On Tuesday, the long-awaited kickboxing match between Bertrand 'ElkY' Grospellier and Lex 'RaSZi' Veldhuis took place. After two years of planning, the two Team PokerStars Pros met in Marbella, Spain for their match, which lasted just four minutes. In the second round of the bruising five-round contest, Veldhuis delivered a pair of kicks to Grospellier's head to send the Frenchman to the mat, securing a KO for the win.
Before we get too far ahead of ourselves, you may be curious as to how this match originated. You have to wind back to EPT Barcelona in 2009 when ElkY and Veldhuis were messing about at the hotel. Veldhuis wrote recently: "Elky said, 'You can't defeat me, I'm Elky'. This of course made me laugh and I asked him if he really thought he could fight. He had some training for a bet with Sorel (Mizzi) and he was convinced he was a powernerd. Everything was in good spirits still, but I thought it was a good moment to seize and challenge him to a fight."
Grospellier accepted the challenge and the two agreed to fight at the 2011 World Series of Poker. Unfortunately, the players soon ran into numerous obstacles including obtaining a license. All told, they would have to spend nearly $30,000 to make it happen, so they decided to postpone. After exploring different European venues, the two accepted an offer from a Spanish TV show willing to host and record the event.
With a date and venue secured, the two ironed out the following rules:
- Kicks allowed to every part of the body, except for the groin area
- No elbows allowed - Knees to the face and rest of the body are allowed
- No "clinch knees" allowed (holding a fighter's head and repeatedly striking with knee)
- Three countdowns in one round equals a loss
- Four countdowns in the match equals a loss
- No head butts or punching to the back of the head
- Spin-kicks, punches and sweeps are allowed
- There would be no winner determined by decision. If the match ended without a winner, it would be considered a draw.
In the days leading up to the match, anticipation and speculation ran rampant in the poker world. Who would win? In fact, some poker players did what they do best and sought action. Fellow Team PokerStars Pro Daniel Negreanu was one of many seeking action on the fight.
As he said on Twitter: "The @elkypoker @RaSZi fight happens tmr. I want to bet more on it so if anyone likes Elky let me know. I'll cover another 50k ish"
Doyle Brunson seemed interested in taking Negreanu's bet, even Tweeting: "@RealKidPoker ...If you give me the draw, I'll bet on Elky. I believe if neither guy is knocked out it is a draw." Negreanu refused to give up the draw, however, preferring to bet even and prompting Brunson to respond: "@RealKidPoker You are such a nice guy. Lex just told me I could have the draw. I think I'm gonna pass unless we can watch it live . . . @RaSZi... Pal, I'm gonna pull for you. Poor Elky, he's fixing to get his butt whipped. GL."
Unfortunately for Brunson, and many fans around the world, the fight was not broadcast live; however, it was captured on various video cameras and put up on the Internet shortly after its conclusion. Instead of us giving you the blow-by-blow recap, we figured it'd be more entertaining for you to watch the video:
As you can see in the video, there were plenty of spectators in attendance, so it was no surprise news of the fight's outcome spread like wildfire on Twitter. Here is a small sample of the congratulations sent Veldhuis' way after the fight:
Negreanu: "Yes! Congrats to @Raszi for winning by KO in the 2nd Rd! I never had a doubt. Now pay up people :-)"
Fatima Moreira de Melo: "Respect @RaSZi! The fight against @elkypoker was awesome!!!!"
Evelyn Ng: "Congrats to @RaSZi for knocking out @elkypoker in the 2nd round with an awesome high kick!! Respect to Elky for a good fight."
In a post-fight interview, Veldhuis talked about his win: "I have to give ElkY a lot of credit because after the first kick that got him to fall down to the ground, he got up after eight seconds and raised his fists after I just hit him pretty hard. I've got a lot of respect for him because he stood up and come towards me again after that big hit."
He then went on to address his feeling just prior to the fight: "I felt a lot of tension before the fight but my coach, Hans, made sure I was he ready. He got me really fired up before I entered the ring. I noticed that before the fight, when we were already in the ring, that he wasn't looking me in the eyes. That gave me a good indication (that I was going to win)!"
The fight was short and sweet, with Veldhuis floating like a butterfly and stinging like a bee. That may be a bit cliché, but Veldhuis did demonstrate that he has a knack for fighting. The big question now is: Who'll be next to step in the ring with RaSZi?