Saturday, 8 March 2008

WKN Night of Champions 2006 - Retro Review

This edition of The Two Sheds Review sees us taking a look at the world of kickboxing, as seeing as how Eurosport continue to ignore we kickboxing and MMA fans after having served us for so well for so many years, I’m dipping into my own personal archive (translation - I taped it off the TV) to look at the World Kickboxing Network “Night of Champions” show, held in the Palais des Sports in Marseille, France, and broadcast on Eurosport in December 2006.
The broadcast begins with a women’s contest in the under 53 kilo division, an all-French affair with Nadege Szikora taking on Chloe Vander-Elst. It was obvious from the outset that Szikora was the superior fighter, controlling the bout from the beginning. Vander-Elst looked lost, and almost all of her kicks failed to make any noticeable contact, and it was surprising that she lasted until the fourth and final round. In the end it was pretty obvious who had won, with Szikora winning the unanimous decision. Although this was an impressive performance from Szikora, it’s hard to gauge just how good she is after a fight with a lower class of opponent.
Next Damian Garcia of Spain up against France’s Rani Berbachi in the plus 100 kilo division. Berbachi, as the late, great Gorilla Monsoon once said, looks like he hasn’t missed a few meals. An interesting fight this one. Garcia’s tactics were to go full force straight ahead, and Berbachi absorbed a lot of punishment, more than holding his own, so much so that he bloodied the Spaniard’s nose in the second. Garcia was deducted a point in the third for a spinning back fist, which is illegal under Night of Champions rules, and by the end of the round Garcia looked gassed out. As the fight went on Berbachi looked the far better fighter, with Garcia getting warned for pushing and for using his elbows. Despite my misgivings about him, Berbachi put in a great performance, winning the unanimous decision.
Then it’s down to the under 70 kilo division, with the vacant Full Contact title on the line, another all-French battle featuring Sofiane Allouache and Samir Berbachi, younger brother of Rani. As it was a title fight, it was scheduled to go twelve rounds. After the feeling out process in the first round, the second came to life when Allouache caught Berbachi with a round-house kick to the face which knocked Berbachi flat. Despite the swelling under his left eye, a consequence of the kick, Berbachi recovered well, and put in a good account of himself until he was knocked down a second time, Allouache scoring with a kick to the stomach in the fifth round. A round later Allouache had a point deducted for a low kick, although as the fight went on he was gaining a clear advantage, until Berbachi connected with a good combination and the ref stepped in and gave him a standing eight count. The eighth round saw Berbachi open up a cut above Allouache’s right eye that required the doctor’s attention, and you could tell between the rounds that the mood in Allouache’s corner began to change as Berbachi began to fight back, although he also had a point deducted for dishing out a low kick. Just seconds later Allouache began to complain of a leg injury, and everything else for that matter, which didn’t sit too well with the crowd. The beginning of the tenth saw Berbachi come out of his corner like a house afire. All over Allouache, he connected with a series of blows, knocking him down with a high left kick. Allouache failed to beat the count, with Berbachi winning the fight via knock-out. A very enjoyable fight, and a good comeback performance by Berbachi, despite the fact that the referee was very poor, and seemed intent on trying to ruin this fight from the outset. As the old saying goes, you can tell if a referee’s done a good job when you hardly notice him.
More title action follows, this time in the under 75 kilo division, with Poland’s Robert Zietek fighting it out with France’s Olivier Cerdan for the Full Contact title. The fight is joined in progress, so we miss the first six rounds. From what I saw of this one, Cerdan clearly outclassed Zietek. Down on the floor twice, a kick to the mid-section saw his corner throw the towel in to end the punishment. It’s a little hard to give an overall view on this fight, given that less than two rounds were shown, but Cerdan did look impressive.
We stay with the under 75 kilo division, as Finland’s Jere Reinikainen and France’s Christophe Landais against each other. Both guys had clearly come to fight in this one, going at it straight from the opening bell, although both connected with low kicks in the third round, so eager they were to attain a victory. As the fight went on both fighters kept up their hectic pace, although they visibly tired towards the end of the fifth and final round, and even though Reinikainen put in a creditable performance, Landais was just that much better, earning the win via a unanimous judge’s decision in what was a very enjoyable and entertaining contest.
The final fight of the show features more title action, for the under 64.4 kilo Full Contact title, featuring two Frenchmen, Ali Kanfouah against Samir Mohammed, a man with 114 wins in 114 fights, and the champion going into this one. Scheduled for twelve rounds, it was pretty obvious that it wasn’t going to last the distance, given the pace that both fighters fought at from the opening bell. Both fighters had their moments, but it was Mohammed who came out on top here, simply overwhelming Kanfouah in the fifth round, before Mohammed finished him off with an awesome kick to the head. Kanfouah fell to the canvas like the proverbial sack of spuds as Mohammed got the KO victory. I can see why the commentators were building Mohammed up as a great fighter, and given this showing, it’s obvious why their praise was so high.
In conclusion - it’s always good to step away from one’s speciality once in a while, which is something I’ve attempted to do on a regular basis recently, and even though some of the rules and all of the fighters were of an unknown quantity to me, I really enjoyed this show, with the performances of the two Samirs, Mohammad and Berbachi, being stand out moments for me. I don’t know when, but I’ll definitely be reviewing more kickboxing shows in the future, be they full contact, muay thai, or whatever.