Unshakable Schilt Repeats as K-1 WGP Champion

TOKYO, December 2, 2006 — Seidokaikan karate fighter Semmy Schilt dispatched three challengers at the Tokyo Dome tonight en route to victory in the K-1 ’06 World Grand Prix Final.

pics “Courtesy FEG”

TOKYO, December 2, 2006 — Seidokaikan karate fighter Semmy Schilt dispatched three challengers at the Tokyo Dome tonight en route to victory in the K-1 ’06 World Grand Prix Final. The 33 year-old Dutchman brought the full force of his size (212cm/6’11”; 128kg/296lbs), speed and technique into play to win fightsport’s most prestigious title for the second consecutive year. Along with the championship belt, Schilt picks up a first-prize purse of US$400,000.

A modern fusion of traditional martial arts disciplines, K-1 is among the world’s fastest-growing sports. The WGP Final is the culmination of a year of regional elimination tournaments, and follows K-1’s classic tournament format — eight fighters compete in a quartet of contests with the four victors advancing to a pair of semifinal bouts, the winners there clashing in the final. All fights were conducted under K-1 Rules, three rounds of three minutes each, with a possible tiebreaker.

Schilt and formidable French kickboxer Jerome LeBanner went head to head in the first tournament matchup. From the bell, Schilt controlled the distance with low and front kicks, while LeBanner strove to get inside with the fists. The Frenchman scored from the clinch with a right hook, and blocked well when Schilt attempted knees and high kicks.

The second round saw both fighters staying with textbook kick and punch exchanges, and things looked about even until Schilt got a dandy left high kick up to the side of LeBanner’s head for a down. LeBanner tried to get back into this one but Schilt would not let him find his distance. Instead it was Schilt who had the better opportunities in the third, capitalizing with a left hook and making partial contact with a big knee to pick up the unanimous decision. Before exiting the ring, LeBanner fell to his knees, bowed, and apologized to his fans.

The second quarterfinal featured K-1’s only four-time WGP Champion, Ernesto “Mr Perfect” Hoost. Appearing in his farewell tournament, the 41 year-old Dutch kickboxer faced a fighter 10 years his junior — German dynamo Chalid “Die Faust,” who prevailed at the USA GP in Las Vegas this April. Hoost stayed center-ring, sticking with the low kicks that have stood him in good stead over the years. Die Faust circled, coming in with aggressive punching attacks. Hoost had a problem with balance early on, slipping on three occasions, but found his feet late in the round, making contact with a high kick.

A cool Hoost moved forward with tight combinations in the second, but Die Faust blocked ably and answered the challenges with punches, and there were some satisfying exchanges here and in the third. Hoost showed good stamina, taking the fight to his opponent, scoring late with combinations, low kicks and punch combinations. When the pair went to the clinch, Hoost pumped in the knees while Die Faust brought uppercuts. One judge gave it to Hoost but the others saw a draw so the bout went to an extra round.

Here Hoost kept moving forward, and his prowess with the low kicks and a nice left straight punch proved enough to secure the victory and a date with Schilt in the semifinals.

In the first matchup of the second bracket, it was Brazilian Kyokushin fighter Glaube Feitosa versus Ruslan Karaev of Russia. The ’05 WGP runner-up, Feitosa’s legwork is nothing short of masterful, and his boxing skills have markedly improved this year. But Karaev also has a number of creative and dangerous attacks in his arsenal, and as the youngest fighter in the tournament at just 23, had nothing to lose and everything to gain here.

Karaev charged in from the bell with an all-out punch and kick attack, intent on overpowering his opponent. But Feitosa kept his guard up and weathered the storm, then coolly came in with a left high kick that caught Karaev hard on the side of the head. The Brazilian did not relent, following up quickly with punches to force a standing count. The referee took a good look at the stunned Karaev, then waved his arms to stop the bout, putting Feitosa through to the semis.

The last quarterfinal saw ’03 & ’04 WGP Champion Remy Bonjasky of Holland take on German kickboxer Stefan “Blitz” Leko. The pair tested early with the kicks, and during one exchange, Leko accidentally caught Bonjasky below the belt, prompting a stoppage and doctor’s check. Several minutes passed as Bonjasky grimaced in pain. The recovery period was further extended, but Bonjasky remained doubled over. After consultations between the ringside doctor and K-1 officials, a special provision was declared wherein Bonjasky could return to his dressing room for attention. It was announced that the fight would be restarted after the next scheduled contest, a reserve bout.

Alas, Bonjasky was still looking less than 100% when he returned to the ring some 15 minutes later, but the fight restarted with the Dutchman launching proficient high kicks, And then, in a freak of dreadful circumstance, a Leko spinning kick revisited the same soft spot on Bonjasky’s anatomy. A look of disbelief flashed across the violated fighter’s face as he draped himself over the ropes in distress. The ring doctor once again attended to Bonjasky as Leko was assessed a yellow card for the foul. The bout resumed after some three minutes, Bonjasky working the kicks and knees, Leko countering with punches. Defenses were sound on both sides, and no serious damage was suffered.

In the fast-paced second Bonjasky kept his guard close and high, peppering his opponent with low kicks and getting up with an expert knee, while Leko threaded the guard with a right uppercut. Leko had a hard time getting the punches past in the third, and Bonjasky used the legs well before showing great timing to come in with a tight right hook to score a down. A unanimous decision for Bonjasky.

The first semifinal, between Schilt and Hoost, began with Schilt jabbing and Hoost pestering with quick overhand punches. Schilt got a solid knee up midway through, but this didn’t trouble Hoost. There was a spell of tough, in-close boxing early in the second before Schilt began to get to Hoost, who was cautioned twice for clinching. The best strike of the round was a Schilt right hook that caught Hoost unprepared, sending him stumbling but not down.

Schilt’s long reach was the difference in the third, as he was able to launch several successful lefts then follow with a knee and close with body blows. Hoost tried till the end to find a way to hurt Schilt, but to no avail. If Hoost was to lose his last bout, there was no shame in doing so to the powerhouse that is Schilt.

Substitutions were effected for the second semifinal after brutalized gonads forced Bonjasky to bow out. It was announced that Leko was also unable to continue due damage to his left leg. And so, under K-1 rules, the winner of the reserve fight was parachuted into the tournament.

That was Peter “The Dutch Lumberjack” Aerts. In the reserve Aerts had met Japanese Seidokaikan fighter Musashi. Late in the first, Aerts surprised Musashi with a right straight punch and laid in with the fists to earn a down, scoring a second soon after resumption to pick up the win. A participant in each and every WGP final since the sport’s inception, Aerts’ victory afforded him the opportunity to maintain the streak.

Feitosa connected with a hard high kick to rattle Aerts in the first, and made partial contact soon afterward with an axe kick. Aerts however reversed spectacularly in the second, chasing Feitosa with fists, stunning him with a right and a left then bringing up the knee. A devastating right hook put the Brazilian down hard, prompting a referee stop. Aerts sprightly jogged out of the ring, looking to be in great shape for his date with Schilt.

The air was electric as Aerts and Schilt entered the ring for the final. Aerts seized the initiative, rushing right in with overhand punches, then went after Schilt’s left leg, targeting it with more than a dozen and a half low kicks in the first round alone. But Schilt used his reach effectively as always, connecting with straight punches then corralling Aerts in the corner and bringing up the knee. Aerts fought a smart fight — closed up, his defenses were sound and he stayed mostly out of harm’s way.

Midway though the second, however, Schilt charged in with kicks and knees to score a down. Aerts appeared fine after the count, and the never-say-die fighter had moments of his own in the round, charging with a right and left straight punch combination that made partial contact and put Schilt on the ropes. In the third The Lumberjack pumped in more low kicks, including one that caught Schilt across the back of the thigh and very nearly felled him. Aerts added some straight punches, but could he not put the hurt on Schilt. For his part, Schilt was always strong with the fists, stymieing Aerts’ attempts to get inside. When the distance did close, Schilt had the big knees at the ready. Aerts was tired and a little wobbly by the end of this one, which went to Schilt by unanimous decision.

“I’m very happy,” said the repeat Champion in his post-tournament interview. “I’m especially pleased to win with fights against three K-1 all-time greats. I felt pressure this time, more than I want to admit, but now that it’s over I just want to have a shower and enjoy my victory!”

“As for next year, I think at this point I can take on anyone, so yes I will go for a third title. I want to thank all my fans, and I want to thank my sparring partners, trainers and manager at the Golden Glory Gym.”

Remarkably, three of the final eight in this year’s World Grand Prix hailed from a single gym — Golden Glory, located in the southern Dutch city of Breda. “We are successful because we are like a family,” commented Golden Glory’s beaming Bas Boon. “Our style is to train our fighters under a certain system, especially developing mental strength. We have an interesting history too, that’s all up on our website (www.goldenglory.com).”

In other action on the card:

A Superfight set the wiry Moroccan Badr Hari against K-1 Oceania ’06 Champion Paul Slowinski of Australia. The muay thai fighters put on an entertaining show, Slowinski the well-balanced meat-and-potatoes fighter, steady on his feet and good with the combinations; Hari showing superior movement, rhythm and creativity. Hari had the better stuff overall, launching all manner of kicks, swinging the fists with gusto and countering Slowinski effectively throughout. Several times Hari struck with power sufficient to down many fighters, it was a testament to Slowinski’s strong chin that he stayed standing and continued to deliver attacks to the final bell. A comfortable unanimous decision for Hari, who, belying his bad boy reputation, appeared disciplined and sportsmanlike here — thanking his opponent after the bout, vacating the ring when asked.

In the second tournament reserve, Ray Sefo of New Zealand took on Melvin Manhoef of Holland. Sefo had promised that this bout would not go the to the final bell, in fact it barely got past the first bell. Manhoef apparently wanted to take Sefo’s head off, and straight off brought a high kick round that sailed just high. Sefo then wasted no time stepping in with a right hook that caught Manhoef awkwardly, on the side of the head. A second right followed and Manhoef went down, where he struggled to beat the count, shakily getting to his feet only to see the referee prudently stop the fight, giving Sefo another addition to his well-stocked trophy case.

In undercard action, Hiraku Hori beat Kyoung Suk Kim by decision, Junichi Sawayashiki beat Mitsugu Noda by split decision, and Takumi Sato KO’d Tsutomi Takahagi.

The K-1 World Grand Prix ’06 Final attracted 54,800 to the Tokyo Dome. It was broadcast live in Japan on the Fuji TV network, in Korea on MBC-ESPN, in the Netherlands on SBS6, in Romania on ProTV and in Hungary on RTL Klub. InDemand will show the event in the United States, EuroSport and Canal+ in Europe — check with local providers for scheduling information. In total, the WGP ’06 will be broadcast in 129 countries

For official results and coverage of all K-1 events, visit the K-1 Official Website (www.k-1.co.jp/k-1gp)

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