When it comes to fighting there are guys that we call legends and then there are legends. For Don "The Dragon" Wilson, he is actually an honest-to-goodness legend. Don has been through all that there is to go through when it comes to martial arts and has carried the banner for martial arts not only throughout his illustrious career but throughout his life as well. He did all of this in a pre-K-1, pre-UFC world, so it is safe to say that if you enjoy modern iterations of Martial Arts that you'd better show some respect for Don Wilson.
Most guys at the age of 58 would enjoy their retirement from the ring and serve as an ambassador, just like Don has been doing, but true fighters can't resist the urge to compete, so compete he must.
Don announced yesterday that he'll be fighting a 10-round non-title Kickboxing bout this fall in Istanbul under the IKF banner and that he'll be flying out on March 19th for a press conference to make everything official. Don't take our word for it, though, check out what he had to say about this;
"It's OFFICIAL I'm fighting a 10 round nontitle kickboxing bout this year in Istanbul, Turkey! The fight will be either September or October and I will be sanctioned by the International Kickboxing Federation and I'll be fighting under rules similar to the K-1. I am very excited because although I am 58 years old and have not fought for over 10 years, I still miss the lifestyle....the training, sparring, etc. I will fly to Istanbul March 19th for the Press Conference."
SuperKombat started off their New Heroes series on February 23 in Optaija, Croatia, where four heavyweight fighters qualified for future SuperKombat events. The next edition of SuperKombat New Heroes is on March 23 in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
The event is being put on with WGP Kickboxing and will feature a four man heavyweight tournament, with the winner qualifying for SuperKombat. The tournament sees K-1 participant Saulo Calavari fight Edson Lima in one semi final, with Felipe Micheletti fighting Argentina's Rogelio Ortiz in the other semi final.
There will also be a 75kg fight to qualify for SuperKombat as well. Bellator veteran Thiago Michel will be in the bout against Romanian SuperKombat veteran Miodrag Olar. Both fighters that qualify for SuperKombat will qualify for a SuperKombat World Grand Prix event from May 18 onwards.
As well, Brazil's best 85kg kickboxer Alex Sandro Pereira will be back in action after losing to Jason Wilnis at It's Showtime Brazil. He will be taking on Cesar Almeida for the 85kg Brazillian title under K-1 rules.
Kyokushin Karate blossomed in an isolated environment. Deep in the back-country of 1950's Japan, a select few, trained by the Bull Killer, Mas Oyama, (That handsome devil in the above picture) went on to establish knock-down rules Karate as one of the most hard-hitting, brutal, and intense forms of organized combat in the world.
Kazuyoshi Ishii, the founder of K-1 and mastermind behind the Seidokaikan offshoot of Kyokushin, brought kickboxing to the masses in 1993 to demonstrate the power of Karate to the stand-up striking community. Most people know the big dogs of Kyokushin from K-1: Andy Hug, Francisco Filho, Glaube Feitosa, and Sam Greco. But beneath the layer of kickboxers lies a rich tapestry of combat sports athletes whose names nor accomplishments often see the light of day.
For this reason I've put together my very subjective list of the "Top 20 Greatest Kyokushin Fighters of All-Time". There will definitely be some names that devout kickboxing fans will recognize on this list, but more than likely I'll be introducing the majority of you to some new faces (or at least, that's my hope). As I mentioned earlier, this list is purely subjective. I selected the fighters mainly on achievement, but also on quality of competition and technical skill. Ranking Kyokushin fighters is dificult because the weight of their accomplishments depends on what tournaments they participated in, how frequently they did so, and how far they advanced.
If you're a Karate die-hard and you feel I missed someone very near and dear to your heart, drop me a line at @SandersonSensei and I'll take a look, just for you. Aren't I great? (The answer is yes.) Or if my list sucks, feel free to make your own and wave it in my face. We're all friends here, after all.
A little information on the different types of tournaments before we begin: A World Tournament includes every weight class. There are no divisions and no upper weight limit. Any Weight Tournament splits fighters into one of three weights: Lightweight (Under 70 kg) Middleweight (70 kg to 80 kg) and Heavyweight (Over 90 kg). That's it. Pretty simple, right?
So without further ado, let's get started with Number 20 on our list....
#20: Gary O'Neill
6th World Tournament 1995- 4th, 1st World Weight Tournament 1997- 5th, 2nd World Weight Tournament 2001- 5th, 28th All Japan Tournament 1997- 2nd, 29th All Japan Tournament 1998- 2nd
While Sam Greco may be the most widely recognized Australian Kyokushin champion from his stint in K-1, Gary O'Neill is undoubtedly the man with the greatest accomplishments. A 75 kg fighter that competed and won against heavyweights, O'Neill was known as one of the most technical fighters of his day. While his World Tournament rankings may not look like much, you should probably keep in mind that in the 6th incarnation of the World Tournament (When O'Neill placed 4th) there were over 150 fighters competing from every weight class, including heavyweight .
Gary's biggest accomplishments were certainly his 4th place at the the 6th World Tournament, and his two back-to-back finalist positions at the All Japan Championships, both of which he dropped to one of the best Japanese fighters of all time- Hajime Kazumi. Nothing to be ashamed of. O'Neill was a pioneer for Australian combat sports, and one of the first people to show that a lighter weight foreigner could throw down with the big dogs.
Enfusion Live is holding their second event of the year this Saturday, March 9 in Barcelona, Spain. The fight card features a number of great match-ups.
At 70kg, Artur Kyshenko will meet Abraham Roqueni in a very interesting match-up, that pits two of the division's best against each other. They both fought on the K-1 MAX Final in December, with Kyshenko losing in the finals to Murthel Groenhart and Roqueni winning the reserve fight against Xu Yan. Roqueni has a tricky style and Kyshenko has had troubles with fighters who can utilize good movement so it's a very intriguing match-up.
A fight that to me is even more interestng is at 85kg, where Sahak Parparyan fights hometown fighter Cesar Cordoba. Cordoba is one of Spain's best kickboxers ever and in recent years hasn't been that active, especially when it comes to fighting top competition. Sahak is obviously one of the best 85kg fighters but I expect this to be a very competitive fight. Cordoba has the chance here to establish himself as a major player in the division with a win.
Enfusion will also crown a champion at 70kg, as David Calvo faces Mirko Vorkapic. The fight is for the new Enfusion 70kg world title. Another 85kg match-up on the card features rising Slovenian Tadej Toplak, who takes on the It's Showtime veteran Moises Ruibal.
At 63kg is another interesting fight between Spain's Nico Barbera and Portugal's Ruben Almeida. Almeida was previously ranked on the LiverKick rankings while Barbera has been rising through the ranks in Spain. Finally to round out the main card, the lightest fight on the card is at 56kg and is a women's fight, between Maribel Sousa and Iman Barlow. Barlow replaces Denise Kielholtz.