YOKOHAMA, April 13, 2008 -- Moroccan muay thai dynamo and Defending K-1 Heavyweight Champion Badr Hari, 23, scored three quick first-round downs to defeat Ray Sefo tonight at the K-1 World Grand Prix 2008 in Yokohama. In the evening's Main Event, Defending K-1 World Grand Prix Champion Semmy Schilt defeated challenger Mark Hunt.
It had been more than six years since Mark Hunt's incredible 2001 World GP Tokyo Dome Final performance, when the New Zealand boxer dispatched K-1 stars Francisco Filho, Stefan Leko and Jerome LeBanner to become the first non-European K-1 World GP Champion. Hunt wanted very much to score another upset tonight, against the juggernaut that is Semmy Schilt.
Schilt towers a full 33cm/13" taller than Hunt, but from the bell the scrappy Kiwi undertook valiant attempts to overcome this disadvantage -- leaping forward to throw the right overhand punch to the delight of the crowd. Hunt also strived to control the distance with low kicks. Alas, Schilt threw low kicks as well, and unfortunately for Hunt and for underdog fans everywhere, Schilt's kicks were a heck of a lot harder, and there were a heck of a lot more of them. By midway through the first round, Hunt's left leg had been brutalized.
To make matters worse, Hunt also received a hard left knee to the chops late in the round. As the seconds clicked down, Schilt went all-out, and at the clapper delivered a spinning back kick smack into his opponent's midsection. Hunt fell in a heap and lay there with pain tattooed on his face. A most convincing KO win for Schilt.
"We practiced the spinning back kick in training," smiled Schilt in his post flight interview, "but I didn't know it would work out so well. I'm glad I won because he was also a GP Champion, so now I have beaten all the active K-1 Champs!"
Asked what advice he could offer anyone contemplating fighting him, Schilt simply smiled, "I'd tell them not to take the fight!"
"I felt like I'd been kicked by a horse," said a distressed Hunt, "I think anybody who got caught with that kick, even Ernesto Hoost, would have been out. I only started getting my air back when I heard the ring announcer call the number 'eight'."
Ray Sefo versus Badr Hari meanwhile was a highly-anticipated matchup, the civil New Zealand veteran facing the volatile Moroccan rising star.
Despite some trash talk in pre-fight interviews, there were smiles on both fighters' faces as they met center-ring for the referee's instructions. Then it was straight to business. An explosive start -- both fighters attacking aggressively, Sefo firing in a right that put his opponent off balance, Hari responding with a number of knees then a devastating left cross to score a down. After resumption, Hari went right after Sefo, who was forced to the ropes, closed up in defense. Sefo has a great chin, but Hari brought up a hard knee then added a right straight to score another down.
Hari showed no mercy, firing one punch after another, and again bringing the knee up on the doubled-over Sefo. The crowd watched nervously, well aware that Sefo had many times before taken a beating only to rebound and return the favor. But on this night, "Sugarfoot" could not sustain a counterattack. As Hari's fists flew, the referee stepped in and waved his arms, signaling a sensational first-round KO victory for Badr Hari.
"Before the fight, I said I'd get a KO, and I delivered!" said Hari afterward. "In the ring, you can't miss anything, but Ray blinked and I landed the blow, and that was that."
"I was feeling okay," said Sefo, "and then I got caught by the knee and it all went down from there. Badr was the better fighter, that's all."
The card comprised nine bouts, all fought under regular K-1 Rules.
The penultimate contest featured a couple of superbly conditioned combatants -- kyokushin stylist Ewerton Teixeira of Brazil and Japanese karate fighter Yusuke Fujimoto. Teixeira entered the ring with but one K-1 bout to his name -- a 2004 win against Petar Majstorovic. Fujimoto, meanwhile, is the K-1 '07 Asia GP Champion and has honed his skills at the respected Mejiro Gym in Holland.
Teixeira missed with a high kick and a spinning back kick early on, but then answered Fujimoto's hard low kicks in kind. A Teixeira right set Fujimoto stumbling, but Fujimoto also got some good punches through in the first. In the second, both fighters closed frequently and fearlessly, leading with the fists and making good contact. This was shaping up to be one heck of a battle.
In the third there was more aggressive punching, Teixeira missing with a number of his ambitious kicks, Fujimoto repeatedly closing with the right but absorbing punishment from Teixeira's quick counters. A spirited round, in which Teixeira's left straight punch would have put many fighters down -- Fujimoto showing a good chain to stay on his feet and answering deftly with a spinning back punch that made partial contact. Judges saw a draw and called for a tiebreaker round.
Teixeira landed a dandy left straight punch here, Fujimoto was also good with body blows, moving forward but now beginning to either slip and fall to the canvas or grab hold of his opponent to stay on his feet, suggesting possible damage to his left leg.
When the round ended, the judges once again pronounced a draw, sending the fighters to a second and final tiebreaker.
Here Teixeira's superior stamina proved the difference, as he kept on coming while Fujimoto began falling apart. It was a left straight on a counter that scored Teixeira his first down, followed by a left hook for a second down just 20 seconds later. Fujimoto was now awfully wobbly, and Teixeira's right straight punch was the coup de grace, dropping the Japanese fighter for the third time and giving the Brazilian the KO win.
At 35 years of age, seidokaikan veteran Musashi is Japan's most accomplished K-1 fighter. Tonight he faced a challenge from compatriot Junichi Sawayashiki, a 23 year old kickboxer. His stunning upset win over Jerome LeBanner last year established Sawayashiki as one of Japan's most promising youngsters.
The fighters exchanged jabs and low kicks through the early going, Musashi getting a good middle kick through, Sawayashiki making partial contact with a high kick in the first round. In the second, Musashi worked the body blows before getting a left kick up and on target to score a down. After resumption, Musashi put his opponent on the ropes and laid in with the fists, and soon a left uppercut had dropped Sawayashiki a second time. The poor kid beat the count, rising to his feet only be sent back down by Musashi's decisive left straight. An impressive win, Musashi sending the message that he still has a lot of fight left in him.
The Brazilian with the magic legs, kyokushin fighter Glaube Feitosa, met low-kick specialist Arex Roberts, a kujyuken fighter from the United Kingdom making his K-1 debut.
Roberts started with a couple of low kicks and a knee to the midsection, but these did not at all rattle Feitosa, who remained characteristically cool. A number of technical exchanges followed, and by the end of the round although neither fighter had dominated, Feitosa had the edge, and Roberts' nose was bloodied.
If Roberts the rookie was beginning to believe he was holding his own against one of the world's best, that thought flew out of his mind the minute Feitosa's left foot connected with the right side of his head. The British fighter collapsed to the canvas ingloriously, and Feitosa had yet another clip for his kyokushin high-kick highlight reel.
The Squat Samoan with the herculean right hook, Mighty Mo, stepped in against cocky Japanese kickboxer Keijiro Maeda.
Maeda cycled at the far perimeter, occasionally tossing in a kick, while Mo tracked him from the center of the ring. Mo did catch the Japanese fighter on several occasions and Maeda did go to the canvas, but these were ruled slips. Apart from endlessly circling, Maeda's unusual strategy involved diving into the clinch or darting away when it looked like he might get punched. In the second, Mo answered one of Maeda's dive-and-hug maneuvers with a knee, but otherwise had a difficult time tagging his wily opponent.
Maeda continued with the kick-and-run strategy in the third, a number of low kicks making good contact, a number of them also hitting Mo below the belt. Mo now attempted his own low kicks, but these were woefully inadequate. You had to give Maeda credit -- he had put Mo off his game. It wasn't pretty, but it forced a tiebreaker round.
Here, Mo was again kicked below the belt, prompting an extended time stop and recovery period. At the age of 34, Mo is 13 years older than Maeda, and stamina now came into play. An increasingly exhausted and frustrated Mo could not find his distance, while the evasive Maeda scored enough with this kicks to take a unanimous decision.
Veteran kickboxer Petr Vondracek of the Czech Republic, who had lost his last four K-1 bouts, hoped to turn things around here against Japanese karate stylist Mitsugu Noda.
But that was not to be. Too much clinching in the early going, until Noda unloaded a barrage of punches on the cornered and closed-up Vondracek, prompting the referee to call a standing count. A repeat performance in the second, Noda putting Vondracek on the ropes and pummeling him for a good while before finally earning another standing count. The Czech made a bit of a rally, coming in with a series of hooks, but Noda weathered these and was soon on the offensive again, literally chasing Vondracek round the ring to get a referee stop and the victory.
A hard-hitting German, Chalid "Die Faust" hails from the champion-producing Golden Glory gym in Holland. Here he met the technically-advanced Russian kyokushin karate fighter Aleksandr Pichkunov.
Die Faust had lost his last K-1 contest after eating a knee served up by Glaube Feitosa, another kyokushin fighter. So this was something of a chance for payback. Pichkunov the kicker was also coming off a loss, having been out-punched by Doug Viney.
A tentative start here, both men testing with low kicks and the occasional jab. The pace picked up midway through the first, Pichkunov moving forward with punches and sailing a spinning back kick just high. But Die Faust answered the challenge, coming back with a punching attack to end the round.
In the second Die Faust hunkered forward with straight punches and stepped inside to throw the uppercut, but Pichkunov's defense was sound, although Die Faust did clock him soundly with a right. In the third Pichkunov strived to score with low kicks, while Die Faust, leaning forward, made the most of his upper body strength, pumping in body blows and tight hooks. The judges saw a draw and called for a tiebreaker round.
Here, Pichkunov repeatedly jabbed and threw low kicks at the ever-approaching Die Faust, until, in the final seconds, the exhausted pair simply slugged it out from in close. Once again, judges could not pick a winner, and a final tiebreaker was prescribed. This time Pichkunov stayed with the low kicks, stinging his opponent; while Die Faust attempted combinations -- but neither fighter got through to do serious damage. A tough one to call, the split decision giving Pichkunov the win by the narrowest possible margin.
The nine-bout card started with a couple of Japanese fighters, Takashi Tachikawa, who came out of the K-1 Tryout series and is known for his low kicks; and Hiroyuki Enokida, a seidokaikan stylist improbably making his K-1 debut at age 37. This was a bizarre fight. Four seconds after the bell, Tachikawa deposited his rotund opponent with a punch. Enokida beat the count, only to be laid out again immediately after resumption. This was looking like a laughably one-sided affair, when suddenly Enokida smacked through a right hook that KO'd Tachikawa. Three downs in 40 seconds!
In undercard action, Tsuyoshi Nakasako of Japan beat compatriot Takumi Sato by decision; and Tsutomu Takahagi of Japan KO'd Kyoung Suk Kim of South Korea.