TUESDAY, December 12th, 2000, AT 6:30 AM PT
Wins 2000 K-1 Grand Prix
Alex MacDonald, IKF
The K-1 organization spent the year 2000 doing what they do best: "Tournaments". In all, there were 13 including the Grand Prix itself which took place on Dec 10th. Whether or not the number 13 had anything to do with it, the K-1 had their share of bad luck: The death of K-1 Superstar, Andy Hug, Sam Greco became a pro wrestler, and within a week of the biggest tournament in the sport of kick boxing two of the favorites to win withdrew. Mike Bernado, winner of the Block C qualifying tournament, was injured in training and replaced by Ray Sefo. Jerome LeBanner, winner of the Block A qualifying tournament, came down with mononucleosis and was replaced by Stefan Leko. Sefo and Leko are, anywhere else in the world, main-event echelon fighters but here they were replacements. That should give you an idea of how good the other 6 fighters were.
Ernesto Hoost (Netherlands) Vs Mirko "Crocop" Filipovic (Croatia)
This was the third time these two have met in the Grand Prix, the others being 1996 and 1999 with Hoost winning both by KO. This time, though there was no KO, Hoost gave Crocop a lesson in kickboxing by clearly out scoring him in each round. Two of the judges however called it a draw. In the overtime round, Hoost again dominated and got the belated decision.
Stefan Leko (Germany) Vs Francisco Filho (Brazil).
This was supposed to be the Filho-LeBanner rematch that had the press in a frenzy but Filho's revenge would have to wait. The first and second rounds were fairly even. Then Filho took control of what he thought would be the third and final round. To our shock, two judges called it a draw. Perhaps increasing the pace in the third round was too much for Filho because he seemed to have little energy in the overtime round which the judges again ruled a draw. The second overtime round was as indecisive as the first but the judges couldn't demand another extension. They gave an overworked Filho the decision.
Peter Aerts (Netherlands) Vs Cyril Abidi (France).
They said it was a fluke when Abidi knocked out Aerts on July 7th. For the effort they gave him a place in the Block B tournament once more against Aerts who, to be frank, wasn't quite 100% going into the fight. There, Aerts threw a left hook to the body, collapsed to the canvas and was then carried out on a stretcher. An astonished Abidi was then one win away from going to the GP in Tokyo. He made it count by stopping Ray Sefo after two rounds.
Imagine his surprise when his randomly selected opponent was non other than Peter Aerts. In the first round, Aerts scored a knock down and Abidi got a warning for throwing. At the end of the round Aerts was angry not just because of the throwing but also because he was cut by a head butt. The next two rounds showed Aerts as the dominant boxer but Abidi's unpredictable style kept him in the fight. Near the end of the third round, Abidi connected with a second head butt that had Aerts both bleeding badly (Right) from a larger second cut and furious. With less than a minute left on the clock, the ringside doctor let the fight continue and Aerts got the decision.
Musashi (Japan) Vs Ray Sefo (New Zealand).
Claiming that his sparring sessions with Matt Skelton (Newly crowned IKF world champion) prepared him for anyone, Musashi was set to meet Mike Bernado until news came of the injury and that Ray Sefo would fight. Early in the first round, Musashi threw a kick that seemed to pull a muscle. Perhaps he was a little cold going into this fight. If so, Sefo saw no reason to let him warm up and peppered the Japanese champion with hard combinations. Two knock downs in the first round sent the Black Panther (formally "Sugarfoot") Ray Sefo into the semi finals.
SEMI - FINALS
Hoost Vs Filho
Filho did very little in the first two rounds and in the third needed a KO to win or at least a knock down to force an overtime round. He got neither. Hoost won by unanimous decision. The win sent him into the final for a record fourth time.
Abidi Vs Sefo
As expected Peter Aerts was not cleared to fight due to the cuts (one was nothing less than a deep gash) on his forehead. In his place, Abidi- the one who gave him the cuts- met the Black Panther. Sefo went to work quickly and scored two knock downs to make it to the finals. For Cyril, the Cinderella story came to an end. The two fighters he had beaten to rocket to stardom brought him back to Earth. At age 24, however, he is far from washed up and may again one day make it to Tokyo Dome.
K-1 GRAND PRIX FINAL
Ernesto Hoost (Netherlands) Vs Ray Sefo (New Zealand).
As close as the fight came Hoost was not to be out pointed. Whenever Sefo tried to pick up the tempo, Hoost matched him and then some. In the end, Hoost got the decision, tied Aerts' record of winning the Grand Prix three times and took home the largest prize in kickboxing:
Also at age 35, Mr. Perfect is the second oldest fighter to win the Grand Prix. He has a few years to go before he can threaten Branko Cikatic's record (38) but if he continues the way he fought on the 10th (3 fights without losing a single round), he may do just that.
At the end of the day, the K-1 Organization must have breathed a huge sigh of relief as the event was still relatively successful despite a quarter of the fighters withdrawing from the event, poor judging and Abidi making it to the semi-final from fouls. Everything that could go wrong did and the K-1 is still the best in the business of Heavyweight Tournament Kickboxing. Let's hope next year's events are met with good luck or at least a lot less bad luck. In fact, just to be on the safe side, how about 14 tournaments instead of 13?
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