Press Release (Photos courtesy of Greg Honda)
Ah, Hawaii! An idyllic archipelago set in azure seas, home of rich traditions, spirited mythologies and brave warrior kings — a perfect setting for the first major K-1 World Grand Prix international event of 2007. This Saturday night the talent-packed fight card will feature a classic 8-man elimination tournament advancing one combatant to this year’s WGP Final Elimination. But there is a whole lot more in store for Honolulu — Superfights featuring some of the biggest K-1 stars ever; and the Main Event, the inaugural K-1 Heavyweight Title Match.
It will be all guts and glory at the Neal Blaisdell Arena this weekend, but this afternoon, it was sunshine and a little chill time. As the sweet scent of plumeria blossoms and a throng of several hundred fans filled the open-air Ala Moana Center, the warriors-in-waiting took to the stage for a brief press conference, to answer some questions and smile for the cameras.
Badr Hari and Yasuke Fujimoto, who will go head-to-head for the honor of becoming the first fighter to wear the new K-1 Heavyweight Title Belt, looked relaxed and casual — Fujimoto sporting surfer chic — but the pair remained quiet, preferring perhaps to make their statements in the ring.
One Superfight very much anticipated by the Hawaiian fans will see local favorite Mike Malone step in against the gargantuan Hong-Man Choi of South Korea. Here, Malone made light of his 14″/36cm height disadvantage by climbing atop a beverage case to warmly present Choi with a big jar of kimchi, Korean fermented vegetables.
“I love kimchi,” smiled Choi, “and Saturday I’ll show Mike how strong it makes me!”
Malone did not appear intimidated: “In Hawaii we learn to fight in the streets everyday so we’re tough, and you’ll see — Choi is going to go down!”
Other Superfights on the card will see two-time WGP Grand Champion Remy Bonjasky of Holland taking on Brazilian kyokushin karate star Glaube Feitosa; and 22 year-old Japanese judo and kickboxing fighter Junichi Sawayashiki, who stunned the K-1 world with a victory over Jerome LeBanner at Yokohama in March, stepping in against Randy Kim of South Korea.
Meanwhile, in the eight-man elimination tournament, the first bout is already garnering keen interest from local fans — as hard-hitting Samoan Mighty Mo will take on former sumo wrestler Kyoung Suk Kim of South Korea. The no-nonsense Mo, who upset Hong-Man Choi this March, told the media he is simply “getting stronger and stronger.” Other first-tier tournament matchups will see South African kickboxer Jan “The Giant” Nortje and the superfly boxer Julian “Towering Inferno” Long of the United States; rising American kickboxer Patrick Barry and Trinidadian-Canadian slugger Gary Goodrich; while Japanese scrapper Tatsufumi Tomihira will meet fellow tough customer, karate fighter Alexandr Pitchkounov of Russia.
A lot of talent and a variety of fighting styles in the tournament tree, promising exciting and hard-fought action right through to the final. Who will be the one to get through? Don’t forget to factor in the tournament reserve bout, also one to watch, as Aussie Peter Graham takes on Jerrel Venetiaan of Holland.
There will be a special amateur fight on the card, with Mighty Mo Jr. taking on Ky Hollenbeck.
The K-1 WGP 2007 in Hawaii kicks off at 6:00 p.m. on Saturday, April 28 at the Neal Blaisdell Arena. Tickets cost from US$40-US$500 (plus applicable service charges) and are available through Times Supermarket Stores and Ticket Master, 1-877-750-4400 (8:00 a.m.-8:00 p.m.) or online at www.ticketmaster.com. The event will be broadcast across Japan on the Fuji TV Network. Event Inquiries: K-1 Hawaii Information Office: 1-808-946-1988; or firstname.lastname@example.org. For post-event coverage of this and all K-1 events visit the K-1 Official Website: www.k-1.co.jp/k-1gp.