June 30th, 2006
A crowd of almost 17,000 packed into the Yokohama Arena tonight for the K-1 World Max 2006 finals. Eight of the world’s elite kickboxers faced off in the fifth edition of this annual tournament.
There were three fighters representing the host nation including K-1 World Max 2003 winner Masato and Takayuki Kohiruimaki. They faced off in the first quarter final, an all Japanese affair.
This was the third match between them. Kohiruimaki scored a stoppage win over Masato back in 1997 but was beaten in the rematch, the final of the first ever K-1 World Max Japan tournament in 2002.
Kohiruimaki started this fight positively, backing up Masato with some sharp push kicks. The 2003 tournament winner landed early on with a hard low kick, but looked a little slow in getting going.
Kohiruimaki kept up his push kick attacks, sending his opponent back across the ring before Masato started to open up with some sharp punches and low kicks.
Kohiruimaki came in with a fast low kick, but his opponent countered straight away with a crisp three punch combination. With 30 seconds left in the round Masato landed with a hard uppercut.
In the second Masato came out looking a little more determined, as he attacked Kohiruimaki with some strong looking punches. The latter came in with more sharp push kicks and explosive long knees but didn’t look as quick to get off with his shots as he had in the opening round.
Kohiruimaki landed with two solid knees and tried for a high kick but Masato soaked it up and came back at him with some crisp boxing, another fast uppercut. A couple of stinging low kicks were also swiftly countered by the 2003 winner.
At the start of the final round Kohiruimaki marched forward, attacking with low kicks and knees. Masato used his jab well and showed some slick footwork to ward off the attacks.
Kohiruimaki scored with a fast push kick, but it didn’t do any real damage. Meanwhile Masato looked content to pick his opponent off with sharp punches as he came forward and started to land with some sharp knees of his own
With just over a minute left in the round Masato landed with a perfectly timed overhand left to drop Kohiruimaki for an eight count. He wanted to finish the fight inside the distance and landed with some hard shots, bloodying his opponent’s nose.
He eased off with 30 secs left and Kohiruimaki tried to get forward and turn the fight around, but posed no real threat to Masato, who took the unanimous decision win at the final bell.
Next up saw K-1 World Max 2006 winner Andy Souwer face Virgil Kalakoda, who was the only fighter invited to the tournament who didn’t win his place though a qualifying tournament. The Dutchman stated slowly as his opponent came forward behind a fast jab, opening up with hard punches and low kicks.
Souwer kept a tight, shell like guard at first while coming back at Kalakoda with occasional punches and low kicks. The defending champion slowly started to come into the fight, landing with some stinging low kicks.
Kalakoda got through with a heavy left hook to the body, but got caught by a hard counter low kick from Souwer that looked like it hurt a little. The South African finished the round the more aggressive of the two.
In the second stanza Kalakoda came out fast again, opening up with sharp punches and backing Souwer into the ropes. The Dutchman started to put together some sharp punch combinations and low kicks, but had a nasty looking swelling start to come up under his left eye.
Kalakoda kept trying to get in behind his jab but Souwer started to take over now, picking off his opponent with sharp punches and at one point taking the South African off his feet with a well timed low kick.
Souwer kept attacking the inside of his opponent’s front leg with low kicks and towards the end of the round opened up with some blisteringly fast punch combinations. At one point near the end of the round Kalakoda switched his stance, indicating he was really feeling the effect of the low kicks.
Kalakoda kept coming forward from the start of the final round, but Souwer came in with more fast punches and low kicks again looking to damage the inside of Kalakoda’s front leg. The K-1 World Max 2005 winner started to open up more landing a fast high kick and firing in more explosive punch combinations.
Kalakoda opened up with some sharp punches, but was unable to slow the Dutchman up and a hard left hook and straight right from Souwer dropped him for an eight count.
Souwer followed in with a hard low kick and more hard punches with Kalakoda trapped on the ropes. He then came in with a few hard knees before unleashing a barrage of hard shots, that had the South African rocked badly and the referee jumped in to save him from further damage.
Next up saw the inaugural K-1 Max 2002 champion Albert Kraus face Gago Drago. In the opening round the Armenian started moving in and out, attacking with fast low kicks.
Kraus started to look to land with some sharp punches, but his opponent defended well. A short way into the round the Dutchman dropped down low as he was looking to punch and Drago fired in a fast, high knee that connected on the jaw, dropping him for a count.
Kraus looked a little confused at first, as he sat on the canvas and dabbed his nose, but managed to beat the count. Drago came forward, but not too wildly as he seemed wary of his opponent’s punching power.
Kraus started to work the body a little bit, before Drago went close again with another fast knee. The Dutchman started the second round strongly, forcing the pace and looking to punch.
Drago looked sound defensively though and came back at Kraus with some sharp counters. He started to open up more with sharp punches and low kicks and looked to try and keep the Dutchman at range with some fast push kicks.
Kraus started to get through with more punches but nothing seemed to worry Drago at all. The Armenian landed with several sharp body kicks before starting to work the legs of Kraus with low kicks.
Kraus kept throwing punches but they seemed to lack his usual venom. In the final round the Dutchman continued to throw his hands hoping to turn the fight around.
Drago pushed him back across the ring with some well timed push kicks and followed in with knees. Kraus threw a wild left hook but mistimed the shot, lost his balance and dropped to the canvas.
Kraus kept pushing forward, but again struggled to land with anything of substance while Drago kept landing with sharp knees and push kicks.
Both started to stand and trade hard punches to the head and body. Kraus kept trying hard, but nothing hurt Drago, who looked the more comfortable of the two and took a clear cut decision win.
Heavy left hook
The final quarter final bout saw Yoshihiro Sato face off against K-1 Max 2004 winner Buakaw Por Pramuk. This was the Japanese fighter’s first year in the tournament finals, but he started positively, capitalizing on his considerable height advantage with some sharp push kicks and fast punches.
Buakaw took a little time to warm into the fight before starting to land with some heavy punches that seemed to unsettle Sato a little. The Thai started to open up with hard low kicks and took the Japanese fighter off his feet with a sharp push kick.
Buakaw looked sharp, but seemed to have changed his style a little from the last two finals, being not so reliant on an explosive barrages of kicks and knees and looking to punch a lot more.
Buakaw snapped the head of Sato back with a hard right and with just under a minute to go dropped Sato for an eight count with a hard over hand right. The Thai launched a relentless barrage of punches after the count, but his opponent bravely stood his ground and tried to trade.
At the end of the round Sato went back to his corner with blood pouring from his nose. The second round was barely underway, when Buakaw caught a push kick from Sato and pulled the leg sharply towards him.
As Sato fell forward Buakaw landed a heavy left hook that crashed into his jaw dropping him to the canvas. The Japanese fighter managed to get to his feet but looked badly wobbled and the referee called off the fight.
The first of tonight’s semi finals saw Masato face Andy Souwer. The action took a little time to heat up with both feeling out each others defences at first.
Both started to look for fast low kicks and Masato connected with a hard body kick. Souwer started to move forward a little and looked to attack the inside front leg.
Towards the end of the round Souwer connected with a solid right hand and started to land with some fast knees. In round two the defending champion started to push forward and attack Masato’s legs with sharp low kicks.
Masato came back with some solid knees. Souwer started to up the pressure even more attacking with stinging inside low kicks and throwing some high kicks into the mix, as well as some sharp punches.
Masato looked like he was starting to struggle a little but kept looking for the counter. The 2003 tournament winner rallied a little towards the end of the round, catching Souwer with some punches and low kicks.
Both came out throwing sharp kicks and punches at the start of the final round but Souwer sat back a little compared with the two previous rounds. Masato landed a solid body kick, countered by a fast high kick from the Dutchman.
Both started to trade back and forth with low kicks in some fast exchanges before Souwer started to push forward again and looked like he had added more venom into his punches. The Dutchman started to back up Masato now, landing with fast hard punches.
With around 20 seconds left in the round Souwer dropped him for an eight count with a hard overhand right. Masato didn’t have enough left to turn the fight around and the Dutchman was awarded the decision but with some serious swelling under his left eye.
The second semi final saw Buakaw face Gago Drago. In the opening round it was the Armenian that started the quicker, attacking with some fast low kicks.
Buakaw looked reserved and happy to soak up the attacks at first as if he was just working his opponent out. Drago came in with a wild punch that missed by a wide margin and the Muay Thai veteran countered with an explosive knee.
Drago looked to land with a push kick but Buakaw caught it and swept Drago’s legs from under him. Although the Thai was calm and reserved but looked in complete control.
Towards the end of the round Buakaw started to open up with a few hard punches and kicks but in the second stanza Drago came forward again with some hard punches of his own.
Buakaw exploded to life, landing with some hard low kicks. Drago came in with a dangerous hard right, just as the Thai was starting to up the pace a little more.
Buakaw connected with a hard low kick and followed up with a body kick. Both fighters connected simultaneously with a hard right, but the Thais looked like it did more damage.
With 30 seconds left in the second a pinpoint right hand from Buakaw dropped Drago for an eight count. In the final round the Armenian came out looking like he had nothing to lose and attacked with a hard low kick.
Buakaw looked sharp, picking off Drago with fast punches and kicks but kept his composure. The Armenian fired in an eye catching spinning back high kick, that just skimmed across the top of the Thai’s head.
Buakaw fired back with a spinning kick of his own. The 2004 winner started to rely on his jab now, controlling the ring and the pace of the fight.
Drago kept pushing forward but was powerless to prevent his opponent from securing his second decision win of the night and booking a spot in the final for the third time.
The final pitched the 2004 winner Buakaw against the 2005 winner Souwer. The former came into the fight looking relatively unmarked after two composed and comfortable performances where his boxing had been om point.
By contrast Souwer’s face was marked up fairly bad, with a cut and swelling under his left eye and his right eye also looking damaged. Both looked to feel out each others defences at first.
Souwer came in with a hard body kick, while Buakaw looked to try and dictate the pace with his jab, following in with push kicks and body kicks. The Dutchman pushed forward looking to punch and land with low kicks to the inside front leg.
Buakaw still looked calm and composed but not as explosive as in his two previous finals. In the second round Souwer started the action with some fast punches.
Buakaw still looked like he was not out of third gear yet as he tried to control the pace with his jab. The Thai started to open up more with hard punches now, catching Souwer with some solid shots.
With both fighters in close Souwer seemed to raise his head to look over at the referee, just as Buakaw threw a hard left hook, dropping him for an eight count.
The Dutchman looked unhappy and was complaining to the referee about Buakaw using his head as he came in. The fight continued and Souwer came out punching trying to turn the fight around.
Buakaw struck again though shortly after, landing a hard right and following in with two uppercuts to send Souwer down for another count. Another uppercut followed by a hard right sent the Dutchman down again and the referee called off the fight.
Having come in for a fair bit of criticism last year with fans complaining about his use of the clinch to stall fights we saw a different Buakaw tonight. The Muay Thai fighter looked more controlled and composed in the kickboxing rind and and showcased his boxing ability to win the tournament for the second time.
Buakaw makes history as the first fighter to ever win the K-1 Word Max tournament on two occasions. In the 2004 final Souwer had been slightly fortunate to beat him by decision but this time the Thai fighter left no room for doubt.
This is part of our retrospective series looking at some classic shows and fights.