Along with tae kwon do and other martial arts, kickboxing — that visually arresting sport halfway between karate and conventional boxing — has gradually increased in popularity since being introduced to this country in the ’70s, and video has been partly responsible. Now, with televised bouts on ESPN and hunky movie stars exchanging chin-rattling toe blows, kickboxing isn’t far from joining mainstream sports.
Don’t come to Heavyweight Championship Kickboxing and Ferocious Female Kickboxing expecting beefy boneheads in ponytails trading insults and body slams. The contestants in these tournament tapes (both originally broadcast as part of one pay-per-view event) are all surprisingly soft-spoken and thoughtful in interviews. Opponents like Joe Lewis and the lithe, funny Bill Wallace — in their 40s, they are the grand old men of American kickboxing — seem to respect and like each other both inside the ring and out. Even the Kathy Long-Denise Taylor match on the dubious-sounding Ferocious Female Kickboxing is a bona fide competition between two women who are presented as serious athletes rather than babes. B