World Championships Shake Up Black Belt Magazine Rankings

WAKO World Championships
Photo Courtesy: WAKO Kickboxing

The last two weeks have seen two major world championships take place as the World Association of Kickboxing Organizations (WAKO) hosted their event in Italy and the World Karate Commission (WKC) settled their titles in Orlando, Florida. These tournaments allowed sport karate fans, and the Black Belt Magazine rankings committee, to see some of the best competitive martial artists from outside of North America put their skills on display. Keep reading to find out which freshly-crowned world champions have catapulted themselves into the ranks of the elite.

Elijah Everill Bailey Murphy

Photo Courtesy: Beyond the Battle Productions

The biggest leap in the rankings was made by Elijah Everill. The defending Irish Open open weight champion was previously unranked due to pandemic-related inactivity, but his performance at the WAKO world championships vaulted him to the number one position in the men's lightweight point sparring division. The pride of Great Britain defeated America's seemingly unstoppable Bailey Murphy via a convincing 10-point spread. Everill has now spread EVERY opponent he has faced in the last TWO world championships, an unprecedented feat.

Murphy's dominance of North American events, including several huge wins at the Diamond Nationals, helped him maintain the #2 spot behind Everill. Enrique "El Rey" Letona of Guatemala, fighting for Team USA, won a gold medal of his own at the WAKO world championships that secured him the #3 spot in the world. Per the committee, Murphy remains ahead of Letona due to head-to-head match ups and his domination of the North American Sport Karate Association (NASKA) circuit.

Arturo Armendariz

Photo Courtesy: WAKO Guatemala

Letona was not the only Guatemalan-born competitor to leave with a world championship. In the weapons category, former National Black Belt League (NBL) standout Arturo Armendariz impressed the judges with his creative bo routine. A combination of difficult releases and fast manipulations earned him a perfect score from the judges that outdid Rashad "The Black Mamba" Eugene. Eugene won the overall grand championship for both traditional and creative/musical/extreme (CMX) weapons at the AmeriKick Internationals, and was ranked as the #3 men's weapons competitor in the world. Armendariz made his appearance on the Black Belt Magazine Rankings in that third place position as Eugene slid one spot into fourth. The top of that division remains in the hands of Diamond Nationals champion Alex Mancillas of Team Paul Mitchell at number one, and Battle of Atlanta champion Connor Chasteen of Team Infinity just behind him.

Olivia Rando

Photo Courtesy: WAKO USA

The women's forms and weapons rankings also experienced some movement after WAKO worlds. Olivia Rando of Top Ten Team USA made a strong return to sport karate competition and secured a win in the forms division that elevated her to #3 in the CMX forms rankings behind Team Paul Mitchell's dynamic duo of Haley Glass and Sammy Smith. The Paul Mitchell ladies also top the CMX weapons division, which gained a new contender as Mexico's Valeria Bolaños of Team NMAC won a world championship in the creative weapons division that landed her in the #4 spot in the rankings.

The women's division only gets more exciting as we shift our focus to point fighting, where a trio of performances caught the attention of the rankings committee. Evelyn Neyens lived up to her stellar reputation and defeated defending Irish Open open weight champion Dorina Szabó of Hungary to claim the -60 kilograms world title. Jodie Browne of Ireland took the gold in the -70 kilogram division, placing ahead of the previously-ranked Brianna Nurse who took home a bronze. In the -50 kilogram division, Marietta Galanomati of Greece won her staggering fourth consecutive WAKO world championship. These three championship performances equally impressed the committee, and all three athletes find themselves tied for the third spot in the Black Belt Magazine Rankings.

The first two spots are still held by Morgan Plowden and Ki'Tana Everett following their incredible clashes at the Diamond Nationals where Everett took the open weight crown and Plowden achieved revenge in the finals for the coveted ring. Plowden solidified her top ranking by winning a WKC world championship as well. The top five is completed by Jimena Janeiro of Team Revolution and Mouse Millner of Team Legend, who are the defending AmeriKick Internationals and Battle of Atlanta champions respectively.

El Java Abdul Qadir

Photo Courtesy: WAKO Kickboxing

That was not the end of the exciting action in the point fighting divisions. El-Java Abdul-Qadir of Top Ten Team USA recorded an impressive win in the -94 kilogram veteran division and is threatening for the top spot in Black Belt's senior (30+ years of age) point fighting division. For now, that division is owned by Team Legend's Yoskar Gamez who has been more active recently and just won a WKC world championship too. There is sure to be a mega-fight on the horizon between these two world class veterans of the sport.

Abdul-Qadir's teammate Troy Binns grabbed a solid win of his own in the -94 kilogram division for the younger adults. The win was enough for the committee to grant Binns his debut on the rankings in the #4 spot for the men's heavyweight point fighting category. The top of that division remains very strong with Diamond Nationals champion Avery Plowden on top, joined by the likes of Darren "Dee Stacks" Payne and Kameren Dawson.

The team fighting division was also shaken up at the WAKO World Championships. The United States fielded a team that featured Binns, as well as Team Straight Up's Bailey Murphy and Top Ten Team USA's Enrique Letona. The Americans were able to fend off the Everill-led United Kingdom team and met the Italians in the final. Team Italy scored in all of the right moments and pulled off a huge victory to become world champions. Team Straight Up remains in the #1 spot as the champions of the Diamond Nationals and Battle of Atlanta, and Top Ten Team USA holds on at #2 as the champions of the U.S. Open and AmeriKick Internationals. Team Italy currently sits at #3, but continued dominance of WAKO on their part could improve that ranking in the coming months.

The WKC World Championships introduced some new athletes to the junior point fighting divisions. Canadians Liam North and Maeve McColgan won the boys' and girls' titles in the 15-17 age group and are now included as featured athletes. The WKC results also culminated in a new name being added to the men's traditional forms rankings, where world champion Cameron Klos secured a tie for the #5 spot with Connor Chasteen of Team Infinity, who placed ahead of Klos at a few recent NASKA events.

Black Belt Magazine is proud to provide a subjective rankings system that takes all of these major sport karate leagues into account. The rankings committee hopes that this system will promote unity between the various leagues and athletes within the sport. As more European events resume coming out of the pandemic, the rankings are likely to adopt an increasingly international line-up as those athletes continue to excel. In the meantime, click here to view the complete Black Belt Magazine World Sport Karate Rankings.

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