Tensions escalated yesterday between Ben Hodge and Jordan Watson when Hodge failed to attend both the Yokkao 19 & 20 weigh-ins (and press conference) at the Bolton Macron stadium. Watson is the defending 70kg Yokkao world champion, having recaptured the title from Sanny Dahlbeck at Yokkao 18. Hodge was set to challenge Watson for the title later today at Yokkao 20.
However, Hodge not only failed to attend the weigh-ins in a timely manner yesterday. He’d also missed the two hour time extension he was given by officials to weigh-in at 70kg which, was after all of the other fighters had attended, weighed-in and left.
The reason given at the time by Ben Hodge’s coach, John Jarvis, was that Ben was still in the sauna with 0.3kg remaining to lose and was very focused on cutting the remaining weight before weighing-in later (than everyone else), at the agreed 70kg. Apparently, this had been discussed during the two hour extension period with the Yokkao officials, so as to ensure that Hodge would still have his opportunity to fight for the title and weigh-in a lot later (after the extension) that evening, without putting his health and well-being at any further / potential risk from such a challenging weight cut.
However, after the two hour time extension had passed, the Yokkao officials had decided that the main event between Watson and Hodge would no longer be for the Yokkao 70kg world championship.
Instead, the Watson vs Hodge fight will continue to headline Yokkao 20 but as a non-title fight.
Obviously, the decision made by the officials was not received well by Hodge who, according to his coach, was deeply angered at being denied his title shot. Especially when it was revealed that the officials had reportedly made their decision after Watson’s team had complained that even with a two hour extension, Hodge had not weighed-in at exactly 70kg which, was a strict condition to be adhered-to, for the title to be defended.
Below, Liam Harrison and Jordan Watson talk about their fights against Fabio Pinca and Ben Hodge at the Yokkao 19 & 20 weigh-ins:
Liam Harrison vs Fabio Pinca headlines Yokkao 19 on October 8 at the Bolton Macron stadium in England. Both men have beaten every top contender in Europe and have accumulated +200 fights between them.
This clash between two of the greatest Muay Farangs of the modern era, has been one of the most anticipated match-ups for over a decade and is finally about to happen this weekend, to the delight of Muay Thai fans around the world.
Speaking to Anoop Hothi on the K1ANOOP podcast, Harrison was complimentary of Pinca, describing him as a good allrounder. ‘The Hitman’ knows that it will be a close fight on Saturday and that it could very well ‘come down to who is sharper on the night’ in securing a win for either fighter.
However, when the subject of sparring, pre-fight medicals and a year of loses in 2013 was discussed, Harrison reflected on having once failed a brain scan for GLORY Kickboxing prior to his fight at GLORY 5 against Mosab Amrani:
“I got stopped against Mosab [Amrani]. I didn’t even train for a month. I’d failed a brain scan.”
“So, I didn’t train at all and then we were gonna pull me out of the fight. I’d weighed in but I hadn’t really trained, I said: ‘Ricard [Smith – his coach and manager] what’s happening here?’ – because I was waiting for the specialist to call me back [for a month before GLORY 5].”
“The day before the fight, the specialist rang back and said, ‘I’ve gone over your brain scan, you’re fine’. So I thought, oh sh-t, I’m going to fight here. I hadn’t trained whatsoever and you can tell from my body shape and everything, I wasn’t in shape at all.”
“I was gonna pull out and probably should’ve done really.”
Harrison explained that two separate Doctors had reviewed the brain scan at two different points in time – the first being on the day that the brain scan was taken (a month before GLORY 5) when he was told that the had failed the medical. The second opinion from an alternative Doctor was not received until the day before fighting Amrani two years ago (after the weigh-ins).
Fortunately, ‘The Hitman’ has had annual brain scans since then which, have given him a clean bill of health. These have also been one of the pre-fight medical requirements of other global promotions such as Yokkao that he has fought for since GLORY.
The Yokkao 19 clash with Fabio Pinca (32 years old) will be the 104th career fight for Liam Harrison who, recently turned 31 years of age earlier this week.
GLORY Kickboxing continue to add strength to their roster of world class kickboxing talent, by signing up two of Thailand’s most talented young fighters: Thongchai Sitsongpeenong and Petpanomrung Kiatmoo9 – exclusively reported by Anoop Hothi.
The addition of two more Thais reinforces GLORY’s intention to establish themselves in both Thailand and Southeast Asia (with Saenchai and Sittichai Sitsongpeenong having already fought for the promotion) as they look to expand their brand of kickboxing across new TV markets in different continents as they had outlined in their post press conference at GLORY 31.
However, Petpanomrung had been tipped for great things especially earlier this year, following a decision victory in May at the Rajadamnern stadium, over Phetmorakot Wor Sungprapai – full fight video below:
The transition from Thai rules to kickboxing shouldn’t pose too much of a problem for Petpanomrung who, has a fighting style that is technically proficient but capable of coming forward aggressively (so hopefully there won’t be any ISKA judging or refereeing controversies on his GLORY debut).
As for Thongchai who, fights out of the same gym as GLORY’s world lightweight champion, Sitthichai (hence, Sitsongpeenong is their second name and is quite common for Thais to publicise their gym affiliation in this manner), he is only 20 years of age; whereas Petpanomrung is apparently 22/23 years old.
Thai boxing purists will know too well that Thongchai became a Lumpinee stadium champion at the age of 18 and one month later would knock out Khayal Dzhaniev (one of only a few men in the world to have defeated Buakaw); and if that wasn’t enough for any ‘noob’ of a kickboxing fan to take him seriously, Thongchai would then go on to defeat French-Italian Muay Thai legend, Fabio Pinca, a year later too.
Below is a recent fight of Thongchai vs Adrien Rubis (at Topking World Series – TK7):
Both of the above Thais will undoubtedly raise the bar of competition within GLORY who, have have been strongly criticised by fans in recent years, for the questionable ways in which some but not all of their kickboxers (lack much or any professional kickboxing experience), have managed to develop a career on the ‘world’s number one’ kickboxing promotion.
Petpanomrung is expected to fight at featherweight where, Gabriel Varga is the current GLORY featherweight champion (having regained the title from Serhiy Adamchuck at GLORY 32). Whereas Thongchai is expected to fight at welterweight and it will be very interesting to see if and when he can secure a title fight with GLORY’s undisputed welterweight champion, Neiky Holzken.
Two other fighters that have also been newly signed-up by GLORY (but are not Thais) are: Adel Ekvall Halila from Sweden and Konstantin Khuzin from Russia.
Adel Ekvall Halila v Abdou Karim Chorr 2
An interesting fact about Adel Ekvall Halila (apart from being technically good in all departments and competent in both orthodox and southpaw stances) is that in 2015, he was runner-up to another kickboxing Swede in the GLORY lightweight division, Abdou Karim Chorr. The two had previously met in the WKN Scandinavian (4-man tournament) final last year and Chorr who, won his GLORY Kickboxing debut at GLORY 29 in April, hasn’t fought since then. So, perhaps a (second) rematch between the two Swedes (they are 1-1 against each other) in the near future (on a European card) could be in the works as a potential decider between the two – similar to Murthel Groenhart and Nieky Holzkenwho fight again in December?
As for Konstantin Khuzin, the Russian is expected to fight at welterweight; and comes from a strong Thai boxing background like fellow countrymen, Artem Vahitov (GLORY’s current light-heavyweight champion) and former GLORY middleweight champion, Artem Levin who, no longer fights for the promotion after one of the most controversial rematches in recent times, forfeited the rematch with Simon Marcus at GLORY 27.
Khuzin had recently fought (but lost a decision) on the Tatneft Cup show against Nikolay Lushin:
Do you think GLORY are improving the overall level of competition by signing up more Thais or do they need to a lot more then this, especially in appealing to new fans in the North Americas? Let us know in the comments below (and don’t forget to subscribe to K1ANOOP on YouTube for exclusive interviews from the world of kickboxing too).
Two days ago Hollywood actor, Idris Elba, posted an Instagram picture of himself in the sauna with the caption: “Cutting weight, two days before first fight, mind in the right place. Fear NO guy.”
As you can imagine, there has been a media frenzy worldwide and all sorts of reports and rumours about whether the British actor was actually having a professional kickboxing fight, or, if this was simply some kind of gimmick for an upcoming movie or not.
Left to right: Luke Whelan, Idris Elba, Kieran Keddle at Double K Gym
On the K1ANOOP podcast, Idris Elba’s coach, Kieran Keddle (a former three time world Thai boxing champion, Muay Thai Grand Prix promoter, head coach and owner of Double K Gym), confirmed that the reports of Elba fighting in a professional kickboxing fight were true and that the whole experience of Elba’s preparation and eventual fight, is being filmed by the Discovery network for, an upcoming documentary due to air in early 2017.
Idris Elba started training with Kieran Keddle in November 2015 but things didn’t get too serious until the start of this year. The fight is set to happen this October in Thailand under professional ‘K-1’ kickboxing rules which, includes: punches, kicks and knees to the head, body and legs with no head, body or shin protection (apart from 10oz boxing gloves and a gum shield).
Idris Elba’s training for his professional K1 rules debut takes the most recent Star Trek villain and his coach, Kieran Keddle, to various countries around the world, including: Japan, South Africa, Cuba, France, Netherlands, Australia and Thailand which, has all been filmed for the upcoming documentary.
Kieran Keddle spoke in-depth with Anoop Hothi about Idris Elba’s kickboxing ability and his fighting style:
“We’ve actually found that he’s a better kicker than a puncher…and he hits hard but his kicking ability is better than his punching ability”
“Everyone wants to be in thrilling fights but you’ve got then the other side of someone like Semmy Schilt. But let’s look at Semmy Schilt, a four time K-1 winner and a GLORY Grand Slam winner. Wasn’t the most exciting to watch but he got the results and he just used his strengths. You’ve got to weigh up your options. Whatever God gave you I suppose.”
Semmy Schilt defeats Rico Verhoeven at GLORY 4
“If you’re tall like he is, the jab is everything we’re working off. The jab, jab, jab and of course if its a pepper jab or a strong jab its all leading for giving your range for your legs.”
Idris Elba’s background in marital arts was also cleared up by Kieran Keddle and he described how the two of them were introduced to one another via mutual friend Warren Brown (former Thai boxing champion now actor) and how the documentary came about:
“So what happened is he trained kickboxing 20 years ago and it was a very keep fit like gym and he enjoyed it. And the actual true story is, he did boxing training when he was a kid but his Mum wouldn’t let him do it. So they stopped him doing it and then he went into kickboxing when he was older.”
“It’s something he always wanted to do. He was working on Luther with a good friend of mine and a former world champion, Warren Brown. They got talking and they started training together a little bit…and they stayed in touch.”
Warren Brown and Idris Elba on Luther
“After No Limits series was finished, Discovery turned around to Idris’s production company and everyone around him and said: ‘That was a massive success with hundreds of millions viewers’, went to something like 235 countries, it was massive. ‘Let’s do another season, what else can we do?’ They came up with all these different ideas and Idris went: ‘No, I I want to fight’. The whole thing has been his whole idea.”
“He wants to do it. Guarantee you, hand on heart he wants to do it and to be honest with you, he can do it. He can fight. This is no bullshit or anything like that. Its nothing to do with like, ‘oh you’re getting paid to do it’…or for my ego or whatever that bollocks. It is mainly that he can fight and I want to se him to do well like any student that come into my gym, I want them to do well…He’s been training as much as possible and as hard as possible and I’m hoping the results pay off.”
“We don’t know who his opponent is exactly yet. Its a choice of a few. What’s gonna happen is Idris is gonna have a couple of amateur fights, we hope. I’m gonna gauge whether he’s to have this fight or not. Of course, Discovery and all the people behind us want the fight to happen. I do as well. I think in sparring and the way he’s trained he’s ready to fight but we need to put him in a couple of real life situations and he see how he deals with it.”
Idris Elba kicking the heavy bag with Kieran Keddle overlooking
“Theres still 9/10 weeks away and we’ve got Australia and Thailand and I’m literally with him the whole way, give or take a few days. So, I’m hoping to get loads of rounds of sparring in – thats the most important. And that’s also how I think he performs best, with sparring. He likes pad work, he likes all the running. He prefers the real life, someone in-front of him, someone swinging at him…We’ve got a nine week camp ahead of us and I believe he can do it.”
“And the documentary, although its about fighting and thats the reason why myself as a fan would watch and you would watch and a lot of my friends would watch who, are fighters, I think thats only a little bit of it. This program you’re gonna see really what he’s like as a person and thats what I liked about the whole project. And what I’ve learnt along the way about this world that he’s in is crazy and you’ll see it as well.
“And like I said, its not just about the fight. Its about him, you’ll meet his family. You’ll see parts of the world that we go to together but the reasons we go there are not that we go there randomly, we go there for a reason. There’s a story behind everything as well and you’ll get to know his history and he’s open about things because theres a camera there, he’s not holding back.”
David Haye on the wrong end of a playful right hook from Idris Elba
“David Haye (former WBA world heavyweight champion and undisputed world cruiserweight boxing champion) is a friend of his, came to watch him and didn’t think it wouldn’t be real. And then when he started training and hitting pads and things he realised, fuck! This is no WWE thing. This is no put in against someone whose not trained before. He’s going to fight someone who has had fight experience before.”
“He’s going to be 44 when he fights…I’m preparing [sparring partners] now [for Australia]. He goes this weekend [to Australia] and I go the following. So. I’m going to bring in four or five guys. I’m hoping in-between 80 to 100 kgs because he’s about 90kg, he’s a big dude. So, I’m going to sort that all out in the next couple of days but he has been sparring with my boy, Luke Whelan. He’s been sparring with Jack Mason, John McGuire, former UFC fighter. In South Africa he sparred Francois Botha (former IBF world heavyweight champion and K-1 veteran)…and then there’s various other people in the program that you’ll see he spars with. When we go to Thailand we’re going to be bring some people with us as well…it’s exciting.”
Francois Botha defeated K-1 legends, Jerome Le Banner (pictured) and Peter Aerts
“There’s things that have shocked me and been quite controversial and theres an amazing amount of drama. The whole thing which Ive appreciated about is, nothing, nothing has been scripted and its been eye opening. And I think that the most important thing for me is, its going to open up fans to the sport.”
“If a 44 year old man can fight, whether he win, lose, draw or even gets knocked out and commit this kind of training then its going to inspire a lot of people. He does inspire a lot of people anyway, you know. He’s a man that has come from nothing and made himself a Hollywood actor and you’re gonna find out all about that as well so thats pretty cool. So, he’s an inspirational person.”
Watch the full K1ANOOP interview with Kieran Keddle below about Idris Elba training and making his professional kickboxing debut:
Over the last couple of years, China has emerged as a regular destination point for international combat sports, especially kickboxing.
However, this shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise when taking into consideration two main factors: Firstly, the ageless history of martial arts tradition and knowledge that has originated from China; and secondly, the fact that the Chinese economy has grown tremendously over the last decade and a half (despite any uncertainties it may currently face).
The two main Chinese fight promotions that are well known outside of China are Kunlun Fight and WLF. Both have the ability to attract international kickboxers to fight in China and have had the likes of, current GLORY heavyweight champion, Rico Verhoeven and former GLORY featherweight champion, Gabriel Varga fighting in China.
Recent events by both Kunlun Fight and Wu Lin Feng (WLF) have included the following match-ups:
Kunlun Fight 43 (15th April 2016):
Artur Kyshenko vs Murthel Groenhart
A rematch between two titans from their previous encounter in the, K-1 Max 70 kg Tournament Final in 2012 which Groenhart won by KO, and the two of them had been training partners at the time at Mike’s Gym. Kyshenko would get the better of Groenhart this time via unanimous decision (UD) after an extra round.
Sittichai Sitsongpeenong vs Mohammed Hamicha Moojte
This was the 4-man (qualifying) tournament final on the night, which for the winner, would secure a place in the 8-man Tournament later in the year. Sittichai is widely regarded as the best kickboxing /Thai boxing lightweight in the world right now and has given plenty of elite kickboxers in his weight class a torrid time. However, Moojte, who is based in the Netherlands, gave Sittichai a rough time and even knocked him down in the first round with an uppercut. Sittichai would secure the win eventually after an extra round by UD, but Moojte’s profile has significantly increased since then (his name was spelt differently by Kunlun as ‘Mohammed Mezouari’).
Adesanya is from New Zealand and is a very skillful and exciting kickboxer to watch who, is also pursuing a career in MMA as well. Pereira is a Brazilian kickboxer who, made the transition from boxing to kickboxing in recent years. Both have fought for GLORY in the past and have come a long way since then. The winner by unanimous decision was Pereira, which did surprise me at the time.
Yi Long is probably the most famous Chinese kickboxing monk in the world and Kehl is the K-1 World Max 2014 Tournament winner (as a result of Buakaw leaving the ring when an extra round was called for) and is from Germany. Four of Kehl’s last six fights have either been under the Kunlun or WLF banner, however, Yi Long would get the win by unanimous decision.
British Canadian kickboxer, Josh Jauncey, was the winner by delivering a devastating left head kick knockout in the third round. Jauncey has been on a recent run of good form since his loss (by unanimous decision) to Giorgio Petrosyan at GLORY 25 last year. As for Xu Yan, he is a multiple Sanhsou Chinese champion and was the more experienced fighter having fought in Japan for ‘K-1’ as far back as 2008.
French-Italian Muay Thai legend, Fabio Pinca, who had previously won the Lion Fight welterweight title in 2013 by decision over Malaipet Sasiprapa, had been on a five fight win streak prior to this fight but lost by split decision to the home fighter.
Andrei Ostrovanu vs Zhang Dezheng
Ostrovanu is of Romanian descent (but if I am correct, has grown up in England) and won by unanimous decision. He is a young kick boxer who, I can recall was fighting on regional kickboxing shows here in the UK with some powerful performances not too long and then went onto fight Mohammed Jaraya in Enfusion (he lost that fight by stoppage but he certainly challenged Jaraya)
As for Dezheng (the home fighter), from what I’ve seen of him in his fight a couple of years ago with the explosive Australian, Brad Riddell, he’s a durable fighter and no pushover.
Here is his fight with Riddell:
From the above seven match-ups, 10 of the 14 fighters are known reasonably well in the western world by kickboxing enthusiasts.
The quality of international kickboxing match-ups by the Chinese has certainly been of a very good level – some may say that they have even managed to deliver better match-ups than GLORY at times.
It certainly is very interesting times for kickboxing in China and with regular shows throughout the year being hosted by the Chinese – especially Kunlun – it can only help the sport of kickboxing to develop on a global scale which has been a struggle in recent years since the financial crisis a few years ago that brought ‘K-1’ to its knees and the rapid growth and popularity of MMA.
Kunlun aren’t complacent with simply hosting events in China alone. They recently hosted Kunlun Fight 44 on the 14th May in Russia and their following event, Kunlun Fight 45, will be in South Korea on the 22nd May 2016, before they then return to China on the 6th June 2016.
Can the Chinese sustain a financially viable operation of not only promoting international kickboxing events and a spectacle of a show, while continuing to attract a wealth of fighting talent from around the world? Only time will tell but I know that I’m certainly not the only one that hopes that they will, for the sake of breathing long term life back into the world of kickboxing.
“How much do you get paid?” a question that most serious amateur fighters hate answering. The layman hears “amateur” and “I don’t get paid” and immediately scoffs as if to say, “oh, you’re not that serious. ” After all, their buddy from high school is a pro MMA fighter and he just started training 2 or 3 years ago. This drives me nuts.
Unlike ball sports, combat sports athletes don’t have the luxury of a regulated system that tracks the years you’ve put in and the level of competition that you compete at. In order to get your first amateur fight, you essentially just have to know a guy who knows a guy. Training isn’t even technically a requirement. Sure, most promoters will only accept trained fighters who will put on a good show for their crowd. But let’s be real here, when amateur fighters drop at the last minute, promoters tend to get desperate and accept anyone who is willing to save the show. I have seen some terrible fights at some local shows because of this. It really is the Wild West out here if you don’t have an experienced trainer looking out for you.
I wish I could say it was much harder to go pro, but in some states its really not. Although you stand a much higher chance of brain damage, technically, the system is the same. You probably have to talk yourself up a bit more and maybe even just flat out lie to the promoter but at the end of the day, there’s still no back-end infrastructure to prove that you’re “bullshittin’”. After you have managed to con yourself in there and sign the contract, all you have to do is show up and (probably) get knocked out. Congratulations, you now get to tell all your friends that you’re a professional fighter.
This happens more than you might think.
However, the real problem here is not bullshitters getting knocked out, or that amateurs don’t get paid. It’s the fact that, in America, there are only 2 rungs on the ladder, Amateur and Professional. There are no levels in between that the serious athletes can use as an indicator of ability or for common people to apply prestige too. A college football player and a high school football player are both amateur athletes but are vastly different in ability and prestige.
Now imagine that high school football player who is the best player in his league. If his league’s competition is at a lower level, he still may not be at the level that his favorite colleges compete at. Now imagine the ranking system for the leagues doesn’t exist either, there’s no D1 or D2, there’s just football. If there’s no one around to check his ego, he may try and make the jump to college-level competition and meet a rude awakening.
In football that rude awakening would most likely happen at some sort of combine or college try-out. In combat-sports, it happens on a stage with an audience and a killer across the ring causing you brain trauma to score points.
On top of that, once you go pro in the US, you can never fight as an amateur again. Going pro can be a costly mistake that if made too soon, could result in a series of damaging losses and end your fighting career entirely. These are the risks that an amateur fighter takes when they go pro.
The question of whether or not to go pro also depends on which combat sport you mean to compete in. Once you’ve gone pro in any combat sport, you must remain a professional in all of them. That means if you’re a great grappler and you go pro in MMA, you can never take an amateur boxing match to build that skillset. Competing as a professional boxer is your only option if you want boxing experience on your resume. Needless to say, professional boxers tend to be better boxers than great grapplers, so it can be hard to cultivate their boxing skillset with competition once they have already gone pro.
It also takes more competition experience to get prepared in a serious fashion to go pro in some combat sports over others. It seems to be related to the age and progression of the particular sport within the USA. MMA is the youngest combat sport and least developed on the amateur level. Mixed martial artists tend to have the least amount of amateur fights before going pro, sometimes not even having 1 and still reaching the UFC. As opposed to amateur boxers who usually average around 100 matches and couldn’t possibly hope to even win one professional fight without amateur experience. Floyd Mayweather Jr. was 84-6 as an amateur, and Andre Ward was 114-5. Most successful Muay Thai fighters find themselves right in the middle, averaging anywhere between 20-50 amateur fights before making the leap to better competition and a paycheck.
That doesn’t speak very authentically to the skillsets that need to be acquired or the time spent training to acquire them. In all combat sports, years of training are required in order to make a serious run at the professional ranks.
With all of this considered it still leaves me dumbfounded. There really isn’t a right or a wrong answer to the question. I have personally seen professional fighters in all combat sports that I know I could destroy in competition, yet I remain an amateur. Nevertheless, that doesn’t make me prepared for a professional career in any of the combat sports.
So what does? Over the last few years I’ve taken it upon myself to find the answer to this question from every resource available to me. In either my own, or other’s interviews, I’ve been able to extrapolate advice from champions like Gastón Bolaños, Kevin Ross, Joe Schilling and world renown coaches like Eric Haycraft and Kirian Fitzgibbons. They all seem to reiterate the same advice. Stay amateur for as long as possible. Once you go pro the stakes are higher and the competition is brutal. The most effectual piece of information that I found came from Eric Haycraft when he explained to me in an interview that going pro means you are going to fight less. There are significantly less promotions out there for professional fighters, especially in boxing, kickboxing and Muay Thai and its much harder to find fights.
So if you’re thinking about going pro, consider this.