July 23, 2006; New York, NY….World Junior Middleweight Muay Thai Champion, Duane “Bang” Ludwig, will return to K-1 action in Las Vegas, Nevada during a “Battle At Bellagio” Superfight with three-time kickboxing champion and fellow K-1 Max veteran, Fernando “Cool” Calleros, at the Bellagio on Saturday, August 12th.
Ludwig, 27, is regarded as one of the most dangerous strikers pound for pound in martial arts fighting. Four years ago, he became the first American to join K-1’s 159 pound limit “Max” roster in the weight division’s debut year by capturing a four-man, single-elimination Max qualifying tournament championship in his hometown of Denver, Colorado.
The victory in Denver advanced Ludwig to the inaugural K-1 Max eight-man elimination playoff in Tokyo, Japan. Matched in the quarterfinal round with Masato, the winner of the qualifying tournament that had been staged in Japan, Ludwig found himself in a battle that required a bit more experience and skill than the American had at the time. Still, Ludwig took Masato the distance of the bout before the Japanese fighter was declared the victor by the judges.
Since his initial experience in K-1’s homeland, Ludwig has secured wins in Japan over fellow K-1 Max contenders and world champions Kozo Takeda and Serkan Yilmaz.
At the age of 15, Ludwig, discovered the versatile and highly effective fighting art of Muay Thai at a local gym and quickly became fluid using his fists, feet, knees, and elbows as weapons in the squared circle. In January 2004, he reached the pinnacle of his professional kickboxing career by capturing the International Sport Karate Association (ISKA) World Junior Middleweight Muay Thai title in Denver. The victory was by no means simple as he was forced to contend with Thailand native Malaipet Sitprapom in what was a five-round, toe-to-toe war that saw Ludwig walk away with a unanimous judges’ decision win.
Ludwig has enjoyed similar success in mixed martial arts rules competition. Victorious in 8 of his first 10 appearances in the sport, he made his first major mark during his 11th start on January 25, 2003 when he faced former UFC 155 pound champion, Jens “Little Evil” Pulver, in the main event of a star-studded card at Montreal, Canada’s Pierre Charbonneau Centre. Expected to have his hands full, Ludwig stunned onlookers when he caught Pulver with a punishing right hand that prompted the referee to call a stoppage to the bout at the 1:13 mark of the opening round.
On January 16th of this year, Ludwig made his second-career appearance in the UFC octagon and scored a knockout on Jonathan Goulet only 11 seconds into their matchup by countering a left hand with a straight right punch to the chin that put Goulet on the mat.
Ludwig’s experience in K-1 sanctioned contests may dwarf that of his “Battle At Bellagio” opponent but, Calleros, a veteran of nearly every form of kickboxing competition from full contact rules to full Muay Thai rules, is by no means green to the martial arts fight world.
Last year, the 31 year old native of El Paso, Texas, retired from the sport with 39 professional bouts under his belt, but had second thoughts after his longtime mentor, Grandmaster Bill Packer, lost a long, hard-fought battle with cancer at the age of 59. The tragic occurrence prompted Calleros to resurrect his career in order to preserve the memory of Packer.
With a new sense of purpose instilled in him, Calleros scored a second round knockout on Victor Cuellar in his return fight last November and, in January, notched a unanimous decision victory over Danny Griffin. The pair of wins earned Calleros a third-career meeting with longtime rival superstar, Danny “Hard As” Steele, on K-1’s “Mayhem At Mirage II” card in Las Vegas on April 29th.
The winner of their first two meetings, Calleros dominated Steele for five straight rounds and secured a victory by way of unanimous judges’ decision. The strong showing in Sin City grabbed the attention of K-1 matchmakers in Japan, who granted Calleros a Superfight against Takeda at K-1’s annual Max event at the Yokohama Arena. Once again, Calleros was successful as he defeated Takeda on the scorecards of all three judges
In addition to the Superfight between Ludwig and Calleros, “Battle At Bellagio” will be highlighted by an eight-man, single-elimination tournament as well as two additional Superfights. Two-time K-1 tournament champion, Alexey “The Red Scorpion” Ignashov; three-time Las Vegas K-1 tournament winner, Michael “The Black Sniper” McDonald; and 2003 K-1 USA tournament victor, Carter Williams; are scheduled to compete in the tournament.
K-1’s brightest new superstar, Ruslan Karaev, who claimed the “Mayhem At Mirage” tournament crown as a 17 to 1 underdog last summer, will take on two-time world kickboxing champion and undefeated professional boxer, Dewey “The Black Kobra” Cooper, in the other “Battle At Bellagio” Superfight that has been confirmed.
The remainder of the August 12th tournament lineup and the third Superfight matchup are expected to be confirmed shortly.
Tickets for K-1 “Battle At Bellagio” are available for purchase both online at K-1 North America’s official website, www.k-1usa.net, as well as at the Bellagio box office (888-488-7111). Tickets are priced at $300, $200, $100 and $50.
The Grand Ballroom at Bellagio will open for the event at 5 PM. The first preliminary bout will begin at 5:30 PM and the tournament will commence at approximately 7 PM.
K-1 is a martial arts fighting sport that derives its name from its inclusion of a wide array of combat disciplines, including Karate, Kung-Fu, and Kickboxing (“K”), and its intent to determine one champion in one ring (“1”). After being staged for the first time in Japan in 1993 under the direction of founder Master Kazuyoshi Ishii, it later evolved into the country’s most popular sport and achieved popular culture status there as its athletes turned into larger-than-life celebrities.