IN 1972 EVERETT “MONSTER MAN” EDDY decided to become the karate champion of the world. It was a remarkable decision for a fighter with no national reputation, and doubly remarkable because no tournament structure yet existed on which to pin his hopes. Earlier that year he had made a pilgrimage to California, long considered the martial arts mecca of the U.S.A. If karate superstars were to be found, he reasoned, they would be found in California. Eddy, like most of us, believed what he read. He returned to Detroit disillusioned. “If that was their best shot,” he thought, “I could beat them. I made up my mind that I could and would be number one.” Back in the Midwest, Eddy soon became a superhero/super-villain in his own right, the meantempered heavy who blasted opponents out of the ring with raw, aggressive power. His career in the ring skyrocketed along with his reputation. And, just as he had foreseen, professional sport karate started taking hold. Its development since has been remarkably synchronized with Eddy’s own development as a tournament fighter. Just as he grew tired of his usual rewards — six-foot trophies and bruises — promoters began offering substantial monetary prizes. “I wanted,” Eddy comments, “to bring my family something more than a trophy for my wife to hang dish towels on. I had enough trophies. They weren’t putting bread on the table.” He was often disqualified for making “excessive contact” in matches where he clearly overpowered and outfought his opponents. The development of protective equipment finally allowed him to hit and win. But with protective equipment he still felt handicapped, unfairly restrained to an unrealistic game of tag. With the introduction of fullcontact matches in 1974, the last piece of his puzzle fell into place, and he finally had the structure he had foreseen almost three years before. Eddy is blunt. He expresses his satisfaction with this latest development simply: “In fullcontact, they want you to knock your opponent’s face off. If that’s what they want, that’s what they’ll get.” The first face he may get a chance to knock off may be the pretty face of Joe Lewis, the “Golden Boy” from California. Lewis won the world heavyweight title in Los Angeles in 1974. If Lewis doesn’t retire, Eddy will probably face him as top contender for his new title. Eddy is ready. He beat Lewis in a semi-contact, non-championship bout at the Top Ten Nationals in St. Louis before. the L.A. championships, and punctured a long-standing myth. “It was my lifetime dream to fight Joe,” he recalls. “I was always reading about him, hearing about him everywhere. I was awed by his image. “I faced him, I fought him, I know basically what he likes to use, and his image doesn’t put shudders into my heart. Things he was using, like the skip sidekick, ridge hands, his other “famous techniques,” might work on some people but they’re not going to work on everybody. What he was doing four or five years ago, that was then. But karate today is different. The dudes are getting a lot faster, a lot cagier. “Now don’t get me wrong, Joe is a damned good fighter, and to me he’s a nice guy, but it’s still ‘Joe Lewis this, Joe Lewis that, Joe Lewis has never lost in kickboxing, etc.’ But now I don’t get intimidated by names and reputations. To me it’s background that counts. It will be an altogether different ballgame for Lewis this time. When I get out on that floor there will be no doubt in my mind that I’ll be really ready. I feel it in my mind that I can beat him.” If Lewis retires, however, Eddy must face any one of a number of internationally ranked heavyweights. His assessment of their capabilities pulls no punches: Parker Shelton. “He’s too old to be out there fighting. He’s not as quick as he used to be, he doesn’t train, he’s got a pot belly. Parker is one of those guys who likes to hit and run; he’s not the kind of fighter who wants to stand up there and bang! bang! bang! heads with you. He’ll win tournaments by jumping up into the air and touching you on the head with a back fist or something like that. He’s just not going to make it in full-contact. Now I love contact, and when I hit him I’m going to drive it home. Parker will never make it past the first two rounds.”
Ernie Smith. “I fought Smith in St. Louis. He didn’t impress me that much. I don’t think I’d have too much trouble fighting Ernie. I don’t think he’d give me any real threat.” Johnny Lee, Eddy’s close friend and fellow instructor. “That would be my toughest match. If it really got down to it, it would be Johnny and me for the championship eventually.” Jim Miller. “I fought Miller in Atlanta and St. Louis. I fought him when he was really heavy; I hit him in the stomach and he must have gone three feet off the floor. I mean he was a big dude at the time. He called me a “mean sonofabitch” or something afterwards. But he won — Iwas disqualified for hitting him in the face, excessive contact. He’s mediocre. I don’t see him as a threat, but he’d probably make a good fight.” Ross Scott. “Since I lost to Scott once in Milwaukee people have built him up to a superstar. I wasn’t training, the floor was full of splinters, and there was no contact. I’m not saying he didn’t beat me, because he had some good points in. But I had some good points in, too, but mine weren’t called because I was the hero and he was the underdog and people want to see the underdog win. Boy, everybody in the stands went into an uproar. But then we fought in Maryland and I got his ass so bad … (Eddy chuckles) … not too much of a problem, but he’d be a good fight.” John Bell. “Bell’s OK, but he wouldn’t last too long in contact. He might make it, he might not. He tries to be aggressive at times, but Lewis fought him in St. Louis and he was usin’ him like a dust cloth — he had him all over the floor. I don’t think Bell would be a real threat, not in contact.”
Shorty Mills. “Shorty’s another guy going on past reputation. He’s getting up in age now. He wants to play with you all the time. Shorty’s a pretty good fighter, but I don’t think he could go three rounds full contact. Stamina’s gone.” Franc Brodar. (Eddy laughs derisively.) “I only saw the dude fight one time, on TV, but from what I saw it wouldn’t be no problem. I’m gonna tell you flatly, it wouldn’t be no problem. Lewis just touched the dude, and he fell out like a little kid cryin’. No threat.” Lawrence Huff. “Now, Lawrence is a big dude. I don’t know. That fight would be something to think about. He’s heavy, he’s got good power … Lawrence would probably give me a little bit of trouble. But he’s kind of heavy, he can’t move that fast, he couldn’t last those three rounds. Too much weight to toss around.”
Dave Ruppart (who beat Eddy at the Midwest Four Seasons in non-contact). “He’s moving up fast, getting the breaks now and he’s coming into his own. In about another year or so, he should be up in there (on the top 10 heavyweights list) somewhere. He’s tall, rangy, he’s got good power. He’s comin’ up. He’ll make it one of these days. Eddy works 40 hours a week as a landscaping laborer for the City of Detroit, a job that keeps him outside in harsh weather and requires the expenditure of much physical energy. When he punches out at 4:30, he drives directly to his small dojo to spend at least an hour and a half in solitary training, before his students arrive for the nightly 6:30 class. After a day’s work he often is so tired he doesn’t feel like moving, but once he begins his warming-up exercises his energy and enthusiasm usually drop automatically into place. To lose weight (he weighs 230, is shooting for 220), he wears a nylon sweat suit with drawstring ties around the neck, wrists, waist and ankles.
He begins by running several dozen laps around the dojo, follows with 100 sit-ups, 50 push-ups, weight training with a barbell, and five minutes on the jump rope. He soon has worked up a furious sweat. (Johnny Lee calls him “Sweaty Eddy”.) Next follow 20 to 30 minutes of “constant banging” on the heavy bag with boxing gloves, shadow boxing around the floor, bareknuckle work on the bag, additional sit-ups and push-ups, leg lifts and more running around the dojo. He caps the workout with 15 to 20 minutes more bare-knuckle work on the bag. “All the time I’m working out,” Eddy says, “I have this one thought in my mind — nobody’s going to beat me, nobody.” To build his stamina, he spars continuously for 30 minutes with Johnny Lee or advanced students, with perhaps one five-minute break during the half hour. To further toughen his mind and body to withstand the considerable punishment he may receive in the ring, he pushes the heavy bag out repeatedly and lets it strike him on the face and body on its downward swing, and he pummels himself with heavy boxing gloves. “I’ve been hit a lot of times so I see stars,” he confides, “but the image I try to keep is that if you hit me I’m never going to let you know it. Unless its obvious — like blood. If you hit me a good shot, I’ll stand up there and shake it off before I’ll let you know you hurt me. I don’t like to show pain because that’s when your opponent gets red in his eyes. He sees you’re dazed and he really moves in on you.” Eddy was angered by the lack of conditioning exhibited by most of the competitors on the televised World Championships from L.A., with the exception of Bill Wallace, who Eddy feels fought excellently. “It was mostly a lot of grabbing, pushing and shoving, trying for takedowns. I didn’t like it at all. It was the fighters’ fault. Like Ramon Smith, who pooped out after two rounds. It looked like shit! If you can’t last nine minutes with a guy, if he’s throwing kicks and punches and all you can do is duck and run, you’re not fighting full contact.” But Eddy’s coach, David J. Praim, is still not satisfied with his prize pupil’s overall physical and mental conditioning, has had to prod him into hard training ever since Eddy switched affiliations to Praim’s Karate Institute in 1971. “I told him years ago,” Praim recalls, “that endurance would be the key, but he wouldn’t listen then. Everett doesn’t quite believe me about this yet. But when he starts fighting five rounds of three minutes each — which I think Mike Anderson is going to put it to — he’s got a long, long way to go. “He must really project himself mentally and physically. He can do it if he puts his mind to it, but he’s got to decide to do it on his own.” Praim does not, however, consider Joe Lewis a real threat to Eddy’s climb toward the title. “Lewis is tough,” Praim observes, “but Everett should have no trouble taking him. I mean if they fought ten times Everett should take him maybe seven of the ten. Everett is much more agile than Lewis. He can move, he can jump kick, he can stand there, not run, he can dish it out as well as take it.” But surprisingly, Praim sees a defeat as an important step to victory for the Monster Man. “Most karate players have never had the sensation. of being knocked out,” he explains. “I don’t think they’ll realize what it is until it actually happens. As soon as Everett loses a fight that way, you’ll see a tremendous change in him physically. His training will increase 100 percent over. “It will be really hard for someone to believe that Everett Eddy got knocked out — Everett Eddy, the Michigan Monster Man, 220 pounds, hard-hitting, fantastic physique. This will change a lot of people. And when that realization filters down into the karate structure, people are going to be much tougher, much harder all the way down the line.”
That means that Eddy’s competition will get tougher, a challenge Praim assumes Eddy will meet by getting tougher along with it. Only one fighter on the list of top heavyweights, Praim speculates, has enough toughness, youth and talent on his side to challenge Eddy. “That one gentleman,” suggests Praim, “if he puts his mind to it, can beat Everett. That’s Johnny Lee. “A lot of people underestimate Johnny. He’s not afraid of contact. There’s only a few pounds’ difference between them, but Johnny is six-four, four inches taller than Eddy. Eddy doesn’t have Johnny’s reach, and Johnny’s four years younger than Everett. “All the way around, Johnny does have the ability to beat Everett, that is if he listened to me and trained. Right now, he has no endurance whatsoever. This is his downfall. You see, Johnny does not train, he plays. He fights in tournaments simply on his natural ability because he’s long and tall and has good karate motions.” Last summer, Lee and Eddy both sojourned to California to train with Howard Jackson. Lee “really did a number” on Jackson then, Praim recalls, but in the Top Ten Nationals in St. Louis later that year Jackson turned the tables. “Lee was so tired fighting Jackson he could hardly raise the strength to throw a backfist,” Praim recounts. “He lost $1,000 because he didn’t have endurance.” Praim has devised a training program for Lee, but so far big John has only toyed with it. If he took it seriously, Praim predicts that within six months to a year, “Everett had better watch out, because there comes his teammate sliding side by side. The fight of the season may someday be between Johnny and Everett.”
Johnny Lee describes himself as Eddy’s “closest partner.” They have fought side by side as teammates on the spectacular Detroit All-Stars pro karate team and have often faced each other in the ring as opponents. Whenever they mix it up together at a tournament, one or both of them gets hurt. Both Eddy and Lee believe they will eventually fight each other in a knock-down, drag-out bout for the world professional heavyweight championship. But Lee does not see himself as a challenge to his partner’s climb for the title. “There’s no stopping him; he’s in his prime,” says the outspoken, gregarious Lee. “He is 28 but still fights like a man my age, 24. He’s got a lot of techniques, he’s flexible, he’s fast for a man his size. He’s losing weight, but he was still fast when he weighed up there around 230. “I don’t see anybody stopping him right now. He took Joe Lewis, and Lewis is supposed to be the hottest thing going. It’s not that he’s got such fantastic techniques, it’s that he’s able to use what he’s got. His reputation also works for him. A lot of people have read about him, and they think ‘this guy’s bad,’ and then they’re confronted with him and they don’t know how to fight him. Unless he gets hurt, he can’t be stopped. As long as he’s able to fight, he will win.” Rob Hogan is 32 years old, weighs a rotund 240 pounds and is a good-natured, sociable man who makes his living as a medical technician. For a hobby, Hogan fights in — and wins — karate tournaments. Trained in the Karate Institute by Eddy, he is a mean-looking, aggressive fighter who pushes his opponents mercilessly. When he’s not in the ring, he’s on the sidelines providing first aid to injured competitors, and at one recent tournament he saved a fallen fighter whose heart had stopped beating after a severe blow.
“I guess I’m one of the few fellows in this city close to Eddy,” Hogan reflects. “He’s the kind of dude that makes you respect him. You can’t go in there and fight his belt. He’ll expect you to stand up to him, but if you run from him he’ll go after you, he’ll floor you. “Me, being older, I’ve looked at him as a man more than as a karate star. He’s grown a lot; Everett has matured. The difference between the old and the new Everett Eddy is that the new one thinks. He has developed from a “brutality fighter” to one with technique, finesse.
“His problem for the future is, if he becomes a superstar, can he maintain that maturity?” People close to Eddy’ have noticed subtle changes in the past year. Still capable of volatile bursts of temper when he thinks himself wronged, he controls his response more often than before. Johnny Lee, whom Praim often sends in to “cool out” the monster man, claims its no longer a difficult task. Eddy sees his task as twofold: getting the mind together, all the while bringing the body into harmony with this increased self-awareness. “They say,” he admits, “that everybody’s got to find their own limitations. I’m finding out mine slowly, especially at tournaments I’ve lost. I’ve found out that when I got under pressure my mind went completely blank and the only thing I thought about was getting to the guy, regardless of what he did to me on the way in … I thought only about hitting him, when I should have been thinking, ‘slow down, let him make a mistake, then counter on him!”
But like the man said, he’s changed. “I was fighting Dave Ruppart in Sandusky for $1,000. We went into overtime. Generally, if I was my old self, I would have rushed him and he would have caught me with something coming in and I would have lost the $1,000. But this time I just played it cool, waited him out. Everything he did I tried to counter with two or three more techniques. I won the $1,000.”
The reflective and calculating side of Eddy is often lost behind the “Monster Man” image. But the people close to him recognize that he seems to have two personalities — one that he presents to the tournament public, the other which only close friends and associates are allowed to see. “If you’ll excuse my language,” Johnny Lee confides, “Eddy is a crazy mother . He’s one of the craziest guys I know. We have sat down and we have laughed so hard we’d be cryin’. It’s not so strange for me to see him laugh. “People tell me that Sagittarius (Eddy) and Virgo (Lee) are not compatible, but we are. He’s my closest partner, he’s like a brother to me. We like the same things, horseback riding, motorcycles (Lee recently sold his 750 cc. Honda but Eddy still drives his, a big chromed chopper, wearing a black helmet adorned with horns like a viking’s helmet). “He’s not what he seems to be. It’s more or less like he’s got two personalities. One, he’s this heavy guy walkin’ around the tournament not speaking to anybody. But he’s not doing that to scare anybody, It’s just his way. All he’s thinkin’ about is that match.” Eddy is not often demonstrative. He is a private man who enjoys going off into seclusion to think, to be alone with himself, and his closest friends can’t imagine him getting any more than a temporarily big head if he wins the world title. His own reasons for wanting the title are complex. Of a naturally competitive nature, he exhibits a driving compulsion to be a winner at whatever he attempts. There is no such category as “second best” in his life plan. Struggling to support his wife and child at a job that brings home the bacon (but little else), he cherishes the possibility that he may someday be able to make a good living at a sport he loves. And winning the title may also square an old account. “When I was a kid,” he recalls, “I was always in the papers for stealing cars and stuff like that. I want to give people a good, decent image now, one that I can be proud of.” Eddy is fast approaching the biggest goal of his karate career, perhaps of his life. In the past, his strength has rested in his uncanny ability to pick a target and head straight for it, with no unscheduled stops along the way. In 1972 he set his sights on becoming the karate champion of the world even before such a title existed. Today he is one short and difficult step from reaching that goal. And, nearing the prime of his physical and mental conditioning, he promises to be a formidable opponent for whoever is chosen to face him.