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|Born||Michael Shawn Barnardo
28 July 1969
Fishhoek, Cape Town, South Africa
|Died||14 February 2012
Muizenberg, Cape Town, South Africa
|Height||1.93 m (6 ft 4 in)|
|Weight||110 kg (240 lb; 17 st)|
|Style||Boxing, Kickboxing, Kyokushin|
|Fighting out of||Wynberg, South Africa|
|Years active||14 (1990–2004)|
|Professional boxing record|
|Boxing record from BoxRec|
|Mixed martial arts record from Sherdog|
Michael "Mike" Bernardo (28 July 1969 – 14 February 2012) was a South African kickboxer and boxer from Cape Town. Bernardo was known as Beru-chan in Japan, where he has taken part in K-1 World GPs since 1994. He holds notable wins over Mirko Filipović, Andy Hug, Francisco Filho, Branko Cikatic, Stan Longinidis and 3 straight wins over K-1 legend Peter Aerts.
Mike Bernardo was of Italian heritage and was born in Fishhoek near Cape Town on 28 July 1969. His surname was actually Barnardo, but most people knew him as Bernardo. When he was younger, bullies often picked on him and beat him up. Bernardo started with Kyokushin to deal with his bullies: "I started karate when I was, 12, 13 years old. The reason why I started was, because as a youngster I was quite tall but not strong. A lot of children at school were in gangs and they would always pick and beat me up because I was a big guy so they could prove their friends they were stronger. I took up martial arts lessons and went back to school and when they started to pick on me again and try to beat me up, I beat them all up."
Being a keen all-round sportsman, Mike Bernardo tried to do as many sports as he could. Besides karate, he started surfing when he was six, played numerous other sports but the one that he liked to play the most was rugby. After he kept getting sent off for fighting, Bernardo knew he had to make the transition from rugby to fighting sports.
It was under the guidance of former boxing champion Steve Kalakoda where Mike Bernardo received his kickboxing training. He met Kalakoda during his compulsory military service where the latter worked as a physical training instructor in the navy. Bernardo quickly established a fearsome reputation as a heavy-hitting knockout fighter. After fights in South Africa, Italy and Russia Bernardo got invited through one of England’s promoters to fight in K-1. He made his debut in the K-1 World Grand Prix 1995 against Andy Hug. Bernardo pulled off the shocking win via third round stoppage.
One of his biggest successes came early in his career. In 1996, just one year into his K-1 run, Mike Bernardo competed in the K-1 World Grand Prix for the second time. Bernardo faced a tough task as he would meet Peter Aerts in the first round of the tournament. Just as he did against Hug one year before, Bernardo scored a big upset with a huge right cross that knocked the former K-1 World Grand Prix champion out. Bernardo made it to the finals that year, ultimately losing to Andy Hug in a great fight. Bernardo’s other major success took place in 2000 when he won the K-1 World Grand Prix in Fukuoka, beating Jörgen Kruth, Andrew Thompson and then Mirko Filipović in the final. He won all three fights that night by KO.
Though he never did win the K-1 World Grand Prix crown, Bernardo proved he could hang with the very best fighters. In his career he faced all of the K-1’s best - including Jerome Le Banner, Andy Hug, Peter Aerts, Ernesto Hoost and Francisco Filho - and at some point in their career, nearly all of them found themselves on the receiving end of a KO. On New Year's Eve of 2004, Bernardo was going to face Nigerian fighter Bobby Ologun in "K1-Dynamite!", but couldn't take part in the event due to a neck injury and retired from K-1.
In addition to his K-1 career, Mike Bernardo made his professional boxing debut on 28 February 1993, against Delius Musemwa. Mike was able to knock out Delius in the third round. In the second bout he lost by TKO for the first round against little lighter opponent Anton Nel on 7. April 1993. After a string of victories he won the vacant WBF title against Dan Jerling by defeating the Czechoslovakian fighter in the sixth round by KO. The bout took place in May 2000. In 2001, on 8 June, Mike Bernardo defended his WBF title against Peter McNeeley in Cape Town. McNeely was knocked out in just 41 seconds. However, due to being inactive for long, Bernardo was stripped of his belt in May 2002.
Mike Bernardo was a deeply religious man. His belief in God played an important role in his fighting career and life: "Before the fight I say a prayer that God keep us both safe. And his will be done. In my heart there's no vengeance, I don't wanna inflict pain just because I want to inflict pain, but because I want to compete against the person that I am competing with. We're both competitors in the same line of work and we're just putting our skills together to see who's better than the other one on the day. My message is that there is hope for all of us, there's hope for every single one. Jesus is the saviour, and he's the way to offer hope, love, and also hope in healing as well. And with him with us we can achieve anything we want to achieve. That is my message."
After Mike Bernardo ended his fighting career he studied and qualified as a clinical psychologist. He had a practice in Lakeside Cape Town where he offered trauma and addiction counseling with troubled youth. He also started a promotional MMA company with his old trainer Steve Kalakoda. He would often be seen enjoying a ride around the Cape Peninsula on his customized "Dragonslayer" Chopper. During the last two years of his life, he battled deep depression and anxiety which was believed to have been caused by him being heavily bullied throughout his childhood and youth. On 14 February 2012, Bernardo was found dead by his family at his apartment in Muizenberg. The cause of his death is uncertain.
Titles and accomplishments
- Professional Kickboxing
- Professional boxing
54 Wins (42 (T)KO's, 12 decisions), 18 Losses, 3 Draws, 1 No Contest
11 Wins (9 (T)KO's, 2 decisions), 1 Loss, 1 Draw
Legend: Win Loss Draw/No contest Notes
- "K-1 fighter profile".
- K-1 Superfighter: This is Mike Bernardo
- "Former SA fighter dies". Sport24. Retrieved 14 February 2012.