WLF

Panicos Yusuf explains withdrawal against Superlek Kiatmoo9 at Yokkao 23 and hasn’t retired

Panicos Yusuf had reportedly retired from fighting according to Yokkao a week ago which, caused quite a frenzy on social media, especially since Yusuf himself hadn’t come out publicly to issue such a statement. To make matters worse, Panicos isn’t event managed by Yokkao like for example, Muay Thai legend Saenchai and is actually a co-promoter himself (at Tanko Events) whilst managing to have an active fighting career. However, a few days later in an interview with MMA Plus, Panicos was adamant in refuting the inaccurate reporting by Yokkao and that he hadn’t retired from fighting.

Speaking more about the matter yesterday, Panicos explained that juggling the demands of being a father, fighter, promoter and coach running his All Powers Gym, wouldn’t allow him to prepare properly for a proposed fight with, Superlek Kiatmoo9 at Yokkao 23, at this moment in time.

“For me to continue fighting big opponents such as Superlek, I needed to be spending more time in Thailand really. Realistically training and fighting out there just to be on par with them. Manachai was a really good fight, I don’t think I was too much out of depth with him but Superlek is another league. I think he’s as good as Saenchai if not better.”

“So, we decided that its best to maybe not fight against him on this show because its very short period of time for me training and I don’t think I’m at the level to fight Superlek yet. I’m not scared of him, I’ll fight him do you know what I mean, it’s not a problem if the money’s right, yeah I’ll fight him anytime. The only problem is I don’t get the type of training that I need to fight opponents like that. Yes, I want to fight Thais because I don’t think there’s anyone at my weight that can challenge me apart from Thais but basically, I don’t think theres any point in doing it at this moment in time.”

However, Panicos had recently made the transition to MMA, winning his debut at Tanko FC 2 against Ben Dearden and was candid about Muay Thai not being ‘financially viable’ as a fighter, especially with the added responsibility of being a family man.

“There’s no money in Thai boxing. As much as I love it, I know that if I invested the time and financial resources into bringing my level up, its not as if my purse is going to increase by a considerable amount for it to be worth it for me in the long run.”

Despite dealing with some ongoing injuries that had also prevented him from participating in the 63kg 8-man tournament at the WLF 2017 World Championship over the weekend, Panicos is aiming to return to action in March with his main aim being to further develop his MMA career.

Click here to listen or download the full podcast interview with Panicos Yusuf which, also includes a guest appearance by, Iman Barlow ahead of her title defence against, Meryum Uslu at Lion Fight 34.

Kunlun Fight 56: Buakaw, Jomthong and Superbon feature in New Year’s Day extravaganza

Kunlun Fight have certainly made their mark on world kickboxing in 2016, with a series of 70kg 4-man tournaments throughout the year, building up-to their year end extravaganza in China. The new year’s day event will focus on the Kunlun World Max finals, featuring: Davit Kiria vs. Jomthong Chuwattana and Superbon Banchamek vs. Cedric Manhoef; headlined by, Buakaw Banchamek vs. Tian Xin.

Kunlun have featured a good few Thais on their events as they established themselves in Southeast Asia initially, with Buakaw being one of their key name fighters. Along with Artur Kyshenko as they have expanded, focusing more on attracting fight fans from the western world.

Davit Kiria vs. Jomthong Chuwattana

Kiria is a former GLORY lightweight champion and now trains with Nieky Holzken; Joining the recently dethroned GLORY welterweight champion at Team Holzken this year.

Kunlun

Photo credit: Kunlun Fight

Kiria made the move in an attempt to rejuvenate his kickboxing career after mixed results in the last couple of years. The change has done him well resulting in a couple of wins against Robbie Hageman at Kunlun Fight 48 and  Dzianis Zeuv at Kunlun Fight 52 – both by decisions and part of the overall qualifying process for the Kunlun World Max.

Jomthong on the other hand is a master of various striking skills and rule-sets including, a pro boxing record of 9-1 and three continental titles. He is also a three time Rajadamnern stadium champion but really made his name in Muay Thai with a huge win over Anuwat Kaewzamrit for the WBC featherweight crown in 2008.

Of the two, Jomthong has been the more active this year with six wins from seven fights, the majority of which were on Kunlun events this year including a notable decision win over Buakaw’s opponent on the night, Tian Xin at Kunlun Fight 53.

Superbon Banchamek vs. Cedric Manhoef

Of the four fighters in this year’s Kunlun Max semi-finals, Superbon is most probably the favorite to win the tournament, having defeated Sitthichai Sitsongpeenong at Kunlun Fight 48 in the previous round. The win was a rematch for the two following on from Kunlun Fight 37 where Superbon was on the wrong end of a knockout in the semi-finals of the Kunlun Max event in 2015.

Before Superbon had leveled the aggregate score, Sitthichai, who is currently the GLORY lightweight champion, had been undefeated for the 21 consecutive months, collecting nine wins in a row. The list of world class kickboxers that he had seen off in the last two years included: Mohamed Mezouari at Kunlun Fight 43, Marat Gregorian (twice), Robin van Roosmalen at GLORY 31 and even Davit Kiria (with a brutal knee to the body) at GLORY 28.

Cedric Manhoef is the ‘dark horse’ of the semi-finalists and although he has the heart of a lion and does his family name proud by hardly ever taking back steps in the ring (Melvin Manhoef is actually his nephew – yes, you read that right); the 23 year old is very much a work in progress still. However, Superbon cannot afford to underestimate the Surinamese fighter with any complacency to progress successfully to the final.

Buakaw Banchamek vs. Tian Xin

Buakaw has been fighting for the Chinese promotion since Kunlun Fight 32 in October 2015 and has had a great deal of success, excluding of course, the most controversial decision loss of 2016 against Yi Long at last month’s WLF event in Nanjing, China.

As for how Xin will fare against the living legend and ‘old skool’ K-1 veteran remains to be seen. However, from the Chinese kickboxer’s clash with Andrei Kulebin at Kunlun Fight 50 there’s a possibility that Buakaw could possibly capitalize on Xin’s fighting style with strong clinch-knee entries.

Nevertheless, Buakaw vs. Xin has all the makings for an exciting headlining fight in Sanya on January 1, 2017 since both have the ability to fight well at a high tempo. The new year will be very interesting to see if and how the talented Chinese fighters like Xin can enhance their profile globally along with the continued growth of Kunlun Fight.

Kunlun Fight 56 – Fight card (and order of fights):

Abdullayev vs. Ma Shuo, 75kg

Denies Puric vs. Wang Wenfeng, 60kg

Felipe Stievano vs. Andrey Gerasimchuk, 100kg

Mohamed Mezouari vs. Dzianis Zuev, 70kg – Reserve bout, Kunlun World Max

Arthit vs. Khatal Dzhaniev, 70kg – Reserve bout, Kunlun World Max

Davit Kiria vs. Jomthong Chuwattana, 70kg – Semi-final A, Kunlun World Max

Superbon Banchamek vs. Cedric Manhoef, 70kg – Semi-final B, Kunlun World Max

Andrei Kulebin vs. Wu Xuesong, 70kg

Sergii Kulaiaba vs. Gu Hui, 67kg

Winner of semi-final A vs. winner of semi-final B, 70kg Kunlun World Max

Juan Javier Barragan vs. Wei Ninghui, 65kg

Buakaw Banchamek vs. Tian Xin ,70kg

Kunlun

Kunlun Fight 56 – Image via Kunlun Fight

 

Is China the future of world kickboxing?

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’).

WLF – Glory of Heroes (2nd April 2016):

Isreal Adesanya vs Alex Pereira <==CLICK TO WATCH VIDEO OF FIGHT

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.

Enriko Kehl vs Yi Long <==CLICK TO WATCH VIDEO OF FIGHT

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.

Josh Jauncey vs Xu Yan

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.

Fabio Pinca vs Yinghua Tie <==CLICK TO WATCH VIDEO OF FIGHT

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.