Slowinski vs Edwards vs K1

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International Kickboxer Magazine, Jan/Feb 2013

K1 has been through some trying times of late; bankruptcy, changes in ownership, radioactive meltdowns and the like. The brand of the world’s most prestigious fight organization has survived, however, with a strong Australian contingent as a crucial part of it. BEN EDWARDS and PAUL SLOWINSKI talk to JARROD BOYLE about their recent experience in Japan at the Final 16.

 Things were looking dour for the world’s premier stand-up fighting code earlier this year. Fortunately for fans and fighters alike, the K1 organisation has new owners and a new roster. Ironically, it was the first year the Oceania region had more than one fighter in the draw of the Final 16; both Ben Edwards and Paul Slowinski were invited to compete, based on their past achievements.

Edwards fought for K1 as recently as 2010 at the last Final Elimination tournament run by its previous owners, FEG. Auspiciously, he lost his fight to the eventual GP champion, Alistair Overeem. Once K1 was purchased, given Edwards’ existing ties to the It’s Showtime organisation, his contractual obligations were with the new incarnation of K1. One of the most notable aspects of the recent Japan tournament was the obvious absence of Daniel Ghita and fighters like Gokhan Saki and Errol Zimmerman, who were now fighting as part of the rival Glory International organization.

“To be honest, I think [fighting in K1] is beneficial,” says Edwards. “This way, some of us less-experienced guys get the opportunity to sharpen our tools on each other, before getting in the deep end with that very experienced, very skilled top six. Obviously, I want to fight the top guys, but I also want to develop as much as I can.” This year, Ben fought Chakuriki-trained Raul Catinas. Catinas is a rising star; also last seen in the K1 trading blows with Mighty Mo in 2010, the 24-year old Romanian was one of the most dangerous men in the tournament.

“I had heard a bit about him,” says Edwards. “In fact, we asked [the promoters] for the match. My team and I felt he was the biggest name I had the best chance of beating. We studied him first and he suited me well.” That said, Edwards didn’t lose too much sleep watching videos of his future opponent. “I don’t tend to think too much about it. I did my preparation and got on with it.” When the fight came around, Edwards dominated Catinas; the fight was called off in the second round by doctor stoppage. “[Catinas] went into the doctor’s office with his nose all over his face and came out with it straightened,” Edwards says. “They reset his nose there at the venue.”

Both Catinas and casual observers would have to agree that the fight was evidence of an outstanding performance on Edwards’ behalf. “I think it was my best-ever fight,” says Ben. “I was travelling with my boxing coach, Alexei Muchin. He had me doing all these little exercises to work out the jet-lag, so by the time the fight came around, I was fresh and ready to go.” As far as a learning curve, Ben says that the fight has done a lot for his confidence. “I know I can maintain a good pace,” he says. “My resting heart rate is very low. I can carry the weight because I’m really fit and I have a fast recovery.”

Ben seems to have learned more about training as well as fighting, and this made a significant contribution to his success this time around. “This was the first time I had trained twice a day for a fight. I trained twice a day for six weeks. It was hard work, getting home at ten o’clock at night, but I’ll be preparing for all my fights that way from now on.”

All of this came as a great relief, given the scare he had some months previous. “Something went wrong with my back, one day at training,” he says. “I had to be stretchered out of the gym – it scared the hell out of me. Turns out there are these muscles either side of the spine and one of them was so tight, it actually pushed the vertebrae out of place. The vertebrae pinched a nerve and paralysed me.” Fortunately, the issue was easily addressed. “I have physio on it twice a week and lots of massage and it’s all good.”

Having won his fight, Ben is poised to take part in the K1 GP Final in January of next year. “I’m hoping to fight an American, Jerrel Miller,” he says. “He’s big, doesn’t kick, and doesn’t move his head!” Other than that, Ben is waiting for confirmation of a fight against the current SuperKombat champion, Ismael Londt, on December 22, in Turkey.

Paul Slowinski is an old-hand at K1, and aside from Crocop, was the most experienced fighter on the card. Paul was slated to fight another SuperKombat regular, Catalin Morosanu. In addition to being the Romanian Dancing with the Stars grand champion, he is known to K1 fans as having the dubious distinction of suffering the fastest knockout in K1 history at the hands of Errol Zimmerman. What initially seemed like the most glaring mismatch on the card was an opportunity Morosanu seized with both hands and his dancing feet. He managed to defeat Paul by unanimous decision after knocking him down twice in the final round. That said, it was a fight that Paul never seemed to have settled comfortably into.

“I think it was because we had the wrong game plan,” says Paul. “The idea was to let him come forward and I would stay on the ropes and fight him there. Because he is a southpaw, my boxing coach wanted me to move away from his left hand by keeping on the outside of his front foot. We worked on that for six weeks [beforehand]. I think the approach clashed with my usual style; I never felt 100% in it, or comfortable. Besides, K1 is big on dominance, and because I kept moving away, it looked bad. That and the fact that Morosanu is a nugget; he’s very solid.” Paul was not without moves, as usual; he caught Catalin with a beautifully timed head kick mid-way through the first round and cut him over the eye. Blood is often a good sign, but as the fight wore on it came to symbolize Morosanu’s durability, rather than inferiority.

“Training and sparring has been a bit limited,” says Paul. “I had been training in New Zealand [to prepare for the K1] with Ethan Shepp and some of the big Kiwi boys. That said, Morosanu was hard and fit. Hopefully, I’ll rematch him in Melbourne, on the Kings of Kombat show.”

It has been a difficult year for Paul. Fight fans internationally were looking forward to seeing him face off against the man who is arguably at the top of the mountain after the retirement of Semmy Schilt; Daniel Ghita. “I was supposed to fight Ghita in Spain, but I was involved in a car accident. While I was driving, a car pulled out in front of me and caused an accident. I tore my calf muscle. As a result, I missed Ghita and the Kings of Kombat show down in Melbourne.” Paul is currently reviewing his options, but has bought a house with his partner and is now firmly based in Australia. “I’ll be fighting on the Knees of Fury show on November 17, and possibly Kings of Kombat before the end of the year. They have suggested a few names for matches, but we’re unsure as yet.”

The new K1 organisation has to work a few bugs out of the system, but both Slowinski and Edwards agree that the show was of a high standard. “There were between five and six thousand people there,” says Paul, “and it was a good venue with stadium seating.” Ben says that the show was a bit rough around the edges, but “once they get a few more big shows under their belt, it will all be smooth. They understand they have to look after the fighters.”

This in itself is good news; stand-up fighting needs the K1, and the stronger and more visible the Australian contingent, the better.

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