TOKYO, April 5, 2006 -- The four K-1 World Max Champions all emerged victorious tonight in the World Max Final Elimination '06 at the Yoyogi Olympic Stadium in downtown Tokyo. The seven-bout card featured elite World Max fighters in a one-match elimination tournament. The winners -- along with an eighth to be named for exceptional fighting spirit -- advance to the World Max Final at the Yokohama Arena this June 30.
TOKYO, April 4, 2006 -- Since its inception, K-1's 70kg (154lbs) World Max weight class has garnered a tremendous swell of fan interest both in Japan and internationally. As World Max enters its fifth thrilling year, each of the four Champions remain serious threats to repeat, but to do so they must get by a new and hungry crop of challengers.
Tomorrow, the very best World Max fighters will go head-to-head in a one-match Final Elimination tournament at the Yoyogi Olympic Stadium. The winners of the card's seven bouts -- joined by an eighth selected for his exceptional fighting spirit -- will advance to the World Max Final, set for the Yokohama Arena this June 30. Today, the fighters spoke to the press at the Shin Takanawa Prince Hotel.
Shooto Boxer Andy Souwer of Holland dispatched three fighters to win the 2005 World Max Final. Tomorrow, the Defending Champion will step in against "Shinobu" Tsogto Amara, a Mongolian fighter making his K-1 World Max debut.
Souwer: "My condition is 100%, I will win tomorrow and then see you in June for the final!"
Amara: "Of course Andy is strong but I'll do my very best. Fans, cheer for me!"
The second matchup features Armenian-born, Holland-based Drago, and Philippine-born, Danish-raised, America-based Ole Laursen. Drago is a kickboxer inspired by the Rocky film series, while Laursen comes from a Muay Thai background. The pair engaged in something of a staredown during their introductions.
Drago: "It's my first time in Japan, I'll be aggressive to please all my fans here!"
Laursen: "It is a big chance for me in K-1, and so I will lay it all out tomorrow!"
Power puncher Mike Zambidis of Greece will meet Japanese fighter Yoshihiro Sato in the next bout. Sato won the Japan Max Belt this February, and has been dubbed the "Max Semmy Schilt" for his height. At 185cm/6'1", he towers 18cm/7" over Zambidis. Sato joked when, standing beside Zambidis for the photographers, he crouched down to get into frame. Even Zambidis had to smile -- but who will get the last laugh?
Zambidis: "For me, K-1 is the Olympics of fightsport, and I'll do my best to perform at the highest level tomorrow." Sato: "Whoever my opponent is, it comes down to me and my ability. I'll show my style and ability to get through to the June Final."
Takayuki Kohiruimaki of Japan will fight Chi Bin Lim of South Korea in the next contest. Lim won the Asia Max GP this February in Busan, and has become something of a celebrity in his home country, celebrated in newspapers and magazines. Kohiruimaki won the Japan Max in 2005, but injuries have kept him out of action for most of the time since.
Kohiruimaki: "It's been awhile since my last fight and I had to suspend training with kicks, but since January I have done my usual practice routine and my condition is perfect now."
Lim: "My plan is simply to bring maximum energy and win this one."
Albert Kraus of Holland was the first-ever World Max Champion back in 2002. Here he will fight Ali Gunyar of Turkey. This is shaping up as a revenge match for Kraus, who lost to Gunyar in a recent European kickboxing event.
Kraus: (speaking in Japanese)"My condition is super and I will be #1 again!"
Gunyar: "This is my first K-1 bout, I will do my very best!"
Buakaw Por Pramuk of Thailand is a consummate kicker who won the 2004 World Max Champion and was runner-up at last year's Final. Here he'll take on Virgil Kalakoda of South Africa. Kalakoda is a boxer, the son of one of K-1's most respected trainers, Steve Kalakoda. He is also on a tear -- having beat Tae Woong Shin Bi in a Busan Superfight this February.
Kalakoda: "I will be fighting a good opponent but I will show no respect and no fear -- I will stay right in front of him, and when he kicks I will punch!"
Buakaw: "Thanks to all my fans here, I see there is a lot of attention for this event and I will put on a good fight!"
Masato was the 2003 World Max Champion and is Japan's strongest Max fighter. He'll need all he can muster in his Main Event showdown with Remigijus Morkevicius, a lightning quick and hard-hitting Lithuanian fighter who has won all three of his K-1 contests.
Masato: "Tomorrow, I want to satisfy both my fans and myself."
Morkevicius: "Masato is strong and it is an honor to fight him, I will do my best!"
The opening bouts will see Japanese fighter Tatsuji step in against Nick Gonzalez of the US; and Soren King (Aus) mix it up with Toshiyuki Kinami (Japan).
Mirroring rule changes announced this year to keep the strikes coming in K-1's World Grand Prix series, clinching and holding will be curtailed in World Max, and referees will penalize fighters who use such non-aggressive techniques to slow down a fight.
The K-1 World Max '06 Final Elimination starts at 17h00 Jpn time on Wednesday April 5 at the Yoyogi Stadium in 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. As always check the K-1 Official Website (www.k-1.co.jp) for complete coverage soon after the final bell.