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Ruslan Karaev vs. Arch-Nemesis Badr Hari at K-1 World GP 2009 Final

The K-1 World Grand Prix 2009 is the year's biggest kickboxing event, and as we get ready for the December 5 show, we have K-1 announcer Michael Schiavello offering his commentary on each of the fighters. His thoughts on Ruslan Karaev are below.

By Michael Schiavello

Nickname: The Flash, The Russian Machine Gun
Nationality: Russia
Age: 26
Height: 6' 2"
Weight: 220
Stance: Orthodox
Gym: Golden Glory, Holland
Career Record: 173-17
K-1 Record: 12-7 6KO
Notable Wins: Stefan Leko DEC, Badr Hari KO, Chalid Die Faust KO
Strengths: Brilliant fast combinations, turning back kicks, overall speed
Weaknesses: Questionable jaw, lack of defense
HDNet K-1 Ranking: 8
Probability of quarterfinal win vs. Badr Hari: 20%

It is rare to find a 220-pound heavyweight who moves with the speed, finesse and the work rate of a middleweight – but that is exactly what makes Ruslan Karaev such a special fighter.

The 26-year-old Russian has experienced a resurgence of his K-1 career over the last 18 months and now finds himself in the most capable hands under the guidance of manager Bas Boon at the Golden Glory Gym in Holland.

After winning the K-1 GP in Las Vegas in 2005, big things were mooted for Karaev. But his inconsistency in 2006 and 2007 and his inability to protect against some brain-scrambling knockouts (against Melvin Manhoef and Badr Hari in 2007 and Ray Sefo in 2006) saw his K-1 stock come into question. There was no doubting Karaev's awesome ability, but his style of walking forward and throwing combinations without a seeming care for his jaw's protection meant it was knock-out-or-be-knocked-out, with devastating consequences.

Between June 2007 and July 2008 Karaev disappeared from the circuit to care for his terminally ill mother. When she passed, Karaev dedicated himself to pursuing the K-1 GP crown with renewed vigor, finding confidence in fighting for his late mother who had been such an integral part of his life. He bounced back with a stunning win at the K-1 GP in Taiwan, knocking out all three opponents including the 7' 1" giant Young Hyun Kim. He then went on to the Final 16 in Seoul and produced the fight of the year to defeat Chalid Die Faust by second round KO to secure a place in the Grand Prix finals, though not making it out of the quarter final stage.

Indeed the K-1 Grand Prix has proven a quarter finals voodoo for Karaev, who has qualified for the GP three times and never proceeded beyond the first stage. He has now qualified for a fourth GP tournament by way of a cerebral win over counter-fighting K-1 heavyweight champion Keijiro Maeda in the Final 16.

On December 5 Karaev once again finds himself against his arch-nemesis Badr Hari, who deliberately chose to face off against the Russian for a third time instead of moving to the open second side of the tournament draw.

"I beat him last time and I will beat him again," commented Hari as to why he chose to fight Karaev in the first quarter final.

"We have had two of the most exciting matches ever," said Karaev, "and it looks like we will do it again."

Last time the two fought, Karaev received the worst knockout of his career courtesy of a Hari right hand that had him laid out cold for five minutes. My inside sources have informed me that Hari was the opponent Karaev least wanted to fight and that behind the Russian's jovial smile he has voiced some grave concerns to his training crew about fighting Hari for a third time, especially since Hari's marked improvements in sheer in-ring brutality since their last encounter in March 2007.

Come December 5 it looks as if the Grand Prix quarterfinal curse could again befall Karaev. Even with the genius of Golden Glory (Cor Hemmers, Ramon Dekker) in his corner, you have to wonder what sort of gameplan Karaev could possibly employ to beat an opponent at the peak of his extraordinary powers.

After Karaev was knocked into unconsciousness by Ray Sefo on his K-1 debut on June 14, 2005 in just 37 seconds, K-1 considered cutting the young Russian from their roster. However Sefo, recognizing Karaev's talent (even within a few seconds of their fight) petitioned K-1 to give the Russian another chance. Karaev didn't fail to impress in his next outing, winning the K-1 World GP in Las Vegas (Sefo's home town) and cementing himself as a new K-1 star.

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