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Leko finally stripped after six years: New WKN Super-Heavyweight Kickboxing champion crowned

By Daniel Fletcher

It took six years, but the World Kickboxing Network finally awarded the winner of a ranked heavyweight fight their world super-heavyweight (96+kg) title, and the rank of champion.

The WKN press releases were sent round, and today their website showed a new champion for the first time since 2005. It was in March of that year that they crowned two very notable fighters from K-1 and It's Showtime their world and European champions respectively; Leko beating Florian Ogunade to win the world belt, and Daniel Ghita claiming the WKN European Heavyweight Muay Thai title with a win over Mourad Bouzidi. Both fights took place on the Local Kombate 14 card in Romania.

It goes without saying that the delicious irony of the situation is that Leko is much smaller than Ghita, both in height and weight, yet his title that night was in a higher weight class to that of Ghita's... as well as the fact that since that night the fortunes of both men have gone in opposite directions.

Over the years, Leko was rumoured to make several defences of the belt, most notably in a grudge rematch with Catalin Morasanu that was cancelled, and against other suggested contenders, but each time the fight fell through. As for the Muay Thai side of WKN, Ghita has never defended his own title, though he remains champion officially. While the press releases say "Heavyweight champion", the website has replaced Leko with yesterday's heavyweight winner Susperregui in the Super-Heavyweight category. The full list of champions can be seen here: 

http://www.worldkickboxingnetwork.com/rating/

The new WKN World Super-Heavyweight kickboxing champ is Stephane Susperregui, of France. He won by second round KO over the Spaniard Damien Garcia. The card took place in Troyes, France, and featured a variety of kickboxing, full contact rules and amateur bouts.

 

New WKN champ Stephane Susperregui

 

While the absence of a defending super-heavyweight champion for several years does not appear major league per se, the WKN put on very regular events throughout Europe, and have had extremely high profile kickboxers competing on their cards.

Fletch

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Rumblings of a RINGS Revival in Japan

This isn't purely kickboxing, but more a general look at the world of MMA in Japan. Sure, FEG has rounded up some of their benefactors to help them with their latest venture, which means that we have at least one DREAM show planned and rumors of something going on with K-1. Outside of that, things in Japan are bleak at best. The sad truth is, for something to be popular in Japan there is a need for a figurehead, a public figure to help generate interest. If you look at someone like Antonio Inoki, he is still able to put on shows using his name alone to get TV contracts, advertising deals, sponsorships, top fighters and professional wrestlers to work with him.

In the same vein as Inoki is Akira Maeda. Akira Maeda was a huge professional wrestling star in the 80's and 90's, and one of the first to really push for martial arts to thrive on its own, outside of wrestling. Names like Akira Maeda, Nobuhiko Takada, Antonio Inoki, Satoru Sayama and Masa Funaki should roll off of the tongue for anyone who fancies themselves a MMA historian, and the irony in that is that each man made a name for themselves in the pre-scripted world of professional wrestling. Each man can be traced to a certain branch of the MMA lineage; Pancrase for Funaki, SHOOTO for Sayama, RINGS for Maeda and PRIDE for Takada. Inoki is in his own world, as he was the one that inspired everyone else and has had his nose stuck into every MMA and kickboxing venture to make it big in Japan.

Takada was the figurehead for PRIDE, and many will remember Takada as the guy with his ass hanging out, banging on the big drum to open up events. Takada can also be remembered from his early "fights" in PRIDE where ridiculous things happened under the guise of being a fight while it was a professional wrestling bout made to look realistic. Maeda worked closely with Takada for Maeda's UWF vision in the late 80's and early 90's before Takada went off to form UWF-i, when Maeda branched off to form RINGS. RINGS was the more serious endeavor than what Takada did, as it quickly branched off into real fights and left a lot of the Japanese pageantry out. Takada made a public challenge to the Gracies by way of sending Yoji Anjoh to the Gracie dojo to get publicly made a fool of, which sparked the first PRIDE card and one of Takada's many career losses. Regardless, PRIDE was huge and only got bigger.

The thing is, while all of that was happening in PRIDE, RINGS was doing something very real and a lot more serious. A lot of the fighters who fought in RINGS went on to be the absolute, undisputed best fighters in the world. If you are wondering who, here is a partial list of RINGS fighters who went on to bigger, better things; Renato "Babalu" Sobral, Ricardo Arona, Gilbert Yvel, Valentijn Overeem, Alistair Overeem, Elvis Sinosic, Fedor Emelianenko, Renzo Gracie, Antonio Rodrigo Nogeuira, Dan Henderson, Matt Hughes and Randy Couture.

So, reading this bit of news earlier today was mind-blowing. Akira Maeda was involved in FEG's "HERO*s" events as the figurehead before that fell apart due to FEG's seemingly constant stream of financial woes, then decided to create "The Outlaw" which serves as an amateur MMA breeding ground, kind of like SHOOTO. The Outsider shows tend to be a bit more gritty than your standard SHOOTO show and the fighters are a very different style from the international SHOOTO style. The thing is, Maeda is not wrong, someone needs to step up in Japan. Don Quijote, the company that was funding and then decided to pull out of Sengoku shows, leaving more uncertainty for fighters in Japan. No one is quite certain what will come of FEG and all of the affiliated promotions and SHOOTO is currently in disaster mode.

Akira Maeda has made a lot of solid, smart moves and is still surviving to this day, if not thriving. If there is anyone that I would trust to help nudge the fighting world in Japan back on the right path, it is Akira Maeda. Maybe he'll even pass on the Capture Suplex to someone other than Josh Barnett.

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Some Notes About This Weekend's Shootboxing Card; Andy Souwer, RENA and More

RENAThis weekend we finally get a break in the action a bit and Shootboxing in Japan will put on a rather big card for them. The main event is Andy Souwer facing off against Yoshihiro Sato. This is a big fight for both men and both could really use a win to keep their heads above water. Andy Souwer has discussed maybe moving over to MMA at some point and has found a good training partner by the way of UFC Featherweight Champion Jose Aldo. Aldo has once again asked Souwer to train him, this time in preparation for his next fight and Souwer has of course accepted.

Sato is coming off of a controversial loss to Armen Petrosyan at Fight Code's Oktagon Milan show in March. Armen used a lot of Muay Thai sweeps and really, for all intents and purposes fought a "dirty" fight. Sato looked good and landed more clean, powerful shots, but the cards were simply stacked against Sato that night. Sadly for Sato the cards are a bit stacked against him again for this fight, as it is Shootboxing rules, which means standing submissions and throws do indeed count. Against a Shootboxing veteran like Andy Souwer he needs to be careful.

Women's Shootboxing S-Cup Champion RENA makes her return to the ring, but not as expected. It looks like her opponent, Sun Young Kim has pulled out of the fight. This is bad news and good news, as it means we don't get to see RENA tested and actually in action, but we will still see her participate on the card. She will now face a high school student, Erika Kamimura in an exhibition bout which will only last 3 minutes.

After RENA's popularity spiked over the last few months you have to imagine Shootboxing will try to find any way to showcase her and bring some much-needed attention to the Shootboxing cause. We'll be bringing you results and further coverage of Shootoboxing 2011 Act 2 when available.

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