The K-1 organisation is not likely to proceed with previously-announced plans for events in the USA this year. Sources says that a targeted Madison Square Garden event is now “unfeasible” and that the organisation will be returning to a domestic Japanese and south-east Asia focus.
The reason is the weekend’s buyout of Its Showtime by the GLORY organisation, set up as a rival to K-1 in the premier league kickboxing sphere. K-1’s financial troubles over the past couple of years led to it being bought out by a Japanese-Korean investor named Michael Kim at the start of this year.
A partnership with Its Showtime - the main European promotion - was reached which allowed for talent-sharing and for K-1 branded events to take place in Europe, with Its Showtime and other local promoters bearing the brunt of the costs.
At the same time, the organisation announced a renewed focus on cracking the US market and that led to announcements of a Grand Prix event at the iconic Madison Square Gardens venue in New York, which has housed many legendary boxing bouts.
Unfortunately for a brand with such a distinguished heritage, most K-1 announcement these days are received with a heavy dose of scepticism and that was the case with the announcements regarding US events. However, it does seem that the recently-announced open tryouts for K-1 will be going ahead in California.
Under the partnership with Its Showtime, one K-1 branded show took place in Europe. Entitled K-1 Rising it took place in Madrid, Spain and featured Badr Hari and Mirko ‘CroCop’ on the card, as well as Daniel Ghita, Andy Souwer, Artur Kyshenko and Sergei Lascenko.
Of these, only Hari and CroCop are thought to have signed directly with K-1 rather than Its Showtime and as a consequence the acquisition of Its Showtime by GLORY has been disastrous in roster terms. K-1 has been left with access to a vastly reduced field of available fighters, with almost all of the big-name and rising talent now owing allegiance to GLORY.
At the weekend Simon Rutz, the head of Its Showtime, gave a statement about his relationship with K-1 and the K-1 Rising show, in which he accused the brand’s new owners of not paying their bills and leaving the local Spanish promoter with extensive costs to pay. He said it was because of this that he had decided a working relationship was untenable and to sell out to GLORY.
Today the new K-1 owner Michael Kim issued a short statement of his own in which he claimed that Rutz’s allegations were untrue. He says that “almost all the money for the fighters who participated in the event has been paid” and that “a few did not get paid because the person who introduced these fighters to us, Simon Rutz, has yet to provide us their payment details and that has prevented us from wiring them their money.”
Regarding the promoter money, Kim admits that there was a delay in “reconciling the expenses” but says that an agreement has now been reached “in writing on payment amounts and payment methodology” - suggesting that instalments may be the order of the day.
If that is the case, it mirrors the practice of the previous K-1 owners - paying fighters after their bouts by instalment on a delayed basis - and won’t entice potential new investors. There is presently no news on the next K-1 fight event to take place, although a heavyweight grand prix is apparently planned for Japan later this year.