The first time ISKA published its ratings inside a martial arts magazine was in May 1988 Fighter International edition. The world kickboxing rankings represent the standings as of December 1, 1987. The two page feature was sponsored by Coors Beer. At the time the ISKA labeled its sport as fullcontact karate without leg-kicks.
Atomweight (116 Ibs/52.7 kg & below)
World Champion: Rico Brockington, U.S.
1. Ricardo Rodarte, Mexico
2. Paul Villani, Belgium
3. Alan Cunningham, Canada
4. Miguel Montoya, U.S.
5. Ercan Sinasi, W. Germany
6. Remo Fogli, Italy
7. Joey Peoples, U.S.
Flyweight (116.1-120 lbs/52.8-54.5 kg)
World Champion: Carl Sklavos. U.S.
1. Jerry Clarke. U.S.
2. Rod Kei, Canada
3. Randy Ford. U.S.
4. Manuel Moreno. W. Germany (European Champion)
5. Dominique Baiardo. Belgium
6. Darren Evans, England
7. Kadhim Mustafa. Belgium
8. Peter Hiereth. W. Germany
9. Gabriel Damm. W. Germany
10. Jocelyn Plante. Canada
Bantamweight (120.1 -125 Ibs/54.6-56.8 kg)
World Champion: Troy Dorsey. U.S.
1. Felipe Garcia. U.S.
2. Steve Demencuk. U.S. (U.S. Champion)
3. Aldaberto Leal. U.S.
4. David Hamilton. U.S.
5. Lawrence Miera. U.S.
6. David Di Quollo. U.S.
7. Victor Solier. U.S.
8. Mariano Liano. U.S.
9. Dennis Roberts. U.S.
10. Danny Melendez. U.S.
Featherweight (125.1-130 lbs/56.9-59.1 kg)
World Champion: Santae Wilson. U.S.
1. Jerome Canabate, Switzerland
2. Michel Lavallee, Canada (N. American Champion)
3. Jimmy Tapia, U.S.
4. Fred Brazil, U.S.
5. Segy Robles, England
6. Everett Berry, U.S.
7. Donny Parker, U.S.
8. David McGee, U.S.
9. Rudy Lavato, U.S.
10. Ruben Valderez, U.S.
Lightweight (130.1-136 Ibs/59.1-61.8 kg)
World Champion: Pat Romero, U.S.
1. Pete Cunningham, U.S.
2. Jorge Angat, U.S.’ (U.S. Champion)
3. Khalil El-Quandili, France
4. Yoel Judah, U.S.
5. Norris Williams, U.S. (N. American Champion)
6. Michel Rochette, Canada (Canadian Champion)
7. Derrick Edwards, Canada
8. Carl Lavoie, Canada
9. Byron Robinson, U.S.
10. Richard Sylla, France
Lightwelterweight (136.1-142 lbs/61.9-64.5 kg)
World Champion: Cliff Thomas, U.S.
Contenders: 1. Leo Loucks, Canada
2. Tony Rosser, U.S.
3. Thomas Chesterfield, U.S. (U.S. Champion)
4. John Taylor, U.S.
5. Eric Melton, U.S.
6. Lafayette Lawson, U.S.
7. Ken Comer, U.S.
8. Juan Torres, U.S.
9. Juan-Carlos Menacho, Belgium (European Champion)
10. Tony Reed, U.S.
Welterweight (142.1-149 lbs/64.6-67.7 kg)
World Champion: Richard Hill, U.S.
1. Paul Biafore, Canada
2. Curtis Bush, U.S. (N. American Champion)
3. Sam Montgomery, U.S. (U.S. Champion)
4. Fermin Garcia, U.S.
5. Rick O’Kane, U.S.
6. Fabian Nunez, U.S.
7. Chris Brinkerhoff, U.S.
8. Jerry Trimble, U.S.
9. Larry Nichols, U.S.
10. Richard Huggins, U.S.
Lightmiddleweight (149.1-156 lbs/67.8-70.9 kg)
World Champion: (Title Vacant)
1. Dale Cook, U.S. (U.S. Champion)
2. Ducarmel Cyrius, Canada (Canadian Champion)
3. Leroy Taylor, U.S.
4. David Humphries, U.S.
5. Alain Bonamie, Canada
6. Rick Haynes, U.S.
7. Paul Ellis, U.S.
8. Pascal Leplat, France
9. Tony Smith, U.S.
10. Dan Magnus, U.S.
Middleweight (156.1-164 lbs/71.0-74.5 kg)
World Champion: John Longstreet, U.S.A.
1. Christian Battesti, France
2. Johnny Davis, U.S. (U.S. Champion)
3. Martin Friolet, Canada
4. Ferdinand Mack, W. Germany
5. John Moncayo, U.S.
6. Mike Winklejohn, U.S.
7. Ernie Jackson, Canada
8. Max Tremblay, Canada
9. Oliver Miller, U.S.
10. Jerry Smith, U.S.
Lightheavyweight (164.1-172 lbs/74.6-78.1 kg)
World Champion: Jean-Marc Tonus, Switzerland
1. Jean Yves Theriault, Canada (N. American Champion)
2. Bob Thurman, U.S.
3. Rick Roufus, U.S. (U.S. Champion)
4. Rob Kaman, Holland
5. Larry McFadden, U.S.
6. Rich Lopez, U.S.
7. Sylvester Cash, U.S.
8. Ken Graziano, U.S.
9. J.D. Johnson, U.S.
10. William Knorr, U.S.
Cruiserweight (172.1-182 lbs/78.2-82.7 kg)
World Champion: Dennis Alexio, U.S.
1. Don Wilson, U.S.
2. Rob Salazar, U.S. (U.S. Champion)
3. Paul Madison, U.S.
4. Lowell Nash, U.S.
5. Ernest Simmons, U.S.
6. Branimir Cikatic, Yugoslavia
7. Mark Longo, U.S.
8. Laroy Hopkins, U.S.
9. Neil Singleton, U.S.
10. Charles Archie, U.S.
Heavyweight (182.1-195 lbs/82.8-88.6 kg)
World Champion: Dennis Alexio, U.S.
1. James Warring, U.S.
2. Jerry Rhome, U.S.
3. Jeff Hollins, U.S.
4. Darrell Henegan, Canada (Canadian Champion)
5. Dino Homsey, U.S.
6. Don Neilsen, U.S.
7. Curtis Crandall, U.S.
8. Jeff Mondt, U.S.
9. Jeff Buck, U.S.
10. Al Mims, U.S.
Superheavyweight (195.1 lbs/88.7 kg & above)
World Champion: (Title Vacant)
1. Maurice Smith, U.S.
2. Brad Hefton, U.S.
3. Tom Hall, U.S. (U.S. Champion)
4. John Jackson, U.S.
5. Steve Tremblay, Canada
6. Anthony Elmore, U.S.
7. Ken Wiseman, U.S.
8. Bruno Vezzuti, France
9. Ray Williams, U.S.
10. Carl McCalop, U.S.
USA: Jim Butin, Scott Coker, Truman Irving, Terry Nye, Paul Maslak, Walt Mason, Peter Murphy, Bill Packer, Don Rodriguez, Hilary Sandoval, Mike Sawyer, Frank Thiboutot, Tony Thompson, Karyn Turner, John Worley.
CANADA: Ron Day, Mick McNamara, Paul Renaud, Victor Theriault.
EUROPE: Jerome Canabate (CH), Carlos Conde (SPA.), No Dalbo (BELG.), Michael Deubner (GERM.), Ennio Falsoni (FRA.), Bellettini Gianni (ITLY.), Mike Haig (ENG.), Bill Judd (ENG.), Terry Kinsella (IRE.), Arild Knudsen (NOR.), Phil Mayo (ENG.), Jean-Paul Maillet (FRA.), Alan Mortlock (ENG.), Olivier Muller (CH), Josef Patterer (AUST.), Juan Pinilla (BELG.), Carlos Ramjanali (PORT.), Peter Spallek (GERM.), Rob Stekelenberg (HOL.).
Commentary by Mike Sawyer:
In kickboxing circles, a major topic of discussion has always been — and always will be — which are the best of the sport’s currently active fighters? Which can lay claim to the subjective title of “great” fighters? And what really constitutes such a label? Everyone has their own theory, and of course, THE FIGHTER is no exception. To us, the title of “great” implies that a fighter scores very highly in each of the following categories: 1. Natural Ability. It’s either there or it isn’t. The ability to deliver blows a little faster, a little harder, and seemingly always at the right time. The ability to absorb punishment with less effect than other fighters. Natural ability is probably part genetic, part coincidence. But one thing is for sure: every great fighter has it. 2. Technical Skill. The channeling of natural ability into useful technique takes many hours of the proper kind of training. It’s not carved in stone, but most great fighters have a solid background in the martial arts, including schooling by a knowledgeable trainer on the specialized delivery of karate kicks in the kickboxing ring, and the fusing of karate and boxing hand skills. Without this, even the best natural ability will never be fully developed into a useful fighting style. 3. Desire and Instinct. Good fighters dig deep to overcome their opponents. Great fighters dig deep and overcome the good fighters, even when they seem to be at a disadvantage in other areas. You know the scenario: a great champion, despite being hurt early on in the match, seems not to understand the concept of surrender, and comes back to simply “out-gut” his tormentor, wearing him down on sheer mental energy, if that’s all that’s left.This determination to excel, along with the proverbial “killer instinct” that calls for no quarter and gives none, is one of the most crucial factors that separates the greats from the could-bes. 4. Consistency among top opponents. Consistency means preparedness, and a great fighter is prepared — always. Being prepared means training, and training means discipline. No athlete in any sport excels without personal discipline, and kickboxing is certainly no exception. Great fighters can still lose matches, but it’s very seldom because they haven’t trained. So here goes. Here are our cream of the crop. Our deadly halfdozen. Those who will rock your socks and rattle your chops. Our pick of the best of the best, from the lightest weight to the heaviest.
TROY DORSEY (Bantamweight, Dallas, TX) — A standout on the list because of his age. Dorsey has packed extraordinary accomplishment into his 25 years. A year ago Dorsey would not have qualified for this list, having just lost by decision to Felipe Garcia in his first bid for a world title (his only loss to date). But since then he has soundly beaten Garcia in a rematch for the ISKA bantamweight crown, and, perhaps even more impressive, has stopped both Santae Wilson, the current ISKA featherweight champ, and Steve Demencuk, the young sensation and U.S. bantam champion, who many thought was the division’s only real chance of dethroning Dorsey. With a fearful nonstop, no mercy style, and a 25-1, 17 KO record, Dorsey may reign for years to come.
CLIFF THOMAS (Light welterweight, El Paso, TX) — Possibly the most active champion in the sport, “Magic” Thomas is accustomed to defending his ISKA world lightwelter title up to four times a year. Thomas’ career took off in 1980 when he captured the old PKA superlightweight title by stopping the previously undefeated Gordon Franks and then successfully defending to the superb Paul Vizzio. Moving up in weight after losing a rematch with Vizzio, Thomas has been nearly unbeatable since, and at one point in 1983 held both the PKA lightweight and light welterweight titles, after knocking out Tommy Williams. Known as one of kickboxing’s heaviest hitters, Thomas also owns KO wins over Thomas Chesterfield, Norris Williams, Byron Robinson, Lafayette Lawson, Dickie Jordan, and Robert Visitacion.
ROB KAMAN (Light heavyweight, Amsterdam, HOLL) — Although his career continues to be surrounded in controversy (Why hasn’t he fought Theriault? What if he had to fight without leg kicks? Why his continued runins with the law?), one thing remains constant: Kaman is the most feared fighter in the sport, and has been for several years. Despite only one appearance in the U.S. (an early KO of John Moncayo in 1983), Kaman’s reputation spread to this country in 1984, and his European promoter, Thom Harinck, has found few North Americans jumping at the chance to meet the WKA champion. In 1986, Larry McFadden and Ernest Simmons both took the dare, and both succumbed to knockouts. (Simmon’s legs were reportedly so battered by Kaman’s low kicks, allowed under WKA rules, that he couldn’t resume kick training for nearly six weeks). The European fighters are even less inclined to mix it up with Kaman, and he now seems to face a problem very familiar to Jean-Yves Theriault — finding quality opponents at a reasoneble price. JEAN-YVES THERIAULT (Light heavy-weight, Ottawa, Canada) — If Theriault is not as feared as Kaman, it is only because his opponents aren’t fully aware of what they’re getting into. Theriault is the consummate professional; a natural who has turned his talent into skill, learned from mistakes, and who never — ever — enters a fight unprepared. The most-often heard criticism of Theriault — that he dodges the top opponents, and that he can’t kick — seem patently untrue.
Over his decade-long career, the “Canadian Iceman” has defeated the top contenders of each era, including Bob Biggs, Dan Macaruso, Rodney Batiste, and Kerry Roop in the early eighties, and Bob Thurman, Larry McFadden, Laroy Hopkins, and Paul Madison, among others, in recent years. A 1984 bout with Don Wilson ended in a controversial draw. As to his technical skills, his 15 knockouts with kicks (from a 57-3-1, 52 KO overall record), prove that although he may not be fancy with his feet, he’s effective. Now 32, Theriault needs, however, to meet a top opponent such as Kaman, Wilson, or Jean-Marc Tonus soon in order to keep his reputation intact.
DON WILSON (Cruiserweight, Los Angeles, CA) — During the last five years of his ten-year career, Don “The Dragon” Wilson has been the subject of the most hype and speculation since Bill Wallace and Benny Urquidez, and he qualifies now as more of a “living legend” than any other active fighter. Although Wilson’s exposure level suffered during the early eighties from the old PKA/WKA political wars (Wilson’s promoter and brother, Jim, aligned himself with the WKA, while the PKA controlled virtually all domestic television deals), his fighting ability increased steadily, and he became well known in the Orient from a series of overseas bouts against Japanese and Thai champions. In 1984 he gained great notoriety in Canada from his 11-round bout with Jean-Yves Theriault, which, although officially a draw, many ringside observers felt Wilson had won. Either way, Theriault has not been anxious for a rematch. Currently 57-4-2, Wilson has had difficulty, as have Theriault and Kaman, in finding quality opponents in recent years.
DENNIS ALEXIO (Cruiserweight, Vacaville, CA) — A little-known fighter until 1983, Dennis Alexio has established himself in the last four years as both a bonafide sports personality, however, controversial (he nick-names himself both “The Terminator” and “America’s Nightmare,” and lists his favorite sports personality as himself), and as one of the undeniably superior athletes in his sport. His 29-1 25 KO record includes exceptional wins, in just the last 15 months, over Lowell Nash, Mike Winklejohn, Larry McFadden, Jeff Hollins, and Al Mims. His macho attitude and Latinesque good looks, combined with his brutal, no-surrender fighting style, have also made him the closest thing kickboxing currently has to a television star, as evidenced by the upswing in audience ratings when his fights are shown on ESPN. Currently hold-ing both the ISKA cruiserweight and heavyweight world titles, Alexio, at 27, could dominate those divisions for some time to come. However, as his detractors accurately point out, Alexio has not fought another superstar since his 1983 decision loss to Don Wilson.