Top 10 Kickboxers You Should Know
If you like Muay Thai, there is a high chance that you also like kickboxing. I enjoy watching kickboxing since the days of K-1. Now I follow promotions like Glory and One Super Series. If you are a Kickboxing fan like me, then you might be interested to know who are the top kickboxers of all time.
When I talk about kickboxing, I am referring to K1-style rules widely adopted by the top promotions today. This style of kickboxing allows punches, kicks, and knees. Elbow strikes are prohibited and clinching is very restricted.
Now, we all have our own idea of the best kickboxer of all time or top kickboxers. As a Muay Thai fan first and foremost, I am partial towards the Thai fighters. These fighters come from a Muay Thai background and transition to international kickboxing promotions. They mostly fight at the 70-72 kg division and is a great balance of power while remaining highly technical.
Many will consider Dutch kickboxers to be among the very best, if not the best in the world. The Dutch dominated almost every weight class over the history of kickboxing. They were especially known for their power.
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.
Top 10 Kickboxers You Should Know
Here’s my of the top kickboxers across different eras. I have also thrown in a bonus at the end that you will all definitely agree on. In no particular order:
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 “surgical” precision in the ring and all-rounded ringsmanship.
The 34 year-old Armenian-Italian fighter holds an extraordinary 102 wins out of 108 fights. He’s only been knocked out once in his entire career.
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.
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, conditioning 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 high 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 marked his promotional debut against Sitthichai Sitsongpeenong in July with a solid unanimous-decision victory.
He gets a chance at making into the history books if he is given a title shot against Giorgio Petrosyan. I’m keeping my fingers crossed.
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, defending it six times before losing the title to Marat Grigorian in their fifth meeting. (Sitthichai held 4 wins over Marat).
He has signed on with ONE Championship and made his debut against Superbon Banchamek in July, losing via points.
When it comes to the Dutch kickboxers, Ernesto Hoost springs to mind immediately.
Hoost is a retired kickboxer who competed actively for over 2 decades. Nicknamed “Mr Perfect”, he is a 4-time K1 world champion along with multiple titles in kickboxing and Muay Thai over his illustrous career.
He may have some blemishes on his record including several memorable losses. But you need to account the fact that he fought during the golden era of K1 kickboxing.
The heavyweight champion has beaten many fellow legends including Peter Aerts, Andy Hug, Mark Hunt and Changpuek Kiatsongrit.
Hoost now lends his name to Japanese kickboxing promotion, Hoost Cup. He also conducts seminars around in Holland and around the world.
You can’t talk about Ernesto Hoost or dutch kickboxing without mentioning Peter Aerts.
Aerts is a classic Dutch-style kickboxer with devastating high kicks. He is a former super heavyweight champion who is widely recognized as one of the best in the sport.
The “Dutch Lumberjack” has won the K-1 World Grand Prix on three occasions and other kickboxing and Muay Thai titles through his career.
Unlike his peers who have all retired, Aerts continues to compete into this 40s. He last fought in January 2020 at the age of 48 and won by KO.
Aerts is way past his prime and a new generation of Dutch kickboxers are taking over. But his place as one of the top kickboxers of all-time remains.
Rob Kaman competed from the late-70s to mid-90s, challenging kickboxers all around the world. This was before K-1 gathered the world’s best kickboxers in the 90s.
Kaman trained and fought out of the legendary Mejiro Gym Amsterdam under kickboxing pioneer, Jan Plas.
He was famously known as “Mr Low Kick” due to his destructive leg kicks. He used it to maximum effect and captured many victories.
Kaman was also one of the first foreigners to challenge the formidable Muay Thai fighters in their game in Thailand.
Kaman retired in 1999 with 97 wins out of 112 fight appearances, 77 by knockouts. This works out to be an phenomenal 79% KO win rate.
Moroccan-Dutch kickboxer, Badr Hari holds one of the most insane records with 92 (T)KOs in his 122-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 an astounding 9 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 31 year old has 56 wins in 66 fights with a few 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-incorrectness is okay in films, before all the woke and cancel culture that we have now.
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, Rob Kaman, 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. Leave a comment below!