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By Michael Afromowitz

In what turned out to be the most competitive and arguably the most thrilling United States K-1 card yet, German young gun Stephan Leko blasted his way to victory in front of 4,052 fans at the K-1 World Grand Prix Semifinal tournament at Las Vegas, Nevada's Bellagio Hotel and Casino onSaturday, August 11th. The tournament win bought Leko an entry into December's K-1 World Grand Prix Finalin Tokyo, Japan's Tokyo Dome.


Peter Aerts vs. Noboru Uchida:

It was business as usual for three-time K-1 World Grand Prix champion, Peter Aerts, who came out in typical K-1 aggressive fashion against Japan's Noboru Uchida in the tournament's first bout. While the 26-year-old Uchida hung tough throughout the first two rounds of the fight against his more seasoned opponent, Aerts stepped up his game in the third round and scored two knockdowns which forced the referee tostop the bout due to the “two knockdowns in a single round” technical knockout rule of the event.

Maurice Smith vs. Jorgen Kruth:

Sweden's Jorgen Kruth looked tense in a bout, which was uncharacteristically slow for K-1. While neither fighter wasvery aggressive during any of the fight's three rounds, Maurice Smith was able to land several punch combinations and unanswered kicks to the head of Kruththat led him to victory via judges' decision.

Sergei Ivanovich vs. Francisco Filho:

Coming off his finest performance to date at the K-1 Ukraine Elimination tournament, which earned him a pass to Las Vegas, Minsk, Belarus's Sergei Ivanovich continued his momentous run by pulling off a phenomenal upsetover a heavily-favored Francisco Filho With only 194 lbs. 6 foot 3 inch frame, Ivanovich was the lightest of the eight tournament fighters and was able to use this to his advantage in theform of speedy footwork that seemingly baffled Filho in the first two rounds ofthe bout. Filho's dominance of thethird round sent the fight into a “sudden death” overtime round, which Ivanovich narrowly won, giving him the victory.

Stephan Leko vs. Jeff Roufus:

Jeff “Duke” Roufus demonstrated thefighting spirit of a true professional Muay Thai kickboxer in a tough loss to Leko. After standing toe to toe with the German throughout the first round of the fight, Roufus was floored by a Leko hook punch to the head. Unwilling to quit, the American stood up, waved his opponent on, and began exchanging blows once again. However, Roufus could not sustain a comeback as he was dropped for a second and final time by a pinpoint uppercut to his chin.


Peter Aerts vs. Maurice Smith:

Smith surprised many onlookers when he took control of thisbout in the first two rounds, exhibiting a great deal of endurance and determination. After Aerts's right eye began to swell in the first round and continued to do so in the second and he was growing increasingly weary, it seemed as if Smith was headed to the final round of a K-1 tournament for the second time in three months. In the third round, Aerts got a second wind somehow and, with that, a second opportunity as he began landing punches andknees at an increasing rate to produce the second “sudden death” overtime roundof the tournament. He sealed thejudges' decision victory by following up the previous round with similar tenacity.

Stephan Leko vs. Sergei Ivanovich:

Ivanovich's win streak was finally put to a halt as Leko's heavy leg kicks and right hand punches proved to be too much for his leaner opponent. The Belarusian displayed fantastic ring movement in the first round once again, but was caught with several right crosses and forced to take a standing eight count by thereferee. In the second round, the German finished the job by continuing to work his opponent's left thigh with punishing leg kicks. Upon the advice ofthe physicians at ringside, Ivanovich retired with severe swelling of his left leg and foot.


Peter Aerts vs. Stephan Leko:

In an action-packed finale, two K-1 superstars battled fiercely for the right to a December Tokyo Dome trip. One would have expected Aerts to have little, if any, gas left in him after his lengthy semifinal round battle with Smith. However, the K-1 veteran came out swinging once again and tested his German opponent. Midway through the second round, though, Leko's western boxing skills caught up with Aerts as he floored the Dutchman with a right hook to thehead. A flurry of Leko punches met Aerts and sent him to the canvas again after he rebounded from the first knockdown. After barely making it through the second round, it seemed as if the Dutchman was going to stage another comeback as he began landing roundhouse kicks to Leko's body. Leko, however, put an end to this possibility as he landed a punishing right uppercut directly on the chin of Aerts, who hit the canvas like arock and could not recover from the devastating blow.

In Other Action:

Keri Crothers and Angela Rivera

Angela Rivera vs. Keri Crothers:

Continuing her march through the amateur ranks, Las Vegas's Angela Rivera captured her third amateur title, the I.S.K.A. North American Super Lightweightchampionship, with her second win over Canada's Keri Crothers in a full Muay Thai rules bout. After suffering adefeat at the hands of Rivera last October, Crothers came out aggressively ineach of the first two rounds of the rematch, forcing Rivera to fight defensively and counter numerous attacks with roundhouse kicks to the body and head. In the third round, Rivera began working her opponent's lead thigh by utilizing strong leg kicks and her well-known front push kick. The fifth round saw Crothers regain her aggressiveness. However, Rivera remained unfretted. She continued to use a full range of kicks en route to sealing her 19th amateur victory.

Melchor Menor vs. William Sriyapai:

While fans were treated to a five round K-1 Superfight war between Fairtex's Alex Gong and 22 year old Duane Ludwig on the May 5th K-1 USA card, welterweight full Muay Thai rules action between veteran superstar Melchor Menor and William Sriyapai provided similar excitement on this card. Menor's fluent use of all Muay Thai's weapons, including elbows, was a sight to see in itself. In the first round, he followed up splendid western boxing combinations with a sharp right elbow to the head of his resilient opponent while in close quarters. After knocking down Sriyapai with a leg kick at the sound of the bell inthe second round, Menor added flying knee attacks to his strategy in the third round as he continued his aggressive assault. Sriyapai rebounded from two more leg kick knockdowns before being caught with a vicious knee-elbow combination in the fifth round which prompted the referee to halt the bout two minutes and one second into the round, giving Menor his 23rd professional victory via technical knockout.


Danny Kelly def. Ricardo Miranda - Unanimous Decision
Armondo Ramos def. Marco Matamoroas - Unanimous Decision
Shawn Yacoubian def. Gary Owens - Majority Decision
Andre Walker def. Carter Williams - 2nd Round Knockout
Frank Shamrock def. Shannon Ritch - 1st Round Knockout
Dewey Cooper def. Mark Miller – 2nd Round Technical Knockout