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Remy Bonjasky Deserves Better

Bonjasky

Remy Bonjasky deserves better. He deserves better from the fans, he deserves better from his fellow fighters and he deserves better from GLORY.

Last night at GLORY 14 Zagreb we saw Remy Bonjasky’s career end in a fashion that would have made Harmonica from “Once Upon a Time in the West” feel uneasy. Remy Bonjasky’s career has cemented him as one of the all-time greats in Heavyweight Kickboxing, with three K-1 World Grand Prix victories under his belt. That puts him in the same category as fighters like Peter Aerts and Ernesto Hoost and Sem Schilt, as multi-time K-1 World Grand Prix champions who have nothing left to prove to the world. He belongs in the same breath as those fighters, yet it feels like he’s not taken as seriously by many.

Peter Aerts had a huge retirement ceremony at GLORY 13, with lots of fanfare and respect thrown his way, while Remy Bonjasky’s retirement was far more subdued, with Remy standing in the ring after his fight with Cro Cop being assailed by boos from the Zagreb crowd. There was no ceremony, no balloons, no post-fight interview on the broadcast, and there was no confetti, just a chorus of boos both in the arena and around the world from fans of Mirko Cro Cop who felt that Cro Cop was robbed. All of this while a three-time K-1 World Grand Prix Champion stood in the ring for the last time with tears in his eyes.

This wouldn’t be the first time in Remy Bonjasky’s career that things wouldn’t go his way, in fact, it would be one of many incidents where things went horribly wrong for the Flying Dutchman. This is the same Remy Bonjasky that Saduharu Tanikawa, Stefan Leko and Badr Hari had dubbed as an “actor” in the ring. In the fight with Leko in 2007 there were multiple low blows delivered to Remy Bonjasky, who then took time to recover, leading to Leko and Tanikawa believing that he was faking his injury in the ring and that he wasn’t good for K-1. Then came 2008 where Badr Hari became frustrated in the K-1 World Grand Prix Finals, pushed Bonjasky over and stomped him on the head, leading to a disqualification in the biggest fight of the year.

Bonjasky would never live that moment down, which sounds ridiculous, Bonjasky had done nothing wrong. He was an actor for taking that DQ win, he was a fraud and he was afraid of Badr Hari. His family received multiple death threats after the incident in K-1 from both fans and alleged friends of Badr Hari. After running into Semmy Schilt in the K-1 World Grand Prix 2009 Bonjasky was forced into retirement by a recurring eye injury, a detached retina, that left his vision in question. With limited peripheral vision it would be difficult for Bonjasky to be able to participate in such a tough sport as Kickboxing, making it hard to see strikes coming at him, but he still came back. He still fought with limited vision.

For years he had discussed wanting to have a retirement fight, one last fight to go out on, but with Kickboxing in the state that it was, no one was willing to give Bonjasky a big payday for his retirement, as they felt his retirement was simply not worth the attention or the budget, that fans wouldn’t care. Things started to turn around when GLORY started booking events and that they wanted the Flying Gentleman to help bolster their Heavyweight division, seeing the addition of Bonjasky as instant-credibility. Things were alright for Bonjasky in the beginning, but it was clear that things had changed in those years off.

After last night’s win over Mirko Cro Cop Remy Bonjasky will walk away from GLORY with a record of 3-3, his storied career ending with a whimper, not a bang. Regardless of who you thought won between Cro Cop and Bonjasky, isn’t it safe to say that it is unfair to Bonjasky to boo him out of the arena for his last fight? This was known to be Bonjasky’s retirement fight for a while, why was it kept under wraps like that? Where was the big ceremony for Bonjasky? Why did he have to fight Mirko in his last fight in Mirko’s home town?

Remy Bonjasky has worked hard to earn the respect of the Kickboxing world, but it seems like it never came, even in his last fight. I hope that the years remember Remy Bonjasky for what he was; a dynamic fighter with great defenses, better kicks and the ability to feel a fighter out and to catch them off guard with a flying knee or kick from out of nowhere. He was one of the few men who would not only win the K-1 World Grand Prix once, but to win it multiple times and he has wins over some of the toughest Heavyweight Kickboxers to ever walk this earth. Last night felt like the Cro Cop show when it didn’t need to be just about Cro Cop.

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Glory 14: Why We Need More Five-Round Fights

Ristie/Kiria

The conclusion of Glory 14 saw kickboxing legend Remy Bonjasky hang up his gloves after a hard-fought three round battle with Mirko Cro Cop that featured moments of vintage greatness from both fighters. Remy actively landed his signature kicks and knees while Cro Cop connected with thundering high kicks and powerful punches. Some fans may find fault with the decision, but I feel that it was rendered appropriately as Bonjasky landed more cleanly with his knees in the first two rounds, taking the fight two rounds to one. But did that mean that both fighters were done fighting? Hardly. Cro Cop turned up the pressure in Round 3, cornering Bonjasky and landing hard punches in the pocket. As controversial as fans may see the decision, there is no doubt that a fight of this magnitude should have been a five round fight.

The lack of five rounds is a curiosity in the sport of kickboxing. An ongoing staple of Muay Thai, the kickboxing world has largely spurned the concept, preferring a 3x3min structure originally set in place by K-1. This might be seen as a way to streamline the action, giving fighters a more limited time frame to make their case for the win and preventing fighters who are ahead on the scorecards from coasting through rounds. Indeed, “speeding up the action” is a reason that’s been frequently utilized to justify many of Kickboxing’s more unusual rules, particularly its controversial and often inconsistent clinch rules. While it’s unusual and remarkably savvy for promoters to tailor the rules of the sport to suit their product, the flipside in this particular case are lost opportunities to see great fights live up to their full potential.

Take Andy Ristie vs. Davit Kiria, for example. This was a fight that like Bonjasky vs. Cro Cop, could have ended after three rounds with a clear decision in favor of Ristie, yet like the Bonjasky fight, gave us a glimpse of what was possible in Rounds 4 and 5. Davit Kiria was still in the game after three rounds, turtling up Albert Kraus style and taking heavy punishment from Ristie while returning with counters that were increasingly finding their mark. The pendulum was beginning to swing, and there was a palpable sense that Kiria could gain control of the fight. Ending the fight after Round 3 would have deprived audiences of the best comeback of the year so far.

Kiria, like Remy Bonjasky and Buakaw in the past, is a slow starter whose essential style is not rewarded by current Kickboxing rules. These men typically open with careful, more conservative movements, studying their opponent in the early frames and then intensifying their offensive output in later rounds. This may not satisfy those who would prefer a consistently fast tempo for the fight, but I would argue that this cerebral style of fighting has an appropriate place in the sport, creating intrigue and suspense. A chess match is a great spectacle in and of itself, especially when it involves two elite competitors. Alternatively, a five round fight also allows us to see a knockdown, drag-out brawl like Chahid vs. Mike Zambidis or a tense affair like Artem Levin vs. Joe Schilling come to a more definitive conclusion. While Glory would undoubtedly have to adjust its pacing and structure its fight cards appropriately to accommodate a five round fight, Kiria vs. Ristie has clearly illustrated that the results can be magnificent, title or not.

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Remy Bonjasky Victorious in His Retirement Fight Against Cro Cop

Remy

Tonight in Zagreb, Croatia fans across the world got to say goodbye to the legendary Remy Bonjasky at GLORY 14 Zagreb. It was a tall task for Bonjasky, who was stepping into the ring with local hero Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic with a rather biased crowd. It didn’t matter, though, as Remy Bonjasky has steppe into the ring with the odds against him in the past before. This was a chance for redemption for Remy Bonjasky, a rematch from twelve years ago that saw Mirko Cro Cop walk away victorious.

It was three tense, close rounds fought by both men. Both Mirko Cro Cop and Remy Bonjasky’s styles have changed as they’ve aged and accumulated injuries, with Cro Cop relying on a more punch-heavy style and Bonjasky more on defense with the hands and offense with the legs. This was the story of the fight, as Mirko would swarm with the punches while Bonjasky would defend, then circle away to get distance and lay into Mirko with body kicks.

Many fans are going to be unhappy about the decision in this fight, though. Cro Cop was a bit more aggressive throughout, but the shots weren’t doing a lot of damage and Bonjasky was never in much trouble. Bonjasky was fighting as he tends to do, but his kicks were landing and landing heavy. This made for an incredibly close bout that fans of both fighters will be disputing for years to come, that being said, Remy Bonjasky’s hand was raised at the end of the night.

Remy Bonjasky has had a tremendous career and it is sad to see him go, but the persisting vision problems as well as years of injuries have made it tough for him to compete against the younger, quicker fighters of today. What we can say is that both men are legends and that nothing, no win or loss, can take that away at this point. I’m genuinely saddened that we won’t have another chance to hear “The Man with the Harmonica” again to lead Remy Bonjasky into the ring, but I was happy to see him walk away from the sport with a victory.

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Davit Kiria is the NEW GLORY Lightweight Champion

Photo (C) Dave Mandel / Sherdog

There was something in the air in Zagreb, Croatia tonight as Andy Ristie and Davit Kiria stepped into the ring. The swell of momentum was clearly behind Andy Ristie. Ristie had a night that would make anyone’s career in knocking out Giorgio Petrosyan and Robin van Roosmalen a few months ago, making him the top Lightweight in the world. Now all that he needed to do was go into a fight with the usually patient, defensive Davit Kiria and knock him stupid. Everyone was tossing their money onto Ristie for this fight and for good reason -- he is the best in the world.

Everyone was proven right early on in the fight, as Ristie was dominating round one, then knocking Kiria down early in the second round. Kiria fought back, but there was a feeling in the air that it was just a matter of time before Ristie found a way through Kiria’s air-tight defenses again and put him to sleep. Because that is what Andy Ristie does, he puts guys to sleep. The thing is, if this went into the deep waters beyond round three, what would that mean for Andy Ristie, who has been known to slow down even in three round fights?

Round four saw more of the same, with Ristie not slowing down. Kiria was landing a little bit more, but it was still nothing to be afraid of. A lot of people felt it was just inevitable, that we had to sit out two more rounds before Ristie was crowned as the first GLORY Lightweight Champion, adding to his tournament victory. Round five came and it was thick in the air; Kiria had to hit a Hail Mary to walk away with this, that everyone had started to celebrate Ristie’s win. Then something crazy happened; Kiria started landing and Ristie wasn’t going down, but was clearly hurt. The ref counted and the fans were in disbelief.

Now it came down to a matter of could Ristie hold on for the final bell, could Ristie just hold on and win his championship? Kiria came in like his life depended on it, landing a huge shot on Ristie that sent him down like a character from Mike Tyson’s Punchout into the ropes. This was insanity, Andy Ristie down for a second time in the fifth round! Ristie struggles to his feet and the ref lets it keep going, but Ristie can barely stand. Just a few more shots by Kiria put him onto the mat and the arena explodes as Davit Kiria is crowned the first ever GLORY Lightweight Champion.

The truth is that it was never impossible, that Andy Ristie always had these holes in his game, he just had risen to the top of the division and looked untouchable. Davit Kiria has always been a fighter that has looked great, but never seems to get started in three round fights, but when given five rounds against the best in the world, Davit Kiria overcame all of the odds and found himself as the number one Lightweight in the world.

Congratulations, Davit Kiria, you deserve it.

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Mirko Cro Cop vs. Remy Bonjasky: A Battle of Legends

Glory

This weekend at GLORY 14 Zagreb two legends will once again face off in a Kickboxing ring under very familiar terms one last time. The new generation of Heavyweight Kickboxers has helped to define the young GLORY organization, fighters like Gokhan Saki, Tyrone Spong, Daniel Ghita and Rico Verhoeven, yet the old dogs are still huge attractions for longtime fans. There is no doubt why they are still popular with longtime fans, as you can look no further than Peter Aerts and the few fights that he’s held under the GLORY banner, with them being some of the most exciting fights in the company’s short history.

For us Kickboxing fans nostalgia still runs deep.

I’ve heard some complaints about the fight between Mirko Cro Cop and Remy Bonjasky since the fight was announced a few months ago. The complaints tend to be that there is a new generation of Heavyweights that deserve the spotlight, that both Cro Cop and Bonjasky had their time in the spotlight, that it is time to move on. I don’t disagree with that, yet the fight between Bonjasky and Cro Cop is still appealing, with GLORY handling the whole affair tastefully. We already know that Remy Bonjasky has plans to retire shortly and Cro Cop might not have a lot of fight left in him, but that is what this fight represents. GLORY isn’t trying to shoehorn either man into the already-crowded title picture, instead both men are fighting each other in a rematch that fans have been waiting to see for over 12 years now.

Mirko Cro Cop’s original K-1 run was short-lived and saw him never able to claim the grandest prize of them all, the K-1 World Grand Prix. Cro Cop moved on to what he saw was greener pastures of Mixed Martial Arts, which was picking up steam in Japan at the time, with the rest becoming history. Cro Cop finally made a brief return to K-1 last year to work his way through the K-1 World Grand Prix, finally winning the prize that had eluded him for all of those years, but it still felt a bit hollow without top contenders like Saki, Ghita and Verhoeven involved.

Bonjasky, on the other hand, was only getting his storied K-1 career started by the time he met Cro Cop in the ring in 2002. It was a tough loss at the time, but Cro Cop would only fight one more time under the K-1 banner before he moved to MMA full time, leaving the field wide open. Remy Bonjasky went on to win the K-1 World Grand Prix three times, cementing himself as one of the all-time greats in the sport of Kickboxing. It was something that Mirko Cro Cop was never able to attain, even having beaten Bonjasky on his way out the door.

The clash between Remy Bonjasky and Mirko Cro Cop at GLORY 14 Zagreb is a battle of what could have been and honestly should have been. The fans never got to see what Mirko Cro Cop could have done if he stuck around Kickboxing for a few years longer, which would have definitely included more epic battles with the likes of Bonjasky, Aerts, Schilt and Badr Hari. At least at GLORY 14 Zagreb we get a taste of that. Sure, both men have aged and might not be the same fighters that they were in 2002, but they are the same men with the same drive and ambition to always fight their hearts out. I, for one, am looking forward to this clash.

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Sports Heroes and Dark, Violent Places: Why we need to worry about a fighter’s mental health.

Badr

DBZ was one of my favorite shows growing up. Every week I would tune in to the epic showdown between good and evil, the final fight between the galaxy’s greatest warriors, the battle to determine the fate of the universe. The story was simple: you had the good guys and the bad guys. Yet, curiously, many of the good guys could also be pretty bad. Goku, the show’s daft yet undyingly good-natured protagonist, was once sent to Earth to destroy all life on the planet. Fortunately for us Earthlings, baby Goku was found by a kind-hearted old man who sensing Goku’s terrifying capacity for destruction, raised Goku to appreciate all forms of life while channeling his latent destructive impulses toward the pursuit of martial arts and friendly martial arts competition. And yet, as ludicrously nice a person as Goku became, he never lost his destructive impulses and bloodlust and instead had to use all of his discipline to suppress his violent urges. Indeed, what’s curious about DBZ and its ostensible heroes is that they were all at one time or another antagonists or outright villains, monsters who murdered millions of lifeforms before evolving motivations aligned them with Goku’s fight to protect the Earth. Yet that never made them champions of right and justice. Piccolo, Vegeta, Android 18, and Majin Buu all possessed an incredible capacity for violence combined with a sadistic or sociopathic desire to cause destruction, but if you ask a DBZ fan, everybody usually has a favorite hero. By the way, if this is spoiling anything for you, then you’re 20 years late to the party.

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Former K-1 Head Kazuyoshi Ishii Making Headlines in Japan Again

Ikumi Yoshimatsu

Former K-1 owner and founder Kazuyoshi Ishii is making waves in Japan again, only this time outside of the ring.

In December, Ikumi Yoshimatsu, the current Miss International, filed criminal and civil charges against one of Japan’s most powerful talent agencies’ executives for stalking her and attempting to ruin her career.

Yoshimatsu filed the complaint against Genichi Taniguchi, a powerful executive with the talent agency K-Dash and president of the firm Pearl Dash.

Ishii entered a meeting and demanded Yoshimatsu ride with him to the most powerful talent agency in Japan, Burning Productions. Ishii then introduced her to "the Don" of the Japanese entertainment industry, Ikuo Suho. Burning Productions has a tainted past and in 2007 was listed as a client company of the Yamaguchi-gumi.

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Pat Barry Returns to Kickboxing; The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Pat Barry

Earlier this week UFC fighter Pat Barry announced his retirement from MMA and the UFC, that the UFC had granted him a full release and that he intends to keep fighting, just not where he needs wrestling. This means, by name, that he called out Kickboxing as his intended target and what better time for Pat Barry to consider Kickboxing? When Pat Barry was Kickboxing before his choices were limited, as he fought in the WCL and in K-1 USA events, which had very limited appeal. Kickboxing in 2014 is a whole different world.

The question is, while a return to Kickboxing in 2014 is the right move for Pat Barry, what does it mean for the sport of Kickboxing?

The Good

Pat Barry has appeared on twelve UFC events over the past few years and built up quite a reputation and following here in the United States. To say that Pat Barry will bring eyes to whichever organization he chooses is an understatement, because Pat Barry will bring eyes and mainstream (MMA) media coverage, something that Kickboxing has to claw for here in the United States. Pat Barry has also always been an undersized Heavyweight in the UFC, but in Kickboxing he’d be more in line with the rest of the division, or with GLORY having a burgeoning Light Heavyweight division he could easily end up at Light Heavyweight and feel at home.

The Bad

Pat Barry washed out of the UFC, let’s be honest here. He’s leaving behind an 8-7 career that includes him being Knocked Out a total of four times. Pat Barry might not like grappling and looks to leave wrestling behind, but not all of those losses were on the ground, either, some were standing up and not exactly against the best guys the UFC had to offer. No doubt a major Kickboxing organization is going to pick Pat Barry up, but they have to really take into account how they market him, because Pat Barry is a very exciting fighter but to sell him as a world beater will make the promotion and the sport look weak in comparison, that a 5-7 UFC fighter can come in and clean up in a different sport.

The Ugly

Pat Barry’s Kickboxing career ended in 2007 and the end came with two losses to smaller, less powerful Heavyweights in the Kickboxing world by the way of Zabit Samedov and Freddy Kemayo. Both are good fighters in their own right, but neither fighter was ever a top ten fighter, nor will they probably ever be. Both men probably belonged in a Light Heavyweight or Cruiserweight division, just like Pat Barry would. Pat Barry probably would have problems against a guy like Rico Verhoeven or Daniel Ghita, but Pat Barry always refused to cut weight in MMA which would have probably seen him be more competitive at Light Heavyweight than at Heavyweight. Pat Barry is going to be a major investment and for that investment to pay off there will need to be some compromises.

At age 34 I’m not sure that Pat Barry has that many years left for a competitive career, but he could still make a very real go at Kickboxing, especially with things looking up for both GLORY and K-1 at the moment.

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LiverKick Best of 2013: WTF Moment of the Year

Photo (C) Legend

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, Wednesday being Knockout of the Year and Thursday being Comeback of the Year. Today we’re going to go a little bit off of the beaten track and look at the WTF Moment of the Year. The moment that raised the most questions, disbelief and generated a lot of discussion -- both positive and negative.

LiverKick 2013 WTF Moment of the Year: Zabit Samedov Knocks Out Badr Hari at LEGEND

Maybe this should be the wasted potential award? Badr Hari is a guy who always grabs the big international headlines but it’s usually not for anything that happens in the ring. Some people are just magnets for awful press and Badr Hari seems to be that guy. You either love him or hate him, there is no in between. His first fight back after a jail stay was in March at the K-1 World Grand Prix event in Zagreb, Croatia where he fought Zabit Samedov.

The Badr Hari that we saw against Zabit Samedov didn’t look like the Badr Hari that fought Gokhan Saki in 2012 and looked like a world beater, instead there were holes in his game and Zabit Samedov was connecting. Badr was able to hold out until he got a decision victory, although he had to drop out of the tournament with an injured foot. When the Russian promoter behind LEGEND Fight Show wanted a big name, he looked to Badr Hari. When he wanted an opponent, he looked to Russian-born fighter Zabit Samedov, the man who took Badr Hari to his limits just months before.

Then the fight happened and what looked like the impossible happened; Zabit Samedov, a truly undersized Heavyweight, knocked out Badr Hari. All the signs of Samedov having the toolbox to take Badr Hari down were evident, it’s just that no one expected it to happen as it did, or for it to end with Badr Hari knocked out. It did, though.

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LiverKick Best of 2013: Comeback of the Year

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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