Badr Hari and Hesdy Gerges at the Crossroads
When Badr Hari and Hesdy Gerges square off March 3 in Rotterdam, Netherlands at Glory 51, both fighters will be battling for more than a victory. Personal as well as professional redemption will be on the line in their long awaited rematch.
“A lot of time has gone by. We’ve been through many experiences in our sport and private lives,” Gerges said Wednesday through an interpreter at the prefight press conference. “I’m really looking forward to this fight.”
“In the past couple of years as a fighter, I developed in the personal field more,” Hari said, also through the Dutch interpreter. “I started training more seriously. I consider it my job. I perceive it differently now.”
The rematch is eight years in the making. The first time Hari and Gerges fought was in May 2010 in Amsterdam for the Its Showtime heavyweight belt. It was a wild fight. Hari loaded up on punches and tried for an early knockout. Gerges battled back in the second round, before the fight ended abruptly and Hari disqualified after he kicked Gerges while he was down from a slip.
“I was young. I was very emotional. Still fighting with your feelings, emotions,” Hari recalled when asked what happened and why he intentionally fouled Gerges. “You go all the way in everything. I think that is what happened. It just snapped.”
“I was recovering in the second round,” Gerges said. “The first round was going well for Badr. The third round still had to start. We both have something to prove.”
Both men have struggled both in and out of the ring the past few years. Hari served time in prison in 2017 for assaults, including the well-publicized incident where he attacked a Dutch businessman. Prior to his incarceration, Hari lost to Glory heavyweight champion Rico Verhoeven by TKO, and only has one meaningful win (over Glory contender Ismael Londt) in the past few years. Gerges has only five wins in his last eleven fights, although two of the losses were by split decision and most came against top-level heavyweights.
Gerges, like Hari, also had legal issues. According to Dutch website nu.nl, he was sentenced to 4 ½ years in prison in neighboring Belgium for drug smuggling, but will not have to serve his sentence if he does not commit an offense there in the next 5 years.
“I had some personal problems in the past but everything is finished,” Gerges said, alluding to the case. “I’ve been in a rough patch actually.”
The two fighters wore similar blue colored suits to the press conference Wednesday, keep their hair short, and share Arab ethnicity. Both are Netherlands born, but Hari’s family is from Morocco and Gerges’ from Egypt.
Stylistically, they could not be more different. Gerges’ nickname of “Fighterheart” is well earned. His style is cut from the blue-collar cloth, a fighter willing to take punishment in order to outlast his opponent. Hari was an elite natural talent with an awesome blend of quickness and power who many thought would be at the sport’s pinnacle for years. However, intentional foul disqualification losses to Remy Bonjasky and Gerges, out of the ring scandal, and large periods of inactivity alienated many fans. Some view Hadr as kickboxing’s version of Mike Tyson-a phenomenal talent who achieved success at an early age but wasted potential due to impulsive behavior. Hari believes he can regain his place at the top of the sport.
“Thirty three years is not old,” he said, when asked what makes him confident about a potential rematch with Verhoeven. “Roger Federer is 36 and wins the Austalian Open. When I look at fighters in the division, I think I can take on anyone. There’s little competition at this moment and I’m going to prove this on March 3.”
“I’m faster. I lost weight. I’ve made a number of adjustments,” Hari said regarding his conditioning. “At some point, I had to look why I missed out on the explosion. (I hired) a new trainer to do power training-condition training. Mike ( trainer Mike Passenier)-he stayed. My body is responding. Picking up where I left out in 2012.”
If Hari can reclaim his place in the heavyweight division elite, it will be a needed addition to a division that has talent but seems short on personality. If Gerges wins, he will be back in the mix after his self-described “rough patch”. Neither fighter is demanding a title shot at Verhoeven if they are victorious.
“Title is not so important to me. I want to do some rematches,” Gerges said.
“If they pay me well, the fight with Rico will take place. It’s as simple as that,” said Badr. “Talking about a belt…I do have a number of belts at home and they’re gathering dust. If the paycheck is there, then I’ll be there as well.”
Eight years after their wild first fight, Gerges and Hari meet again, with a chance for personal redemption. Both kickboxers also spoke of making amends with the fans over the disappointing end to their first fight.
“We are here to end it in a good way and show the people we can fight the fight in a good way,” Gerges said. “Show the youth and everybody we can do it in the right way. We will give the audience a good show.”
“The audience was a big loser,” said Badr. “But we’re here to make things straight again.”