Callum Smith faces a former pound-for-pound star in the semi finals of World Boxing Super Series after Juergen Braehmer pulled out.
Nieky Holzken steps up to face Smith in Nuremberg on Saturday night and though the 34 year-old Dutchman is unknown to most boxing fans, he’s highly regarded in kickboxing circles.
Holzken has won 90 of his 105 kickboxing fights (one no contest), is a former European Muay Thai champion and also had a spell as Glory world welterweight kickboxing champion.
Paul Hennessy was a director of Glory during Holzken’s reign as champion and says he was a star.
“Glory is one of the leading combat sports organisations,” said Hennessy, “and Nieky was regarded as one of their best champions.
“He was definitely at the top, or near the top, of everyone’s pound-for-pound list.
“Nieky was a big of a star. He’s good looking, marketable and is very well known in Holland, where kickboxing is popular.”
Holzken turned pro at 29 in 2013 and for a while he combined his boxing and kickboxing careers.
He had a spell training at the Mayweathers’ gym while in Las Vegas preparing to defend his Glory championship – there’s footage of him sparring J’Leon Love on the net. Hennessy says he wasn’t surprised that Holzken made the switch to boxing.
“He is a good counter puncher with quick hands,” said Midlands-based Hennessy. “He was always more of a puncher than a kicker and I’m not surprised he took up boxing.”
Holzken has won all 13 of his pro fights, nine of his wins coming inside three rounds.