The Glory Kickboxing promotion makes it way to The Hammerstein Ballroom in New York City on Saturday June 22, and will be broadcast early Sunday morning on the CBS Sports channel.
The Glory 9 card will feature an eight-man, one-night, light-heavyweight tournament aka the 95Kg Slam. The favorite to win it is Tyrone Spong.
Known by the moniker “King of the Ring,” Spong is one of the best the sport has ever seen. He had his first professional match in his late teens, has only tasted defeat six times in almost 80 fights and is a multi-time champion in several promotions, most notably It’s Showtime.
Spong explained some of the strategy heading into a one-night tournament:
“You have to have endurance,” Spong told Bleacher Report Thursday, at the Glory 9 open workout in downtown Manhattan.
“It’s longer, you have more rounds. Endurance…Other than that, the damage is the same,” he explained. “You are still going to feel pain if you get kicked or you kick wrong. Or, if you get punched good, you are still going to feel it. I think you should train on sharpness, and not to get injured. Don’t make stupid decisions in the fight so you get injured. Just be smart."
The Dutch-Surinamese fighter further explained that it’s about finding a good rhythm and avoiding unnecessary damage early on:
“You have to pace yourself,” Spong said. “You have to watch. Don’t kick on a block. Don’t check kicks, if you can step back for instance. Why would you block a kick if you can step back and make a miss?”
Spong will be matched up against Michael Duut in the opening quarter-final round of the tournament. The other first-round matchups are: Filip Verlinden vs. Steve McKinnon, Danyo Ilunga vs. Mourad Bouzidi and Brian Collette vs. Dustin Jacoby.
What does Spong think of the talent pool in the tournament?
“A fight is a fight,” he said in a matter of fact tone. “You have to make sure you are ready for whatever, so I am not taking it lightly.”
The “King of the Ring” is a member of the Blackzilian training camp, and like his counterparts—who are mixed martial artists—he too has ventured into the cage, defeating Travis Bartlett by KO at WSOF 1 in November.
With a 1-0 record the 27-year-old MMA phenom was scheduled to face Angel Deanda at WSOF 3, but a visa issue forced him off the card. He will now fight Deanda at WSOF 4 on August 10.
Spong usually fights at heavyweight in kickboxing, but since he was already cutting down for the now-cancelled fight vs. Deanda, he came to terms with Glory to fight at light heavyweight for their promotion—which is 209 pounds.
The Blackzilian team member admitted the weight cut isn’t the easiest:
“The cut is a little bit heavy,” Spong confessed. “I don’t have to cut a lot, but since I’m lean already…I’m ripped and to still make the cut, it’s a little bit heavy. I haven’t done it in a long time, but we’ll see how it goes. I feel good now.”
In a heavyweight contest this past March at Glory 5 in London, the prize-fighting kickboxer became the first man to ever knock out Remy Bonjasky.
He is all too familiar with the effects of trading punches and kicks with some of the biggest and most feared strikers on the planet. On his resume are: Gokhan Saki, Peter Aerts, Melvin Manhoef, Alistair Overeem and Ray Sefo to name a few.
“It’s an advantage because you are used to the heavy blows and strong punches, but at the same time these guys are lighter and faster,” he stated. “You have to make sure you are ready for whatever.”
The No.4-ranked Glory heavyweight heads into Saturdays 95Kg slam brimming with confidence:
“I trained very hard and I’m well prepared.”
Michael Stets is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.