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Masato & Souwer Perfect at World Max Yokohama '07

    Thu, 2007-04-05 07:20 — Monty DiPietro

    The event featured all World Max Champions, top contenders past and present and a number of exciting emerging fighters keen to stake their claim to a spot at this year's World Max Final Elimination, set for June 28 at the Nippon Budokan.

    YOKOHAMA, April 4, 2007 -- Masato and Andy Souwer rose to the occasion and dispatched their opponents tonight at the K-1 World Max Elite Showcase in Yokohama. The event featured all World Max Champions, top contenders past and present and a number of exciting emerging fighters keen to stake their claim to a spot at this year's World Max Final Elimination, set for June 28 at the Nippon Budokan.

    With its 70 kg/154lbs weight class, World Max serves up an addictive cocktail of technique, speed and energy that has thrilled fans for five seasons. All of tonight's fights were conducted under regular K-1 WM rules (3min x 3R w/ 1R tiebreaker).

    The card's Main Event saw World Max 2003 Champion Masato of Japan step in against IKF European Muay Thai Middleweight Champion Ole Laursen of Denmark.

    Although he had struggled some over the last several seasons, Masato is still regarded as one of the best all-round K-1 Max fighters, while Laursen is known for his power. In pre-fight interviews the Dane had pledged to use this power from the get-go, to put Masato off his game plan.

    Laursen did step forward with punches early on, but Masato met him with low kicks before closing and launching his own volley of fast punches. Laursen attempted to lead with the right but didn't have the speed to pull this off, while a composed and focused Masato repeatedly made the most of his chances. In the second Masato and Laursen both got through with punches. Masato superior with his legwork, Laursen attempting to get past the kicks with overhand punches -- Masato's evasions keeping him out of harm's way.

    Laursen closed up on the ropes and let Masato punch away in the third before coming back with the fists, but once more Masato's defenses were sound, and the Japanese fighter came away with a comfortable unanimous decision and sent the message that he is back.

    "He's good," said Laursen afterward, "his boxing was better than I expected, he's fast, explosive and has the stamina."

    "I am using more combinations now than I used to," said Masato. "Ole kept his guard high, if he had thrown more punches I would have had more chances. I'm happy with the fight, I feel motivated and stronger than ever. This is a great chance for me to get back to the top!"

    The penultimate bout featured 2005 World Max Champion Andy Souwer of Holland and this year's winner of the World Max Japan Tournament, Yoshihiro Sato.

    This was a fast and technical first -- kicks, knees and punches flying from the start, Souwer making partial contact with a right straight early on. Souwer again got through with the fists in the second but Sato was here to fight, and continued to fearlessly close the distance, intent on using his 13cm/5" height advantage to bring the knees into play. Souwer put speed and power into combinations to check his opponent's advances effectively through the third, connecting with a straight punch and high kick and fighting intelligently right to the final bell to take the unanimous decision.

    "It could have been better but I'm satisfied," said Souwer. "Sato's knees are dangerous, I took one in the liver. Of course, when you fight it's impossible to hit without being hit, it was a good fight and I think I fought it the way I had to."

    The Defending and sole two-time World Max Champion, Buakaw Por Pramuk of Thailand, is a superb fighter -- lightning quick and equally dangerous with kicks and fists. Here, Buakaw stepped in against Andy Ologun of Nigeria -- a sometimes television personality in Japan who, despite displaying unexpected prowess in his three K-1 ring appearances, had to be considered the heavy underdog in this matchup.

    Kickboxing is Buakaw's life, but if Ologun is a dilettante, that was not conspicuous here. Buakaw used front and low kicks to control the distance and pace through the first -- but Ologun got through the round thanks to some deft evasions. In the second Buakaw fired in low kicks, which Ologun was less than expert at blocking, but otherwise the Nigerian stayed out of trouble, and somewhat surprisingly made it through the second round. Buakaw might not have had the killer instinct we've seen him display in the past, but he did put in some solid attacks together again in the third, and it is a minor miracle that Ologun got through this round as well -- bravely launching kick and punch counters even to the last bell. A comfortable unanimous decision for Buakaw, but also a victory of sorts for Ologun, staying with the best of the best for three rounds.

    The inaugural K-1 World Max was won by Albert Kraus, and the Dutch boxer remains dangerous in the ring. But here, Kraus took on Japanese fighter Tatsuji, who is pretty good with the fists himself -- and had vowed at the press conference to break Kraus' jaw.

    Not surprisingly almost, all punches in the first -- Kraus planting a right hook on Tatsuji's nose from close in. A more aggressive second saw both fighters make partial contact but also block well enough to avoid serious damage. In the third the energy level was pumped up yet another notch. Here Kraus got a right uppercut through, while Tatsuji made contact with straight punches. Again, no significant damage to either fighter. One judge saw a draw and the two others gave it to Tatsuji by a single point, leaving Kraus smiling and shaking his head in disbelief as Tatsuji hoisted the trophy.

    In other action, Australian jujitsu fighter Ian Schaffa and Keiji Ozaki of Japan put on a great show.

    This was a fast-paced, hard-fought contest, Schaffa scoring big early in the first with a spinning back kick that might have been called a down but was ruled a slip, then removing any doubt soon afterward with a right hook that deposited Ozaki on the canvas. Schaffa overwhelmed his opponent, firing in the fists and earning a standing count at the clapper when a flustered Ozaki turned away from the fight. A Schaffa right hook in the second dropped Ozaki once more, but the Japanese fighter beat the count and gave the partisan crowd cause to cheer with a spinning back kick that sent Schaffa stumbling down, albeit a beat after the bell.

    Ozaki threatened again in the third with spinning kicks, all the while stubbornly weathering Schaffa's punches. A good one, the win to Schaffa by a comfortable unanimous decision.

    A showdown between a couple of pesky and creative Mongolians saw Jadamba Narantungalag take on Tsogto "Shinobu" Amara.

    Amara took the initiative early on, throwing all manner of kicks, but Narantungalag was sound with his blocking and just missed with a knee on the counter late in the first. The two mixed it up some in the second, frequently closing, which led to more fisticuffs and great excitement. Amara wasn't flashy but his combinations impressed the refs through the third. While there was no serious damage done on either side, Amara had a bit more going for him, enough anyway to take a narrow but unanimous decision.

    Mike Zambidis of Greece is a power puncher, puts his heart into every fight. So does Japanese kickboxer Kozo Takeda, his opponent tonight. This promised to be a tough contest, and the boys did not disappoint.

    Takeda commenced with kicks, Zambidis staying back on fast idle, then suddenly exploding with a flurry of punches. Takeda brought the guard up and took these with no apparent ill effects, but was surprised when Zambidis threw up a couple of kicks. At the clapper, Zambidis delivered another shocker, a leaping right hook that caught Takeda hard on the jaw, dropping him for a count.

    Zambidis was creative in the second, fast with the fists and kicks, pumping in body blows, hitting hard and staying hard to hit. Takeda was bruised and bloodied but not beaten in the third, absorbing a bunch of blows but repeatedly coming back at Zambidis with kicks and punches. A spirited performance by both fighters, Zambidis taking the well-deserved unanimous decision with a big wide smile.

    Shoot boxer Daniel Dawson of Australia took on Ray Sefo protégé Jordan Tai of New Zealand in a battle of Oceania.

    The two tested mostly with punch combinations through the first, Dawson lifting a left high kick up and in for the strike of the round. In the second Dawson worked the body blows and connected with a right upper to the jaw, while Tai sailed a couple of kicks over his opponent's head. In contrast to the easy-going and charismatic style of his trainer and mentor Ray Sefo, Tai often appeared tense, unsure of himself. Not a bad effort to be sure, but not what he needed to win. A unanimous decision for Dawson, who had smartly picked and capitalized on his chances.

    South African boxer Virgil Kalakoda and fellow pugilist Hiroyuki Maeda of Japan did a little verbal sparring at the pre-event press conference, each promising to school the other.

    Maeda came out like a loaded gun, scattershot punches and kicks backing Kalakoda against the ropes. The South African remained composed, came out circling, jabbing, tossing in a couple of good hard low kicks to end the first. Maeda got inside with body blows in the second, and although Kalakoda saw most of his punches blocked he was better with the low kicks. In the third Maeda stayed with punching attacks while Kalakoda scored with the low kicks and combinations to take the round on all three cards. Both boys had good blocking and evasions throughout, judges regarding Kalakoda favorably with a unanimous decision.

    Armenian muay thai fighter Drago declared all-out war on kickboxer Yutaro Yamauchi of Japan. After a spirited series of punching exchanges, Drago unleashed a spinning back kick to drop Yamauchi at the first clapper. Drago got another down early in the second with a punch and low kick combination, and spent the remainder of the round punishing his wobbly Japanese opponent. In the third Drago got a down with a front kick, and the referee called another when Yamauchi crumpled after a low kick. Yamauchi spent the latter half of this one bout battling to stay on his feet until finally, late in the third, the towel came in from his corner to put a stop to the punishment.

    In an extraordinary 60kg/132lbs opening fight, Hiroya, a Japanese recent junior high school grad who is just 15 years of age, took on countryman Noritaka Nishimura, a 25-year-old karate stylist making his first appearance in the K-1 ring. Hiroya may be an adolescent but he is no greenhorn -- he has years of kickboxing and muay thai training, and will be building on that while attending high school next term in Thailand.

    It would have been good enough for Hiroya to simply show up and stay in the fight. But the wunderkind went far above and beyond that, wowing the crowd with excellent vision, balance, positioning and timing. From the bell, Hiroya came forward smartly with low kicks and punch combinations, and before the first was done he'd downed Nishimura three times to pick up the KO win, to the delight of the crowd. It sounds cliché, but clearly this is a kid with a future!

    In the undercard bouts, Yasuhiro Kido beat Kozo Mitsuyama by decision; Pak-Wing Heung earned a referee-stop victory over Satoru Vashicoba; and Yuji Nashiro scored two first-round downs to beat Teppei Yasuda.

    The K-1 World Max Elite Showcase attracted a crowd of 11,628 to the Yokohama Arena. The event was broadcast live in Japan on the TBS television network. In other countries contact local broadcasters for scheduling information. Visit the K-1 Official Web Site (www.k-1.co.jp/k-1gp) for official results, photos and detailed coverage of all K-1 events.

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