Top 10 Nationals 1973

TOP 10 NATIONALS: Howard Jackson Triumphs Over National All Star Field Canada’s Daniel Richer Makes Successful Professional Debut

Over 30 of North America’s top 20 nationally ranked fighters and contenders plus 50 regional champions battled for Karate’s coveted “Gold Cup,” a trip to Las Vegas, $1,000 in cash, and a starting position on the United States Professional Team. They will compete against the European team this Fall in Paris, Berlin, or Vienna.

St. Louis
Grand Champion Howard Jackson receives the Golden Cup and 1,000 US$. From left to right: Chuck Norris, Mike Anderson, Howard Jackson, Fred Fren and Byong Yu.

THE TURNOUT WAS AWESOME! St. Louis’ Forest Park College looked like a “Who’s Who convention for North American Karate stars and leaders. Never before in the history of Karate have so many of North America’s top Karate players met under one roof in individual competition. This year’s Top 10 Nationals was sponsored by PROFESSIONAL KARATE magazine with publisher Mike Anderson and St, Louis’ Fred Wren directing the event. The tournament was a complete sell-out with only standing room tickets available for the finals. The sell-out crowd was the direct result of 15 radio and television shows that interviewed the participating stars like Tadashi Yamashita and Al Dacascos prior to the big event. The Top 10 Nationals has a reputation for fielding the toughest Black Belts in the nation. This year’s. Star cast was twice as formidable as the year before. An estimated 150 Black Belts came just to watch and, from the first round on, one could see that no participant was even close to being a “slouch.” Most of America’s top coaches and national ex-champions were present for the forming of the Professional Karate Referees Association and to assure North America’s top Karate players of the officiating they deserved. Amongst the officials present were past International and world champions like Chuck Norris, Joe Lewis, Mike Stone, Allen Steen. Pat Burleson, Al Gene Caraulia, Ron Marchini, Jim Harrison and Takayuki Mikami. Besides this impressive group of “World Class” champions, America’s very top Karate minds, Senseis, organization leaders and retired champions were strongly represented as well. All gathering in the greatest representation of American Karate ever, in a successful attempt to bring unity and fair play to the professional sport Karate world. This year’s event was highlighted by the use of Jhoon Rhee’s new SAFE-T-PUNCH and SAFE-T-KICK equipment which allowed the fighters to make controlled contact. There must have been some misunderstanding about the contact rule as the referees rarely called a controlled technique. so the players started going for the knock-out. Al-though hard contact was used all day, the SAFE-T equipment reduced injuries to a bare minimum. Many players were dropped for the count, but recovered without a scratch. In the first round of the eliminations. the fans went wild as some of the greatest matches in history were in full force with the players displaying superb technique. As the rounds progressed, however, the fighters began to fight strictly with their hands. They simply felt insecure with SAFE-T-KICK as 90 per cent of them never had a chance to practice with it. By round 4 it looked like a knock-down, drag-out boxing match with very few kicks being thrown. Adding to the spectator’s enjoyment was the use of the new professional rules which were drawn up at the Professional Referees seminar the day before, Unfortunately, many rules were misinterpreted as the referees had no time in which to learn them perfectly and confusion often prevailed. One of the rules states that if a fighter steps on, or out of the ring, for any reason whatsoever, his opponent gets a point. This rule was drawn up to facilitate action and keep spectators from falling asleep when “runners- are engaged in a match. The rule did facilitate action and the fans loved it. The strategy really changed and, to the dismay of some of the fighters, but to the delight of the fans, many players tried to push or kick the other out of the ring. This is one new rule a spectator can understand and the sell-out crowd went wild when someone was kicked out of the ring. To summarize the new professional innovations, one must mention that the players had to undergo severe conditions and step into an entirely different world of combat. They had to do this without physical or mental preparation. But. this was the Nationals and they were professionals and most of them adapted to the rules and equipment in professional style.

Official Hiostory of Sportkarate
Excerpt from “The official history of karate in America” by Al Weiss.

Kata competition draws nation’s best It must be pointed out that the Kata competition was just as formidable as the fighting. The only top Kata competitor in the country who seemed to be lacking was Indiana’s Bob Bowles, who was in Europe on a U.S.K.A. incentive trip. This was truly the tournament of champions in Kata competition. Amongst the Kata entries present were Chuck Merriman, Hidy Ochiai, Byong Yu, Malia Dacascos, Eric Lee, Steve Fischer, Pat Worley, Jerry Piddington, Preston Baker, Ray Nickel, Daniel Richer, and Demetrius Havannas. After close eliminations and play-offs, San Francisco’s unbeatable Eric Lee prevailed as Number One, Lee performed an elegant Kung-Fu Kata. Second went to the great Byong Yu, third to Master Hidy Ochiai and California’s Steve Fischer, one of America’s most versatile Karate players, finished fourth.

Demonstrations feature America’s masters.
The Top 10 Nationals is highlighted each year by several first class professional demonstrations. Top Masters from the Japanese, Korean, Okinawan, and Chinese systems are scheduled each year so everyone present can learn to accept the beauty and effectiveness of all the different styles. This year’s show began with the Kung-Fu Lion ceremony by Al Dacascos and Eric Lee who performed to the beat of live oriental music and under strobe lights. The Lion Dance is an ancient Chinese Kung-Fu ceremony that was performed before each gathering to ward off evil spirits and bring good luck and happiness to the following event. Takayuki Mikami, three-time All-Japan Champion, represented Japanese Karate with a Kata exhibition; then capped the evening with a one-step sparring and free sparring match against Korean stylist Byong Yu. The fans loved it as two of the world’s greatest fighters from totally different origins and systems, demonstrated in harmony. If the world’s other leaders would follow the examples of these two greats, world unity in Karate may evolve. Funny, but it seems like America’s, and the world’s, “arm chair” senseis are the ones who have all the problems and cannot get together. The Masters who really perform and prove their ability seem to get along fine with each other and the public. They do not need to hide behind a cloak of words. New York’s Hidy Ochiai, 7th Dan, was next on the Japanese demo agenda. Mr. Ochiai’s system, Washin-Ryu, incorporates breathing Katas. After performing the Sanchin Kata and demonstrating various feats of muscle control, Mr. Ochiai drew a standing ovation from the sell-out crowd as Tadashi Yamashita broke five 2-inch concrete blocks with a sledge hammer that were placed on Ochiai’s stomach as he lay on a sharp bed of nails. Next came Korea with Byong Yu. After Mr. Yu’s free sparring exhibition with Takayuki Mikami, he performed an awesome jump-kicking and breaking demonstration, breaking several bricks with various hand techniques. Chicago’s Jimmy Jones, the man who popularized strobe light demonstrations, performed a Kata under the strobes. Karateka who see no beauty in Kata change their minds quickly after seeing them under strobe lights. Jimmy Jones is fast rising as one of America’s top coaches as he has produced at least 15 Black Belt champions, amongst them Preston Baker, Joel Ward, Shorty Mills, Otis Baker, Bob Seaberry and Brad Hughes, who have all become regional and national contenders in record time.

Jim Harrison was next with a self-defense demo. His demonstration, defense against knife attacks, appeared to be true-to-life, as he literally destroyed his assailant. His punchee was K.C.’s Chuck Northcott who had to pause between attacks to get himself revived. Last, but not least, was “The Great Yamashita.” He demonstrated every conceivable weapon known to Okinawan Shorin-Ryu, Tadashi Yamashita seems always to be motivated by the presence of a large crowd and was really in top form in his demos. A new innovation was added to Mr. Yamashita’s famous sword demonstration. As he cut the watermelon from Fred Wren’s bare stomach blindfolded, panic prevailed as they effectively pretended that Wren was actually cut. Needless to say, the whole place was in pandemonium and everyone, completely “freaked out.” It took the audience, promoters and cameramen three days to recover from severe shock.

Turberville dominates women’s division
The Top lO Nationals has not only a reputation for fielding the country’s top Black Belt male competitors, it draws America’s top female competitors as well. This year they all seemed to be in full force. Top female Black Belts like Phyllis Everts and Joy Turberville of Texas, Jenice Miller of Louisiana, and Malia Dacascos of Denver were just a small segment of a powerful female contingent on hand. Joy Turberville of Dallas, one of America’s top female fighters of the late sixties made her comeback with an impressive first place win. Tulsa’s prominent Marsha Owens was second followed by two of America’s very toughest female fighters Phyllis Everts of Texas and Bernice Downs of Illinois who both placed 3rd.

Top Ten Nationals 1973
Grand Championship tables

Jackson wraps up lightweight title
The lightweight, as well as all the other divisions, was loaded with talent. In this division and all the others, no one even drew one easy match. Canada’s. Ray Niekel stormed over several opponents until being stopped by St. Louis’ young Carl Nelapovitz in round three. Nelapovitz ended his day with a third place finish along with Rhode Island’s tough Dennis Passaretti who really romped on his opponents all day using aggression and solid contact to his advantage. In the Top 10 Nationals, two third places are awarded instead of a 3rd and 4th. Enter Daniel Richer pronounced Ree-shay. It is important that his name is pronounced correctly as it is one you’ll be hearing for a long time. Coming from Montreal, this tough French Canadian kept not only the spectators, but all the players and coaches awe-stricken the entire day. When Richer got up to fight, the other rings stood still, with everyone giving his matches full attention. Richer has fast, powerful kicking techniques that are second to none. Some said there were kickers as fast, but none as powerful. He seemed to he in a class of his own as he dispensed with most opponents with ease. Then came Oregon’s Dan Anderson who battled Rich er in one of the most spectacular matches of the season with Richer winning in overtime by one point. With the tough Dan Anderson out of the way, Richer still had Dacascos on the line with Howard Jackson on deck. A win against Al Dacascos, one of pro Karate’s smartest fighters, would really earn Richer a place in the national spotlight. In the closing seconds, with the score tied 2-2, Richer executed a front leg heel kick followed by a roundhouse with the same leg that struck Dacascos in the head practically turning him a complete flip and knocking him out. Rich er was disqualified. He did, however leave a great impression on everyone he fought (no pun intended). Dacascos, recovering from the Richer match, went on to eliminate Nelapovitz, another top 10 kicker, to win a spot in the finals. Meanwhile, lightweight Howard Jackson had a rough trip to the finals as he also drew one top pro after another including Chicago’s Torn Malpede and Ken Kolodziej, the AKA National Lightweight champion. After a bruising, nip and tuck semi-final match with New England’s No. 1 fighter, Dennis Passaretti, Howard Jackson then had to face Dacascos in the lightweight finals. Al Dacascos seemed to be slowed by injuries. He had been hospitalized with pneumonia just 2 weeks before, was still slightly dazed by Richer’s head kick, and re-dislocated his shoulder in this match with Jackson. Dacascos never gave up and finished in 2nd place behind champion Howard Jackson, 4-2.

Kijewski repeats as middleweight champ
The middleweight division had to be the toughest of all time. Rarely has a whole tournament, much less a single division, had so much power in it. Bill Wallace, Byong Yu, Darnell Garcia, Demetrius Havannas, Pat Worley, Bob Burbidge, Flern Evans, Steve Kijewski, Owen Wat-son, Preston Baker, Joe Corley, Mark Payne, and Danny Esquival were amongst the established pros in this division. To add to the prestige of this All Star-packed division were some of America’s new rising pros like Florida’s Harold Roth who lost a close one to Burhidge, Ohio’s fast Nate Caner who many feel will make national headlines after getting more experience, and Atlanta’s Pat Duncan. New England’s Ron Martin also made his national debut in this division. His toughness and ability further added to the reputation of the new New England contingent who seem to he cleaning up all over the country. Oklahoman Tony Cooper proved his ability by being edged by Darnell Garcia after making it all the way to the quarter finals. Also making their first appearance in professional competition were Ed Moise of New Orleans and Charles Henry of Atlanta, both strong regional contenders. Everyone devoted their attention to Bill Wallace. Many believed Wallace would be in trouble as he could no longer use the boundary line to his advantage. Wallace stunned everyone as he proved he could be aggressive as well. Time after time he wallopped his Opponents with the SAFE-T-KICK to the extreme delight of the crowd. Wallace re-injured his leg in a match with Pat Worley in the quarter finals and had to drop out. Byong Yu, after dropping a couple of opponents to their knees with hard contact, became ill and had to forfeit in the third round. Dynamic Demetrius Havannas of Dallas and Bob Burbidge of Los Angeles had their first replay of their historic match in Dallas when they were rated as the best two brown belts in America. They fought for the brown belt championship at the U.S. Championships with Havannas narrowly grabbing an overtime victory. Burbidge had previously been undefeated. This time it was the other way around as Burbidge edged Havannas in overtime 3-2. Burbidge really had a rough time of it as he also had to fight Chicago’s Hem Ev-ans as well. Evans had a recent string of Grand Championship victories second to none. Burbidge beat Evans 3-2 in one of the day’s most exciting matches. New York’s Owen Wat-son seemed to really dominate his matches. He looked like a sure shot for a finals position. Wat-son is one of America’s top new professional stars who has the power to go along with his technical ability. He was eliminated in a controversial matchwith Bob Burbidge one round before the money. The controversy occurred because Wat-son apparently ran his opponent out of bounds on two different occasions but was not rewarded with a point. The protest was made too late and Wat-son accepted the disputed call with the grace and sportsmanship of a true champion. Watson has been competing now out of the New York City area and has steadily been building a powerful national reputation. He must be classified amongst New York City’s “Big Three.” To make a long story short, after the preliminary smoke had cleared, California’s Bob Burbidge and Darnell Garcia, D.C.’s Pat Worley, and Chicago’s Steve Kijewski, the middleweight champion in 1972, survived to the semi-finals. Worley beat Garcia and Kijewski beat Burbidge in close rough and tumble matches leaving Worley and Kijewski, for the second year in a row, to vie for the middleweight title. Pat Worley was really determined to pull this one out after losing to Kijewski the year before. Kijewski, one of America’s most consistent pro tournament winners, pulled it out in overtime 3-2 to become the Middleweight Champion for the second consecutive year in this tournament’s toughest, star-studded division.

Jeff Smith wins light heavyweight crown
The light-heavyweight division was no pushover either being packed with Top 20 and national champions. As a matter of fact, it was almost as tough as middleweight as four of America’s Top 20 nationally rated players, Jeff Smith, John Natividad, Jerry Piddington, and Jim Butin, were in it. These men are also rated at the very tops of their prospective regions. They were joined by such nationally prominent stars as California’s Steve Fischer, Memphis’ new sensation Larry Adams, the Southwest’s fastest rising star James Stevens, and Florida’s rough Jack Swift, who, if he competed more in National level competition, has the ability to make the Top 20. Lightheavyweight competition started off with a real boom—Jeff Smith against James Stevens. Many felt that Stevens would easily make the finals, but, unfortunately drew 5th rated Jeff Smith in round one. Stevens, up for this event, just came off a big Grand Championship victory over 4th ranked Roy Kurban in Waco, Tx. Many felt the division title would be determined in this round. After a dynamic battle, with both fighters executing unbelievably sensational techniques, Smith pulled out the victory, 4-3. Larry Adams of Memphis, the sparring partner of Bill Wallace and one of America’s top small tournament winners, beat his region’s top rated fighter and the nation’s 12th best, Jerry Piddington, in round one. This victory alone put this fast rising Kang Rhee student in the national spotlight. In round two California’s Steve Fischer, a nationally prominent star, lost out to 17th ranked Jim Butin in a close one. Battle after battle put Butin, Natividad, Smith, and Adams in the semi-finals. In close victories, Butin heat Adams and Jeff Smith heat California’s No. 1 fighter who is also rated 9th in the nation, John Natividad in the battle of the Top 10’s. In the final match, Jeff Smith edged James Butin 4-3 to win the prestigeous light-heavyweight National title for the second year in a row.

Johnny Lee crowned heavyweight king
The lightest heavyweight, California’s Ralph Allegria, weighed in at 187 pounds. His first match was against this division’s heaviest, Lawrence Huff of Athens, Georgia, who tipped the scales at 275. Huff has earned a national reputation as he came out of nowhere and has competed in every major tournament from Maryland to California this season. Huff is tough and very agile for his size. He should make the Southeast’s Regional Top 10 very shortly. Allegria pulled out a hard-earned 4-2 victory. Chicago’s top entries, Joel Ward and George Brockman, both consistent champions, were upset in round one by America’s top 2 rated hard contact fighters, Larry Whitener and Vance Mc-Neal. Tennesse’s Larry Reinhardt, one of the nation’s top pros was upset by Detroit’s new powerhouse Johnny Lee. And, one round before the finals, New Orlean’s Jim Miller, another national “Honorable Mention” fighter pulled out a close one in a rough match with Larry Whitener 5-4. Miller always seems to come through in the big ones as he won the Texas Tournament of Champions in October. This placed Allegria, Lee, Miller, and none other than Detroit’s “Monster Man,” Everett Eddy, in the semi-finals. In a pre-tournament interview with local television stations, a group of 5 prominent coaches all had favored Eddy to walk away with the Heavyweight crown. Everett Eddy is rated by many as the undisputed top heavyweight in the country. In semi-final action, Jim Miller upset Eddy and Johnny Lee topped favored Ralph Allegria. This string of upsets just solidifies the fact of the abundance of national contenders in this country because on any given day Allegria and Eddy can beat anyone in the country as they have proved many times in the past. In the final match that went down to the wire, Detroit’s smiling Johnny Lee defeated Miller for the Heavyweight crown.
Grand Championship Semi-Finals Champions Howard Jackson of California, Steve Kijewski of Chicago, Jeff Smith of Washington, D.C., and Johnny Lee of Detroit would now determine who would be $1,000 richer and win a spot on the United States Team. Each division first place winner already won a free trip to Las Vegas, worth over $500, and the right to be seated in the finals of Mike Stone’s National Four Seasons. Second places won $100 each with each third place winner receiving $50 for their efforts.

Ken Knudson, the Top 10 Nationals’ two-time Grand Champion could not defend his title due to a recent operation. He was still on hand, however, as his whole Black Belt team was present and accounted for The finals were covered by 4 television stations and seven 16 mm. movie cameras were also at ringside for the filming of various documentary movies and TV shows. An excellent job of public relations work was done by St. Louis’ Joan Adler who had arranged over two hours of television time for the Nationals prior to Saturday’s show. The first match pitted Vallejo, California’s Howard Jackson against Chicago’s Steve Kijewski with Jackson pulling off a 3-2 win. Next, light-heavyweight champion Jeff Smith met heavyweight Johnny Lee who fought each other to a 3-3 tie down to the final seconds. Lee charged and Smith executed a jump punch that hit Lee squarely in the face, hut, as Smith landed, his foot was out of bounds. This gave Lee the point and the victory.

Grand Championship Finals HOWARD JACKSON (Vallejo, California) VS. JOHNNY LEE (Detroit, Michigan)
Both fighters, weary and exhausted, could not seem to muster up the energy to throw a kick, so the finals turned into a real slugfest. Both fighters striking each other time after time squarely in the face. Howard Jackson, 40 pounds lighter than his heavyweight adversary just dug his back foot into the ground to keep from being knocked out of hounds, and flailed away. Johnny Lee, who never once let a big friendly smile fade from his face, kept putting on the pressure. After three grueling rounds and a day of battle after battle of America’s top Karate professionals, Howard Jackson, the “California Flash,” pulled out a 6-4 victory over Johnny Lee to become the 1973 Top 10 National Champion and winner of tournament Karate’s biggest cash price in history.


JEFF SMITH – Representing Jhoon Rhee
JACK SWIFT – Representing Mike Foster
OWEN WAT-SON – Representing Thomas La Puppet

Professional Karate
This account was published inside Fall 1973 issue of Professional Karate magazine.