This past Monday we had the chance to see an excellent All Japanese world title fight, with Kosei Tanaka narrowly defeating Sho Kimura to claim the WBO Flyweight world title. It was the latest in a long line of amazing All Japanese world title fighters dating back over 50 years. Here we take a look at 5 memorable all Japanese world title bouts.
Yoshiaki Numata (33-4, 9) Vs Hiroshi Kobayashi (50-6-2, 7)
December 14th 1967 - Kokugikan, Tokyo, Japan
The first ever all Japanese world title fight saw Yoshiaki Numata battle against Hiroshi Kobayashi. Coming in the the bout Numata was the WBC and WBA Super Featherweight champion, having taken the titles from the legendary Flash Elorde. When he won the titles he was the 5th ever Japanese world champion. In his first defense Numata faced off with the much more experienced Kobayashi. Kobayashi had made his name on the Japanese domestic scene mainly, where he had been the Featherweight champion, making 7 defenses before moving up in weight to challenge Numata.
The bout was an action packed one and would be award the Japanese fight of the year. Notably both men went on to have success after this bout and when the WBC and WBA titles split there was an 18 months time window when the two men were both world champions. The bout also got 41.9% of the audience tuning in from the Kanto region, one of the highest ever for a boxing contest!
Masao Oba (31-2-1, 13) vs Susumu Hanagata (34-10-8, 4) II
March 4th 1972-Nihon University Auditorium, Tokyo, Japan
Amazingly it would be more than 4 between the first and the second all-Japanese world title fight, though the wait was worth it with WBA Flyweight champion Masao Oba, one of the greatest Japanese fighters of all time, battling against Susumu Hanagata. This was a rematch of a bout the two men had had in 1968, when an 18 year old Oba was beaten by Hanagata, suffering his second career loss. Following their first bout Oba had become one the best fighters in the division, reeling off 15 straight wins and making two world title defenses. Hanagata had gone 10-2 following their first bout, with both losses coming on the road in world title bouts. This was high work rate and very exciting from both men.
Interestingly Oba's bout with Orlando Amores was voted the Japanese fight of the year for 1972 and unfortunately Oba would pass away less than a year after this bout, following a motor vehicle accident. Hanagata would go on to fight for a few more years and would actually score a huge win over Chartchai Chionoi in 1974 to put his name in the history books.
Yasuei Yakushiji (22-2-1, 16) Vs Joichiro Tatsuyoshi (10-1-1, 8)
December 4th 1994-Rainbow Hall, Nagoya, Aichi, Japan
Almost 30 years after the first ever all Japanese world title fight we had the first “unification” bout between two Japanese fighters as WBC Bantamweight champion Yasuei Yakushiji and Interim champion Joichiro Tatsuyoshi faced off at the Rainbow Hall. This bout was massive for Japanese boxing with Tatsuyoshi being the face of boxing in Osaka, due to his charismatic and exciting style. Yakushiji on the other hand was the more technically correct boxer, but was over-looked by some due to the popularity of Tatsuyoshi. That was despite the fact Yakushiji was the “real” champion and was looking to make his third defense.
This bout would achieve an audience number of 39.4% in the Kanto region, another of the highest ever in Japan, and like the Tanaka Vs Kimura bout it would live up to all the expectations with high tempo action, heavy shots landed by both and very little to split the men, both of whom were looking worse for wear at the end of the bout. This would be another winner of the Japanese Fight of the Year award.
Takanori Hatakeyama (23-1-2, 18) vs Hiroyuki Sakamoto (35-4, 25)
October 11th 2000-Yokohama, Kanagawa, Japan
In 2000 Japanese fight fans had another all-Japanese Fight of the Year as WBA Lightweight champion Takanori Hatakeyama and Hiroyuki Sakamoto beat the ever living snot out of each other in a bloody, violent, thrilling clash. Hatakeyama was the champion going into the bout, he enjoying his second reign as a world champion having previously held the WBA Super Featherweight title, and had won the Lightweight belt in brilliant fashion stopping Gilberto Serrano, with this being his first defense. Sakamnoto had lost two other world title fights, including one to Serrano, but had won the OPBF and Japanese titles. This was mostly an inside war fought between two men who did not want to hear the final bell.
As mentioned this was a Japanese Fight of the Year and seemingly took a lot out of both men. Neither man would go on to score a win of note, and in fact between them the only real good result was a draw in 2001 between Hatakeyama and Rick Yoshimura. This fight essentially ruined both men.
Kazuto Ioka (9-0, 6) Vs Akira Yaegashi (15-2, 8)
June 20th 2012-Bodymaker Colosseum, Osaka, Osaka, Japan
Almost 20 years after the brilliant Yakushiji/Tatsuyoshi bout we had the first true unification bout, as WBC Minimumweight champion Kazuto Ioka faced off with WBA champion Akira Yaegashi. The bout was a brilliant contest with a combination of skills and heart, with Yaegashi fighting through badly swollen eyes for much of the fight and managing to drag Ioka into his fight. Ioka always looked like the guy with more rounded skills, and speed, but Yaegashi's heart, determination and sheer will to win made this into a fantastic bout. It managed to give us some of the best rounds of the year and was another of the All-Japanese world title bouts to be awarded the Japanese Fight of the Year.
In the years since this bout both men have moved through the weights, with both claiming world titles at Light Flyweight and Flyweight, and now, remarkably, both are competing at Super Flyweight as they look to become 4-weight champions.
It's worth noting that there has been a lot All Japanese title bouts than we've covered. These range from the controversial, such as Daisuke Naito's bout with Daiki Kameda, to the frankly massive contest between Daisuke Naito and Koki Kameda which got a ridiculous 43.1% audience share. They also include other Japanese fights of the year, such as Takashi Uchiyama's bout with Daiki Kaneko.
Amazingly there has only ever been one all-Japanese world title fight to end in the first round, and that was the second bout between Masamori Tokuyama and Katsushige Kawashima. Interestingly the trilogy between Tokuyama and Kawashima saw Tokuyama win 2-1 taking decisions in both of his wins. Amazingly there has only ever been 1 draw in an all Japanese world title fight, that came in 2001, in the aforementioned bout between Takenori Hatakeyama and Rick Yoshimura.
For those who care about TV numbers all 3 of the high rating bouts were screened on TBS.
We've decided to look at these two men in our first ever “A Vs B”, where we look at the two and try to predict who will have the better future.
Given that Yeleussinov [Данияр Маратұлы Елеусінов] won the Olympic gold medal we'll start by looking at him first.
The Kazakh was an outstanding amateur fighter who had essentially been the best at 69KG's for several years.
Between 2008 and 2016 he had claimed major international medals on a consistent basis. These included a silver at the Youth World Championships in 2008, Asian Games gold medals in 2010 and 2014, gold medals at the 2013 and 2015 Asian Championships, a gold at the 2013 World championships, and a silver at 2015 World Championships as well as the 2016 Olympic gold medal.
Following his sensational amateur career Yeleussinov's signature was one that many promoters were chasing, with Matchroom Sports managing to edge out others and sign the Kazakh. Since then here has hardly put a foot wrong, winning his first 3 professional bouts. Despite the good start there are many suggesting his style is still very amateurish and he's not yet learned to really sit on his shots yet. He's very much showing signs of being an overly patient and skilled counter puncher, who unfortunately hasn't been matched with aggressive opponents and instead of being given show cases around his strengths he has almost struggled to shine.
Whilst not yet impressive in terms of his professional performances Yeleussinov has shown some glimpses of genius. His hand speed is fantastic, his timing is brilliant and his understanding of distance is unquestionable. It's not his skills that are underwhelming, just his style in the ring which needs a lot of tweaking is he's to become a star.
Although Giyasov did come up short against Yeleussinov in the Olympics he didn't have a particularly bad amateur career himself. In fact not only did he claim an Olympic silver medal but he then went on to claim the gold medal at both the Asian Championships and the World Championships in 2017. By the time he was done with the amateurs he was seen as one of the hottest properties, but did remain outside of the professional ranks whilst he finished his time in the WSB, preparing him as a pro-ready fighter before his debut.
Given he was a sensational amateur and had been through the WSB experience there was no wonder that several promoters chased his signature, before he signed with World of Boxing, the promotional power house run by Andrey Ryabinsky, with Giyasov signing along fellow Uzbek amateur standout Murodjon Akhmadaliev. Although he's a Uzbek promoted by a Russian he's actually based in the US, where he will be able to get fantastic sparring and training.
Having had a stellar 2017 as an amateur Giyasov made his professional debut this past March with a lot of expectations on his shoulders. It amazingly took just 15 seconds for him to get his debut over and done with, stopping Nicolas Atilio Velazquez with pretty much the first combination of the bout. Since then he has looked fantastic, exciting, aggressive, offensive and a touch arrogant. Not only has he looked great since turning professional but he has also been stepping up his competition and in August he scored an excellent win over Albert Mensah.
In our eyes the more polished professional skills, and the style of Giyasov is more likely to see him having a stronger professional career. He is already a step ahead of Yeleussinov in terms of competition and we think he may be more aggressively matched. We wouldn't be surprised to see both men win world titles, but we expect Giyasov's reign to be a better, longer and more impressive one. But feel free to vote in the poll below.
(Image courtesy of Sky Sports and World Boxing Series)
Thinking Out East
With this site being pretty successful so far we've decided to open up about our own views and start what could be considered effectively an editorial style opinion column dubbed "Thinking Out East" (T.O.E).