K-1 Rebirth took place at the Yokohama arena yesterday. The event was supposed to recreate the glory days of the Japanese kickboxing promotion which became world renowned for putting on heavyweight tournaments.
The highlight was an Openweight Grand Prix. Eight men entered and China’s Liu Ce emerged victorious after stopping all three opponents, finishing Claudio Istrate with low kicks in the final.
Istrate had been the distance in his semi final and it had clearly taken its toll on the Romanian. He came out hard connecting with a barrage of heavy punches, but it was short lived.
The damage and exertion of the early fights had caught up and a barrage of hard shots from Liu had him in trouble, before a final hard low kick sent him down to the canvas.
He could not recover and Liu, who had finished both his previous fights, was crowned the K-1 Openweight Champion. The finish came at the 0:42 mark.
✖🇮🇹Claudio Istrate (Italy/Kombat Gym)
◎🇨🇳Liu Ce (China/Tangshan WLF/CFP)👑
1R 0:42 – KO
— K-1 Worldwide (@K1_ReBoot) September 10, 2023
There was also a super bantamweight title fight on the card. Akihiro Kaneko was putting his belt on the line in an all Japanese clash with Masashi Kumura, who he beat in the Grand Prix final to win the strap last year.
It proved to be an electrifying clash between two of the best kickboxers in the world. The first three rounds went back and forth, with thrilling exchanges of punches and kicks.
Kaneko looked like he may have just edged the final round, but only one judge saw it that way and the other two called a draw, so the fight went to an extension round. The pace never let up in the fourth, with the action going back and forth.
Midway through the round Kaneko connected with a heavy hook that visibly wobbled Kumura. He cleared his head and came back hard in some thrilling exchanges in the last minute, but the shot looked to be the decisive factor as the champion took the final round unanimously to successfully defend his belt.
View this post on Instagram
Best of the rest
Earlier in the afternoon Claudio Istrate had got his Openweight Grand Prix campaign off to a good start by stopping Mahmoud Sattari in the opening round. The Romanian had a 20kgs weight advantage in this quarter final bout.
Liu Ce was outweighed by 15kgs in his quarter final bout but it wasn’t an issue for the Chinese fighter. He finished Valentin Bordianu with a right hook midway through the opening round.
Claudio Istrate and Sina Karimian seemed more interested in fouling than fighting during their semi final. The Iranian received a yellow card after punching the referee and would ultimately lose by decision.
By contrast Liu Ce needed less than two rounds to get Ariel Machado out of there in his semi final. He finished the Brazilian with low kicks to book his spot in the final.