Kickboxingplanet’s own: World Top 10 Kickboxers
Kickboxing may play second fiddle to MMA as a combat sport – but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t stand-out performers in the Kickboxing world. Here’s ESM’s world top ten:
10: Robin van Roosmalen (NLD)
Dutchman Robin Van Roosmalen is one of the best young kickboxers in all of combat sport. At just 24 years of age, ‘Poker Face’ won his 43rd fight from 60 attempts in April, and has been in with divisional powerhouses Andy Ristie and Giorgio Petrosyan already.
The son of William Van Roosmalen, who once knocked out the former WBC boxing champion Viltali Klitschko back in the big Ukrainian’s kickboxing days, Robin has split his time between Golden Glory, training with his father and with former K1 World Grand Prix champion Peter Aerts. Roosmalen has taken on the punching power of his trainers and is developing a reputation as a highly entertaining banger with hammers in both gloves and enough cardio to go all day. It is this tremendous cardio that has gained Van Roosmalen a series of entertaining decision wins, including his victories over Murthel Groenhart and Davit Kiria.
Roosmalen dropped both of his marquee fights in Glory, first being defeated by the slick skills of Giorio Petrosyan, who took advantage of Van Roosmalen’s raw aggression to counter punch his way to a decision, and also falling victim to that night in New York where an inspired Andy Ristie took out the top two in the division by devastating knockout. ‘RvR’ is still developing as a Kickboxer, and is yet to hit his prime. Van Roosmalen will again take on former victim Davit Kiria, who has since become the champion at lightweight. With the fight taking place shortly before his 25th Birthday, the young Dutchman could again find himself atop the sport at a young age.
9: Badr Hari (MOR)
Despite running into numerous personal problems, Badr Hari is still one of the top Heavyweights in the world. A product of the famous Mike’s Gym in Amsterdam, Hari is part of the notorious murderous sparring sessions at the gym, where the likes of Hari, Melvin Manhoef and Gokhan Saki go full out against each other on a regular basis. Although this is a method that has often been criticised by a number of top coaches, it has produced a certain type of Kickboxer, willing to go full power for every second they spend in the ring. A style that the twice k1 Grand Prix runner up epitomises.
Hari has a legion of fans and his share of detractors. Often living up to his bad boy image, Hari has committed a number of misdemeanours inside the ring. Disqualifications against Remy Bonjasky in K1 and Hesdy Gerges whilst he was the It’s Showtime Heavyweight champion have led to many casting doubt upon his mental state and discipline. Hari, whose numerous nicknames include ‘The Bad Boy’ and ‘The Devil Prince of Morocco’ also has his fair share of misdemeanours in his personal life. As one of a number of Dutch kickboxers with a history of bar fights, Hari has been arrested for assault on numerous occasions, and currently has a possible spell behind bars looming.
As the only Kickboxer on this list not currently competing in Glory, his relevance as of 2014 is questionable. No longer regularly competing against the likes of Gokhan Saki and Daniel Ghita, kickboxing fans around the world will be hoping the recently crowned Global FC Heavyweight champion can put his troubles behind them and rejoin his former foes on the biggest stage.
8: Andy Ristie (SUR)
The man who conquered the great Giorgio Petrosyan with a devastating knockout last winter in New York, Andy Ristie is one of the hottest prospects in Glory today. Victory over Petrosyan and Dutch prospect Robin Van Roosmalen in one night earned Ristie a chance at the Glory Lightweight title, however a stoppage loss to the Georgian Davit Kiria in the final round of a war became Ristie’s first setback in Glory competition.
Somewhat of a late starter in Kickboxing, the Suriname native had put together a modest record prior to his current run, with the highlight being his It’s Showtime victory over famous Japanese striker HINATA. A high pressure fighter, Ristie has traditionally caused problems for the sports technicians. A victory over Petrosyan and a hard fought loss to the under appreciated Andy Souwer a testament to his awkward style.
Ristie recently bounced back and re-discovered his good form against another top ranked Lightweight in Ky Hollenbeck, whom ‘The Machine’ knocked out in devastating fashion in just 35 seconds at the Los Angeles show last month. The 32 year old will be keen to earn another shot at the champion, and with the Lightweight division jam-packed with intriguing rematches, there are big fights available in the most open division under the Glory banner.
7: Daniel Ghita (ROM)
One half of the biggest new rivalry in kickboxing today, Romanian leg kick master Daniel Ghita is one of the best heavyweights in the world. Ranked at no.1 until a few close losses to Rico Verhoeven, with whom there is no love lost. Ghita is a knockout artist with a catalogue of brutal knockout victories against the best in the world.
Ghita formerly fought out of the Blackzilians camp in Boca Raton, Florida, before moving back to Europe last year to train under Dutch kickboxer Eric Warmerdam. Prior to his time fighting under the K1 banner, Ghita worked in the Romanian protection and guard service, and was assigned to protecting the Romanian president. His impressive form on the Romanian local circuit bought him the chance of fighting in K1, and Ghita quickly took advantage. A victory in the 2009 K1 GP qualifying got him a seat at the top table. Despite a loss to ‘Hightower’ Semmy Schilt, Ghita has remained there ever since.
Nicknamed ‘The Savage Samurai’ the Romanian has made a career of combining vicious leg kicks and one punch knockout power, and that has led him to the top of the tree in K1, It’s Showtime and Glory. Knockout wins over the likes of Hesdy Gerges, Errol Zimmerman and Jamal Ben Siddik saw him enter the 4 man Heavyweight tournament at Glory 11 as the favourite, however it was Verhoeven who upset first Gokhan Saki, and then Ghita himself in a highly charged final that the Romanian still believes he won. Despite this, with two recent losses to the champion, the former bodyguard will have to work his way back to a shot at the man he refers to as ‘The Princess of Kickboxing’.
6: Davit Kiria (GEO)
The Dutch-based Georgian is a highly motivated, highly aggressive Lightweight who loves to fight. Having built a fairly average record prior to his Glory debut, Kiria’s career had recovered from a shaky start to an altogether stronger footing by Glory 1 back in 2012. Despite success on the Dutch regional circuit, The Georgian had dropped decisions to Nieky Holzken and Robin Van Roosmalen, and his entry into the Lightweight Grand Prix in 2012 was met without much attention and excitement by fans. However a strong showing in Rome and a year later in the championship tournament in New York led to the Glory faithful falling in love with his all-action style and will to win.
An Ashihara Karate Kickboxer, Kiria’s traditional martial arts base has built strong foundations on which to build his success. Maintaining his Karate training has allowed Kiria to develop a thrilling style based around unorthodox kicks, making him a hard fighter for his opponents to read. Added to this, it has also given him a sense of discipline and a work-ethic that many believe will facilitate the constant improvement required at championship level.
It was his growing reputation that earned him a shot at the Glory Lightweight title, when he replaced Ky Hollenbeck to face Andy Ristie, who was off the back of a thrilling upset victory in the aforementioned tournament championship and carrying all the headlines. Ristie entered as a strong favourite, but what followed has etched Davit Kiria’s name into the minds of any watching fan. After taking somewhat of a beating for the first three rounds, where he was dropped and thought to be down three rounds, Kiria rallied to knock his opponent unconscious midway through the final round. The fight received rave reviews and completed a mind-blowing few months for the division, where traditional stars Robin Van Roosmalen and Giorgio Petrosyan had been forced to take a backseat.
5: Gokhan Saki (TUR)
The leading figure in Turkish kickboxing, Gokhan Saki is a murderous Dutch-style kickboxer who has recently moved to his more natural weight class ofLight-Heavyweight. Notorious for his speed and aggression, Saki is known as a Kickboxer and has been highly popular due to his long career of fighting opponents that tower above him.
Saki had great success for most of his career under the famous Muay Thai coach Cor Hemmers, who trained the likes of Ramon Dekkers, Bas Rutten and Alistair Overeem out of the world famous Golden Glory camp in Breda. Hemmers led him to celebrated victories over the likes of Daniel Ghita, Ray Sefo and Melvin Mahoef, and allowed ‘The Rebel’ to become one of the premier Kickboxers in both It’s Showtime and k1. Since 2012 however, Saki has relocated to Mike’s Gym in Amsterdam. His wild style meshing well with the notorious hard sparring and gym wars the camp is famous for.
Saki is the newly crowned Glory Light Heavyweight Champion, having won the 4 man tournament in Istanbul earlier this year. The Turk stopped Nathan Corbett in the first round, before famously checking the kick that shattered the left leg of World Series of Fighting prospect Tyrone Spong, and stopped the fight prematurely. Despite the unfortunate end, nobody would begrudge Saki his place atop the Light-Heavyweight division, and Kickboxing fans will be looking forward to potential exciting fights with the likes of exciting Kuzbass Muay Thai prospect Artem Vakhitov, and the dangerous former It’s Showtime champion, Danyo Ilunga.
4: Artem Levin (RUS)
Fresh off of a thrilling victory in the recent ‘Last Man Standing’ middleweight tournament, Artem Levin is one of the hottest properties in all of combat sport at the moment. Winning a one night, 8 man tournament in Los Angeles last month, Levin decisioned three successive opponents and impressed with his defensive skills & technical ability as well as his willingness to engage in a competitive fight.
Despite walking into the tournament as the favourite and #1 seed, Levin managed to slip relatively under the radar, with much of the focus on hometown favourite Joe Schilling. Schilling took a controversial victory over Levin the last time they met, and his box office run through the tournament allowed Artem to progress without undue attention or pressure. ‘The Lion’ controlled his fights with his superior technique, and even taking into account his point deduction against Schilling, still took a comfortable unanimous decision victory.
Coming from a small town in Russia, and fighting out of the highly regarded Kuzbass Muay Thai alongside the likes of fellow Glory standout Artem Vakhitov, and ‘The Lion’ has developed a hardened exterior to go with his supreme technical prowess. Levin’s impressive performance at Glory Los Angeles has led to him being at the forefront of the Middleweight division, with an unlikely bout with MMA superstar Lyoto Machida mooted, as well as the potential for superfights with cross-divisional rivals such as Nieky Holzken.
3: Rico Verhoeven (NLD)
A young man that came from absolutely nowhere to sit right atop the Heavyweight tree, Rico Verhoeven is a 25 year old technician that has strung together a quite incredible run of victories. Since a loss to the great SemmySchilt in what would be the Legend’s final night in the sport in 2012, the Prince of Kickboxing would take his fellow Dutchman’s place as the consensus #1 Heavyweight less than a year later in Chicago.
Verhoeven decisioned the much fancied Gokhan Saki and the tournament favourite Daniel Ghita to win the one night Heavyweight tournament. Since then Rico has defeated the legendary Peter Aerts and Ghita once again to string together a highly impressive 6 fight win streak.
Another Kickboxer well noted for his technical prowess, key to the Dutchman’s success is his water-tight defence and cautious striking style. Verhoeven works with Heavyweight boxers such as Tyson Fury, and his high guard and accurate jab provides a firm base for his more expansive attacks.
Rico turned pro at just 16 years old after becoming too big to fight anyone his own age, and was just 20 when he defeated fellow Glory competitor Filip Verlinden. Verhoeven, who was a Karate player before moving into Kickboxing, had been in the ring with the likes of Hesdy Gerges, Errol Zimmerman and Jamal Ben Saddik prior to signing with Glory, and was known as a top prospect upon his arrival in Tokyo two years ago.
Having only recently solidified his place at the top of the Heavyweight rankings, it will be interesting to see where Verhoeven goes from here. Whilst it would appear he and Ghita have unfinished business, it would be unlikely to see them meet again soon. Leaving former victims such as Zimmerman and Sergey Kharitonov, or new foes such as Anderson Silva or Mirko Cro Cop, should the Croatian return to Glory after his MMA agreement with Antonio Inoki expires.
2: Nieky Holzken (NLD)
A product of the late great Ramon Dekkers, Nieky Holzken is one of the most technically gifted strikers in the world. Regarded as among the best boxers to ever take part in kickboxing, Holzken is currently ranked number one in the world at Welterweight by Glory, and is expected to fight for the title upon his return from injury.
With wins over newly crowned champion Joseph Valtellini, and no.2 ranked Karapet Karapetyan at the Welterweight tournament in Tokyo last December, the Dutchman will be the favourite to take the belt one his long term shoulder injury clears up. ‘The Natural’ also holds a record of 4-0 in professional boxing, and has managed to carry his success over from Dutch-style kickboxing to Muay Thai, where he is a two time European champion.
Notorious for his hands, Holzken’s sense of timing and ability to pick a shot and get out without being hit has allowed him to navigate himself to 6-0 in Glory. Armed with the Golden Glory trademark of the hard left hook and debilitating liver shot, ‘The Natural’ has the weapons to put away ‘Bazooka Joe’ for the second time when he returns.
With possible fights against Valtellini, former champion Marc De Bonte and human highlight reel Raymond Daniels, Nieky Holzken could be a major player for Glory in the near future.
1: Giorgio Petrosyan (ITA)
A long time favourite of the combat sports connoisseurs, Giorgio Petrosyan is widely regarded as one of the most technical Kickboxers the world of kickboxing has ever seen. After competing notably in many of the lower weight classes, the Italian has made the lightweight division his home of late. An undefeated run from 2007 all the way up to his most recent fight (an almost unprecedented streak in a sport like Kickboxing) allowed ‘The Doctor’ to make the division his own, and carve out a reputation as the number one pound-for-pound fighter in the world.
Petrosyan developed his nickname due to his precision and cautious striking style. A master of defence, the Italian has always had a canny knack of avoiding damage even against the most dangerous Kickboxers in the world, and often against opponents that outweigh him considerably. Jack Slack, the great striking analyst for Fightland summed up Petrosyan’s skill in using his tremendous ability to judge distance to form devastating counter attacks to his opponents’ over commitment. As Slack points out, ‘The Doctor’ uses traditional Muay Thai techniques such as the teep kick to great effect against high level kickboxers.
Petrosyan suffered a devastating knockout loss to Andy Ristie in his last fight at Glory’s final show of last year, and although being only the second loss on his record, does raise some questions going forward for the twice K1 MAX world champion. Petrosyan struggled to deal with Ristie’s awkward striking style, and the Dutchman put Petrosyan away with a swift combination following a quick stance change. Ristie may have exposed a hole in the previously infallible Petrosyan style, and it will be fascinating to see how he fares in his next fights.
Kickboxingplanet’s own: World Top 10 Kickboxers