At 40, McDonald was the senior fighter in the tournament, but clean living and a strict training regimen have allowed the three-time K-1 Champion to cheat age. The Mirage Sports Book had McDonald as the favorite to win the tournament at 7/5, while Maksutaj also ranked high (7/2) on the odds board. McDonald and Maksutaj fought a tough contest in Sweden earlier this year, with McDonald winning by extra-round decision, and so this promised to be a first-class rematch.

McDonald was in first fast with a hard low kick, and Maksutaj soon answered with the same. Both men also got good combinations going here. Midway through the first, Maksutaj fired a leg up and caught McDonald on the nose with a knee. When the Canadian turned away and hung his head over the ropes, the referee responded by stepping in and calling a break. Maksutaj won the round on all cards.

The second again saw Maksutaj taking the fight to McDonald, good with high kicks and working the hook on counters and the knees from in close. By midway through the round Maksutaj had taken control.

A desperate McDonald tried valiantly to rally in the third -- he was fast and precise and won the round on two cards. But Maksutaj had the better stuff overall, and went through with a unanimous decision.

Freddy Kemayo of France met Ruslan Karaev in the second bout. Also young at just 23 years of age, Kemayo's technical yet highly aggressive style earned him a third-place finish at the World GP in Paris this May.

But Karaev came out with an explosive start, laying into the Frenchman with a vicious barrage of punches and kicks. Kemayo closed up and remained cool, and seemed to have weathered the storm, but Karaev remained determined to overwhelm his opponent, throwing high kicks and stepping through Kemayo's low kicks to continue delivering punishment. After testing Kemayo with body blows, Karaev stepped away some before suddenly unleashing a spinning back kick which caught Kemayo in the midsection. It took a second for Kemayo to realize what had hit him, but then he fell to the canvas, curled up in pain. The referee stepped in with a count that Kemayo could not beat, and Karaev was through to the semis with a KO victory.

Yet another youngster, 23 year-old Hiraku Hori of Japan, stepped in against German fighter Chalid "Die Faust" Arrab in the third quarterfinal. Arrab trains at the prestigious Golden Glory Gym in Holland, home to elite fighters such as Stephan Leko and Semmy Schilt. Vegas betters liked the German, as the odds on "Die Faust" went from 18/1 to 9/5 in just three days, making him the second favorite to win the tournament.

The tallest fighter in the tournament at 198cm/6'6", Hori brought a 20cm/8" height advantage to the ring against Arrab, the shortest of the eight combatants. But size isn't everything, as Hori was to discover.

This was another fast start, as Die Faust charged in with the fists. Hori the southpaw soon got his kicks working, and was able to control the distance well. The Japanese stepped in often with the left, and while Arrab was always there with overhands, Hori looked to be talking control here, winning the first on all three cards. The second saw a slower pace, Hori working kicks to the midsection, Die Faust repeatedly putting his head down and moving forward with the fists. Midway through, Hori turned away from the fight protesting a head butt even as the referee called a standing eight count. The pair mixed it up plenty in the third, Hori tossing the jab and playing a hit-and-run attack, Die Faust again merciless with the punches. Here again there was head-to-head contact, which opened a cut over Hori's eye and resulted in a break. Soon after resumption with the two center ring, Die Faust pounded in a one-two punch combination that put Hori on the canvas. Hori beat the count but the fight was already over, and "Die Faust" Arrab was through with a unanimous decision.

Japanese fighter Tatsufumi Tomihira took on tournament longshot Scott Lighty (22/1) of the United States in the last of the quarterfinals. There was also a good amount of action on the scrappy Tomihira -- his opening line was 18/1 at the Mirage Sports Book, but this improved to 9/2 by fight night.

From the bell, Lighty came in briskly with the fists, and Tomihira countered with low kicks and straight punches. And then something incredible happened -- at the midway point of the first, both men threw rear-leg high kicks at precisely the same instant. Lighty's foot landed first, on Tomihira's head, and the smack of bone on bone could be heard in the back row of the hall as Tomihira went down in a heap. Tomihira is a never-say-die guy, and defied the pain to struggle to his feet, but clearly he was out of it. The referee wisely stopped the bout, Lighty went to the semifinal, and Tomihira went to the hospital.

The first of the semifinals, between Ruslan Karaev and Azem Maksutaj was a spectacular affair. From the bell Karaev came in like a loaded gun, firing everything he had at Maksutaj. There were virtually no pauses in the action here, Karaev throwing wildly creative combinations; Maksutaj having limited success warding him off with kicks.

Throughout this war Karaev mounted an awesome variety of attacks. Frequently the Russian stepped in with the jab and then threw it again, stepping forward again to back his opponent onto the ropes, following this up with a volley of punches to the head. Karaev also threatened with kicks, and eschewed the clinch to thrust the knee and pump in body blows when the distance closed.

In the second round, Karaev spun the same back kick that had earlier downed Kemayo, and reaped the same result -- another down. But Maksutaj slowly and deliberately rose to his feet to beat the count, then escalated a battle which several ringside fight writers would later describe as the best they'd ever seen.

Maksutaj did more than ride out the second round -- fighting from pure instinct, he launched a fierce and determined counterattack that included straight punches, hooks, knees and of course kicks. And he connected with many of these, cocking Karaev's head back more than once. Momentum brought Maksutaj's knee in on a slipping Karaev and this cost the Swiss a penalty point, otherwise he might have evened things out in this round.

A bloodied but not beaten Maksutaj again threatened in the third, seizing the initiative and connecting with a high kick and great left hook. These Karaev answered with quick and precise counters -- when he wasn't launching more attacks of his own. Again, the action was non-stop. Late in the round, Karaev got a knee up to score a second down, and while Maksutaj again beat the count, now he was trailing on the cards by an insurmountable margin.

But that didn't matter one bit. This was an astounding display of K-1 at its best. When the final bell sounded the crowd leapt en masse to their feet to deliver a deafening standing ovation in appreciation.

Scott Lighty gave Chalid Arrab a good fight in the second of the semis, tossing high kicks up and proving able on defense through the first round. The German had the harder stuff here, but Lighty was always moving forward. In the second round, Lighty again stepped in with rights and high kicks, and showed good lateral movement to stay out of harm's way. Die Faust again drove the fists home hard, but had difficulty containing the mobile Lighty. In the third, although he wasn't really hurting his opponent, Lighty kept on coming while Die Faust picked his spots, and had the power to rattle the American on a couple of occasions, notably at the final clapper. A close one, and by the narrowest of unanimous decisions it went to Lighty.

The longshot gamblers had to be feeling pretty good about this time, as two of the highest-yielding bets in the tournament -- Karaev at 17/2 and Lighty at 22/1, were now the improbable finalists.

The crowd gave each of the fighters a tremendous reception, and the first was surprisingly even -- Lighty good with the low kicks, a couple of which appeared to sting Karaev. The Russian appeared more fatigued here, his start was more cautious than in his previous two bouts. He did work the one-two well, and although right punch got through Lighty's blocking and evasions were generally good. In the second Karaev popped a right in on Lighty, and this prompted the American to run away round the perimeter of the ring. Karaev gave chase, and now began to revisit his earlier, aggressive style, tossing in kicks and throwing up knees.

Karaev threw the spinning back kick again here, twice in a row, and notched the strike of the match with a flying knee which, again, put Lighty into turn and run mode.

The third saw Lighty looking tired, his kicks were slower now and easily blocked. Karaev stepped into a number of good and varied attacks -- straight punches, body blows, low, mid and high kicks and knees. Again we saw the spinning back kick, and the crowd by now had given up their "USA!" chants and were whooping at the artistry of Karaev. At the bell, with Karaev clearly the better fighter in this one, the Russian showed class when, instead of pumping his arm in celebration, he stepped forward to respectfully embrace and thank Lighty. When a unanimous decision confirmed Karaev's supremacy, there was another standing ovation from the crowd.

Said Karaev from the winner's circle: "My plan throughout was to use my punches and work counters, and it worked well for me. I wish I could have got some KOs, so I will have to throw punches harder next time, but after all it is all about winning, and I feel great that I won!"

With his tournament victory Karaev advances to the K-1 World GP Final Elimination in Osaka this September and a chance to qualify for the World GP 05 Championships at the Tokyo Dome.


There were two Superfights on the card:

The first, in the K-1 World Max weight class (70kg/154lbs) pitted 2002 K-1 World Max North American Champion Duane "Bang Bang" Ludwig of the United States against fellow Muay Thai fighter Remy Bonnel of France.

Ludwig's former boy-next-door look was replaced here by a goatee, mohawk and tattoos, and the American's fighting style was also more edgy here. Throughout the bout Ludwig stepped in with smart combinations, but the lanky Bonnel was perfect on defense. This was a good technical fight, both fighters always in motion with textbook attacks -- actually both seemed to have read the same textbook, as their attacks were virtual mirror images of the one another's.

With neither fighter able to take the upper hand the fight settled into a pattern -- The punch-punch-kick combinations were a pleasure to watch, as were the hard-worked knees from the clinch. The pair traded combinations through most of this fight, similar styles keeping things relatively even. The difference came in the third, when a Bonnel high kick caught Ludwig on the face for a down and a doctor check. Ludwig rode the round out but came up shy on points, and Bonnel took the decision.


In the Main Event, American slugger and Battle at the Bellagio 2004 Champion Mighty Mo took on Francois "The White Buffalo" Botha of South Africa. These are a couple of guys who use their fists well, both are already qualified for this year's World GP Final Elimination at Osaka.

This scheduled three-rounder was over in a Mighty Moment as the American fighter totally dominated and ended it quickly. From the bell Botha threw an uncharacteristic low kick. That was the first strike, and it was basically Botha's last. Mo answered with a right hook which put Botha down. The South African beat the count, but seconds later, after tossing in a feeble left kick, Mo went back to basics and flattened Botha with a right straight punch. Again Botha got up, and, seconds later, again, Mo put the right in, an overhand this time, and that finished it. An impressive win for Mo, who may have the hardest punch of any fighter in Osaka next month.

Mo said afterwards that his dearth of kicks was not by design but due circumstance: "I know I need kicks in K-1 so I really wanted to show them tonight, but my best weapon is my right, and the way Francois Botha fought he left himself open to it, so that's what I went with. I will definitely keep working on my kicks because I might need them in Osaka, maybe not to win the fight, but to set up my punches."

The tournament Reserve Fight involved a couple of Giants, literally. Heavyweight boxer Imani "The Giant" Lee of the United States (134kg/295lbs; 196cm/6'5")) lumbered in against K-1 veteran Jan "The Giant" Nortje of South Africa (143kg/316lbs; 83cm/6'5").

Nortje the southpaw showed good movement here, light on his feet, tossing in the jab and low kicks in the early going. But Lee was also quick with his fists, and was not afraid to throw some kicks of his own in his K-1 debut. The second round saw Nortje again leading well with the jab, pressing forward, landing a good left and stinging his opponent with low kicks. But again Lee was tough, and countered well with the fists from inside. Lee put Nortje on the ropes in the third and laid in with haymakers, but the South African's blocking was sound, and again Nortje was good coming back with the low kicks.

Lee is American, yet a scattering of boos resulted when judges gave him the win. A cheer went to the flabbergasted Nortje when he politely bowed to the crowd.

In undercard action, Rick Cheek stopped Mike Sheppard by 2R KO; Gina Carano won over Elaina Maxwell by unanimous decision; LaTasha Marzolla beat Jane Estioko by unanimous decision; and Patrick Barry dispatched Mark Selbee with a 1R KO.

Before the fighters entered for the opening ceremonies, there was a solemn ten-bell tribute to the popular Las Vegas-based kickboxer Tommy Glanville, who passed away early on Wednesday, August 10.

The K-1 World Grand Prix 2005 in Las Vegas II attracted a crowd of 3,504 to the Mirage Grand Ballroom. As always, Scott Coker and his K-1 USA team put together a slick, first-class production. The event was broadcast in Japan on Fuji TV network. For delayed broadcast in other regions check with your local providers.

* Photos Courtesy of K-1 and www.boxinginlasvegas.com
 


 


K-1 Las Vegas Press Conference
By Monty DiPietro
LAS VEGAS, August 11, 2005 -- The fighters who will do battle at the K-1 World Grand Prix 2005 in Las Vegas II met the media today at the Mirage Hotel's Bermuda Ballroom.
Hosted by K-1 USA's Scott Coker and MGM Mirage Sports Events Director Bob Halloran, the press conference was an opportunity for the fighters to share their thoughts in advance of this Saturday's 14-bout event.

The K-1 World Grand Prix 2005 in Las Vegas II will see combatants from eight countries. It will feature a couple of Superfights and an eight-man elimination tournament including fighters who showed superior ability in K-1 this year, the tournament winner advancing to the K-1 World GP Final Elimination in Osaka this September.


In the single-elimination tournament (all fights K-1 Rules / 3 Min. 3R Ext. 1R):

Canadian fighter Michael McDonald will take on Azem Maksutaj of Switzerland in the first of the bouts. McDonald is a three-time K-1 Tournament Champion, and the Mirage Sports Book had him as the favorite to win the tournament at 6/5. This promises to be a tough bout, as McDonald's opponent Maksutaj ranked second on the odds board at 5/2.

McDonald: "I know Azem is a skilled and tough fighter, I have tweaked my training and my diet and I look forward to Saturday night. I am the favorite, but there is no pressure, I'm coming to work and when the bell goes it's just me and my opponent. I look forward to a spectacular fight -- I'm planning to shine!"
Maksutaj: "I have fought for 15 years now, and I'm sure it will be a knockout -- either him or me. Michael is a very good boxer and kicker, we had a tough Superfight in Sweden this May [McDonald won by extra-round decision], and so this will be a good rematch."

Flashy Frenchman Freddy Kemayo will meet Ruslan Karaev of Russia in the second bout. Just 23 years of age, Kemayo's technical yet highly aggressive style earned him a solid third-place finish at the World GP in Paris this May, and so this also promises to be a spirited contest.

Kemayo: "I'm excited to be in Las Vegas, I know my opponent is a stylish fighter, and I wish good luck to myself!"
Karaev: "I have studied Freddy, watched the tapes from Paris this year, and he is good -- but on Saturday the ring will show who is better."

Another 23 year-old, Hiraku Hori of Japan, will step in against German fighter Chalid "Die Faust" Arrab in the third quarterfinal. Die Faust fights out of the prestigious Golden Glory Gym in Holland. home to elite fighters such as Stephan Leko and Semmy Schilt. Vegas betters like the German, as the odds on Die Faust went from 18/1 to 3/1 today. Hori, meanwhile, is young and improving quickly, and will bring a 20cm (8") height advantage to the ring.

Hori: "I will do everything I can to win and become the K-1 Las Vegas champion!"
Die Faust: "I'm ready, my training is always the same -- work hard. I feel good and I am confident of victory."

Japanese fighter Tatsufumi Tomihira earned his spot in the tournament by placing second in the Japan GP this May. He will meet Scott Lighty of the United States in the last of the quarterfinals. There was also a good amount of action on the scrappy Tomihira -- the opening line was 18/1 at the Mirage Sports Book, but this improved to 8/1 by press conference time.

Tomihira: "In Japan they say I'm a bad boy, they call me 'Mr Yellow Card', but I'm hoping for a clean fight here in Las Vegas."
Lighty: "I am ready to go, I'm thinking KO, KO, KO!"

In Super Fights (also K-1 Rules / 3 Min. 3R Ext. 1R):

American slugger and Battle at the Bellagio 2004 Champion Mighty Mo will take on Francois "The White Buffalo" Botha of South Africa. These are a couple of guys who like to use their fists, and both are already qualified for this year's World GP Final Elimination at Osaka.

Mo: "Beating [Defending K-1 WGP Champion] Remy Bonjasky this year has brought my confidence back up. I guess while fighting Francois I won't take any more kicks to the head, because I don't think he can reach that high! I want to tell him to be ready for the bomb 'cos I'm bringing it on!"
Botha: "I have been with guys who can throw bombs, and with guys who can throw the whole cannon too! But I am getting better and better in K-1, so Saturday we're going to have a great fight!"

A second Superfight will pit dynamic American fighter Duane "Bang Bang" Ludwig against French Muay Thai fighter Remy Bonnel.

The tournament Reserve Fight will involve a couple of very big guys, as heavyweight boxer Imani Lee of the United States makes his K-1 debut against veteran Jan "The Giant" Nortje of South Africa.

Lee: "Jan is a big strong guy, but I'm big too, and I'm fast. I'm not saying I'm the greatest, but I'm the latest, and I will show that on Saturday. I have trained to prepare for the kicks, but I can throw them too!"
Nortje: "Imani is a boxer and so am I, so you'll basically see a boxing match Saturday, but I can throw some kicks too, so we'll see how he handles that. They say Vegas is the city of dreams but they also make nightmares here --- that's what I hope to bring my opponent on Saturday."


The K-1 World Grand Prix 2005 in Las Vegas II kicks of at 5:00 pm on Saturday August 13 and will air in Japan on the Fuji TV network. For delayed broadcast in other regions check with your local providers.
 




Testosterzone: K-1 Tryouts at the Mirage

By Monty DiPietro
LAS VEGAS, August 12, 2005 -- Sven Bean is having a rough day. While other guests at the Mirage Hotel and Casino sip daiquiris by the pool or feed dollars to the slots, Bean holds court in a roomful of fierce and sweaty martial arts fighters. These are a pumped-up bunch, hoping to punch and kick their way to a shot at glory. Bean isn't complaining though -- in fact it's all in a day's work for the K-1 USA Director of Fighter Development here at the K-1 Open Tryouts 05.

Coinciding with this Saturday night's K-1 World Grand Prix in Las Vegas II, the tryouts are designed to identify and evaluate new talent for the world's premier fighting sport. Fighters from both regular K-1 and K-1 Max (under 70kg/154lbs) class are participating, along with a few fighters whose background is in mixed martial arts and grappling.

Over the last three days, Bean has scouted some 100 amateur and semi-pro hopefuls -- local and California fighters; country boys from the Midwest and beyond; and more than a few from outside the United States altogether, such as 25 year-old Muay Thai stylist James Phillips, who flew in from Germany.

"James has what K-1 wants -- combinations, stamina and aggressiveness," says Igor Jushko, a veteran manager who has worked with some of the best from Eastern Europe and is representing Phillips here.

A panel including K-1 representatives as well as K-1 fighters Ray Sefo and Gary Goodridge evaluate the fighters as they answer questions about their backgrounds and motivations, engage in kicking and punching displays on the pads, and finally are paired off to do some sparring.

"We are looking primarily for fighters who have experience in the ring, and good skills," says Sefo. "There are a lot of fighters here who look good on the pads but when they are sparring they are worse than they were on the pads. But then other guys are not so good on the pads, when they are sparring they put good things together, mixing it up. Fighters who are willing to stand up here, and look like they could step in against good K-1 fighters -- that's how we're judging, that's what we're looking for."

A K-1 spokesman said the organization is "very pleased" with the turnout and quality of American fighters this year.

Gary Goodridge agrees. "They are prepared better than last year, a lot better," said "Big Daddy," who won the K-1 WGP in Hawaii last month. "I think the guys here know what K-1 wants, we've seen some good talent!"

A fighter who attended last year's tryouts -- 21 year-old Canadian Sam "Hands of Stone" Stout, got a shot in the ring at the K-1 World Max Open Tournament in Tokyo this May, and beat Koutetsu Boku of Japan. Truly these tryouts are a road to success for fighters with the right stuff.

As the last group of fighters steps up late Friday afternoon, a slightly weary Sven Bean goes over the tryout format once again -- then makes a simple but important request: "Please, guys, hit the pads and not the guy holding them, I've been kicked a heck of a lot over the last few days!"

Tomorrow, several dozen fighters who made the cut will be invited back for a second look from Goodridge, Sefo and K-1. The bruised Bean will be there again as well, quite probably taking more punishment than ever, but loving every minute.
 




Goodridge & Penn Win at K-1 World GP in Hawaii

By Monty DiPietro

HONOLULU, July 29, 2005 -- Under the stars, on a balmy Hawaiian night, brawler Gary "Big Daddy" Goodridge of Trinidad and Tobago scored three KO wins in three bouts to win the K-1 World Grand Prix in Hawaii Tournament. In a mixed martial arts contest also on the card, BJ Penn beat Renzo Gracie.

Held at the Aloha Stadium in Honolulu, this was the first-ever open-air K-1 event outside Japan. It kicked off with a pageant of local culture -- as a bevy of beauties swung their hips in intoxicating hula maneuvers, a traditional Polynesian fire dance summoned the spirits of the island 'ikaika'. Lona, the Hawaiian God of War, surely smiled as he gazed down upon the scene.

All the bouts here were contested under regular K-1 rules with the exception of the Main Event match featuring Hawaiian wunderkind BJ Penn and Brazilian veteran Renzo Gracie, which was conducted under mixed martial arts rules.

The Gracie/Penn fight had fans, Hawaiians in particular, buzzing with anticipation. It followed on Penn's victory in Honolulu last November over Renzoís cousin, Rodrigo Gracie, by unanimous judges' decision. Renzo was looking to avenge the loss, while Penn was here to prove that his "new style" of mixed martial arts would prevail again over the "old school" Gracie Family fighters. There was a veritable eruption from the crowd when their 'Bruddah' BJ strode into the ring.

The bout began with Gracie getting a takedown fairly quickly, forcing Penn to a guard position. There were punches to the head from both fighters, but Gracie could not pass and Penn could not reverse and the pair remained locked in something of a stalemate through the end of the round. Due his superior positioning, Gracie came out of the first up on two judges' cards.

A much different second round saw the pair remain on their feet. Here Penn was able to inflict damage with punches, scoring solidly with a left straight that cocked Gracie's head back and bloodied his face. The Brazilian repeatedly went for the takedown, and Penn repeatedly answered with the fists and the knees and more punishment.

In the third it was Penn who went for the single-leg takedown, then passed Gracie's guard fairly well with punches. Late in the round Penn moved to a side mount and at the bell -- which is to say, too late -- finally got into a full mount position. All three judges gave him this round as well as the second, and Penn had the unanimous win -- which left him happy, but not over overjoyed.

"Renzo fought harder than I expected, and I wish I'd only had 30 more seconds, because I think I had him at the end and then the bell sounded," said Penn post-bout. "That's why I prefer no-time limit fights, because once I got on top if I'd had even 30 more seconds I would have finished him off with punches."

Asked about his approach to fighting, Penn waxed poetic. "Victory is reserved for those willing to pay the price," he said. "I refuse to lose!"

Also big on the card (literally) was a K-1 Rules Superfight featuring Hawaiian 'moke' Akebono and Hong-Man Choi of South Korea. A Sumo Wrestling Yokozuna (Grand Champion), Akebono is a living legend in his home state. Here he stepped in against another giant of a man, Hong-Man Choi -- the surprise winner at the K-1 Asian Grand Prix earlier this year. Choi is also a national hero, his compatriots marvel at the size and strength of the former Ssirum Wrestler. A total of 380 kilograms or 840 pounds of warrior were in the ring in this battle of the behemoths.

The last time these two met, in Seoul, Choi won. Here, Akebono hoped that the hometown crowd would help him exact revenge.

The crowd cheered wildly during Akebono's introduction, but unfortunately no amount of noise could get the former Sumo Grand Champion past Choi's long reach. Try as he might in the first, Akebono was unable to get in on the big Korean, who simply stood back and threw in punch after punch. Akebono never got a sustained attack going here, and soon he was rattled and retreating. Choi made it look easy as he moved in and pumped the left, twice, for a down. Akebono beat the count, but could not finish the round, as Choi again laid in with the punches for a second down and the win.

From center ring, Choi called out to a Mike Tyson, who was sitting ringside, and invite the boxing legend to join him in the ring. "I want to fight you!" cried Choi. Tyson smiled, and shook Choi's hand.

In the third Superfight, Japanese Seidokaikan fighter Musashi met Rickard Nordstrand of Sweden. This was a very interesting matchup, with Musashi now clearly ranked among K-1's elite; and Nordstrand attempting to build on a strong performance against Defending World GP Champion Remy Bonjasky in Stockholm earlier this year.

Both fighters were focused and good with their movement in the first, Nordstrand switch-hitting against the natural southpaw Musashi. The Japanese fighter had his hard low kicks here, but Nordstrand let loose with a flying knee and generally held his own. Both fighters got their licks in through the second, Nordstrand tossing some good kicks, Musashi better in the late going, connecting with a solid left - right punch combination.

A technical third saw Nordstrand throwing the low kick, Musashi always countering immediately with one of his own. Nordstrand had some mid kicks here as well, but Musashi put a left jab in on the Swede's face and stepped in with hit-and-run attacks to score points while staying out of harm's way. Not a commanding performance from the man who has placed second at the World GP Final two years running, but good enough to give Musashi a majority decision.


Threading through the evening along with all the Superfights, was of course a K-1 World GP qualifying tournament, the eight hopefuls aware the man who went through would win a spot at the Osaka K-1 World GP 05 Final Elimination in Osaka this September.

In the first tournament matchup, Gary Goodridge took on local freestyle fighter Wesley "Cabbage" Correia. Goodridge likes to take the fight to his opponent, but here it was Correia who got the fast start, moving in with straight punches, putting his opponent against the ropes. But Goodridge weathered the early attack and then, with an uncharacteristically disciplined style, came back with technical kick and punch combinations to take control of the bout. Midway through the first Correia found himself in trouble, and soon Goodridge's solid attacks resulted in a down. After resumption, Goodridge put in a low kick to drop Cabbage a second time and earn a trip to the semifinals.

American Carter Williams captured the K-1 USA Championship in 2003, and in the second tournament bout here his opponent was Japanese fighter Nobu Hayashi, a late substitute who brought plenty of experience against good fighters to the ring.

Williams kept the guard high and threw kicks from the start, which Hayashi answered in kind. Williams planted a nice knee here but the first was otherwise uneventful until the clapper, when Williams suddenly got a right hook in on an off-balance Hayashi to score a down. In the second, Williams fired the quick high kicks up and also put some good straight punches through to take control of the fight. The third saw both men working good combinations, Williams better when the distance closed, Hayashi opting too often for the clinch. A well-deserved unanimous decision for the American.

Butterbean (USA) is a good old boy with a big old gut and a good hard hook. In the third matchup, the 363lb (165kg) fighter took on another big American, Marcus "XL" Royster (330lbs/150kg). An open-rules scrapper making his K-1 debut here, Royster didn't seem to know how to attack his rotund opponent, and every time he came in Butterbean was waiting with the hook. Butterbean pounded Royster with a right overhand in the first, and had him stunned some but could not finish it. The second saw Butterbean showboating and taunting as the crowd chanted his name. Royster tried to put the knee up here but again ate fist for his efforts. With neither man eager to move in the action slowed almost to a standstill by the end of the round.

Things picked up some in the third, Butterbean bulldozing in with body blows. Royster answered this with the clinch, and collected a yellow card for doing so. Soon afterwards, Butterbean chased his retreating opponent, smacking in a jaw-rattling right, and moments later worked the fists again to earn a standing count and all the points he'd need for the unanimous decision.

In the last of the quarterfinals, Yusuke Fujimoto of Japan, a solid Karate-based technical fighter, spotted American Scott Junk 105 lbs (48kg). Junk trains with BJ Penn and so was instantly adopted as the crowd favorite. This bout started fast, with great energy from both fighters. But as they settled in, it was clear Fujimoto had the better low kicks, while Junk's leg attacks mostly sailed wide.

The second began with Junk flailing desperately, and when the discipline-challenged fighter grabbed Fujimoto from behind, threw and then crashed down atop him, time was called and Junk was assessed a red card. From the resumption Fujimoto stepped in with the fists, which Junk could only answer with the clinch to ride out the round.

It was sloppy in the third until Fujimoto snapped a right punch in on a counter. This caught Junk on the nose and dropped the American hard, giving Fujimoto the win and a trip to the semis.

The first of the semis saw Goodridge come out like a loaded gun, swinging the big fists relentlessly. Williams never found his form here, and sunk ingloriously to the canvas after absorbing three right hooks. After the resumption, Williams fell victim again to the same attack, the second and decisive down coming just 1:13 into the opening round. Goodridge would be fresh for the final.

Before the second semi, it was announced that slotted fighter Butterbean had sustained an injury to his left leg during his bout with Royster and could not continue. It was also announced that Mike Malone, who had scored a unanimous extra-round decision against Dustin Hanning in the reserve fight, had not been cleared to continue during his post-fight doctor's check. And so, under K-1 rules, it fell to Marcus Royster to step in against Yusuke Fujimoto.

Again, Royster was aggressive from the bell, plowing Fujimoto into the corner and letting loose with punches. There followed some spirited exchanges, but Fujimoto had the superior technique, and picked the perfect time to fire an uppercut in on in Royster to score a KO victory and earn a date with Goodridge in the final.

And so the final pitted Goodridge's power and aggression against Fujimoto's technical prowess -- a classic K-1 showdown. Surprisingly, Goodridge was cautious in the early going, staying back and watching. Fujimoto kept his head down and picked his spots well, deftly moving forward in the crouch to throw punches. Fujimoto had the body blows working here, and scored with some uppercuts and kicks -- but Goodridge's blocking stood him in good stead. Late in the round, the real Goodridge finally came out to play, firing a barrage of punches, scoring a down with a left hook. A badly shaken Fujimoto beat the count, but seconds later Goodridge put the Japanese fighter down again. It took some moxie, but Fujimoto managed to stay on his feet to make it out of the round.

The second was most thrilling -- a re-energized Fujimoto in with body blows and connecting nicely with a left straight, uppercuts and a high kick. But just as it appeared the tide was turning, "Big Daddy" slugged Fujimoto with a right to put him on the canvas once again. By now, the crowd was cheering as loudly when Fujimoto wobbled back to his feet as they were when Goodridge knocked him down. Again, Fujimoto was tough enough to get out of the round.

The third was do-or-die time for Fujimoto, who started in with kicks, looking for the Hawaiian miracle which, alas, was not to be. Goodridge just had too much stamina and power here, and threw some low and high kicks of his own to boot. It was a left hook for the first down, and a left kick for the second. As the battered Fujimoto lay stretched out, with the crowd wondering if he could possibly get up once again, the Japanese fighter's corner had the good sense to throw in the towel.

Post-bout the applause was equally loud for both of these warriors, who put on a tremendous battle to finish the tournament in fine style.

"I had a dream and I believed in it and I did what I needed to do," said Goodridge post-tournament. The Hawaii GP Champion also paid tribute to his unusual support team, "I couldn't have done it without these two," he said, pointing to trainer -- his strikingly attractive, blond-dreadlocked sister, Susie; and sparring partner -- Andrew McMichael, a plump and pale Canadian drama student who is Goodridge's neighbor in Ontario, Canada.

(McMichael explained his sparring technique thus: "Basically I wear a big belt and lots of pads and hold a big medicine ball, and then Gary punches the hell out of me.")

With his victory, Goodridge picks up US$10,000 in prize money and advances to the World GP Final Elimination, set for Osaka this September. This will be an eight-bout ('one match') tournament, with winners advancing to the '05 Tokyo Dome Final. Already qualified for Osaka are the 2004 Final Eight -- Remy Bonjasky (Holland), Mighty Mo (USA), Peter Aerts (Holland), Ernesto Hoost (Holland) Francis Botha (South Africa), Ray Sefo (New Zealand), Musashi (Japan) and Kaoklai Kaennorsing (Thailand).


Joining these fighters will be Choi Hong Man (South Korea), who won the Asia GP in Seoul this March; Glaube Feitosa (Brazil), who took the US GP title in Las Vegas in April; Semmy Schilt (Holland), victor at the European GP in Paris in May; Bob Sapp (USA), who won the Japan GP in June; Jerome LeBanner (France), winner over compatriot Cyril Abidi in a special qualifying Superfight in Paris; and now Goodridge. One more fighter will qualify when this year's runners-up do battle in the last-chance Repechage Tournament at the Mirage Hotel in Las Vegas this August, with the 16th and final spot at Osaka to be awarded to a fighter who has exhibited exceptional fighting spirit on the year.

The K-1 World Grand Prix 2005 in Hawaii attracted a crowd of some 12,000 to the Aloha Stadium. The official results are on the K-1 Official Website Hawaii GP Page. (http://www.so-net.ne.jp/feg/k-1gp/top668.htm)

The event was broadcast live in Japan on the Fuji TV network and in South Korea on MBS ESPN. In North America fans can watch on InDemand and DirecTV at 9 PM Eastern Daylight Time (18h00 Pacific Daylight Time) on Sunday July 31. There will be delayed-broadcasts on Eurosport across Europe, Viasat in Scandinavia, ITV in the UK and Astro in Malaysia. Check with local providers for broadcast schedules.
 




K-1 World GP in Hawaii Press Conference

By Monty DiPietro

HONOLULU, July 27, 2005 -- If only all press conferences were so delightful! -- Chubby silver birds chirping; a hot sun setting; a warm sea breeze wafting -- and as young women drape leis round the smiling fighters' necks, hundreds of fans cheer from balconies which encircle the 15 meter open atrium.

That was the scene this afternoon as local and international media and some very vocal fans -- along with amused shoppers and tourists -- filled the Ala Moana Center in downtown Honolulu for the K-1 World Grand Prix in Hawaii 05 press conference.


Set for July 29 at the Aloha Stadium in Honolulu, this will be the first-ever open-air K-1 event outside Japan. It comprises an eight-man K-1 World GP tournament, whose winner will advance to the World GP Final Elimination in Osaka this September; and a trio of Superfights.

All tournament bouts and two Superfight will be contested under regular K-1 rules. The exception is a Main Event match featuring Hawaiian wunderkind BJ Penn and Brazilian veteran Renzo Gracie -- this will be conducted under mixed martial arts rules.

The Gracie/Penn fight has fans, and Hawaiians in particular, buzzing with anticipation. It follows on Penn's victory in Honolulu last November over Renzoís cousin, Rodrigo Gracie, by unanimous judges' decision. Renzo will be looking to avenge family honor and defend the hallowed Gracie name on Friday.

Speaking with media this afternoon, Penn brushed off any suggestion he might be adversely affected by pressure from the home crowd.

"It is easy to fight here," he smiled, "because this is the air I have breathed since I was born! There is no pressure whatsoever. Of course, Renzo is legendary, and I respect him because he fights the best. Friday, he'll fight the best in the world!"

Asked for a prediction, Penn didn't miss a beat. "I predict I'll win in the second round, I would like to win by submission -- but in any case, I predict pain. Renzo has fought more fights, but I have fought more wars!"

Also big on the card (literally) is a K-1 Rules Superfight featuring Hawaiian Akebono and Hong-Man Choi. A Japanese Sumo Wrestling Yokozuna (Grand Champion), Akebono is a living legend in his home state. He will step in against another giant of a man, Hong-Man Choi of South Korea -- the surprise winner at the K-1 Asian Grand Prix earlier this year. Choi is also a national hero, his compatriots marvel at the size and strength of the former Korean Ssirum Wrestler. A total of 380 kilograms or 840 pounds of warrior will rock the ring in this battle of the behemoths.

The Ala Moana spectators erupted when Akebono was introduced.

Said the fighter: "I have worked on defense, training with Ray Sefo, Glaube Feitosa and Sam Greco. I know Choi has a long reach, so I have worked on that. I also hope to get in and use my jabs and get some close fighting, I want to do well here in my home town."

"Last time we met I fought him in his back yard, in Seoul, and I lost that bout" said Akebono. "But now he is here, I just want to tell all my fans and friends that I am very excited to be fighting again in my back yard!"

In the third Superfight, Japanese Seidokaikan fighter Musashi will meet Rickard Nordstrand of Sweden. Nordstrand will try to build on a strong performance against Defending World GP Champion Remy Bonjasky earlier this year. This is a very interesting bout, with Musashi now clearly ranked among K-1's elite; and Nordstrand aware that an upset win here could reflect very favorably on his future in K-1.

Said Nordstrand: "Musashi is one of the greatest so it is a big honor to fight him. Hopefully I win, but I promise I'll do my best!"
Musashi got a very big round of applause from the many Japanese in the crowd: "This is my first visit to Honolulu," he said. "and I know I will take the trophy!"


Of course, along with all the excitement surrounding the Superfights, is the eight-man World GP tournament on the card Friday. The man who goes through three bouts victorious in this grueling contest will win a spot at the Osaka K-1 World GP 05 Final Elimination in Osaka this September.

There is a lot of talent in this tournament, and everyone has a shot at victory. The fighters had this to say:

Yusuke Fujimoto (Japan), a solid technical fighter who knows how to mix it up, promised to come out hard: :"I'm the smallest in the tournament but I traveled all the way from Japan to fight, and so I promise I'll win"
His opponent, Scott Junk (USA) trains with BJ Penn, which makes him an instant local favorite. "Well, it's a damn shame for Fujimoto," said Junk, "but I'm gonna have to send him home with a loss!"

The rotund Butterbean (USA), is a crowd pleaser who hopes to get his hook in. "I am excited about being here, all these wonderful fans, I love you all!" he said.
His opponent, Marcus "XL" Royster (USA) is a big fighter making his K-1 debut here: "It is great that I can debut with an icon as an opponent, it will be a good fight!"

Carter Williams (USA) captured the American K-1 Championship in 2003. "I am gonna get down and do my best!" he pledged.
His opponent Nobu Hayashi (Japan) is a late substitute who brings experience against good fighters to the ring: "I will do my best, I plan to win the first then go on from there, I think I can win the tournament!"

A real brawler, Gary "Big Daddy" Goodridge (Trinidad and Tobago) likes to take the fight to his opponent, and will do that here. "You know me," he said, "I'm zero-to-a-hundred in less than one second, and I don't quit till it's done!"
In the last quarterfinal Goodridge will meet Wesley "Cabbage" Correia (USA). This promises to be wild.

A Hawaiian slugger who will have the crowd behind him, Cabbage explained his flexible but fist-friendly attitude. "I have no plan, I'm just gonna wing it. I'll get in and then you will see the leather start flying!"

Good time and place for it, a Honolulu summer evening.
 




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