Fight Site presents: Badr Hari – "Bad Boy" at K-1 WGP in Zagreb (VIDEO)
The inclusion of Badr Hari in the K-1 Grand Prix Final in Zagreb is the best thing that could have happened to the tournament. Love him or hate him, but either way, you care. The Moroccan is doubtlessly the most popular kickboxer in the world and his nickname "The Golden Boy" is well deserved. Another fact attesting to his popularity is that 15 Dutch media outlets have already requested press credentials for the Zagreb Arena tournament.
It didn't take long for "The Golden Boy" to become "Bad Boy". From being lauded by the Moroccan king to incarceration, from K-1 champion to being stripped of his title, the controversy that follows him, as well as his romantic ventures, pique the interests of fighting fans and gossip newspaper readers alike.
At a very early age of 22, Hari received a warning of what happens to those who walk with their nose in the air. On the eve of his 2006 fight with Peter Graham, he constantly taunted the Australian at a press conference, which turned into a physical encounter with "The Chief". After the Aussie knocked him to the floor, people around them intervened and stopped the fight before the actual fight. The match itself ended in one of the most spectacular knockouts in the history of K-1, as Graham shattered Hari with his trademark rolling thunder strike, breaking his jaw in two places.
However, the Moroccan wasn't too impressed by that. He got back at Graham a year later by becoming the first K-1 heavyweight champion.
This was followed by an appearance in the K-1 WGP 2007, where he had the opportunity to add the Grand Prix winner's belt to his champion title. Everything went according to plan until the final where he encountered "The Flying Gentleman" Remy Bonjasky. The Moroccan's manners were less than gentleman-like as he stepped on his opponent while he was on the ground. A disqualification followed and Hari was deprived of the belt, and it's a known fact that these kinds of things are not well received in Japan. While it was announced that he could be kicked out, already at that point Hari was too popular for K-1 to simply give up on him.
This was especially true in those hard times when kickboxing came under the domination of an MMA fighter, Alistair Overeem. Many purists did not look upon his success with approval, and after The Reem knocked out Hari, the sport was perceived as "dishonored". As ever, "The Golden Boy" got his revenge, this time by defeating Overeem via TKO in the 2009 Grand Prix semifinal.
A similar thing happened when he defended his It's Showtime title against Hesdy Gerges. The two trained together as kids, which resulted in mutual animosity, and Hari doesn't hide his feelings toward people he dislikes. Another stomp on a downed opponent and another scandal ensued.
After this incident in Amsterdam in May 2010, Hari was away from the ring for a year.
He came back in Lyon against French veteran Gregory Tony. The fight itself wasn't too interesting as Hari sent his opponent to the floor three times already in the first round, but the crowd's reception indeed was. Hari tends to make his way to the ring through the crowd and this scene from Lyon, as he pushed through a mob of both children and adults, reminded of the charisma that Muhammad Ali once had.
The Moroccan shocked the kickboxing world again when he announced his plans to move to America and dedicate himself to professional boxing after a match against Gokhan Saki in January 2012. Hari defeated one of the world's best heavyweights without breaking a sweat, and it didn't take long for him to return to kickboxing either. A recall from the resurrected K-1 organization was something he couldn't refuse and in May last year he beat Anderson "Braddock" Silva.
It seemed that Hari calmed down, and he even claimed himself that he was a different man, now in a relationship with the ex-wife of famous soccer player Ruud Gullit, Estelle Cruijff, also niece of Dutch legend Johan Cruijff. Another fall came in the summer of 2012, when he severely injured businessman Koen Evering at a Sensation White party in Amsterdam. Soon afterwards, his previous victims made their claims as well and the Moroccan now faces a total of nine charges. After a brief return to prison for violating provisional release conditions, in early 2013 a court decided that Badr Hari may defend himself as a free man and the name that filled venues all over Europe will be able to do so again, in Zagreb.