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'Bazooka' Joe Valtellini: Nieky Holzken's GLORY 29 call out was 'bush league and not very sportsmanlike'

The former GLORY welterweight champion was none too pleased when Nieky Holzken called him out during their post-fight interview at GLORY 29 after Holzken defeated Yoann Kongolo to retain his title in Copenhagen, Denmark. Valtellini hasn't fought since being diagnosed with post-concussion syndrome last year.

Joseph Valtellini (L) and Nieky Holzken at GLORY 13
Joseph Valtellini (L) and Nieky Holzken at GLORY 13
GLORY Sports International

Joseph Valtellini hasn't fought for GLORY since winning the welterweight title at GLORY: "Last Man Standing" back in June of 2014. His highly-coveted rematch with Nieky Holzken never materialized and there is a good reason for that.

Just when his career was hitting an all-time high, Valtellini, 30, was diagnosed with post-concussion syndrome and was forced to abdicate his welterweight title in June of 2015.

Valtellini broke the news to Bloody Elbow at the time saying, "It was something that occurred from training but I thought it would get better and I didn't take that time to recover, which just made it worse. As a result neither the doctors nor GLORY will clear me to fight until I am symptom-free. Unfortunately we don't know when that will be ... it could be a week, a month, a year or I could have this forever. Its not fair to the fans, GLORY or the other athletes for me to wait to defend the belt not knowing when I will be better. As such, I have made the difficult decision, in conjunction with GLORY, to vacate the title."

Since that time, Valtellini has continued his job as a teacher working with special needs children and those with behavioral issues, opened a new gym called "Bazooka Kickboxing and MMA," landed his first acting role in the upcoming "Kickboxer" remake, worked as a stunt coordinator on the upcoming "Suicide Squad" film, and most recently started a new color-commentating gig with GLORY--where he has been lauded for his performance thus far.

When the GLORY 29 main event concluded on Saturday (April 16, 2016) Valtellini interviewed GLORY welterweight champion Nieky Holzken after he defeated Yoann Kongolo by unanimous decision. It was a typical post-fight interview, until Valtellini asked Holzken who he wanted to face next.

"I see you as the next opponent, you. You have to come back and then we finish business," Holzken told him.

Now, it's important to note the history between these two fighters before we go any further.

Holzken and Valtellini fought for the first time in the GLORY 13 tournament final in Tokyo, Japan and it was considered "Fight of the Year" by several kickboxing outlets. Holzken won by knockout in the third round after a furious back-and-forth battle. A few months later he suffered a shoulder injury after a car accident, which forced him out of the inaugural welterweight title fight. Marc de Bonte defeated Karapet Karapetyan (who replaced Holzken) at GLORY 16 to win the title, and lost it to Valtellini at "Last Man Standing" while Holzken was still on the mend.

The heavily-anticipated rematch between Holzken and Valtellini was set up for GLORY 21 in San Diego, Calif. and was days away from being announced back in February of 2015, but was pulled for undisclosed reasons at the time, which turned out to be what Valtellini revealed when he vacated the belt last June.

G21 before main event pulled

(Original artwork for GLORY 21 before main event fell through. Credit: GLORY Sports International)

Valtellini responded to Holzken's surprising call out and said, "I think I would love that. The fans would love it," and then turned the focus back to the champion. But when he began to ask another question, the champion interrupted with, "You should start training."

"I've been training. Don't worry about it," said Valtellini, who remained professional and took the high road, finishing the interview with a final question about the champion's thoughts on fighting in Denmark. Holzken is obviously aware of Valtellini's condition and knows he can't fight, but called him out regardless and really put him in an awkward position. reached out to Valtellini to get his real thoughts on the matter, now that he wasn't in the GLORY ring holding a microphone and could speak honestly and openly on the matter.

"I thought it was pretty bush league and not very sportsmanlike for him to call me out knowing my medical situation," Valtellini said. "Concussions are no joke and he's not setting a great example. Of course I'd love to fight him many times but I can't. If I didn't have these issues the belt would easily be around my waist because frankly, I know I'm better than him. But it is what it is. I guess he knows the only way he can build himself up is by using my name. I get it."

It's hard to not understand where Valtellini is coming from here. Concussions are a very serious issue in all of sports. More and more information and diagnosis on active and retired fighters and athletes continues to surface. Several NFL players have retired early due to concussion issues, as did former WWE champion, Daniel Bryan. The UFC recently extended its partnership with Cleveland Clinic in support of "The Professional Fighter's Brain Health Study," which has done extensive studies on the effects that repetitive head trauma has on a fighters in order to provide and improve fighter safety.

Valtellini will likely never step in the ring again, which has assuredly been extremely hard on him this past year. The The native of Scarborough, Ontario, Canada, was considered a North American ambassador for the sport and with his clean-cut image, good lucks and well-spoken nature, was spoken of as the Derek Jeter of kickboxing. Luckily with his knowledge of fighting and his new gig as a color-commentator, he can still be a representative of the sport albeit in a different role.

Perhaps Holzken didn't truly intend to be insulting when he called "Bazooka Joe" out and he was only coming from a place of wanting the most challenging opponent for himself, which Valtellini would certainly be if he were healthy. Or he doesn't respect Valtellini's condition or fully understand the serious nature of it and thinks he should be fighting again. Whatever the case may be, Holzken's call out is a fruitless endeavor, because the fight isn't going to happen. Kickboxing fans are now left to discuss hypotheticals on who they think would've won and to fawn over the 2013 "Fight of the Year" classic that went down in Tokyo, which was truly one of the best GLORY fights of all time.

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