During the 1980s, the STAR System kickboxing world ratings challenged the major sanctioning bodies to behave more responsibly with their world rankings. We rejected the politics of any sanctioning body that would low-rate fighters who fought for a rival organization. Our ratings were independent: We had no financial interest in the advancement of any fighter or promoter. Our ratings were evenhanded: We rated top contenders regardless of sanction. And the STAR ratings were ever-present: We were syndicated into 15 magazines around the world.
1 Authenticated Ring Records
1.1 Qualifying Competition2 Wikipedia Slams, Jeers, Smears and Misconstruances
1.2 Changed Outcomes
2.1 Wikipedia and Hollywood Martial Artists
We also won the ratings argument: Two of the three major sanctioning bodies for professional kickboxing, WKA and KICK, soon recognized the STAR System as their official ratings source. The third major sanction, the PKA, went out of business; and their successors at ISKA introduced a more open-minded approach to their organization. I shut down the STAR System at the dawning of the mixed martial arts movement because I believed our ratings had accomplished their purpose and because of my other business and family obligations.
Still, the STAR System documented nearly a decade of major kickboxing fight outcomes, frequently archiving the official WKA and KICK scorecards from important events. More than 250 live ring observers reported fight outcomes to us from around the globe. Although we turned over our world title documentation to preeminent martial arts author John Corcoran – a STAR System co-founder, current editor of Martial Arts Success and authority whose reference books we heartily endorse – our files still contain hard-to-find ring histories for many noteworthy champions.
This website responds to numerous requests from kickboxing trailblazers to make the STAR records public. Unfortunately, the STAR System had been maintained on a now-antique personal computer using giant floppy disks. When STAR ceased operations, we printed out paper copies of all event results and stored them, together with any original scorecards and photos, in banker boxes in a storage space that later flooded during a heavy rain.
The STAR records were destroyed. End of story. I thought.
Recently I bumped into a friend from the old days who made me aware that, absent access to our historic STAR ring record compilations, several world champions have been unfairly slammed on Wikipedia. Worse. A few wikipedians cited quotes I said or features I authored to spin their inflammatory speculation. I felt dumbstruck … like Rip van Winkle awakening from a time warp.
My life has been elsewhere and I sincerely did not know.
I immediately tore through my storage space once more and discovered in one lucky waterproof bin my complete set of original STAR System monthly ratings, world-rated bout outcomes, sports columns and, oh yes, the STAR System’s compilation of ring records for many major champions from the STAR era.
Authenticated Ring Records
The startup of modern kickboxing as a sport was messy. Rules, equipment, sanctions, weight limits, division names – even the name of the sport itself – all changed more rapidly than a Wikipedia entry. Fighters would sometimes learn the bout rules from the referee at ring center moments before the opening bell. Official records were collected at most events, but few survived beyond the next day. Sports reporting was spotty and at best uneven. More precisely, because martial arts magazines had a two-to-three month lead time to the newsstand, the exact calendar dates of sports events were routinely removed from published accounts to prevent the magazine issue from being perceived as stale.
Often, however, the event was not covered at all.
Of course, you would think, we could always ask the fighters themselves and compare notes. But those of us who have had the privilege of discussing ring records directly with the champions quickly learn that, with very few exceptions, the fights have melded together in their memories. Typically, they met opponents only briefly before and after their bouts. How could anyone recall exact names, dates and outcomes? Professional fighters remember specific incidents more often than specific details.
Within this muddle, the STAR System attempted in the 1980s to reconstruct and verify the early ring records of major champions before a full decade had yet passed. We located old event posters and matched them to undated published accounts. We queried promoters and sanctioning officials. We also asked managers and trainers and, of course, interviewed the fighters.
We employed a method of “equalization findings” to distinguish between amateur and professional bouts, to exclude bouts from other related combative sports as well as to arbitrate any peculiarities that occurred in the unruly era of changing rules and uneven standards for competition. By arbitrate, by the way, we mean categorize bouts for the historic record, for comparative statistics, and for the STAR world ratings.
Contests included in the STAR kickboxing records featured paid professional competitors who fought for a knockout or multi-judge decision with kicks and punches, over timed rounds with rest periods, where hit-and-hold techniques were prohibited and round judging was based on the international standard for overall effectiveness. Championship eliminations usually followed a system of world-ranked contenders and mandatory title defenses. Qualifying competition consisted of:
- Professional Kickboxing – Bouts contested inside a boxing ring with kicks and punches, wearing boxing gloves, usually over 5 up to 12 rounds.
- Professional Full-Contact Karate – Bouts from the 1970s startup period of the sport in which the rules and look of the sport changed frequently. Competitors sometimes contested on open mats wearing Safe-T-Punch and Safe-T-Kick equipment and often were required to throw a minimum number of kicks per round.
- Boxe Francaise Savate – Bouts contested inside a boxing ring, wearing boxing gloves and soft gym shoes or footpads, typically over 5 rounds.
Contests deliberately excluded from the STAR kickboxing records were:
- Amateur Full-Contact Karate or AmateurKickboxing – Bouts in which unpaid, inexperienced competitors contested usually over 2-3 rounds, often in specialized tournaments or as athletic commission-required filler bouts on the undercard of a professional main event. The STAR System regarded amateur as separate from professional.
- Muay Thai – Bouts contested with aggressive clinch-fighting where hit-and-hold techniques dominate, and the scoring favors classic Thai fighting techniques. The STAR System regarded muay Thai as a separate sport.
- Boxing – Bouts contested inside a boxing ring with punches only, wearing boxing gloves. The STAR System regarded boxing as a separate sport.
- Point Karate – Matches contested by scoring single-shot kicks or punches to legal target areas as immediately confirmed by judges, while pausing the competition, usually conducted on an open floor over 2-3 continuous rounds within a tournament format. Knockouts constituted a foul and resulted in forfeiture. Variations included Light-Contact (without safety equipment), Semi-Contact (with safety equipment) and Pro-Karate Invitationals (with a small purse at stake for the grand champion). WAKO (World Association of Kickboxing Organizations), the European sanctioning body for amateur competition, branded point karate under the name Semi-Contact Kickboxing. The STAR System regarded point karate as a separate amateur sport.
- Wrestling – Matches contested without striking techniques, using clinches, throws, takedowns, joint locks, pins, submissions, chokes, escapes and/or groundwork. Professional exhibitions featured pre-arranged outcomes. The STAR System regarded all forms of wresting as separate sports.
Infrequently, kickboxing fight results were changed after an event. The STAR System obtained confirmation from the responsible governing authority whenever a bout outcome was officially transmuted. Normally, bout outcomes were changed after the event for two reasons:
- Because an intentional or unintentional fight fixing scheme was at play whereby one contestant did not have a reasonable chance of winning other than by knockout.
- Because a procedural inequality occurred that had materially impacted the contest, such as a scorekeeper tabulation error, faulty equipment or a surprise weight disparity.
The STAR System seldom transmuted an outcome. We limited STAR transmutation findings to bouts from the very early days of the sport where there had been no governing authority, no consistent rules, and a flagrant breach in basic fairness, such as when a contestant had been disqualified for knocking out his opponent with a fourth punch. For these rare findings, the STAR System polled a panel of five prominent ring observers who informed our actions. Beyond these distinctions, the STAR System never interfered with a competitor’s kickboxing ring record.
Wikipedia Slams, Jeers, Smears and Misconstruances
First, and unequivocally, I support Wikipedia. I really do. The benefits overpower the shortcomings: It’s a superb medium for communicating a first draft understanding of any subject, often in the moment.
But, second, the shortcomings can be substantial.
Wikipedia’s citizen journalists, though largely well-meaning, typically lack the resources to interview principals and eyewitnesses or thoroughly research responsible reporting, certainly as pertains to the early history of modern kickboxing. For example, in 1971 at the fourth-ever kickboxing match in North America, US champ Joe Lewis kayoed “Atlas” Jesse King in the first round when the referee counted out King on his feet. King, like everyone at the time, was unfamiliar with the rules and did not realize he was being counted out. Lewis granted him an immediate rematch, this time knocking him out in the second round. But the various sports reports at the time credit Lewis with a second or a third round victory. (See Lewis Wikipedia entry, Retrieved 18 May 2011) Unless you spoke with the principals, as did the STAR System, you could not make accurate sense of what happened. (See Lewis record, STAR Finding *4)
Meanwhile, any public controversy remains a scandal until it’s explained. So, with the STAR ring records in hand, I am ready to counterpoint the supercilious speculation in Wikipedia about a few kickboxing pioneers.
Because Wikipedia entries drift with each new wikipedian, I will leave my responses posted on this website so that they remain intact and available for those who need to read them or reference them.
Wikipedia and Hollywood Martial Artists
In Hollywood, every martial artist is a world champion. It’s a standing joke among casting directors. The demand for young actors to distinguish themselves for casting consideration is so intense that most actors exaggerate. That’s the norm. For martial arts actors, the exaggeration is particularly rampant. Also, there are enough variations in combative sports, enough “ABC” organizations and sanctions, enough jerkwater high school gymnasium weekend championships – both amateur and “professional” – that almost anyone can claim a world championship of something. And does.
Moreover Hollywood places tremendous pressure on its film stars to amplify their accomplishments. Studio executives consider such ballyhoo to be smart business. It bolsters box office.
Hence, no one should blindly accept a biography posted on IMDb by a movie industry publicist. Even a fan should seek independent corroboration, but not in Wikipedia. Because of its mass accessibility, Wikipedia is especially vulnerable to inaccuracies pertaining to a professional ring record.