American middleweight Joe ‘Stitch ‘Em Up’ Schilling had a thrilling fight with Artem ‘The Lion’ Levin in the tournament final. The initial three-round duration resulted in a majority draw from the judges to the fight went to an extra round which had the assembled fans on their edge of their seats.
“I can’t even put into words what I feel right now,” said an emotional Schilling after receiving both the belt and the $150,000 grand prize. “This isn’t just a victory for me, its also a victory for American kickboxing.
“I have always wanted to show that we can compete on the world stage with the best fighters out there and I think tonight has proved this. Its huge for the sport in the USA. And the prize money is going to be life-changing for me and my family.”
The tournament final was a fascinating affair which pitted the ice coolness of Levin’s incredible confidence against the fire and passion of Schilling’s attacking style. Initially the Russian had the advantage but that all changed in the second round when he was knocked down for the first time since 2009.
Schilling dropped him with a right hand/knee combination and Levin went down hard. It looked like he wouldn’t beat the count but he was able to stagger to his feet and continue the fight. The crowd was electrified by the incident and sensed a finish to be close but Levin was able to alternately duck out and cling on while he recovered his senses.
When he did, he was able to take control of the exchanges again. He is a master of timing and distance, excellent to an extent which is hard to put into words. Levin evades things by millimeters and fires back hard while the opponent is off balance. Schilling had plenty of trouble with him.
The knockdown meant the initial three rounds resulted in a draw on two judges’ cards and the fight went to a fourth round, a sudden-death affair which would see the round winner be declared the winner of the fight as a whole. Everything was on the line in three action-packed minutes.
Tension was high; when Schilling scored a second knockdown the arena exploded. Only a clean knockout could win the fight for Levin now. As the seconds ticked away it became clear he wasn’t going to find his mark. The bell sounding the end of the fight also marked the commencement of Schilling’s time as GLORY Middleweight Champion.
In the semi-final stages, Levin had put on a master class performance against the young Dutch prospect Jason ‘Tyson’ Wilnis. Like many before him, Wilnis found that trying to hit Levin is like trying to punch smoke. He simply isn’t there.
Wilnis endured three rounds of absolutely soul-destroying frustration as Levin variously went backwards, forwards and sideways, hovered out of range, came in to clinch, threw punches, threw knees, threw nothing, did Muhammad Ali shuffles, put his hands behind his back - the list of things Wilnis had to contend with was endless.
Levin is brutally punishing too; the things he does throw are really hard. He’s especially fond of solid knees to the head and body. Wilnis did his best and made valiant efforts but he was a mess of blood by the end of the fight. He’s only 21 so he will bounce back. This will probably remain the steepest learning curve of his career.
Schilling’s semi-final fight with Kengo Shimizu was a lively one, though the traffic was all one way. He tried to take Shimizu out from the first few exchanges of their fight and he kept trying it until the final bell.
Shimizu probably felt much the same as Wilnis felt against Levin in the preceding fight, though the nature of what he endured was much different. Schilling has a very nice and highly technical style but he is very aggressive with it.
Only in the final round did Shimizu land anything decent and that was largely the result of Schilling leaving himself open in his eagerness to try and finish the fight. One solid right hand near the end was his best punch of the fight. That amounted to his consolation prize as he lost a one-sided decision to set up the Levin/Schilling finale everybody came here to see.
In the tournament reserve match, which provided someone to step in to the tournament final should one of the finalists be too injured to continue, plucky New York man Robby Plotkin fell victim to Wayne Barrett, also from the Big Apple.
From the off it was clear he was struggling with Barrett’s longer range. Barrett established his distance and got to work, scoring a knockdown in the first round and then another, harder knockdown in the second.
That knockdown ended the bout under the GLORY tournament ‘two knockdown’ rule. Barrett never did get called up to the tournament but he can take solace in the fact that he has added another KO win to his record.