Daniel Ghita Fires Back at Rico Verhoeven, Calls Ex-Sparring Partner ‘Pinocchio’

By John Joe O'Regan Jun 5, 2014
| Photo Courtesy: Glory International



The world’s two top heavyweight kickboxers are set to meet in the ring at Glory World Series’ pay-per-view event on June 21 for what promises to be one of the most explosive clashes of the year.

Daniel Ghita, ranked No. 1 in the world, and Rico Verhoeven, ranked No. 2, are former training partners turned rivals. And with the world heavyweight championship on the line at Glory “Last Man Standing,” that rivalry has turned increasingly bitter.

Over the past few weeks their feud has played out in the media, with both making unflattering comments about the other in recent interviews.

Ghita labeled Verhoeven a “fake champion” and a “boring fighter”, and Verhoeven replied by questioning Ghita’s ability to withstand the mental pressures of big fights.

Verhoeven’s latest comments did not escape Ghita’s notice. While Ghita is a fighter who likes to isolate himself from distractions as fight night gets closer, he wanted to make some counter-points to Verhoeven’s comments before going into isolation.

“This is really the last time I am going to talk about Rico now because I want my focus to be on the fight from now on. But I saw his interview and I never read anything like this in my life,” he told Sherdog.com.

“There are so many lies in there I don’t know where to begin,” Ghita continued. “Rico’s nickname is ‘The Prince,’ but with stories like this I think maybe we need to call him ‘Pinocchio’ instead.

“He says that he only learned things from me in the first year of our sparring together and after that I was learning from him? I can say that I consider the three years I spent sparring with Rico lost time. I ended it because it wasn’t doing anything for me. He isn’t explosive; it became boring.

“He says I am an old man. Why has he taken six months to recover from a hand injury? We were supposed to fight a few months ago but he said he was still waiting for the injury to heal.

“I had a really bad leg injury going into the Glory 11 event, the doctor wanted me to pull out, and recently we saw Peter Aerts tear his calf muscle in the first round of the fight but continue to the end. This is what real fighters do.

“Rico says he watched [the promo video] and that I don’t train like a real champion. What does that mean? Because I am not playing up for the media I’m not a champion? I don’t understand. I do know that I have more than 80 percent of my wins by KO and he has around 20 percent. This is what matters.

“So finally I will say, the only thing that matters is what happens in the ring. I am well trained and in good condition, so in Los Angeles we can meet in the ring and see who the champion really is.”

For one of the two, June 21 will represent a career pinnacle as he takes the grandest prize that heavyweight kickboxing has to offer. Ghita is certain that the belt and the prize money will be his. So certain, in fact, that he already has his next bout planned.

“After Los Angeles I am going to London for my next fight,” he said, laughing. “It will be with [Glory chairman and majority owner] Pierre Andurand. He has been training hard recently.

“His background is in oil trading but he has some good kickboxing skill also. He’s a heavyweight too. He laid down the challenge so I’m going to go to London and we will go to his gym and meet in the ring for some fun.”

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