Former ssireum star faces major adjustment in K-1Choi Hong-man, a former ssireum (Korean wrestling) star, is going to face a rough road ahead in an arena full of “killer machines,” professionals say.
Choi told the press on Thursday that he has signed up with Fighting Entertainment Group, which sponsors K-1, a free-style fighting contest. He will fight six bouts a year under a two-year contract.
Choi, who stands 218 centimeters (7 feet, 2 inches) tall, won one Cheonha ssireum title and two Baekdu titles, but no-holds-barred fighting is fundamentally a different sport. Because of different styles, different muscles are used and the speed and resilience of a boxer are necessary.
Choi’s first opponent is expected to be Akebono, a Hawaiian-born former sumo wrestler. Akebono is 213 centimeters tall and weighs 230 kilograms (506 pounds), and captured the most prestigious Yokozuna title in sumo.
“Although it is not certain whom Choi is going to fight first, he is likely to compete with fighters like Akebono or former National Football League player Bob Sapp,” said Tanikawa Sadaharu, Fighting Entertainment Group’s president.
With unimaginable strength, Sapp, who stands 200 centimeters tall and weighs 155 kilograms, quickly and ruthlessly pounces on his opponents. However, he has lost all of his bouts because he does not have quick punches, kicks and steps.
Low kicks, used for attacking an opponent’s lower body, are often used in K-1 as a key attack strategy. High kicks are aimed at an opponent’s head and are particularly deadly. This is a specialty of current K-1 champion Remy Bonjasky of the Netherlands, who is 193 centimeters tall and weighs 104 kilograms.
Height is not an important factor. Brazilian-born former basketball player Giant Silva, who fights in another tournament called Pride, is 230 centimeters tall, but has only won one out of four match-ups.
Choi needs to practice at least a year before getting prepared to fight, free-style fighting professionals say. If Choi turns out to have some hidden qualities and defeats Akebono and Bop Sapp, he would be able to fight at the ultimate World Grand Prix. But if he fails to adjust to the new fighting style, he could end up waiting a long time for his first match.
No matter what happens, Choi has vowed not to return to ssireum. “Even if I had to return to Korea, I would not resume ssireum,” Choi said Thursday.
by Sung Ho-jun, Limb Jae-un