Greek kickboxing champion “Iron” Mike Zambidis made a triumphant return to Melbourne last Friday night in a bruising encounter with United Arab Emirates fighter Dzhabar “Genghis Khan” Askerov.
The audience was quick to make their allegiances clear, falling almost silent as Askerov sedately entered State Netball and Hockey Centre, then erupting into rapturous applause and spontaneous dance as a lively zeimbekiko willed Iron Mike into the ring.
The first round got underway with both fighters swinging hard, but ultimately it was a one-sided affair.
Zambidis, smaller and quicker around the ring than his opponent appeared to wait for Askerov to attack before punishing him with combos to his torso and a hard right hook to the side of his head.
The crowd cheered loudly as Zambidis landed a flying knee to Askerov’s face as the bell sounded to end round one.
Round two saw Zambidis dish out more of the same painful punishment with Askerov suffering under the Greek’s counter-attack.
A right-left combo by Zambidis left Askerov’s jaw rattling and ribs red, and whispers of a mismatch started to spread through the cheering crowd.
Askerov appeared to fight back in the third finally landing a solid roundhouse kick to Iron Mike’s head.
The blow clearly hurt the Greek who let down his guard, opening up his head to Askerov’s powerful left hand. Askerov took advantage, delivering his first damaging combos to Zambidis’ face.
The free-flowing fourth round appeared to go Askerov’s way, and despite the fact that his efforts to string together combos continued to fail, he landed a solid knee to Zambidis’ head. In response Iron Mike continued on his frenetic counter-attack, landing roundhouse kicks to Askerov’s head and even knocking himself down with an errant fly-kick attempt.
Despite the aggression of the battle both fighter showing great sportsmanship, constantly tapping gloves in recognition of the other’s fairness. Zambidis even allowed a pause in the fight for Askerov to clear his badly disfigured nose.
The crowd erupted as the bell sounded to start the fifth and final round, with both fighters swinging hard but clearly tiring. Zambidis landed a solid left hook followed by a knee but Askerov took advantage of the Greek’s growing fatigue, landing punches to his head and body.
The final minute of the fight was a frantic flurry of blows until a clinch created a pause with 10 seconds to go.
Both fighters backed off and gathered themselves as the MC counted down, then in the final moments both launched potentially punishing aerial attacks which ultimately cancelled each other out, with both fighters landing exhausted on the mat as the bell sounded to end the bout.
The judges awarded the win to Zambidis 48-48, 48-47, 48-47.
Askerov was clearly unhappy with the result demanding that Zambidis face up to him again in the future. “I want to have a rematch but not in a Greek city. I want to fight on neutral territiory,” he said.
Zambidis was respectful of this and granted his opponent’s request, but was clearly focused on bigger goals. “John Wayne Parr is next. Tell me when. Kisses,” he said.
Earlier in the evening Melbourne crowd favorite Mike “300” Demetriou faced off against an undefeated “Stone Cold” Steve Moxon.
The two were evenly matched across the first three rounds with the taller Mike “300” taking advantage of his reach, keeping Moxon away with his hands and attacking with his feet. Up close however Moxon turned the height differential to his advantage, exposing Demetriou’s weak boxing by getting under his guard and landing heavy combos on his chin.
Early in the fourth round the two fighters shared a laugh as Moxon almost tripped himself over trying to dance around Demetriou, but the laughter quickly turned to stars for Mike “300” as Moxon took a flying leap towards him, landing the knockout punch on his chin and following it with several others as Demetriou hit the deck.
Despite the jarring loss, Mike “300” was back on his feet moments later, bouncing around brandishing his trademark goofy smile, reminding the crowd of why they love him so much.