Badr is back: Hari beats Hesdy in GLORY 51 main event thriller
Badr Hari (107-13, 92 KO’s) and Hesdy Gerges (50-20-1, 23 KO’s) settled their unfinished business with a three-round war in the main event of GLORY 51 ROTTERDAM, according to glorykickboxing.com.
Just under eight years on from a 2010 fight which ended in a second-round disqualification for Hari, the two went at it again in front of a sold-out crowd of 10,000 at the Ahoy Arena Rotterdam.
They were older, maybe wiser, but definitely no less hungry for victory than they were when they had first squared off. From the moment they made their respective ring entrances, it was clear that both of them would be leaving it all in the ring.
At a pre-fight press conference in January, Hari chastised a journalist who said that the fight was “a warm up” for a rematch with Rico Verhoeven, telling the offending questioner that it was “rude” to describe Gerges in such terms.
Hari did take offense though to comments Gerges himself made during fight week interviews, when he said that Hari had “mentally broken and quit” on several occasions and that he would force him to do the same tonight.
And so the two went into the ring with points to prove: Gerges, that he is not a warm up for anyone and Hari that he couldn’t be made to quit with any amount of pressure Gerges or anyone else might put on him.
Most of the fans in the arena were on Hari’s side; Gerges walked to the ring amidst of chorus of hisses which made the arena sound like a giant snake-pit. When Hari appeared on the catwalk minutes later, the sound of snakes was replaced by one massive lion’s roar. Hari was given a hero’s welcome.
And so, finally, after months of anticipation, the bell sounded and the fight began. Hari opened the scoring with long push kicks from the rear leg and hard middle kicks to the body, Gerges keeping his guard tight to his head and answering with low kicks.
Hari began opening up with punches. Everything he threw was a power-shot and as much went to the torso as to the head: hard hooks with the left and right hand, penetrating right crosses to the solar plexus, stiff jabs and long straight rights bombarding Gerges’ guard.
Gerges was slower to get into the punching than Hari was, but once he did start letting his hands go he found some successes of his own. Late in the first round he landed a right hand which seemed to have Hari staggering moments later, careering backwards across the ring and into the ropes, only for the bell to end the round.
In the second round the two brutalized each other at close range, thudding kicks, knees and punches into each other relentlessly. Gerges had marked the second round as the point that he would make Hari break. Hari demonstrated the unspoiled nature of his confidence by launching more than one spinning heel kick attempts to the head, the same kick he knocked Stefan Leko out with in their rematch.
That second round was a very close affair; the official statistics showed Gerges slightly outlanding Hari, but Hari seemed to have landed the more effective shots overall. Gerges’ trademark low kick did sterling work though and Hari was limping heavily after the fight.
It was in the third round that Hari started to more clearly edge ahead, Gerges’ gas tank wearing out slightly while Hari maintained the same kind of output he had in the preceding two rounds. Gerges was in the fight to the last second and gave everything he had, but Hari was clearly in the lead when the final bell sounded to end the round and the fight.
Hari raised his arms to claim victory. The crowd agreed and Gerges did not dispute it. In fact after some moments he went over to Hari’s corner and took Hari’s arm and lifted it in the air, indicating that he too considered Hari the victor.
In the following minutes the two shared some words and some broad smiles, proud of their efforts and happy with their performances. They knew they had been in a good fight, one which gave a good account of themselves and also pleased the thousands of fans in attendance and the millions watching around the world.
Gerges wore a rueful half-smile when the official result was announced; like any competitor, he hates losing. But that ghost of a smile told its own story: he didn’t get the win, but he felt like he had proved something about himself.
Hari gave an extended post-fight interview in the ring, starting in English and later veering into some Arabic which was warmly appreciated by the large crowd of Moroccans in attendance.
Asked if he had a message for Rico Verhoeven he said, “I don’t need to send Rico any message. That fight was the message.”
Verhoeven, currently on vacation outside the Netherlands, will surely have watched the fight. What response he sends to Hari’s performative message, we are yet to learn.
But Hari’s win opens up the possibility of them rematching later this year. They too have unfinished business and, if tonight is anything to go by, their rematch will be another instant classic.
Badr Hari def. Hesdy Gerges by unanimous decision (29-28, 30-27, 30-27, 30-27, 30-27)