Badr Hari vs. Stefan Leko: The Setup

Chaos, ruthlessness, power, insanity. All these words can be used to describe the enigmatic character of Badr Hari. The Moroccan has made a name for himself in the kickboxing world by intimidating opponents and backing up his talk with brutal knockouts. Opponent after opponent has fallen to Badr Hari. But underneath the trash talk, the hyper-aggressive offense, and in ring antics, Badr Hari is as smart as he is brash. Today, I want to look at a pair of fights between he and Stefan Leko and how Hari took a devastating loss and learned from it to become a better fighter.

Stefan Leko was a great fighter but he was never supposed to beat Badr Hari at It’s Showtime in 2005. But just because things are supposed to happen doesn’t mean they always will. At It’s Showtime, Hari came out aggressive and put on a show for the crowd. He went in and bullied Leko with knees, throwing bombs, and throwing the much smaller man around. But Hari’s aggressiveness would get the better of him.

This is a trait we typically see of Badr Hari, even in his more recent fights. Sometimes he gets a bit too wild and too crazy. In these wild exchanges he gets caught and put down. That’s exactly what happened against Stefan Leko in the first fight. As the young Hari came forward with reckless abandon, Stefan Leko threw the spinning back kick that landed to the mid section. It was despite Hari being in complete control of the fight that saw Leko seize the moment on his aggression and put away the Moroccan fan favorite.

It was because of this wild behavior that got Hari clocked and put away by the much smaller Stefan Leko. After all the trash talk, all the excitement, Badr Hari was the loser.

The Rematch and Making Adjustments

The 20 year old Badr Hari would show that, as previously mentioned, he’s not just a brawler and that when adjustments are needed to be made, he can make them. In the leadup to the K-1 Grand Prix, Hari and Leko would serve as the alternate match. In a brilliant move of matchmaking, the K-1 crew got it right. The buildup to the fight was perfect and only five months had passed since the first fight. Hari would come ready, however.

This fight, we wouldn’t see the wild and insane pace put on by Badr Hari in the first fight. He would come out more reserved, patient, and looking for his shot. We see Hari letting Stefan Leko come forward and get off shots. But as much as Leko would throw, Hari would not get into a brawl. When he landed, Badr Hari landed heavy but it was nothing like the first fight.

Hari sets up the end of the fight beautifully. The entire fight he threw a variety of kicks. But for the most part, he concentrated on the teep to keep Leko’s forward pressure at bay, the step up high kick and the roundhouse kick to slow down the advancing German. He threw some to the body, some up high. But Hari did leave a little bit of uncertainty by throwing up some odd kicks to keep Leko guessing.

Another thing Badr Hari does the entire fight is constantly circling into where the kick will eventually come from. If you look at this timelapse you can see Hari going in a circle around his opponent almost religiously. This gets Stefan Leko in a rhythm and has him following the Moroccan around the ring instead of cutting the ring off and trapping Badr Hari.

Just before the finish, Badr Hari throws a spinning back kick to the body. Despite it missing, Hari reads Leko dropping his hands to block the kick, the very same kick Hari was finished with in the original fight. Badr Hari would make the read and use what he’s gathered very soon after.

For the finish, Badr Hari would be on the rear foot and going back and to his left. Leko would not be cutting the ring off. Hari’s plan, however, was to lead Leko the entire time. As he’s leading Leko to his left, Leko’s right, Hari abruptly stops, plants on his lead foot and fires a missile of a spinning heel kick that lands clean and Leko goes stiff. Badr Hari is the winner.

Badr Hari setting up the high spinning back kick on Stefan Leko in K-1 2005.

The win would begin the real ascension of Badr Hari. After looking great on the regional scene, it wasn’t until the Leko fights that he gained his fame to the point it is now. The finish sent a message to the kickboxing world that Badr Hari was not only a tank but also could be a tricky opponent as well. He would go on to fight Leko again in 2014 and knocked out Leko in the first round but by that fight, Leko was beyond his prime. Hari would go on to win the Showtime World Heavyweight title, the K-1 World Grand Prix 2009 title, and the K-1 Heavyweight title. His legend would endure to this day and he will go down as one of the most exciting kickboxers of all time.

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Blaine Henry

Just your friendly neighborhood fight fan!

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