U.S. Open Professional Black Belt Championships

Grandchampion Jeff Smith "Poor No More" Jeff Smith proudly displays awards and cash presented to him by Bob Maxwell. From left to right: Bob Hill, Rick Niemira, Howard Jackson, Skipper Mullins and Marshall Collins.

JEFF SMITH CLOBBERS TOP PRO FIELD in U.S. Open Professional Black Belt Championships Nine of America’s top professionals put their reputations on the line against a tough East Coast contingent. After the smoke had cleared, the U.S. pros reigned supreme, defeating all challengers unanimously.

Marshall Collins
Marshall Collins topples Pat Worley.

OCEAN CITY, MARYLAND: Maryland’s Rob Maxwell and Harvey Hastings of Muang Gyi’s Bando Karate Association were highly successful at their first attempt of pro tournament promotion. The tournament was held in the Ocean City Convention Center during their big exposition and the Karate event was part of the expo which included performances by such stars as Gary U.S. Bonds and Isaac Haves. The many observers from various East Coast Karate organizations who had been previously turned-off by tournaments agreed that the officiating was excellent and the fighting was the best they had ever seen. To insure good officiating and impartiality, Bob Maxwell flew in top officials Chuck Norris, Skipper Mullins, Joe Corley and Muang Gyi. They were supported by top local officials Mitch Babrow, James Roberts, Paul Kwan, Bob Hill, Rick Niemira, and Dale Tompkins. To insure the fans of some outstanding professional Karate matches, eight of America’s top pros were flown in and given an automatic berth in the quarter finals. They were to compete against the eight Last Coast Black Belt winners from an elimination tournament held two days earlier. The prize was $500 for the Grand Champion and it was obvious that the eight seated pros were in better shape than usual since there was money rather than trophies involved. What made the event more interesting, is the fact that there were to he double eliminations, meaning a player could lose a match but still bounce hack and get in the money. There was prize money for the top 4 finishers. The eight invited professionals were Bill Wallace, Fred Wren, Jeff Smith, Darnell Garcia, Glenn Keeney and Pat Worley, all rated in the PK National Top 20. The other three seated pros were of America’s top new breed of contenders for national honors — Howard Jackson of California, Larry Reinhardt of Tennessee, and Marshall Collins of Washington D.C. The challengers were Neil Ehrlich, George Thanos, Bradley Holland, Mike Pfefferstein, Buddy Reyes, John Reminick, and Charley Murray. The battle started with the nationally rated fighters completely dominating the first round. They won all their matches with little opposition. Their years of competitive experience and top technical and physical form proved too much for the scrappy local challengers. Competitors from the area have not had the opportunity to compete very often in open competition as the East Coast has had its problems with Karate tournaments. A new day for East Coast competitors is now dawning, however, as many well-organized, professional tournaments are being planned for that area. When the smoke of the double eliminations had cleared, the four finalists that remained were Jeff Smith, Howard Jackson, Marshall Collins and Pat Worley. Wallace and Wren, the pre-tournament favorites, went down in flames. Glenn Keeney bowed out after losing, to Jackson and Darnell Garcia had to forfeit due to an injury he received from Larry Reinhardt. Jeff Smith was the only player who had gone through the entire evening undefeated. The other finalists, and Collins, had each lost one match. Smith had no easy time of it as Wallace and Wren were among the men he had to defeat and he still had the tough Howard Jackson and powerful Marshall Collins to go.

Jeff Smith
Jeff Smith impales Howard Jackson with a side kick in Match-of-the-Year.

The first semi-final match pitted D.C.’s Pat Worley against superstar Howard Jackson. Jackson has swept the nation recently with an impressive string of victories. He is also the number one fighter from the prestigeous Northwest Region. Howard. who weighs only 152 pounds, is an excellent technician and is equally strong with both hands and feet. His only loss for the day was against Pat Worley who he now had to meet again. Their first match was one of the most exciting of the evening as it went 3 overtimes, each scoring one or two points in the overtime rounds, with Worley winning by one point. The semi-final match was an exact repeat as it went into 3 overtimes. Finally, with the score tied 6-6. Jackson scored a head punch with Worley striking him just a split second too late to give Jackson the match. Next, Jeff Smith was to meet Marshall Collins, a powerful fighter who kicks like a mule. Collins had knocked several players completely through the ropes during the evening’s competition. As the match began, Smith began to put on the pressure (which is his usual style) and came out with a decisive 4-2 victory. Collins seemed to tire close to the end of the match as Smith, who was in unbelievably excellent physical condition, seemed to grow stronger. This meant Smith vs. Jackson for Grand Champion honors with Worley and Collins to battle it out for third. The match for third was more or less a demonstration match as the two weary and battered competitors decided to split third place prize money and take it easy on each other. Collins was awarded 3rd along with the prestige of now being classified as one of America’s best Karate players .

Grandchampion Jeff Smith
“Poor No More” Jeff Smith proudly displays awards and cash presented to him by Bob Maxwell. From left to right: Bob Hill, Rick Niemira, Howard Jackson, Skipper Mullins and Marshall Collins.

Howard Jackson (Vallejo, Calif.) Vs. Jeff Smith (Washington, D.C.) This writer must say that the Smith-Jackson match was the best he had ever seen. These men could not have put on a better physical and technical exhibition had they planned it. During the final match, which also went into overtime, Smith and Jackson must have scored with every technique they executed. Neither player was more than one point ahead of the other the entire match. The score was 4-4 after the regulation 3 minutes were up and went to 6-6 after only less than a minute of overtime with each player scoring furiously. Then in the closing seconds, Smith pulled it out with a reverse punch to Jackson’s head making him the Grand Champion and winner of the coveted $500 prize.

Harvey Hastings (Ocean City, Md.) Vs. Jack Dutcher (Washington, D.C.) The evening was topped off with an exciting kick boxing match. Harvey Hastings, one of the tournament promoters battled it out with another heavyweight, D.C.’s Jack Dutcher. The fight seemed to be going evenly until the second round when Hastings, the local favorite, caught Dutcher with a powerful right hook (see photo) that sent him to the canvass. From then on it was Hastings all the way as Dutcher seemed to have lost his stamina. Harvey Hastings won with a unanimous decision.

early US kickboxing match
Harvey Hastings sends Jack Dutcher to the canvas with a crushing right hook. Chuck Norris officiating.

PROFESSIONAL KARATE congratulates Bob Maxwell and Harvey Hastings for a job well done! The U.S. Open Professional Black Belt Championships was by far the best tournament the East Coast has seen in years. Here’s some more good news for professional competitors and East Coast Karate fans: Ocean City’s expo coordinating committee and city officials were so impressed that they have encouraged Maxwell and Hastings to sponsor a tournament this fall. This time the prize money will be in the thousands.