It’s been a long time since we’ve talked about the Heavyweight division. Who would imagine that? Less than a year ago, a vibrant Kickboxing scene without the Heavyweight division at its center seemed like an unthinkable notion. For decades, Heavyweight was synonymous with Kickboxing, with names like Ernesto Hoost, Peter Aerts, and Semmy Schilt long overshadowing skilled fighters in other weight classes. Fast forward to 2014, which was undoubtedly the year of Middleweight, producing what I still believe is the most brutal tournament in kickboxing history with legendary clashes between Joe Schilling, Artem Levin, Wayne Barrett, Simon Marcus, and more. Glory knows that its Middleweight division is a murderer’s row and is putting its Middleweight fighters to work with regular frequency. The Lightweight division was also set ablaze when Andy Ristie did the unthinkable and blasted through Giorgio Petrosyan and Robin van Roosmalen in one night. The belt has since changed hands several times but with longtime kingpin Petrosyan out of action. Robin van Roosmalen is currently the champion, but time will tell how long he can hold on to the title, especially with Petrosyan returning to fight and a hungry Andy Ristie waiting for the chance to annihilate Robin again.
Events for the Heavyweight division, on the other hand, have taken a significant downturn. Semmy Schilt is out of the picture. Gokhan Saki has moved down to Light Heavyweight. Rico Verhoeven had a successful 2014 but opened the New Year in China with an embarrassing loss to Andrei Hirasimchuk, a virtual unknown who was able to shut down Rico’s range for two rounds and give Rico’s future opponents a potential blueprint to success. Errol Zimmerman crushed Ben Edwards and Braddock Silva in one night, but Daniel Ghita seems to have always had Zimmerman’s number, stopping him in less than a minute during their last confrontation. Benjamin Adegbuyi appears to be a bright prospect, but he has yet to receive an opportunity to compete for a contender’s spot.
And that leaves us with Daniel Ghita, who had a frustrating 2014 with two losses to Rico Verhoeven. In many ways this is the ongoing story with Daniel Ghita: he’s proved himself capable of crushing nearly every Heavyweight in the world but always comes up short in world title fights. He brutalized his way through the insane 16-man Glory Heavyweight Grand Slam in 2012 but was bullied by Semmy Schilt en route to a stoppage in the final. When he fought Rico Verhoeven, he seemed to have all of the skills needed to beat him but seemed reluctant to pull the trigger on his devastating kicks. Many of us on the twitter sphere also noted some questionable instructions from his corner during those fights. Coaching continues to be an ongoing issue for Ghita as he has changed training camps several times in the last few years, relocating from Romania to the Netherlands. These changes make me wonder where Ghita’s head is at right now. After reaching out to him on twitter, Ghita has assured me that he will be returning to action soon. Let’s hope that he is able to find stability in his training camp in 2015 as well as consistency in his fights. A championship victory seems inevitable for the Romanian, but he will finally have to put it all together if he wants to win the title this year.
As exciting a fight as the upcoming battle at Glory 19 between Verhoeven and Zimmerman will be, it’s also somewhat underwhelming because this is all the Heavyweight division has to offer at the moment. The status quo is a far cry from the massive, star-studded division that inaugurated the Glory brand. If its champion is losing fights against no-name opponents in China, then Glory has a problem. The Heavyweight division needs new talent. It needs new stars. It needs a superstar who can sell a card on his name value alone. Verhoeven and Zimmerman are formidable fighters, but they are also European athletes who haven’t crossed over with American audiences and who were for many years overshadowed by the likes of Alistair Overeem and Badr Hari. If I were Glory, I would look to add new faces this year while seizing the opportunity to add an established star like Overeem—with the help of Bellator—especially if he becomes a free agent again. Heavyweight is in need of new growth and a fresh start. We’ll see in the coming months what Glory plans to do.