K1s Monty DiPietro har samlat förutspåelser inför K1-finalen från några av världens ledande kampsportsjournalister. Marko Ervasti fick nöjet att uttala sig som förste man då han var den som prickade rätt förra året. Här följer DiPietros brev (på engelska)
K-1 World GP 2004: The Experts Weigh In
With the world’s most prestigious fightsport tournament mere days away, speculation is rife on who will capture the 12th K-1 World Grand Prix Championship. The final eight, pared down from hundreds of hopefuls in scores of qualifying and elimination tournaments, hail from six different countries on five different continents. Their styles include Kickboxing, Muay Thai, Karate and Boxing. They range in age from just-turned 21 to a few months shy of 40; and range in weight from a mere 78kg (172lb) right up to 127kg (280lb). They are a diverse lot to be sure, united by their excellence as professional fighters and by a burning desire to earn the right to wear the martial arts world’s most coveted crown.
The Final’s first bracket is truly international, featuring fighters from the United States (Mighty Mo), Thailand (Kaoklai Kaennorsing), Japan (Musashi), and New Zealand (Ray Sefo). None of these boys has yet to win the World GP, but Musashi and Sefo have plenty of K-1 experience.
Three of this year’s finalists hail from Holland, a nation that has dominated K-1 since its inception. Between them, Ernesto Hoost, Peter Aerts and Remy Bonjasky account for eight of the eleven K-1 World GP Championships thus far. One consolation for fighters from the rest of the world is that the luck of the draw landed these three in the second bracket (along with Francois Botha, a South African who, coincidently, also speaks Dutch!), and so there will surely be at least one non-Dutch fighter in the final.
In the classic K-1 attrition tournament format, a set of quarterfinals will advance four fighters to the semis, the two winners there will go for glory in the final. The tournament matchups are here: http://www.so-net.ne.jp/feg/k-1gp/top630.htm
And now, as we do every year, let’s check in with some of the most respected fight writers from around the world, and see who they think will emerge as this year’s ”King of Kings.”
Because he correctly predicted Remy Bonjasky’s Championship last year, we’ll start with Marko Ervasti, Editor of Fighter Magazine in Sweden, the Nordic countries biggest martial arts magazine: ”This time, I think Peter Aerts, will show that experience counts and win,” says Ervasti. ”He has been in the top for so long, it would be great if he could end his fighting career by winning the Grand Prix again!”
And who does Ervasti see as the potential spoiler? ”I think the dark horse will be Mighty Mo, he can knock anybody out with one punch!”
In Holland, Henk Verschuur of Martial Arts Magazine agrees a Dutch fighter will prevail, but he isn’t entirely sure which one: ”As a true Dutchman I think a Dutchman will win,” says Verschuur. ”I am convinced that Peter Aerts will win his first battle against Francis Botha, and I pity the fact that all Dutchmen are in the lower half of the schedule because I am convinced that we would have had a grand final between Peter Aerts and the winner of the Hoost vs Bonjasky fight. In any case, I honestly believe that at the end there will be a Dutchman to take the title.”
Moving Stateside, Stephen ”The Fight Professor” Quadros is also going Dutch: ”This is the most competitive K-1 WGP lineup in years, maybe ever,” he says. ”There is always the worry that Ernesto Hoost will one day grow too old inside the ring and not be able to harken back to his past greatness. But I am betting that ”Mr. Perfect” will be as focused as ever. It’s his mental game, along with his unparalleled experience, that will be the difference, this gives Hoost a tremendous psychological advantage and I believe he will win.”
Quadros agrees that Mighty Mo is a fighter to watch: ”Because Mo is relatively new on the circuit, the other fighters have not had years to study him and figure his style out yet. He will be a problem for anyone in the WGP because it is my opinion that he is the hardest puncher in the tournament.”
Quadros’ sentimental favorite is Ray Sefo: ”He has true warrior spirit and fights with everything in his soul, he has the potential to defeat any fighter in K-1.”
Josh Gross, Editor of the popular Sherdog.com website, also likes Sefo, and goes so far as to map out the Kiwi’s road to victory: ”He revenges his 2003 loss to Musashi, out-boxes hard-hitting Mighty Mo, and overcomes a war-weary Remy Bonjasky to claim the crown,” predicts Gross. ”At the end of the night, the K-1 Finals largely comes down to which fighters can weather punishment; Sefo’s path will be the one of least resistance.”
Gross also lists Might Mo as the potential spoiler: ”Anyone who hits as hard as he does stands a realistic chance.”
Last but not least in the United States, Dave Cater of Inside Kung Fu Magazine, again, sees Mighty Mo as the spoiler, but figures Bonjasky will be able to repeat as GP Champion this year. ”My sentimental favorite is Aerts,” adds Cater, ”because he is nearing the end of his career.”
In the land(s) down under, not surprisingly, Michael Schiavello, a commentator for TV2 in New Zealand and Fox Sports Australia and Editor of International Kickboxer Magazine, likes his local fighter: ”Ray is on the money this year,” says Schiavello. ”He is mentally, physically and emotionally prepared and looking a treat at 104kg — his lightest in years! He has the hardest jaw in the K-1 and is the best fighter to have never won the GP — something he wants to change. The draw is also favorable for Ray, who will revenge Musashi in the opening fight, and should have no problems overcoming far less experienced contenders in either Mighty Mo or Kaoklai in the semi final. Ray has been sparring with Alexey Ignashov in New Zealand in preparation and has a team of professionals surrounding him, including a dietitian, physio, acupuncturist and sports psychologist. Ray is arguably the most popular of all K-1 fighters and also one of the most talented and explosive, but more than this, Ray is a genuinely beautiful human being who has worked tirelessly and loyally for K-1 for almost a decade and deserves his place in the sun at the top of the mountain. He is the complete package.”
Schiavello has an interesting dark horse pick in Francois Botha: ”Some people might laugh at this suggestion but Botha is schooling up quite quickly in K-1 and so far the leg kicks don’t seem to be bothering this boxer. He has the best hands of anyone in K-1 and if he gets on the inside of Aerts in the quarters and lands his right to the jaw, Aerts will be KO’d. Look out for Botha to make a big impression!”
Out in cyberspace, Tobian Martinsson and Stuart Tonkin, co-editors at the new kakutougi.info fansite, are of the same mind. ”I think it’s Sefo’s time this year, and he knows it. He’ll brute-force every opponent,” says Martinsson. ”Mighty Mo may meet him in the semi and challenge with his big right, but Sefo will get through and win it all.”
Finishing up our survey in Japan, Takao Matsui of Kakutogi Tsushin (Martial Arts Magazine) casts yet another vote for Ray: ”Sefoâ€™s in the best condition ever, heâ€™s tough, and heâ€™s got great boxing technique; probably the best in K-1,” says Matsui. ”But, in the same block you also have dark horse Mighty Mo, who can decide a match with just one punch. He might be able to match Mark Huntâ€™s achievement in 2000 where he took the championship his first time in the Final. Heâ€™s tough, heâ€™s got the power, but can he match Sefoâ€™s speed? In the final, I see Hoost, likely exhausted after fighting both Bonjasky and Aerts, facing Sefo, who if uninjured will attack the four-time champion with a flurry of punches, leading to Sefoâ€™s first K-1 championship.”
And so the consensus is clearly for New Zealand’s Ray ”Sugarfoot” Sefo, with the Dutch fighters also figuring in some predictions, and Mighty Mo and Botha tagged as potential upsetters. But nobody should be counted out — there is an ominous irony in the fact that the two fighters no experts have figured on contending — Musashi and Kaoklai Kaennorsing — are both undefeated in K-1 this year. As any expert will tell you — in the K-1 ring, everything can change with a single strike, and anyone can win the Final this year.
The Final’s reserve bouts will pit Jerome LeBanner against Hiromi Amada and Cyril Abidi against Gary Goodridge, the winners here will see action is an injury or injuries force another fighter to withdraw.
The K-1 World Grand Prix 2004 Final is set for Saturday, December 4th at the Tokyo Dome. It will be broadcast in Japan on the Fuji TV network and on pay-per-view in the United States and other countries. Contact your local provider for details, and check the K-1 Official Website (k-1gp.net) for complete coverage soon after the final bell.