FROM BLACK BELT MAGAZINE
One Canadian sportswriter has described Jean-Yves Theriault's fighting style as "charming." But ask any of Theriault's numerous victims (when their heads stop ringing, of course), and they'll tell you there is nothing at all charming about fighting the hard-hitting Professional Karate Association (PKA) middleweight champion.
The 28-year-old Theriault has won 38 of his 41 professional full-contact karate bouts (at this writing) 34 by knockout. He has won 26 straight fights, taking the PKA middleweight crown from Robert Biggs in November of 1980 with a one-round TKO.
Theriault went 8-0 last year in defense of his title, and was undefeated in six fights through October of '83, with three more scheduled before the end of the year. He obviously likes to stay busyand make money. Or maybe he just likes to punish other full-contact fighters. He does it often enough.
Whatever Theriault's reasons for fighting so often, his success is hard to ignore. Few fighters can boast of going 14-0 (most likely 17-0 in the conclusion of 1983) their entire careers, much less over the course of two years. There's little doubt Jean-Yves Theriault deserves the honor of being the first BLACK BELT Hall of Fame Full-Contact Fighter of the Year.
It's not just Theriault's record and fighting ability that warrant him such an award. It's also his demeanor, both in and out of the full contact ring. He is genuinely a nice, intelligent, clean-cut guy. He's not the type to taunt or verbally abuse his opponents. The amicable French-Canadian simply goes about the business of winning in a quiet, dedicated, professional manner. And a highly successful manner at that.
The combination of his fighting ability and soft-spoken yet confident nature has made Theriault the darling of Canadian kickboxing fans. "I think they look at me as an ambassador for the sport," says JeanYves. "I just see myself as another man doing his job."
And doing it very well. Theriault is not what you would call a flashy fighter, although he is attempting to diversify his attack for both practical and aesthetic reasons. He sticks mainly to the basicsfront kick, roundhouse kick, jab, cross, hook and uppercut. He has a deadly right hand, but Theriault is quick to point out that he has other weapons in his arsenal.
"If people think I can only hurt them with my right hand, it gives me an advantage," he notes. "I think I can hurt people with either my legs or my hands." He has certainly proven that in the ring. Outside the ring, he has proven to be a man dedicated to his training. He realizes the necessity of hard practice if one is to meet the constant challenges a champion faces. "If I don't prepare myself physically and mentally, I'm not going to stay on top," he says.
A typical Theriault routine begins with three to five miles of roadwork in the morning, followed by two-and-a-half to three hours of exercising in the gymbag work, sit-ups, pushups, rope skipping, sparring, etc. Theriault does 700 sit-ups a day, and as if that weren't enough to toughen his midsection, he also has his manager, John Therien, repeatedly drop a 16-pound medicine ball on his stomach and side. "It's like getting punched by a very large glove," Theriault explains. Uh huh. OK Jean-Yves, whatever works.
So thorough is his training that Theriault documents his workouts on paper to see what areas, if any, he is lacking in. "I try to diversify my training as much as possible and not limit myself," he says.
It's been a hard road to the top for Theriault, whose father died when Jean-Yves was only four years old. The champion-to-be began practicing jujitsu in Ottawa at 18 and started karate training soon after. He fell in love with full-contact after watching former champion Jeff Smith demolish an opponent in 1976. Less than five years later, Theriault was the PKA champion.
Now he has won 26 consecutive fights, going undefeated for three years. There are some big fights still aheadpossibly a rematch with Rodney Batiste, who Theriault decisioned in 1980, and of course, the much-ballyhooed bout with PKA Super-Middleweight Champion Bob Thurman. "I think, potentially, it would be the biggest fight in PKA history," says Jean-Yves of the proposed Thurman bout.
But that's all so much talk right now, and Theriault would rather let his fists and feet do his talking. Until that fight becomes more than pure conjecture, he will continue to accept all challenges to his crown, most likely adding to his string of successive victories. And if he gets a break from his training and fighting, perhaps he will savor being named BLACK BELT's Full-Contact Fighter of the Year.
Copyright © 1997, Blackbelt Communications, Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.