Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Kotetsu Boku vs Shinya Aoki: The death stare before the storm

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Kotetsu Boku vs Shinya Aoki: The death stare before the storm
story and pics by rick olivares

The One FC Lightweight championship belt was draped over the left shoulder of Kotetsu Boku who lapped up the cheers and adulation of the crowd of several hundred that showed up at the Grand Cathay Mall in Singapore. It was the weigh-in for the One FC: Kings and Champions last Thursday night and a chance for fight fans to get photos and autographs of their favorite mixed martial arts fighters. And the centerpiece of the event was obviously the protagonists of the main event of One FC: Kings and Champions on Friday, April 5 – Boku and fellow Japanese Shinya Aoki, the “Grandmaster of Flying Submissions” who will be locking horns for the Lightweight belt.

As camera shutters clicked around Boku, Aoki, paced around just a few feet away, like a caged 155-pound machine of controlled violence. It wasn’t any dagger look that Aoki gave Boku who pretended not to notice. It was more like a death stare. Aoki exhaled several times. Control. It’s all about control. Reigning in those emotions for one more day before he could unload on Boku.

When Boku, also a Japanese fighter but of Korean ancestry, defeated Brazilian Zorobabel Moreira in One FC: Rise of Kings via a technical knockout, the path to the lightweight title for Aoki became easier to swallow.

Aoki and Moreira are an unlikely duo of good friends despite the language barrier and difference in cultures. After all, they train and fight out of the same gym, Team Evolve. Aoki was uneasy about his One FC path as it initially put him on a collision course with Moreira. However, with Boku’s stunning win, he road without any concern is clear. But he has visions of revenge first before glory.

In the Boku-Moreira bout, the latter was dancing around and seconds away from sure victory when the Japanese fighter landed a lucky lucky punch that dropped the Brazilian like a sack of potatoes. Boku sprung to life and rained hammer fists on the nearly senseless Brazilian before the referee Yuji Shimada called a halt to the fight giving the title belt to the Japanese.

Moreira has been depressed about the loss and refuses to talk about the fight. Not even to Aoki. The only way for the Brazilian to snap out his funk is to get back on the winning track. Hopefully, against Boku, if the chance arises.

But it’s Boku versus Aoki.

For that, Boku has to be in his absolute best. In Aoki’s long career, he has 32 wins (21 by submission and one by knockout), six losses, and one no contest. In his One FC debut in One FC: Rise of Kings in Singapore, he forced cocky Frenchman Arnold Lepont to submit via triangle choke. Two months later, in Dream 18 in Tokyo, Japan, got American Antonio McKee to submit with 24 seconds left in the first round.

Boku knows that revenge fuels Aoki for this match and that can work both ways. But he knows that Aoki isn’t the reckless sort. He’ll come out like measured and deliberate in his strikes and kicks. Aoki will want to get him on the mat where his game is supreme. “I need to stay on my feet,” Boku says in halting English.

Both fighters are on a two-match win streak. It isn’t about the streak though. It’s about survival.

When the two faced each other in the traditional pre-match pose with One FC CEO Victor Cui looking on, Boku’s eyes turned ice cold and black. Danger works both ways.

Kotetsu Boku (70kg/ 154lbs) VS Shinya Aoki (70.1kg/155lbs)

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Jens Pulver (60.9kg/ 134lbs) VS Masakatsu Ueda (61kg/135lbs)
Thanh Vu (61kg/ 135lbs) VS Kevin Belingon (61.1kg/135lbs)
Arnaud Lepont (69.9kg/154lbs) VS Eddie Ng (69.9kg/154lbs)
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Swain Cangco (92kg/ 203lbs) VS Jake Butler (92.9kg/ 205lbs)
Chen Yun Ting (56.3kg/124lbs) VS Ronald Low (56.4kg/124lbs)

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