Join Date: Jul 2007
Location: Backseat of the PlazzVan
Finding New Zealand’s best Heavyweight
Who really is number one and what does it mean?
In a land where giants prowl to be the top dog which means the world to them, just like when Salahudin quipped when terms were discussed for Jerusalem and what it meant to capture it- “Nothing… it means everything!”. So what does it exactly mean to be New Zealand’s number one and really who is it?
Things were at its absolute best when K-1 had its Oceania representation not so long ago. That however is no more and a heavy weight kick boxer at professional level has limited opportunities to practice their trade. A few bigger names moved off shore for better opportunity and a few up and coming talent remains in New Zealand fighting as and when they can. So in reality unless you are noticed or make a move to a greener patch, the chances of world conquering success is limited—especially with stand up fighting’s Mecca being in Japan with k-1 and FEG. What hope lies for these big men, since K1 is no more in the country?
Ray “Sugar-foot” Sefo and Mark Hunt who are pretty much pioneers of Kiwi K-1 success sparked a surge in the early part of the new millennium. Three fighters in particular: Jason Suttie, Doug Viney and Andrew Peck who all won the NZ K-1 title respectively are still very much in the frame. There is only problem: fight frequency and activity. This is being addressed as all three of these names have a spate of overseas fights lined.
Viney is probably the most opportunity prone of the trio being on a solid footing with K-1 and FEG. He is the single fighter affiliated with the leading stand up organisation and managed by Ray Sefo himself. These two factors alone will make a significant impact and getting guaranteed fights on the right fight card. Look at his win at K-1 Las Vegas in 2007 for example, but the single biggest factoid was him self. Doug was good enough when given the opportunity and he knows that he can do it; the rest of the world saw what he could do beating a guy who juiced up on a cocktail of roids to take the win. That it self speaks volumes of his ability.
Jason “Psycho” Suttie is what most critics consider the gutsiest man alive in New Zealand fight sport let alone kick boxing. Returning to the ring after near career ending injuries his Shaw shank redemption like comeback has been rocky. Losing to Peter Sampson and disposing several lesser considered opponents he is very much in switched on mode. Two fights overseas over the next three months—one in Japan, an eight man under 100 kg eight man and then a probable block buster in Dubai with Dutchman Melvin Manhoef. There is few more hi octane litres left in Suttie and we suspect they will be some of his better, how good it is will be seen soon enough. On top of that a possible Suttie V Sampson III towards years end is very possible, on Phillip Lam’s promotion.
Then there is the most outspoken and key board busy power kicker, Andrew Peck. As we all know his trademark is his kicking game. 2007 was a great year for him but 2008 didn’t start so well after a KO loss at the KO World Series. Fighting out of Japan, securing a super fight on HEAT 3 as main event, firstly though a qualifier for the newest stand up league (full Thai rules) in Planet Battle- Hong Kong. Win both and a possible eight man final in October with PB HK, it could set up interesting three final quarter for season 2008. Then there is his manager, Mike Cornette the influential litigator with former Pride FC and now free lance agent. He has the contacts and network with the dragon’s den of fight sport.
Ray Sefo and Mark Hunt are the only other heavy weights who are available on the global scene. Hunt has made it very clear that he’s all Mixed Martial Arts and will not tango in Kick Boxing unless someone coffers seven figures in green back. Ray has a super fight with losing 2007 Las Vegas finalist, Zabit Samedov; the man who was suspended for testing positive almost straight after the Vegas show. Since Sefo is under contract with FEG till end of the year, this fight is pretty much a shot at redemption after being well beaten by Moroccan Badir Hari. Many critics have questioned whether Ray will retire? I guess only time and himself will answer that question and seemingly his form in the K-1 has dropped significantly.
Home brewed south of Auckland in Hamilton, Peter “Punisher” Sampson trains away and does what he does best. Upstaging the fancied names and getting about business in his soft spoken manner. His Kiyosuhin style and fancy spinning back kicks make him a real entertainer. What’s more as far as local shows go he brings the crowd. As far as K1 and the karate backing goes, he stands a real good shot at getting a crack in Japan, somewhere—but it comes down to who you know and how it will open doors. Some argue that Peter is New Zealand’s bonafide no.1 heavy weight. This may be true but he has to win away from home against bigger names to make a case of staking this claim, this side of him is largely untested. That day may not be too far away. Perhaps if Sampson fights Viney or Peck…
Alexei “Red Scorpion” Ignashov is probably getting bored from lack of fights. He is the one real heavy weight who now calls New Zealand home with a diverse and tested record most others can’t boast of. However with the recent string of managerial dramas and a true victim of circumstances he has had no half decent fights. KO World Series which promised him the world and made him their centre-fold fighter succumbed to financial strife and with it, possibly big hopes for Ignashov to shine on a circuit other than K1. I suppose now his only real option is to be part of the organisation he could have ruled as champion. You can’t be too far removed from reality and given the lack of ring time; no matter how big you talk a fighter up he will win only on skill and readiness. Alexei has the skill but hasn’t got the ring time he at the highest level whatsoever. As far as K-1 goes for them to re-sign him, will the McIver backed affiliation cause a stumbling block- maybe, maybe not, maybe it’s a bargaining tool for FEG so they could halve his going rate and appearance fee.
Just recently, arguably the countries most “coveted” Muay Thai belt which is the WMC (World Muay Thai) professional title, currently held by Hiriwa “Tee-man” Te Rangi caused much debate. He beat Charles Smiler in February to capture it as Andrew Peck had to hand it over due to a long period of inactivity and non-defence.
Of course with Peck based out of NZ the practicality of him defending it would be limited if at all that. Smiler gets a re-match on Te Rangi’s own promotion in July (Invercargill) as the title goes up for grabs. On paper it is most unlikely that Smiler will win, but if he does what are the ramifications of it? Will Peck fly all the way back challenging Smiler, fighting on a promotion where the dollars won’t be as good for him as on a Japanese show?
There are a host of contenders and also a list of so called pretenders. In reality it’s more a case of five or six bonafide heavy weights who we have mentioned and what happens from now on in. As things stand on national and international ring time, win –loss ratio with knock outs, giving some consideration to the impact they have on the sport you could see Peck, Viney or Sampson in some form of par. Peck needs to come back strong with a win and so does Viney as his last two appearances were losses. Okay, maybe the last fight—even being on a K1 card against a fighter who was suspended by NSAC (Nevada State Athletic Commission) but part took on the circuit is not equitable in our eyes. A drug cheat is a drug cheat, no matter how PC you want be about it. Peter Sampson needs to land a few overseas fights and test his ability away from home. As far as Jason Suttie goes, well: win in Hong Kong then beat Manhoef; it’s all on to balance the ledger with Sampson.
Alexei Ignashov, a question hangs over him on when he will fight, in the very immediate future. Nothing has been planned of yet and nothing is on the cards. Ray Sefo has a long road back to recovering lost ground but then again all it takes is a super fight against a legendary K1 fighter and it’s all sweet, least for the moment. Success and failure have marginally unforgiving trends, but that’s the life of a fighter.
It’s all very tantalising- we must be careful what we wish for, you just might have it all, well almost all.
So to cut a long story short, who is New Zealand’s number one heavyweight? Six months from now (or there about) we could get a much clearer answer, where several key matches and appearances will determine who ends up with what. Experience will play a huge part but watch out for the youth, where there is no substitute for Viagra in an ever changing “bedroom” like set up in trans-national kick fighting.
Pretty good read.