Press Release by Monty DiPietro for K-1 (Pictures Courtesy of K-1)
LAS VEGAS, August 11, 2007 — Doug Viney came to the Bellagio Hotel and Casino carrying his own bags, inconspicuous in an entourage that included K-1 superstar Ray Sefo and World Grand Prix Tournament favorite Alexandre Pitchkounov. Viney had a minor role to play, he was slotted for the tournament reserve bout — an undercard contest that takes place while the house lights are half on and the stands are half empty, long before pyrotechnics and music trumpet the “elite” fighters’ arrival. But when the night was over, Viney was standing center stage with the tournament trophy and a spot in next month’s K-1 WGP Final Elimination in Seoul. It is an understatement to say that this was one hell of an achievement for Doug Viney.

Doug who?

Viney, 32, was born in Auckland. He had only five amateur bouts to his name when he first fought professionally in 2001. In 2004, Viney represented New Zealand, in a losing cause, in Super Heavyweight Boxing at the Athens Olympics. Five weeks ago, he began training with Ray Sefo, whom he has known since he was a teen. “We worked a lot on the basics,” said Sefo after Viney’s victory. “Tonight Doug proved what he can do, and this is just the beginning!”

Viney’s road to victory started with a 2nd round TKO of American fighter Mahmoud Fawzy the reserve fight.

“I expected to have one fight,” said Viney, “and winning that was awesome. But what happened afterward was bloody marvelous!”

First up in tournament action was Viney’s sparring partner, karate stylist Alexandre Pitchkounov of Russia. At fight time Pitchkounov was the favorite to win it all, sitting at 8/5 on the Bellagio Sports Book odds board. His opponent was Tsuyoshi Nakasako of Japan, the longshot at 25/1.

Pitchkounov controlled the distance well throughout, snapping in low, front and middle kicks and making good contact with the left straight punch. Nakasako fired in the fists in the second, but Pitchkounov was better on the counters, and caught the Japanese fighter in the face with a front kick before scoring a down with a left hook. The pair stayed inside through much of the third, Pitchkounov picking his spots and getting the better of Nakasako to take the fight by comfortable unanimous decision and advance to the semifinals.

Ranked second on the odds board, at 3/1, was former American Armed Forces Heavyweight Boxing Champion “Savage” Rick Cheek. To get anywhere in this tournament Cheek first had to get past the formidable Imani “Juggernaut” Lee, also a former heavyweight boxer, and the biggest fighter in the tournament at 141kg/310lbs.

A good first round in this bout, both men pushing with low kicks and jabs, Cheek showing superior evasions and combinations, Lee surprisingly technical and quick for his size. The second saw Cheek dancing and circling, flying in a knee; and Lee powering in a left hook or two to keep it close. A Cheek spinning back punch smacked Lee across the lip, and Cheek also put a left straight through — but the durable Lee was not fazed, and kept tossing in the low kicks. Lee came out fast in the third, chasing his opponent with the fists. Midway through, after taking an innocent-looking right punch to the midsection, Lee bent forward in pain, motionless in the center of the ring. Cheek leapt in with a knee that mercifully missed before the referee stepped in to call the fight for Cheek. Lee protested, but Cheek had the win and trip to the semis.

The third quarterfinal featured a couple of muay thai fighter — American Patrick Barry, fresh from a stint in Amsterdam training with the legendary Ernesto Hoost; and Rickard Nordstrand of Sweden.

The smallest fighter in the tournament at 90kg/199lbs, Nordstrand nevertheless brought a lot of spirit to this thrilling bout. An early Barry left high kick sent the Swede to the canvas — some saw a slip, but the referee issued a count. Behind on points, Nordstrand fired in a bunch of low kicks and stung Barry’s left leg. But the American’s superior power and low kicks took their toll on Nordstrand. Barry showed excellent technique, focus, blocking and balance, evading Nordstrand’s knees on several occasions. Barry won it in the second when a low kick put Nordstrand down past the count.

The last of the quarterfinals saw two more muay thai fighters mix it up. Belorussian Zabit Samedov, who at 23 was youngest in the tournament, met Esh’Chadar Brown Ton of the United States.

Fast-paced action here, Samedov the more aggressive and confident fighter, getting the better stuff through. Brown Ton had his chances, but inexperience at this level of competition handicapped the Texan. Brown Ton’s face was bloodied in the first, and he went down from a barrage of body blows at the clapper. Bravely, the American answered the bell to start the second, even as ringside officials were checking the cut on his face. Samedov chased his opponent, spinning in a rear heel hick to the midsection to put Brown Ton down for good. A full-throttle effort from the Belorussian, and a trip to the semis.

Viney got into the tournament when Rick Cheek could not continue due to a leg injury sustained in his bout with Lee. Under K-1 tournament rules, Viney was parachuted into the tournament to face Alexandre Pitchkounov.

“I only had about 10 minutes notice,” said Viney, “and I was didn’t really want to fight with Alex because he trains in the same camp as me. My brain was 50/50.”

But the shot at glory is what every reserve fighter dreams of, so Viney stepped into the ring. The Kiwi was measured but able in his attacks early on, firing in occasional low and high kicks, denying Pitchkounov his distance and coming in quickly with sharp counters. By the bell Pitchkounov’s nose was bloodied and he had not landed a single solid blow — a great start for Viney.

The pace slowed in the second, but for a couple of punching exchanges midway through, with Viney putting through the better stuff. Pitchkounov landed a promising knee, but Viney stayed mobile and out of harm’s way, ducking and blocking and repeatedly stepping in with straight punches and low kicks. A unanimous decision for Viney, and a trip to the final.

The second semi was a power-on-power showdown between Patrick Barry and Zabit Samedov. A fast start with the boys closing hard — head-to-head, pumping the fists. Samedov scored with a hard straight punch before Barry got a high kick up, which Samedov answered with some Ray Sefo-style taunting. In the second both had chances, Barry working low kicks and a good overhand right, Samedov smart with his footwork and movement, scoring from inside with body blows and an uppercut. The third saw crowd favorite Barry looking confident, blocking or evading Samedov’s high kicks, countering well with low kicks. A split decision which the crowd did not at all like — the win and trip to the finals going to Samedov.

And so we had the Viney the reserve fighter and Samedov the youngster in the final.

Viney looking good with his meat-and-potatoes punching attacks, while Samedov, confident to the point of cockiness, went with style and creativity. Viney opened with two hard low kicks, then a right hook that made partial contact. An aggressive Samedov launched a high kick but this was blocked. Viney showed good focus and timing to rattle Samedov with a right straight punch here. In the second Samedov blocked a Viney high kick and countered with a solid low kick and right hook, as the Belorussian’s footwork evolved to dancing and taunting. A hard low kick came late in the round, which Samedov won on all cards.

But Samedov, who was battling the flu, appeared to be tiring. In the third Viney got the fists going, and although Samedov connected with a handsome left hook, Viney was countering well, threading in a right straight punch and simply outworking his opponent. It was close. Samedov later said he was sure he’d won; and the crowd wanted another round. But the judges had seen enough to give it to Viney by the slimmest of unanimous decisions.

“To fight at this level, with these guys, is a dream,” said Viney afterward. “I feel now that if I continue to train properly, focusing on myself, I can take on the world!”

In the card’s Superfights:

Ray “Sugarfoot” Sefo of New Zealand has made Las Vegas his home for the last year. Tonight, the 36 year-old slugger played host to Bjorn Bregy of Switzerland. A karate stylist, the 6’8″/203cm Bregy won the K-1 Europe GP in Amsterdam last year.

A tentative first, with both men testing — Sefo with low kicks, Bregy using his long reach to tag with the jab, putting up a hard high kick which Sefo blocked. Frequently, Sefo closed with one-two footwork and left jabs, looking to work the hook or uppercut from inside, but was stymied by Bregy’s evasions. A couple of Sefo punch and high kick combinations started the second, and the Kiwi made partial contact with a spinning back kick. Bregy was able to control distance though, and but for a brief series of body blows Sefo still could not close to effect. Bregy glanced a right high kick off Sefo’s chin in the third, and got a decent knee up from the clinch. A flurry of Sefo punches late in the fight were not enough to even things up, and Bregy notched the upset win by split decision.

“It was a good decision,” said Bregy, “He was really strong, which surprised me, but I know I did a good job.”

Said Sefo: “I don’t want to cry over spilled milk, but I hoped he’d stand and trade. Instead he was always running away, he looked like a 100 meter sprinter!”

In the penultimate Superfight, German kickboxer Stefan Leko — whose straight punch KO of Peter Aerts at the Bellagio made the ESPN year-end sports highlight reel in 2001 — took on American powerhouse Mighty Mo, a big fellow with one heck of a right hook.

Leko started with a spinning back kick and spent most of the first throwing low kicks. Mo led with the left jab, pushing forward, finally throwing the right hook late in the round, missing but following with a left that made partial contact. Leko brought the spinning back kick again in the second, otherwise it was mostly low kicks from the German. With his guard high, Leko did not present much of a target for Mo’s right, and met the American with low kicks and the clinch when he attempted to close. Mo threw low kicks throughout, but these did not appear to bother Leko at all. Mo did land some fists in the third, but Leko was better with a spinning back kick and a few good straight punches of his own. Mo pushed repeatedly with the left but his power potential was never realized, and the judges gave the fit and quick Leko a unanimous decision.

The third Superfight featured Petr Vondracek of the Czech Republic and Ariel Mastov of Israel. A spunky Mastov downed Vondracek early with a right, and after resumption planted a dandy spinning kick to keep the pressure on. Vondracek got the upper hand in the second, landing a high kick and a couple of straight punches then chasing his opponent with a hook for the equalizer. Vondracek wanted to overwhelm Mastov here but the Israeli showed he could take a lot of punishment, and was able to mount creative attacks on the counter. In the third Vondracek had the textbook one-two punch and low kick combinations working, but Mastov again showed flexibility, doing well with body blows and stunning his opponent with a series of overhand rights. Vondracek looked tired and Mastov exploited a defensive lapse, spinning in a heel kick to the midsection to drop the Czech fighter, who could not beat the count. The crowd loved this one.

All fights were conducted under K-1 Rules (3Min. x 3R with a possible tiebreaker).

The K-1 World Grand Prix ’07 in Las Vegas attracted a sellout crowd to the Bellagio Grand Ballroom. It was broadcast in Japan on the Fuji TV network, with rebroadcasts set for a total of 135 countries.