Bonjasky "99% Sure" he'll Beat Mighty Mo
LAS VEGAS, April 28, 2005 -- In an exclusive interview this afternoon, Remy Bonjasky discussed fighting, training, and his Superfight showdown at the Bellagio Hotel this Saturday against Mighty Mo -- a man many consider America's toughest K-1 fighter. Bonjasky, the Defending K-1 World Grand Prix Champion dapper as always in a smart black and dark brown pinstripe suit, and appeared relaxed and fit.
Mo Mauls Bonjasky; Feitosa Takes K-1 USA GP
LAS VEGAS, April 30, 2005 -- Mighty Mo's meat-and-potatoes punching attacks stymied Remy Bonjasky's finesse, and the squat American scored a major upset, defeating the Defending K-1 World GP Champion today at the Bellagio Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.
The bout between Bonjasky of the Netherlands and Mo, a brutal puncher who won the Battle at the Bellagio III last year, was the headline Superfight at the Battle at the Bellagio IV: K-1 World Grand Prix in Las Vegas.
Mo shed 10 kilos or 25 pounds in preparation for this bout, in a bid to keep pace with the speedy Bonjasky. The bid succeeded.
At the pre-event press conference, Mo acknowledged Bonjasky's superior legwork, but pledged to close the distance and deliver some "pay back" with his fists. For his part, Bonjasky said he would endeavor to stay out of the way of those punches, and declared himself "99% sure" he'd win the bout. The odds board agreed -- Bonjasky was a -240 favorite (a bet of $240 on Bonjasky required for a net $100 payout, Mo paying a net of $190 on a $100 bet).
The Dutchman threw the first strikes of the bout, a couple of high kicks, the second of these glancing off Mo's head. But Mo quickly answered with body blows, and that is the way the first round went -- Bonjasky flying in with flashy kicks, Mo, undaunted, repeatedly stepping forward to counter with no-nonsense body blows and hooks. The second was more of the same, both men fighting from their strengths, Bonjasky getting the prettier strikes in but Mo holding his ground and always back with a better counter.
In the third, Bonjasky's kicks increasingly lacked accuracy, and when the distance closed Mo seized the opportunity to pump an overhand right in and score a down that brought the crowd to their feet (particularly loud were the 60 members of Mo's family in attendance). The round closed out with Mo looking focused and smart on his feet -- Bonjasky flew at his opponent with a fury in the final seconds, but Mo has the sort of build that makes it easy to close up. This he did, and the attacks ended with Bonjasky harmlessly either flying by or draped over the American.
One judge liked Bonjasky here, the other two saw Mo's down as enough to earn the win. The crowd went wild when it was announced that Mighty Mo had beaten the Defending Champion. It was Bonjasky's first loss in almost one year.
"That's the nature of the game," said a gracious Bonjasky afterwards, "you win some and you lose some, and today I lost. He caught me with a right and he caught me real good. I knew I had to watch out for his right, but he caught me with it."
"My strategy was to stay sharp and fast," said Mo. "I know everybody is afraid of my right hand so I don't use it right away, I threw to the body at first, and then as the fight went on I started to feel where his attack points were at. I kept hitting the body, and he got too comfortable, kept coming in behind his jab. So as soon as he jabbed I threw the overhand right, when he least expected it."
Mo had been working with the Shark Tank Gym in California and the Sefo Academy team in New Zealand and Japan, and looked a much improved fighter in regaining his position among K-1's elite.
There was also plenty of excitement in the eight-man K-1 USA GP tournament, as a determined Glaube Feitosa (32 yrs; 103kg/227lbs; 193cm/6'4") kicked his way through three tough bouts to take the K-1 USA GP Championship to Brazil for the first time.
In the tournament's opener, Japanese Karate fighter Tsuyoshi Nakasako took on kickboxer Mark Selbee of the United States. A medallist at the US Open Tae Kwon Do Championships, Selbee was a late substitute for Canadian Michael McDonald. In Nakasako, the American faced a younger fighter who nonetheless had more experience in the K-1 ring. But Nakasako's progress in K-1 has been compromised by inconstancy -- at times he has he has been very sharp and aggressive, but there have been nights when it appeared his heart wasn't in it. With Selbee describing the bout as "the chance I've always dreamed of," the outcome here hinged on which Nakasako showed up.
The first was fast-paced, both men using low kicks to test the other's defenses -- Selbee the more aggressive, throwing combinations that included spinning back and ax kicks, and chasing his opponent into the corner on two occasions. In the second, Nakasako moved a bit more, and stung his opponent with some good hard low kicks. Selbee stepped forward as the round wore on, although Nakasako was generally good with his blocking. It was more of the same in the third, Selbee working the fists and bringing a more varied attack, Nakasako countering ably. The judges liked Selbee's aggression, and rewarded the American with a unanimous decision and a trip to the semis.
In the second matchup, brawler Gary Goodridge put 'em up against American Sean O'Haire, a former pro wrestler who has recently been focusing on K-1. Fighting out of the respected Shark Tank Gym, (also home to Mighty Mo), the big O'Haire is a Muay Thai man on a mission, and here he faced a formidable challenge in "Big Daddy" Goodridge. A Trinidad and Tobago-born, Canadian-based fighter, Goodridge is noted for a hell-bent style which tends to result in someone -- either Goodridge or his opponent -- getting KO'ed early.
So it is written, and so it came to pass. O'Haire charged in from the bell, with straight punches, and had Goodridge on the ropes in no time. But even as Big Daddy took his licks, he swung and he swung, and finally a big right hook got in to smack O'Haire on the jaw for a down. Seconds after action resumed, Goodridge got the right uppercut in to send O'Haire's body down to the canvas and his head up to la-la land. A wide smile of pure joy stretched across Big Daddy's face, and why not? He would be fresh for the semis
It was in the third bout that Glaube Feitosa got his start, against Dewey Cooper. Cooper is excellent with the combinations, although critics have frequently claimed his smallish frame limits him in K-1. At just 91kg/201lbs, Cooper was by far the lightest fighter in the tournament.
Feitosa has been known to hang back and snipe, relying on his artful legwork to score points, whereas Cooper always takes the fight to his opponent, Further, The Black Cobra is a Las Vegas native, and so had the crowd in his corner. Plus, Cooper had popular rapper Canibus doing a live performance during his ring entrance, a first in K-1.
The first saw Cooper working the smart combinations and Feitosa tossing in the low, middle and high kicks. Neither fighter dominated here, as both had good blocking throughout. The second was the most exciting round so far on the night, an intrepid Cooper stepping in with combinations, Feitosa great with the kicks, putting many through to score with partial contact. The crowd was wowed by Feitosa's legwork, and it was a couple of knees from the Brazilian that did the most damage here. Cooper looked stunned at one point, but with Feitosa slow on the follow up he was able to recover.
Cooper kept on coming in the third, but it was increasingly apparent that his punches did not have the power to put Feitosa down. Here again, the Brazilian picked his spots and twisted up the Kyokushin kicks to the delight of the crowd, and when it was over judges rewarded him with a unanimous decision and a trip to the semis.
American Carter Williams, at 24 the youngest fighter in the tournament, stepped in against Yusuke Fujimoto of Japan in the last quarterfinal. An explosive Williams won the K-1 USA GP in 2003, but the fighter has fizzled something since then, dropping five of his last seven. It is important to note that these losses came against very good and experienced fighters, and there have been some close and even controversial decisions.
In any case, this was Williams' opportunity to show the world he was back, and Las Vegas seemed to believe Williams would do it -- at +130 on the Bellagio odds board (a bet of $100 on Williams required for a net $130 payout) he was the clear favorite to win this tournament, and his entrance was greeted with the loudest reception given any tournament fighter.
Both men were very focused from the start, Williams light on his feet, frequently switching from orthodox to southpaw stance, throwing a nice variety of combinations. Fujimoto was also on, good with the low kicks, but neither fighter could take control. Midway through the round, Fujimoto charged in on the off-balance Williams, and took him to the corner. While Fujimoto put in the punches, Williams first closed up, then went to the clinch and brought up a knee that smacked Fujimoto in the face, breaking the Japanese fighter's nose and rendering him unable to continue. Bringing an opponent's head down to the knee is a foul under Nevada rules, but the action was ruled unintentional, and so the bout was officially declared a no contest. Under K-1 survivor rules specific to this contingency, Williams was advanced to the semis.
In the first of the semis, it was announced that Mark Selbee could not continue due injury to his leg. Twenty-six year-old Scott Lightly, who had edged fellow Muay Thai stylist Patrick Barry by split decision in the reserve bout, took Selbee's place against Gary Goodridge.
Different fighter, same result. Once again, Goodridge charged in from the bell, throwing haymakers non-stop against his nonplussed opponent. Goodridge never gave Lighty the chance to work his Muay Thai magic -- and the Sapp-like full-on punch attack worked perfectly for Big Daddy. Ironically, after the punches had softened Lighty up considerably, it was a Goodridge low kick that put the American down. Mere seconds after resumption, another combination featuring more low kicks resulted in the second and decisive down, and Big Daddy was through to the final.
The second semi saw pitted Williams against Feitosa. Williams wanted to close the distance here and box, but Feitosa repeatedly went to the clinch. Much of the first was spent with Feitosa on the ropes and Williams simply leaning on him, stymied. When things opened up, Feitosa had the kicks, both low and high.
In the second, Williams again took the initiative, pushing Feitosa to the ropes and laying in with the punches. But Feitosa weathered the storm. And then, midway through, Feitosa twisted a Kyokushin kick up to clock Williams on the ear and score a down. After resumption, Feitosa took the opportunity to showcase his skills, firing a spinning back kick, then an ax kick, and finally a knee in rapid succession. It was the ax kick that started Williams to wobbling, and the knee that put him down for the KO win.
Glaube Feitosa the technical kicker and Gary Goodridge with his flying fists brought a severe contrast in styles to the final.
From the start, Goodridge lacked the spark he had shown in the first two bouts. He came in with punches once again, but Feitosa remained calm and looked comfortable in close, going toe-to-toe with the apparently fatigued Goodridge. Feitosa backed Goodridge against the ropes and put in kick and punch combinations, showing great poise, picking his spots and totally outclassing his opponent. Late in the round, with Goodridge once again closed up on the ropes, Feitosa deftly brought a high kick up to score a down. Goodridge barely beat the count, but the referee took a good long look into the dazed combatant's eyes, didn't like what he saw there, and so wisely stopped the fight, giving Feitosa the well-deserved win and the Championship.
With his victory, Feitosa advances to the WGP 05 Final Elimination Tournament, set for the Osaka Dome this September 23.
"I was looking forward to this for so long, for years" said a battered but beaming Feitosa from the winner's circle. "I was feeling very comfortable in the ring tonight, I could see properly everything coming at me, all the punches and all the techniques they were throwing at me. But this is not only my trophy, it belongs to my team, to the entire Kyokushin organization, and to my family and all the people who supported me. I have never made it to the Tokyo Dome before, this year I think I'm ready to go there, so this is only the beginning, the hard part is still to come!"
In another Superfight on the card, Seidokaikan Karate fighter Musashi of Japan met the legendary Rick Roufus of the US. At 38 years of age, Roufus has almost a quarter-century of martial arts experience. "I'm exceptionally hungry at this point in my career," quipped 'The Jet' in pre-bout interviews, "and I have never trained harder for a fight." But Musashi, a four-time Japan GP Champion who has made it through to the last bout at the Tokyo Dome World GP Final two years running, ranks among K-1's best, and so this had the makings of a great fight.
Musashi was only a slight favorite when the Bellagio odds board opened, but by Saturday night a pile of money had been wagered on the Japanese fighter, who came into the bout at -300 (a bet of $300 on Musashi required for a net $100 payout).
Fighting from a southpaw stance, Roufus showed style in the first, threading in side kicks to control the distance. Musashi countered the finesse with brute power in the form of low kicks. The second saw Musashi leaning forward more and boxing, also throwing a number of high kicks midway through. Roufus was good with his blocking, but the occasional low kicks Musashi fired in were clearly taking their toll on the American's legs now.
In round three, with Roufus' right leg badly bruised, Musashi took control of the fight. Ever inching forward, Musashi fired a couple of nice high kicks in on Roufus' head. The Jet stayed on his feet, but spent most of the round in retreat. The incredulous crowd jeered when one judge's card scored Roufus the winner, but the other two saw a Musashi victory, and that is how this one will go down in history.
In other bouts on the card, Steve Steinbeiss took a unanimous decision over Dan Evensen; and Terroll Dees dispatched Dustin Haning with a first round KO.
"I think this was the best K-1 we've had in Las Vegas since I started doing it in 2000," said a delighted Scott Coker of K-1 USA. "It shows what K-1 is all about, the kicker versus the boxer versus the guy with the better knee strikes. We saw Mo the puncher beat Remy the kicker, but we also saw Glaube beat Gary, and so it proves that on a given night it's the fighter and not the style that will win."
How does Coker feel about his K-1 USA Championship trophy heading down to Brazil?
"Glaube deserved it, it was open to everyone and the best man won! But now I hope maybe Glaube will move to Vegas."
The Battle at the Bellagio IV: K-1 World Grand Prix in Las Vegas attracted a boisterous sellout crowd of 4,902 to the Bellagio. It was broadcast live in Japan on Fuji TV, and in the US (with color commentary by K-1 veteran Ray Sefo) on inDemand, DirecTV and TVN. Elsewhere, contact local broadcasters for scheduling information. The official results are here: http://www.so-net.ne.jp/feg/k-1gp/top653.htm
Special thanks to Monte Dipietro and K-1 for this write-up.
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