by Monte DiPietro
TOKYO, July 19, 2005 — The highly anticipated K-1 World Max Final is upon us and K-1 fans are abuzz. In a standing-room only press conference today at the Park Hyatt hotel in central Tokyo, the eight fighters who will vie for the Championship tomorrow faced the media.
With its 70 kg (154lbs) weight class, World Max offers a light-on-the-feet, fast-paced variety of the K-1 experience which has become a hit round the world. The World Max class is truly international — the first Max Champion, Albert Kraus (2002), hails from Holland; the 2003 Max Final victor was Japan’s Masato; and the defending Champion, Buakaw Por Pramuk, is from Thailand.
These three will be joined tomorrow by hopefuls Jadamba Narantungalag (Mongolia), John Wayne Parr (Australia), Andy Souwer (Holland), Takayuki Kohiruimaki (Japan) and Mike Zambidis (Greece) for what promises to be a thrilling tournament — the winner taking the 2005 Championship honors and pocketing a cool 10 million yen (90,000 US dollars or 75,000 Euros), with further bonuses paid out for each fight won by KO.
All bouts will be contested under K-1 rules (3 Min x 3R w/1 Tiebreaker R).
The first tournament matchup will see the quick and technical Japanese fighter Masato pit his kicks against the brutal fists of Greek fighter Mike Zambidis
Said Masato: “Zambidis is tough but I know how to prepare for a three-match tournament, avoiding damage and so on. I feel much better than I did last year, in training I did everything I had to do and I will show everyone how well I prepared when I step into in the ring.”
Zambidis: “I think there will be a lot of my supporters there tomorrow, and I’m looking forward to the tournament. Masato is a super fighter, I respect him of course. But I am improved over the last time I met him two years ago and I will do better. I take one fight at a time and all my energy will go into beating Masato.”
In the second matchup, it will be Takayuki Kohiruimaki of Japan and Dutch Shootboxer Andy Souwer.
Kohiruimaki: “Regarding Souwer, I don’t have any special impression or plan, I just plan to do my best and I hope to fight through three matches on the day.”
Souwer: “It will be a great tournament with the best eight in the world. I know that Kohiruimaki is a Japanese fighter and he has a KO in his legs, so it may be tough — but I’ll do my best to win!”
Albert Kraus of Holland will tangle with John Wayne Parr Australia in the third bout.
Said Kraus, in Japanese: “I want to be number one in the world again, and I will do everything I can to achieve this goal.”
Parr: “I plan to go all the way, and I can even tell you how — I’ll get past Kraus in the first fight with my Muay Thai skills, with my legs; then win over Buakaw in the second fight, and beat Masato in the final!”
The last of the quarterfinals sees Defending Champion Buakaw Por Pramuk of Thailand taking on Mongolian fighter Jadamba Narantungalag.
Said Buakaw: “I know everyone will do their best in the tournament, but I look forward to protecting my belt, and wearing a new one with the year 2005 written on it!”
Narantungalag: “I am prepared for the tournament and I am ready to be the Champion.”
In Superfights on the card:
Yoshihiro Sato of Japan will take on South African fighter Virgil Kalakoda.
Said Sato: “I will make people wish I was in the tournament.”
Quipped a confident Kalakoda: “It will be an exciting fight, but I have too much power and speed for Sato — he is going to get knocked out!”
Veteran Ramon Dekker of Holland and American Duane Ludwig will meet in a special 75kg Superfight.
Dekker: “Last time I was in a K-1 event I fought out of my style, now I’m here in Japan and ready to do some kickboxing. I’m looking forward to it and I’ll show what I can do!”
Ludwig: “I have nothing but respect for Ramon, but it’s business and may the best man win!”
In the tournament reserve fights, Seidokaikan fighter Kazuya Yasuhiro of Japan will meet Darius Skliaudys of Lithuania; and Japanese fighters Akeomi Nitta and Koutetsu Boku will do battle.
The K-1 World Max 05 Final will be held at the Yokohama Arena, which is already completely sold out. Japanese fans can watch the event on TBS from 9:00 pm, elsewhere check with local broadcasters for scheduling information.
A complete report will be available on the K-1 Official Website (www.k-1.co.jp) soon after the final bell.