The domestic Japanese boxing scene has given us so many thrillers over the years and has seen fighters develop individual reputations as men who need to be watched due to their exciting styles, all action bouts and never say die attitudes. They are the fighters who are the life blood of the Japanese scene and are the ones who attract fans and help keep fans. They are a special breed of fighter who are the fighters who provide thrills and spills, and the high octane action that we all love. Today we look at a bout between two such fighters, who fought twice in the 1980's and gave us two amazing battles.
Naoto Takahashi (11-0, 7) vs Mitsuo Imazato (22-10, 12) II
In February 1987 the rising, exciting, and good looking Naoto Takahashi stopped veteran Mitsuo Imazato in 5 rounds to become the Japanese Bantamweight champion. That first bout was tremendous, and just 4 months later they would meet again in a rematch that was short but all action.
Takahashi, for those who aren't aware, was developing a reputation as the type of fighter who provided action. He was a very talented boxer-puncher but found himself being dragged into wars, giving up his skills and speed to engage in battles, going punch for punch with opponents and put on a show for fans. He was technically solid as an outside fighter, boxing behind his jab, but all too often ended up in the wrong type of fight, something that plagued him through his career and eventually curtailed a promising career way too early.
Imazato on the other hand was 24 year old veteran of the Japanese scene. He was a 2-time Bantamweight champion and had been a fairly dominant force on the domestic title picture, with a 9-1 (7) record in Japanese title fights. He had faltered when he had stepped up, to either Super Bantamweight or OPBF title level, but was a very good domestic championship level fighter who had given a lot of excitement through his career, and had taken a lot of punishment since his debut in 1979.
Their first bout had been thrilling, with Imazato being taken out in the 5th round, the best round of the fight and he was desperate to reclaim his title. He applied pressure and tried to control the bout with his stiff, hard jabs. He however lacked the speed of Takahashi who got to his range and boxed behind his jab for much of the first round. By the end of the round however Takahashi was getting cocky and Imazato was starting to get closer, the tempo was heating up.
In round 2 the tempo heated up drastically. Again the key punches in the early going was the jab but with Imazato pressing the he was able to drag Takahashi into a fire fight and by the mid-way point of the round we were seeing a tear up. Sadly for Imazato he was on the wrong end of it and a sharp left hook dropped him. With a minute of the round left when then saw the two men stand trade bombs. Again Takahashi got the better of it, sending his man down again, but their was no quit in Imazato.
The bout was already matching up to the first between the two as we entered round 3...which is where we'll leave you with something of this Closet Classic to enjoy without us spoiling the entire contest.
This is a must watch, and a great example of how exciting the Japanese domestic scene can be and how brutal the finishing can be.
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