A game of thrones: GLORY 15 tournament will crown the king of kickboxing’s 205lb division
GLORY 15 ISTANBUL will be the second time that the GLORY World Series has staged an event here in the world's third-largest city.
Known as Byzantium in ancient times, Istanbul has been a gateway between East and West for more than two thousand years. A timeless city, Istanbul has seen empires rise and fall and has been the backdrop to some of the most important moments in history.
This Saturday April 12, it will witness kickboxing history being made as the first-ever GLORY World Series Light-Heavyweight Champion is crowned. And for one fan especially, the weekend cannot come soon enough.
Pierre Andurand (pictured here with Floyd Mayweather Jr and Evander Holyfield) is the Chairman and majority owner of Glory Sports International, parent company of the kickboxing premier league. Not only is he one of the sport’s key figures, he is also possibly its biggest fan.
"The line-up for this tournament is incredible. The four fighters taking part are champions in their own right and they are coming together for one night to determine which of them is the best of the best," he says.
"Boxing had its era of the 'Four Kings' - Marvin Hagler, 'Sugar' Ray Leonard, Thomas Hearns and Roberto Duran were rivals at the peak of their powers, disputing the right to be called the overall number one.
"At GLORY 15 ISTANBUL we have four princes - each is capable of being crowned king but only one will achieve that honor."
Gokhan Saki (79-16, 56 KO's) is of Turkish heritage and is the crowd favorite, Tyrone Spong (90-5. 60 KO's) is the current #1 in the Light-Heavyweight rankings, Nathan 'Carnage' Corbett (57-4, 45 KO's) has won multiple titles in his art of Muay Thai and Saulo Cavalari (28-2, 18 KO's) is the latest knockout machine to emerge from the famous fighting city of Curitiba, Brazil.
"We first visited Turkey for GLORY 6 ISTANBUL in April last year. Saki was at heavyweight then and the main event saw him facing off with his bitter rival Daniel Ghita in what was a long-awaited rematch," recalls Andurand.
"Being in the Ulker Arena when Saki made his entrance was one of the most intense atmospheres I have ever witnessed at a sporting event. When Saki walked in there was an explosion of noise. It was like a jet taking off.
"Ghita received the opposite treatment; boos, hisses and waves of hostility came from the crowd as he headed to the ring. There was so much excitement and tension in the audience, it was electric.
"It felt like England meeting Germany in the World Cup Final, or the LA Lakers and Boston Celtics facing off for a game to decide the NBA Finals. To walk to the ring before such a passionate crowd must be one of the most incredible things any sportsman can experience. It was like Rocky come to life."
One thing Saki is most famous for is his heart. He was usually the smallest fighter in the heavyweight division but he always went for the kill and was scared of nobody. Tyrone Spong was in a similar situation. Though not as outsized as Saki, he was at the smaller end of the scale and often at a weight disadvantage.
He dropped to Light-Heavyweight last year and the move paid off immediately as he won the GLORY 9 NEW YORK tournament right away. Saki decided to follow his example and this weekend's event will be his light-heavyweight debut.
"Saki's decision to drop weight excited us all here at GLORY, because immediately we saw the potential for a tournament such as this. If you know your kickboxing history it really is incredible - Saki has a KO win over Spong, Spong and Corbett are 1-1 against each other and had some acrimony between them," says Andurand.
Only the Brazilian newcomer Cavalari comes into the tournament with no rivalry between him and any of the other three. But it is very possible he will exit the ring with at least one new enemy. Cavalari earned his tournament spot with a crushing KO of Mourad Bouzidi at GLORY 13 and he will be looking to repeat the feat twice more on Saturday night.
First he faces Spong in the semi-finals. Cavalari doesn't have Spong's polished technicality but he is quite possibly the hardest-hitting fighter in this tournament. If Spong loses concentration for a second, the fight is over. Spong lapsed against Michael Duut at GLORY 9 and was nearly KO'd - he cannot afford to make that mistake against this Brazilian bomber.
Corbett faces Saki in the semi-final stage. This is a fight which fans have wanted to see for years and it is an interesting piece of matchmaking. Corbett is a Muay Thai stylist while Saki is a kickboxer, so there is a style vs. style element. Corbett is also fast, which may negate the speed advantage Saki usually enjoys.
Does the underdog Cavalari make it to the final and start writing his name into the history books as he faces either Corbett or Saki? Does Spong vindicate the bookmakers and claim a spot in the final and a rematch with one of his rivals? Does Saki blitz Corbett or does the Australian play a smart tactical game and outfox him? The possibilities are myriad.
"This weekend's tournament achieves the unique feat of being both an historic event for the purist and an action-packed, explosive spectacle for the casual fan," says Andurand, a hedge fund manager who specializes in the oil market.
"Hardcore fans will appreciate the threads of historical rivalry running through the tournament. Casual fans will see what happens when four fighting machines in peak physical condition go to war in a striking-only fight.
"If you are already a GLORY fan, you will know what to expect. If you are new to GLORY - especially if this is your first event - prepare to be blown away. These fights will be some of the most exciting you have ever seen, with big finishes guaranteed.
"Skill, fitness, courage, mental fortitude, tactics and a bit of luck will all play a role in determining who ascends the throne and becomes king of the division. The victor will rightly be declared the best 205lb striker on the planet."
If you are in the US, you can watch the event this Saturday April 12 on SPIKE TV at 8pm ET. The event is also airing on more than 150 networks around the world.
For more information check out www. GloryWorldSeries.com and find the official GLORY Twitter account at @Glory_WS
Picture courtesy Glory Sports International Ltd