C.J. Thunderbird (played by Jorge Rivero) is a former professional fighter who is now a miner living in Arizona. Two years ago, Thunderbird’s best friend was killed by a fighter named Rhino (Matthias Hues). Thunderbird swore vengeance and, when he gets a telegram informing him that Rhino has been spotted in Bolivia, Thunderbird heads down to South America, looking to settle things once and for all. With the help of a down-on-his-luck trainer named Punchy (Edward Albert), Thunderbird nearly defeats Rhino in the ring but the fight is suddenly stopped by the local police, all of whom are paid off by local drug dealer, Billy Vance (Mike Connors). Rhino works for Vance and Vance doesn’t want his most fearsome goon to be shown up in public. Thunderbird and Puchy soon find themselves in one of those prisons where the inmates are forced to take part in underground cage matches. Thunderbird’s only chance of survival and perhaps escape depends upon defeating yet another fighter, the Beast (Gus Rethwisch).
The coolest thing about Fist Fighter is that it’s called Fist Fighter. It sounds like a title for a movie that someone made up but instead, it’s very, very real. The 2nd coolest thing about Fist Fighter is that the hero is named Thunderbird. I think this was Thunderbird’s only film adventure. If Fist Fighter had made more money, it could have led to a Thunderbird franchise. Jorge Rivero wasn’t much of an actor but he’s good in the fight scenes and Edward Albert overacts to such an extent that he easily makes up for Rivero’s inability to actually show emotion. I also liked Mike Connors as the smug villain. Brenda Bakker plays Billy Vance’s mistress. Of course, she ends up falling for Thunderbird.
Fist Fighter is dumb but entertaining. If Rivero’s role has been played by Jean-Claude Van Damme or Dolph Lundgren, two action stars who could actually act as well as convincingly fight, Fist Fighter would probably be a cult classic. As it is, it’s one of the more entertaining of the many rip-offs of Bloodsport.