AMSTERDAM, April 25, 2008 -- The springtime weather vacillates in Amsterdam, and today a powerful storm arrived from the East. It's the new generation of fighters from Belarus, Hungary and Romania, here to challenge Western Europe's domination of the K-1 World Grand Prix. The competitiveness of Central and Eastern European fighters was confirmed at the K-1 Europe Elimination in Budapest this February. In tomorrow's K-1 World GP '08 Europe Final at the Amsterdam Arena, the arrivistes aim to prove they can beat the best.
The K-1 World GP '08 Europe Final is a classic eight-man elimination tournament, all bouts contested under K-1 Rules (3Min. x 3R w/1RExt.). A quartet of first-tier fights advance four men to the semis, and the winners there go head-to head in the final.
Yesterday and today, participating fighters shared their thoughts with local and international media at the Claus Event Center in Hoofddorp.
The first tournament matchup features Doug Viney of New Zealand, a 31 year-old boxer who came out of the reserve fight to emerge as the improbable winner of last year's K-1 WGP Repechage Tournament in Las Vegas. Viney beat Zabit Samedov in the final. The Belorussian has vowed revenge.
"I trained hard and I feel great," said Samedov. "I still think I did enough to beat Doug the Vegas fight," said Samedov, "and I'm happy to be meeting him in my first fight tomorrow, now I have the chance to prove myself against him!"
Replied Viney, "I don't care what he thinks, at the end of the day, it's the judges who decide who won a fight. And I'm glad he wants to set the record straight, that's what I plan to do, with a KO."
Next up, French finesse fighter Freddy Kemayo will step in against Romanian farmer's son turned rugby player turned K-1 fighter Catalin Morosanu. After his victory in Budapest, Morosanu said he planned to improve his strength by "going back to Romania and eating two pigs." His trainer, however, had other ideas.
"He said I had to lose weight to improve my stamina, so he wouldn't let me eat the pigs," said Morosanu. "Instead, I went to Thailand to train, and I ate bugs, little fried insects, lots of them. I lost three kilograms [7 lbs], and now my stamina is better and I have more strength in my legs. I will crush Kemayo like a bug, and then, after I win this tournament, I promise I will go back to Romania and eat two pigs!"
Informed of Morosanu's plans, Kemayo laughed. "I don't know about all that, but I know I'm not a pig, I fight back! I can't underestimate anyone, and I know that Morosanu is like a pit bull -- he will only come forward. But I feel I've matured since my last fight, I can see things different now and I am prepared to the maximum for this tournament."
The third quarterfinal will see emerging Dutch fighter Errol Zimmerman of the highly-respected local Golden Glory gym taking on Hungarian hero Attila Karacs, who hopes to build on his impressive victory in Budapest.
"Zimmerman is a very good fighter," said Karacs, "but I have more experience now and I believe I'm better and stronger and faster. My strategy for fighting him is simple -- I want a KO."
Karacs, one of the fighters leading the challenge from Central and Eastern Europe, said the region is ready to make its mark in K-1.
"In Holland they have a long history of muay thai and kickboxing, while we have more of a boxing tradition. But we have been improving our training and styles quickly, and I think our new generation is now going to challenge the Dutch."
The last of the tournament matchups has the dangerous Swiss K-1 star Bjorn Bregy meeting veteran Jan "The Giant" Nortje of South Africa. Bregy, who won the K-1 Europe '06 GP and came in second last year, was clear about his intentions tomorrow: "I want to take the European Championship back."
Nortje was still en route to Amsterdam at the time of the press conference.
In the Europe GP tournament reserve bout, James McSweeny of the United Kingdom will meet Brian Douwes of Holland
The man who gets through three fights to win this tournament advances to the World GP '08 Final Elimination, where this year's final 16, including the world's top fightsport title-holder, three-time and defending K-1 WGP Grand Champion Semmy Schilt of the Netherlands, will go head-to-head.
There are a couple of K-1 Superfights and a whole lot more on the card in Amsterdam.
Highly-anticipated is a showdown between a couple of Dutch K-1 stars -- two-time WGP Grand Champion Remy Bonjasky and the always-tough Melvin Manhoef. While posing for the photographers, so intense was the "don't blink first" staredown between these two that K-1 Europe's Simon Rutz was forced to step in to separate them.
On a rare literary side note, Bonjasky this week also celebrates the release of a book. "Remy Bonjasky -- God in Japan" is an authorized biography by Mabel van den Dungen. While the Japanese press pondered the title's deific suggestion, Manhoef obliged by posing for photographs in prayer.
"Melvin is powerful and explosive, and the fight has attracted a lot of attention in Holland," said Bonjasky before divining, "lots of people are speculating on who will win. But I think I know!"
"I know that neither of us are there to fight for a decision," added Bonjasky. "He's going to come out aggressively and I intend to meet him just as aggressively, so I think it will be a KO, and I don't think it will last three rounds."
The stocky Manhoef, who is 15cm/6" shorter than his opponent, told reporters he had trained to overcome the height disadvantage: "We worked on specific things, but I won't tell you today, instead I will show you tomorrow."
In another Superfight, it will be a couple of muay thai fighters -- 22 year old Tyrone Spong of Suriname, and K-1 veteran Azem Maksutaj of Switzerland.
The K-1 event is complemented by the Dutch fight promotion "It's Showtime," bringing the total number of bouts on the day to no less than twenty. "It's Showtime" will feature a number of K-1 fighters, including Buakaw Por Pramuk, Drago, Paul Slowinski and others.