This one comes as a surprise, while the departure of names like Badr Hari, Tyrone Spong and Gokhan Saki are not a surprise, with them the writing was on the wall for quite a while. Kyotaro is the latest name to come up on a short list of K-1 Heavyweights who have decided to move on to another combat sport, this time Boxing. Boxing is experiencing an upswing of popularity in Japan over the past few years and it is hard to argue against it being the healthiest of the combat sports there.
News came out over the last few hours that K-1 Heavyweight Champion Kyotaro has decided to leave Kickboxing for Boxing and has returned his K-1 Heavyweight Championship. It is not surprising to see Kyotaro looking to compete elsewhere, as he has tried his hand at professional wrestling this year, much like Yuichiro "Jienotsu" Nagashima, but not seen the same level of success. Outside of his interesting hair choices, Kyotaro does not have the same charisma that a Nagashima has, and while that is not valued over all in Japanese professional wrestling, the popularity of wrestlers like Keiji Mutoh, Masahiro Chono, Shin'ya Hashimoto, Kenta Kobashi and Toshiaki Kawada speaks against that point.
Kyotaro giving up the K-1 Heavyweight Championship helps to illustrate just how confusing that championship really is and will probably be mis-analyzed by various media outlets who choose to cover his defection. The K-1 Heavyweight Championship is ornamental at best, a title implemented in 2007 when K-1 was looking to possibly move towards a model that Mixed Martial Arts and Boxing utilizes of having Champions who defend their titles in single bouts. They were looking for something different from the tried-and-true method of a yearly tournament to crown the best in the world, instead for individual championships and to give them meaning. Badr Hari was a champion that at the time looked hand-selected; known for his hot temper in and out of the ring and his larger-than-life personality, K-1 [rightfully] predicted he would become a huge star. Hari fought Yusuke Fujimoto for the vacant championship. Fujimoto defeated Musashi for the right to fight for the title, but neither man was going to pose much of a challenge to Hari, nor were either men the very top of the promotion.
Hari defended that title once over the course of a year and a half before being stripped of the title for stomping on a downed Remy Bonjasky in the K-1 World Grand Prix Finals. The one defense was against Glaube Feitosa, well into the waning years of Feitosa's career. Kyotaro faced a more legitimate set-up of a one-night tournament featuring Melvin Manhoef, Tyrone Spong and Gokhan Saki where Kyotaro was a last-minute replacement and walked away with the title. The comedy of the situation is, since winning that title Kyotaro has gone 3-4, with non-tournament, non-title losses to Tyrone Spong and Gegard Mousasi. If that title was supposed to be taken seriously, any non-tournament fight for Kyotaro should feature that title, instead he defended it once against Peter Aerts.
The point being made here is while the loss of Kyotaro is a moderately difficult loss, as is the Heavyweight Championship, both were confusing to many fans and will not be entirely missed. The Championship made no sense whatsoever and Kyotaro showed moments of brilliance but more often than not demonstrated how to defend strikes while not returning fire. [source]