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The Waning Relevancy of Heavyweights in a Changing Kickboxing Landscape

  • Published in News

Throughout the history of modern professional kickboxing there has been one lynchpin holding it all together, that has been heavyweights. There has always been an odd fascination with two goliaths, larger-than-life titans, stepping into the ring and throwing giant shots at each other. Smaller fighters have risen in popularity, but under the narrative of a David vs. Goliath, not usually within its own division. That isn’t to say that there aren’t staunch fans of two fighters of the same weight competing, because there are, but heavyweight fights have always been the featured attraction and appealed to the widest audiences. But these days it seems like heavyweight kickboxing is less and less relevant, with lighter weight classes taking center stage. You still can't deny that heavyweights are an attraction, though.

We are living in the wake of K-1’s glory days in heavyweight kickboxing. Peter Aerts, Semmy Schilt, Remy Bonjasky, Ray Sefo, Ernesto Hoost and Jerome Le Banner are all retired. This generation of heavyweights has been rather thin thanks to a downturn in business and the advent of a viable light heavyweight weight class that has attracted some of the lighter heavyweights that would usually just tough it out with the bigger guys. The lack of huge paydays and giant backing like FEG had with Fujii TV in Japan has meant younger stars turning their attention to boxing or MMA where there are more assurances. 

There was temporarily a glimmer of hope on the horizon when GLORY kicked into high gear, as we saw in GLORY 4’s Heavyweight Grand Slam tournament. Of course, four of those fighters went on to drop in weight (Jurkovic, Bouzidi, Verlinden, Saki), three have since retired (Schilt, Aerts, Bonjasky), some faded from view (Guidon, Raoumaru) while others just haven’t fought in a very long time in the spotlight (Ghita, Kharitonov). In fact, if you were to look at the 16 fighters involved in that tournament only four of them are still active in GLORY’s heavyweight division (Verhoeven, Zimmerman, Braddock and Jamal Ben Saddik).

From a narrow view those are without a doubt four of GLORY’s top heavyweights at the moment. When browsing through GLORY’s rankings the only top contender that has been added in the years following GLORY 4 has been Benjamin Adegbuyi. A cursory look through their rankings is actually kind of depressing. Ben Edwards has decided to focus on boxing, older gatekeepers like Freddy Kemayo and Mladen Brestovac aren’t about the set the world on fire, nor will the new additions of the monotone Xavier Vigney or the spirited but still not quite there Chi Lewis Parry.

Looking at our own top ten (which will be revised as soon as Jay is done with his Hollywood responsibilities), for fighters outside of GLORY there is Hesdy Gerges, Andrei Gerasmichuk, Zabit Samedov and Ismael Londt. Gerges just lost to Jahfarr Wilnis, who oddly enough hasn’t been seen in a GLORY ring in quite some time. Most of these fighters are competing wherever they can draw a paycheck from and fighting infrequently, hardly moving up the ranks of the division.

Other bigger name heavyweights out in the wild are the ever-unpredictable Badr Hari, the young, still not in shape Ismael Lazaar and SuperKombat’s stable of Heavyweights including the part time Catalin Morosanu and the recently-returned Raul Catinas. The picture that I’m painting here is that of a heavyweight landscape that does little to inspire. That isn’t to say that there aren’t good heavyweights out there, but there has been a disconnect between the generations where there was very little overlap between them. The last K-1 World Grand Prix Champion was Alistair Overeem, who quickly hopped back to MMA after the fall of FEG’s K-1 and the last big heavyweight tournament champion was Semmy Schilt, who never fought against after GLORY 4. 

Rico Verhoeven has had impressive performances and is without a doubt the dominant world champion for the division right now, but the GLORY 11 tournament being a four-man and lacking in older, more established stars only hurt everyone involved. There wasn’t much of a narrative of Verhoeven overcoming greats to claim his top spot, just questionable downs against Gokhan Saki and a disputed win over Daniel Ghita. Even in winning the championship at GLORY 17 it was in a rematch with Ghita where Ghita fans are still crying foul after all of this time that Rico didn’t “do enough.” To no fault of Verhoeven’s there are not many top contenders left for him. The Zimmerman fight had that big fight feel to it, but Zimmerman’s freak injury took some of the shine off of it, and the rise of Benjamin Adegbuyi happened largely on non televised undercards, giving fans little reason to believe in or care about him. 

Heavyweight kickboxing right now is at a crossroads, living in a post-FEG era that can only be defined as fragmented and getting worse. So I want to ask you a question; who do you think will be the next big heavyweight kickboxing star? Is Rico Verhoeven the star that is slowly growing, or will the relative lack of competition hurt him in the long run? Or, has the rise of the smaller, more technical weight classes made the heavyweight spectacle a relic of the past now?

Right now it feels like while there are solid fighters in the heavyweight division, some of the talent that would usually prop it up has been dispersed to light heavyweight and even middleweight. That being said, fans still want to see heavyweights rumble.

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Post Glory 18 Matchmaking

  • Published in Glory

After 19 weeks without our beloved Glory the promotion returned last night with their 18th event, which took place in Oklahoma, USA.  Glory delivered once again making the wait worthwhile with a fantastic card top to bottom. Not only did Glory make up for lost time in terms of entertainment, but the event also solved several questions regarding title fights we can expect to see in 2015.

Saulo Cavalari

This one is quite obvious but for anyone who missed it, Cavalari defeated both Danyo Illunga and Zack Mwekessa last night to win the Glory Lightheavyweight Contender Tournament. Whilst Cavalari isn’t the most technically gifted striker at Lightheavyweight, he makes up for it with his aggressive approach and excellent output. He’ll be facing the current champion Gohkan Saki at some point in 2015 in what should be an absolute treat. 

Zack Mwekessa

Mwekessa’s boxing is not only some of the best at Lightheavyweight, but pound for pound he’s one of the best boxers in Glory at the moment. Cavalari exposed Mwekessa’s lack of kicking offence and defense, showing that he still needs to work on his overall game if he ever wants a crack at the belt. I think a bout with Andrei Stoica would be a good match for Mwekessa next.

Robin van Roosmalen

Van Roosmalen snatched the lightweight title from Kiria after defeating the Georgian for the third time. After 5 rounds of action it was van Roosmalen’s output that earned him the nod over the former champion, in a technically superb back and forth contest. Van Roosmalen first title defense will likely come against the last man to defeat him in Andy Ristie.

Davit Kiria

Unfortunately for Kiria it wasn’t third time lucky against Van Roosmalen. Despite scoring the only knockdown of the fight and remaining competitive throughout, Kiria lost the Majoirty Decision and his Lightweight title to the Dutchman last night. Unfortunately for Kiria this puts him in an awkward position so long as Van Roosmalen’s champion, as I doubt many will be calling for a fourth encounter between the two. Given that Ky Hollenbeck is also coming off of a loss a bout between him and Kiria makes a lot of sense, with the winner instantly being propelled back into title contention. 

Jason Wilnis

In what was the nights biggest upset, young Dutchman Jason Wilnis shocked the kickboxing world by defeating the #2 ranked Wayne Barrett. Wilnis refused to give Barrett the space he required and as a result he was able to capitalize with two knockdowns that swung the bout in his favor. With the win Wilnis evens his Glory record to 2-2 and will find himself knocking on the door of title contention. Due to the one-sided nature of his first loss to the current champ Artem Levin he’ll likely need at least one more convincing victory before he’s granted a rematch. A bout with Alex Perreira would not only give us a strong indication of where Wilnis stands within the Middleweight division, but it’d also be guaranteed fireworks.

Wayne Barrett

Barrett was heavily favored prior to the bout and looked to be on the cusp of a title shot. Wilnis’ aggressive approach appeared to be the answer to Barrett’s usual elusiveness as Barrett was hurt badly with punches in the opening two rounds. Even with a loss last night Barrett is one of the few Middleweights who’s yet to fight the champion, a win over a respectable opponent like Filip Verlinden would move him right back into title conversation.   

Danyo Illunga

In what was a disappointing performance by the perennial top 5 Lightheavyweight, Illunga was outworked and outpointed by eventual tournament winner Saulo Cavalari. The loss moves Illunga down in the pecking order, however with a few wins under his belt he could easily be knocking on the door of a title shot. A bout with fellow tournament semi-finalist Brian Collette would make a lot of sense.

Benjamin Adegbuyi

Another one that is fairly obvious. Adegbuyi defeated veteran Hesdy Gerges over the course of three rounds in a bout that was declared by Glory as a number one contenders bout. With the win Adegbuyi stays undefeated under the Glory banner and will move on to face the winner of the Rico Verhoeven vs. Errol Zimmerman III, which headlines Glory 19 on the 19th of December. 

 

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GLORY Helps New Divisions to Shine in Kickboxing

  • Published in Glory

Kickboxing has had a long history throughout Europe and Asia, but it really got bigger in the 90’s when K-1 started up in Japan. K-1 was aimed at an audience in Japan that was obsessed with Heavyweights, mainly from professional wrestling. Pro wrestling in Japan was all about Heavyweights, with the prestige of being called “Heavyweight Champion” holding a ton of weight with the local culture. So when K-1 got off the ground, of course Heavyweights were the primary focus.

It wasn’t until 2002 when K-1 started to take another weight class seriously -- 70kg MAX -- mostly because of the young, handsome and talented Masato. Masato was a star in the making, but was at least 30kg less than most of K-1’s big stars, so they needed to create a new division. That division was the MAX division and since then has been one of the best divisions in the Kickboxing world.

Part of the problem, though, is that for many years fighters had to aspire to be either a Heavyweight or a MAX fighter, with there being no in between. For a lot of fighters who were too small to be Heavyweights and too big to be MAX fighters that left them to work the minor circuits in Europe and Japan without any hopes of the bright lights and world titles being in their possession. That has changed in the past few years, with It’s Showtime really making a name for themselves with expanded weight classes that highlighted more talent. Everyone followed suit and now with GLORY we finally get the realization of this.

If you don’t believe me, look no further than GLORY’s GLORY 17 and Last Man Standing events on June 21st. Sure, on GLORY 17 the big feature bouts are Heavyweight and Lightweight (70kg/MAX) between Cro Cop and Jarrell Miller and Ky Hollenbeck and Andy Ristie, but the card also features a Featherweight Contender’s Tournament. Then while Last Man Standing will crown a GLORY Heavyweight Champion in the main event between Daniel Ghita and Rico Verhoeven, the GLORY Welterweight Championship is on the line between Joe Valtellini and Marc de Bonte and the Last Man Standing tournament will crown a Middleweight Champion.

Even a few years ago the idea of a major Kickboxing event, probably the biggest of the  year, being headlined by a weight class that isn’t Heavyweight or Lightweight seemed like insanity, yet here we are. 

GLORY still recognizes the importance of Heavyweight and Lightweight, but are willing to feature some of these other weight classes as just as important, which has helped to create new stars. Joe Valtellini was a virtual unknown to the world just over a year ago, now not only Kickboxing fans know who he is, but combat sports fans in general. Someone like Nieky Holzken was always toiling away in Europe as one of the best in the world, but was virtually unchallenged with nowhere to house his talents and bring in opponents. 

There is a brave new world in Kickboxing right now and you don’t need to be in one of two categories to become a star anymore. You just need to be good.

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No, Gokhan Saki Didn't Leave Glory, Is Training at Mike's Gym

  • Published in Kickboxing

An interesting rumor has been circulating the past few days in the Kickboxing world, the rumor being that Gokhan Saki has left Golden Glory and instead set up shop at Mike's Gym. The rumor does have some truths in it, but the truth part is a bit minor in the grand scheme of things. Maritjn de Jong has been quoted saying that Gokhan Saki has indeed been doing some training at Mike's Gym, but it does not mean that he has left team Golden Glory. The Dutch kickboxing world is just a small world and while there are gym rivalries, they are usually exaggerated in the press and most gyms are rather friendly with each other.

Anyway, here is the video that really sparked this rumor.

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Where Does Glory Go From Here?

  • Published in News

I made a pretty big deal about PPV buyrates and their impact on the future direction of Glory, but in fact, I didn’t have lofty expectations as to how the Last Man Standing tournament would perform. Modest results were anticipated, although putting a number on that and interpreting its significance is hard to do. This event was a picture-perfect example of a combat sports PPV done right, but some might be wondering: in light of the projected numbers, where does Glory stand? I would argue that Glory stands on perfectly solid ground and in arguably a position better suited to take on the American combat sports market.

We’ve learned a number of important things from following the TV ratings and watching the fight cards themselves: 1) Glory is a consistent performer on SpikeTV, generating ratings on par with or slightly below Bellator and better than WSOF. 2) Glory has found a consistent formula for their 2-hour time slot, staging 4-man contender tournaments, co-main title fights, and a main event SuperFight--that’s a lot of quality kickboxing in one night. 3) Glory has developed a stable of marketable talent that could headline future events. Joe Schilling and Joseph Valtellini are superstars tailor made for SpikeTV with the skills to sell a fight and the exciting styles to deliver on fight night.

For the two and a half years that Glory has spent trying to establish an identity and a consistent product to deliver to American audiences, it seems like the end result has finally been achieved, and it is 100% solid. Each card features a couple of well-known headliners and a contender tournament with prospects who are still making their name. This keeps costs low by not breaking bank on a mega card full of 6-figure talent, and it allows Glory to book and sell-out smaller venues that it can continually revisit. This model has been successfully followed by Strikeforce, It’s Showtime, and now Lion Fight.

Does this mean that Glory won’t stage big PPV shows anymore? No, but it does mean that Glory will need to be strategic and creative in how it plans future events. The SpikeTV formula will work well in the United States when Glory must necessarily operate in 2,000 to 3,000 person venues, but if places like Istanbul can really put more than 10,000 butts in seats, then there are greater possibilities. Co-promotion with Bellator would also be a major boon to Glory. While Glory may not have the muscle right now to be a PPV success, it could easily enhance the marketability of a Bellator PPV. Bellator/Glory Dynamite 2014 on PPV, anyone? Bellator and Glory could not be in a better position to attempt something like this, especially with Scott Coker in the driver’s seat clearing the way to stable co-promotion. Having multiple smaller shows with only a couple of big shows per year is the right step to sustainability long-term.

Finally, let’s remind ourselves of where Glory truly stands. In terms of its success, Glory is nowhere close to being the UFC, and neither is it close to being Bellator. It is a big, international organization that does slightly better than or about the same as a regional fight promotion. It has shouldered substantial loss to get to where it is now. However, it is unequivocally gaining momentum. The combat sports community is interested in Glory and wants to see more, and every event is gaining more traction in the hearts of fight fans. The ratings, while not a skyrocketing success, are stable. The stage is set for Glory to have its breakthrough moment with the right talent, the right broadcast deals, and the right formula in place. Glory needs to keep putting itself on TV with more small shows while waiting for the right moment to bring out the big guns. It may not happen this year, but that moment will come eventually. Until then, it’s up to us to keep tuning in, to keep supporting the sport, and to keep spreading the word. Kickboxing is alive, and it is finally here.

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Pat Barry Out of GLORY 20 -- Featherweight Title Fight Moves to Main Card

  • Published in Glory

For kickboxing fans there is some good news and some bad news regarding GLORY 20. The bad news is that Pat Barry vs. Mourad Bouzidi is officially off after Pat Barry suffered a hand injury while training for the upcoming fight. Bouzidi will still be on the GLORY 20 card but for now it looks like he'll be moved to the SuperFight Series undercard with a replacement opponent.

The good news is that the Featherweight Championship bout between Mosab Amrani and Gabriel Varga will no longer headline the SuperFight Series card and will instead be featured on the main card. That means that an astonishing two GLORY championships will be on the line for GLORY 20. The event, set to go down on April 3rd in Dubai, will air via tape delay on Spike TV that same evening.

GLORY has promised that Pat Barry will be booked on an upcoming card when he is healthy.

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Glory 17 and Last Man Standing: A Night to Remember (Part 2)

  • Published in Glory

The Last Man Standing PPV event started with the first tournament quarter final Artem Levin Vs. Alex Pereira. Let me just say how amazing it was to be able to watch a good kickboxing event in full HD on my TV without any hassle of hooking up my laptop, considering The Fight Network and Spike TV still don't have HD channels where I am. Levin basically had Pereira outclassed, he was doing whatever he liked, slipping and countering the very nervous looking Brazilian. When Pereira actually threw his punches like we've seen him do before he would either land or come very close, but he appeared to be to tentative and Levin's liver punches weren't helping. The Russian used his slick defense, counters and experience to coast to a (30-27 on all scorecards) Unanimous decision and moved onto the semi-finals with very little damage to his body.

The second tournament quarter final featured the always entertaining fan favourite Melvin Manhoef Vs. Filip "The Belgian Bull" Verlinden. As much as everyone I spoke to wanted Manhoef to get back to his violent ways and showcase one of his signature explosive knockouts, realistically we all knew it would not be easy. Manhoef was at a substantial height disadvantage, and Verlinden is a very technical fighter who really doesn't get hit very often. We were all on the edge of our seats because we know what Melvin is capable of, and he was stalking Filip and keeping him on the ropes waiting to pounce the entire fight. In the first round Melvin came in with a big overhand right and Verlinden moved left to avoid it and threw an absolutely beautifully timed head kick which caught Manhoef on the forehead and dropped him. Melvin seemed fine when he stood up, but hes lucky that kick didn't hit his chin, or else that fight would have been over. For the rest of the fight it was more of the same, Melvin stalking Verlinden as the Belgian moved, blocked and just won by having a much higher output and of course the knockdown in the first. One of the judges gave the fight 28-28 and the other two gave it 30-27 to Verlinden. Maybe that one judge was checking his text messages during the fight, because I don't personally see how he could have scored this fight a draw.

Joe Schilling Vs. Simon Marcus was the third quarter final match-up and the most exciting fight of the night. Most Joe Schilling fights have some sort of dramatic event and this time was no different. During the first round I felt Schilling was taking control of the fight but the referee was definitely giving Marcus an advantage by allowing him to clinch for longer than I thought was allowed. Nonetheless, the first round was for Schilling, the second round was more of the same, Schilling's hands are just much better than Simon's and he was putting them to use nicely, but what made this fight so exciting is that I wouldn't consider either man to possess the greatest defense. Simon finally pinned Joe in a corner and threw 4 straight punches as hard as he could and from what I could see his eyes appeared closed considering he is not used to throwing combos like this, the last straight right landed and dropped Schilling causing Marcus to win that round by two points. Schilling recovered well and won the third round the same way as the first and now of course they had to go to an extra round. As the extra round was starting Schilling looked the more fatigued of the two fighters, but about a minute into the round Marcus started dropping his mouth guard. This tactic is often used by a tired fighter to get a break or the mouth guard just doesn't fit well; however, it should be noted that this wasn't happening very often in the first few rounds. It seemed with every drop of the mouth piece Marcus looked more and more tired and Schilling seemed to just be maintaining his energy level. At this point Big John McCarthy had enough of the stalling and he took a point from Simon for dropping his mouth guard too many times. Therefore, Marcus now needed a knockout to win considering the extra round is judged as one single round and this is where Simon gained respect from a lot of people. He just went after Joe as hard as he could, Simon had 40 seconds to get a knockout and he was going to do everything in his power to do it but with only 20 seconds left he tried to repeat what he did to drop Joe in the second round but this time he got caught with a big right hook with his eyes closed and mouth open. The punch sent his mouth piece flying and  Marcus crashing to the mat stiff as a board. Joe Schilling moved on to the semi's avenging his 2 previous losses by knockout with 20 seconds left in the extra round and once again in dramatic fashion which had me jumping out of my seat, only thing was this was a war and there is a possibility of two more fights.

Fourth quarter final was American Wayne Barrett Vs. Bogdan Stoica from Romania. Barrett was keeping Stoica guessing with his foot work, boxing, and sometimes even randomly jumping straight into the air. Stoica, known for his flying knees, seemed to look a little more nervous than usual, this was his Glory debut after all. Not much was happening during the first two rounds, Stoica really couldn't get anything off because Barrett's footwork was too good. Early in the third round Stoica went for his signature flying knee but Barrett had already anticipated it and moved back the just the right amount while landing a perfect left hook counter on the chin of the airborne Stoica and crumbling him to the canvas. Barett moved on to the semis by 3rd round knockout and didn't take too much damage apart from a headbutt which gave him a nasty Rahman Vs. Holyfield like bump on his forehead.

While the tournament semi-finalists were resting Glory gave us two world title fights. They started with the welterweight title fight between current champion Marc De Bonte and Canadian "Bazooka" Joe Valtellini, this was a very close second place for fight of the night. Bazooka Joe started off controlling the pace and the ring by moving forward and throwing his usual combinations. De Bonte was covering up well, blocking most strikes and throwing counters which were landing, the first round was close but in my opinion De Bonte got it just for the cleaner strikes landed. Second round was all Bazooka Joe, he was throwing great combos, pushing the champion around and avoiding the few counters De Bonte threw this round. Third round Valtellini kept his momentum going with a beautiful hand combination consisting of both head and body punches which he followed by a quick head kick dropping De bonte flat on his back. De Bonte being the experienced fighter he is stayed down for the full eight count then stood up and amazingly seemed to have recovered to make it to the fourth round. Fourth round was big for the champion, it seemed like this was exactly what De Bonte had been waiting for the entire fight, he landed a perfect jumping switch left knee right on Valtellinis chin, he went down hard. Bazooka Joe doesn't have the experience De Bonte has so he tries to stand right away instead of taking his time and is still very wobbly on his feet while the ref gives him the eight count. De Bonte continued the onslaught and battered Valtellini around the ring for the rest of the round and the fifth and final round aswell, Valtellini stayed on his feet during the last round but he had zero offence as he was just barely surviving the whole round. If Glory judges were allowed give 10-8 rounds without a knockdown the fifth would have been one, but i do not think they are. Overall a very close fight, one knockdown and one dominant round for each fighter it all really depended on how the judges scored round 1 and all three judges saw it the same way 47-46 for the new welterweight champion "Bazooka" Joe Valltelini. Joe definitely has some serious work to do to keep the belt away from the man that knocked him out at Glory 13 in Tokyo, Nieky Holzken.

The Semi-finals of the tournament were much slower paced than the quarter finals, probably due to people being pretty beat up. Levin once again used his defense and slick style to not allow Verlinden to land anything while picking him off and winning a unanimous decision 30-27 on all cards. Joe Schilling met Wayne Barrett for a rematch and both fighters were a lot more cautious than they were in their first encounter. The fight was actually quite uneventful and close Joe Schilling won a split decision judges scores were 28-29 Schilling, 28-29 Barrett, and 30-27 Schilling, the last judge was out to lunch.

The heavyweight world title fight between Rico Verhoeven and Daniel Ghita was far from exciting. It was much like their first encounter but with much less output from both fighters. To be honest I can barely remember anything significant from the fight, all that stuck in my mind was Ghita's Trainer Erik Van Warmerdam telling Daniel between rounds to keep waiting, or telling him that Rico was behind. It was very strange advice, something that I personally have never heard from a corner man. When the fight ended none of us watching could choose a winner, I would have hated to be a judge. Ghita did more visible damage with his body kicks, Rico's body looked all beat up and one of his ribs looked to be protruding, but Rico was busier and had much more output and looked to be controlling the pace for all five rounds. In the end the volume of strikes and ring generalship was more important to the judges and Rico Verhoeven kept his belt by unanimous decision, judges scores were 49-46, 49-46, 48-47.

The tournament final, another rematch for Joe schilling, he had already avenged his losses to Marcus and Barrett and now he had to beat Artem Levin to prove the first time wasn't luck. Schilling had been in two hard fights already and Levin was virtually untouched so this would not be an easy task. First round, once again Levin is controlling the fight by making Schilling miss, countering or smothering. Half way through the round Levin missed a right hook and came around with a perfect spinning back fist and dropped Schilling for a 10-8 round. The rest of the fight was just the Russian knowing he is the fresher fighter, ahead on the scorecards and the one with the superior defense. He won the next two rounds handily once again barely taking any damage and becoming the new Glory middleweight champion and $200,000 richer by unanimous decision, judges scores were 29-26, 29-26, 29-26.

Overall I enjoyed Glory 17 thoroughly, out of fifteen fights there was one lackluster bout. I'm really hoping that Glory continues with the PPVs and the under card on Spike TV so that fight fans can learn to appreciate kickboxing. As long as Glory fans keep supporting them, and Glory keeps putting on events like this I cannot see why it shouldn't become the next big thing in fight sports.

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LiverKick Best of 2013: Comeback of the Year

  • Published in News

Photo (C) Pink Elephant Photography

The year 2013 was a tremendous year for the sport of Kickboxing as we saw GLORY take aim at America as one of its home bases and really made some strides that I honestly thought we’d never see for the sport here. GLORY not only ran shows, but they ran a bunch of shows and those shows were attended by a good number of paying customers. Then, to top it off, GLORY moved from CBS Sports Network and internet PPVs to Spike TV, picking up steam and viewers with every show. That was a big deal.

GLORY wasn’t the only organization to make moves, either, as we saw another season of the SuperKombat World Grand Prix, the birth of LEGEND in Russia and K-1 starting to get the gears in motion by running both a Heavyweight World Grand Prix and a World MAX tournament within the same year. But which company did what doesn’t really matter, what matters are the fights and the fighters.

Throughout the coming week we’ll be looking at the best of 2013 throughout multiple categories, with Monday featuring Fighter of the Year, Tuesday featuring Fight of the Year and Wednesday being Knockout of the Year. Today’s category is a little bit more fluid and up for discussion than the others, as today is Comeback of the Year. There have been a few fighters who either came back from a long layoff or returned to the big leagues and made a solid impression, making it an interesting topic.

LiverKick 2013 Comeback of the Year: Buakaw Banchamek

Few names in Kickboxing and Muay Thai hold the weight that Buakaw Banchamek’s does. Buakaw is a legend in every sense of the word, as in Thailand he might not be known as the best Thai Boxer, but he’s one of the most famous. This comes with its own set of consequences, though, as Buakaw has had a bumpy last few years that has seen him step back from a higher level of competition and instead get into the rhythm of taking either easier or exhibition bouts depending on the circumstances.

Buakaw fought his last fight for Thai Fight in December of 2012 and then that was it from Banchamek for months. In fact, he didn’t fight again until August of 2013 for MAX Muay Thai after yet another lawsuit, this time with Thai Fight, was settled. His year began at MAX Muay Thai 3 against Dong Wenfei in a bout that barely saw Buakaw warm up, leaving us all to fear that Buakaw would be back in “Thai Fight mode” just taking easier fights and having fun. Then, after years of rumors of him joining GLORY a huge announcement came out that Buakaw had signed with K-1 and would be entering the World MAX tournament.

His complete decimation of David Calvo in the Final 16 was proof enough that Buakaw was back and ready to show the Kickboxing world what they were missing out on. The rest of his year saw him defeat both Yoshihiro Sato and Enriko Kehl in MAX Muay Thai and in both fights looking like the Buakaw of old. Then on December 28th he battled a very game Zhou Zhi Peng before turning up the heat in the fourth round and dominating him.

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GLORY Appoints New CEO, Next Show in October

  • Published in Glory

Things have been quiet on the GLORY front, which to many has been a bad sign, but we've been hearing reports from within the company about "big things" happening, including some shifts. The first of those shifts was announced today when GLORY unveiled that Jon J. Franklin has been appointed as the new CEO for the organization, replacing Andrew Whitaker. Whitaker will remain with the organization in an advisory role, working mostly with the television aspect of the brand.

Jon J. Franklin, based out of Denver, has been working with GLORY for a while now with his company, The Sports Entertainment Company. Franklin has also served in senior roles for IMG-Media, was President of Golden Gloves Boxing and worked with AP-X. His extensive history within the realm of boxing can only help GLORY further at this point. 

Some might be concerned over the change at this point, especially after a period of relative silence, but this is actually a good thing. This shows that GLORY is thinking to the future and that they are looking to revise their direction for the future. As someone who worked previously within the world of corporate PR and IR, CEO changes are a very common occurrence in many organizations, with the idea being to keep fresh ideas and direction for organizations. 

Also, according to an interview given to MMAMania, Franklin stated that they would be returning in October, which aligns with a statement we received from within GLORY about a month ago.

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Glory Issues Statement Regarding Early Stoppage at GLORY 9 New York

  • Published in Glory

Mufadel noooo

This weekend's GLORY 9 New York event featured the GLORY Light Heavyweight Slam tournament, which was won by Tyrone Spong in a controversial bout with Danyo Ilunga. The ref, Mufadel Elghazaoui, stepped in as soon as Spong swarmed Ilunga with punches, stopping the bout while Ilunga was still of a clear mind, defending and on his feet. Since then fans have been speaking out against Mufadel, who has a history of poor stoppages in the past, much like we saw with former GLORY head referee Joop Ubeda.

Glory released a statement earlier today about it.

 

We agree with most viewers of June 22nd's telecast that the fight stoppage at Glory9 of Spong versus Ilunga, the final fight of the night, seemed premature. However, a professional referee is going to see things that we, and the audience, might not. He is the one who has the best vantage point to determine whether a fighter is capable of continuing the match and we must respect that. In this way, the referee acted fully within his authority and the rules of the sport. Anytime a fighter fails to intelligently defend himself, the referee must effectively end the fight.

Overall it was an amazing evening for our first event in the US and one few of us will forget. There were some real back-and-forth wars during the night, and the fighters, almost to a man, brought their best selves to the Glory ring in New York City at the historic Manhattan Center. We thank them and congratulate Tyrone Spong, the winner of the 8-man tournament and the $200,000 in prize money.

We look forward to another great night of fights this September on US soil and we will keep the fans posted on those details shortly.

 

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