On December 10th Glory Kickboxing has finally made the heavyweight fight that fans around the world have been clamoring for when the current Glory Heavyweight Champion Rico Verhoeven (49-10-1, 13 KOs) faces “The Golden Boy” Badr Hari (106-12, 93 KOs).
Much like in professional boxing, long gone are the glory days of the heavyweight division. Great K-1 fighters like Ernesto Hoost, Semmy Schilt, Remy Bonjasky, Jerome Le Banner and Peter Aerts have all but hung up their gloves. The sport has evolved and the division has moved on. A new king of kickboxing has ascended the throne, winning 11 of his last 12 fights. When I interviewed Rico Verhoeven in January of this year on episode 53 of The FightBox Podcast, he seemed to be a bit disappointed in the level of competition he was receiving, instead showing more interest in a potential MMA or acting career.
“… kickboxing now, I’ve fought everybody, I’ve beaten everybody and I’m always looking for new stuff…”
However, always looming in the back of the minds of kickboxing fans was a potential dream fight with one of the last great heavyweight fighters of the aforementioned era, Badr Hari. The Golden Boy, however, has not made this fight an easy one to put together. Outside of the ring, Hari has had his share of legal troubles. A video even recently surfaced of Hari evidently roughing up a hotel employee. But with the former K-1 Heavyweight Champion’s slate clear for the moment, it finally looks like kickboxing’s version of “The Fight of the Century” finally has the green light.
The Experts Weigh-In
Over the past several months during the build up to this fight, I have been able to ascertain the opinions of many kickboxing insiders as to what they think might happen once these two behemoths collide.
“It’s going to be the best kickboxing fight at heavyweight that money can buy… This is a fight we cannot lose,” said Mike Passenier – Badr Hari’s coach
“Both guys feel they’re the best in the world. Rico feels Badr’s got to challenge him. Badr feels Rico’s got to step up to him,” said Jon Franklin – Glory CEO
“This is going to be a really tough fight for him [Badr Hari], because Verhoeven’s got all the answers,” said Stephen Quadros – former Glory TV commentator. “I think it’s going to be a classic lesson in kickboxing technology and a clinic put on by Verhoeven. I think it’s going to be a one-sided fight. I pick Verhoeven to win that fight.”
“I believe that Badr Hari should win it. When you look back at history, whenever Badr Hari made a prediction, for example Allistar Overeem, he delivers,” said Anoop Hothi – Kickboxing journalist.
The Tale of the Tape
— Don Roid (@donroidDDW) November 23, 2016
Good Guy vs. Bad Guy
For me, in my pro wrestling-geared mind, this matchup comes across as the quintessential pro wrestling fight of good guy versus bad guy, or as we say in the ‘rasslin biz “heel versus baby face”. You’ve got Badr Hari, kickboxing’s bad boy, who’s been arrested for assault and disqualified for unsportsmanlike conduct. Then you’ve got Rico Verhoeven, the squeaky-clean, well-spoken family man from a good neighborhood. These two could not be more polar opposites. Even their in-ring styles are completely different. Rico is a ring technician and Badr a power-punching brawler. It’s almost like the Ric Fliar vs. Ricky Steamboat feud from 1989 all over again.
Why You Should Watch
Kickboxing is such a dynamic sport. There’s no holding and stalling like there is in boxing. There’s no “boring stuff on the ground” as many critics of MMA claim. It’s non-stop, hard-hitting action for three three-minute rounds with punches, kicks and knees all legal.
Boxing, MMA and pro wrestling regularly attract crowds of ten to twenty thousand spectators with millions watching on PPV. Kickboxing doesn’t, but it should. I hope this matchup will be a catalyst for kickboxing and will help to build the fan base. I hope GLORY and the fighters themselves can do something special to attract as much attention as possible and get as many eyeballs as possible on the product. After that, I really think the action in the ring will speak for itself.
My Crystal Ball
What’s my prediction? Well, any way you look at it, I think there’s going to be a rematch. I think a rematch could be even bigger than the first fight, especially if something controversial happens. There are really no other big money heavyweight fights in kickboxing at the moment that I can see. But if you really had to twist my arm and get a clear prediction out of me, I’d say that Rico Verhoeven wins by decision.