2012-Takao Sakurai passes
On this day former Japanese fighter Takao Sakurai, who had the Olympic gold medal at Bantamweight in the 1964 Olympics, passed away at the age of 70. He was the first Japanese fighter to win an Olympic gold medal, and even now he is one of just two fighters to achieve that feat with Ryota Murata being the other.
Following his Olympic success in 1964 Sakurai turned professional, making his debut in 1965, and would win his first 22 fights before challenging the then WBC and WBA Bantamweight champion Lionel Rose. Rose would defeat Sakurai by majority decision, giving the Japanese hero his first loss. He would rebuild from that set back and earn a shot at Ruben Olivares in 1969 and would be stopped in 6 rounds by the Mexican great. He would end his career by winning the OPBF Bantamweight title, before hanging up the gloves with a record of 30-2 (4).
Sakurai's death was from esophageal cancer. Incidentally he was trained by Hitoshi Misako, who celebrated his 78th birthday the same day that Sakurai passed.
1988-Bong Jun Kim comes up short in historical bout
In 1988 Venezuelan fighter Leo Gamez travelled to Korea to battle against Bong Jun Kim, for the newly created WBA Minimumweight title. At the time Gamez was 16-0 (11) whilst Kim was 14-4-3 (5), with a notable win over Hideyuki Ohashi. Sadly for Kim he would lose a razor thin decision, losing on all 3 scorecards by a single point, as Gamez became the first ever WBA Minimumweight champion.
Gamez would later go on to win titles at Light Flyweight, Flyweight and Super Flyweight to become the first man to claim world titles in the lowest 4 divisions. Kim however would become the second man to win the WBA Minimumweight title, beating Agustin Garcia for the belt after Games vacated it.
Kim would go on to make 5 defenses of the belt before losing it to Hi Yong Choi in 1991 then fail in an attempt to win the WBA Light Flyweight title, coming up short to Hiroki Ioka. He would retire in the mid 1990's with a record of 24-10-3 (10).
1964-Myung Woo Yuh's birthday
Although the aforementioned Bong Jun Kim failed to win the WBA Light Flyweight title the same cannot be said of Korean legend Myung Woo Yuh, who turns 55 today! "Sonagi" was one of two Korean icons at Light Flyweight, along with Jung Koo Chang, and held the WBA title from 1985, when he defeated Joey Olivo, to 1991 when he lost to Hiroki Ioka. He would reclaim the title from Ioka the following year and scored 1 more defense in 1993.
Yuh's career would see him go 38-1 (14) in a career that began in 1982 and ended after his final bout in 1993. During that time he fought in 21 world title bouts, going 20-1 in them, beating not only Olivo and Ioka but also Rodolfo Blanco and Leo Gamez, among others.
Yuh would later be inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame and work in promoting boxing in Korea.
1934-Hitoshi Misako's birthday
Having previously mentioned Hitoshi Misako it seems right to talk a little bit more about Mr Misako, who was a notable fighter in the 1950's and runs one of the oldest and most well established gyms in Japan, the Misako gym.
As a fighter Mr Misako fought between 1950 and 1958, running up a 31-14-5 (6) record. Although not amazing on paper he did win the Japanese and OPBF titles and shared the ring with the likes of Leo Espinosa, Tanny Campo and Pone Kingpetch.
The Misako gym was set up in 1960 and is still running today, albeit having moved location.