Friday, 2 January 2009

K-1 World Grand Prix Final on Eurosport - TV Review

My first review of 2009 sees us taking another trip to the world of K-1, as I take a look at British Eurosport’s end of year coverage of the K-1 Grand Prix final from Yokohama, Japan, with a new generation of fighters coming through to battle the old guard, and a very controversial end to the final. Will Vanders is, as always, there to provide commentary, and sadly, I’m having to start this review with some more criticism of Eurosport’s K-1 coverage.

You see, the actual programme began with Mr. Vanders giving away some of the quarter-final results. Well, thanks a lot, Eurosport, for your shoddy editing, and for spoiling the show for those of use who were really looking forward to it.

Then came the coverage of the quarter-finals themselves. So much time was spent on pre-fight interviews and fighter profiles that only the final rounds of the fights were shown, and we don’t actually get to see a full fight until over an hour into the show. So there’s no point in my reviewing them for you, because there’s not much to review. So, once again, thanks a lot Eurosport for spoiling the show for us. A three hour time slot and you still couldn’t give us all the fights!

So my review will begin with the first full fight shown, the first reserve fight which pitted “Sugarfoot” Ray Sefo against the Korean monster, Hong Man Choi. This was a hell of a fight. Despite giving away over a foot in height and seventy pounds in weight, the New Zealander took the fight to his opponent from the opening bell. Sefo had all the tools to befuddle Choi throughout, targeting his massive legs with kicks and his ample mid-section with punches. Everything that Sefo did just seemed to take Choi totally out of his game, and when the Korean did go on the offensive, it didn’t seem to bother Sefo one bit, as he used his superior speed to get out of the way, and as the fight went on it was obvious that Choi had no intention of changing his tactics, even though they were clearly failing him. In the end it came as no surprise when Sefo got the unanimous decision. A tremendous performance from Sugarfoot here. As for Choi, well, he has improved quite a bit over the past year or so, and I’m sure he’s got a big future ahead of him.

Then it’s on to the second reserve fight, with Melvin Manhoef taking on Paul Slowinski. This fight didn’t get past the end of the first round. Although things looked pretty even in the beginning, Manhoef upped the aggression levels, and scored with a knock down with a right hook. With Slowinski still looking groggy after the eight count, Manhoef continued where he’d left off, and it was long before Slowinski was slumping in the corner with the referee waving the fight off. Manhoef had pulled off a great win here, with Slowinski paying the price for calling the Dutchman fat and ugly in the pre-fight build-up.

Then it’s on to the first semi-final of the tournament, with Errol Zimmerman taking on Badr Hari, who defeated the great Peter Aerts in the quarters. When the fight began Mr. Vanders was making it that this would be like a walk in the park for Hari. Well, things weren’t that easy for the self-styled bad boy. With an even first round, Zimmerman caught Hari with a left/right combination in the second that sent Hari down to the mat. Hari came back strongly though, and at the end of the round, it was Zimmerman who went down after a short right. The third round, and Hari continued the onslaught, soon ending the fight with a hard right. Zimmerman went down, and made the referee’s eight count, but the man in the middle had seen enough, and stopped the fight. With Hari through to the final after a tremendous comeback, I began to think that this was his year.

The second semi-final saw Remy Bonjasky, who took a quarter-final win over Jerome Le Banner after a doctor’s stoppage, against Gokhan Saki. While the first round was very tentative, almost as if they were feeling each other out, it exploded to life in the second. Bonjasky came out like a house afire, and soon connected with a right kick to the Saki’s ribs that was so painful he was unable to continue. The pain in his face was pretty self evident as the two-time former champion booked his place in the final with a good performance.

Then it was on to the final, Bonjasky against Hari. To say that this fight was controversial would be a massive understatement. The fight began very tentatively, and it was a while before Hari began to exert his pressure. However, it was Hari who went down to the mat first. After Bonjasky connected with a left that stunned him, the flying Dutchman then went for a flying knee, which Hari avoided by going down to the mat, earning himself an eight count.

Hari began the second round by taking the fight to Bonjasky, really going for the knock out. But Bonjasky soon gave as good as he got, the green eyed monster got the better of Hari. First, he grabbed Bonjasky’s leg and threw him down to the mat. With the Dutchman down on the mat, Hari then went down and punched him twice. It didn’t end there, because when the referee tried to separate them, Hari stomped on Bonjasky’s head. The referee was incensed, and as the doctors were making sure Bonjasky was okay, the referee gave him a yellow card, professional wrestling’s equivalent of a public warning. But when the doctors revealed that Bonjasky couldn’t continue because he was suffering from double vision, Hari was red carded and disqualified, giving the tournament final and 2008 Grand Prix victory to Bonjasky. I’m not even going to pretend to know what was going through Hari’s mind as he punched and stomped on Bonjasky while he was on the mat. What I will say is that Hari’s behaviour was disgusting, especially as he showed absolutely no remorse for his actions afterwards, and no apology either.

In conclusion - while I’ve already let my views on the coverage of the quarter final fights known, my mood got better with the fights that were shown. It was good to see Rey Sefo getting back on track, and three of the four tournament fights that were shown were great to watch. It’s just a shame that Badr Hari acted like a thug in the final. Knowing the kind of fighter that Remy Bonjasky is, he wouldn’t have wanted to win the tournament in that way, and it’s a massive shame that a fighter of Hari’s pedigree, one of the tournament favourites, had to damage his reputation that way, because the final was shaping up to be a tremendous fight.

As for Eurosport’s continued shoddy treatment of K-1, I really hope that they begin to realise that there are quite a few K-1 fans out there who aren’t happy with the way they’re doing things, and if you are interested in letting them know, I’ve set up a Facebook group for fans who would like to see K-1 on either Sky Sports or Setanta Sports. You can join the group by visiting http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=45832461958&ref=ts . Once you join, be sure to invite all of your Facebook friends. If we’ll get enough members I’ll send on the details to both Sky and Setanta letting them know just how we feel.