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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Thursday, January 1, 2004

Akebono falls in first round of K-1 debut

By Jim Armstrong
Associated Press

Hawai'i's Akebono slumps in the corner after being knocked down in his debut in K-1, a brutal sport that combines elements of karate, kickboxing and tae kwon do.

Associated Press photos

Akebono (Waimanalo's Chad Rowan), left, tries to ward off the attack of Bob Sapp, a former NFL offensive lineman.
NAGOYA, Japan — Former sumo wrestler Akebono didn't last long in his K-1 debut against Bob Sapp.

Sapp, a former NFL lineman, used a left-right combination to floor the massive Hawai'i-born wrestler in the waning seconds of the first round in the three-round bout before 43,500 at Nagoya Dome.

Sapp, a veteran of K-1, used low kicks to the legs in an attempt to exploit the gimpy knees that forced Akebono (Waimanalo's Chad Rowan) to retire from sumo in 2001.

The 6-foot-8, 463-pound Akebono, who started training for this bout only two months ago, got off to a good start, forcing Sapp into the corner several times with his weight advantage and arm thrusts.

"I trained hard for two months," said Akebono, 34. "I had no idea how strong Bob was but tonight I was able to experience his strength."

After being forced to the corner, the 6-foot-7, 344-pound Sapp bounced back and knocked Akebono down twice before finishing him off with a flurry that bloodied the nose of the former grand champion.

Akebono's fans were anxious to see how his prowess in Japan's ancient sport would translate to K-1, which combines elements of karate, kickboxing and tae kwon do.

Akebono said that he would like a rematch.

"I'd like to have a little more time to prepare and if Mr. Sapp is willing to give me another chance I'd like to fight him again," he said.