By John Hearn and photos from Sportnavi and the K-1 Official Site
Surprisingly a lot of free seats in the Osaka dome from the first fight but which filled up quickly as the evening progressed. The reserve fight came before the actual opening ceremony at around 3:50pm. Fights are in order...
Alexandre Pitchkounov vs. Rani Berbachi
This match was totally one-sided with Rani plodding forward looking for the big hook to end it all night, but taking a lot of combinations on the way in. Rani managed to get some good body shots in on the inside that landed with a thud but other than that his arsenal of punches lacked any real speed and sting, plus he looked about 20kg overweight.
Alex, however, was quite impressive. He had a good array of techniques and threw 3,4,5 punch/kick combinations that slapped the fat of a continually pressing forward Rani. Alexandre Pitchkounov easily took the unanimous decision.
After this match Ernest Hoost was introduced to the ring to not exactly a sell out crowd at the moment which I thought was sad, especially as he explained to the crowd that because of a reoccurring leg injury he wasn’t able to fight in the Grand Prix and in his own words, "I’m 40 now, I’m retiring from the Grand Prix tournaments. I still want to fight Superfights in the future and continue for a few more years but I think that I won’t be able to continue the Grand Prix’s but...we’ll see" a SEMI-RETIREMENT speech from Hoost.
Next a display of karate techniques and breaking ensued, all performed by Junior High School-age kids. On the backdrop, the emblem of the Seido Kaikan School could be seen in illumination. It’s a famous school within Osaka from which Musashi and Kakuda have emerged.
At the foot of 16 Romanesque columns digitally projected on the backdrop stood the fighters in the opening ceremony with pyrotechnics which seems almost a bit too dangerously close. The air rang with gunpowder and bass from the overhead speakers.
They say TV makes you look bigger. It was either seeing him in the flesh or Kaoklai looked like he was close to the middleweight limit. He didn’t look 80 kilos, the statistics provided on the program.
Nobuaki Kakuda vs. George "The Iron Lion"
George comes out with a cocky swagger singing to a song that sounds like it has the word "George" in it a lot!! Maybe I was still deafened from the fireworks. Funniest thing was Kakuda`s corner team were wearing T-Shirts with "ANTI-AGEING" written on them! What’s this then? Is Kakuda sponsored by OIL OF ULAY now??
Really cautious start by both men, just a few low kicks going in. George is given a down which he reckons is a slip which enrages him and charges Kakuda. From this point it all gets a bit scrappy. Holding with the left and putting rabbit hooks in with the right, lots of off balance swinging which doesn’t put kakuda in any real trouble.
Kakuda for some strange reason almost can’t be bothered to block low kicks and his left thigh starts turning a nice shade of crimson. Kakuda gets a few nice gets a few nice hooks in but when in trouble or rushed keeps turning his back which is pretty frustrating to see.
Kakudas blowing a bit, his 44 years start to catch up with him around this point, as does George’s intention of punching himself out in the first round. Both guys are pretty spent. Kakuda takes a knee in the face but due to the energy expenditure of the previous rounds, the 3rd is pretty slow and George gets a point deduction for clinching. (where’s kakuda`s for turning his back?)
George gets unanimous decision
Ray Sefo vs. Kaoklai Kaennorsing
I like Sefo's entry tunes. Jumping Hip Hop. Really gets the mood going. During his slow walk down the runway to the ring Kaoklai just stretches against the ropes.
The usual Kaoklai using the whole ring to strike and evade while he’s being chased around. A few good exchanges. Kaoklai's not scared to stand and fight if he has to but often goes for the straight clinch when Sefo's coming at him. Kaoklai has a good chin for a smaller guy and takes a decent hook from Sefo. The Ref calls time although I can't see why. They check Kaoklai's head but there’s no cut.
Sefo starts his usual showboating, hands down, chin out., waving Kaoklai in. Both of them are just smiling at each other most of the time. Kaoklai manages to turn Sefo a few times in a Thai clinch but in close he usually ends up in the floor from weight/strength difference.
Good exchanges. Sefo gets taken down with a low kick sweep which kind of pisses him off a bit. Another classic was Sefo missing a high left round kick and Kaoklai kicking him straight in the arse with a right counter. The crowd laughed and kaoklai had a huge smile on his face. Sefo saw the funny side too. This fight was becoming like a serious/joking sparring match. Kaoklai was given an 8 count but the knockdown was dubious and then he gets a clinch warning.
R3 is the Ray Sefo show. Most of the round is showboating and Kaoklai doing his ducking under kicks thing, one of which looks almost like a capoeira style ESQUIVA, it's so low and he spins the opposite way out of it.
Entertaining but at times looked like a friendly sparring match.
Sefo gets unanimous decision 30-26
Ruslan Karaev vs. Rickard Nordstrand
Total onslaught from the start. Ruslan is a man to watch out for. First punch, (his kick feint, straight right) almost has Nord down in the first seconds. Constant pressure. Nord takes spinning back kick on the arms but it pushes his guard right into his chest. Lucky that wasn’t on target. Nord's on the back foot, Rus fights like he wants to get him out of there quickly. Nord has his moment with a few looping right hands but Rus doesn’t seem too bothered by any of them.
Rus takes a low blow but almost doesn’t want to stop but ref. calls time.
First kick from Nord after the low blow stoppage is another one straight in the family jewels. Nord gets yellow carded.
Nord under pressure constantly from the start. Ruslan's workrate is one of his major strengths. It’s always a continuous barrage of whatever he’s got coming at you.
Rus walks away for a 3rd time from a low blow but I was about 10 feet away from the ring and it looked like a good round kick at liver height to me, not low.
More of the same. Spinning back fist, round kick combos. Nord however have some success with some overhand rights. More clinch warnings for Nord as the Ruslan express train continues into FLATTEN-NORDSVILLE.
On the 10 second knock Rus gets a good left knee in and some good unanswered shots which make Nord look a little dazed. Had that been mid round, it would’ve posed a lot more problems.
Anyone for mashed Swede?
Unanimously Ruslan’s match but one judge had it at 30-29. I didn’t think it was that close.
Glaube Feitosa vs. Semmy Schilt
I had to feel sorry for Feitosa in this one. He put on a real gutsy display although most of the match was totally one sided.
From the start Schilt pressured Feitosa, putting in slapping low kicks that have like 1.5 metres of leverage in them, pounding with straight punches. The size difference was already imminent but Feitosa was getting through with good close hooks. Schilt's hands are way too low in close. Schilt often had Feitosa on the ropes or in the corner and just threw leather. Even though Feitosa's guard was solid a lot of the battering got through. Knees glanced off of gloves and grazed Feitosa’s forehead often but none connected on the button.
Round 2 and 3
It’s all the same, Schilt’s full on attack. Feitosa covering well, but taking a beating and throwing the odd overhand hook that lands, but doesn’t have the power to do any real damage. Feitosa fought valiantly and showed some good heart to be on his feet the end. I held my breath when he got his patented "Brazilian kick" in twice, slapping the side of Schilt’s face but the big man took it.
Unanimous goes to Schilt.
Remy Bonjasky vs. Alexey Ignashov
Interesting music from Ignashov. Jungle, Drum and Bass style with Russian violin over the top!! Remy comes out to the Good, the Bad and the Ugly!!
Firstly, Remy should change his name to BORINGasky. I was anticipating this fight to be a good match of skill and knees in a classic Muay Thai style. How wrong I was.
Usual start. Slow. Feeling low kicks. Bonjasky very tentative, Ignashov not afraid to throw some techniques. Ig puts some slapping low kicks and hooks but mostly blocked by Bonjasky whose defense is very tight. So tight in fact he is reluctant to throw a technique.
Bonjasky's workrate is too low even though he’s the one coming forward! Why’s he edging forward but not actually doing anything?!
Don’t know if it’s Ig's style of breathing, like a bull facing a matador, or if he’s actually unfit. Anyway, it’s like Ig has to force Bonjasky to fight at times. Most of the exchanges are average.
Ignashov seems to be blowing a lot but continues throwing techniques. Seriously, I can barely see a bead of sweat on Bonjasky. I know he’s in great shape, but not such great shape he doesn’t sweat in a fight. I feel he’s taking it easy because he’s already through. Ig puts in some good body shots.
If you’re a champion you need to put in a better performance than that. Ignashov deserved the decision in my eyes. Bonjasky was too lax.
Here we go, Bonjasky's woken up!! He’s actually bouncing on his toes this round putting in some better exchanges. Ignashov’s far more tired so Bonjasky takes advantage and ups his workrate as Ignashov loses the sting in his shots. Ig takes a leaf out of Kaoklai’s book and ducks under a flying kick. Bonjasky did actually win the extra round but it shouldn’t have even gone there. Totally disappointing.
The adults of Seido Kaikan come out and do various (dubiously thin baseball bat) and ice breaking techniques.
Jerome Le Banner vs. Gary Goodridge
So Goodridge was already in the ring and Le Banner was half way there when half a dozen guys jump in the ring with towels and start scrubbing the ring apron!! yeah, Good idea!! if you’re going to leave baseball bat splinters and crap everywhere, clean it up after. They just managed to do a rush cleaning job before Le Banner got in the ring!!
Le Banner comes out steaming and as per usual, Goodridge is good against the fighters that don’t have the power to knock him out so he can drop his own guard as to throw his own bombs...but not here. Le banner’s boxing technique looks super sharp and he’s throwing big style. Excellent jab, short cross combinations. Mixing it up inside. Goodridge is mostly covering but Le Banner’s punches get through.
A low kick downs Goodridge and he looks in trouble. He falls after throwing a right hook and it seems his left leg can’t support his weight. Goodridge gets up hopping and looking in pain. Le Banner punishes this and puts another low kick in the same spot. It’s over at 2:13 of the 1st round. FIRST STOPPAGE OF THE EVENT AT LAST!!
Le Banner looks sharp. I’m going to say he’ll be in the final. Hopefully this time win it.
Right, I got to go. I’ll post aerts vs. mo, musashi vs. botha, sapp vs. choi, later with some ring/backstage photos shortly. I listened to Botha, Aerts. Choi, Sapp, and Musashi be interviewed backstage and got Le Banner to sign my program!! Cool. stood next to Choi. Jesus man, he’s a monster!!
Peter Aerts vs. Mighty MO
Aerts starts well putting in low kick and punch combinations where as Mo always seems to be looking for the right hand over the top one punch k.o (a la botha match.) Mo wasn’t throwing anything resembling a jab or combination. Aerts stays alert and keeps mo at good distance wary of the right hand. After a below the belt low kick from Mo the ref calls time which then extends into another injury check. One of the other Aerts low kicks was checked by Mo and they clashed shin to shin.
The stoppage time was a bit of a joke. This isn’t the first time Aerts has suffered from shin injuries and previously he’s had to pull out because of them. Some 4 minutes later the doctor’s in the ring wrapping up the injury!! From here it looks like he won’t be throwing anymore right kicks but Aerts actually starts throwing more when the fight starts again.
At the end of the round Mo doesn’t look comfortable as if something’s wrong.
Mo still looking for the big right finish. One punch, no real set up combinations. At 0.42 of the second Mo seems to be downed by a left mid section kick but as I was so close I could see his expression and it didn’t bother him. As he’s on the floor he’s holding his knee and fails to beat the count.
After the match he limps from the ring.
Totally disagree with a 4-5 minute stoppage to bandage Aerts. If a fighter can’t continue from injury, he can’t continue. Should’ve been a K.O. for Mo. You don’t see fighters having cuts stitched in the ring, so why legs wrapped up, taking some 5 minutes??
Aerts wins by T.K.O
Musashi Vs Francois Botha
Pretty slow. Most of the round consisted of Musashi dancing and Botha chasing. Musashi keeps distance (almost too much distance) while Botha jabs at mid air to close distance and gets a few decent body shots in. No real fanastic exchanges for the whole round.
Musashi starts the 2nd much better with a high left round kick connecting. A front kick puts Botha in the corner followed by another couple of good high stinging round kicks. Botha throws jabs more to close the distance than actually on target and gets a decent right hook in.
More of the same. Botha chasing, closing distance. Musashi trying to evade and pick him off.
Musashi by unanimous decision.
(Welcome back to the K1 judge that scored it 30-27 to Musashi. Little unfair on Botha's effort)
Bob Sapp vs. Hong Mam Choi
We live in a crazy country where the 2 biggest monsters go top of the bill last fight, superseding the reigning 2 time GP champ, a 3 time champ, various World and European karate/kickboxing champs...etc.
Bob Sapp was confident in his pre fight interviews saying that he didn’t think Choi can take a beast punch or a beast kick.
Sam Greco (in Sapp’s corner) seemed to be more up for the fight from the beginning than Sapp did Bouncing of the ropes and bobbing up and down on the spot, followed by slapping Bob around the face just before the opening bell.
As expected, out comes Sapp like a wounded bull, head down throwing hooks and generally trying to muscle Choi who is doing exactly the same thing back. Choi's punches generally seem better but he has no idea of distance. He has 10ft long arms but doesn’t back up and measure, nor does he throw the straight right very often after a stiff left jab which isn’t too bad a technique at times. The whole thing’s looking a mess and by 1.30 of the 1st Sapp has that look of disbelief he often poses while sucking air like a landed fish. Sapp comes back with a few low kicks that looked decent by Sapp standard to have the Korean off his feet for the first time.
Round 2 and 3
More face slapping from Greco prior to the bell. Looks like he wants to get in there himself!! Things get pretty slow from here on in. More of the muscling continues. Warnings come for lack of action from both sides. Sapp dead on his feet, sucking air for 20 seconds before charging in with a couple of hooks. This process is then repeated over and over. Highlights were Choi getting in 4 or 5 unanswered punches although again from far too close compared to what distance he could hit from. Choi sending the knee through the middle stunning Sapp who then turns his back after being hit with 2 or 3 left hook/uppercuts after the knee. Sapp’s given a standing 8, quite bloodied around the nose and mouth. Choi getting cocky and smiling at Sapp doing his little shuffle, now and then shaking that massive head, taunting Sapp.
Choi gets split decision 29-28, 30-28, and 29-29 even.
After the fight, all the fighters entered the ring. Musashi came over to where I was sitting as I think his friends/family was sitting all around me.
Managed to get backstage after the IN-RING celebrations and listen to a few of the fighters get interviewed as well as getting Le Banner to sign my program.
What I caught of AERTS, as I arrived just as he was finishing was he said he thought it would be difficult to win because the judges are against him.
BOTHA was very humble. I’m not going to complain, Musashi's a great fighter. (The Japanese press then opted to ask Botha about Musashi, including what he thought about musashi's new boxing trainer!!)
Botha "It was a good match, but I don’t think the scorecards reflect what actually happened in the fight"
when asked about his very quick loss to Mighty Mo, Botha said "That night I tried to be a kickboxer, I threw low kicks and got caught. I’m not a kickboxer; I should not have changed my style."
This was Korean Japanese translation but from CHOI, he reckoned he had been working on a secret game plan to beat Sapp but he couldn’t quite make it work in the ring. When asked "what was the plan?" he said "it’s secret." (Hold on, isn’t the fight over already??)
He said that he had to learn more and work on his punching.
Musashi’s trainer said it was an okay performance but he wasn’t giving his man anymore than a C+ for the night. The game plan was to stay away from Botha's right hand and Musashi did that but he still has a way to go but is confident he will take the title this time.
Sapp in his own words "I wasn’t beaten, I beat myself. The plan was low kicks but I just didn’t put enough of them in. We knew what we had to do but I didn’t do enough. That just the way it goes sometimes"
We asked Sapp if he’s going to do MMA this year and he said maybe November.
WORST QUOTE of the evening came from a Japanese reporter.
"When you were standing in the ring looking at CHOI thinking about what to do, you looked so cute!"
SAPP "I have no idea what that’s supposed to mean"
the interpreter was embarrassed to even start the sentence, saying "err, em..How do I say this" before she translated it.
That’s it for Osaka.
Until next time.....