Top 10 Kickboxers You Should Know
So I have started following the kickboxing scene more religiously now and have really enjoyed watching several of the fighters in the top promotions like Glory and Kunlun Fight. If you have just started following Kickboxing like me, you might be interested to know who are some of the best fighters to watch out for. Now, we all have our own idea of the best kickboxer of all time or top kickboxers and as a Muay Thai fan first and foremost, I am partial towards the Thai fighters as you will see from the list. These fighters mostly fight at 70 kg division and is a great balance of power while remaining technical.
We may not agree on some of the choices here but every single fighter on this list has/will always put up a great fight. The list includes mainly active fighters but I have thrown in a bonus at the end that you will all agree on.
Buakaw single-handedly elevated the status of Muay Thai as the most effective striking arts on the planet. He did not have as much success in Muay Thai compared to many of his peers but he eventually got his big break through a kickboxing career in K-1. He brought the best of Muay Thai over to kickboxing, combined it with an incredible physique and stamina, and essentially smashed his way through all competitions. His forward-moving aggressive style makes him an exciting fighter to watch in the ring but at the age of 38 (2020), his best days are far behind him.
Over the last few years, Buakaw devoted his time competing in Chinese Kickboxing promotions (Kunlun Fight, Wu Lin Feng) as well Muay Thai promotions around the world. Since departing from the kickboxing world, Buakaw has made appearances on (now-defunct) All Star Fight, where he acts as a promoter (in name) as well as a competing athlete. He may no longer be the best but his popularity sees no sign of waning. Buakaw’s spot on the list is indisputable.
Superbon’s early claim to fame might have to do with being Buakaw’s protege but he has proven himself to be a top fighter in his own right. Superbon’s style in the ring is reminiscent of his mentor: strong punches and kicks with plenty of KO power. He brings his own flavor to the game with a technicality inherited from his elite Muay Thai years.
He has ranked number 1 (70kg) in the popular Chinese promotions, Kunlun Fight where he competed for a few seasons. Like Buakaw, Superbon only rose to prominence after his move to international kickboxing promotions, most notably in the aforementioned Kunlun Fight.
Superbon participates in amateur bouts on the side, in the IFMA (International Federation of Muay Thai Amateur) tournaments with championship titles for 3 years (between 2015-2017). That is hardly surprising results, given the experience he has, having fought some of the best fighters in the world.
Superbon signed on with ONE Championship in 2020 and will make his promotional debut this year.
28 year- old Sitthichai is arguably one of the best Thai in the global kickboxing sport right now. Sitthichai is one of the most known Thai kickboxers among western fight fans due to his appearances in Glory Kickboxing. He trains and fights out of Sitsongpeenong camp in Bangkok with an array of titles to his name that includes multiple Kunlun Fight and Glory Kickboxing championships. Add to that a 2014 Lumpinee Stadium Welterweight belt and you know he deserves the spot here up with the best of the moment.
Sitthichai started fighting in international bouts at 18 years of age, when most Muay Thai fighters peak and compete at the Bangkok stadiums. His claim to fame was winning a four-man tournament in France back in 2010 when he defeated arguably the best farang fighter of the day, Fabio Pinca. He has not shown any sign of slowing down and remains active in international promotions such as Wu Lin Feng and Kunlun Fight, as well as Glory.
Sitthichai held the Glory Lightweight World title between 2016 to 2019 before losing the title to Marat Grigorian in their fifth meeting. (Sitthichai held 4 wins over Marat). He has not competed since the start of 2020.
With one of the highest win percentages in kickboxing, Giorgio Petrosyan is for many, the poster boy of kickboxing today. He is nicknamed The Doctor but The Surgeon might have been a more apt moniker for his precision in the ring and all-rounded ringsmanship.
The 31 year-old Armenian-Italian fighter holds an extraordinary 85 wins out of 90 fights. Like Buakaw before him, Petrosyan experienced success after switching to kickboxing from Muay Thai following a loss at Lumpinee Stadium to Buakaw’s ex-camp mate Nonthanan Por Pramuk. He then ran a phenomenal undefeated streak for 42 fights between 2007 to 2013 which cemented his position as one of kickboxing’s all-time greats.
Petrosyan left Bellator and signed on with ONE Championship in 2018 and took part in the Kickboxing World Grand Prix in 2019 where he won the title after beating Petchmorakot Petchyindee, Jo Nattawut and Samy Sana.
Kaew Weerasakreck (WSR)
At the age of 33, Kaew Weerasakreck (formerly and still commonly known as Kaew Fairtex) continues to hold the fort for the first generation of Thai fighters in kickboxing (Buakaw, Yodsanklai). Like his former Fairtex camp mate, Kaew held titles at the highest level of Muay Thai before transitioning to kickboxing. His belts included WBC Muay Thai championships, as well as Lumpinee Stadium titles. He has since won the K-1 World Grand Prix championship -65 kg twice before a recent loss in June this year (2017) to current Japanese top dog, Masaaki Noiri.
Kaew now trains and fights out of the Weerasakreck gym based in Japan where he competes most of the time (K-1).
Robin van Roosmalen
A classic Dutch-style kickboxer with strong punches and crippling low kicks. RVR grew up in a kickboxing family under the tutelage of his father, William van Roosmalen, himself a former kickboxing world champion. RVR is a staple on Glory kickboxing where he is the current featherweight champion (as of writing).
On top of his kickboxing background, RVR has also received training in Muay Thai, boxing, wrestling and is a black belt in Judo. He has had 2 mixed martial arts wins in his 2 fights and has plans to compete more actively in the octagon ring. For now, he remains a firm favorite amongst kickboxing fans.
Gokhan Saki may look storky and shorter compared to most of his heavyweight opponents but his punches, well, pack quite the punch. His nicknames, “Tyson of Kickboxing” or “Turkish Tyson”, as he is often known as, is a testament to his boxing skills. For a heavyweight, Saki is an effective fighter who is fast on his feet and accurate with his striking, easily out-maneuvering his opponents in the ring to claim top titles in K-1 and Glory promotions. Like many kickboxing greats, Saki has trained and fought in Muay Thai with a number of regional titles to his name.
Saki trains out of the renowned Mike’s Gym in Amsterdam. He recently signed a multi-fight deal with mma giant UFC and if it goes well, he might transition to mma full-time for the bigger fight purses.
Moroccan-Dutch kickboxer, Badr Hari holds one of the most insane records with 93 (T)KOs in his 120-fight career. Hari’s fighting style is aggressive and dangerous in the ring, pushing forward with heavy punches, chopping kicks and strong knees until he gets his opponent knocked out. The simple strategy works and his high KO percentage proves it. He is a hulking figure and smashes his way throughout his career, leaving a trail of bodies on the canvas.
The super heavyweight is a beast in the ring and unfortunately, also one outside. There is no dispute with regards to his kickboxing abilities but many controversies have surrounded his life, particularly his reputation for violent behavior. Hari has been arrested multiple times for assault and recently served time in the prison. With tamer character, he might be remembered as a first class athlete but perhaps his dangerous persona is part of his appeal to fight fans.
Dubbed the King of Kickboxing, Rico Verhoeven is the current (as of writing) Glory Heavyweight champion. He has successfully defended the belt 5 times since winning the title in 2013. The Dutch kickboxer has bested many of the top dogs in his career including Badr Hari, Peter Aerts, Daniel Ghita and Gokhan Saki. Verhoeven began training kickboxing at the tender age of 7, competing against adults when he was only 16 due to his hulking figure.
From being nicknamed the Prince to now the King, Verhoeven’s success can be attributed to his early start and his father’s strict insistence on his training since young. He may be a Goliath in size but he is a very intelligent fighter with superb technicality and impenetrable defense. The 28 year old has 52 wins in 63 fights with many more years to go in the ring.
Every single one of you reading this right now, must know and surely have watched the 1989 action fighting flick, Kickboxer. If you watch it now -and I just did-, the fighting scenes are cringeworthy, and the movie plot hilariously terrible. The portrayal of Muay Thai is a downright misrepresentation of the actual sport but having said that, it’s actually a pretty fun movie. Kickboxer holds a special place for many people as an early exposure to the sport of Muay Thai. And who can ever forget the Van Damme dance scene? It’s something that you simply can’t unsee.
For many casual fight fans who grew up in the 80s and the 90s, Kurt Sloane was the first and the best kickboxer they knew. He was the original gangster of kickboxing (albeit an obvious karate background) and imo, he deserves a spot on the list.
Forget the reboot. Watch the original 1989 version to experience a time when political-correctness in films has yet to come into existence.
As with all Top 10 lists, it’s impossible to rank them without some disputes or disagreements. However, I am sure we can all agree that the 10 fighters featured here are all kickboxing legends in their own right. There are so many good fighters (Andy Souwer, Mike Zambidis, Peter Aerts, just to name a few), there is no way to feature them all. If you have a favorite fighter and he is not featured here, I would like to hear about your choice of the best kickboxer.