HONG KONG, August 3, 2007 -- With the mercury hitting near-record highs, the Hong Kong Observatory this morning issued a "Very Hot Weather Warning." It is sizzling in Asia's World City -- especially for the fighters who will do battle in this Sunday's historic K-1 Asia GP 07 in Hong Kong.
Set for the new Asia-World Expo Arena, the event is K-1's first in Hong Kong. It features an eight-man elimination tournament and a trio of big-name Superfights. In advance of Sunday's fireworks, the 14 participating fighters cooled down seaside at the idyllic Hong Kong Gold Coast Hotel, and shared their thoughts with local and international media.
One of Asia's strongest fighters, the huge Hong-Man Choi of South Korea, will meet Trinidadian-Canadian slugger Gary "Big Daddy" Goodridge in a Superfight. Renown for overwhelming opponents in the early moments of a fight, here Goodridge will first have to overcome a 28cm/11" height disadvantage.
Said Goodridge: "I like Choi, and we will be friends both before and friends the fight. But when the bell rings there will be a fight, I can't say what will happen, but there will be a fight!"
Choi: "I was disappointed that I wasn't able to fight in Los Angeles in June, so I want to make it up to my fans here!"
One of the most keenly-anticipated matchups on the card is the Superfight between Badr Hari of Morocco and Aussie Peter Graham. Hari's trash talking of Graham at the press conference for last year's K-1 WGP in Auckland escalated to punches -- and when the pair met in the ring the following day Graham spun a heel hick round to shatter Hari's jaw.
This spring Hari became the first fighter to win the new K-1 Heavyweight Belt, and the former bad boy was decidedly more reserved in his comments today: "I am thankful for all the chances and all the great things that K-1 has given me. What happened with Peter last year made me stronger, I lost the fight but I it made me more motivated and better, so thanks Peter!"
Graham couldn't resist a dig: "I came here to take away everything K-1 gave him, we will fight again and I will beat him again. Badr said 'thank you' -- well Sunday I want to help him to become even more mature!"
The press and fighters laughed heartily at this, and -- although he tried to hide it -- even Hari had a smile on his face.
Graham continued: "I could waffle on and say this and that, but the truth is Badr can fight, he's the K-1 Heavyweight Champ. But I'm bigger and stronger now, and trust me this is going to be one of the biggest grudge matches ever -- we are past the hate and want to win so badly that it burns. It will be war!"
Sunday's third Superfight will see Peter Aerts of Holland take on spirited Seidokaikan fighter Nicholas Pettas of Denmark. No fighter better personifies K-1 than Aerts, who has participated in every World GP Final since the sport's inception in 1993 -- and has won it all three times.
Aerts: "I wish everyone good luck, but for Nicholas a little bit less luck than me."
Pettas: "I am honored to fight Peter Aerts, I have been looking forward to this for a long time. I want to show Hong Kong what K-1 is all about!"
The Asia World GP tournament, meanwhile, is an eight-man elimination that will advance the man who wins three on the day to the September WGP Final Elimination in Seoul.
First up in the quarterfinal bouts is Japan's foremost K-1 veteran, Musashi; and Yong Soo Park of South Korea.
Said Musashi: This is my first time in Hong Kong, and I am here to win!
Park: "I will do my best to make a great fight!"
The second tournament matchup will see Wang Qiang of China take on Randy Kim of South Korea.
Qiang: "I am thrilled to be here, and will do my best!"
Kim: "I want to make an this a great fight!"
The defending Asia GP Champion, Japanese kickboxer Yusuke Fujimoto, will entertain Chinese fighter Shi Hong Jian in the third tournament matchup.
Fujimoto: "I won it last time, I will win it again this time!"
Jian: "I came here from Mainland China to do my very best!"
Sentoryu, fighting for the United States, will step in against Japanese fighter Taiei Kin in the last of the tournament quarterfinals.
Sentoryu: "It's my first time in Hong Kong and my first fight in K-1 both, so it is a great chance for me and I want to show a great fight!"
Kin: "It's been a while since I fought in K-1, in the tournament I will focus on every fight to advance and to win!"
In the tournament reserve fight it will be Erhan Dennis of Turkey and Dong Wook Kim of South Korea.
Three undercard contests will pit Hong Kong fighters Man Kit Wong, Hoi Kwan Tsang and Kam Ho Chak against Malaysians Charles Suresh Selauraj, Loong Shueng Lim and Chee Leong Lim, respectively.
The K-1 World Grand Prix '07 in Hong Kong kicks off at 3:00 pm local time and will be same-day broadcast in Japan on the Fuji TV network. Delayed broadcasts will bring the event to 135 countries -- for scheduling information contact local providers. As always, visit the K-1 Official Website (www.k-1.co.jp/k-1gp) for complete post-event coverage.