When ONE Championship arrives in Tokyo, Japan for the first time, Andy Souwer will return to the country where he enjoyed some of his greatest victories.
On 31 March at ONE: A NEW ERA, the Dutch kickboxing legend will take on Yodsanklai IWE Fairtex in the quarter-finals of the ONE Super Series Kickboxing Featherweight World Grand Prix.
It is far from the first time “Souwer Power” has stepped into the tournament fray in “The Land Of The Rising Sun.” He has enjoyed some of his biggest success when he has defeated multiple athletes in a row to win gold.
During the last decade, K-1 was arguably the only organization in the world that gathered the very best World Champions from across the planet and put them all together in one tournament, on one night, to determine who was the best kickboxer in the world.
There was not anything like the 70-kilogram K-1 World MAX Grand Prix on the planet until ONE took the lead in martial arts.
“If you look back to that system of fighting, with qualifications and one or two fights in between, it was the real deal,” Souwer explains.
“We were qualifying, and really, the best eight fighters in the world were invited. The Japanese did it well because they always got new blood.
“The top four fighters always came back, and a couple of them became champion, like [Giorgio] Petrosyan, Masato was there from the beginning, Albert Kraus kept coming back, Buakaw [Banchamek] kept coming back, and me – I came back every time.”
Souwer was already renowned as a world-class competitor in Japan because of his two Shoot Boxing S-Cup World Titles, among other accolades, but this was the pinnacle.
Twice the Dutchman walked away with the crown, etching his name into the martial arts history books forever. This is how he did it.
2005 – Taking The King’s Crown
In 2005, Souwer was new on the K-1 scene, and he entered a crowded field including the first three tournament champions – Masato, Albert Kraus, and the previous year’s winner, Buakaw Banchamek (then known as Buakaw Por.Pramuk).
Other competitors included future ONE Featherweight World Champion Narantungalag Jadambaa, Aussie hero John Wayne Parr, and Japanese mixed martial arts legend Norifumi “KID” Yamamoto.
Despite the stacked lineup, the debutant came in with no fear. He powered through the quarter-finals and semi-finals with a decision victory against Takayuki Kohiruimaki, and a first-round TKO of Kazuya Yasuhiro.
That left Buakaw, who had swept Jadambaa and Kraus by decision. The Thai star seemed to be unstoppable with his powerful front kicks and explosive roundhouses, which overwhelmed his opponents.
“Souwer Power” did not care. He met Buakaw in the center of the ring and got in his rival’s face. He was relentless with his boxing attack, which kept the kicks at bay, and when he did face offense, he ate it and resumed his forward pressure.
After three rounds, the judges could not separate them with scores of 30-30, three times. A grueling extension round was required. Despite giving everything throughout the night, they somehow turned up the intensity even more. Souwer threw everything in his arsenal, but so did Buakaw, and a trio of 10-10 rounds awaited.
That meant a second extension round. Now, possibly having to dig deeper than he has ever needed to in his career, he incredibly had the strength to continue to press on, firing off combinations, dancing out of reach, and countering with decisive blows.
The result was scorecards in his favor from all three ringside officials, and a new king was crowned.
2007 – Taking Out A National Icon
After his triumph in Tokyo, Souwer suffered a devastating knockout to Buakaw the following year. But he returned in 2007 with the hunger to take his place back on top of the mountain.
He began the night in some style, as he flattened Armenia’s Gago Drago with an explosive right hand. Fellow Dutchman Kraus was next, but he had to battle hard to get past him. Souwer emerged with his hand raised by the narrowest of margins after three rounds.
In the final, he had to take on the “Silver Wolf” Masato, as well as almost 15,000 Japanese fans who were willing their hero with all of their being to prevail.
However, “Souwer Power” had the strategy to spoil the party. He showed no hint of pressure or fatigue from his previous matches, and went after his rival.
By the end of the second round, the damage the Dutchman had done accumulated to the point that Masato could not answer the bell for the third stanza. Souwer forced another kickboxing icon to quit on his stool, and he earned another era-defining win on a global stage.
However, if he can triumph in the ONE Super Series Kickboxing Featherweight World Grand Prix, then he will eclipse everything he has achieved before.