The month of August is now coming to an end, and I've decided to look over the fights Japanese fans have been able to see during the month, picking out the most exciting bouts to have either been television or have been made available online. For the sake of this I've not included things that have only been made available on Boxingraise, so that I can share the videos with you, the readers, and not push you to an online paid service to watch things, though I would certainly advise all readers to look into subscribing to Boxingraise if they do wish to watch more action from the Japanese domestic scene.
Earlier this week we broke the news that Hideyuki Ohashi had finally announced the Flyweight dream fight between WBC Flyweight champion Akira Yaegashi (20-3, 10) and Nicaraguan sensation Roman Gonzalez (39-0, 33). The fight was one we had been talking about most of the year and knew fans from around the world were really interested in. It isn't just a Flyweight title bout but is the lower weight equivalent to Manny Pacquiao Vs Floyd Mayweather Jr. It pits the linear champion against the most destructive fighter in the 112lb division and at the end of the day everyone who knows boxing knows this one will be great, especially with the mentality of both men.
In all honesty we rarely get the best men in any division fighting each other but in this case really we do have 2 of the elite fighting each other and better yet it seems very likely that the winner will be moved on to a fight with Juan Francisco Estrada next year in a bout that really would tie up all 3 of the divisions of the elite fighters.
Despite it being such a major bout it does seem highly unlikely that it will be shown in the US or the UK where a vast majority of our readers are from. In my eyes that's a huge shame and it tells us a lot about the boxing media in those two countries and the way they are both missing out on not just some of the best fighters but also some of the best fights.
I understand that channels in both countries have their reasons for not showing the bout but in some cases the arguments seem to be more like excuses.
Firstly the "time zone" of the bout. We understand that Asian fights are a problem, especially for US TV, due to when they take place however they have been showing some footage of the Bob Arm's cards from Macau on tape delay allowing fans in the states to see the fights "as live" the same day. Sure by then the results are out in the open but it's a step they have shown to be willing to take for fighters like Nonito Donaire. With that in mind I can't see a reason for the channels, especially smaller ones like AWE, ESPN or Boxnation, not to be willing to show the Yageashi/Gonzalez bout on tape delay giving an hour of their time for the bout. Incidentally if the bout finishes early they could then include highlights from the co-feature between Naoya Inoue (6-0, 5) and Samartlek Koietgym (16-4, 5), it's self a world title bout.
If the bouts were shown on tape delay it would give the teams on those channels a chance to piece together highlights from the fights and even give the men a small build up before they showed the actual fights, as if introducing the fighters to a new audience.
Of course another problem is the profile of the fighters involved. Whilst Gonzalez is a big name in Latin America he's almost unknown by all but the most hardcore of American fight fans. Yaegashi is even less well known and for many American fans it's a case of of knowing that Yaegashi has beaten Edgar Sosa and lost to Kazuto Ioka whilst also having a thriller with Pornsawan Porpramook. Thankfully however there is more than enough high quality, high octane action involving the two fighters to do excellent build up trailers involving things like Gonzalez's battering of various fighters and Yaegashi's fianl few rounds with Pornsawan Porpramook.
It wasn't too long ago that HBO took a punt on Gennady Golovkin and we all know how well that went, like wise Yoshihiro Kamegai and Nihito Arakawa have been involved in thrillers on US TV giving a chance for a US audience to see just how exciting Japanese fighters are. Whilst I wouldn't say Yaegashi was the same stylistically as Arakawa or Kamegai he is equally fun to watch and in Gonzalez he has an opponent who is also known for putting on a show. With the two of them it's almost guaranteed to be great back and forth action. If you give the fighters a chance to show themselves they will excite fans.
Another argument would be the price of the fights however no one is suggesting the networks send over their own commentators to Tokyo. What the channels would need would be the footage, which is being aired in Japan by Fuji TV, and their own commentators, who could be in a studio anywhere on the planet. Whilst we're not suggesting Fuji TV would just give away the footage for international distribution we wouldn't assume the cost for it would be much and a "token payment" would likely be accepted as the company would be getting a new line of revenue that wasn't previously there. Likewise the channel would likely be happy to build up some good will knowing that the Inoue brother's have seriously long term potential to make the channel long term money in international fees.
Of course one more thing we often hear from fans in the west is that no one cares about the lower weights. Whilst we know that this does apply in some ways a big part of that is due to a lack of exposure. If you don't let someone see something how are they to know they would enjoy it? Funnily this has seen fans missing out on dozens of modern day wars including, but not limited, to: [Note fights with links are to videos of the fights]
Katsunari Takayama Vs Roman Gonzalez (2009)
Giovani Segura Vs Ivan Calderon I (2010)
Akira Yaegashi Vs Pornsawan Porpramook (2011)
Kompayak Porpramook Vs Adrian Hernandez I (2011)
Hernan Marquez Vs Luis Concepcion I (2011)
Roman Gonzalez Vs Juan Francisco Estrada (2012)
Koki Eto Vs Kompayak Porpramook (2013)
Giovani Segura Vs Hernan Marquez (2013)
Kohei Kono Vs Liborio Solis (2013)
Katsunari Takayama Vs Mario Rodriguez (2013)
Yodmongkol Vor Saengthep Vs Takuya Kogawa (2014)
Koki Eto Vs Ardin Diale (2014)
I dare say if fans were given a chance to watch those fights they'd love the little divisions just as much as I do. Maybe it's time that the channels gave the fans a chance to decide for themselves if they enjoy the lighter divisions by letting them watch this one without need to go and hunt it down for a Japanese stream or a youtube video after the fight. Maybe, just maybe, the western media can give Akira Yaegashi and Roman Gonzalez a chance to impress fans on a wider scale than they have been able to in the past. You never know what happens when you give someone a chance and with both of these fighter being fun, action based men a US network could have some very cheap thrillers on their hands in the coming years if they decide to not only show this fight but continue to run with similar fights and fighters.
(Images courtesy of Ohashi Gym and Teiken Promotions)
Takahiro Onaga is a regular contributor to Asian Boxing and will now be a featured writer in his own column where his takes his shot at various things in the boxing world.