Held before a sellout crowd at the historic Nippon Budokan, the event featured an eight-man elimination tournament fought under K-1 Max Rules TOKYO, February 2, 2008 — Twenty-five year-old kickboxer Yasuhiro Kido rose from relative unknown to Japan Champion tonight at the K-1 World Max ’08 Japan. Held before a sellout crowd at the historic Nippon Budokan, the event featured an eight-man elimination tournament fought under K-1 Max Rules (70kg/152lbs weight class; 3min. x 3R Ex.1R). There were also be a couple of Superfights and a trio of K-1 World Youth showcase bouts.
A bottle-blond fighter from Isehara City (pop. 100,000), Kido won the All-Japan Student Kickboxing Welterweight Championship in ’01, and won again, in the Middleweight class, in ’02. But the muay thai-trained kickboxer had a mere three K-1 bouts under his belt coming into this tournament, and his name was hardly mentioned in speculation of who might prevail. Most of that attention was focused on Nigerian-Japanese kickboxer Andy Ologun, who met karate stylist Yuya Yamamoto in the first tournament matchup.
The pair stayed light on their feet and traded occasional low kicks to start, Ologun getting the best strike here — a left straight punch. In the second, Ologun got a right cross through to score the down that would make the difference here. Yamamoto pressed through the balance of the bout, getting through with some low licks and body blows, but Ologun’s defenses were sound enough to deliver him the win by unanimous decision.
Kido made his debut in the second bout, against Keiji Ozaki, a taekwondo fighter. Some high kicks from Kido to start, Ozaki hanging back. Kido’s 12 cm/5″ height advantage helped him control the distance through much of the first, although Ozaki did get a dandy right straight through late in the round. In the second and third Ozaki repeatedly closed with the quick left jab, but to no avail, while Kido’s legwork kept him ahead, a high kick rattling Ozaki for a standing count at the final clapper. The unanimous decision got Kido a date with Ologun in the semifinals.
Starting the second bracket were a couple of boxers, go-to guy Tatsuji and Hiroyuki Maeda. One week shy of his 36th birthday, Tatsuji was the oldest fighter in the tournament. His ring entrance music was the theme from “Rocky.” Maeda lived up to the music, fighting like a champion here — mixing it up from the start and scoring an early down with a left hook. Tatsuji beat the count, but Maeda kept on coming, and scarcely a minute in socked in another left in for a second down and the win.
Last up was Ryuji, who brought a record of 23 wins and 4 losses to his fight with kickboxer Hayato. A fast-paced first, both fighters getting good punches through, the momentum swinging one way then the other. In the second, Ryuji applied early pressure with the fists, smacking in a left hook, before Hayato met his opponent’s advance with a right punch to score a down. Ryuji rallied however to finish strongly. The third featured more great action, Ryuji closing with hooks, Hayato good with blocking and countering with straight punches and low kicks. A slugfest to the final bell, the narrowest of majority decisions advancing Hayato to the semis against Maeda.
The first of the semifinals featured Kido and Ologun. Kido used front kicks to stymie Ologun’s early advances. Aside from a fair Ologun high kick not much hurt got delivered until the second, when Kido began to pump in the low kicks and made partial contact with a spinning back punch. In the third Kido’s kicks’ aggregate effect slowed Ologun, who did not threaten. Kido turned it up toward the end, coming in with the fists, and won the round on all cards to take a unanimous decision.
In the second semi it was Maeda and Hayato. Maeda was spunky here, fast on his feet and repeatedly closing with the fists. Midway though the first, Hayato looked to have hurt his opponent with stinging low kicks, but Maeda made a terrific late rally, scoring a down with a right hook. Hayato beat the count only to find himself once again on the bad side of a barrage of fists. With his defenseless opponent pinned in the corner, Maeda pumped in the punches, and the referee might have stepped in had the bell not sounded to end the round.
During the break, however, an ominous air closed on Maeda’s corner, as cornermen stretched the fighter’s right arm and uneasily examining the elbow. The bell sounded but Maeda did not answer. The ringside doctor had a quick look, then announced to the disappointed crowd that the injury would prevent Maeda from continuing. And so it was Hayato through to the final
Kido and Hayato threw plenty of punches in this one — pity it didn’t go longer. There were no fewer than four downs in the first minute. Kido got a right straight punch past a sloppy defense to score the first, and put a left hook in seconds after resumption to collect a second. Many in the crowd figured that was it, but Hayato had other ideas, and the still-shaky fighter brought the crowd to their feet with a punch that dramatically deposited Kido on the canvas. Alas, prospects of a comeback crumbled in no time, as Kido put that right in again to score his third down and pick up the win.
With his tournament victory, Kido becomes Japan’s official representative at the World Max ’08 Final, scheduled for October.
In the Main Superfight, it was two-time World Max Champion Buakaw Por Pramuk of Thailand taking on two-time and defending Max Japan Champion Yoshihiro Sato. These boys fought back at the World Max ’06 Final, Buakaw stopping Sato with a left to win by KO.
Dozens of low kicks through the first round, both fighters snapping them in smartly, Buakaw also getting partial contact with a high kick. The second saw more of the same, Buakaw expertly controlling the distance with front kicks, the taller Sato striving but failing to get close with the knees. Buakaw got a right punch through, but otherwise it was kicks. Sato stepped in with the uppercut here and again in the third but Buakaw was deft with the evasions, and scored repeatedly on counters. Sato got a right hook through in the third, Buakaw answering immediately with a left. Sato kept coming in to score with low kicks to keep it close. Late in the round Buakaw pushed his opponent across the ring with a couple of front kicks, then ducked and weaved to avoid a late punching attack.
Judges could not pick a winner and so an extra round was prescribed. Buakaw and Sato now went almost entirely with the fists, Buakaw repeatedly going around the guard with hooks, Sato unable to take advantage of his opponent’s relaxed guard to get the knees up. Buakaw landed a good number of blows to the body and head, while Sato gave the partisan crowd a glimmer of hope with a solid left hook that sent Buakaw stumbling for a moment. It was however too little too late, and Buakaw took the split decision.
In other Superfight action, dynamic Ukrainian muay thai stylist Artur Kyshenko stepped in against meat and potatoes kickboxer Shingo Garyu of Japan. Kyshenko just wanted to fight, but today Garyu was inclined to theatrics; crouching close and low for a funky staredown during the referee’s pre-bout instructions. But from the bell, Kyshenko just fought, and it turned out that was all he had to do, as three hard left hooks yielded three quick downs. A near-perfect technical performance and a well-earned win for Kyshenko.
The event also provided a peek at some up-and-coming K-1 talent, in the U-18 K-1 World Youth Competition. Three matches were contested under K-1 Rules, with a 60kg/132lb contract and a Japan vs Holland theme — The Japanese kids managed by Team Dragon President Kensaku Maeda; the legendary Andre Mannaart standing at the helm of the Dutch effort.
If the Dutch never grew up, Japan would dominate K-1 — that was the message here, as the local youngsters won all three contests. Overcoming an 11cm/4″ height disadvantage, wunderkind Hiroya threaded a left and a right through Robby Hageman’s guard to drop the Dutch teen and win by KO; in an otherwise close contest, Kizaemon Saiga won the third round on all cards to beat Bappie “Baby Face” Tetteroo by unanimous decision; and Shota Shimada spun a back punch round and caught Roy Tan hard on the jaw to score a late 2nd round KO win.
In the World Max Japan tournament reserve, Yasuhito Shirasu beat Kozo Mitsuyama by second round KO.
The K-1 World Max Japan attracted a crowd of 9,549 to the Budokan in central Tokyo. The event was broadcast live in Japan on the TBS network. Delay-broadcasts will bring the action 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.