SAPPORO, July 29, 2006-- It is a hot summer in Japan. In the country's northernmost metropolis, Sapporo, residents are crowding the beer gardens, chugging back frosty suds to drown the stifling heat. This Sunday afternoon, some 10,000 people will pour into Sapporo's Makomanai Ice Hockey Arena -- host venue for the 1972 Sapporo Winter Olympics. Then things will heat up even more -- as K-1's hottest fighters step into the ring with fire in their eyes -- angry men, bent on revenge.
TOKYO, March 26, 2004 -- The K-1 World Grand Prix 2004 Series kicks off tomorrow at the 35,000 capacity Saitama Super Arena. The one-match tournament will feature nine bouts and some of K-1's biggest stars. The fights will be under regular K-1 rules 3R x 3min, two possible extra rounds), with the winners receiving consideration for the September 25 World GP Semi Final Tournament. The 18 participating fighters met the press today at the Shin Takanawa Prince Hotel in central Tokyo.
French kickboxer Cyril Abidi will take on 22 year-old Hiraku Hori in the first bout. Hori has won six of his nine K-1 bouts and said he is confident: "I'm excited to meet a good fighter like Cyril. It's my birthday this month and the win would be a good way to celebrate."
The second bout will pit Dutch fighter Jerrel Venetiaan against Sergei Gur, who won the K-1 Italy in 2001 and KO'd three challengers to take the K-1 Marseilles this January.
A pair of South African fighters, Mike Bernardo and Jan "The Giant" Nortje will meet in the third bout. There has been bad blood between these two ever since Bernardo left Steve's Gym, where Nortje trains, two years ago. "I think everyone is about fed up with you," said a somber Nortje to Bernardo at the press conference. "When you left our gym, you spoke badly of us. That wasn't very Christian of you, Mike. Well, what goes around comes around, and tomorrow I'll be coming around." Replied Bernardo, "If you look between all the lies, you will discover the truth. The only time you are coming around tomorrow will be after the count of ten."
Another South African, Francis "The White Buffalo" Botha, will take on Belgian Aziz Khattou in the fourth matchup; superstar heavyweight Shannon Briggs will make his long-anticipated K-1 debut against fellow American Tom Erikson in the fifth; and Bob Sapp will step in against American wrestler Seth Petruzelli in the sixth.
"Sapp has size, but I know he is very slow," said Petruzelli. "I hope Bob can get me a discount on those pizzas he advertises on TV, because after I destroy him tomorrow I'm going to be real hungry!" Retorted Sapp: "It's good that he's hungry because he's going to be eating a bunch of punches tomorrow."
The Alexy Ignashov vs Carter Williams bout is another much-anticipated bout. Can the K-1 USA 2003 Champion stand up to The Scorpion? This will be the toughest test yet for the American wunderkind. "I'm fighting a damn good fighter tomorrow and I'm nervous," said Williams. "But I fight best when I'm nervous, so I know it's going to be a damn good fight."
The penultimate bout will feature four-time K-1 World GP Champion Ernesto Hoost. Unfortunately, a training injury has put Hoost's scheduled opponent, defending World GP Champ Remy Bonjasky, out of the bout. Taking Bonjasky's place is Swiss karate fighter Xhavit Bajrami, whom Hoost will attempt to beat for the third time.
In the main event, Japan's strongest K-1 fighter, Musashi, will step in against former Sumo Grand Champion Akebono. This will be the second K-1 fight for Akebono, who lost by first round KO to Bob Sapp on New Year's Eve. "I am very honored to be fighting Musashi," said Akebono, "and I will do my very best."
Special thanks to Monte Dipietro and K-1 for this write-up.
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