This past Saturday, It’s Showtime brought kickboxing back to the main stage with their stacked “It’s Showtime 55” event from the WTC Expo in Leeuwarden, The Netherlands.
Among the most anticipated bouts of the action-packed line-up, heavy-hitting veterans Tyrone Spong and Melvin Manhoef were expected to set the tone for the night’s main card action, which would culminate in a Heavyweight showdown between Badr Hari and Gokhan Saki.
Despite lacking the explosive finish that seemed likely when the match-up was announced, Spong dominated Manhoef en-route to a unanimous decision win. Though the Dutch-Surinamese Heavyweight admits that he expected more from his opponent, Spong feels confident that, overall, the fight lived up to the hype.
“I hadn’t fought for a long time, but it still went well,” he said. “I felt good. Getting the W is most important, but I think it lived up (to expectations). At the same time, I expected a little more from (Manhoef). I was expecting him to show a little more aggressiveness and try to get at me, but he was a little bit easy. I hit him with a few good shots and I think he got scared.”
A former kickboxing and mixed martial arts champion, Manhoef has provided combat sports with some of it’s best highlight-reel knockouts, including his 2008 KO victory over current UFC Heavyweight Mark Hunt, whom he is the only fighter to finish via strikes in MMA.
Now riding a three-fight losing slump in both arenas, the question of retirement looms for Manhoef. However, according to Spong, who was fresh out of the ring with “No Mercy,” the feared striker still has enough gas in the tank to remain competitive.
“I think Melvin still has enough in him to win against a lot of young, upcoming talents,” Spong explained. “He’s a good fighter, but at the same time, people forget that this fight was my 105th fight. So, I have a lot of experience too. I’ve been fighting since I was 15-years-old. I’m still young, but I’m a veteran in the sport as well.”
As his lengthy kickboxing resume would suggest, Spong has long been a fan-favorite overseas, but has expressed interest in entering the U.S. dominated world of mixed martial arts. Currently training at Imperial Athletics in Boca Raton, Florida, he hones his skills alongside such talents as Rashad Evans, Anthony Johnson, Jorge Santiago, and JZ Cavalcante. In exchange for sharing his striking acumen, Spong benefits from the various backgrounds of some of MMA’s elite.
“Mixed martial arts is a challenge, but as always, I’m a guy who likes to be challenged. Throughout my whole career I’ve accepted challenges, and I think that today was a step forward,” said Spong. “People in America know me well now. They know me because I’ve been there helping a lot of MMA fighters out and training MMA. I think a lot of people in America are following me and they saw that I put up a good fight.”
Though he acknowledges the inevitable growth of mixed martial arts, Spong remains true to his roots, explaining that he’s not quite ready to turn his back on kickboxing just yet.
“I think It’s Showtime keeps building up really well throughout the whole world. It’s a well-known organization. Also, Simon Rutz (owner and Chief Executive of It’s Showtime) is not just giving up. I think Simon, with his mentality and his potential, it’s going to take over again,” Spong explained. “Right now, it’s no secret that MMA, and especially the UFC, is the biggest fighting organization world-wide.”
When asked about the liklihood of his next fight taking place inside of a cage rather than a kickboxing ring, Spong remained on the fence, admitting that it was still uncertain. “I don’t know yet,” he stated before parting with a message for his fans.
“Follow me on Twitter (@Tyrone_spong) and you’ll be the first ones to know – and watch out, I’m coming.”
For more information on upcoming It’s Showtime fight cards, visit fight.nl