Nationalism adding fuel to K-1 fireThe current uproar over the Tokto islands has apparently been a boon to ticket sales for a no-holds-barred fighting event scheduled for tomorrow, which just happens to feature a match between a former ssireum (Korean wrestling) star and at least one former Japanese sumo wrestler.
Korea’s Choi Hong-man will be among the competitors at tomorrow’s K-1 World Grand Prix competition at Seoul Gymnastics Hall in Jamsil, eastern Seoul. Fighting & Entertainment Group, the Japanese company behind K-1, said inquiries about tickets had surged since the Tokto furor broke out.
K-1 is a freestyle fighting competition that features fighters of a variety of specialties, including kickboxing, kung fu, boxing, sumo, Muay Thai and ssireum. Matches are limited to three minutes; the knockout rate is as high as 80 percent.
Choi, 23, will be making his K-1 debut in tomorrow’s eight-fighter tournament. In the first round, he’s up against the former sumo wrestler Wakashoyo, also making his debut. If he wins that round, he will either face Muay Thai fighter Kaoklai Kaennorsing or a former sumo champion, Akebono.
Korean fans have been posting messages on Choi’s Web site urging him to beat his Japanese opponents. Akebono, however, is not Japanese, but a Hawaiian-born American; in 1993, he became the first foreigner to rise to the rank of yokozuna in Japanese sumo.
Perhaps ironically, Choi, like all of Saturday’s fighters, is employed by Japan’s Fighting & Entertainment Group. He signed up after his ssireum team was dissolved by its Korean sponsor, LG.
Tomorrow’s event also features six high-profile fighters who will compete in the “Super Fighter” match category: Peter Aerts, Remy Bonjasky, Carter Williams, Ray Mercer, Semmy Schilt and Motanha Silva. Choi Hong-man, Akebono, Lee Myeon-ju, Hori Hiraku, Nobuaki Kakuda, Zhang Qing-jun and Wakashoyo will compete in lower-level matches.
According to Korean media, Choi has been training for the match in Japan by doing three-minute, three-round sparring rounds every day for the last two months.
by Limb Jae-un
The event starts at 3 p.m. Saturday in Seoul Gymnastics Hall in Jamsil, eastern Seoul. The pre-game event begins at 1 p.m. The ticket price ranges from 49,500 won ($49) to 440,000 won. For ticket information, call 1588-7890.