Andy Souwer thought he had done it all in the world of kickboxing – until the launch of ONE Super Series.
The Dutch dynamo has enjoyed one of the greatest competitive martial arts careers in history, winning world titles around the globe and defeating superstar striking legends.
Now, “Souwer Power” will make his bow in ONE Championship as one of the main attractions of the biggest blockbuster in the promotion’s history, ONE: KINGDOM OF HEROES.
Before the 35-year-old enters the ring to face Anthony “The Assassin” Njokuani, he explains how he emerged from the struggles of his youth to enjoy 20 years as an elite professional.
A Soft Start
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Souwer began life in Den Bosch, the Netherlands, where his father worked as a painter, and his mother worked at a post office.
“I had a good youth. The only thing was, my dad was a guy who wanted to succeed in life, so he put a lot of pressure on me,” he says.
“I hated it at the time, but if I look back, I can only thank him for that. It wasn’t the best time when I put the pressure on myself because I didn’t want my father to see me as a failure.
“You know how it works, I was a little child looking up to my dad.”
Souwer’s efforts were made more difficult by illness. The youngster had suffered from asthma since he was a baby, and his breathing problems were exacerbated by allergies.
To help overcome his issues, a doctor suggested he try sports. He started swimming when he was 3, and soccer when he was 5.
Though it was his passion, and he was doing well in the youth team of a professional soccer club, his father still persuaded him to try kickboxing.
“My dad said I should go and try combat sports, because the other kids were doing the same and they were getting stronger,” he says.
“I had a lot of friends, but I was always the softy and getting bullied, so I think it was a bit tough for my dad.”
A Boy Among Men
Despite his love for the beautiful game in one of the sport’s heartlands, Souwer continued to pursue combat sports because he could earn good money – even if it meant taking on grown men.
“When I was 14, we traveled to England to earn some money,” he explains.
“There was a guy. His name was Wright, a young guy of about 22. I was 14, but I won, of course. I was already fighting adults and already sparring hard with the A-class fighters in the gym at the time.”
His training was hard, but it helped to forge a warrior’s mentality and extreme toughness – though he was not invincible.
An injury forced him to spend some time on the sidelines, which forced him to decide where his priorities lay on his return to full fitness.
“I was already earning about NLGƒ3000, which is approximately USD$1750 a bout, and then I injured my ankles when I was 17,” Souwer says.
“When I was 18, I decided to go to my dad to make a decision for me that I needed to quit doing soccer. [Because of the injury] I had to cancel a few fights, which was a lot of money at the time, so my dad said, ‘You need to choose kickboxing.’”
Competing With The World’s Best
From the beginning of his career, Souwer was mixing it up with some of his sport’s icons, and achieving great success.
Any doubts about his career path were erased when he saw his name among striking legends in one of the hotbeds of kickboxing.
“We had a Dutch promotion – a worldwide promotion – WPKL, World Professional Kickboxing League. I fought with guys like Ramon Dekkers, a lot of Thai fighters, and a lot of Dutch fighters, of course,” he says.
“I was happy when I was climbing the rankings and was noticed in magazines as a 16-year-old in the top 10. I was like, ‘Wow! I’m in a magazine!’ That was the spur I needed.”
From then he went from strength to strength, winning a multitude of World Titles and building a record that stands at 179-18-1 today.
Along the way, his honors include WPKA, ISKA, and WKA World Championships; four world titles from Shoot Boxing’s S-Cup; and two reigns as K-1 World MAX World Champion.
The K-1 titles were arguably his most prestigious accomplishments, as he had to get through many of the world’s best athletes in a tournament format – including multiple bouts on a single night – to win the top prize at packed stadiums in Japan.
However, Souwer had so much success, he cannot pick one as his best.
“If I look back on this era, I can say every moment, every fighter had something,” he says.
“At that time it was, wow, the top tier, climbing up to the real deal like K-1 Max.”
The Final Chapter
Anyone would be happy with a career like Souwer’s, and he was. In fact, the Dutch icon was getting ready to call it a day with his head held high, before he signed an eight-bout contract with the world’s largest martial arts organization.
With his attention focused on his new party and events business, he was ready to hang up his gloves for good.
He considered taking one more bout in China for a payday to inject some capital into his new company, but ended up jumping on board with ONE Super Series because of the organization’s values and roster of elite athletes.
“I made the decision to do it once more, in ONE Championship, for two years,” he says.
“I will be focused, be the guy I want to be – and be Andy Souwer.”
His first challenge comes in the form of Njokuani, whom he will meet in a lightweight kickboxing bout.
A vintage “Souwer Power” performance would give him the perfect start in his new home, and set him up for some historic contests in the next couple of years.