Last week, GLORY heavyweight champion Rico Verhoeven made a guest appearance on a late-night sports television show in his native Holland. They discussed his career and achievements, then Badr Hari’s name came up. Verhoeven has never faced the controversial “Golden Boy” and the hosts wanted to know if he would be interested. He said he would.
The next day, Hari responded via social media with some comments of his own, prompting Verhoeven to post a graphic reading “Challenge Accepted.” The online kickboxing world then went into overdrive with speculation about whether the fight could happen, would happen, or even should happen. Verhoeven is contracted to GLORY and has been competing on a very regular schedule, while Hari has been fighting sporadically and has been on semi-hiatus.
“I hope it can happen. The thing that people forget, they are talking about me calling him out, but I think six months or a year ago he put out a target list with me on it, so who is calling who out?” says Verhoeven.
“The question they asked me was, ‘Would you like to fight Badr?’ I said ‘Of course, I will fight anybody, I am the champion, I am on top of the mountain.’ So then they said, ‘There’s the camera, do your thing.’ So I said, ‘Hey Badr, if you want one more fight and want to end your career as the best then you have to face the best, and that’s me. So if you want to do it, let’s go.’ That’s all that’s been said…”
“…OK, maybe I said something [else]. They were talking about it being a good challenge and I said ‘Yeah its a good challenge, but not for me.’ I’ve been on top of my game for three years in a row and he has been out of the game for at least five years. Top game I mean. He’s been in the game, in and out, but for me not top level.”
Hari’s coach Mike Passenier has also weighed in. In an interview last week he disparaged the level of opposition that Verhoeven has faced versus the level of opposition that Hari faced in his prime. Verhoeven responds by taking issue with the level of opposition Hari has faced in recent years.
“[Zambit] Samedov is a small guy, 95 kilos, [Alexey] Ignashov is retired ten years already and just came to get some money, Londt was fat, he wasn’t fighting for years. So what are we talking about, top fighters? They are good names but not top fighters,” he says.
“For me if you are a top fighter you fight elite fighters, not guys like Samedov or a Londt who hasn’t fought for three years.”
Passenier also talked about possible locations for the fight. Dutch-Moroccan Hari has previously been hosted by AKHMAT, the organization owned and funded by Chechnya’s president Ramzan Kadyrov, and is close with the king of Morocco, both of whom are said to be interested in hosting the fight – if it can be made.
“I don’t care where they put it. If the offer is good and all the demands can be settled, I don’t care. Even if it’s on the moon,” smiles Verhoeven in response to Passenier’s assertions that he wouldn’t dare take the fight in Morocco.
However, it must be borne in mind that no fight can be staged at all if Verhoeven cannot get permission from GLORY. He is contracted to the organization exclusively and would have to get written permission to take an outside fight such as this.
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