Marek Piotrowski, a native of Poland, has a 36-2 record as a kickboxer, and is currently the ISKA and PKC North American champion. Among his victories is one over current movie star and former champion Don "The Dragon" Wilson. Piotrowski (right) is scheduled to fight Mike McDonald of Canada for the ISKA world title on June 22 in Montreal. Piotrowski came to America five years ago, and currently lives in Tampa. He was training last week at St. Petersburg's 4th Street Boxing club, and answered these questions from Times staff writer Tony Green:
Q: Do you have a karate background?
A: Yes. I started out as a karate fighter; I was the Polish national champion. I was in a traditional style called kyokushinkai. I started in 1979.
Q: What is special about the style you studied?
A: It's a tough style, a lot of power karate. The only difference between that and full contact is that you can't kick to the head. But you can kick and punch full power to the body, and you don't wear any protective equipment. I think it prepared me more for full contact than semi-contact karate.
Q: You also have some boxing experience (Piotrowski is 2-0). Which sport is more difficult to train for?
A: Kickboxing is harder because you are using four limbs, so it's more energetic. When I train for boxing, I work on only my hands, but in kickboxing I have to work on hands and feet together.
Q: What would a kickboxer do against a boxer?
A: I don't like to compare them because they are two different sports, but I don't think a boxer would like to fight a kickboxer under full rules (which also allows kicks to the thighs). A kickboxer can fight under boxing rules, but boxers can't fight under kickboxing rules because they don't have the kicking ability. But I think the average boxer is better prepared for fighting than the average kickboxer.
Q: Why isn't kickboxing a big deal in the United States, like boxing or football?
A: I think a lot of it is promotional problems; this sport needs to create a name (athlete). Any type of combat sport, you only recognize a few names and that's it, even in boxing. The average person will only recognize a name like Mike Tyson. They don't know people like Terry Norris or Julio Cesar Chavez. And kickboxing doesn't have the same tradition over here that it does in other countries.
Q: Do you feel that that makes kickboxers work harder?
A: Yes, definitely. You have to fight the best, get a promoter and get a name for yourself.