In the modern kickboxing landscape, no figure throws as large a shadow as Badr Hari. The Moroccan fighter is a 2 time K-1 Grand Prix finalist, a former It's Showtime Heavyweight champion, and has been a consensus top 5 fighter for years. But those accolades only tell half the story.
Because Badr Hari is also the "bad boy" of kickboxing. From his backstage altercation with Peter Graham, to his disqualification loses to Remy Bonjasky and Hesdy Gerges, Hari has developed a reputation as a volatile loose cannon. Now, that reputation has finally caught up with him.
As I write this, Badr Hari sits in a Dutch prison cell, serving 90 days in solitary confinement. His crime is one we have reported on previously, but the details are worth repeating. On July 9, Hari attended a party at the Amsterdam ArenA. Also at the party was Dutch millionaire businessman Koen Everink. At some point in the night, Everink was assaulted in his VIP box, badly beaten, with his ankle shattered to the point that he may never fully walk again.
Hari's name was quickly implicated in the case, though his exact involvement was unclear. After a period of police investigation that included Hari leaving the country and subsequently being named the prime suspect, the K-1 fighter came forward and admitted his guilt. According to Hari, yes, he had been directly involved in the attack and had struck Everink. With that admission of guilt, Hari was jailed, where he now awaits a court date.
But the story is far from over. Once Hari was behind bars, accusations started to fly. A number of others, including a noted Amsterdam nightclub owner, stepped forward, stating that they too had been assaulted by Hari in the past, and had been afraid to speak up at the time for fear of further damages.
Now, Hari's lawyer has stated that the fighter is interested in moving past these legal issues, and so has confessed his guilt in a number of other incidents. These will likely lead to four more charges, meaning he is currently looking at charges in at least five separate cases, including an arson case committed against a pregnant woman that may involve noted Dutch mob figure Gwenette Martha.
Despite these confessions, Hari looks to be fighting some of the charges. Lawyer Benedicte Ficq stated that Hari should not be convicted of attempted manslaughter in the Everink case because, "[h]e gave a blow with the top of his hand, not with a fist. He disassociates himself from what happened afterwards."
What does this all mean for Hari's future? We can't know for sure just yet, but it has the potential to be very bad. The Dutch legal system tends towards leniency, but Hari's violent history and multiple charges can't be overlooked. He has the potential to be in prison for quite some time, and it's entirely possible we won't see him fight again.
Hari's legal troubles here are likely to not only severely damage his own career, but also the entire sport of kickboxing in The Netherlands. Even before these incidents, the sport was developing a negative stigma, particularly in Amsterdam, where there was a strong criminal element at their shows. The Netherlands are viewed as one of the homes of modern kickboxing, and have been a hotbed for kickboxing action for years, particularly from the It's Showtime organization. But last year, Amsterdam Mayor Eberhard van der Laan went on a public crusade against the sport, stating that because of the criminal element it brought, it was not welcome. This prompted It's Showtime to leave Amsterdam as its primary home.
Now, with an international star of Hari's stature involved in these criminal charges, the reputation of the sport is sure to take a blow in the court of public opinion - one that could seriously damage the future prospects of any kickboxing promoter looking to run in Amsterdam.
The story on Badr Hari is yet to come to an end, but this is certainly a major chapter. We've seen great things in the ring from Hari, yet underneath, there was always a strong undercurrent of barely controlled violence. And it seems that violence was not as controlled as we thought.
What we're seeing now is perhaps the real truth of Hari - that, despite his talents in the ring, he is, quite simply, a criminal outside the ring. It's just a shame that so many people had to get hurt before that truth was revealed.