We all want K-1 to succeed, which can sometimes be a very frustrating thing, because it feels like there are forces at work that want K-1 to be utterly frustrating and on the verge of failure at every given turn. The latest turn of events comes with a public message from Mike Kim in regards to the partnership that was forged with WAKO, the amateur Kickboxing governing body. Apparently somebody from within the WAKO organization was acting as an agent of K-1 or pretending to be, which has upset K-1 enough to release this odd statement. This is really making us wonder about that recent partnership that K-1 forged with SuperKombat and WAKO.
If we didn't like kickboxing, LiverKick wouldn't exist, but in liking kickboxing one must also realize the many things that have held back or are holding back the sport. These problems have existed since the beginning and have really never been fixed, so as it is, kickboxing has floated around, trying to figure out its identity and where it actually stands in the grand scheme of things in the world of sports. Two main problems are that kickboxing hasn't been promoted and organized like a legitimate sport and that kickboxing has always lacked centralization at the top level. The UFC promoted MMA as a sport to a much higher degree than anyone in kickboxing has ever done and made attempts to actually get MMA recognized as a legitimate sport. Their goal was always to be the universally recognized number one organization with all the top fighters under one roof, and their model has stood the test of time and paid dividends for MMA as a whole in its growth as a sport. If kickboxing wants to go anywhere as a legitimate sport, it needs the UFC model.
Kickboxing, contrary to some belief, has never had a UFC-type organization. K-1 was never the UFC of kickboxing. One or two weight classes for the majority of its existence, frequent mismatches, freakshows, favoritism and more focus on the spectacle than the actual sport itself. K-1 promoted kickboxing more like pro wrestling as opposed to a legitimate sport. This isn't to say that the UFC doesn't do some of these things as well, but they're all done to a much lower degree than the old K-1. The UFC pushed to get MMA recognized as a sport and in doing so pushed their brand at the forefront at the same time, while MMA continued and continues to grow internationally.
February has always been a busy month for stand-up sports, and it's no less true now than it was during the Silver Age of K-1. Today in kickboxing, Remy Bonjasky faced Tsuyoshi Nakasako at K-1 Burning 2004 (introduced by a special guest announcer).
At this point in time Remy had just won his first Grand Prix a few months previously, and was looking to continue his momentum from 2003 into the new year. Nakasako was a Japanese journeyman who had moderate amounts of success in Japan, but was never able to find the win to push himself into the upper echelons of K-1.
This fight is a perfect example of what made Remy Bonjasky a great fighter. Perfect use of range and distance, and a devastating left body-hook, right low-kick combination that found it's mark nearly every time. Nakasako is one tough guy, and he was almost able to weather the future 3-time champion's blistering kicks until the final bell. Almost.
The kickboxing world was jolted last year, February 14th, when news of K-1 fighter Mike Bernardo's death emerged from Muizenberg, South Africa.
Bernardo had a reputation as one of the most fearsome heavyweights to ever compete in K-1. He compiled a list of devastating knockout wins over Peter Aerts, Francisco Filho, Glaube Feitosa, Stan Longinidis, Jorgen Kruth, Mirko Cro Cop, and Sergei Gur. But perhaps Bernardo's most memorable encounters were those with the 1996 K-1 Grand Prix Champion, Andy Hug.
From 1995-1997 Bernardo and Hug had a series of 4 awesome fights, with both men picking up two victories along the way. Only a single match out of the four went to a decision. Without a doubt it was one of the most storied kickboxing rivalries of the '90's.
Bernardo often found himself in the role of the villian when squaring off against Hug, and he certainly could look the part. Large, imposing, and bald- Bernardo's signature ferocity in the ring ran directly counter with that of Hug's. Bernardo frowned, Hug smiled. Bernardo entered in a black boxing robe, Hug entered in a white karate gi. The two men naturally played off the personalities and ringmanship of the other, and Mike Bernardo soon became an internationally known, larger than life K-1 superstar because of it.
In honor of "Beru-chan's" historic achievements within kickboxing, and his contribution to the development of the sport as a whole, let's take a moment to look back at K-1 Revenge II in 1995, when Bernardo faced off against Hug for the second time. Earlier in the year Bernardo had shocked Japan by KO'ing Kyokushin's golden boy in the second round of the '95 Grand Prix Opening Battle. This fight was set to be Hug's "revenge" as the name of the show implied, but Bernardo had different plans.