TOKYO, December 7, 2007 — On a cool and sunny afternoon, from high atop an outdoor stage in Tokyo’s seaside Odaiba, the eight men who would be K-1 World Grand Prix 07 Champion met the media and fans on the eve of fightsports’ ultimate showdown.TOKYO, December 7, 2007 — On a cool and sunny afternoon, from high atop an outdoor stage in Tokyo’s seaside Odaiba, the eight men who would be K-1 World Grand Prix 07 Champion met the media and fans on the eve of fightsports’ ultimate showdown.
The K-1 WGP is celebrating its 15th year, with a winning format unchanged since the sport’s inception: Four first-tier bouts advance a quartet of fighters to the semifinals, the winners there square off in the final. As such, the man crowned King of Kings will have to get past three different opponents at the Yokohama Arena on Saturday, December 8.
This year’s final kicks off with a bout between veteran kickboxer Jerome Le Banner of France and South Korean Hong Man Choi, a 218cm/7’2″ former Ssirium Grand Champion.
LeBanner looked relaxed, and was playful with the photographers: “I’ve been waiting for the big event, and I’m very ready. Hong Man looks like one of the twin towers I have to destroy. And I’ll try not to get a pain in my neck looking up at him!”Choi, who has become something of a fashion horse, appeared today in a burgundy velvet blazer, and quipped: “LeBanner is cool isn’t he? Well, I trained hard and will do my best. I know it will be a good result.”
The second tournament matchup will pit K-1 Super Heavyweight Champion and two-time and Defending WGP Champion Semmy Schilt of Holland against Brazilian kyokushin master Glaube Feitosa. These two are possibly K-1’s most stoic fighters, and fittingly, both wore gray business suits and were reserved with their comments.
Said Schilt: “I’m glad to be here as the Champion, I will show you a great fight and we’ll decide who is best.”Feitosa: “Fighting the Champ pleases me, I am ready and set and will put up a great fight.”
The second bracket opens with Moroccan bad boy Badr Hari. The K-1 Heavyweight Champion, Hari turned 23 just three days ago; and tomorrow he will face two-time WGP Champion Remy “The Gentleman” Bonjasky of Holland. There is no love lost between this pair, who have lashed out at one another in interviews. But today’s cool weather seemed to take the fire out of their comments. A bundled-up Bonjasky showed little emotion, while the meanest thing Hari sent his opponent’s way was a stare.
Hari: “Ladies and gentlemen I am happy to be here, happy my friends came from very far away to watch me, and tomorrow I’m ready to knock somebody out.”Bonjasky: “I am doing sport, I want to be the best and this is just another fight. Maybe Badr hates me, maybe he doesn’t, but anyway I wish all the fighters good health.”
The last of the quarterfinals features three-time WGP Champion Peter Aerts of Holland and 23-year-old Japanese kickboxer Junichi Sawayashiki. Incredibly, the veteran Aerts has competed in all 15 K-1 WGP finals.
Aerts: “I didn’t prepare a speech, but I hope to kick some ass tomorrow. My opponent, he looks like he could be my son — but I haven’t seen his mother though so I don’t know.”Sawayashiki: “I am fully prepared for tomorrow and will fight my very best.”When a reporter told Sawayashiki many observers believe Aerts will walk over him, the 23 year old smiled and said, “I think so too.”
In the tournament Reserve Fight it will be Mighty Mo of the United States and Paul Slowinski of Australia.
Mo: “I feel good, Paul is a top-notch fighter so I’ll bring my A-game!”Slowinski: “It’s a big chance for me against Mighty Mo. I was supposed to fight Ray Sefo, so I trained for a boxer with big hands, Mo and Ray have similar styles so it doesn’t make much difference.”
A Superfight will see Japanese seidokaikan fighter Musashi take on French boxer David Dancrade.
Musashi drew a laugh with his comments: “My opponent was changed at the last minute, I didn’t know anything about him, not even if he’s orthodox or southpaw, but K-1 sent a photo to my mobile phone. Now I see him in person I can only say he looks a lot like his photo. But I trained hard, I’m ok and I will do a good fight tomorrow.”Dancrade: “It is an honor to fight Musashi, I am well prepared and will do a good fight.”
Also on the card, Jan “The Giant” Nortje South Africa will take on Dong Wook Kim of South Korea; Takashi Tachikawa of Japan will mix it up with Ki Min Kim of South Korea; and Mitsugu Noda of Japan will fight Noel Cadet of France.
All seats are all sold out for the K-1 World Grand Prix 07 Final, which commences at 5 p.m. on Saturday, December 8 at the Yokohama Arena. The event will be broadcast live in Japan on the Fuji TV network; in Korea on XTM; in Hong Kong on PCCW; in Australia on Main Event; in Brazil on Globosat; in Canada on the Fight Network; in Romania on ProTV; in Hungary on RTL; and across Scandinavia on Viasat. Delay-broadcasts will bring the K-1 WGP 07 to a total of 135 countries — for scheduling information contact local providers. Visit the K-1 Official Website (www.k-1.co.jp/k-1gp) for official results and comprehensive coverage of this and all K-1 events.