Stefan Leko

Stefan Leko - Germany`s best K-1 Fighter

Stefan "Blitz" Leko (born June 3, 1974) is a German-Croatian heavyweight kickboxer. He is former Muay Thai world heavyweight champion and Kickboxing world super-heavyweight champion, K-1 European Grand Prix 1998 champion, 1999 K-1 Dream champion and two time K-1 World Grand Prix in Las Vegas tournament champion. He fights out of Team Golden Glory in Breda, Netherlands under Cor Hemmers.

Backstory and summary

Leko was discovered by Klaus Waschkewitz of Masters Gym when he was 17. While being instructed by Waschkewitz, Leko won several World titles and four K-1 tournaments. His nickname "Blitz" means lightning in German. Stefan left Masters Gym in 2005 and currently belongs to the Team Golden Glory. Besides his kickboxing career Leko is also running a gym in Duisburg named Versus Gym.

He was the first person to beat Badr Hari in K-1 by first round knockout, though it was later avenged by Hari. Leko holds notable wins over 3x K-1 World Grand Prix champion Remy Bonjasky, K-1 Heavyweight champion Badr Hari, world Muay Thai champion Mike Bernardo, 3x K-1 World Grand Prix champion Peter Aerts (x2), K-1 legend Ray Sefo, world Muay Thai champion Alexey Ignashov (x2), and K-1 Grand Prix finalist Francisco Filho.

Leko was successful in both Muay Thai/kickboxing and K-1 during the late 90's and early '00s, despite often conceding height and weight to some of the larger men in K-1. He won various K-1 tournaments and Muay Thai titles. His fortunes varied in the later stages of the '00s, though he did win various more trophies and titles after his 2005 return to the kickboxing and Muay Thai world.
Early success in K-1: European Grand Prix & Dream tournament champion

Leko first fought in K-1 in 1997, age 22. He won the K-1 European Grand Prix tournament in 1998, and after two losses to big names Andy Hug and Ray Sefo, he rebounded to win the K-1 Dream '99 tournament. By 2000, he had an 11-4 win/loss record in the world's premier stand-up fighting promotion, and was a 2x K-1 tournament champion.
Mixed fortunes in 2000-2002 - K-1 World Grand Prix USA title

A period of huge wins and bad losses followed. Over a three year period, Leko would win the K-1 World Grand Prix 2001 in Las Vegas, and beat such champions as Remy Bonjasky and - stunningly - Peter Aerts, with a huge right cross that knocked the former 3x K-1 World Grand Prix champion out. In the same period, Leko also lost to Ernesto Hoost, Jorgen Kruth, Jerome LeBanner, Francisco Filho, and Mark Hunt.

The following year, Leko eradicated this inconsistency, and by the end of 2003 was considered to be in the top 5 ranked K-1 fighters.
Rise to the top in 2003 - exit from K-1, MMA debut with Pride

After a six-fight win streak in 2003 (5-0 in K-1) that included wins over multiple time K-1 champion Peter Aerts, heavyweight kickboxing champion Mike Bernardo, and K-1 World Grand Prix finalist Francisco Filho, the now top-ranked Leko was a favourite leading in to the K-1 World Grand Prix 2003. With previous champion Ernesto Hoost out, Leko was considered a favourite leading in. However, he would leave K-1 prior to the finals, after contract negotiations broke down. Former Leko opponent Remy Bonjasky, whom Leko had beaten the previous year, would win the Grand Prix tournament.

Leko thus left the K-1 and kickboxing worlds, with a K-1 record of 23-11-1-1, and a total fight record of 50-12-1-1 (win/loss/draw/nc), and he decided to try his hand at another combat sport. He signed for Pride Fighting Championships, then the world's premier Mixed Martial Arts organisation. However, the striker was unable to find his place there, losing three successive fights to grapplers, and in 2005 he returned to the Muay Thai and kickboxing worlds.
Return to K-1 and kickboxing, initial success

Leko returned to the stand-up fighting world in early 2005, becoming the WKN World Super-Heavyweight champion.

Prior to his hiatus from standup fighting, he had joined Team Golden Glory, a Dutch fight camp known for such fighters as Semmy Schilt, Alistair Overeem and Sergei Kharitonov. He made his return to top level kickboxing with Golden Glory for Dutch major league promotion It's Showtime, in 2005. He was booked in a grudge match with rising star Badr Hari.

Fighting at It's Showtime in Amsterdam, Leko beat Badr Hari by spinning back kick in a grudge fight. Hari had trash talked Leko prior to the bout, and there was bad blood going in. Leko finished him in round 1, via spinning back kick to the liver. The fight had lasted little more than 100 seconds, with Badr throwing Leko across the ring from a clinch. Leko got to his feet calmly, and after a teep, landed his trademark spin-kick and it finished the fight. Hari stayed down for several minutes after the fight was waved off, in considerable pain.

A rematch was booked in K-1, and Hari returned the favour - bizarrely, winning via spectacular spinning back kick, the move noted for being Leko's trademark. This marks the duology as a fairly unique rivalry, in that both men finished the other with the same move, a spinning back kick no less.
Last major success, and later career

Leko's last major success to date came when he won his second K-1 World Grand Prix in Las Vegas tournament, beating Scott Lighty, Carter Williams and then Michael McDonald in the final. He won all three fights that night by KO.

He drew old foe Remy Bonjasky in the first round of the World Grand Prix finals5, and lost on points in a controversial fight in which Leko landed two shots to Bonjasky's groin. Leko claims these shots were unintentional; however, Remy took a considerable time out period during the fight, one that Leko had been performing well in to that point, and after which, Bonjasky managed to win a points decision from.

A rubber match with Bonjasky occurred in 2007, but by now it was clear Leko was passing his physical prime, and he lost in round 1, after Bonjasky landed his trademark flying knee. Golden Glory claimed the stoppage was too quick, but nevertheless, Leko was out of another World Grand Prix - his last appearance in the Final 16.

By early 2009 he was considered a fading force, despite going 4-1 the previous year, with two wins in K-1. However, he had not competed in the World Grand Prix 2008, and ended the year with a loss to Freddy Kemayo. Dropped out of almost every top 10 heavyweight rankings, Leko began to compete almost exclusively in Holland and Germany, with varying results. He returned to fight for It's Showtime in May 2009, facing another smaller but popular big name heavyweight in Melvin Manhoef. On the back of two consecutive losses in K-1, Leko went into the fight as an underdog, but he ended up dominating Manhoef for two rounds, picking him apart with boxing and leg kicks. Unfortunately, in the final round he broke his foot, and the fight was called off. Manhoef magnanimously admitted that Leko had outclassed him, and offered a rematch to the Golden Glory fighter.

Despite this impressive display, Leko remained inconsistent, slipping into decline. He won his final K-1 fight to date in Sarajevo, and then lost twice in a row, in Holland and Germany respectively.
2010 and onwards

Leko strung together a three fight win streak, taking him to an overall K-1 and Muay Thai/kickboxing record of 64-22-1 win/loss/draw. After beating Volkan Duzgun on Fightingstars presents: It's Showtime 2010, Leko entered the Ultimate Glory heavyweight tournament, where he drew Wendell Roche in the quarter-finals. Halfway through round 2, Leko retired from the fight, with the reason given that he suffered "a dizzy spell", and lost his equilibrium. However, in the corner he seemed to be in considerable pain, and it emerged on Dutch fight forum mixfight.nl that Leko had a punctured lung.
Erfolge/Titles:

K-1

* K-1 European Grand Prix 1998 champion
* K-1 Dream 1999 champion
* K-1 World Grand Prix in Las Vegas 2001 champion
* K-1 World Grand Prix in Las Vegas 2006 champion
* K-1 World Grand Prix 2001: 3rd place

Muay Thai

* 2000 IKBO Muaythai World title
* 1997 WMTA Muaythai World champion

Kickboxing

* 2005 WKN Kickboxing World Super heavyweight Champion
* 1997 IKBF Kickboxing champion
* 1996 IKBF Full Contact World champion

Quelle/Source: Wikipedia