Former sumo wrestler Akebono and Bob Sapp battled during a K-1 match yesterday. Sapp used a left-right combination to floor the massive Akebono in the first round.
Sapp zaps Akebono
in K-1 bout
NAGOYA, Japan >> Former sumo wrestler Akebono didn't last long in his K-1 debut against Bob Sapp.
Sapp, a former NFL lineman with the Minnesota Vikings, used a left-right combination to floor the massive Hawaii-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 a series of low kicks to the legs in an attempt to exploit the gimpy knees that forced Akebono to retire from sumo in 2001.
"Tyson, you're next," Sapp said after the bout. "It's been a year of challenges. Akebono accepted the challenge and now it's your turn."
K-1 organizers are looking to tap into the lucrative American market and have signed Mike Tyson to a contract, but no fights involving the former heavyweight have been confirmed so far.
"I thought it was an exciting fight," said Tyson via satellite from Hawaii. "As I expected, Akebono couldn't take the punches. In his previous career in sumo he didn't have to deal with anything like that."
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. "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, who fell headfirst to the canvas and was slow getting up.
Sapp, who is tremendously popular in Japan, entered yesterday's contest with a 4-3 record in K-1 bouts.
Akebono drew the biggest ovation in the pre-bout introductions. His fans were anxious to see how his prowess in Japan's ancient sport would translate to K-1, a brutal sport that combines elements of karate, kickboxing and tae kwon do.
Akebono, who was the first foreigner to reach sumo's highest rank of grand champion, severed all ties with the sport in November in order to take up a career in K-1. He said after yesterday's bout that he would like a rematch.
Akebono won 11 Emperor's Cups in sumo, one fewer than Musashimaru, anonther Hawaii sumotori, who retired in November.