by Monty DiPietro (Photos courtesy of K-1)
Stars Shine at K-1 World Max
by Monty DiPietro

TOKYO, October 12, 2005 — On a card replete with elite talent, Dutch fighters continued their dominance of things K-1 as Andy Souwer and Albert Kraus both won at the K-1 World Max ’05 in Tokyo. The one-match showcase event, held at the Yoyogi Olympic Complex, also saw impressive performances from Greek slugger Mike Zambidis and Lithuanian dynamo Remigijus Morkevicius. Meanwhile, Japanese newcomer Yoshihiro Sato upset the trimmed-down Kaoklai Kaennorsing, a former K-1 World GP Tokyo Dome Finalist making his World Max class debut here.

The fights were contested under regular K-1 Max Rules — three rounds of three minutes each, with one possible tiebreaker round; with the card’s first two bouts conducted under Hero’s Mixed Martial Arts Rules.

Shooto Boxer Andy Souwer took on veteran Japanese kickboxer Kozo Takeda in the main event. Souwer captured the 2005 World Max crown by beating three opponents at the final in Kanazawa this July, while 32 year-old Takeda packs a record of 39 wins (30 by KO) in 57 fights.

Takeda started by firing in four unanswered low kicks, and kept the attacks focused through a fast-paced first. By midway through the round, Souwer was in trouble, clearly favoring his left leg. But the second saw the Dutch fighter back Takeda to the ropes and lay in with punches. Souwer threw a dozen before Takeda attempted to counter with a left, leaving himself open for the split-second Souwer needed to connect soundly with a left hook, felling Takeda for the KO victory.

“I wanted to mix it up more,” said Souwer post-bout, “but he hurt my leg early and I couldn’t put any power behind my kicks. I had to switch to the punches and go all out, and it worked!”

Also highly anticipated was the penultimate bout pitting Kaoklai Kaennorsing of Thailand against challenger Yoshihiro Sato of Japan. This was Kaoklai’s debut in World Max — the Thai fighter shed eight kilograms to make the weight class, actually tipping the scales in with room to spare at 69kg. Kaoklai became the only fighter ever to compete in both K-1 and World Max weight classes, but the quick-slim might have taken its toll on his power and stamina.

Kaoklai had the low, middle and high kicks working, but they were not as hard as they have been in the past, and Sato displayed solid blocking throughout. Both fighters had their chances, Kaoklai going with the fists some, Sato always cool and bringing the knee up well. The fighters engaged with similar styles and this frequently brought the bout to the clinch.

In the end, neither fighter dominated and one judge saw a draw, but Sato squeaked out a majority decision.

“I know Kaoklai only got this fight a couple of weeks ago,” said Sato in his post-fight interview, “and I think having to lose all that weight so quickly meant that he was not 100% tonight. But I’m happy with the result, after my last fight [a loss by decision against Virgil Kalakoda], I felt like I let down my fans, so I wanted to make it up to them this time with a win.”

It seems like only yesterday that Albert Kraus of Holland became the first-ever World Max Champion, and the 25 year-old World Max “veteran” showed tonight that he still has what it takes, notching a convincing win against 35 year-old former Japan Super Welterweight Champion Akira Ohigashi.

Kraus used his legs plenty tonight, looking a more complete K-1 fighter with an arsenal that included his punches of course but also included hard low kicks, high kicks, knees, and even a spectacular overhead flip. It was the low kicks that did most of the damage, and Ohigashi was limping badly by the end of the first. In the second Kraus scored a down with a low kick to his opponent’s left leg, and really the Japanese fighter should have thrown in the towel at this point, because it was clear their man was suffering and almost immobile. Instead, all Kraus had to do was fire in another low kick for another down, and then do the same thing a third time to end the fight.

Said Kraus afterward: “I didn’t plan a specific strategy for this fight, I wanted to improvise. Ohigashi has great spirit, but speed-wise I think I was better and that made the difference!”

Mike Zambidis of Greece turned the body blow machine on early in his bout, pummeling Japanese boxer Satoru Suzuki. The Greek fighter then surprised many with a series of good hard low kicks and flying knees. Having added some new tricks to his attacks, Zambidis too looked a more complete K-1 fighter, and although Suzuki got one or two combinations working, he was outclassed here. Zambidis wore down the Japanese fighter’s left leg with low kicks, forcing a referee stop in the second for the KO win. Where many fighters might have pumped there fists in the air in victory, Zambidis showed superior sportsmanship as he stepped in on Sato, who was wobbling and about to fall, and pulled the fighter back to his feet with a congratulatory embrace.

Remigijus Morkevicius of Lithuania came out like a loaded gun against Japanese fighter Kazuya Yasuhiro. Morkevicius was fast and just relentless with his punching and kicking, fighting in the terrifically exciting go-to manner of a Ruslan Karaev. Yasuhiro has a great chin and is no slouch — the Seidokaikan fighter made some good efforts in the second and late in the third — but this about was as one-sided as a fight can be. Twice in the first the Lithuanian Muay Thai stylist downed Yasuhiro, and twice in the second did the same. In the third, again, Yasuhiro hit the canvas twice. Scored 30-21 on all cards for Morkevicius.

Australian Muay Thai sensation John Wayne Parr has been working on his boxing, not only training but also competing, putting together a decent 10-3 record in pugilistic pursuits since 2002. Here he used those skills to beat Japanese Muay Thai fighter Kinami. This was a fast-paced fight, Parr always faster with his straight punch and low kick combinations to take a well-deserved unanimous decision.

Jiu-jitsu fighter Ian Schaffa of Australia used hooks to score a couple of quick first round downs and hung on to beat Muay Thai fighter Arkoma Nitta of Japan by unanimous decision.

Making his K-1 debut, Indian fighter Black Mamba used a left straight punch to score a first round down against kickboxer Hayato, but the Japanese fighter rallied impressively in the second, recording a down with a right backhand blow just 15 seconds in, then finishing the Indian Muay Thai fighter off with a right hook just seconds after resumption.

In the Hero’s mixed martial arts rules bouts, Yoshihiro Akiyama of Japan worked the ground-and-pound on Michael Lerma of the United States, forcing a referee stop just midway through the first round; while Japanese fighter Hideo Tokoro needed barely a minute to submit American Gabriel Lemley with a triangle.

In undercard K-1 Max Rules action, Kazuki Hamasaki KO’d Hakuto; Yuya Yamamoto beat Ash-Ra by unanimous decision; and Shinro Garyu beat Samir Berbachi by second round TKO.

The K-1 World Max ’05 in Tokyo attracted a crowd of 11,800 to the Yoyogi Olympic Complex and was same-day broadcast across Japan on the TBS television network.

Check here: (http://www.so-net.ne.jp/feg/k-1gp/top688.htm) for the Official Results.