By Todd Houston
Rockford Rocked Interview: Hey Brad, what have you been up to man? A lot of people are wondering I’m sure of it.
Brad Hefton: Well, I’m just a 60-year-old man just working for a living and praying that I can get up every morning. My knees are pretty much shot but I still try to keep in shape.
RRI: What got you into the sport of kickboxing? You had already earned your fifth degree black belt status by this time, correct?
BH: Well I started karate with a buddy of mine at 13 years old. We were always getting picked on as kids, you know? We would be up at Highcrest Bowling Alley playing pinball and all the bullies would come up and steal all of our quarters. We told them, “man we are going to take karate lessons and come back and kick your asses one day.” They would say “ya, whatever.” But that’s pretty much what we did. I didn’t start fighting professionally until I was 19 but the seven years before that I was going to hundreds of karate tournaments a year. I fought a lot of the same guys and of course in karate you could kick to the groin, sweeps and all of that. I was getting sick and tired of getting kicked in the gizmos all the time. Then John Monczak came up to me and asked if I was interested in getting into this kickboxing thing.
RRI: Who was John Monczak?
BH: He was my instructor, mentor and like a second father to me. Anyway I was sort of known as a partier back in those days and the first thing I remember asking him was “do I have to stop partying?” (laughs) Anyone that knew me knew that I always had a beer in my hand but I tell ya when it came down to training I was dead serious about it. When a fight would come up you would train five or six weeks or whatever. Actually you would train every day but you didn’t actually spar, but when a fight came along we would start sparring! Me and Ricky “The Wolf” Haynes. The only other guy I could spar was John Monczak. Now John would kill me in a regular karate situation but when you can’t sweep, grab and take down it’s different. That was my only time for payback. (laughs)
RRI: Let’s talk about your first professional kickboxing fight. What was that like? BH: Weird, different I guess. In karate you step back after a strike and receive a point but this was different, you get in there and pummel the guy. It just didn’t feel right. I broke the guys nose pretty bad my first fight. This guy has done nothing to me and now I got to get in there and pulverize him? You know I told Joe Corley on ESPN I’m a church going man, I’m a Catholic man, it’s helped me out a lot in my life. It’s hard to go to church and pray to beat on a person. What do you do? Maybe pray that you don’t get hurt as much or you don’t permanently injure the other guy? My trainer John was wrapping up my hand before one fight and he looked at me and said “buddy you’re just not a fighter.” At this point I was halfway through my career. He didn’t mean I didn’t have the strength, technique or wasn’t good. He just meant that I didn’t have the killer instinct. One of my best fights was against Kerry Roop and we were friends. Nice guy. Kerry was a middle weight so I never thought I would ever have to fight him. All of a sudden he jumps up to heavyweight. So here I am fighting him, hitting him with everything I had and just pummeling him. Man I don’t know how he took it. So after the fight I went over to his corner and his kids were there. They looked at me and said “How could you do that to our dad? I hate you, I hate you!” Man, it almost brought tears to my eyes and made me want to quit right there. But a couple weeks later Kerry called me at the studio and said that his daughters wanted to talk to me. So I told them I was sorry and that’s just the way it happens. They apologized and understood. But I remember knocking guys out and leaving them on the ground and then that look on their face. Something would get to me and I would think “that could be me.”
RRI: Did you ever have people come up to you at a bar or whatever and challenge you to a fight just to try to make a reputation or a name for themselves? There’s always that “one” guy you know?
BH: Nope, but I did have guys coming up and saying stuff like “hey I don’t know if you won that fight, blah, blah” I would tell them I wasn’t the judge man. Not one person ever came up and tried to fight me though. I was friendly with everyone and had a lot of backing here in Rockford. I never told anybody I was bad or anything. Just because I’m a black belt doesn’t mean I can’t get my ass kicked by anyone else. I don’t come off as that. That’s what karate and church teaches you and I was raised by good parents.
RRI: So let me get this straight you started and had your first fight in 1979 and when was your last one?
BH: Well, yeah 1998 would have been my last. I broke my arm in Vegas around 1994 and fought eight rounds like that. Klitchko broke it pretty bad and that ended my career. But I tried to come back in ‘98 when it healed. I fought a Canadian, only a seven-rounder. About the third or fourth round I threw a kick that ripped all the tendons in my foot! I still had to go another three rounds and my foot felt like it wasn’t even there. It was killing me man. I was done. 63 wins and 4 losses. Not bad I reckon.
RRI: Who were some of your toughest fights with?
BH: Tom Hall was one. I was hitting him with everything! Ended up tying with him. Bad dude.
RRI: Looks like you still work out and keep in shape.
BH: I can only do a few things. Like I said my knees are trashed and some other things don’t work like they used to. Thinking about having my knee done but I’m kind of a pansy about pain. (laughs)
RRI: Have you ever thought about getting back into the sport on the other side of things? Promoting, teaching, etc?
BH: Well, they have some kick boxing matches around here sometimes and they like me to show up. I’m just glad they still remember me to be honest.
RRI: What do you think about UFC and mixed martial arts?
BH: Don’t care for it much. It’s pretty brutal man. Every one of those guys look like they have been beat up hard and they’re 20 and look like 40 you know? A lot of it to me seems like a lot of cheap shots.
RRI: Who were some of the other fighters from around the area?
BH: Roy McCollen, Ricky Hains, Troy Hughs, Mike LaBree, all those guys were great. I still see Ricky. We still go to Lino’s for dinner together just like the old days! The Wolf, Roy, all of us. We would all go there before fights and Joe would give us sauce and pasta to go! Love him.
RRI: What belts did you win?
BH: I am a fifth degree black belt and my titles were in the Heavyweight and Super Heavyweight World Titles – PKA – PKC – ISKA – BKC
RRI: Let’s get into the real fun! Ted Nugent or AC/DC?
BH: Both! Ted made me the rock ‘n’ roll head that I am! Stranglehold!
RRI: Mary Ann or Ginger (Gilligan’s Island)?
RRI: Firebirds or Camaros?
BH: 1970 Buick Grand Sport! My first car! 454 with air induction. Bought it at Foley’s garage where I worked in Loves Park. My first day there I bought it!
RRI: Best song to listen to to gear up for a fight?
BH: Anything by Cheap Trick. Just me, the tunes my car and God’s country.
RRI: Thanks for talking with me brother.
BH: Thanks for remembering. (laughs)