Any Hug died on 2000/8/24 at the age of 35. Complications in his treatment for myeloid leukemia & bone marrow disease resulted in his death. He earned the nickname “Mr. K-1” because he embodied the traits that were regarded as those of a champion, an example for others.
His life was short. Given how much he achieved in such a short time, one would believe he knew time was running out. He had a stellar career in karate. Many people who collect things. Andy collected wins. He got off to an early start by fighting adults while he was still a teen and winning.
His losses were remembered mostly due to their scarcity. He fought Michael Thompson to a draw that forced a decision based on weight. He fought Matsui to a decision. This was a fight many felt Andy had won, but Matsui’s political position and the Japanese xenophobia of the day took top priority. Matsui later became the head of Kyokushin karate. Lastly, Andy was knocked out by Francisco Filho.
When Andy left Kyokushin he was the most successful non-Japanese in the history of the sport. Upon joining Seido Kaikan, Andy became Karate World Cup champion in 1993 and finalist in 1994. The tournament survived one more year before Seido-Kaikan discarded it to focus on kickboxing event under the name K-1.
Transfer to Kickboxing
Changing from one sport to another is never easy. It requires both drive and flexibility. Drive gives the athlete the stubbornness to persevere and flexibility gives him the open-mindedness to seek all avenues to success. Even with high levels of both, very few transfer athletes reach a significant level of success.
Like other transfer athletes, Andy had a rough start in kickboxing. Besides the new rules that allowed punches to the head, Andy’s molars didn’t clamp down on his mouth piece properly. He was pinching it with his incisors. Any decent punch slammed the back of his jaw into the base of his skull. In short, during a time of novice above-the-shoulder defense against punches to the head, he had a glass jaw. In time, however, the K-1 doctors discovered the dental problems and fitted Andy with a mouthpiece that would provide standard protection. As for the limited skillset, Andy was very highly motivated to learn the new game and his trainers had the privilege of instructing a most dedicated student, a veritable workaholic.
One of the most notable observations of Andy as a transfer athlete was that he avoided becoming a kicking specialist in favor of becoming a full generalist. Other fighters from karate backgrounds have typically become specialists: Francisco Filho, Glaube Feitosa, Nicholas Pettas and Yusuke Fujimoto. Some other exceptions are Akio Mori who transferred at an earlier age and the sensational Sam Greco. Boxers making the transfer have also opted for becoming specialists (in punching): Mike Bernardo, Francois Botha and Eric Esch. Some boxers have even accepted special rules against kicking in exchange for permission to wear boxing shoes: Ray Mercer and Arthur Williams. Andy’s desire to expand his skill base helped him pull away from the pack.
As a generalist, Andy was alert and ready to use every weapon in his arsenal in order to secure victory. Andy was confident that he could end a fight with any technique. Beyond that, however, was the extremely taxing effect he put on opponents. His low kicks, for instance, chopped high on the thigh and low, inside the leg and outside, the front leg and the rear leg, round house kicks and spinning kicks, etc. Andy knew that opponents had tight defense in some areas but left themselves vulnerable in others. He mentally exhausted his opponents until the openings presented themselves. The K-1 glory days had 5 round matches and over the last 2 rounds Andy was an absolute predator.
Generalists can also be recognized by their tight defense. Andy excelled at moving, holding and blocking and used them all to keep him in the game. Unlike New Zealand ’s Mark Hunt, Andy couldn’t soak up massive amounts of punishment. Just as well, relying on skills meant his scorecard usually had more points than his opponents due to not allowing as many clean hits.
Some fighters achieve glory by becoming champion; others by feats of heroism. One feat of heroism is to rise from the canvas (having taken a knock down or an 8-count) and persevere to victory. Ernesto Hoost has maintained in several interviews that recovering from a knockdown against Bernardo was instrumental in reaching the next level of self-confidence and the resulting success. He then went on the capture 4 K-1 Grand Prix titles.
By this measure, Jerome LeBanner has the most experiences winning matches where he received a count. He is therefore universally recognized as a heroic fighter despite having never won the K-1 Grand Prix tournament. Bob Sapp comes in second though the level of competition he faced was thin and nearly all his fights were tainted by referee Nobuaki Kakuda. Andy comes in third for two main reasons. He did not allow many clean hits and most of his opponents were natural heavyweights who could hit very hard. In other words, he couldn’t get up. Six of his 9 losses came from taking a clean hit from a strong heavyweight and suffering a KO defeat. Against Cikatic and Bernardo (both KO artists), he did manage to rise from the canvas and secure victory, both acts of heroism.
Another aspect of Andy’s spirit was how he responded to not only two knockdowns but also to a few heavy losses. Only once in his career did he ever accept 2 losses in a row and they were to Hoost and Bernardo in a span of less than 2 months. He then went on a 9 fight winning streak which included revenge wins over both Hoost and Bernardo. In short, Andy’s opponents could never count on Andy showing up with self-doubt or any form of ego-damage. Andy’s courage in the ring and between matches is a heroic example of his unyielding spirit. The man never lived through anything resembling a slump. On the contrary, Andy was an example of consistency. From 1996 to 1998, Andy advance to the final round of the K-1 Grand Prix. This 3 year streak remains a record.
Gatekeeping is the act of blocking new fighters from breaking into the upper echelon of the K-1. Many young hungry challengers love to get the big win. Cyril Abidi still enjoys the opportunities given to him thanks to his wins against Aerts and Sefo in 2000. Established fighters, in turn, have the pressure of protecting their territory. Ernesto Hoost still feels the sting of losing to a low caliber fighter like Bob Sapp.
Andy didn’t cough up losses easily. He did, however, fail at his gatekeeping twice: vs. Patrick Smith and Francisco Filho. The Smith fight was unfortunate. Andy took two knockdowns in the opening match of a tournament and the fight was over. They were both flash knockdowns and he was on his feet instantly, but the two knockdown rule ended the fight. Andy did come back and win the revenge match. The Filho match was supposed to be a revenge match for the loss Andy suffered against Filho in Karate. Then, Andy was kicked in the head after the referee called for a break and Filho was declared the winner. Under kickboxing rules, Andy appeared to be the favorite since he was the reigning K-1 Grand Prix Champion. Filho, however, with an unusual punch and immense physical strength became and instant star. He went on to defeat three more Grand Prix Champions (Hoost, Aerts and Bonjasky) and reach the final of the Grand Prix himself . Filho had a tricky fighting style and it was only a matter of time before he defeated an established star. Unfortunately for Andy, the star was himself and the time was Filho’s first pro fight.
The rest of Andy’s gate keeping is fairly stunning. Many good fighters tried to become the 6th to defeat him. They all failed. Some could get past one or more of the men who defeated Hug, but Andy himself closed the door: Stan Longinidis, Jerome LeBanner, Ray Sefo, Sam Greco, Mirko Filipovic, Stefan Leko, Glaube Feitosa and Akio Mori. Those in the underdog category hoping for a lucky break like Patrick Smith soon realized that luck was on the side of the man who worked the hardest and Andy never let anyone work harder than he.
The above list is made exclusively from fighters who have defeated Hug. Against Aerts, Bernardo and Smith, the score is even. Against Hoost, he has one win and three losses (all very close fights; no KOs or even knockdowns). And against Filho, the result of their only fight is a loss. Comparing Andy to the 5 men who have beaten him on such a list should portray Andy in a negative light. In fact, 6 wins is very respectable. Comparing these men with each other shows that only Aerts and Hoost escaped with winning records and neither could boast dominance. It was a very tight and competitive era.
The following list will cast a brighter light on Andy. The fighters on the far left are the fighters who have defeated Hoost, Aerts, Filho, Bernardo and Smith.
Home town supporters
Another achievement of Andy Hug was to attract enough hometown fans to warrant a large event in his homeland, Switzerland. Drawing fans in Japan is far easier for a large Japanese promotional company than developing business overseas. The K-1 promoted 6 successful events under the name K-1 Fight Night. Andy participated in this event 6 years in a row and remained undefeated.
1995 K-1 Fight Night 1
defeated Dennis Lane by TKO
1996 K-1 Fight Night 2
defeated Sadau Kiatsongrit by TKO
1997 K-1 Fight Night 3
defeated Mike Bernardo by DEC
1998 K-1 Fight Night 4
defeated Peter Aerts by DEC
1999 K-1 Fight Night 5
defeated Stefan Leko by DEC
2000 K-1 Fight Night 6
defeated Mirko Filipovic by DEC
Hug set a tremendous example for others to follow of a fighter contributing to the sport by selling out venues in his homeland. Jerome LeBanner has since been completing a similar task in his homeland of France. Starting in 2002, he has collected wins over Mark Hunt, Vitaly Akhramenko and Cyril Abidi. Aerts and Hoost never looked to do the same in the Netherlands and Sefo will try in New Zealand for the first time in 2006.
Karateka seek to reach a level of expertise in order to be called “master”. This title carries the connotation of teacher much like the terms schoolmaster (teacher) and headmaster (principal) are used outside the US. The word for both teacher and master in Japanese is sensei.
Late in his career, Andy began taking the path karateka are expected to take. He began picking up students.
Kenji Kusatsu- Kusatsu was part of the grassroots program where the K-1 brought along young talent. He was small for a heavyweight and didn’t have a lot of punching power. For one so young, however, he showed surprising composure and technique. Shortly after Andy’s death, the K-1 Rising events were replaced with the K-1 Beast events, focusing on bigger less athletic thugs. Kusatsu drifted into obscurity.
Xhavit Bajrami- At age 23, he defeated Lloyd Van Dams and Mirko Filipovic in one night. He has gone the distance with Hoost twice on K-1 promotions and once on another promotion. He has defeated Martin Holm (DEC) and Jerrel Vennetiaan (DQ).
Michael McDonald- He won the K-1 USA twice and is the only fighter to knock out Mirko Filipovic in kickboxing. Though not a student-teacher relationship per se, the time spent with Andy had an obvious effect on his success much like on those who had the privilege to play basketball's Michael Jordan or Hockey's Wayne Gretzky.
Andy was not a god. He was a man who had great passion in a sport and tremendous confidence in himself. He was not the baddest man on the planet. He lost fights to some very tough men. Andy, nevertheless, loved victory and did everything in his power to increase his chances of achieving it. His spirit is what fans remember most. He never backed down in the ring. After crushing losses, he regained his composure and focused on the next fight.
When asked to describe Hug, friends and opponents alike say one thing: “Never give up!” It was his vow to the fans, opponents and himself.
It is kind of long so I didn't want to put it in the memorial thread we have but I thought everyone would want to read it. I couldn't get the tables to copy over so here is the link so you can look at them.