Published on Oct 11, 2013

"Saki is the favorite for the tournament? It doesn’t matter to me. If everyone is happy with Saki let them be happy with Saki - until I f--king smash him this Saturday," snaps Rico Verhoeven, one quarter of the GLORY 11 CHICAGO Heavyweight Championship Tournament.

He is more than a little fed up of hearing Saki’s name over and over in the build up to this weekend’s four-man tournament. Aside from Verhoeven (40-9, 10 KO’s), there is also Daniel Ghita (48-9, 37 KO’s) and Anderson ‘Braddock’ Silva (36-9-1, 24 KO’s) taking part. But it is Saki (79-16, 56 KO’s) who is getting all the attention from the fight pundits and reporters.

"I like fighting as the underdog. It takes the pressure of me and puts it on the other guy. Imagine being Saki - everyone telling you that you’re going to win by knockout in the first round, over and over. So now you have to try to do it," he says.

"That’s pressure. And if it doesn’t work then maybe he starts getting irritated, I don’t know. For me there’s no pressure. We will just see what happens in the fight. Whatever comes, comes. I am strong, fit, ready and excited. If the finish comes early it comes early. If it doesn’t, I win by decision."

Verhoeven vs. Saki is one semi-final, Ghita vs. Silva the other. The most widely predicted outcome in the media pages has been that Saki and Ghita will meet in the final. But that might be hope rather than expectation - Saki and Ghita don’t like each other at all and everyone wants to see a third meeting.

"Everyone is saying Saki-Ghita in the final but I think it’s difficult to say that. Especially when it’s heavyweights. If you get hit, you are going down. I am expecting crazy fights on Saturday. It’s an amazing card, first time live on SPIKE. For me there’s no prediction except this: whoever I fight, I will end up on top."

In a pre-fight video interview, Saki gave a less than complimentary opinion on Verhoeven, saying that he was "not that good, just a hard worker." For a fighter who prides himself on technicality the way Verhoeven does, it’s a real insult.

"Talk is cheap. Whatever he says doesn’t affect me. I think I have beat some good guys so, what is he saying, that these guys are not good either? That everyone below him is not good? I think it’s a pretty stupid thing to say," he says.

"Why say stuff like that? But if it makes him happy to say stuff like that then he can do it. It doesn’t bother me."

In fact, Verhoeven has been doing a lot of work on the technical side of things lately. His camp - SuperPro - is also the home of the heavyweight boxer Tyson Fury, who spends most of his time living in Holland despite being of British-Irish extraction.

Fury was supposed to fight David Haye last month and Verhoeven has been one of his sparring partners for over a year now. Fury’s fight has been postponed due to injury but not before Verhoeven reaped the benefit of Fury flying in two American boxers to provide high-level sparring.

"Tyson is a great guy, a really good boxer. He is a big guy and so you might think he wouldn’t have the best technique but he does, he has perfect technique. It was an honor to be training with him and to be part of his training camp for the David Haye fight," he says.

"For the last few months he brought in the American boxers Steve Cunningham and Eddie Chambers for sparring. I got to work with them as well. They are good practice for Saki because they are quick. For me this camp has been perfect really.

"When your defense improves your offense gets better as well. You get hit less and you are in good position so you can hit your opponent back. There’s been a lot of work on my jab. Its been jab, jab, jab. If you look at my fight with Errol [Zimmerman, at GLORY 9] you can see where I am using that jab."

The jab isn’t the only thing Verhoeven has been working on. Fights such as his clash with Jhonta Diniz at GLORY 7 MILAN showed that he has a pretty varied arsenal of techniques and some less-common approaches to everyday things such as leg-kicks.

"Its not new stuff, its just that people forget about technique. In kickboxing and Muay Thai there are just so many techniques you can use. That kick to the back leg is difficult to hit but for me it works. What’s available depends on the opponent," he says.

"There are so many tricks in the box, some people have to be reminded of them. Or maybe they never saw them before but after they see it they are like ‘Oh yeah, that works’, you know? And I can tell you now, I always have new tricks."

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