Tyrone Spong wants to be the best ever. He proved on Saturday night that he is among the elite in all of combat sports. By defeating the No. 1, No. 2 and No. 4-ranked Glory light heavyweights in the same night, he won the Glory 9 Light Heavyweight Slam and earned $200,000 in the process.
Everyone in attendance at the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York City witnessed Spong make kickboxing history, even if a couple of his chapters ended quickly. A semifinal unanimous-decision victory was bookended by two first-round knockouts that totaled 47 seconds.
The “King of the Ring” improved to 89-5-0 with 59 career knockouts. However, Spong’s night was almost over before it began. In the opening seconds of his first fight, Michael Duut caught the veteran kickboxer off guard with a right cross, dropping him immediately.
The punch must have angered him. After getting up and regaining his wits, he finished off the Dutchman with a wicked right hand, ending Duut’s night just 31 seconds into the first round and bringing the Manhattan crowd to its feet.
“I was pissed off,” Spong admitted to Bleacher Report after the fight's conclusion. “I wasn’t hurt bad, it was more of a slip, but he caught me with a good shot, no doubt about it. I was still sleeping a little bit in the first round. He gave me a wake-up call."
The Blackzilians team member faced his toughest challenge in the semifinal round against Filip Verlinden. Spong had the advantage of ending his first fight in less than a minute, while the Belgian fighter had to earn a hard-fought majority-decision win over Steve McKinnon.
The 27-year-old Spong showed his ring smarts and patience in this fight. Verlinden was a game opponent and fought valiantly, but Spong controlled the action. He was never in significant danger, landed more effective strikes and won by 30-27 on all three judges' scorecards for a unanimous-decision win.
Spong complimented Verlinden. “He’s a smart fighter, very intelligent. He saw in the first fight that it was dangerous to stand or to try to trade with me. He did a good job. I had to fight smart too and technical to get the W, so I did."
In the opposing bracket, Danyo Ilunga—a protégé of Remy Bonjasky—defeated Tunisian standout Mourad Bouzidi by majority decision in his quarterfinal matchup. The four-time world champion from Germany punched his ticket to the finals by winning a unanimous decision over Road to Glory USA tournament winner Dustin Jacoby in the semifinals.
Spong knocked out Bonjasky at Glory 5 in London in March, so the student Ilunga could have been looking for revenge in this tournament final, but the "King of the Ring" put a quick stop to that story, winning by TKO in just 16 seconds.
The ending didn’t come without controversy, as many in attendance thought referee Minitel Izo Gaudi had prematurely stopped the contest. Spong connected with a big right hand that wobbled Ilunga. When he followed up with two left hooks and a left to the body, the referee jumped in to intervene, waving off the contest.
“I think it was a smart stoppage,” Spong stated. “The referee is here to protect the fighters.”
Bleacher Report spoke with some of the Glory officials after the controversial stoppage and learned that there is no “standing eight count” in their promotion. Therefore, the referee could only step in to stop the fight—he couldn’t start a count on Ilunga as if it were a knockdown.
He must have seen something in Ilunga’s body language to make him halt the bout to prevent the fighter from taking further damage.
The fans most likely didn't know about the rule, as they booed and complained about the early stoppage, leaving the only blemish on an otherwise solid night of fights. Spong was empathetic toward the crowd's reaction:
“I can understand that the fans want to see more, but I could’ve knocked him out badly and caused some serious damage. I think it was a fair stoppage. If he didn’t stop it he was going to get knocked out.”
Winning the tournament on the first night he has ever fought in America—let alone New York City—meant a lot to Spong.
“I’m real happy. It’s a childhood dream coming true. I’m a big boxing fan, all the big fights happen here in New York. For this small guy who grew up in Amsterdam and who was born in Suriname, I’m just real happy to be able to be part of this first event here and win in an impressive way. And just make a statement, and promote the sport here in America. I hope it continues to go like this and get even bigger.”
While Spong may have won the light heavyweight slam, he is the No. 4 heavyweight in Glory. What weight class will he contend at next?
“I’ll fight money weight,” Spong stated, perhaps coining a new weight class all to his own. “I’ll fight every weight, light heavyweight, heavyweight, super heavyweight, I don’t care.”
The Dutch-Surinamese fighter’s next bout will be in MMA at World Series of Fighting 4 in August. His goal on Saturday was to win three fights. He revealed that his next goal is to fight in three different combat sports.
“After the MMA fight, we are going for a boxing fight.”
Michael Stets is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.