HIROSHIMA, April 8, 2008 -- The K-1 World Max is one of the most thrilling fightsport competitions in the world today. With its 70kg/154lbs weight class, World Max delivers the unparalleled combination of speed and technique that have made it a favorite of sports fans everywhere. The road to this year's World Max Championship has three-stages. The final and semifinals are scheduled for October, and the four fighters competing there will be determined at the historic Nippon Budokan in July, when the final eight square off in a quartet of elimination bouts.
But this week, all eyes are on Hiroshima, in southern Japan, where top fighters will go head-to-head in the World Max '08 Final 16 Tournament. The event comprises eight matches, and the boys will be giving it all they've got -- as only the victors advance to the Budokan.
On the eve of battle, the 16 fighters met the media at the Rihga Royal Hotel.
Four former World Max Grand Champions will be competing tomorrow, including Japanese favorite Masato, who faces Virgil Kalakoda of South Africa in the Main Event.
"I'm very sure it will be fierce, with a lot of punching attacks," said Masato. "Virgil is a good puncher, but I have more experience than he does, and so I think I'm the more capable fighter."
Kalakoda, speaking in Japanese, showed surprising brevity: "I am the one who will win."
In the penultimate bout, two-time World Max Grand Champion Buakaw Por Pramuk of Thailand will meet the first-ever Max Champ, Dutch boxer Albert Kraus. Both these fighters were guarded with their comments, saying only that they were happy to be here and would do their best.
In another highly-anticipated matchup, Defending and two-time World Max Champion Andy Souwer of Holland will step in against the small Greek with the big punch, Mike Zambidis.
"This is the first event of the new K-1 World Max series," said Souwer. "I plan to start off carefully, and make a good defense of my title, take it one step at a time to the final."
Zambidis said he was happy to be fighting the Champ, and would do his best to win.
Lanky Japan Max star Yoshihiro Sato will take on Turk Murat Direkci; while in a showdown between K-1 veterans' protégés, Italian fighter Saro "The Sicilian Don" Presti, who trains with Peter Aerts; will meet Warren Stevelmans of South Africa, who trains with Ernesto Hoost.
In other elimination bouts; Artur Kyshenko of the Ukraine will meet Jordan Tai of New Zealand; Armenian dynamo Drago will tango with Goro of Rota/USA; and Chi Bin Lim of South Korea will take on Yasuhiro Kido of Japan / Taniyama Gym
All bouts will be conducted under K-1 Rules -- 3min. x 3R with one possible tiebreaker round.
There will also be a K-1 World Youth Special Match fought under special rules and with a 60kg/132lbs contract. Sixteen year-old Japanese wunderkind Hiroya will entertain 15 year-old compatriot Tsukasa Fuji.
In undercard bouts, Yuya Yamamoto of Japan will meet Marfio "The Warrior Tiger" Canoletti of Brazil; while in a 55kg/121lbs contest, it will be Shota Takiya of Japan against Vitalij Lisnyak of the Ukraine.
The K-1 World Max '08 Final 16 Tournament kicks off at 18h00 on April 9 at the Hiroshima Green Arena It will be broadcast live in Japan on the TBS network. For delay broadcast information in other areas contact local providers. For complete coverage of this and all K-1 World Max and World GP events visit the K-1 Official website (www.k-1.co.jp/k-1gp).