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On Dream Fights; or, How Braddock Could Turn the Dream Into a Nightmare

  • Published in Glory

In the sport of kickboxing there aren’t many dream fights left. Masato has retired, Buakaw has moved on to whatever promotion pays for his exclusivity to operate outside of the bounds of actual divisions, and the heavyweight greats that made K-1 and heavyweight kickboxing the spectacle that it is today have mostly sailed off into the sunset. While there can be arguments for batons being passed to a new generation, the lesser, more fractured platforms and the sudden retirements of fighters like Sem Schilt has put a damper on the division. That’s why this last dream fight between Rico Verhoeven and Badr Hari matters so much, yet at GLORY 33 it is put in question.

Newer stars either never materialized or burnt out. Daniel Ghita became a Romanian politician after disappointing losses to Rico Verhoeven, Badr Hari was primed to take the sport to the next level and refused to control his temper, Alistair Overeem chased his dream of UFC gold and guys like Tyrone Spong saw a future in boxing that kickboxing could never give them. Top fighters like Robin van Roosmalen and Rico Verhoeven are even seeing possible futures for themselves in MMA, with both having sights set on the UFC. 

Through all of this, Rico Verhoeven arose, coming from a background of being a solid heavyweight, but young and unseasoned. He looked like he would be the next Hesdy Gerges; a top guy who came close, but never quite put it all together to become what he could be. Yet, he persevered. Something changed inside of him when he fought Semmy Schilt. Schilt was a monolith in the kickboxing world, an unstoppable beast of a man, a legend, yet Rico stood with him, took his shots and survived. The fighter that emerged from that fight was changed and since then we’ve seen Rico Verhoeven climb the ladder, rung-by-rung and represent kickboxing unlike anyone else in a modern age.

Rico has plowed through the division and while there are fights to make, there aren’t huge money fights to make, or are there? When the idea of a fight against Badr Hari emerged it seemed ridiculous.

Badr Hari is perhaps the exact opposite of Verhoeven. Verhoeven had a quiet start to his career, while Badr Hari was the “Golden Boy” almost from the start. He was pegged for greatness, but he had a temper and at times lost it in the ring. That meant getting knocked out when he shouldn’t have and it also meant losing fights that he was winning because of getting frustrated and attacking downed opponents. His opponents in the ring and innocent backstage placards weren’t his only victims, eventually it spilled over into the public and Badr Hari became a guy better known for snatching headlines for his legal problems than fights. Eventually the only people that would pay his rates to fight were warlords and wealthy Middle-Eastern men who perhaps thought they had struck gold by getting access to Hari, only for things to get weird.

While Hari has curated his career, Verhoeven has fought anyone that GLORY has thrown at him and done so as a professional. Rico does the media, he’s affable and does what he needs to do. Not only that, but he’s sparred with top MMA guys and dabbled in MMA himself, making him a bigger media target. 

So the very idea of them fighting seemed not only odd, but like the strangest mishmash ever. Yet, this is exactly who is left in kickboxing with star power. Badr Hari represents the latter days of K-1’s prominence, while Rico represents the GLORY era. Badr Hari was never K-1 World GP Champion, but that was mostly his fault, it was there for the taking and he pissed it away. 

Yet, there, in the shadows, stands Anderson “Braddock” Silva, the unlikely challenger to Verhoeven at GLORY 33 and the potential spoiler. Fans are excited to see Badr Hari fighting a top level guy again, thankful that he hasn’t had legal issues yet and that the fight has an actual date and venue, yet, if Rico Verhoeven loses, does the fight still have value?

The risk seems almost unfathomable. Who would take such a bold risk heading into the biggest money fight left in the sport of kickboxing? Those in power are perhaps viewing Braddock as a guy that will put up a fight, but has no chance of beating Verhoeven. Or maybe they see that Braddock has a chance and simply don’t care? This is a sport, after all, and fighters lose. Let the sport sort itself out. 

The allure of Badr Hari fighting in GLORY alone will move tickets, but those tickets don’t go on sale until the week after Braddock vs. Rico. While I wouldn’t call Rico Verheoven foolish, the idea of him fighting in Kunlun Fight against a relatively unknown Andrei Gerasimchuk and getting manhandled while his wife was in labor with their daughter and Rico was in no headspace to fight is still fresh in my memory. That was the night that GLORY’s unstoppable champion got hurt by a guy who went on to do pretty well, but not great afterwards. It’s also the fight that GLORY refuses to acknowledge because they know how it looks. 

Yet, here we are, Rico Verhoeven heading into the biggest fight of his career and Anderson “Braddock” Silva is being treated like a truck stop on the way to his destination. Rico will get some highlights and hype heading into the fight with Badr, no sweat. Except for the fact that the lead up to this has been all about Rico’s fight with Badr Hari. Nobody wants to talk about Braddock. Braddock who worked hard to get here, Braddock who has lost bullshit decisions and perhaps hurt himself by not turning up the heat when he needs to, Braddock who gets passed over for his shot time and time again. Yet here it is, here is Braddock Silva’s shot.

So while Rico Verhoeven is the king of kickboxing, moving on to face an invading warlord and thwart him back into the history books, one guy is realizing his career dream and he’s not gonna go down without a fight. 

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LiverKick 2016 Awards: Event of the Year - GLORY Collision

  • Published in Glory

When it came to deciding which of the many events that happened in 2016 was the event of the year it wasn't an easy decision. What metrics do you weigh this by? Attendance? Hype? Quality on paper? How exciting the show was? In a lot of ways, there wasn't one show that embodied all of these things, or even a majority of them. Unlike in the past where a K-1 World Grand Prix show would easily be the event of the year, now kickboxing is fractured and spread across the world. China is putting on shows that millions of people are watching, each show an epic, day-long affair. K-1 Japan is putting on some of the most exciting shows in the world and KNOCK OUT burst onto the scene with a KO-heavy first event.

Yet, which event actually did the most for the sport of kickboxing? That answer was simple; GLORY Collision. The sold out event in Germany was a triple-header, featuring title fights, tournaments and the dream bout between Rico Verhoeven and Badr Hari. While the question can be asked if the event actually delivered the action promised, the reality was that it was a full arena, it had fans across the world interested in kickboxing and there was a big fight feel for the first time in a very long time. How GLORY is able to capitalize on that is up to them, but it has people in Europe reconsidering kickboxing as a big sport again and had more eyes than kickboxing has had in quite a while. 

 

The 2016 LiverKick Awards

For more, listen to our year-end podcast.

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Badr Hari Wants Rico Verhoeven Rematch in May or June

  • Published in Glory

The fight that many believed would never happen between Badr Hari and Rico Verhoeven did happen, but the ending was perhaps bittersweet and exactly the kind of letdown that fans have grown accustomed to when it comes to the sport of kickboxing under-delivering on big promises. So while the fight was put together, the fighters ready to brawl and the arena packed full of passionate fans, the outcome was Badr Hari forfeiting thanks to an injury. 

Rico Verhoeven immediately offered Badr a rematch in the ring, to which Badr Hari replied in amiable fashion to, although still denigrating his opponent. The scorecards reflected that the judges had Badr Hari winning the first round, but the fight was far from over, especially considering a strike from Verhoeven is ultimately what injured Hari and forced the stoppage. For fans a conclusion to this fight is not only desirable, but almost a necessity. In an interview with John O'Regan, Hari claimed that he was looking to plan for a rematch in May or June, although he still didn't seem to respect his opponent.

“That's why it was so sour that I had to stop. But be honest, did you see me worrying, or in trouble? Like I said in the ring [after the fight], he became a man but he needs to be more to beat me. He is still not in my league.”

Hari's punching power and explosiveness are legendary, as are his temper both in and out of the ring. Legal issues have kept him away from the ring during what could have been the prime of his career and still haunt him to this day, everything from where he can actually get a license to fight to working around court dates and the uncertainty of the future. 

A rematch seems in order as long as both men are up for it and the asking prices don't fly through the roof. Right now the sport needs the rematch, if not to clear up the debate of who is the better fighter, to deliver on a promise and help build up the reputation of the sport once again.

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Never Underestimate Anderson 'Braddock' Silva

  • Published in Glory

When you ask kickboxing fans about the fight that they are most excited for the answer is almost inevitable; Badr Hari making his GLORY debut against reigning GLORY Heavyweight Champion Rico Verhoeven. It's the biggest kickboxing fight at heavyweight since the fall of FEG's K-1 back in 2010, a battle between the man who was primed to become the king of the heavyweight division and the man who actually became that top fighter.

Yet, at GLORY 33 New Jersey Rico Verhoeven takes possibly the biggest gamble that he's taken in his professional career, months out from the biggest fight of his life and of GLORY's tenure thus far. At GLORY 33 Rico Verhoeven will defend the GLORY Heavyweight Championship against Anderson "Braddock" Silva. Silva, who has been fighting at heavyweight for years, proving himself to be a name and a guy who has always been knocking at the door of the top ten or traversing it without finding his way to the top. His shot comes with question marks attached, like where is Ismael Londt, the man who earned a shot against Verhoeven? Braddock perhaps deserved a shot a while ago, but now there are contenders for Verhoeven.

To many, the conclusion has been that Braddock is simply a "warm up" fight. The last time that someone viewed Braddock as merely a speed bump was Remy Bonjasky, who was looking to prove that his career was not over yet, only for Braddock to push the pace and pick up the victory over the K-1 legend.

In the same vein, at GLORY 16 Denver Braddock was facing off against Sergei Kharitonov, a man that had a bigger contract with GLORY thanks to his previous accomplishments only for Braddock to soundly defeat him. While Braddock may not have ever held those big, impressive championships, Braddock has been a spoiler within the division, the guy that serves as the gatekeeper to becoming elite, or the man who would defeat would-be contenders and send them back to the end of the line. 

He's a dangerous fight for any heavyweight, especially for someone like Rico Verhoeven, who when proven to be distracted in the past has lost a fight that many thought he'd handily win.

Plus, let's never forget one of the best heavyweight head kick knock outs in kickboxing history courtesy of Braddock. 

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