Zimmerman is the Man at K-1 Europe GP

This was a classic eight-man elimination tournament — all bouts contested under K-1 Rules (3Min. x 3R w/1RExt.), a quartet of first-tier fights advancing four men to a pair of semis, and the winners there going head-to head in the final.AMSTERDAM, April 26, 2008 — Errol Zimmerman of Holland won today’s K-1 World GP ’08 Europe Final at the Amsterdam Arena. The 23 year-old kickboxer, who hails from the respected Golden Glory gym, dispatched three opponents en route to victory.

This was a classic eight-man elimination tournament — all bouts contested under K-1 Rules (3Min. x 3R w/1RExt.), a quartet of first-tier fights advancing four men to a pair of semis, and the winners there going head-to head in the final.

Zimmerman took his first step on the road to glory by beating Attila Karacs, the Hungarian hero of February’s Europe GP Final Elimination in Budapest.

Zimmerman led with hard punches while Karacs put up points with studied one-two-three combinations. The focused Karacs was good with his evasions and counters, and this was shaping up to be quite a battle. But then a cut opened on Karacs’ lower leg. The ringside doctor had a look and the fight was called. Karacs bowed his head in frustration, and Zimmerman headed to the semifinals, where he met Swiss K-1 star Bjorn Bregy.

Bregy had met power with power to defeat veteran slugger Jan “The Giant” Nortje of South Africa in his quarterfinal.

After Nortje’s spirited start — leading with low kicks and barreling forward with the fists — Bregy came back with some hard punches of his own, prompting Nortje to drop his guard and beckon, “Come and get me!”

Bregy went and got him. A couple of straight punches went through and a high kick made partial contact. It appeared to be a left that got the job done, sending the South African down, where he stayed.

But Bregy enjoyed no such success in his semifinal dance with Zimmerman. A tentative start to this one, both men staying back. But in Amsterdam any more than thirty seconds without serious action will elicit serious jeers and whistles from the crowd. As the disapproval decibels rose, the fellows responded by picking up the pace, transforming this into one of the most exciting fights on the night. Bregy went on the warpath, clocking Zimmerman with an overhand right. It was lucky for the stumbling Dutch fighter that he hit the ropes or he might have ended up on his backside. Bregy got the size-based attacks going in the second round, denying Zimmerman a way in, then stepping forward with the jabs, following with knees and uppercuts. After taking a flying overhand, Bregy dropped his guard and invited Zimmerman in to mix it up. Zimmerman obliged, dropping Bregy with a right.

Early in the third it was Zimmerman who lowered the guard and taunted his opponent, and now it was Bregy who accepted the invitation and scored a down. Evened up, the fighters now went for the kill. Bregy put a few solid blows in, but Zimmerman stayed on his feet, then rallied, chasing Bregy with the fists to score a down, and resuming pursuit after resumption. Bregy turned away from the fight, and for doing that he was assessed a standing count. The second down in the round, putting Zimmerman through to the final.

In the final Zimmerman met Belorussian Zabit Samedov. Both fighters tested early with low kicks, Zimmerman stepping in with the right straight punch and missing with the knee; Samedov pressing with fists but off-target with his spinning back kick. In the second, Samedov’s footwork and speed served him well as he pounded in a right-left combination; while Zimmerman surprised his opponent with a flying knee. A bit of clinching slowed the action some in the third, before Zimmerman landed several punishing blows. Samedov was fast and aggressive right to the final bell, working a wide variety of punching attacks. A close contest and a majority decision — the deep disappointment showing on Samedov’s face when Zimmerman’s hand was raised.

In the other tournament bouts:

Samedov fought in the first quarterfinal matchup, taking on Doug Viney of New Zealand, a 31 year-old boxer who improbably came out of the reserve fight to win last year’s K-1 WGP Repechage Tournament in Las Vegas, beating Samedov in the final. This was Samedov’s chance for revenge.

Viney broke briskly with the left jab, while Samedov kept the guard high and close and countered with low and high kicks. In the second, Viney rushed his opponent with straight punches but did not connect to effect. The Kiwi continued to absorb hard low kicks, and only just got out of the way of a Samedov high kick. Viney threw a few kicks in the lackluster third, but Samedov’s evasions and blocking were sound. Midway through the round, Samedov brought a right hook over the top to score a down, and that was more than enough to put the Belorussian into the semifinals.

In the other quarterfinal, French finesse fighter Freddy Kemayo stepped in against Romanian farmer’s son turned rugby player turned K-1 fighter Catalin Morosanu.

Morosanu has professed an admiration for American K-1 slugger Bob Sapp, and he came out tonight looking a lot like the Romanian Beast, swinging the haymakers one after the other. Always good to see an aggressive start, but Kemayo also liked what he saw, as Morosanu’s guard was practically nonexistent much of the time. It was scarcely 30 seconds into the fight when Kemayo coolly brought up a knee to catch Morosanu hard on the face, opening a nasty gash and dropping him to the canvas for the KO win.

Alas, it was announced before the semifinals that Freddy Kemayo had suffered injury in the bout and could not continue in the tournament. Taking his place was Brian Douwes of Holland, who had punched down Brit James McSweeny twice in the first round to win the tournament reserve bout.

Douwes vs Samedov had speed, technique and power — and the crowd loved it. A hard-fought first, Douwes good with a knee and middle kick; Samedov getting punches through and making partial contact with a high kick. In the second the pair repeatedly closed with tight combinations, both giving and getting a good number of hard blows. Great effort falling on strong chins. The third was slower, Douwes the one coming forward, Samedov blocking with a high guard then scoring quickly on counters, clocking his opponent with a right and just missing with a spinning back punch. One card went blue, one red and one had them even, sending the fighters back in for a tiebreaker round.

Here Samedov was the more aggressive, firing in low kicks, pounding at the guard with a high kick and a knee then closing to work the body blows. A strong performance by Samedov, who would finish the day as the tournament’s second-best fighter.

With his tournament win, Errol Zimmerman advances to the World GP ’08 Final Elimination in Seoul, where the year’s final 16, including the world’s top fightsport title-holder, three-time and defending K-1 WGP Grand Champion Semmy Schilt of the Netherlands, will pair off for a one-match elimination tournament.

There were two K-1 Superfights and a whole lot more on the card in Amsterdam.

Highly-anticipated was a showdown between a pair of Dutch K-1 stars — two-time WGP Grand Champion Remy Bonjasky and the always-tough Melvin Manhoef. On a rare literary side note, Bonjasky this week celebrated the release of his authorized biography, “Remy Bonjasky — God in Japan,” by Mabel van den Dungen.

The stocky Manhoef is 15cm/6″ shorter than God, but said before the bout that he had trained to overcome the height disadvantage. This he did, deftly ducking under Bonjasky’s high kicks and answering with body blows, stepping past the low kicks, and, when Bonjasky threw middle kicks, grabbing the leg and pushing forward to deliver a punch. Bonjasky had his flying knees, but Manhoef was equally belligerent with flying punches, and the crowd had to admire his spunk. Late in the first Bonjasky overwhelmed his opponent with leaping legs for one down, then delivered a kick to the midsection to score another. In the second a refreshed Manhoef threatened again on counters, but Bonjasky scored a down with a knee and had Manhoef looking beat at the bell.

But Manhoef came out hard again in the third, launching a spinning back kick and meeting Bonjasky’s high kicks with his duck and counter tactic. There were times throughout when it looked like Manhoef had rattled Bonjasky, but in the end it was the more experienced fighter who stayed on his feet, and Manhoef who went down, twice in the third, to force a referee stop. A thrilling contest and well-deserved win for Bonjasky.

In another Superfight it was a couple of muay thai fighters — 22 year old Tyrone Spong of Suriname, and K-1 veteran Azem Maksutaj of Switzerland.

Maksutaj took the initiative, charging in with fists and low kicks, but a patient Spong soon found his form, launching hard low kicks and just missing with a high kick. Maksutaj’s positioning and movement kept him out of trouble until he got caught on the ropes, and Spong brought up a knee to score a down. Spong had Maksutaj reeling late in the round, but the Swiss fighter was saved by the bell.

Both fighters threw low kicks to start the second, Spong showing impressive power. Again Maksutaj got caught, and this time it was a right kick to the midsection that felled him. He did not beat the count.

The K-1 Europe GP was complemented by the Dutch fight promotion “It’s Showtime,” bringing the total number of bouts on the day to nineteen.

“It’s Showtime” featured a number of K-1 fighters:

Buakaw Por Pramuk of Thailand beat Moroccan Faldir Chahbari by decision; Armenian muay thai fighter Drago out-pointed Warren Stevelmans of Holland; and Dutch kickboxer Gokhan Saki surprised Paul Slowinski of Australia with a right to score a first-round down, then finished the ’07 Europe GP Champion with a left cross to win by KO.

In other fights, Sem Braan beat Alexandre Cosmo by decision; Perry Ubeda KO’d Stephan Tapilatu; Georgio Petrosyn out-pointed Chris Ngimbi; and Nieky Holzken KO’d Joerie Mes.

In undercard action it was Robin van Rosemalen over Hammadi Mahdaoui and Rico Verhoven bettering Christiano Delgado, both by decision.

The K-1 World Grand Prix ’08 Europe Final attracted a sellout crowd of some 20,000 to the Amsterdam Arena and was broadcast live across Japan on the Fuji TV network. For international live and time-delay broadcast scheduling, consult local providers. Check with the K-1 Official Website (www.k-1.co.jp/k-1gp) for comprehensive coverage of this and all K-1 events.

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Monty DiPietro