Monti DiPietro/Photo by K1
TOKYO, November 18, 2005 — After a dozen K-1 Grand Prix Finals, the world’s premier fightsport’s popularity shows no sign of abating. This year interest is keener than ever, and more than 350 people crammed a press conference today in advance of the K-1 World GP ’05 Final, set for Saturday November 19 at the Tokyo Dome.
The eight-men-in-one-man-out Championship tournament is the culmination of scores of fight events held round the world over the last year. Survivors on the long road from preliminaries to qualifiers to eliminations, the final eight met the media at the Shin Takanawa Hotel today to share their thoughts on the eve of the Final.
The first matchup pits Remy Bonjasky of Holland against Hong-Man Choi
of South Korea.
Bonjasky is the two-time Defending K-1 WGP Champion, but on stage today he found himself looking up at the 218cm/7’2″ Choi. Known for his spectacular flying knees, Bonjasky has to be hoping he will be able get those up on his opponent tomorrow. “We trained hard and I feel good and I am looking forward to fighting a guy his size,” said Bonjasky. “I also want to wish good luck to all the fighters in the tournament.”
Choi, who has looked more in control of his size than other K-1 behemoths, was characteristically modest: “I debuted this year and I have the least experience of anyone here,” he said. “I’m still learning so I feel no pressure. I’m very happy to be here and it is an honor to fight Bonjasky, I will do my best!”
The second bout will see Ray Sefo of New Zealand take on Dutch fighter Semmy Schilt.
Another big guy, Schilt’s karate background affords him both speed and stamina. At 210cm/6′ 11″ he will tower 28cm/11″ above his Kiwi opponent. Schilt is a man of few words: “I’m glad to be here and I will show you a great fight!” is all he said.
A squat slugger with an iron chin, Sefo is a warrior who likes to use occasional ring theatrics to taunt his opponent. In preparation for his fight with Schilt, Sefo has been training with the very tall Jan “The Giant” Nortje. Like Schilt, Sefo was brief here: “Best of luck to the other fighters, and to my opponent — well, ring the bell and let’s get it on!”
The third bout is a showdown between a couple of K-1 veterans, as French fighter Jerome Le Banner will take on Peter Aerts of Holland.
LeBanner brings preternatural aggression to the ring, and is widely regarded as the best K-1 fighter never to win the WGP — this mostly due untimely injuries. But he is back and he is healthy. “Peter opened his door to me when I was younger,” said LeBanner. “I respect him greatly, and tomorrow we’ll make a great fight for K-1 fans around the world!”
Aerts is a technical fighter with great kicks who has won the WGP three times. Incredibly, Aerts has appeared in each and every K-1 Final since the sports inception (13 straight, a record that probably will never be broken). “I have known Jerome for a long time and I can see today he looks very strong,” laughed a self-effacing Aerts. “So I’ll ask him — please don’t do too much tomorrow!”
In the last matchup, it will be Japanese Seidokaikan fighter Musashi taking on Ruslan Karaev of Russia.
Musashi’s hard kicks earned him runner-up honors in the last two WGP Finals. Today, Japan’s favorite son looked relaxed, fit and ready. “Ruslan is good and has speed,” said Musashi, “I know I have to expect a great fight tomorrow!”
An experienced fighter who is nonetheless new to K-1, Karaev has overwhelmed opponents this year with his lightning quick, non-stop attacks. “I am honored to be here in the final eight and I promise to give 100%!,” said the Russian dynamo. “Musashi and I are good friends, but the fight and the friendship are different things.”
In the first reserve fight, it will be Trinidad and Tobago tough guy Gary Goodridge taking on Brazilian Kyokushin Karate master Glaube Feitosa. These two tangoed in the Las Vegas this year, with Feitosa’s kicks earning him the win.
Said Goodridge: “You know, people get lucky in Las Vegas, I’m not saying anyone here did, just that I wasn’t lucky last time. This time, I will guarantee a 100% performance.”
Feitosa: “I will fight a good fight against Gary, because I know the reserve bout winner has the chance to get into the tournament.”
In the second reserve, it will be Croatian Stefan Leko, making his return to K-1, against Badr Hari of Holland.
Said Leko: “I feel really good, and it’s a pleasure to be back in K-1!”
Badr: “It’s my first time in K-1, I will win, no doubt about it, and we’ll have a big celebration party after the fight!”
Also at the press conference, K-1 Event Producer Sadaharu Tanikawa introduced a couple of K-1 legends — four-time WGP Champ Ernesto Hoost, and K-1′s first ever WGP Champ, Branco Citatic.
Said Tanikawa: “The 2005 K-1 Final will reach fans from Korea to France, from New Zealand to Brazil. This year we took K-1 events to many places — Honolulu, Paris, and Seoul, South Korea — where they are having something of a K-1 boom. And we are already planning for 2006, when we hope to have 20-30 tournaments, and go to the United States, New Zealand, and Holland. I thank God for the great matchups we got this year, they are very exciting and I’m looking forward very much to the Final!”
The K-1 World Grand Prix Championship is most prestigious fightsports title of its kind. The November 19 Final be broadcast live on the Fuji Television Network and Fuji Satellite TV in Japan, on MBC/ESPN in South Korea, and on Canal+ in France. The event will be delay-broadcast on EuroSport across Europe, on ProTV in Romania, ViaSat Sports in Denmark, GroboSat in Brazil and on TV New Zealand. In total, the Final will be seen in some 90 countries — please check with local broadcasters for scheduling details.
And as always, visit the K-1 Official Website (www.k-1.co.jp) for all the latest coverage.