Verhoeven continues fight with one eye and takes home world kickboxing title for 10th time
Kickboxer Rico Verhoeven defended his world title in heavyweight kickboxing for the tenth time on Saturday in front of a crowd at the Gelredome in Arnhem.
The Dutch athlete was able to win the fight despite a hard blow from his opponent Belgian-Morrocan Jamal Ben Saddik in the closing stages of the first round. Verhoeven suffered a deep gash under his left eye, leaving blood running down his cheeks.
Nonetheless, Verhoeven soldiered on to the delight of the crowd with one eye closed. He recovered from his blow and brought Kaddik down with a knee kick in the third round. Verhoeven ultimately knocked his opponent out in the fourth out of five rounds.
Verhoeven's face had been so badly bruised that the facial recognition on his phone no longer worked. "I will try if it still works," Verhoeven said during a press conference after the game. "Nope: 'Face not recognized.'"
"Was I in pain? Yes. You feel every blow, but as a fighter, you give pain a place. You kind of turn it off", Verhoeven said, according to De Telegraaf.
The Dutch athlete has been the uninterrupted world champion since 2014 and intends to stay at the top for at least ten more years.
Originally, Verhoeven was supposed to fight Alistair Overeem, who withdrew due to an injury one and a half weeks before the fight. Ben Saddik took his place.
The 31-year-old Belgian-Morrocan kickboxer beat Verhoeven in 2011 but lost a second fight in 2017. He had been battling cancer and depression for the past three years.
Reporting by ANP and NL Times.