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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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LiverKick Best of 2013: Knockout of the Year

Image (C) Glory

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 and Tuesday featuring Fight of the Year. Today’s category is one that is completely undisputed as it took the entire Kickboxing world by surprise; the Knockout of the Year. If you’ve been watching Kickboxing you already know what this is going to be.

LiverKick 2013 Knockout of the Year: Andy Ristie vs. Giorgio Petrosyan

Andy Ristie had two tremendous knockouts on the night of November 23rd, but one was literally the impossible. Andy Ristie achieved something on November 23rd that no one else has been able to even come close to, which was to knock Giorgio Petrosyan out. Giorgio Petrosyan was without a doubt the #1 fighter at 70kgs and he was there for years. In fact, it looked like his reign would never end, but Andy Ristie refused to accept that when he stepped into the ring that night.

Ristie chipped away throughout the fight, finding the smallest of openings and exploiting them. It led to Petrosyan looking just a little off throughout the fight. To the untrained eye it was just another Petrosyan fight where he wasn’t getting hit and was slipping some strikes through his opponent’s defenses, but that untrained eye would be missing the shots that Petrosyan wasn’t landing, or the times that Ristie was able to counter him. By the time the third round came around and Ristie connected with a clean shot it almost didn’t seem like reality, then he followed up and Giorgio Petrosyan was down on the ground and didn’t get back up.

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LiverKick Best of 2013: Fight of the Year

Photo (C) GLORY

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 yesterday being the Fighter of the Year and today instead turning to the fights themselves. There were a lot of great fights this year, but only one of them could be the Fight of the Year. Surprisingly enough, the Fight of the Year happened near the tail-end of 2013 in the GLORY 13 Welterweight tournament.

LiverKick 2013 Fight of the Year: Nieky Holzken vs. Joe Valtellini

This was a fight that had everything going for it. Throughout the year there were a lot of upsets in the major GLORY tournaments and fans didn’t always get what they wanted to see, but going into GLORY 13 the fans wanted to see Nieky Holzken square off against Canadian fighter Joe Valtellini and they got just that. Valtellini moved on to the finals after a beautiful headkick KO on Raymond Daniels while Holzken picked up a decision over Karapet Karapetyan, leading into what was the fight that the fans wanted to see.

This was a fight that had it all; drama, technique, momentum shifts and even ended with a knockout. If you are a Kickboxing fan this is the kind of fight that gets you excited and makes you want to share it with non-Kickboxing fan friends in an attempt to turn them. In this fight Valtellini showed any of the remaining doubters that he belongs in the top of the Welterweight division and can not only hang with the likes of Nieky Holzken, but get within a breath of taking Holzken out. Without a doubt a possible rematch is something to look out for in the future.

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LiverKick Best of 2013: Fighter of the Year

Photo (C) Bauzen

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, but first we kick things off with LiverKick’s 2013 Fighter of the Year, which was probably the most competitive category of them all. Just about every GLORY tournament winner deserved a spot as Fighter of the Year and the decision between the last two was incredibly difficult, but a decision was rendered. First, let’s look at the runner-up.

LiverKick 2013 Fighter of the Year - Runner Up: Andy Ristie

Man, what a year for Andy Ristie. The man was a wrecking machine with a five-fight win streak in 2013, including two wins that eclipsed the rest. Ristie’s wins were over Alessandro Campagna, Albert Kraus, Niclas Larsen, Giorgio Petrosyan and Robin van Roosmalen. The last two were by knockout to claim the spot of #1 in the 70kg division across the world, which is a herculean feat.

If it wasn’t for the guy who claimed the top spot having as great of a year as he did, Andy Ristie would have been a shoo-in for Fighter of the Year.

LiverKick 2013 Fighter of the Year: Tyrone Spong

Andy Ristie’s 2013 was incredibly impressive, but Tyrone Spong’s 2013 started off with a complete annihilation of a three-time K-1 World Grand Prix Champion in Remy Bonjasky before heading into the GLORY 9 Light Heavyweight tournament. GLORY 9 was unique in that it was an 8-man tournament, not a 4-man tournament, meaning that Spong had to win three fights in one night, which saw him knock out Michael Duut, pummel Filip Verlinden for three rounds and then stop the reigning king of the Light Heavyweight division, Danyo Ilunga, in just one round.

What followed after that was Tyrone Spong making up for one of the few strange points of contention on his record with a rematch against the legendary Nathan “Carnage” Corbett. Carnage has been the king of 95kg Muay Thai for what seems like forever now, remaining unchallenged. Carnage was on a seven-year win streak (with a random No Contest to Spong in the mix, even though he had knocked Spong out) before he met Tyrone Spong and not only did Spong look good against Carnage, but he looked incredible. No one has been able to make Carnage look that lost in the ring, which is what set Tyrone Spong apart and made him the LiverKick 2013 Fighter of the Year.

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A New Chapter for Cro Cop Ahead of Glory Debut

Glory

Peter Aerts has shown us that while a 40-year-old body that has endured a lifetime of physical punishment may not respond as vigorously as it once could, a smart gameplan can still provide a path to victory for an older fighter. Aerts’ shocking upset of Semmy Schilt in 2010 and near upset of Rico Verhoeven in 2013 was a testament both to his unreal physical and mental toughness as well as to his ability to execute an effective gameplan that pushed his opponents out of their desired fighting styles. Indeed, adapting and finding a way to win is both Peter Aerts’ unique forte and the source of his career longevity, remaining in the top-10 across multiple decades and generations of fighters.

When 39-year-old Mirko Cro Cop makes his Glory debut, he will find himself in a division full of dangerous young opponents ranging from skilled technical fighters like Rico Verhoeven to bloodthirsty knockout artists like Daniel Ghita, Gokhan Saki, and Errol Zimmerman. After enduring years of trauma fighting through the ranks of K-1, Pride, and the UFC, Cro Cop will have to fight smart, trading physical prowess for intelligent and perceptive kickboxing. He will have to become a crafty and tactically adept fighter to stay afloat in a shark tank of heavyweight talent.

Perhaps sensing the need for reinvention, Cro Cop has actually developed a close-ranged dirty boxing style in his return to kickboxing. This tactic appears to have paid off for the Croatian, who has now gone 6-0 with notable wins over SuperKombat veterans Ismael Londt, Pavel Zhuravlev, and Loren Javier Jorge as well as young American upstarts Randy Blake and Jarrell Miller, controversial home town decisions notwithstanding. While his new style may not please those who wish to see Cro Cop turn back the clock, the move reflects Cro Cop’s growth as a fighter and signifies his maturing expectations. It’s a wise decision that has allowed him to remain competitive in today’s kickboxing world.

While a fight against semi-retired Remy Bonjasky may not necessarily provide great insight into Cro Cop’s place in the heavyweight division, it will undoubtedly offer kickboxing fans around the world the chance to see one of the great legends of the sport return to the sport’s grandest stage, and in 2014, following a year of upsets which saw long-held titles, ranks, and orthodoxies overturned, Cro Cop may have some surprises--which hopefully include some vintage LHK finishes--left in store.

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Buakaw's Time to Reclaim the 70kg Throne in Kickboxing

Buakaw

The past few years have been turbulent times in the life of Sombat Banchamek, best known as Buakaw Banchamek, formerly known as Buakaw Por. Pramuk. The legendary fighter from Thailand is perhaps best known for his tenure within K-1, where he took home two K-1 World MAX Championships, cementing his legacy as one of the best 70kg fighters in the world. For fans of Banchamek, the last few years have been trying ones, as Banchamek found himself with tremendous personal and professional struggles that kept him out of the ring, or if he was in the ring, facing sub-par competition to keep the legend of Buakaw alive and well.

The first struggle was with his home camp, Por. Pramuk gym, where Buakaw felt that he was being treated unfairly and chose to leave. Well, things aren’t that simple in Thailand, with the bond between a gym and fighter being akin to that of an ironclad contract. Buakaw made impassioned pleas to the public about his poor treatment and how he, one of the biggest stars to come out of Thailand’s Muay Thai scene, was still living a life of moderate poverty and unable to visit his family at will.

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