July 5th, 2003
The K-1 Max 2003 tournament took place in Tokyo tonight. The final pitted local favourite Masato against last year’s winner Albert Kraus with the Japanese fighter emerging victorious to the delight of the fans at the Saitama Super Arena.
As with last year’s inaugural event, the contestants were a mixture of invitees and qualifying tournament winners. The first quarter final of the night saw Mike Zambidis face Masato, who earned his spot by winning the K-1 Max Japan 2003 tournament.
Zambidis qualified by winning the 2002 K-1 Max Oceania tournament, beating John Wayne Parr in the final. In the opening round the Greek was quick to get going, attacking Masato’s body with solid hooks and testing his defence with some hard overhand rights.
Masato looked to try and control the ring more, reluctant to get drawn into a brawl by Zambidis. The Japanese fighter landed with a couple of sharp knees and both fighters fired in sharp low kicks.
Towards the end of the round Masato fired in a sharp knee and Zambidis seemed to slip, while getting out of the way. Last year’s semi finalist showed lightning fast reflexes to react and followed in with a jumping knee that caught the Greek on the jaw.
Zambidis dropped to one knee and took an eight count. Masato started the second round with a hard low kick while Zambidis carried on ripping in hard shots to the body.
Two more hard low kicks from Masato kept turning Zambidis around as they landed. Zambidis continued his onslaught of punches, but at first Masato did a good job of soaking them up on his gloves or avoiding them.
Zambidis got through with a few hard shots towards the end of the round but Masato took them well. Zambidis carried on where he left off in the final round, attacking Masato with solid body shots and overhand rights.
Several got through, but again Masato never really looked too troubled. Masato landed with more sharp low kicks and several hard knees. At the final bell Masato was awarded the win by split decision and progressed to the semi finals.
The second quarter final saw invitee Sagetdao Kiatphuton, a champion at Rajadamnern, face Marfio Canoletti, the winner of the K-1 Max Brazil 2002 tournament. The Thai got the action underway, landing with a heavy low kick, countered by a strong right from the Brazilian.
A short way into the fight Sagetdao picked up a warning and a yellow card from the referee for firing in a sharp elbow. Sagetdao immediately apologised with a deep bow that receive a big round of applause from the crowd.
Sagetdao landed with more heavy low kicks as Canoletti looked to concentrate more on his boxing, but nothing looked like it was troubling the Thai. Towards the end of the round Sagetdao started to open up with some solid knees in the clinch.
In round two Sagetdao started to put his hands together more and followed in with some sharp kicks. He received another warning for an elbow, this time claiming he was trying to reach around the back of the neck of Canoletti to try to clinch.
Sagetdao controlled the pace well, outscoring Canoletti with kicks and knees and landed with a huge knee just before the bell. Sagetdao looked comfortably in control in the final round as he controlled the pace again, landing with sharp punches and kicks and knees.
Canoletti looked like he was struggling to find the range and didn’t land with much. Sagetdao slowed the pace towards the end, but still finished in total control and took the decision at the bell.
The next quarter final featured the second Japanese contender and runner up in the K-1 Max Japan 2003 tournament, Kozo Takeda, who is also one of the few non Thais to have won the prestigious Rajadamnern stadium title.
Takeda faced Duane Ludwig of USA, an invitee who lost to Masato at the quarter final stage in last year’s tournament. The American started fast, peppering Takeda with fast punch combinations and sharp low kicks.
Takeda went into a shell and looked a little slow to react, as Ludwig controlled the opening round. In round two the American fired in more sharp combinations, the Japanese fighter countered with leg kicks but a fast left hook counter dropped him to the canvas, where he was counted out.
Souwer switched back and forth between southpaw and orthodox, attacking the legs of Kraus with some fast low kicks. A short way into the round Kraus connected with a hard right hand that seemed to stiffen up Souwer.
Kraus followed up with a barrage of right hands as Souwer staggered around the ring on wobbly legs, but he dug deep and started to trade back with hard punches of his own. Both opened up with some thrilling exchanges of shots, before two hard rights from Kraus had Souwer hurt again and the referee stepped in to give him a standing eight count.
Kraus went in for the kill and Souwer still looked hurt, but traded back up until the bell. There was a nasty cut on the eyebrow of Souwer though and the doctor stopped the fight before he could come out for the second round.
The first semi final saw Masato face Sagetdao. The Japanese fighter started the fight more aggressively as both attacked each others legs from the off.
Sagetdao came in with some sharp punches and both traded in back and forth exchanges of shots. Masato started to sink in some heavy low kicks and at the two minute mark landed with a hard left hook that saw the Thai stiffen up.
Sagetdao went close with a fast high kick near the end of the round but Masato came out attacking the legs of Sagetdao again in the second stanza. The Thai pushed forwards opening up with some strong punches and kicks of his own.
Masato came in with a fast punch combination and Sagetdao looked to slow him down with a couple of fast push kicks, but the Japanese fighter fired in a fast left hook that sent his opponent down for another eight count.
Sagetdao looked to try and see out the round, but with just five seconds left Masato landed with a heavy uppercut that finished the fight.
Heavy left hook
The second semi final saw Kraus face Ludwig. In the opening round Ludwig looked to hit and move and use the ring to avoid Kraus’s power shots.
Kraus kept stalking forward, looking to open up with big punches. Ludwig opened up with a couple of hard knees himself, but a big overhand right from Kraus sent him down for an eight count.
Ludwig seemed to recover quickly and went close to landing with a fast high kick. Kraus always looked dangerous though and landed with another hard right 30 seconds from the bell.
In round two Ludwig stayed on the back foot and fired in some sharp combinations. Kraus all the time pushed forward, looking to cut off the ring and catch Ludwig with his hard punches.
Midway through the round Kraus connected with another hard right and Ludwig took another eight count. The Dutchman pushed forward looking to finish the fight, but his opponent survived the round.
Ludwig came out at the start of the final round looking like he would go for broke and opened up with some hard punches, but a hard shot from Kraus soon gave him second thoughts.
With a comfortable lead on the scorecards the Dutchman was slow to get going in the final round but halfway through the landed a heavy left hook, which saw Ludwig unable to beat the count this time.
The final was a repeat of last years semi final fight between Masato and Kraus, where the Dutchman outscored the Japanese fighter after scoring a first round knockdown.
Masato started more positively than in their first encounter, opening up with sharp low kicks and punches. Kraus kept to his usual walk forward style, opening up with heavy hands.
Masato landed with a heavy body kick mid round, before the 2002 winner connected with a heavy left hook. The local favourite showed good movement and use of the jab to control the pace against the dangerous looking Kraus.
In round two both came out attacking the legs. Masato landed a heavy right hand early in the round and they started to trade power punches.
Halfway through the round Masato landed with a heavy left hook that seemed to hurt Kraus. But both continued to trade fast punches. The Dutchman went looking for the one punch knockout but was leaving his hands low.
Masato landed with a perfect left hook to send Kraus down for the count, sending the hometown crowd into raptures as the Japanese fighter was crowned the 2003 K-1 Max tournament champion.
This is part of our retrospective series looking at some classic shows and fights.