Rabat – They call him “the bad boy”, in reference to his troublesome past. He calls himself “the best, the number one, the absolute best.” Badr Hari, one of the most celebrated kickboxing heavyweight fighters, was facing yesterday Hesday Gerges, a rematch that fans had been waiting for nearly eight years.
For Badr’s fans, this was finally the opportunity to show that he, not Hesday, deserved to win their first confrontation in 2010 when judges decided to disqualify Badr for giving a non-reglementary punch to a fallen Hesday.
So this was no traditional heavyweights’ fight; it was the epic second encounter of two wounded lions excited at the prospect of finally settling a common unfinished business, of ending eight years of speculations, of finally deciding who between Badr and Hesday is the best.
But while Badr came to “beat Hesday up, win more fans, and prove that he is in shape and the best”, Hesday came to prove that he deserved the win he got nearly eight years ago, “to make Badr quit”. No wonder the confrontation turned out to be what it was, what was expected: a scene of “two animals trying to kill each other,” as Hesday himself put it before the fight.
But yesterday in Rotterdam, like on countless other occasions, it was Badr who won. And this time, his victory (29-28, 30-27, 30-27, 30-27, 30-27) was unanimously accepted by judges, thus settling down long-running speculations. Badr ot what he’s always wanted: to be acknowledged as the best.
When handed the microphone to say what his emotional state was after a major win, Badr, with all his might in his fatigued state, shouted: “Morocco, I love you.”
He then went on to spill a litany of countries to which he feels some sense of attachment. “The Netherlands I love you; Italy, I love you; America I love you; Porto Rico, I love you.”
He briefly stopped. Wild with emotions, pensive, tired but explosive, he added, with particular attachment: “But I love Morocco the most.” At which point Moroccan fans in the audience felt like kissing the heavens, ecstatic and uproarious as the hero they had come to support showed them that their love mattered to him, that their presence was his best motivation.
“As people know, I don’t lose revenge,” he said, referencing his painful experience during the pair’s encounter in 2010. “When you give me a second chance, I beat you up.”
But despite the almost explosive self-confidence and the not-so-ideal deeds outside out of the ring for which he is notorious, Badr usually comes across as a likable guy, always ready to acknowledge, in that “exotic” simile that is his landmark, his opponents’ qualities. “Hesday is no easy guy. He has a big heart. But tonight my heart was bigger.”
After expressing his “big” and unconditional love for Morocco, Badr thanked all his personal fans and Kickboxing fans for believing in him, Glory 51 for allowing him to “come back.” He also thanked his family and friends, and especially his father, ending his victory speech in darija, with Moroccan fans cheering him like a national hero–“their Badr.”
On Friday, when Badr announced his “big fight” with Hesday on Facebook, a fan commented: “I know this will be a piece of cake for you Badr. We know you will win. Go get Rico after this. We want Rico.” After Badr’s victory on Saturday night, some fans in the audience were also shouting “Rico”, showing that, like the fan on Facebook, they are still harboring enormous grudges against the person who “humiliated” their star in December 2016.
Glory 51, the Rotterdam-based Kickboxing giant, is said to be working on arranging a rematch between Badr Hari and Rico Verhoeven “very soon”. When asked about his message to Rico, Badr said: “tonight’s fight is his message.”