When we look back over the year we've had we've genuinely had so many dramatic and exciting hidden gems, gems that have slipped to the bottom of the Treasure Trove and have gone over-looked, for far too long. Here we bring you one of those gems, and it's one that saw China and Japan go to war in a bout that had big punches from both, a moment that drew a "wow" from the commentator, and despite not being the tidiest or prettiest of bouts was thoroughly entertaining, from the first round to the eventual finish. The isn't a fight that will be featured on any FOTY lists, but deserves a place on everyone's watched list, and is the latest piece of treasure we want to share with you!
Baishanbo Nasiyiwula (15-2-1, 6) vs Yusuke Konno (14-4, 7)
Chinese fighter Baishanbo Nasiyiwula, referred to as Baishanbo from here on, began his career with a 13 fight unbeaten run before travelling to Japan and losing a very close 8 round bout to Rikki Naito in 2017. He would bounce back with a win before travelling to the US and giving the big punching Fredrick Lawson a tough bout in 2018. Following his loss to Lawsonwe had seen Baishanbo notch two decisions, aid won a couple of minor titles at 140lbs. He had proven himself to be a tough fighter, with a rough around the edge style, aggressive with a mean mentality. He regularly seemed to be a big of a dislikable fighter, with several incidents whilst weighing in for fights, but was an entertaining guy to enjoy watching and the dislikable edge only made him more fun to watch. He was flawed, as a fighter and as a person, but he was fun and wild.
Aged 30 Yusuke Konno was a fighter who's record suggested limitations, but in reality only told half the story. From his 4 career losses 3 had been incredibly close, and the other as a 10th round TKO loss to Koichi Aso in a Japanese title fight, that he was leading with just 42 seconds to go! In another world Konno could have been unbeaten. Coming in to this he had bounced back from the loss to Aso, in 2017, with wins over Kazuya Muraki, Takashi Inagaki and Vladimir Baez, showing his determination, his heart and his desire. He was wild, like Baishanbo, and he was tough, like Baishanbo, he was also a veteran of the Japanese scene and someone who was much, much, better than his record suggested. Despite being the clear under-dog this was his chance to shine, his chance to pick up a win on the road, and to claim the WBA Asia Light Welterweight title.
This had the ingredients to be sloppy, both were clumsy, and neither was technically sound. But the flaws of both could make for a good fight, if the stars aligned just right we could get something a little bit special. Thankfully for us we did get something a bit special, in fact we got something very special.
In the opening round Konno make it clear he wasn't there to pick up a loss, dropping Baishanbo with a solid combination almost 2 minutes in. From there on the bout turned into a real nail biter, with both landing some huge head shots in some back and forth sequences. For the most part Baishanbo was the quicker man, he shots looked cleaner and crisper, but Konno took them well and returned with his own thudding shots, never wanting to let Baishanbo have the final say in any exchange.
There were lulls in this, but the exciting exchanges, which were frequent, meant that it was never dull and meant that we were always on the edge of our seats. Every time it seemed like the fighters wanted to get a breather one, or the other, or both, would land something and like a chemical reaction more huge shots would fly back and forth.
This wasn't pretty, this wasn't beautiful or flawless, this wasn't a pearl. But this was the perfect diamond in the rough, and if you can see past the lack of beauty you'll see this was a real treasure worth enjoying. A fantastic war of wills.
The year has been a long one, and today's Treasure Trove comes from way back at the start of the year, it's a long way buried deep in the trove, but is something that was really fun, rather wild and a little bit crazy. The bout was actually buried on a card and fought after the show's main event, and whilst that's not usually a good sign this was a bout that should have kept fans in their seats. It was the sort of crazy, fun, intense brawling fight that we love watching, even if the fighter's health isn't going to be helped by the battle they are engaging in.
Jian Wang (7-1, 2) vs Seong Yeong Yang (6-2-4, 3)
China's Jian Wang entered as a 22 year old hopeful who was looking for his 6th straight win. The local hopeful had shown promise, but was very much a fighter who was hoping to deliver more than he had already. His lack of power was an issue, and both of his stoppages had come against the same limited Thai opponent, but he had shown enough for those in China to get just a little bit excited about thanks to his work rate and fan friendly style. It was hoped that as he matured he would learn to sit on his shots more and develop his physical strength and power
Yang, also 22 years old, was a Korean youngster fighting outside of his homeland for the first time. He was 2-2-4 after his first 8 bouts, but had managed to reel off 4 wins coming into this and had shown a willingness to have a war. On paper the bout wasn't just his first bout on the road but also a massive step up in class, and a bout where he had to be regarded as the under-dog. He had some momentum, sure, but he had little else, other than his will to win and desire to become the new WBO Oriental Youth Super Bantamweight champion.
What we ended up with was a wild bout that saw both men often neglecting defensive responsibilities and just letting leather fly at the Suzhou Olympic Sport Center. The visitor knew he was up against it and was often the one pressing the fight letting shots fly and was happy to eat a big counter to land shots of his own. Wang was the more defensively sound, and the cleaner puncher, but he was also the one with the less impressive energy tank and was the one fighting on the back foot.
What we got was a pretty fight, but was an action packed one with a lot of intensity, some very fan friendly exchanges and some of the widest and wildest hooks you'll ever see, with Wang throwing some shots so wide that they could have landed on fans in row 3...and even then he some how managed to land them on Yang.
This isn't one for purists, but it is one for those who just love a good old fashioned tear up.
For us the best fights have to have drama, twists and turns. It's great to see two guys wail away on each other, but if it seems neither man can hurt the other it does take something away from the fight. The high intensity low drama bouts can be very fan friendly, but in many ways they leave us feeling just a little bit empty inside and wishing that there was a sense of danger for both men. It's with that in mind that we dig into our treasure trove this week and find a bout that had series drama and momentum shifts. It wasn't a big bout in terms of it's profile, but it was the type of bout that we love rewatching and it worth it for the turns and twists.
Ryugo Ushijima (2-0, 1) vs Shota Ogasawara (3-1, 2)
The unbeaten, 17 year old, Ryugo Ushijima he had made his debut in July 2018, with a narrow win, and followed it up with a blow out win. He looked a really talented, and promising youngster, but at the age of 17 he was still a gangly kid who looked like he needed some meat on his bones. His jab and movement were impressive for such a youngster, and he had the frame that will carry him up a weight class or two when he matures into his body.
Shota Ogasawara on the other hand was 23, he had taken a couple of unbeaten records and his only loss was in the 2017 Rookie of the Year to Mirai Imagawa, the eventual All-Japan Rookie of the Year winner. He looked more powerfully built than Ushijima, but was giving away significant size and reach to the teenager, and Ogasawara had actually been competing as a Super Flyweight or a Bantamweight through his career. He was clearly the smaller man, but the puncher of the two and if he could get inside Ushijima could be in trouble.
Unsurprisingly the taller man wanted to use his reach, his speed and his movement, the smaller man wanted to get inside and bully the teenager, take advantage of his potential fragility and make him pay for still being a kid in a man's world. The opening round saw the kid get the better of it, before we had intense back and forth drama in round 2, a round that gave us all we could ask for in the drama department.
This was proof, again, that some of the most entertaining and dramatic bouts come when both fighters believe they can and is a genuine bit of boxing treasure. Despite lacking a little something in the overall intensity of the fight this had the drama to make up for it.
Whilst no one will ever describe the Japanese Middleweight scene as being world class it does deliver an alarming number of fantastic fights, in fact the title scene really tends to give us a more consistently entertaining fights than any other division in Japan. Thanks to great fights like Tadashi Yuba Vs Carlos Linares, Makoto Fuchigami Vs Koji Sato and Tomohiro Ebisu v Makoto Fuchigami we have started to become accustomed to Japanese Middleweight bouts being fantastically entertaining and worth watching.
This year has been no exception with 2 more great Japanese Middleweight title bouts. Today we delve into the Treasure Trove and bring you the first of those bouts, a very entertaining bout between concussive punching champion and the #1 contender. With the men clashing in the Champion Carnival.
Kazuto Takesako (10-0, 10) vs Shuji Kato (10-1-1, 6) I
It was March 2nd when Japanese Middleweight champion Kazuto Takesako returned to the ring for the first time in 2019 to make his second defense off the title. He had demolished all those who had been put in front. With 10 straight stoppage wins the hard hitting World Sports Boxing gym fighter had looked brutally heavy handed, with dynamite in his straight right hand, he was technically flawed but strong, and did enough things right to always have the respect of his opponents. He was not only able to land concussive blows up top but also had a very solid array of body shots in his arsenal and knew how to finish opponents off.
Kato on the other hand was pretty much the opposite and he was a skilled fighter not a puncher. He had respectable power, but not concussive. It was more the sort of power that kept opponents honest and allowed him to chip away at them. His real strength was in his movement, his southpaw stance and his busy jab, along with his ability to ride shots. In many ways he was the next Makoto Fuchigami, a fighter who lacked major power but had success with his skills, and although not a massively entertaining fighter he could have great fights with the right dance partner, such as an ultra aggressive opponent.
What we ended up getting was a show case of what both men were about, with Takesako pressing, constantly, and Kato countering, soaking up the pressure and unleashing his own combinations. Whether he was on the ropes or centre ring Kato was finding space for his own uppercuts and hooks, whilst Takesako's own offense looked more devastating, but less effective. The lead to a fantastic match of wills and and desire and a truly wonderful piece of boxing treasure.
Notable the two men did it all again a few months later in excellent rematch. Their second bout wasn't quite as this one, but was another brilliant fight between two men with styles that just matched up brilliantly.
This week we delve back into out treasure trove and bring you a brutal war from the Korakuen Hall as two solid punching tough guys took it upon themselves to try and bring glory back to the Japanese Bantamweight.
The title had essentially spent 2018 as the belt no one wanted, with bouts repeatedly falling through. It's status had gone from a belt that fighters were desperate for to a belt that appeared to be cursed. Thankfully this year we have seen some thrillers for it, and this weeks piece of boxing treasure is the best of those thrillers.
Yuta Saito (12-9-3, 9) vs Yusuke Suzuki (10-3, 7)
In 2018 Yuta Saito scored the biggest win of his career, stopping stopping Eita Kikuchi in 2 rounds to claim the title, and score his most significant win. Aged 30 at the time and with 9 losses from 24 bouts he seemed unlikely to hold the title for long, but had the power to be a threat to anyone on the domestic scene. That power saw him defend the title in May with a TKO win over Hayato Kimura, who retired following the bout. It seemed that out of nowhere Saito was set for promising reign, and he made it clear that if he lost, he was heading immediately to retirement.
In his second defense Saito took on Yusuke Suzuki, a genuine tough guy who has seen his shot at a title in 2018 fade away due to one opponent failing to make weight and then suffering an injury in training. It seemed like the world was against him, but he was the mandatory challenger to Saito, and and was now 100% fit and healthy. Suzuki was 30 entering the bout, and it seemed like it was now or never for him.
What we ended up getting was a disgustingly brutal war between two men who refused to back down. They refused to accept a loss, and instead they gave each other a prolonged, hard beating, and they both seemed to love it! They were trading power shots, bleeding over each other, and getting very well acquainted up close. Despite fighting up close a lot the two men weren't being sloppy with their shots, instead they were both ripping uppercuts, short hooks and trying to out man the other in what was a truly gutsy and thrilling war.
If you're squeamish you may want to give this one a miss, otherwise this is a must watch and had it had a higher profile at the time we suspect fans would be talking about this one for a while.
Through out history Korea has provided us some of the greatest warriors in the sport's history. The mentality of a Korean fighter seems to be something that no other country quite managed to replicate. This doesn't mean that every fight in Korea is a FOTY worth battle, but the country certainly does deliver more than it's share of Treasure Trove worthy bouts. Here we share one that was just an all out war for the Korean Super Bantamweight title.
Han Bin Suh (4-0-2, 3) vs Jong Won Jung (5-7-2)
The 19 year old Han Bin Suh was the defending KBM Super Bantamweight champion, he was unbeaten and had won the title in his previous fought, stopping Dae Youn Lee in the 8th round. In the middle of July he took on the 32 year old Jong Won Jung, who's record was less than stellar, with 7 losses from his 14 bouts, and he had won just 1 of his last 8.
On paper this bout looked like an easy first defense for a quick rising domestic champion, who seemed likely to move into the regional title scene sooner rather than later. What we ended up getting however was a war. A toe to toe slugfest from two guys who lacked the single punch power to hurt the other, but looked to make up for that with volume, intensity and near none stop punching.
Although not a technically pretty bout, it was exhilarating as the two guys literally went to work, trying to just grind the other down. Defense and technique took a back seat to machismo, will to win and desire.
This might not be the prettiest piece of treasure from the 2019 treasure trove, but it is an insanely enjoyable piece, that's rough around the edges, but very hard to look away from.
This year has a lot left to give, and as we all know the Asian boxing calendar gets a bit crazy in the last few months of the year, with November and December both set to be massive months!
Of course it's not just looking towards the future that we need to do, but also looking at what we've already had, and boy have we had a great year so far!
As part of the "Treasure Trove" series we are going to share some of the most interesting fights from 2019 that may have passed you by, with full videos and some back ground details of those bouts. We're looking to shine an extra light on something you may have missed, be it a FOTY contender, a thrilling KO, a good old fashioned war or something else we feel deserves extra attention.
The only rules for fights included in this series is that they can't have been aired on American or British TV, as we want to shine a light on fights that haven't been given that level of attention, and that we're able to share them directly as an embedded video, as we obviously want you, our readers, to see them. Sadly this rules out some of the great fights on Boxing Raise.
To begin this new series we're going to look at a novice bout that was thoroughly entertaining, very short, but a fight that deserves to be seen.
Yuki Yazawa (0-0) vs Kazuki Nakamura (0-0-1)
Coming in to this it seemed unlikely either man would go on to get any attention. It was just an obscure novice bout on the undercard of a typical domestic Japanese card at the Korakuen Hall. The bout was one of the 5 bouts scheduled for 4 rounds and it held no real interest. A 30 year old debuting Yuki Yazawa wasn't tipped for any sort of great success, and at 32 years old Kazuki Nakamura was hardly a young fighter honing his craft.
Whilst Yazawa was making his debut it is worth noting that Nakamura had fought once as a professional, almost 14 months earlier, being held to a draw by fellow debutant Takumi Sato, who went on to win his next 2 bouts.
The bout genuinely could not have been any more nondescript going into it. There was nothing the bout had working in it's favour. Some how though it ended up being a bout that has been viewed close to 140,000 times on the official video put up by the promoter. It's a bout that features 3 knockdowns, a dose of show boating and a side order of a brutal knockout.
This is short, this is novices in action and this is our first from the Treasure Trove, which going forward will be posted every Wednesday following this first treat.
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.