Press Release by Monty DiPietro for K-1 (Photo courtesy of K-1)
SEOUL, South Korea – The main event in this weekend’s Hero’s Korea 2007 has captured the attention of fightsport fans in Korea and Japan. Sports media in both countries have undertaken exhaustive analysis of the matchup, even as larger-than-life images of fighters Dennis Kang and Yoshihiro Akiyama assault Seoul motorists from countless billboards erected over the city’s expressways.
Akiyama, the 2006 Hero’s light middleweight champion, is 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 faces a formidable opponent in Kang, 30, an accomplished Canadian mixed martial arts fighter making his Hero’s debut. The bout will be contested with an 85kg/187lbs weight contract.
Akiyama and Kang appeared in a press conference on Friday at the Millennium Hilton Hotel to share their thoughts with the media in advance of this Sunday’s showdown.
“Akiyama is the Hero’s champ from last year, he is definitely worthy,” said a relaxed Kang. “But I’m very well prepared for my first time in Hero’s, so you will not be disappointed. I know we will put on a great performance, I am expecting a lot from this match.”
Akiyama replied, “This is my first fight in a long time in Korea. I have had some difficulties recently, but now I want to show a great fight. Of course any match is unpredictable, but I have high hopes.”
The Hero’s Korea 2007 features no less than 24 fighters in 12 bouts contested under Hero’s mixed martial arts rules.
Another eagerly anticipated matchup will pit Korean judo and mixed martial arts fighter Dong Sik Yoon against Fabio Silva of Brazil. There was a bit of drama when these two appeared center stage for photographs, Yoon adapting the usual stoic fighting pose while an in-your-face Silva brandished fists and stared menacingly at his opponent.
Yoon refused to be intimidated, and got a bit of a laugh when he said, “Sunday I will show a good fight. I don’t fight with my eyes; maybe he prefers to fight that way? I prefer to fight in the ring!”
Silva replied directly to his opponent, “I know what a real fight is. I will show you what a great fight is, and you will lose!”
Veteran Seidokaikan fighter Taiei Kin of Japan will step in against Croatian mixed martial arts specialist Zelg “Benkei” Galesic.
“I’ve wanted to fight here in Korea for ages,” said Galesic, “ever since I was young and studied tae kwon do. I’m very happy to be here and will give it my all to beat my tough opponent.”
Kin showed the same respect to his opponent, saying, “This is also my first fight in Korea. I expect Galesic will give a great effort and I hope to show an exciting fight as well.”
Local favorite Min Soo Kim of Korea will step in against Japanese fighter Ikuhisa Minowa.
Kim stated simply, “Happy to be here again, and I will win.”
“It’s great to be part of this Hero’s explosion in popularity,” said Minowa. “I will fight hard for my fans!”
Nearly half of the fighters on the card are Korean or of Korean extraction, and one of them who should have the crowd in his corner Sunday is celebrated ssirium wrestler Tae Hyun Lee, who will take on Yoshihisa Yamamoto of Japan.
Said Lee, “It’s been awhile since I’ve fought. Yamamoto is very good and it’s an honor to fight him. I will show my very best.”
Yamamoto responded, “The top fighters are here. I know Lee is great at Korean sumo, and I look forward to meeting him and putting on a great fight.”
Dae Won Kim of Korea will go up against Brazilian Marcelo Garcia, who is making his MMA debut.
“I will show my jiu-jitsu,” said Garcia. “It is great to be here in Korea and I hope I can leave with great memories.”
Kim showed much respect, stating, “Marcelo is a great fighter and I will do my very best.”
A 90kg/198lbs matchup will see Carlos Newton of Canada mix it up with Shungo Oyama of Japan.
“Newton is a fantastic fighter and it is an honor to meet him,” said Oyama. “I will not let you down.”
Newton commented, “I want to thank Oyama for accepting the fight. I will show my abilities and you will not be disappointed.”
Min Suk Heo of Korea will meet Japanese fighter Katsuyori Shibata.
“I will fight with all my spirit!” said Shibta.
“This is a major event,” replied Heo. “I’m very excited and I want the trophy.”
There will be a couple of pocket-sized fighters competing with a 73kg/161lbs weight contract – A-Sol Kwon of Korea and Daisuke Nakamura of Japan.
Nakamura stated, “It’s an honor to be here. I want to be a role model for young fighters.”
“It’s my first time here,” replied Kwon with a little more thunder, adding, “I will smack Nakamura in the face!”
The evening’s first bout features Bernard Ackah of Côte d’Ivoire and Poai Suganuma of the respected BJ Penn team in the United States; while in undercard action it will be Magomed Sultanakhmadov of Russia vs Eun Soo Lee of Korea and Masanori Tokoka of Japan taking on compatriot Ryo.
Hero’s Korea 2007 kicks off at 17h00 on Sunday Oct 28 at the Jangchung Gymnasium. The event will be broadcast live across Korea by CJ Media, and in Japan on the TBS Network.