A Few Questions For Bangin' Ben

How was Romania and ‘SuperKombat’, as a promotion?

Honestly, SuperKombat was not too good. To start with, they left us waiting at the  airport for four hours, in Bucharest. Then we had to catch another flight to Oradea, which is a small city on the Hungary-Romanian border. They put us in crappy hotel with a broken toilet and shower. From there, it was a two-hour drive to a restaurant that looked like something out of Dracula. And it was shit food. We didn’t get back home until after midnight, the night before the tournament. The promoter is a guy called Edward Irimia. Fortunately, It’s Showtime manage me in Europe and I’m very glad they were there to take care of me. In Superkombat’s defence, though, the show was thrown together at the last minute when the K1 Final 16 didn’t happen, so we were just happy to get a fight.

How was the tournament? Who did you fight?

It was in a food court in a shopping mall that was so new, there were only about 6 shops open. It was a packed house and the show was broadcast on Eurosport Live. The fight night itself ran pretty well.

My first fight was against a guy called Daniel Sam, from the UK. I fought pretty bad, actually. I was looking past him toward the rest of the tournament and I tried to take him out straight away. I got dropped immediately and then I had to spend the first round trying to clear my head. I started again in round 2. I managed to come back and KO him in the 2nd with a Punch.

My second fight was against Roman Kleibel, from the Czech Republic. Simon Rutz, the owner of It’s Showtime told my manager [Nick Boutzos] that Kleibel was a real  dark horse; he had beaten both Ghita and Ignashov earlier in his career. I went out and opened up too hard, too fast. I dropped him straight off, but I couldn’t finish him. As a result, I was exhausted and got dropped myself with 20 seconds to go. I just couldn’t get up, so it counted as a KO. I had won the first two rounds; I should have been smarter and just hung on. I guess I just have to just put it down to experience. I ended up throwing more than three hundred strikes in less than 5 rounds of fighting – which is impressive for a heavyweight, but stupid at the same time.

Did you do any holidaying or sightseeing while you were there?

Not really. It’s no good before a fight. You have to eat, relax and do promotion, like the weigh-in and the press-conference. The fight itself is stressful and then you’re too tired after! All up, I was gone [from Canberra] for 8 days in total.

What were your impressions of Eastern Europe? How are they as a kickboxing audience?

Good; really respectful. The crowd really get into it. They like fighting over there.

Is MMA the dominant code?

Not at all. Kickboxing is much bigger in Europe; it has a major foothold, especially the closer you get to Belgium and Holland. It’s Showtime has a big show every month, which they have been doing for about 10 years.

How did you find the ‘It’s Showtime’ promotion?

Awesome – the complete opposite! Very professional. We were met at Schipol airport in Amsterdam and then had to drive an hour and a half to the place where the show was, Leeauwarden. They put us in nice hotel and we got the media out of way in one day, which left us with a bit of time to ourselves. I really like the Dutch. We did a bit of drinking tea in the pubs, and they left us alone. You couldn’t do that here in Australia – all the tradies would be giving you a hard time! Simon Rutz himself is highly professional. The fight venue itself was in the hotel, which made it much more convenient for us. The show itself was sold out.

How was the tournament? Who did you fight?

I was really happy. I felt embarrassed after Romania; I fought stupid, amateurish. I raced out and set too high a pace; I tried to fight like a 60kg Mexican, rather than a 120kg Aussie. This time, I fought Ricardo Van Den Bos. I picked my shots, putting together 2 and 3 shot combinations, rather than punching myself out. I made it all 3 rounds, put good combinations together and got the decision.

How’s your training going? When are you off to Europe next?

Probably not until August. I’m looking at fighting for an Aussie boxing title again. I’m just waiting to hear from the ABF (Australian Boxing Federation).

How are you feeling coming up to ‘Capital Punishment’ on March 17? What are your thoughts on Rico Verhoeven?

He’s a gentleman. I was on my own in Romania for a while, and I spent time with him and his dad. As a fighter, he’s the complete opposite to me. He’s really technical, and has only won about 7 of his fights by KO – most of his wins have come by decision. It’s going to be a real contrast of styles. I only took a week off after fighting Van Den Bos, so I’m the fittest I’ve ever been. I’ve also added using agility bands for Plyometrics (courtesy of Andrew Burton of Burto Bungee) and a new strength and conditioning program, through my manager, Nick Bouztos, who also handles my strength and conditioning. I’ve also been sparring with the Aussie Olympic boxing team and doing really well. I’ve enjoyed training for this fight more than any other; the variety has been a breath of fresh air.

I’ve got a game plan, but it’s best to keep these things pretty simple. Just put some combos together and see what happens. And get as fit as possible.

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