Martial arts and TV star Andy Hug dies of leukemia

Popular Swiss martial artist Andy Hug died of acute promyelocytic leukemia at a Tokyo hospital Thursday evening, organizers of the K-1 fighting events said. He was 35.

There will be a wake from 7 p.m. today at Azabu-san Zenpukuji Temple in Moto Azabu of Tokyo’s Minato Ward. The funeral will be held at the same temple on Sunday at 1:30 p.m.

Hug was popular in Japan for his high-kicking victories in the K-1 competitions and for his appearances on television variety shows.

He had been admitted to the hospital Saturday. Martial arts fans in Japan first learned of Hug’s illness Thursday, when the organizing office of the K-1 fighting events announced that he was in “very serious condition.”

Hug was a karate World Cup winner in 1992 and runnerup in 1993, and has a record of 36 wins, including 21 knockouts, against nine losses and one draw in martial arts competitions, which also included muay Thai kick-boxing.

Hug, famous in Japan for his “heel drop” kick to opponent’s upper bodies, first won the K-1 grand prix in 1996 and was runnerup in 1997 and 1998.

As well as his success in K-1 circles, Hug gained fame through an instant noodle commercial and his frequent appearances on television.

K-1 was established in 1993 as a new type of tournament sport for athletes from a range of martial arts disciplines, including karate, kick-boxing and kung fu. Hug made his debut in a K-1 tournament in the same year.

Hug, born in Zurich in 1964, was depicted as a hero in “manga” comics and also appeared in an Ultraman movie.