Badr Hari says GLORY champ Rico Verhoeven ‘is still not in my league,’ eyes summer rematch

We know now that all five ringside judges had former K-1 heavyweight champion Badr Hari up 10-9 following the 1st round of his December…

By: John Joe O'Regan | 7 years ago
Badr Hari says GLORY champ Rico Verhoeven ‘is still not in my league,’ eyes summer rematch
Bloody Elbow 2.0 | Anton Tabuena

We know now that all five ringside judges had former K-1 heavyweight champion Badr Hari up 10-9 following the 1st round of his December GLORY superfight with heavyweight champion Rico Verhoeven. That was as far as the judges got though, because halfway through the second round Hari sustained an injury to his right forearm which prevented his continuing.

The injury appeared to occur as the result of a knee strike from Verhoeven during a brief clinch on the ropes and was initially suspected to be a broken ulna bone. It was subsequently determined to be a muscular rupture, and the timeline for recovery is shorter than previously anticipated.

Both fighters said in the immediate aftermath of the fight that they wanted a rematch. Expectations were that it would be as much as a year away but Hari says he is already in recovery. He believes the rematch could happen as early as May or June.

“I tore a muscle in my arm, that’s why my arm was [so visibly] swollen. I can’t tell you when it happened, the only thing I know is from the clinch I couldn’t move my arm so I looked at it and it start to swell so I had to stop, unfortunately,” he told Bloody Elbow.

“I still have pain in my arm but it is getting better day by day. I try to heal as fast as possible. I can’t wait to start training again. The rematch is coming. I want this as quick as possible. I think May or June will be a good time for this. Now it is up to GLORY to make it happen.”

It must be bittersweet for Hari to know that he was ahead on the scorecards at the time the fight was stopped. He acknowledges the sentiment, although the word he uses is “sour.”

Hari’s position throughout the build-up to the fight was that Verhoeven was not on the level of other opponents he had vanquished (pretty much every all-time great except Remy Bonjasky) and that he would not be a threat to him.

“[The first-round score] is a confirmation of what I felt while I was fighting. He couldn’t lay a glove on me even if we stood in a telephone booth. He was starting to get frustrated. I knew this before the fight and now everybody knows it,” he said.

“That’s why it was so sour that I had to stop. But be honest, did you see me worrying, or in trouble? Like I said in the ring [after the fight], he became a man but he needs to be more to beat me. He is still not in my league.”

The build-up to the GLORY: Collision event that Hari and Verhoeven headlined was unprecedented in the sport’s history. Verhoeven has dominated the heavyweight division in recent years and has all but cleaned it out. Hari, perhaps the biggest name in the sport, was the only major figure that Verhoeven had not tested himself against.

GLORY came together in the aftermath of K-1’s decline and became the new home of kickboxing’s top names. But Hari did not make the jump; his ability to command high prices for individual bouts meant he preferred free agency. Monetarily it paid off, but the flipside was that he found himself watching from a distance as Verhoeven ascended the ranks and then declared himself the king of the division.

Hari felt that moniker rightly belonged to him; Verhoeven’s perceived appropriation of it rankled. Verhoeven in his turn was fed up of having the Hari question put to him. Having bested almost every active heavyweight on the scene, he felt he was not receiving the respect he deserved.

A feud quietly bubbled away, finally breaking surface when Hari released an Instagram image in mid-2016. It featured a list of targeted fighters, with Verhoeven squarely in the crosshairs. During one of his regular appearances on late-night Dutch television Verhoeven was asked to respond. He did so by turning to the camera and directly calling Hari out.

Fan interest exploded, but Hari drives a notoriously hard bargain. When rumors first surfaced that GLORY was trying to make the bout happen, the assumption was that it would prove impossible. But fans got a pleasant surprise; the right deal was put together and the stage was set for the two to settle their issue.

The Koning-Pilsener Arena in Oberhausen, Germany was chosen as the venue, the city lying close to the borders of Belgium and the Netherlands, countries where Hari and Verhoeven draw most of their support. It quickly sold out, but Hari’s mercurial nature meant nobody could be sure of seeing him in the ring until he actually climbed between the ropes.

Even then, once Hari is actually in the ring, there are still no guarantees; anything can happen, at any given moment. That’s what makes Hari so compelling. Collision was no exception – when Hari entered the ring he was greeted by thousands of his adoring fans, who had been deprived of a chance to see him in the flesh for several years.

Some of them were overcome with emotion. Without warning, around a hundred swarmed past security and mounted the ring platform, just to try and take a selfie with Hari. It was a remarkable scene to watch, but more remarkable still was the demeanor of the two fighters in the ring.

A sea of bodies swirled on all sides of the ring platform but it hardly seemed to register with them. Their eyes had locked on each other as soon as they entered the ring and stayed that way for the several minutes it took to restore order enough for the fight to commence.

How did Hari manage to maintain that unbroken eye contact despite animated fans touching distance from him?

“I know how my fans are and can be but I am there to fight, to complete my mission and to please the fans. I have to stay focused. So I did,” he shrugged.

Since that night on December 10, Hari has found himself the subject of numerous call-outs. Bonjasky has offered him what would be a third fight and GLORY’s #2-ranked contender Benjamin Adegbuyi has said he wants the fight and is confident of stopping him.

Hari smiled at this.

“Me coming to GLORY boosted the sport and now everybody wants a piece of the action. They are hungry wolves trying to climb a mountain. But as you could see, I am still on top of that mountain!”

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John Joe O'Regan
John Joe O'Regan

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