Stefan "Blitz" Leko (born June 3, 1974) is a Croatian-German heavyweight kickboxer. He is the current WKA Super-Heavyweight world champion in kickboxing, and former Muay Thai world heavyweight champion and Kickboxing world super-heavyweight champion, WMTA, WKN, IKBO, IKBF and WKA world 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. Since 2011 Stefan Leko is coached and managed by Tom Trautsch and won two Heavyweight World Champion Titles.
Biography and career
Backstory and summary
Stefan Leko began karate at the age of 7. He was discovered by Klaus Waschkewitz of Masters Gym ten years later 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 1990s and early 2000s, 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 2000s, 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 into 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 unusual rivalry, in that both men finished the other with the same move, a spinning back kick no less.
Last major success in K-1, later K-1 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 the Netherlands 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 the Netherlands and Germany respectively.
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.
In 2011, no bouts had been confirmed for Leko as of February 20, either by the fighter or Golden Glory. Mike Passenier, owner of Mike's Gym and trainer of fighters such as Badr Hari and Melvin Manhoef, stated in an interview with Daniel Fletcher on February 25, 2011 that Stefan Leko has retired.
Return to the ring
The retirement talk was officially put aside as Golden Glory confirmed that Leko would be returning to face old foe Jerome LeBanner on June 11, 2011, in Geneva. Leko was said to be serious about a return, and that the short-lived "retirement" was no longer relevant. He was even said to be intent on securing a rubber match with old foe Badr Hari, if he could string together some wins to get ranked and merit a final grudge encounter with the Moroccan.
WKA World title win
Leko won his first world title since 2005, when he beat Marinko Neimarević for the WKA World Super-Heavyweight kickboxing title by KO in round 2.
He was knocked out in round four by Nicolas Wamba at Fight Night Saint Tropez in Saint-Tropez, France on August 4, 2013.
He was scheduled to fight Dževad Poturak in Poturak's retirement fight at Final Fight Championship 7 in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina on September 6, 2013. The fight however never materialized.
He competed in a four-man tournament at GFC Series 1 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates on May 29, 2014 and had his rubber match with Badr Hari in the semi-finals. He lost the bout by TKO after appearing lackluster and getting knocked down 3 times in the first round.
- 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
- International Kick Boxing Federation
- 1996 IKBF Full Contact World Championship
- 1997 IKBF Kickboxing Championship
- World Muay Thai Association
- 1997 WMTA Muay Thai World Championship
- International Kick Boxing Organisation
- 2000 International Kick Boxing Organisation Muay Thai World Championship
- World Kickboxing Network
- 2005 WKN Super Heavyweight Kickboxing World Championship
- World Kickboxing Association
- 2012 WKA Super Heavyweight Kickboxing World Championship
69 Wins (38 (T) KO's, 29 decisions), 37 Losses, 1 Draw
Legend: Win Loss Draw/No contest Notes
Mixed martial arts record
|Loss||0-3||Kazuhiro Nakamura||Pride 29||TKO (punches)||February 20, 2005||1||0:54||Saitama, Japan|
|Loss||0-2||Ikuhisa Minowa||Pride Shockwave 2004||Submission (heel hook)||December 31, 2004||1||0:27||Saitama, Japan|
|Loss||0-1||Naoya Ogawa||Pride Total Elimination 2004||Submission (arm-triangle choke)||April 25, 2004||1||1:34||Saitama, Japan|