April 5, 2012

The Irish Open International has become the pinnacle of fighting in Europe if not the world.The event that is run by a volunteer committee in aid of charity ( Irish Society For The Prevention Of Cruelty To Children) has become the largest fighting tournament in the world today.Nearly 2,500 competitors attended this pre-registration-only event, the event’s highest number of entries in its 15 years history, 29 countries and with over 175 entering the forms and weapons divisions, up nearly 100 on last year’s forms competitors. However the rest were there for one thing; to fight and, more importantly, to win.

You knew this year was going to be busy when you get an e mail from the promoter confirming the 3,000 Beds at the city west Hotel where fully booked out for the weekend and that was three weeks before the event was to start.

The Irish Open was held March 2-4, 2012 in Dublin, Ireland, Covering the fighting disciplines of Full Contact, Light Contact, Point Fighting, Team Events and Forms.

This tournament continues to grow and prosper in spite of the very difficult financial climate in the world today, after interviewing a number of coaches it became apparent, that overall there would be a down turn in competition attendance in 2012 throughout Europe, due to financial constraints, in principle coaches/fighters that would normally go to a number of tournaments in a year, will now be prioritizing and going to less and in the words of Nicos Memos for Greece, “ yes things are difficult in Europe and all over the world especially in Greece, but when you have to make a choice on attending less events in a year, The Irish Open stands out above all others, it is the biggest and best tournament in Europe, so it is I would say the No 1 choice for fighters in the world today and this weekend has shown that once again, Roy and his team really do a fantastic job here taking care of the fighters, coaches and officials ”

Without question a significant contributing factor to the continued success and growing number of entries of the Irish Open is the first class City West Hotel facilities and the associated Arena.With a 75,000 Sq ft floor space that can easily accommodate Sixteen 7 x 7 metered areas and a full sized boxing ring.The arena is truly world class, with 15,000 raised seats sitting above the floor area giving the spectator an uninterrupted view of all competition areas.

The tournament promoter/organizer Roy Baker was delighted with this year’s entries “ again we are amazed and surprised at the participation levels this year, each year we feel it won’t get any bigger and it does, every year we try and improve on one or two things and contribute back to the fighters and officials, last year we made over €12,000 for the charity, they where delighted as where we, I cannot thank people enough for their support and commitment to this annual event, especially the organizing volunteer committee and the officials who travel from all over the world free of charge to support the event, the sport and more importantly the charity ”

The Opening Ceremony special quest was Leo Varadkar Irish Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, who was accompanied by Pat Hickey President European Olympic Council and president of Olympic Council Of Ireland.

The Minister opened the ceremony welcoming the competirots and officials and thanking the organizing committee, he commented on the level of participation in the psort of Kickboxing and was delighted to see so many visitors attending from Other countries, he commended Roy Baker and his team on a job well done.Pat Hickey also commented on the level of participation and said Kickboxing in Ireland could b proud in what it has accomplished.

The event Organizer Baker closed the opening ceremony, thanking the volunteers and his organizing committee, Commetend on how the event continued to grow and thanked people for supporting it he also presented BMA Black Belt Ilija Salerno with his fourth Dan in Kickboxing in recognition of his commitment to his students, sport nad the family of Bushido martial Arts in Ireland.

At the center of a lot of spectator interest was infamous fighter Raymond Daniels of the United States. Daniels capped off a near-perfect weekend by winning the coveted men’s open weight grand championship title and cash award. There was several close calls during his earlier bouts, with the level of the Irish Open growing each year, it gets harder and harder.The Final against HungarysZolt Moradi was nail biting with Daniels winning by a single point at the end in a tightly contested match. Daniels also won his individual weight category against Irelands Thomas Hayden and went undefeated the entire weekend. His triumphs in his individual divisions made up for his team’s loss in the 4 man, 1 woman team fighting division where his Team All Stars were eliminated in the final round by Team Kiraly of Hungary when Hungary won the first three rounds of the best of five match up. Exactly as it happened last year, which meant the talented team Kiraley taking the Converted Irish Open title for the second year in a row.

The Irish Open Team Title continues to be the most sought after team title in the world today, over 39 teams made up of four men and one woman entered this division, this represented an amazing 20 countries, not other tournament that I am aware of attracts so many teams of this diversity and caliber.Team Full Circle started out at the Irish Open being eliminated in the team sparring division by Team Top Ten Blitz Brothers, a team made up of some of Europe’s most talented fighters. The six fighters from Europe that made up the team were Drew Neal of the UK, Morten Spissoy of Norway, Robbie McMennamy of Ireland, Dimitri Gaulis of Switzerland, Ina Grindheim of Norway and Gregorio di Leo of Italy. After defeating Team Full Circle, the European mix was eliminated in team competition by Team All Stars. In the other bracket, Team Kiraly defeated Team Paul Mitchell after Paul Mitchell took on and narrowly defeated Italy’s Bestfighter team. As mentioned, Team Kiraly ultimately went on to defeat Team All Stars and take the team fighting title and €2,500 prize money.

Team Kiraly brought its own impressive display of talent from its young group of fighters. The Hungarian group matched up well with fighters from all other countries. Richard Veres of Hungary was especially impressive with his speed in the Tatami. He defeated Team All Stars’ Jason Tankson to give his Hungarian team the team fighting victory on Friday evening. Veres also eliminated Team Full Circle’s Hamed Firouzi in an exciting elimination round in the -69 kg eliminations on Saturday. In the open weight competition, Veres clearely won his division against Italys best Fighters Davide Sfulcini, in an excellent final.Veres nearly made it to the final four but was defeated in a hard hitting match with Irelands Robbie McMennamy as McMennary advanced to face another Hungarian in the semi-finals, Zsolt Moradi. Moradi was one of two of Team Kiraly fighters to make it into the final four of the open weight division on Sunday. He was joined by teammate Krisztian Jaroszkievicz after Jaroszkievicz elimated Jason Tankson in his bracket to advance to the final.

The excitement and expectations of the Irish Open finals on the Saturday night was tangible in the arena, the spectacular show is a key focus for all the fighters attending, being given the opportunity to compete on a raised stage in front of 3,000 of your pears on the most prestigious stage in Europe for one of the hardest titles in the world to win, who would not want to be there.

With a 10 x 10 mtr raised stage and international class kickboxing ring, accompanied by a DJ, MC and pyrotechnics everybody knew it was going to be a night to remember.

First up was, -55 finalists in Semi, Luisa Gullotti, Team Best Fighter V Rachel House, Storm Kickboxing Academy, initially a close match the talented and experienced Gulotti out distanced her opponent to take a clear victory. Irelands martin Kenny was up against American James F Wilson ina strong final, Kenny cought James with a good left hook in the second round knocking him to the ground, the American got up and fought back but never got back on key with the Irish Man taking victory in the third round.

The Superheavyweight Final was between,Cass Sigmon, Team Full Circle and Kalon PageLee Matthews &rdash BMMA.Cass took controle of the fight from an early stage and dominated each round emerging victorious, this was the first Irish Open final which the talented Page was in and we are sure he will be back.

Team Full Circle brought home two firsts for North America with Cass Sigmon’s win and Ross Levine’s strong fight against Drew Neal in the -94 kg weight title. Levine was ahead 7-5 after the first round and in the second round showed his ability to adapt to the European style by scoring with a front hand back fist to the body. Neal was down by 1 point in the second round when he injured his knee with over a minute remaining. Neal’s injury was so severe that he could not continue and had to bow out of the match. Grenier added a second place for Team Full Circle and Samuel Gagnon of Canada took in another second after facing Robbie McMennamy of Ireland in the -79 kg weight title match. McMennamy was up 6-2 after the first round with Gagnon and held on to his lead throughout the fight to bring victory to the host country.

In the closest match of the Saturday night finals, Jason “ the Sleeper ” Grenier of Team Paul Mitchell faced Paulo Niceforo of Italy for the title. Grenier’s unorthodox techniques pushed him to an 8-5 lead after the first round but Niceforo started his comeback in round two by taking a 14-11 lead with only 40 seconds left. Grenier worked in some kicks to bring the score to a 16-16 tie with Niceforo being awarded a point at the buzzer for a hand technique to give Niceforo the 17-16 win. What a match this was.

Gregorio di Leo of Italy did a fine job at the show. He won his -74 kg weight title in an exciting fight with Ireland’s Mark McDermott. di Leo was up 8-6 after the first round and used his timing and strategy to score points on his opponent. di Leo ran into a head kick towards the end of the second round but McDermott fell down after the technique so it was not scored. In the end, di Leo finished with a victory. di Leo also did well in the open weight division, nearly making it into the semi-finals but falling to Zsolt Moradi in the final match in his bracket.

In the women’s competition, Italy’s Luisa Gullotti had an Irish Open to remember as she defeated Team Paul Mitchell’s Chelsey Nash of Canada to win the women’s open weight grand championship division. Although Nash was highly disappointed after the loss to Gullotti, Nash had nothing to be ashamed of as she brought home two individual weight category titles from the prior evening. In the -65 kg division, Nash paced herself in her fight against Charlie Maddock of England and finished with a 5-3 victory for her first title. Nash was back again in the -60 kg division against Ireland’s Caradh Donovan. This was a closer match that came down to the wire with Nash holding on for a 16-15 win and her second title of the night.

Gullotti’s success at the event was not limited to her open weight grand championship win. Gullotti also won an individual weight class title in the women’s -55 kg division as she defeated Rachel House by a 10 point spread. Gullotti and Nash’s wins were the highlights of an enormous turn out for women fighters. The appeal of the Irish Open brings more women fighters to one place for head-to-head competition than any other event in the world.

Although forms and weapons are not as popular in Europe as in the United States and Canada, the Irish Open offered forms and musical forms and weapons divisions for youth and adults. With the event sanctioned by the World Association of Kickboxing Organizations (WAKO), the WAKO rules applied. The rules limit the number of gymnastics moves and weapons releases that a competitor can incorporate into a routine. The WAKO rules also require a performance to last at least one minute after the competitor introduces himself or herself to the judges.

In the junior forms and weapons competitions, USA competitors Dallas Liu and Jacob Pinto did well with Liu winning his forms division and Pinto winning both forms and weapons. Paige Cerson of England also won her forms division. Her routine included swing-through gainers and clean hand techniques as she helps with bringing the UK to the forefront in the forms martial arts arena.

Liu fell pray to the weapons release rule and lost points for his infraction. The length of performance rule was the bain of Micah Karns’ existence as Karns discovered that the speed and fluidity of both his forms and weapons routines did not amount to a complete sixty seconds in either. Not making the time limit resulted in each judge giving a full point deduction to Karns, leaving Karns as a finalist in each division. Karns did win first place in the traditional forms division and ended the musical competition by being thronged with excited fans, most of them female, that wanted to be photographed with him.

The UK and Italy stood out in the men’s musical forms and weapons competition with Luke Scott and Phil Campbell of the UK and Stefano Scandola of Italy making their mark. Scott won first place in musical weapons and Scandola won second in weapons. Campbell took first place in musical forms with Scott in second. Scott has trained with Americans Jarrett Leiker and Matt Emig and throughout the past few years competing in the UK and on the WKA circuit, Scott is becoming a formidable forms and weapons competitor. He plans to attend the Amerikick Internationals and US Open in 2012 to test himself against USA competition. Italian Scandola represents Team AIKI and has competed on many circuts and traveled to the USA for competitions. He is very competitive in the traditional divisions and is had a clean musical weapons routine at the Irish Open. Campbell, along with junior Cerson, represent the new Team ProRank UK.

Over 160 competitors from the United States and Canada crossed the ocean to attend the tournament and only a few ended up making it into the winner’s circle. The eclectic nature of The Irish Open is one of its main draws, no other tournament in the world attracts as many fighters from the USA and Canada. It is a true testament to the status and relevance of this event on the world competition scene within Martial Arts.

“ If you consider yourself a fighter, one of your goals should be to win at the Irish Open, ” stated Raymond Daniels &rdash the nine-time open weight grand champion winner of the event. With over 2500 competitors, the 2012 Irish Open has become the largest fighting event in the world. Winning at the event is a true accomplishment and requires tenacity, dedication and training &rdash the traits of a true martial artist and Irish Open fighter.For me it is the one event I specifically train for, it is the hardest fighting challenge I face every year and one of the few remaining events that really excite me and my fellow competitors ”

You can not underestimate the commitment of the Irish Open staff and overall coordinator RoyBaker.The run the largest fighting tournament in the world for charity, The running of sixteen areas over three days is a huge logistical challenge for any organization, however this group of volunteers seem to pull it off every year, the focus on delivering a quality event run by fighters for fighters in aid of charity is a winning formula and one I feel will continue to entice new organizations’ and clubs in to what has become the unquestionably the most prestigious fighting tournament in the world today, the Irish Open International.Comprehensive information about the Irish Open can be found online at .The organizing committee have provisionally booked 8/9/10 th March 2013, so make sure you put it in your diary.I have.

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