Judo Whiz Akiyama Goes Pro
TOKYO, October 6, 2004 -- It was announced today in a press conference at the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo that Yoshihiro Akiyama, a seven-time Judo Champion, will make his professional debut in the K-1 ROMANEX ring.
LAS VEGAS, April 28, 2004 -- With just two days to go before the Battle at the Bellagio II on April 30, it is clear that K-1 loves Las Vegas, and Las Vegas loves K-1.
A press conference at the Bellagio today attracted 200 media and interested persons and affirmed K-1's soaring popularity in the world's fightsport capital. Last year, talk was about whether or not the Battle at the Bellagio could sell out the Strip's top venue. This time around, with a full house a certainty, the challenge is organizing a hall where shut out fans might follow Friday night's action on closed circuit TV.
A consummate professional, K-1 USA promoter Scott Coker introduced the fighters, all of whom looked in great shape, excited and confident they had what it takes to win.
Said K-1 wunderkind and defending Carter Williams, who defied 20:1 odds to win the Battle at the Bellagio last year, "I'm looking to make my performance even better this time around. These fighters are hungry, but I will defend the K-1 USA Championship and then move on to the Grand Prix."
Williams first tier opponent will be Mighty Mo. A successful boxer and one-time construction worker, Mighty Mo got his nickname after emerging unscathed from a building that had collapsed around him. Now with the Shark Tank Gym, the tough guy said he is more than ready for the K-1 ring "I have respect for all these fighters, and it is an honor to be here. I will do my best!"
The second tournament matchup will pit Amsterdam-based Japanese fighter Nobu Hayashi against Las Vegas-based American Dewey Cooper.
Commented a confident Cooper, "There are a lot of great athletes here for this tournament. I know what I have to do -- I got to flow, I got to throw combinations. I am ready to win the whole damn tournament."
Said Hayashi, "Fighting in Las Vegas is wonderful, and my training in Holland has taught me new techniques. Although I am Japanese, I very much hope to win here and return to Japan as the K-1 USA Champ!"
The 2002 K-1 USA Champion Michael McDonald is a quick, technical veteran who has always done well in Vegas. In his first fight here, McDonald will face Muay Thai fighter Marvin Eastman.
McDonald: "I am getting up there in age [at 39, McDonald is the oldest fighter in the tournament], but I plan to be around for a few more years. The young guys better watch out, because I trained hard for this one and I feel good. Ring the bell"
Eastman: "The tournament style is hard to prepare for, I just hope to finish the fights quickly and get through without injuries. Of course, everyone is thinking the same thing, so mental preparation is also important. I'm ready"
The last quarterfinal will pit Seidokaikan fighter Tatsufumi Tomihira against accomplished kickboxer Kelly Leo.
Already a five-year K-1 veteran at just 28 years of age, the scrappy Tomihira said, "Coming to Las Vegas from Japan is a great honor, I will fight with the Japanese spirit."
Leo assured the press that he is ready for all that. "I am focused and have put on some weight since my K-1 debut last year. I am definitely going to have more power this time."
Superfights on the card include an appearance by the popular and always exciting Cung Le, who will take on Brian Warren; a matchup between boxer Gary Goodridge and New Zealand's TOA (substituting for Shannon Briggs, who sustained a leg injury in training last week); and a much-anticipated showdown between Las Vegas' Tommy Glanville and Bob "The Beast" Sapp.
Said Glanville at the press conference, "Maurice Smith was my cornerman for a long time, now he is in Bob's corner." Addressing Smith, who was in the crowd, Glanville said he felt he'd been "stabbed in the back" by the fightsport legend. The remark prompted Sapp to charge at Glanville, and a table went tumbling down from the stage in the ensuing melee.
Taunted The Beast, "Maurice knows I can kick your ass, and that's why he's in my corner!"
K-1 event producer Sadaharu Tanikawa also spoke to the press. "Three years ago, K-1 first came to the Bellagio, and we are very happy with how far we've progressed. It is great that exciting American fighters such as Carter Williams have emerged, and we have reached this success thanks to hard work by K-1 USA's Scott Coker.
Williams and McDonald are the early favorites to win the tournament, standing atop the Bellagio odds board at 2:1 each. Cooper and Eastman are in at 4:1, and Hayashi sits at 6:1. Mighty Mo is 10:1, and the dark horses are Tomihira and Leo at 18:1 and 25:1 respectively.
Doors open and 5:00 pm and the 8-man tournament will kick off at 7 pm on Friday, April 30. The event will be broadcast live on ESPN Pay-Per-View in the USA, and later across Japan on the Fuji TV network.
See the complete matchups on the K-1 Official Website: http://www.so-net.ne.jp/feg/k-1gp/top594.htm