So, I've been sat spinning tales around the campfire for a while now, and I've got a couple of recent ones from the interviews that I've been fortunate enough to conduct in the past week or two. From the Slamma at BAMMA to chatting to Mike Passenier and Paul Daley, to James McSweeney and last night down at Bad Company gym in Leeds, me and my trusty iPod emerged from our dingy basement and got out in the world to ask questions. So, here's a couple of the nuggets of info I retrieved:
*James McSweeney (the now 4-7 win/loss BAMMA Heavyweight) was offered a shot at the It's Showtime 95MAX (Cruiserweight, 95kg) world title.
The belt was vacated after Tyrone Spong failed to defend it within two years, and was contested for on Sunday by Wendell Roche and Danyo Ilunga. It makes me wonder what the deal is - McSweeney had a degree of success in Muay Thai, winning British and European titles and even a 'world' title, but surely there were more deserving candidates for a shot at what is - in the absence of Light-Heavy/Cruiserweight divisions in K-1 - perhaps the most prestigious and important 'world' title in kickboxing between 90-95kg? For the Americans, that is roughly 198-210lbs.
*Stefan "Blitz" Leko is retired ~ Mike Passenier.
What can I say? Ever the professional, I blurted out "no!" and audibly groaned when Mike let slip during our interview that my joint-favourite thai-boxer (with Manhoef) had finally called it a day. If so, I mourn the loss of a man who seemed destined to achieve K-1 greatness at the level of Aerts (who he beat twice), Bonjasky (who he beat), Hoost (who he took the distance) and teammate Semmy Schilt, only to seemingly miss his big window of opportunity when - as the-then #1 ranked K-1 heavyweight on a hot streak - he was axed from K-1 just prior to the 2003 World Grand Prix Final, which he was being widely tipped to win.
Still, the resume that includes being K-1 European Grand Prix champion, K-1 Dream tournament champion, two-time K-1 World Grand Prix USA winner, two-time World Heavyweight Thai-boxing champion and three-time World Super-Heavyweight kickboxing champion, is a C.V that 99% of all fighters would die to retire with, not to mention holding wins over Peter Aerts (x2), Alexey Ignashov (x2), Badr Hari, Remy Bonjasky and many more. Leko retires after a glorious career. Legend, yes or no? He is to me.
*Melvin Manhoef has not defended his It's Showtime 85MAX (Light-Heavyweight) world title, because there are no fighters at 85kg willing to face him for the belt.
It is likely he will end up being stripped, as Tyrone Spong was. Manhoef won the belt against relative unknown Denes Racz, on an It's Showtime card in August 2009 that took place in Hungary. Racz is Hungarian. A low key title win, and then no defences in nearly two years. Such a shame, as to me, Melvin in near unbeatable at his own weight class in stand-up fighting, and it is hard to envision anyone upwards of 77MAX and even up to the best at 95MAX being able to beat him. As my next point will highlight, Melvin wont be competing for the title at 95kg anytime soon, but even in that division he looks pretty strong, in the absence of Saki and Spong. So, in terms of 85kg... what could have been the most dominant, destructive, brutal kickboxing world championship reigns of all time will be cut short after two years of non-activity, due to lack of opposition. As a Manhoef fan, it's sad.
*Nenad Pagonis of Mike's Gym is in line to face Danyo Ilunga for the It's Showtime 95MAX title.
Mike Passenier told me a week prior to the vacant belt being fought for by Wendell Roche and Germany's Ilunga, that "Pagonis will fight the winner". He added that for this reason, Manhoef would not be competing for the 95MAX world title in the near future, as Pagonis and he are teammates.
*Liam Harrison of Leeds will get a rematch with Saenchai Sor Kingstar.
The p4p God of Thailand gave a recent interview in which he stated Harrison was "his favourite opponent. Everything I do to him, he imitates and does back to me. It is fun." Richard Smith of Bad Company says that Liam "is a different fighter now" to what he was when he faced Saenchai the first time around. That could spell trouble for the flashy Thai, as while he is a prodigious, mercurial talent, with 40losses on his record he is not infallible to losing to top competition. (I should point out that nearly all the losses occurred above his natural weight, as no one his size will fight him). The rematch is scheduled for April 9th.
*Jordan Watson, also of Bad Company gym in Leeds, was offered a shot at p4p kickboxing king Giorgio Petrosyan, according to Richard Smith, who is head and founder of the camp.
Watson, 22 from Leeds, rose to world prominence last year when he faced off with 2x K-1 World MAX champion Buakaw Por.Pramuk, whom he took to a close decision over 5rds, and then Watson topped off a great year by winning the ISKA World title at welterweight (70kg). While Smith said he witheld the youngster from the Petrosyan fight for now, the name 'Watson' certainly appears destined to rank alongside those of the other power names at 70kg, such as Petrosyan, Buakaw (who he already almost beat) Souwer, Kraus, Zambidis and Kyshenko.
Check LiverKick in the coming days for my video interviews of Richard Smith, Liam Harrison and hopefully Jordan Watson too.