28/04/2009 - 11.35

ITALY BEATS HOLLAND 2-0

oktagon1

OKTAGON in a magnificent setting with 8000 spectators

Giorgio Petrosian confirms being a fighter worthy of a K-1Max final with his victory over Andy Souwer and Silvia La Notte becomes Wako-Pro World Champion against Linda Oolms. Who could have predicted it?

by Ennio Falsoni

In my office one day, Carlo Di Blasi said “Pity we don’t have a betting system set up yet”. The creator of Oktagon, the primary event on the Italian Kickboxing scene, which has taken place in Milan for the last 14 years, continued, “can you imagine what a frenzy the Souwer vs Petrosian match would have stirred up?” The idea of this match has inflamed the hearts and minds of all the aficionados of our sport and thus 8,000 fans literally invaded the PalaSharp Arena from every corner of Italy so as not to miss the event everybody will talk about forever. The enormous suspended-fabric structure, with its capacity of 10,000 persons, lying behind the San Siro soccer stadium area, was almost filled to the brim already at 8 p.m. Wherever you turned your eyes you could see a wall of people. The well-tested choreography of “It’s Show Time” – one of the major Dutch organizations Carlo has been working with for some time – dominated one end of the PalaSharp venue. The huge lighting system and the splendid professional ballerinas who performed during the 50-second intervals between rounds were the perfect backdrop to that magical night. It was magical for the electrifying enthusiasm, the people’s expectations and warmth, and their knowledge of our sport which turned it all into a spectacle within a spectacle. Di Biasi is very skilled at eliciting the public’s interest and during the year since the moment when he chose the Souwer-Petrosian match as the evening’s main event, he has knowingly hammered away at appealing to the passions of our great public. The success of his promotion has gone well beyond all our expectations. I have never seen so many people flock to one of our events in the last ten years, which proves the show was worth it. Our sport is running against the general trend, while many sports are languishing and strongly feel the economic pinch affecting most common people, like everywhere else in the world these days. Therefore, the affluence of so many people is a sure sign of a healthy sport, as is also shown by our strong federation figures for the current year. We feared we would lose members and member clubs, but instead the end-of-year numbers will again be positive; FIKB will reach over 17,000 members and close to 500 clubs, an objective we had set for ourselves for this 4-year period.   So what was it that I liked so much about Oktagon? Besides the general venue, the public, the entertainment and general choreography, I can safely state that the Andy Souwer-Giorgio Petrosian match hit the nail on the head. Andy was very concentrated and started off at full throttle from the first gong. It was the first time I had ever seen Petrosian forced to back-pedal. Don’t misunderstand me ─ his tactic was very intelligent. Souwer, with his suffocating attack, became vulnerable to counterpunches, a strategy at which Petrosian excels. The match was highly intense and there was no letup, as if it were a K-1 Max final.  Unfortunately, three 3-minute rounds are not much for professional athletes of this calibre, and when you have the same exceptional level of these two athletes it becomes almost impossible to determine who the real winner is. At the end of the match the judges decreed a draw, immediately followed by unbecoming protests of scandal from Petrosian’s corner. But it was not scandalous. During the extra round we saw no change. We saw Souwer trying to pressure Petrosian again and force him into a brawl at short range, ultimately seeking the final blow. But Giorgio was very skilled at never letting his rival corner him and he succeeded in landing the one solid left-hand counterpunch of the match and this perhaps contributed to ensuring his victory. So, the great champion lost, but I must say that Souwer, being a true professional, didn’t lose his cool at all. He donned his cap, participated in the award ceremony and elegantly climbed down from the ring with his coach, Andre’ Mannart. On the other side there was an explosion of joy for the victory which launches Petrosian into the Japanese Olympus of Kickboxing. He fully deserves it because, besides the question of parity, one thing is certain ─ fighting on a par with Andy Souwer is, in itself, paramount to excellence. Giorgio Petrosian earned his deserved coronation in the PalaSharp ring. The second most intriguing match of the evening was the one between Brazil’s Alexander Cosmo and the Dutchman Murthel Groenthart, who a year earlier had won the Oktagon 8-way tournament at the Palalido arena. I had never seen Cosmo fight before, but I must admit he overpowered his rival with his superior physical conditioning. He was very skilful, more precise and more powerful than Murthel, who lost on points by a wide margin. I would like to see the extraordinary Cosmo in action again soon. The third remarkable match saw our (Italian) Silvia La Notte pitted against Holland’s Linda Oolms, a ranked athlete who I believe had never fought in Italy before. Silvia, whom I had personally recommended to Di Blasi as one of the highlights of the evening didn’t disappoint. She started strongly from the very beginning and proved to be faster, more determined and precise than her opponent, who never seriously threatened her. La Notte is quick and has combinations which she unleashes with extreme ease. She also has imagination and can box elegantly, making up for what she lacks in strength. Hers was a truly wonderful performance for which the judges unanimously declared her the winner. I appreciated the unusual courage of Alessandro Pacini, summoned to take the place of Britain’s Kerrian Keddle (who couldn’t reach the required weight limit of 65 kg). In his match, for the world “It’s Show Time” championship, he went through the scheduled five rounds, always trying to answer blow for blow. His rival, the Dutch-Moroccan Hassan El Hamzaoui, was dangerous only with his legs, which he could windmill on command as only those coming from Taekwondo can do. He was spectacular in two occasions, but Pacini, with coach Alessandro Grifa in his corner, succeeded in escaping all his combinations unscathed. Pacini lost on points, but fought with honour, considering that he had no time to prepare specifically for this match. Kudos to him. Turkey’s Sahin Yakut literally decked his opponent, Shemsi Bequiri, in the very first round. Not much can be said about the winner’s ability since, in such cases, the victory comes so quickly that you have no time to really evaluate the guy. Certainly, Yakut is good and has a solid right punch, but he is another one I would like to see again in a more substantial match. Among the highlights of the evening we also had a Muay Thai match marking the existing friendship and cooperation between Italy and Thailand. Thanks to the good offices of Stefano De Bonis, who worked hard to secure the approval of  the Thai Chamber of Commerce and Embassy in Italy, we were proud to host a delegation at Oktagon featuring Prajaskin Kaenjabai, who fought against the Milan’s capable Francesco Cerigone, coached by Diego Calzolari. I sincerely thought that the Thai, with his experience of more than 150 fights, would totally dominate our athlete, but instead the latter stubbornly and admirably held his own to the very end, even if the match was not a thing of beauty. Cerigone deserves our compliments for bravely fighting the 5 rounds and not being overwhelmed by his more notorious rival. Oktagon thrived on these encounters, which made the price of a ticket worthwhile. Since Carlo Di Blasi is always looking for major attractions for his event, I’ll take the liberty of suggesting for next year’s event a rematch between Andy Souwer and Giorgio Petrosian, but over the classical five 3-minute rounds. I guarantee it would be a great success.