November 9th, 1997
The K-1 World Grand Prix 1997 finals took place tonight. This year the tournament was moved to the Tokyo Dome where it was witnessed by a huge 54,500 crowd.
The format stayed the same with eight of the world’s elite heavyweights earning their places at a qualifying tournament earlier this year. That event also drew a huge crowd to the Osaka Dome.
The first quarter final featured Brazilian newcomer Fransisco Filho. He had already made a big name for himself with the Japanese fans by beating Andy Hug in a kyukoshin karate match.
Filho faced Australia’s Sam Greco and quickly cemented his portion as one of the tournament favourites with a lightning fast win, catching Greco with a hard overhand right just 15 seconds into the opening round, that saw the referee call off the fight.
Next up was the K-1 World Grand Prix 1993 runner up Ernesto Hoost of the Netherlands who faced Jerome Le Banner of France. The pair met previously in October last year on the K-1 Star Wars show, with Le Banner scoring a second round KO win.
Hoost started the action with a fast hook followed by an attempted high kick, shortly followed by a hard low kick. Le Banner started to open up with some strong punches and backed Hoost to the ropes where he unloaded more.
Hoost came in with some sharp counters, but the volume of shots was coming in from Le Banner still. Hoost looked composed as Le Banner rushed in and a short way in connected with two hard rights that hurt Le Banner.
Hoost turned it on now, unloading with power punches, dropping Le Banner with a heavy looping right just over a minute into the round and Le Banner was unable to beat the count.
Two time champion
Next up saw two times K-1 World Grand Prix 1994 and K-1 World Grand Prix 1995 Champion Peter Aerts. He faced Mike Bernardo, who stopped hims in the third round of the quarter finals in last years Grand Prix.
Bernardo started aggressively, moving forward and opening up with heavy punches. Aerts preferred to use the ring and pick off the South African with sharp low kicks and make him miss.
Bernardo kept looking for the big knockout shot, while Aerts used his jab well and also started to fire in some sharp knees. The Dutchman went close towards the end of the round with a fast high kick.
Bernardo finished the round by landing a hard overhand right and follow up hook, but Aerts took them well.
In the second stanza the two time champion carried on moving around well, looking to avoid his opponent’s power punches and making him miss as he came in swinging wildly.
Aerts landed a strong right and followed in with a low kick, chopping Bernardo’s legs from under him. The South African still looked like he was having problems finding his range.
Aerts connected with hard low kick, before Bernardo landed a hard right hand. The Ducthman landed with a solid kick towards the end of the round that saw his opponent get tangled in the ropes as he looked to evade it.
In the final round Aerts started with what had worked so well in the fight so far, some slick movement in and out. A short way in he connected with a hard, clubbing, overhand right and Bernardo dropped for an eight count.
Bernardo soon dropped again, but this time no count was given. A short while after Aerts connected with a hard body punch that saw a delayed reaction from Bernardo, who was almost caught by a hard kick as he dropped to the canvas, where he was counted out.
The final quarter final saw Masaaki Satake take on K-1 World Grand Prix 1996 winner Andy Hug. The fight was over in a flash though, with the Japanese fighter rushing out with strong punches, only to get caught by a fast left hook and follow in high kick, that sent him down for the count only 15 seconds into the fight.
The first semi final saw Hoost face Filho, who started the action with a fast spinning kick. Host looked a little wary and looked to move and pick his shots. Hoost landed a strong left hook, before attempting a fast spinning kick of his own, but it fell well short of the target.
Both landed with hard low kicks, before Filho attempted and missed with an axe kick, but landed with a spinning back kick. Hoost took the fight into the clinch briefly before the end of the round.
In round two Hoost initiated the action with a fast high kick. Both fighters looked like they were trying to feint their way in. Hoost landed with a hard low kick, while Filho looked to be sitting back more, looking to daw Hoost into making a mistake.
Filho came in with a hard low kick and attacked Hoost with an axe kick, but Hoost caught the kick and threw Filho down to the canvas.
Hoost came in with a hard hook and chopped Filho’s legs from beneath him with a hard low kick. In the final round Hoost looked to move and make Filho miss and punish him with low kicks.
The fight looked a little like both fighters styles cancelled each other out a little at times. Filho attempted another fast spinning back heel kick, but it landed harmlessly on Hoost’s gloves.
Hoost came in with a hard hook and low kick, before missing with a spinning back kick. Hoost stayed a little busier with punches and low kicks and at the end took a majority decision win.
The second semi final saw Hug face Aerts, who had a first round KO win over Hug on the K-1 Kings show back in March. The Dutchman came out looking to finish things early again in the opening round, attacking with hard punches and knees.
Hug started by moving well and switching stances a little, before settling more into the southpaw stance. Every time the fight went into the clinch he did a good job of tying up Aerts arms and soaking up any knees.
Hug went close with an explosive spinning back heel kick, before picking off Aerts with sharp low kicks and moving away from Aerts punches.
In the second Aerts started to pressure, looking to punch. Hug kept moving well though and did a good job again of smothering the Dutchman in the clinch, keeping his body close to prevent him from getting off with his knees.
Hug carried on controlling the ring well, as he punished the legs of Aerts with fast low kicks. The Dutchman looked a little like he was struggling to get his shots off. The defending champion went close with an axe kick, but his opponent landed with a hard left hook, his best shot of the round.
In the final round Aerts came out punching again, but struggled to land anything clean. Hug landed a hard low kick and went close with a spinning back fist.
Aerts landed a decent body kick, but Hug came back with a flurry of punches. The Dutchman struggled again to land with a clean shot and last year’s winner went close with an eye catching spinning back heel kick, that just skimmed over is opponent’s head.
Hug landed with some fast punches and low kicks now and just before the bell landed a hard low kick that had Aerts limping back to his corner at the bell. There were no surprises at the end when Hug was awarded a unanimous decision win to move to face Hoost in the final.
In only the second shot thrown in the final Hoost threw a body kick and Hug countered with a push kick that caught Hoost in the groin and he dropped to the canvas in agony.
After Hoost was given time to recover Hug looked to use some slick movement again to avoid his attacks. The Dutchman started to open up with fast punch combinations, finishing each time with a low kick.
Hoost showed some slick boxing, mixing his shots up between head and body. Hug managed to land with a sharp left, but his opponent just upped the intensity of his attacks.
Hoost came out firing again in round two, again attacking Hug to the head and body. The Swiss fighter was forced to shell up and came back with a few sharp counter punches, but his opponent kept the pressure on and caught him with a hard body kick.
Hug missed with a spinning back heel kick that went over Hoost’s head and the Ducthman replied with a hard hook to the body. Last year’s winner again tried with a spinning back kick, but his opponent soaked it up and came back with some fast low kicks.
Hug pushed forward at the start of the final round, but Hoost countered back with more fast low kicks. Both fighters started to land with hard punches and Hug fired in an axe kick, but the Dutchman fired back at him with a hard straight right and left hook.
A sharp left from Hug saw Hoost slip off balance to the canvas, but it was ruled a slip. The Swiss fighter opened up with a spinning back kick and came in with some strong punches, but his opponent answered with strong shots of his own.
At the final bell Hoost punched his fist in the air, as Hug walked back to his corner looking a little disappointed and tired. The first judge ruled the fight a draw, but the last two both scored the fight in favour of the Ducthman.
He immediately launched into a celebratory dance. Hoost is crowned the K-1 World Grand Prix 1997 winner and takes home the $230,000 USD prize.
This is part of our retrospective series looking at some classic shows and fights.