One of the great things about doing these Closet Classics is the fact we get to enjoy fights we've not seen recently, and get to re-enjoy some amazing contests from the past. These include wars, exciting matches, amazing shows of heart and brilliant battles where sometimes we get the unexpected one such surprise came in 2008 when Japanese fans saw the then WBA Lightweight world champion Jose Alfaro travel to Tokyo in pursuit of his first defense. His opponent was a Yusuke Kobori, former Japanese national champion at Super Featherweight.
Although the bout won't go down as an all time classic, it's a bout that has long lived in our memories as a very fun bout, with heavy leather being thrown by both, and it didn't take long for that leather to be thrown.
Jose Alfaro (20-3-0-1, 18) Vs Yusuke Kobori (22-2-1, 11)
Nicaraguan puncher Jose Alfaro had won the title in Germany in late 2007, when he took a split decision against Prawet Singwancha. That was Alfaro's 6th straight win, and has followed a big win over DeMarcus Corley 7 motnhs earlier. Although now a forgotten man of sorts Alfaro was a feat fighter at the time. He had been beaten thrice in the space of a year, losing to Sanots Benavides, Cesar Rene Cuenca and Miguel Acosta, but had bounced with a solid winning run and had proven to be a really devastating puncher.
Kobori on the other hand was a Japanese domestic level Super Featherweight. He had won the title in early 2006 and had made 7 defenses, winning the OPBF title along the way. His nost notable defenses, at the time, was probably Hiroyasu Matsuzaki, though looking back a win over a then unbeaten Takashi Miura is certainly a victory that aged really well. Despite being a long term Japanese champion he hadn't really done anything to suggest he would a world title, or even that he would be competitive at Lightweight, a division that he hadn't actually fought at.
The opening moments of the fight were simple enough, with both looking to dictate the behind their jabs. Although that's normal both seemed busier than we typically see of fighters in the opening 20 or so seconds. From then on though both began to let shots go more freely and by the end of the opening round both were throwing down heavy leather with both hands. This saw both men looking shaken before the round was over, and lit the touch paper for a thrilling second round that seemed to continue the intensity of the opening round. The action swung both ways in a round that really deserved to be watched as both looked for a stoppage win.
We won't ruin the rest of the fight, but this ended up bring a nail biting, war in the end and is a fight that every fan owes themselves a chance to watch. This quickly ended up being a pure fight and is well worthy of your time.
One thing we will never deny is that we are huge admirerers of Naoto Takahashi and his career was short but incredible and he gave us more action in what was a very short career than most fighters will give us in career thrice as long. For the second time in this Closet Classic series we look at one of Takahahi's amazing bouts from the 1980's, and again get the chance to see why his 23 fight career is remembered so fondly by Japanese fight fans from the era. This time around we look at arguably his most famous bout and one of the best bouts form 1989.
Mark Horikoshi (17-1, 13) vs Naoto Takahashi (15-2, 10)
If you read last weeks Closet Classic you'll be aware that Naoto Takahashi had some how pulled out a victory in a bout with Noree Jockeygym in May 1989. His bout prior to that one was just as good, if not even better, as he challenged Japanese Super Bantamweight champion Mark Horikoshi. Coming into the bout Takahashi was looking to become a 2-weight national champion, following a short but exciting reign as the Japanese Bantamweight king.
Horikoshi on the other hand was a Japanese based American born fighter, who was also known as Mark Anthony Brooks. Despite being born in Califnornia Horikoshi fought 19 of his 27 professional bouts in Japan, including his debut. In just his 11th bout Horikoshi would stop Yoshiyuki Nomaguchi for the Japanese Super Bantamweight title. Following his title win he had gone 7-0 (6) making 6 defenses, and ending them all inside the distance. The only man he failed to stop was Filipino tough guy Flash Emmanuel. He had been destructive but had also shown some frailty, with his sole loss coming by stoppage back in 1986.
The fight started at a high pace with both men unloading busy jabs. Takahashi was trying to establish distance, snappign his jab into Horikoshi's face, whilst Horikoshi was using his jab to try and back up Takahashi and go to work with heavier artillery. It was two different styles, yet both were dependent on jabs and they gelled excellently. As the bout went on the pace increased. The exchanges became more intense and both men would find themselves hurting the other. The boxing skills never vanished, but the clean punches increased, and they took it in turns to hurt the other, with Takahashi being hurt in rounds 3 and 4, Horikoshi being dropped when Takahashi was hurt, both men showing incredible heart, determination and will to win.
The bout saw both men being dropped, it saw both men needing to over-come advertcity and it saw both digging deep to give us an amazing action packed and drama filled war. Enjoy this slice of classic Japanese action!
Our first month of Closest Classics all looked at relatively recent bouts, from the last 10 or so years, so today we'll roll the clock back to the late 1980's and talk about one of our all time favourite fighters, and a man who really did pay for his insane wars and style. In fact that man will have several entries in this series given how many incredible bouts he was in. Win or lose he was always worth watching and he was a staple of Japanese TV boxing in the last 80's and early 1990's, despite never fighting for a world title.
Naoto Takahashi (16-2, 11) Vs Noree Jockeygym (25-7-2, 12) I
The man we were talking about in the opening paragraph was, of course, Naoto Takahashi. His nickname literally translated as "The Prince of the Reversal", or to put it another "The King of the Comeback" due to the way he seemed to snatch victory out of the jaws of defeat. Whilst he did turn some dire situations into victories his career was an unfortunate one, that ended in 1991 with a bleed on the brain, he was only 23 at the time. His style really didn't give him any chance of having a long career, but he was able to provide so many stand out fights that will always live on in the memory of Japanese fight fans.
At the time of this fight Takahashi was a battle tested 21 year old. His opponent was Thailand's Noree Jockeygym, or Visan Thummong, and he was an 18 year old fighting in his 35th professional bout. This was his 4th bout of 1989, and came less than 3 months after a KO loss in South Korea to former world champion Seung Hoon Lee. Although not a world beater he was a talented young Thai, with a lot of potential, who had won the Thai Super Bantamweight title in 1988, as a 17 year old. He had debuted at the age of 14, had lost to future world champion Daorung Chuwatana as a 15 year old, avenged that loss just 3 months later, and would later challenge for a world title in 1991.
This bout was scheduled for 10 rounds, looked excellent on paper and proved to be something amazing in the ring!
The Thai showed no fear at all of the Japanese fighter and the opening round saw both looking to figure out what the other hand in their arsenal. It was technical stuff, but it was high tempo, technical work. Not a brawl, but not all action either as they boxed typically at mid range. It wasn't the most amazing round that you'll see, but things got a lot better, very quickly with the pace skipping a gear in round 2 going from 2nd to 4th gear. It was still technical, for the most part, but was becoming more action packed, and from then on things turned violent.
We won't ruin any more of the fight but this bout went on to show why Takahashi's career was so short.
Interestingly the two would rematch at the Tokyo dome in 1990, as part of the Mike Tyson Vs James "Buster" Douglas match. By then it was clear Takahashi was a shell of the fight he had once been, he would fight only twice more, suffering the career ending brain bleed in 1991. Noree would manage to fight right through to 2000.
The closet classics continue with our 4th bout, and we return to Japan for Light Flyweight action, and a bout that bucks the trend of many great fights. Many of the best bouts start hot, and slow down after a few rounds, this fight however doesn't start off as anything special, but when it gets good, it really becomes something very, very special. It shows how good Japanese domestic fights can be, and why we love the G+ shows, which continue such a depth of action that we always end up with at least 1 bout worth remembering. It's actually worth remembered that this particular bout was on a show headlined by Ryosuke Iwasa taking on Dennis Tubieron, a main event that was far from memorable.
Kenji Ono (9-1, 4) v Jun Takigawa (7-1-1, 4)
Neither Kenji Ono or Jun Takigawa will go down in the history books as any stars of the sport, but in February 2016 both men had big dreams and both were making their way towards a potential national title fight.
Ono was a Teiken promoted hopeful who had won 9 of his 10 bouts, including a notable 2014 win over Seita Ogido to be crowned the All Japanese Light Flyweight Rookie of the Year. He was on a roll, having won 7 successive bouts, and looked to be getting better and better. At the age of 27 he was coming into his prime, he was in good form and seemed like he was heading for big things, especially with Teiken guiding his career.
Takigawa on the other hand had lost in the 2014 West Japan Rookie of the Year final at Minimumweight, losing to Reiya Konishi, but had bounced back with 2 wins and a draw leading into this bout. He was moving up in weight, but it did seem like his 25 year old frame had out grown the smaller weight class and he was expected to settle well at 108lbs. A win here would have seen Takigawa getting into the mix for the Japanese title, and be on the way to making his name.
Whilst the bout looked compelling on paper it didn't look like a Japanese fight of the year contender. It did however take on a life of it's own quickly, with Takigawa taking the fight to Ono, showing no fear of his foe, in what was Takigawa's first bout at the Korakuen Hall. It was Takigawa who made the action exciting early on but Ono was answering back and growing in confidence. By round 3 we were starting to feel like we had something worthy of a rewatch however things got better, a lot better, in round 6.
Takigawa got cut in round 5, from a head clash, and that seemed to drive him to taking more risks and be more aggressive. In round 6 that aggression, at least partly, would be responsible for both men taking heavier leather. It wasn't pretty but was entertaining and it lead to the fight's first knockdown. It wouldn't be the last and round 7 is a must watch round for any self respecting fight fan.
This is Japanese domestic boxing, and round 7 is one of the all time great closet rounds, with 3 knockdowns...Make time for this one!
The third in our series of Closet Classics perhaps goes further than any other in answering the original question of negative 5 on reddit, and this time we head over to Thailand for a very obscure 2014 fight. Like the previous entry to this series this wasn't a highly skilled fight at world level, but was an entertaining little war from the middle of a strange, hyper active period of boxing in Thailand. This came from a time when Channel 7 seemed to have a show every week, and when there was a real surge in promising fighters in Thailand making their way on to the world rankings.
Kongfah Nakornluang (14-0, 8) vs Den Sithsaithong (0-6)
Before we go any further, we just need to note that not all Thai records on boxrec are complete. But if they are right in this case, we doubt we'll ever speak about fighters in this feature with more disparity in their records than we see here. Despite their different records they put on a show here!
In September 2014 there was a lot of promising talent being shown on Thai TV, the promoters had a lot of airtime to fill and they had a lot of opportunities to allow their fighters to fight. One fighter who made the most of that was Kongfah Nakornluang, also known as Chaiwat Buadkratok. He had compiled a recorded ledger of 14-0 (8) and seemed to be moving onwards and upwards to bigger things. He hadn't really impressed, and his competition had been pathetic, but he was getting opportunities to fight on TV and seemed likely to fight for a regional title in the near future, especially the way that those lower level regional titles were being used to fill out Thai TV shows.
Den Sithsaithong, or Prida Deemak, was a Thai journeyman who's early competition was a relative who's who of Thai boxing at the moment. His first 5 bouts had seen him fight Fahlan Sakkreerin Jr, twice, Eaktwan BTU Ruaviking and Srisaket Sor Rungvisai and although he had gone 0-6 leading into his bout with the unbeaten Kongfah he seemed to come into this bout with some confidence. Standing and trading blows with the unbeaten man in some very entertaining, low level action.
What is strange about this contest is boxrec have it as being a 6 round bout, yet some however the full bout seems to fight into a 9 minute video. We remember watching this live and being confused at the time, and we're still unsure on the actual length of the contest, and we think the TV team were as well, though it was still a very entertaining and action packed brawl.
Don't watch this if you're looking for high skilled chess, but it you just want a mindless brawl this should be right down your alley!
Last week we tried to answer reddit user negative5's question "Best Fights No One Talks About?" with our first "Closet Classic", which saw us talk about the incredible war between Koji Sato and Makoto Fuchigami. Now we go across Asia, leaving Japan and landing in Cheonan, South Korea, for an incredible Super Featherweight brawl that really was action packed, insane, and took the best from both fighters, neither of whom was ever the same again.
Taek-Min Kim (13-3, 8) vs Sonny Manakane (14-9-3, 8)
Korean warrior Taek-Min Kim was a notoriously tough guy, with an iron chin. He had gained a reputation as having a head so hard that sparring partners were hurting their hands with him. Although he wasn't the best fighter out there, he was insanely tough, with his only stoppage loss up to this point being a freak 8th round KO defeat to Sung Tae Kim, in what genuinely goes down as a freak result. Kim's toughness had seen him claim the Korean Super Featherweight title, defeat a debuting Min Wook Kim and then go on to claim the PABA Super Featherweight title. He would be making his first defense when he took on Sonny Manakane.
Manakane, from Indonesia, was nothing special as a fighter. With 9 losses in his first 25 bouts we don't think it's any surprise if we were to say he was pretty flawed. He was however a hungry fighter, and had travelled to face the likes of Z Gorres, Fahprakorb Rakkiatgym, Poonsawat Kratingdaenggym and Terdsak Kokietgym. Coming into this he has won just 1 of his previous 4, had been stopped 7 times and wasn't expected to give Kim any issues. He was expected to be beaten, and beaten quickly. Kim would be too tough to be worried of the Indonesian journeyman right?
What no one expected was for Manakane to totally ignore the script, take the fight to kim, and try to break the iron jaw of the Korean. What we got from this supposed mismatch was a ridiculous war, with Manakane trying to behead Kim at every opportunity and Kim being forced to grit his teeth and battle back.
This wasn't pretty, this wasn't highly skilled, it was however thoroughly entertaining and a full on war! Something that every fight fan owes themselves a chance to watch! Seriously, you will not regret making time for this amazing battle! Sadly we don't have many Korean fights since this to really excite us, but this was something very special!
Recently Reddit user negative5 created a threat asking about the "Best Fights No One Talks About?" and that made us realise that we really don't talk about closet classics very often. We share a lot of videos, but rarely single any of them out as being anything massively special, or drawing longer term attention to a fight from the past. With that in mind we've decided to answer negative5's question, with a regular feature looking at the great bouts that no one talks about.
Like our "Introducing..." features we're wanting to make this a weekly feature, talking about a fight, putting things into perspective, and then sharing the video of the bout.
To begin this series we're going to look at a Japanese Middleweight bout. On paper that might seem like a strange place to start, though the reality is that Japanese bouts at Middleweight are regularly amazing bouts. In just the last few years we've seen a handful of amazing Japanese title bouts at 160lbs and this is among the best of them.
Koji Sato (20-1, 18) Vs Makoto Fuchigami (17-6, 8)
This bout took place on December 12th 2011, coming in this bout Sato was a seen as the biggest hope in Japanese Middleweight boxing since Shinji Takehara took the WBA title from Jorge Castro in 1995. Sato had been a Japanese amateur standout, a huge puncher who had won an OPBF title in his 9th fight, and would later challenge Felix Sturm in 2009. Despite losing to Sturm there was still real hope that he could go on to win a world title before his career would end. He had rebuilt from the loss to Sturm with 6 wins, including 5 by stoppage.
Whilst Sato was the OPBF champion and the man expected to go on to big things Fuchigami was the Japanese champion, a slippery fighter who had lost 3 of his first 5 bouts and 5 of his first 12. Despite those setbacks the southpaw was developing his skills, and in his 20th bout he would take the Japanese title, stopping Tetsuya Suzuki in 6 rounds. Coming in to this bout he had won 7 in a row, 6 by stoppage, recorded 3 defenses of the title but was still regarded as a major under-dog against Sato, in fact he was there to play the next victim to the huge punching Teiken promoted fighter.
What we got was one of the best fights of 2011, and one of the best Japanese and OPBF unification bouts of all time. This is our first Closet Classic, and this is a fight that really does answer negative5's question, of "Best fights no one talks about?".
Enjoy and just as a heads up, this won't be the only Fuchigami fight in this section!
When we have some free time we're hoping to add a series of fun articles to the site. Hopefully these will be enjoyable little short features