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Masato leads Charge of Champions at K-1 World Max

    Thu, 2007-06-28 11:20 — Monty DiPietro

    The World Max '07 Final Elimination attracted a sellout crowd of 12,628 to the Nippon Budokan, and was broadcast live in Japan on the TBS Network.

    TOKYO, June 28, 2007 -- Masato won in the Main Event and the three other World Max Grand Champions also came through in convincing style tonight at the World Max '07 Final Elimination.

    The do-or-die showdown featuring 18 of the best fighters in the popular 70kg/154lbs K-1 World Max weight class. Held on a hot and humid night at the historic Nippon Budokan in central Tokyo, the one-match format event advanced victorious fighters to October's K-1 World Max eight-man final.

    The Main Event featured the '03 World Max Champion Masato of Japan and the defending Hero's mixed martial arts middleweight champion, JZ Calvan of Brazil.

    Calvan tripped the light fantastic through a peppy and protracted ring entrance. Then, accompanied by thundering death metal, Masato sashayed in dressed in a fuchsia robe, looking something like a disco druid. Finally it was time to fight. And what a fight it was!

    From the bell Calvan grabbed a Masato low kick and held on while pushing forward with a big right overhand punch. Masato answered with a hard low kick, a nice uppercut and a right hook, Calvan stumbling a bit in the middle of all this but staying on his feet before sending back a serious right hook of his own. The second was a veritable slugfest -- a couple of bouts worth of action squeezed into one single round. Calvan with another right hook, adding a jarring left to make this his strongest round; Masato taking it on the chin, spinning in a kick, hammering in a great left hook and right uppercut before grabbing his opponent and throwing him to the canvas. And both fighters barely missing with high kicks. The third round again was electrifying -- Masato's best strikes a right hook and an uppercut, Calvan now finally looking fatigued, but not so much that he didn't launch a flying knee.

    In the end, the difference was Masato's stamina and a new killer instinct which looked good on a technical fighter some had regarded as a bit of a pretty boy. Masato is back -- and surprise, now he's a real badass!

    "I trained for this fight with distance running," said Masato in his post-fight interview. "and that helped me stay energetic to the end because it was very hot in the ring. Of course I would have liked to get a KO, but JZ pressed pretty hard, hit me good a couple of times, and anyway the important thing is to win!"

    The penultimate match saw defending and two-time World Max Champion Buakaw Por Pramuk of Thailand take on Western European World Max Champion Nieky Holzken of Holland.

    With his relentless hard low kicks, surgical punching attacks and preternatural evasions, Buakaw is the man to beat in World Max. But there was a buzz in the air here regarding Holzken, who is billed on his website as "the world's best upcoming talent."

    The fighters tested with low kicks and jabs to start. Buakaw got a hard high kick up at the clapper, but Holzken read it and blocked perfectly. In the second they went toe to toe and Holzken snuck a right, Buakaw doing the same soon afterward on a counter. Buakaw steadily asserted himself, now using front kicks to set the distance, blocking and dodging and getting the better stuff in. In the third again Holzken closed with punches, but Buakaw had superior balance and positioning and scored with low kicks and quick counters. Not a bad effort from Holzken, but a better one from Buakaw, who took the unanimous decision.

    "Nieky is a very good fighter, he hit me in every round" smiled Buakaw afterward, "I think if he had fought another fighter he probably would have won! I am not fully satisfied with my performance, I have room to improve to make myself a complete fighter, so I will train hard for the October final!"

    Albert Kraus of Holland was the first-ever World Max Champion, and made it to the final eight last year. Here he faced fellow boxer and '06 final eight fighter, Virgil Kalakoda of South Africa.

    Kraus looked a mature fighter, showing more low kicks and creative combinations than he has in previous outings. Kalakoda got a nice left through in the first, but again in the second Kraus had the edge, smart and speedy with his combinations, connecting with a right hook and a spinning back kick to the midsection. Kalakoda was no slouch, answering most of what came his way, although a high and close guard kept Kraus out of trouble.

    Both fighters still had plenty of gas in the tank to make a wild ride of the third -- stepping in to mix it up with the fists, making contact with the jabs and straight punches, but mostly missing with the big artillery. Kraus got a dandy right straight in for the strike of the round, and finished with some dexterous evasions to take the win by unanimous decision.

    "I had fractured my right hand four weeks ago in a fight in the UK," said Kraus, "so I was limited somewhat in this fight. But I am happy I could show my critics that I am still a contender for the Championship this year!"

    The 2005 World Max Champion and runner-up in last year's final is shoot boxer Andy Souwer of Holland. Tonight he met muay thai fighter Ole Laursen of Denmark, one of several "producer's picks" on the card.

    Laursen made with an aggressive start, doing well with the right straight punch and low kicks. Souwer coolly weathered the attacks until he found his chance. Midway through the first, as Laursen threw a left that went wide, the Dutchman abruptly fired a right over his opponent's extended arm, thwacking him on the chin and depositing him on the canvas. Tremendous timing and a tremendous strike, and Souwer had the KO win.

    "I had a hard time adjusting to the weather here and had a bit of a flu, so I am surprised and happy that I could get that punch in for the KO," said Souwer. "I'll take a week or two off to rest then hit the gym to train for the final!"

    The World Max Japan Champion for the last two years is Yoshihiro Sato. The lanky kickboxer brought a formidable 15cm/6" height advantage to the ring for his bout with the World Max Eastern Europe Champion, muay thai fighter Denis Schneidmiller of Germany.

    The two traded low kicks in the early going, Sato with the edge in power, Schneidmiller occasionally stepping in to throw the right straight punch. The distance closed in the second, Schneidmiller quick with the one-two punch combinations, Sato throwing tight low kicks and bringing the knee up. Schneidmiller absorbed a bunch of low kicks in the third, forced onto the defensive and struggling to get strikes through his opponent's long reach. Sato by unanimous decision.

    Armenian muay thai fighter Drago made it to the World Max semifinals in '06. Here he came up against a little guy with a big punch -- producer's pick Mike Zambidis of Greece.

    Zambidis started dancing when the bell rang and remained in motion through the entire bout. The Greek slugger showed excellent evasions and blocking, and was spry and solid on the counter with body blows. Drago had some fancy moves of his own, making partial contact with spinning back kicks and fists, and by the end of the second round the pair were locked in one hell of a battle. Drago did well with the front kicks and knees in the third, but Zambidis was always closing with punches. The crowd cheered with gusto when all three judges scored the fight a draw, adding a tiebreaker round to the thrilling contest.

    Again, total commitment from both fighters, Drago throwing straight punches and working the kicks and knees, the intrepid Zambidis once more coming in with the fists, scoring surprisingly with a high kick that caught his opponent on the jaw. Plenty of spirited exchanges and a shame only one man's arm could be raised -- the judges awarding the win to Zambidis.

    Another producer's pick, muay thai fighter Artur Kyshenko of the Ukraine, stepped in against Asian World Max Champion Soo-Hwan Lee of South Korea.

    Kyshenko worked the body blows beautifully from the get-go, also connecting with a high kick and right straight to the chin to dominate his opponent through the first. Lee's front kicks, one-two punch combinations and a decent knee made the second closer, but Kyshenko unleashed a vicious volley of punches in the third to force a standing count, and after resumption laid in with a left hook to earn the win by KO.

    In the first of two Superfights on the card, Nigeria's Andy Ologun and Japanese boxer Tatsuji mixed it up. Ologun's lateral movement and right straight served him well through the early going, but Tatsuji rattled him late in the first with a worthy right hook. The Japanese fighter was aggressive from the start of the second, clocking Ologun with a right straight punch, showing good timing to get past his opponent's low kicks and deliver the fists. The third saw Ologun rally some with straight punches, Tatsuji frequently locking him up in the clinch. Tatsuji got some good licks in here as well, although neither fighter managed to put decisive force behind their strikes. One judge called it a draw, the other two liked Tatsuji by a single point each, which was good enough for the win.

    The second Superfight featured kickboxers Takayuki Kohiruimaki of Japan and Tsogto "Shinobu" Amara of Mongolia. Kohiruimaki used his 9cm/4" height advantage to fight from outside, repeatedly firing in low kicks to stymie Amara's attempts to close with the fists. In the second the Japanese fighter met his opponent's advances with knees on a couple of occasions, but otherwise again it was all low kicks. As the fight wore on Amara grew increasingly frustrated and Kohiruimaki increasingly cocky, pumping his fist in the air to the delight of the crowd. A convincing and timely performance from the Japanese fighter, who stopped his three-bout losing streak with a comfortable unanimous decision.

    In undercard bouts, Farid Villaume of France beat Nonthanun Por Pramuk by decision; Yuji Nashiro of Japan KO'd compatriot Hakuto; and Keiji Ozaki of Japan beat Pak-Wing Heung of Hong Kong by decision. All fights were conducted under K-1Rules (3min x 3R with one possible tiebreaker round).

    The World Max '07 Final Elimination attracted a sellout crowd of 12,628 to the Nippon Budokan, and was broadcast live in Japan on the TBS Network. For scheduling information elsewhere contact local broadcasters. As always, visit the K-1 Official Website (www.k-1.co.jp/k-1gp) for complete coverage of this and all K-1 tournaments.

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