Back in the day at Head Kick Legend, author Neil Manich took a really interesting look at how infamous kickboxer Badr Hari fought like a revolutionary. In response to that, former HKL and current BE author David Castillo took a different path and described Hari as a bedlamite. Both pieces are very thought-provoking and quite interesting, and a request from a community member (szanpan) has led me to re-post them here for your viewing pleasure. These were originally posted in May, 2011.
Remember that Hari returns to action this week in Dubai when he meets old pal Stefan Leko in the first round of a four-man tournament.
The first piece is Neil's, and David's follows it. Enjoy! You can reach Neil on twitter at @NeilSandwich, and David at @DavidCastilloAC
Badr Hari as a Revolutionary, by Neil Manich
The government is tottering. We must deal it the death blow at any cost. To delay action is the same as death.
-Vladimir Ilyich Lenin-
I, like every other writer on this site, have been going on a bit of a Badr Hari binge in preparation of his eminent return on the It's Showtime card in Lyon in nine days. I've rewatched every Badr Hari fight I can get my eyes on, and honestly I struggle to think of a more enjoyable assignment. What's really struck me about Badr Hari's fights isn't just his aggression or power. Those two traits are obvious. Anybody who watches a single second of a Badr fight can see that. What really impressed me and shocked me even was Hari's determination and persistence. His drive to finish the fight not with his physical assets, but by his sheer will and volition.
Badr Hari fights like a revolutionary. No revolutionary, or perhaps even man, ever possessed the extreme voluntaristic drive to change and shape the world they lived in quite like Vladimir Lenin. Lenin ate, drank, and slept a revolution which for the majority of his life looked as though it would never come into fruition, and never would have if it weren't for his tireless effort. He advocated that a revolutionary must be a professional, that every aspect of the revolutionary's life would be focused on the cause. The October Revolution of 1917 wasn't just the culmination of his life's work, it was the culmination of his life. Lenin shaped the world he lived in with his iron will and focus. It's a trait shared by few men in history. Napoleon, Julius Caesar and Alexander. These Hegelian figures reshaped the world with their drive, opting to cut the knot in half instead of untying it.
Badr Hari fights like one of them. It may not have been one of his career's highlights, but Badr's 2010 win over Alexey Ignashov was a perfect example for this. They had met before back in 2003 when Hari was still just an 88 kilogram twinkle in his mafia boss's eye. At that time Ignashov was still the toast of the kickboxing world and the favorite to go on to win the Grand Prix. Hari on the other hand was a late replacement for Melvin Manhoef and completely undersized and under-prepared for competition like Ignashov. Ignashov, for his part, fought like the massive favorite he was; Hari, on the other hand, refused to play the part of overmatched underdog. Ignashov was too much for the skinny Hari. He outpointed him throughout the three rounds and eventually dropped Hari with a body punch. The last image of the fight consisted of Ignashov humiliatingly teaching Hari how to breathe and recover from the blow.
But Hari had absolutely no business even making it that far against Ignashov. The entire fight Badr had that look in his eye, that dead set stare, that made you think he didn't realize that he was supposed to be the underdog. He came at Ignashov with everything he had, even a flying head kick at one point. At the end of the fight the announcer prophetically argued that we should re-watch this fight in five years. It took seven, but he was right.
When Hari and Ignashov met again in 2010, everything had changed. Hari was no longer the skinny upstart that dropped to a shot to the solar plexus; he had blossomed into the single most important fighter in kickboxing. Ignashov had seen his career make an about face as well as his bloated body felt the weight of years of alcoholism and under achieving. The fight was again meant to be a blowout, but in the opposite direction. Ignashov represented the old decaying regime, like an antiquated but once great autocracy that only required a gust of strong wind to send it crashing down in pieces. He was the Russian tsarist system in the twentieth century, the bloated monarchy in France in the eighteenth century. Badr was going to be that strong wind. The look in his eyes guaranteed it.
Ignashov was unable to mount any offense at all, but he proved to be nearly impossible to hit. His head movement paired with his willingness to flat out run away at times kept Badr on the outside. At one point in the third as Hari came crashing in with hooking punches Ignashov simply leaned against the ropes and threw the calmest teep ever which caught the overextended Hari off guard and dropped him on his butt. But Ignashov's elusiveness never even came close to frustrating Hari, nor did it even make him change his strategy. He was unshakable. He worked to put Ignashov in the corner, where he could put a winging glove to Ignashov's face. He did this for three rounds.
Like Lenin, or Napoleon, or Ceasar, or Alexander, Badr Hari will not allow for the universe to tell him no. If he finds himself in a situation that isn't laid out for his benefit, he simply reshapes the world. In the ring Hari has the ability to tell reality what it is going to look like, and more often than not reality listens.
Badr Hari as a Bedlamite, by David Castillo
Neil Manich wrote an interesting, highly literate piece on Hari, drawing parallels from men like Vladimir Lenin, Caesar, and Alexander. While it certainly provides a window into Hari the fighter, the fandom present in Neil's article misses, in my opinion, the more appropriate context over Hari, the man and fighter. Dave Walsh even chimed in, offering a retort:
Badr Hari represents much more of an ideological state apparatus; he is pushed and pushed and pushed as the future, as the best and that he can do no wrong when he does nothing but wrong. Badr Hari in his perfect form is what K-1 and It's Showtime want, as he can clearly carry them into the future and be the superstar the kickboxing world needs, but the ideal Badr Hari doesn't exist. The real Badr Hari is in tight with the mafia, has worn shirts supporting Amsterdam drug dealers to the ring in K-1, he drives expensive cars, wears nice clothing and didn't have to earn most of what he got.
I'll get back to Neil's post in a bit, but I have to clarify that I've been asked by the man upstairs (Matt Roth) to pretend to be a kickboxing expert, and to inform the K-1 experts of what they're all more familiar with than I am. Along the way I learned something: Hari is damn fun to watch. You guys already knew that, but speaking as a neophyte, the task has proven to be a pleasure. I'm not some MMA fan who ignores the arts that shape the sport I love the most (I began as a boxing aficionado due to my dad, who was an amateur boxer), but K-1 is just something I never followed. Watching Hari fight, there's an intensity present in his behavior that can only be fostered by the few. Something innate. Something instinctual. Is it any wonder the same intensity that informs his behavior inside the ring, informs his behavior outside of it?
When I saw Hari's DQ loss to Remi Bonjansky at the K-1 WGP in 2008, I was shocked, as you might expect, but there are two moments that cut to the truth of who Badr Hari is. Yes, 4:48 is one part, but the other is the 10 seconds before the DQ where Bonjansky is launching lethal kicks to Hari's body, and Badr wades through the barrage to unleash a more ferocious one. The Hesdy Gerges fight was no different, with Hari absolutely pasting a very competent kickboxer, only to lose with a kick to Hesdy's face...while he was down of course. Given Hari's connections to the criminal world, Dave Walsh even went so far as to explain the behavior as 'worklike' in nature:
There are also whispers of some of Badr's loss to Gerges and his demeanor being part of a fix in the fight due to his connections and the incredible betting odds for the fight. While these are just rumors and cannot be confirmed, it can help to explain Badr Hari's actions in the ring as well as his stone cold demeanor after the fight, as well as make sense as to why he'd do something when it seemed like he was in complete control of both the fight and his emotions.
Hari's criminal past is well known. While assault might be expected for a kickboxer with a short fuse, it's charges like that of arson which often link Hari to a realm beyond the typical, and into an atmosphere more nefarious. Wearing shirts revealing himself to be a proponent of known, and quite infamous criminals in his homeland isn't exactly a subtle endorsement. I'm not interested in playing the role of "moral guardian" though. I don't condone any of Hari's actions. I condemn them, in fact. His actions require that condemnation. We're not talking about 'mere' misbehavior in the ring. We're talking about the actions of a certified delinquent. But I'm more interested in the relationship between the civilian, and the prizefighter, and how one compliments the other. If only Hari had some sort of moral switch...he could be a true great, right?
"If only"...it's the catchphrase for many troubled fighters; typically fighters who have the potential to be better than they are if only their heads were screwed on straight. ‘If only' Mike Tyson wasn't a maniac...‘if only' Anderson Silva wasn't so bizarre, we might have been saved from the Anderson Silva vs. Thales Leites and Demian Maia fights. If only Badr Hari wasn't such a "Bad Boy", and so forth. These qualifiers always miss the point though. They neglect the truth that just as discipline can be an ingredient for achievement, so too, can recklessness. Or eccentricity. When Anderson Silva danced around at UFC 112, the same behavior that informed his antics in the Maia fight is the same behavior, I'd argue, that informed his knockout wins over Vitor Belfort, Tony Fryklund, or Carlos Newton: who but someone so fascinated by his own quirks would attempt reverse elbows, or look for a front kick as the knockout blow? Anderson Silva, by all accounts, is an architect of indulgence. That's his crime when a fight doesn't quite go his way (like against Maia), but that same behavior generates his accolades (like against Belfort). Silva's a destroyer, but it's a byproduct of his indulgence, and eccentricity: not as a man of one-track violence.
Mike Tyson, growing up a troubled youth, channeled his inner rage within the ring, but because that rage was something he took with him outside of it, how could he ever hope to truly contain it, regardless of location (although I think this perception is sometimes unfair insofar as Tyson was a real student of the game: under Cus D'Amato's tutelage he learned and was influenced by lots of black and white footage of old school boxers like Henry Armstrong, and Jack Dempsey)? Why are people shocked, when guys like Chris Leben, or Donald Cerrone, find themselves in trouble (a DUI in Leben's case, and a backstage fight in Cerrone's)? There's a yin-yang relationship when it comes to exciting, violent fighters.
And so Badr Hari is no different. His fights involve the same kind of gambling that accompanies criminal behavior. His lack of a moral compass, that distinct lack of safety, is precisely what makes him such an affective fighter. If he wasn't compromising his prime with civil misconduct, and bad behavior last year, then it he would have done so next year, or the year after. Hari doesn't fight for an honest wage. He doesn't fight because of the discipline the martial arts have offered. And he certainly doesn't fight because he's on a metaphysical quest. He fights for survival. In a Darwinian sense, sure, but survival insofar as without K-1, he'd probably be something much worse. Instead he gets to settle for a catchphrase like "Bad Boy", and all the hallelujahs of the observers who just want to know what a phenomenal kickboxer looks like.
As interesting as Neil's post was, I think it's wholly inaccurate, and sets up Hari as a bit of a hero (even if that wasn't Neil's intention). Hari has less in common with Cesar, or Alexander...men of inexorable volition, and more in common with someone like Nicolae Ceausescu. The Romanian Communist dictator was a man of significant ambition, but his will shaped his triumphs as much as they molded his failures, and the scope of his vision only impacted a small part of the world that would ultimately turn on him. Unhappy with the birthrate of Romania in 1966, which was staggeringly low (4 abortions for every birth), he quickly declared abortion illegal, even going so far as to tax women who failed to conceive with the use of agents called the "Menstrual Police", as if life were a Mel Brooks film (birthrates did double, however, accomplishing exactly what he wanted). When he was overthrown with a bullet to the head in 1989, the culprits were members of the very generation he gave birth to. Hari is more Ceausescu than Caesar: a man with lofty goals, but his methods were too draconian to be considered revolutionary, so much so that even its youth could see through the bullshit (many of the protestors that triggered his eventual overthrow were teenagers). This is Hari's fate: not of a revolutionary, but of a bedlamite who just so happens to be a brilliant kickboxer.