Press Release by Monti DiPietro (Photos courtesy of K-1)
SEOUL, October 28, 2007 — Yoshihiro Akiyama spoiled Denis Kang’s HERO’S debut with a KO victory tonight at the HERO’S Korea 2007. Held before a boisterous sellout crowd at the Jang Chung Gymnasium, the HERO’S Korea 2007 was a staggeringly ambitious production — featuring no less than 24 fighters in 12 bouts contested under HERO’S mixed martial arts rules.
The Main Event, keenly anticipated by fightsport fans in Korea, Japan and around the world, saw Yoshihiro Akiyama of Japan take on Canadian Denis Kang.
Akiyama, the HERO’S 2006 Light Middleweight Champion, was returning to action after serving a suspension for over-oiling his body at the HERO’S Dynamite event last New Year’s Eve. The slippery 32 year-old Japanese judoka faced a formidable opponent in Kang, a 30 year-old Canadian mixed martial arts fighter who packs a heck of a punch, and was making his HERO’S debut. The bout was contested with an 85kg/187lbs weight contract.
Kang threw the first strike, a low kick, then tested with jabs and straight punches. Both men kept their guards high, in no rush to close there were more jabs, straight punches and low kicks. Akiyama, fighting in shorts instead of his judogi, stayed at the perimeter, circling to his left, while Kang, head down, followed with the occasional punching attack — textbook combinations which Akiyama capably evaded or blocked. Meanwhile, in an effective if unspectacular manner, Akiyama was getting through with counters, picking his spots, putting the more surgical strikes forward. By midway through the first, Kang’s nose was bloodied.
Somewhat surprisingly, it was Kang who made the first and only takedown attempt in the fight. Equally surprising, Akiyama would have none of it, electing to fight this one on his feet. Time was running down in the first when Kang backed himself into the corner, intent perhaps on making his circling opponent approach him squarely. The tactic backfired miserably however, when Akiyama stepped in with a dandy little move, feigning a left, then another, before bringing the right in hard. Kang collapsed to the mat, Akiyama quickly planting another right for good measure before stepping back to let the referee through to call it. An impressive win for Akiyama.
“My Mother supported me through the problems I had over the last year,” said Akiyama post-bout. “She was ringside tonight and I just want to say thanks to her and all my fans. I think I won because I was relaxed, when I saw that my jab had made Denis’ nose start bleeding, it made a big difference, gave me more confidence and helped me relax and focus even more. I hope to fight again soon, but it would not be right for me to expect I will be invited to Dynamite this year, we’ll see.”
The HERO’S Korea 2007 attracted a full house of 5,289 to the Jang Chung Gymnasium. The event was broadcast live across Korea by CJ Media, and in Japan on the TBS Network.