May 6th, 1996

The 1996 K-1 World Grand Prix took place at the Yokohama Arena tonight, drawing in 17,500. The eight contestants booked their spot by winning qualifiers in the same venue in March.

The first quarter final saw the K-1 World Grand Prix 1994 and K-1 World Grand Prix 1995 winner Peter Aerts come up against last years semi finalist Mike Bernardo. The Dutchman started the night as the favourite and had beaten his opponent by KO last December.

In the opening round Aerts started as the aggressor, as Bernardo looked to use the ring more. The South African looked a little tentative at first as the defending champion opened up with heavy punches and low kicks.

Midway through the round after taking a hard right from Aerts, Bernardo started to fire in some hard punches of his own. The Dutchman picked up a small cut on his right eye and the referee took a close look, but let the action continue.

Aerts came in with some hard kicks but Bernardo started to fire in some hard hooks and looked like he stunned him with a hard left hook just before the bell. The South African carried on attacking with some big punches at the start of round two and dropped the two time tournament winner for an eight count after a succession of hard hooks.

Aerts beat the count and looked to tie up Bernardo in the clinch, as the South African came in to finish the job. Last year’s semi finalist carried on looking for big punches and looked dangerous.

Aerts tried to slow him down with hard low kicks and tie him up and knee whenever they got close. Bernardo seemed to slow up a little towards the end of the round and the Dutchman opened up with hard punches and kicks.

The momentum of the fight looked like it may be swaying Aerts way as he landed a heavy low kick just before the bell. The two time champion looked to carry on the momentum at the start of the final round, pushing forward and attacking with hard punches and low kicks.

The action was barely underway though when Bernardo landed with an overhand right and a huge left hook that sent Aerts down to the canvas in a crumpled heap. The referee called off the fight and Bernardo moved into the semi finals in what would be hard to beat as the upset of the night.

Hometown favourite

Next up saw the hometown favourite Musashi face Australian Sam Greco. The opening round saw both fighters focusing on their kicks early on.

The kyokushin karateka and kickboxer started with some powerful body kicks. Meanwhile Musashi looked to attack with a broader range of kicks, switching from low to high.

Midway through the round Greco started to open up with punches and sharp knees and both started to trade in some fast, back and forth exchanges. The Australian slammed in more hard body kicks and punches and finished the round the stronger, but at the bell seemed to limp back to his corner.

Between the rounds there was a lot of commotion on Greco’s corner as the doctor was called over to check and at the start of round two it was announced the Australian was unable to continue due to a broken toe.

European clash

Next saw Ernesto Hoost, one of last years losing semi finalists, up against Mirko Crocop, who was making his K-1 Grand Prix finals debut. The Croatian started the fight firing in fast low and high kicks, while the Dutchman pushed forward, looking to cut off the ring.

Hoost landed with heavy low kicks and Crocop answered back, but the former looked like he had the edge in power. He scored with a fast high kick and again the first time K-1 World Grand Prix finalist answered in kind, this time matching his opponent in the power department.

Hoost ended the round looking strong in the clinch and landing with knees. In the second stanza Crocop started the by firing in more fast kicks. The Dutchman looked to clinch again and scored with a few more solid knees.

A short way in Hoost landed a hard low kick that seemed to hurt Crocop a little. The Croatian fired in a spinning back fist, but it just bounced off the Dutchman’s gloves.

Hoost started to look on top as he attacked Crocop’s left leg and landed with more strong knees in the clinch. The Dutchman landed with another hard low kick just before the bell that again looked like it hurt.

Hoost came out attacking with knees at the start of the third and landed another stinging low kick before following in with hard punches. Another hard low kick sent Crocop staggering back across the ring.

Hoost came in with another hard knee, but Crocop complained it was low and the referee warned him to keep his shots up. The Dutchman looked in total control and landed another huge low kick that sent his opponent down, unable to beat the count.

Down for the count

The final quarter final saw Andy Hug face Duane Van Der Merwe, who came as a reserve fighter, after Hug’s original opponent Stan Longinidis had to pull out injured.

The South African came out swinging, looking to cause an upset of his own but Hug tied him up in the clinch. before unleashing a hard left hook, that sent Van Der Merwe down for the count just 40 seconds into the fight.

Costly mistake

The first semi final saw Musashi face Mike Bernardo. The Australian looked considerably bigger but the hometown hero opened up with fast kicks and looked to move around the ring avoiding his opponent’s power punches.

Musashi looked the slicker of the two in the opening round as he picked off Bernardo with fast punches and kicks. The Australian pushed forward throughout, but looked a little slow in getting off his shots.

In round two the fight continued in the same vein, with Bernardo pushing forward looking to load up with his punches and Musashi moving well and landing with fast punches and kicks.

Bernardo at one point landed a heavy knee and, in the second half of the round, got through with a few sharp uppercuts, but looked a little frustrated by Musashi’s movement and counters.

In the final round Musashi started by landing some fast kicks. Bernardo pushed forward opening up with solid punches and landed another hard uppercut.

Musashi looked to move and counter with hard low kicks at first, but mid round decided to plant his feet and trade back at Bernardo. This proved to be a costly mistake as the Australian landed with a hard overhand right that sent him down for an eight count.

Bernardo tried to finish the job, but Musashi managed to stay out of trouble to the bell and looked very disappointed at the end. The judges awarded the fight to Bernardo, by unanimous decision.

Extra rounds

Andy Hug and Ernesto Hoost faced off next to see who would face Bernardo in the final. In the opening round the Dutchman started the action by firing in a fast high kick.

Hug went close with a fast spinning back heel kick, his first meaningful shot of the fight. Hoost landed a hard left hook, but Hug came back at him with a fast low kick and follow in punch and another fast punch combination.

Hoost started to unload with hard punches and kicks, but Hug moved well and came back throughout with fast counters.

In round two Hoost looked to back up Hug and landed with a fast back kick. Hoost looked to cut of the ring and attacked Hug with hard punches and knees and showed some good work in the clinch.

Both traded sharp low kicks, before Hug landed with a solid left hook which initiated a strong exchange of punches from both and Hug attempted to land with a fast axe kick.

Hug opened up with a barrage of punches, only for Hoost to unleash a barrage of his own, but Hug soaked them up well. In the third round Hug drew first blood landing with a fast hook and high kick.

Hoost trapped Hug in a corner and started to unload with fast punch combinations and follow up low kicks. Hoost landed a hard hook, but took one straight back from Hug.

Now it was Hoost’s turn to soak up shots in a corner as Hug unloaded punches, but Hoost soon started to push forwards, backing up Hug with hard punches and kicks.

Hug traded back with hard shots of his own, as both fighters looked very tired as the bell approached. At the end of the fight the judges were unable to separate them, with one scoring it a draw and one each for Hug and Hoost and a fourth deciding round had to be fought.

Hoost started the action with a hard right and big knee, Hug replied with a solid low kick. Hoost pushed forward attacking with punches and knees while Hug opened up with punches, attacking Hoost to the head and body.

The action was toe to toe at first before Hug started to back off a little. Hug landed a fast high kick, but it didn’t land with much power, but he managed to land with a solid punch just before the bell.

Again the judges couldn’t separate them though, this time scoring the fight a majority draw with, two judges calling it a draw and one for Hug. A fifth round was announced to decide the fight with both fighters by now looking very tired. Hoost started the round attacking with hard knees.

Hug landed with a fast back kick, but not much power. Hoost stalked forward, but picked up a small cut on his right eye.

The final minutes of the round saw both opening up with sharp punches and kicks. Hoost again was the aggressor, but Hug looked sharp on the back foot.

By the end of the round both fighters looked exhausted. This time the judges finally found a winner, though it was still a split decision, with one scoring the round for Hoost and the other two for Hug, sending him to the final.

New champion

Bernardo started the final as the aggressor, coming into the clinch and firing in a hard knee, but two hard punches from Hug sent him back.

Bernardo kept stalking forward looking to unload with bombs, but the Swiss fighter showed some slick footwork as he attacked with stinging low kicks and fast punches.

The fight was almost a carbon copy of the opening round of Bernardo’s semi final with Musashi, as the smaller Hug frustrated him with fast in and out attacks.

In round two Bernardo stalked forward again. Hug landed a hard low kick and opened up with punches, but a hard uppercut from the Australian gave him second thoughts.

Almost immediately after Hug landed another fast, hard low kick and Bernardo dropped to the canvas in agony. He managed to get up at the count of nine, but still looked in pain as the referee allowed the fight to continue.

Hug stalked forward now and Bernardo looked like he just wanted to defend his damaged leg. Teh Swiss fighter fired in what at first looked like a spinning back kick, but he quickly dropped the kick down from the body and landed it on Bernardo’s damaged thigh, dropping him down again in agony.

This time the referee completed the count to ten and Andy Hug was crowned champion, taking home the $150,000 grand prize. He becomes the third man to win a K-1 World Grand Prix.

K-1 World Grand Prix 1996, Yokohoma, May 6th 
Andy Hug def. Mike Bernardo by KO in Round 2 (Final)
Mike Bernardo def. Musashi by Decision (Unanimous) (K-1 World Grand Prix 1/2 Final)
Rene Rooze def. Jean-Claude Leuyer by KO in Round 1
Andy Hug def. Ernesto Hoost by Decision (Second extension round) (K-1 World Grand Prix 1/2 Final)
Masaaki Miyamoto def. Ron Smoorenburg by KO in Round 1
Andy Hug def. Duane Van Der Merwe by KO in Round 1 (K-1 World Grand Prix 1/4 Final)
Ernesto Hoost def. Mirko Crocop by KO in Round 3 (K-1 World Grand Prix 1/4 Final)
Musashi def. Sam Greco by TKO in Round 1 (K-1 World Grand Prix 1/4 Final)
Mike Bernardo def. Peter Aerts by TKO in Round 3 (K-1 World Grand Prix 1/4 Final)

This is part of our retrospective series looking at some classic shows and fights.