Sapp Set for Niigata
NIIGATA, March 13, 2004 -- Bob Sapp is more than ready for his next fight -- the Beast is prepared, it would appear, to take on the entire Mongolian nation. In a press conference in advance of the K-1 Japan Special Beast 2004 in Niigata, Sapp not only promised to beat up his opponent Dolgorsuren Sumiyabazar, but to take it to Sumiyabazar's brothers as well.
Kohiruimaki Wins World Max in Tokyo
TOKYO, February 24, 2004 -- Takayuki Kohiruimaki persevered through three bouts to win the K-1 World Max 2004 in Tokyo and advance toward this year's World Max Final. A steely cold dusk shivered the thousands of K-1 fans filing into the Yoyogi Stadium in downtown Tokyo. But inside the action was red-hot, with plenty of energy and emotion, and a total of nine KO's on the card.
The 8-man tournament was fought under regular K-1 Max rules. Now entering its third year, the World Max has proven immensely popular with fans, who are drawn to the speed and excitement the under-70kg format delivers.
First up was the eagerly anticipated reserve fight between Toshio Matsumoto and K-1 veteran Musashi's younger brother, Tomo. Matsumoto looked smart early on, and clocked Tomo with a left in the second round to score a down. But Tomo rallied convincingly in the third, and knocked Matsumoto out cold with a left hook to win the bout. Due an injury to another fighter later on, the victory would also give Tomo a shot in the tournament.
The first regular tournament matchup pitted 26 year-old kickboxer Hayato against the handsome Takayuki Kohiruimaki, who KO'd Tony Valente at the Budokan last November and is a perennial favorite with female K-1 fans.
Kohiruimaki connected first with a left kick to the head that rattled Hayato, but Hayato countered soon afterward with a left uppercut and right straight punch combination that hurt Kohiruimaki. In the second, Kohiruimaki worked the knees while Hayato threw punches, both fighters connecting a couple of times but neither dominating. The third was more of the same -- good clean strikes and a superior bout, Kohiruimaki in with a solid high kick and Hayato doing well with the left. In the final analysis, Kohiruimaki had more spunk, and a more varied attack, and the judges rewarded him with a unanimous decision.
In the second bout, Shootboxer Kenichi Ogata took on kickboxer Kozo Takeda, who at 31 was the oldest fighter in the tournament.
From the bell, Takeda threw smart low kicks, and then a number of unanswered high kicks. When Ogata finally countered, with a vicious right uppercut, it put Takeda down. Ogata kept up the pressure, backing his opponent into the corner and unleashing a flurry of punches which left Takeda's nose badly bloodied. As Takeda did little but defend for a minute or so, it was beginning to look like Ogata had this one, but he could not deliver the decisive blow against his tough opponent. In the late going, Takeda revived his kicks to get out of the round with some momentum.
And then, shockingly, Ogata did not answer the bell for the second round. Takeshi Caesar, the head of Ogata's Caesar Gym, appeared in the press room minutes later to explain that Ogata had aggravated a previous injury to his left leg, and could scarcely stand, much less fight. The withdrawal gave Takeda a victory and a date with Kohiruimaki in the semis.
In order to inspire the local fighters and "internationalize" the tournament, the third fight featured a showdown between the acrobatic Turk Zerkan Yilmaz and the tough Seidokaikan fighter Kazuya Yasuhiro.
Yilmaz was the more aggressive fighter from the start, fancy with spinning kicks and then in with some good solid straight punches -- very well-balanced attack for the Turk, who had perhaps over relied on razzle dazzle in his previous K-1 bouts. Yasuhiro went down twice early in the first, but these were both ruled as slips. Yilmaz executed a deft spinning back kick and followed up with a high kick before literally chasing Yasuhiro around the ring for a time, finally scoring a down with a combination just seconds shy of the bell. In the second round Yilmaz again wasted no time, coming in fast and furious. A right straight punch got him his first down, and Yasuhiro, now desperately down on points, went decidedly on the offensive. Coolly, Yilmaz fed his charging opponent a right hook, dropping him for the win.
The last first-tier matchup pitted wrestler "Kid" Yamamoto in his K-1 debut against Osaka 's Takehiro Murahama. Although Murahama stands just 163cm, there is a lot of heart in this package, the never-say-die fighter gave both Masato and Andy Souwer a hard time in the ring last year -- inch for inch one of the toughest fighters in the World Max class.
Alas, here, Yamamoto proved even tougher. In the first, Murahama was outpowered by punches from the surprisingly fast Yamamoto, who scored a down midway through with a right (the referee had to jump in here as the undisciplined Yamamoto looked like he wanted to take the fight to the mat). By the end of the round, Yamamoto was showboating, dropping his guard and taunting Murahama.
In the second, Yamamoto again dominated and although Murahama made a spirited attempt in the early going he could not sustain any sort of attack. Yamamoto caught Murahama coming in, planted a right uppercut on the little guy's kisser and put him down. After the count, with Yamamoto throwing punches at will and Murahama wobbling on the ropes, the referee stepped in to stop the fight. The KO win put Yamamoto in against Yilmaz in the second semi.
Kohiruimaki strutted confidently into the ring for his dance with Takeda in the first semifinal, but it was Takeda who took the initiative here, controlling the first round with low kicks. In the second, Takeda again looked tight and focused, snapping the low kicks in at will. But then, as is known to happen in K-1, everything changed with a single blow. It was really the first good contact for Kohiruimaki -- a jumping right knee from close in -- that caught Takeda squarely on the front of the face and dropped him in a mess of pain. Takeda did not get up, and Kohiruimaki had the win.
Head referee Kakuda then stepped into the ring to announce that "Kid" Yamamoto had a fractured bone in his right hand, and could not continue. Tomo, winner of the reserve fight, would take his place against Yilmaz in the second semi.
A dapper Yilmaz again entered ring sporting a Samurai topknot and Yoroi breastplate, while Tomo, well, he had to be happy just to be here. With big brother Musashi shouting encouragement, Tomo planted himself in the center of the ring, to cut down on Yilmaz's maneuvering room. Tomo threw some hard low kicks, but Yilmaz soon went on the offensive, backing his opponent into the corner and scoring a down with a left followed by a hard right hook to the jaw.
Tomo barely beat the count, and was coaxed back to his feet to continue the fight. Seconds later after more punishment he went down once again, but the referee called this a slip. Unfazed, Yilmaz just kept on coming, and when he put in another of his hard rights to score another down, the bell started ringing, and he was headed for the final against Kohiruimaki.
After having to endure Yilmaz's screaming ethnic electrobeat intro music one last time, the audience settled down for the final, where both fighters would be relatively fresh and unscathed. And given Yilmaz's success with his right punch, it looked like Kohiruimaki had his work cut out for him.
Kohiruimaki planted a kick on Yilmaz's butt early in the first, and used kicks to effect throughout the round. Yilmaz, meanwhile, brought his more varied attack, throwing punch and kick combinations. The first was a mean mixup, both fighters determined, although Yilmaz did not look to have the same killer instinct that had brought him this far.
In the second, one of Yilmaz's trademark spinning back kicks caught Kohiruimaki on the upper body and felled the fighter, but this was ruled a slip. Soon afterward, it what would prove the turning point, Yilmaz winced after Kohiruimaki connected with a low kick to his left leg. Having identified his opponent's weakness, Kohiruimaki now focused most all of his attacks on Yilmaz's left leg.
As the fight wore on, it was obvious to everyone in the building that Kohiruimaki's low kicks were stinging Yilmaz something awful, but to his credit the Turk refused to give up. Following instead the adage that the best defense is a good offence, he valiantly pushed his stricken left leg into service in a number of ambitious attacks, but simply could not connect with the force needed to score a down. Indeed, Kohiruimaki looked remarkably tough here, seemingly unperturbed by Yilmaz's assaults, relentless in his low kicks to that left leg, a strategy which inflicted an ever-increasing amount of damage on Yilmaz. Midway through the third, Kohiruimaki snapped in five unanswered kicks to the lame limb, and by now the blows were causing even audience members to wince in pain.
Yilmaz held on to the end, but judges gave the well-earned victory to Kohiruimaki by unanimous decision.
"Today," beamed Kohiruimaki in the winner's circle, "was my day! I had some tough times recently (Kohiruimaki's father passed away last year), and now I feel that I am out of the rut and back on the road. I very much appreciate the support I received from my family and all my fans!"
With his victory, Kohiruimaki earned 6,000,000yen (Euro44 000/US$55,000) plus a 300,000 yen (Euro2 200/US$2,800) bonus for his semifinal KO. Kohiruimaki now advances to the April 7 World Max Final Elimination Tournament. This will be an 8-bout knockout format event, with the winners moving on to the World Max 2004 Final this summer.
In a three minute, three round Superfight on the card, World Max 2002 Championship Albert Kraus of the Netherlands destroyed Karate fighter Takashi Ohno. Less than a minute in, it was already evident that Ohno was in big trouble. A sharp, focused Kraus got through with a left punch to stun Ohno, then put him in the corner and socked away. When Ohno tried to move out of harm's way, Kraus threw up a left kick to put him down.
After the count, Ohno was there, but not really there. Kraus turned him into a punching bag, and Ohno's legs began to slowly buckle under him. Even before Ohno had completely crumpled to the canvas, veteran referee Nobuaki Kakuda wisely stepped in to stop the fight. A convincing win for Kraus, who looks a very serious challenger for this year's World Max Championship.
The second Superfight featured a couple of Muay Thai fighters, Arslan Magomedov of Russia and Fuji Chalmsak of Thailand. Magomedov got the better punches through in the early going, and really for two Muay Thai fighters there was not much legwork here. Chalmsak changed that midway through with some hard low kicks, which seemed to bother Magomedov. When Chalmsak saw his opponent's guard lowered, he came over with a devastating right punch to lay Magomedov out. As Chalmsek pumped his fist in the air in celebration, Magomedov just lay there, twitching, with not even the hint of a thought of trying to beat the count.
Said K-1 Producer Sadaharu Tanikawa afterward, "This was a very exciting event, and congratulations to Kohiruimaki for winning the tournament. I was also very impressed with "Kid" Yamamoto, he showed great power and rhythm. Hopefully he will recover in time to participate in more K-1 Max events this year."
The K-1 World Max 2004 in Tokyo attracted a sellout crowd of 4,860 to the Yoyogi Stadium, and was same-day broadcast across Japan on the TBS network.
Special thanks to Monte Dipietro and K-1 for this review.
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