1988, Contemporary Gladiator Inc./Xenon Entertainment Group

Anthony Elmore
Charles E. Carpenter
Anthony Elmore
Anthony Elmore
Larry Ray Dunn
Jeremiah O’Driscoll

Anthony Elmore (Himself)
George M. Young (Kingfish)
Jimmy Blann (Himself)
Danny Bumpus (Woodwerd)

The story of 1980’s kickboxing champion Anthony “Amp” Elmore comes to life in this decent biopic that relies more on actual in-ring kickboxing as opposed to the stylized fights we are normally used to.

Elmore plays himself, beginning as a college student in late 1960’s Tennessee going to school while studying Shotokan Karate. He eventually joins up with a Black organization. However, martial arts is still his passion, despite his father always riding him. His father thinks Anthony should be playing basketball with his height. However, Anthony soon finds the determination to make something out of himself through the martial arts.

After opening his own school, he decides to become a professional fighter and hires his best friend Kingfish as his manager. Elmore has a dream to bring the sport of kickboxing to the mainstream. At first, no one will sponsor him and it takes the determination of fellow kickboxers such as Jimmy Blann to eventually bring the sport in the South. Eventually, exposure is recognized and Anthony will soon find himself taking on Woodwerd, the world champion for the title.

For those unfamiliar with the name Anthony “Amp” Elmore, in the 1980’s, he was the Karate International Council of Kickboxing (K.I.C.K.) World Heavyweight and Super Heavyweight Champion. This film, which has in some light, been hailed as a “Black Rocky” is how Elmore got there and it may seem like an excuse for self-promotion considering Elmore not only stars in his own biopic, but he produced, wrote, and directed the film as well.

Perhaps the reason is that Elmore wanted to tell his story of how he dealt with social issues during the times with his Southern background to his love for Africa and his passion for martial arts. He shows how he overcame the odds and rose from a college student with no basic English skills to becoming a kickboxing champion. He delved into Shotokan Karate and dealt with his father always hounding him even when his brothers, returning from war, support Anthony in his passion.

The film does have its share of action but those expecting anything stylized will be disappointed. A majority of the film has either televised footage or re-enactments of actual kickboxing matches that Elmore competed in during this period. He would eventually earn the respect of a fellow kickboxer, Jimmy Blann (who plays himself and today, runs a karate school in Mississippi) when Elmore plans to somehow bring kickboxing to the mainstream in the South. Of course, his climactic bout is truly what one would expect in films such as Rocky. Today, Elmore still lives in Memphis, where he turned his actual home into the Safari House Museum, which brings a sense of the African spirit through designs in decor and furniture.

Iron Thunder may not have the budget of major biopics seen today but it’s a decent “autobiopic” about one man overcoming the odds and living his dreams to invoke what he believes in and his passion for the martial arts.