TOKYO, October 2, 2007 -- The popularity of the K-1 World Max 70kg/154lbs weight class now rivals that of the World GP. Where the heavyweights have the power, the lighter fighters appeal with speed and stamina, consistently producing thrilling contests.
This year's World Max top eight hail from six different countries, each with his own special set of highly-refined skills. One will be crowned Champion tomorrow in the historic Nippon Budokan. Today, the hopefuls shared their pre-tournament thoughts in a standing-room-only press conference at the Hotel Laforet.
More than a few pundits figure the victor in the first fight could go on to win it all. Thai fighter Buakaw Por. Pramuk, the two-time and Defending Champion, has positively lethal legs, and in recent years has shown he has the fists to match. His opponent in the most keenly anticipated matchup of the year is the strongest fighter in Japan, all-round kickboxer and media darling Masato, who won the title in 2003.
Buakaw: "I've had a strict, hot weather training regime and I have absolute confidence I will make a fight that all will enjoy, and absolute confidence I will win!"
Masato: "I spent one whole year training for this tournament alone, I am in my best-condition ever. Not only for myself, but for my family and all my fans, I will show my best!"
The second matchup features power puncher Mike Zambidis of Greece, a compact bundle of strength and determination; and another fists-first fighter, Artur Kyshenko of the Ukraine.
Zambidis: "I am proud to come from country with heroes like Alexander the Great, tomorrow everyone will see me do justice to my national heritage!"
Kyshenko: "Just to be in the best eight is great, I have been training hard for tomorrow, and I will do a great fight!"
Dutch boxer Albert Kraus was the inaugural Max Champ, a young man with superior speed and punches. In the third tournament bout, he will meet two-time and defending Max Japan Champ Yoshihiro Sato, who uses his height (185cm/6'1") to fire the knees and kicks.
Kraus: "I will do my best, I only want to be number one!"
Sato: "Since August I have been training myself mentally, lots of brainwork to configure myself for this bout. I know am a stronger fighter now and I have one goal -- to be the Champion!"
Shoot boxer Andy Souwer of Holland took the World Max Belt in 2005, but lost to Buakaw in the final last year. Tomorrow he will square off against Armenian muay thai stylist Drago, known for both aggression and creativity.
Souwer: "I have been training to get back the title I lost last year, I will get the belt tomorrow you'll see!"
Drago: "I am happy to be here, good luck everybody!"
In the Reserve Fight it will be Takayuki Kohiruimaki of Japan vs Virgil Kalakoda of South Africa.
Kohiruimaki: "Virgil is a good puncher, I want to position myself properly for the exchanges."
Kalakoda: "There are some big, tough matchups and anything can happen. I prepared for this as if I was in the tournament, in case the reserve fight winner gets in."
In a Superfight, Kazuya Yasuhiro of Japan will take on Su Hwan Lee of South Korea; while a special junior 60kg Superfight will see 15 year-old Japanese kickboxer Hiroya take on 18 year-old Kwon Eolzzang of South Korea.
The K-1 World Max '07 Final kicks off at 18h00 on October 3 at the Nippon Budokan. 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)