K1 Las Vegas

LAS VEGAS — If the two top boxing heavyweights in the America were 39 and 36, critics would be sounding the death knell in this country. Not so in K-l USA competition, however.

Although finalists Maurice Smith and Michael McDonald total 75 years of age, executive producer Scott Coker sees nothing wrong with the future of the event. In fact, he thinks this is just the beginning of a long and healthy relationship with American fight tans. Let’s face it: Mo may be 39 but he’s still in great shape, Coker said after Smith grabbed the title before a sold-out crowd at The Mirage

Ballroom. He fights well, is smart and has tremendous ring experience. Still, Smith’s skills won’t last forever — although you can’t convince Maurice of that. It will be Coker’s job to build a new crop or K-l USA competitors who can challenge at the world level. The building process begins next year when as many as four regional events will be held to determine the K-l USA eight-man card.

There’s no official word on K-l regional sites but likely choices include New York, Chicago, Dallas and either Los Angeles or San Francisco.

Expect to see some fine talent in the next few years coming out of those cities. The great Saekson Janjira has recently relocated to Texas; master Toddy is training a new crop of fighters in Las Vegas; Vut Kanmark leads a talented list teaching in Southern California; and Alex Gong has the Pairtex stable in San Francisco working in high gear.

Smith received $10,000 for his 25 minutes or ring work, while McDonald got $5,000 for finishing second. When Rick Roufus won in 1998, he took home a winners check of $60,000.

The scoring lor the K-l and Super-fight bouts took an unusual turn when some of the judges awarded fighters half-points. For example, in the

Maurice Smith-Michael McDonald thriller, Smith won the fourth round when two of three arbiters gave him 10-9.5 margins. (A third judge scored it 10-9.5 for McDonald.)

According to Cecil Peoples, who refereed the championship bout, awarding hall-points is standard in ISKA-sanctioned bouts. Reportedly, the WKA toyed with it for a while. However, the same scoring system was used several years ago when Drakka made two unsuccessful appearances in Los

Angeles.

Half-points proved to be both a blessing and a curse to some of the par-ticipants. In the Alex Gong-Duane Ludwig Light Mid-dleweight bout, Gong registered a clean and convincing knockdown with a left to the chin midway through the first round. In boxing circles, that’s a cinch 10-8 round for the aggressor.

But two referees, Al Lefkowitz and Art Lurie, scored it 10-8.5 for Gong. Worse, referee Jeff Mullens checked in at 10-9. The half-point bump for Ludwig kept the scores close and eventually led to the split decision.

Liven the crowd got into the half-point frenzy. When one of the Perfect 10 girls did her thing in the ring, one member in the front row was heard to exclaim, Ah, I’d wouldn’t give her more than a 9.5. Gong just slipped by his upset-minded opponent, but he scored big at The Mirage Sports book. For the first time in history, a betting line was established for a straight muay Thai fight. Gong went oil as a 9-5 favorite, meaning you had to bet $180 to win $100. Reports are that plenty were willing to risk a lot to win a little.

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