The Japanese Middleweight scene hasn't been one that has made much news internationally, though it's regularly produced some amazing fights and it's massively over-delivered in the quality stakes in recent years. Today we bring you our latest "Did You Know" article focusing on the Japanese Middleweight title...and It comes just a day before the 8th anniversary of the brilliant title fight between Koji Sato and Makoto Fuchigami, which we've included at the end of this article!
1-The first bout for the what is regarded as the Japanese Middleweight title came in 1947, when Shokichi Arai defeated Eiichi Moriwaki with a 10 round decision. This bout was held on August 31st 1947 in Tokyo, and pre-dates the JBC!
2-Hachiro Tatsumi holds three records for the title. He is the only 3-time Japanese Middleweight champion, he has the most total defenses, at 20, and the most defenses in a single reign at 13! Amazingly Tatsumi fought 111 times his 15 year career, and took part in 45 title bouts! During that time he would become a a 2-Japanese Welterweight champion, a 3 time Japanese Middleweight champion and a 3-time OPBF Middleweight champion.
3-Former champion Hajime Fuji, who held the title for 6 months, had previously been a Sumo wrestler before turning to boxing in 1966
4-Several American fighters have held the title. These include George Carter, who actually beat Hachiro Tatsumi on debut, Steven Smith, who fought as "Flasher Ishibashi" and Kevin Palmer.
5-The belt was once held by an English fighter who shares his name with that of a former British Prime Minister! That was James Callaghan, who held the title in 1980, defended it once, then retired with a 6-0 (4) record.
6-The little known known champion Katsuo Esashi ended his career with a losing record despite winning the title in 1979. In the end Esashi would retire with a 5-6 (3). He won the belt when he stopped the then 9-11-1 Nessie Horiguchi, and lost in his first defense just 7 months later. Incidentally he fought two future world champions, losing twice to Masashi Kudo and also losing in his final bout to Chong Pal Park. Surprisingly his only decision defeat was a 10 round decision loss to Kudo in their second bout.
7-Esashi wasn't the only champion to end up with more losses than wins either! Yoshiaki Eto, who retired 11-13-1 (5), had done the same in the 1960's.
8-Only 2 fighters who have held the title have ever gone on to win a world title. The first of those was Masashi Kudo, who held the WBA Light Middleweight title in the late 1980's, and Shinji Takehara, who won the WBA Middleweight title in 1995.
9-Despite the failure of Japanese Middleweight champions winning world titles several have tried, including Yoshiaki Tajima, Yoshinori Nishizawa, Naotaka Hozumi and Makoto Fuchigami.
Last week's "Did you know..." focused on one of the most iconic and well known venues in Japanese boxing, the Korakuen Hall. Today we stay on the theme of venues, but move West across Japan to look at one of the main venues for the Kansai region, the Osaka Prefectural Gymnasium, which you know better by other names that it's had over the years. It's arguably the most significant venue that boxing uses in Kansai and hosts a huge number over events every year.
So here we go with "Did you know... Osaka Prefectural Gymnasium"
1-The venue actually predates the Korakuen Hall, albeit not in it's current form. The venue first opened in 1952, around a decade earlier than Korakuen Hall. From what we can find it hosted very early on, with boxrec listing a show there back in 1953. The venue was however closed and renovated in the 1980's and the current gym was completed in 1987. Incidentally the venue also had one of it's first name changes in the 1980's, but more about it's name a little later.
2-The venue is actually split into several venues, with two main halls, with a smaller hall in the basement area and a main venue on top. The main venue has around 3100 fixed seats. Both of these venues have held boxing events.
3-In 2013, during a volleyball game, one of the pieces of wood on the floor snapped, injuring a player. The floor broke in such a way that it stabbed a player in the abdomen causing them to have stitches.
4-The venue has changed names multiple times, and it likely to be better known by boxing fans for one of two names. It started life in the 1950's as a "sports hall" before becoming a "gymnasium" in the 1980's. In 2012 it had it's name rights bought by BB Sports which saw them change the name to the BODYMAKER Coliseum, a venue that we suspect many Kazuto Ioka fans will recognise. When the BB Sports contract ended the venue took it's old "Osaka Prefectural Gymnasium" name back, before rights were sold again, in 2015 to EDION. EDION then renamed it the "EDION Arena Osaka", a name that it will carry until 2023.
5-Due to the name changes Kazuto Ioka fought at the same venue under 3 different names in the space of 9 months. In September 2014 he fought at the BODYMAKER Coliseum, in April 2015 it was the Prefectural Gymnasium and in September 2015 it had become the EDION Osaka.
6-The venue has crossed into fiction numerous times, being used in Hajime No Ippo and spin off video games "Victorious Boxers: Ippo's Road to Glory" for the PS2.
7-Until the mid 1990's the All Japan Rookie of the Year final was held at the venue, before going to the Korakuen Hall, which has hosted the event since. Despite that the "EDION Arena Osaka", as it's now called, continues to host the West Japan Rookie of the Year finals.
Last week we looked at the IBF Minimumweight title in our first "Did you know..." and today we go in a complete different direction by doing a Did you Know about one of the most significant venues in world boxing, the Korakuen Hall.
We're pretty confident if you've followed the Japanese scene or any amount of time you will have heard of it, though you may not know much about it, other than it being a very often used venue in Tokyo. It is however a venue that is full of facts, and today we bing you some of those!
1-Despite it's standing as one of the most important boxing venues in the world the venue only has 1,403 seats, though can hold a little over 2000 fans. Of those 1,403 seats only 780 of them are fixed in place.
2-The venue was completed on January 15th 1962.
3-The venue's first boxing show came on April 16th 1962, and was headlined by Kazuo Takayama Vs Oscar Reyes. This was actually the day the venue officially opened, despite having been complete since January. Notably this show was broadcast on Japanese TV as part of the Dynamic Glove series.
4-The decision to build the Korakuen Hall was taken by the hugely influential Yachiyo Manabe, who was a major figure in Japanese and Asian boxing. Although not a fighter Manabe's significance is huge, and he was one of the people behind the formation of the OPBF and also lead the Japanese Boxing Commission as their president.
5-The venue allows spectators to bring their own food and drink into the Hall, and also sells it on site. The venue allows you to bring in your own alcohol, though may require you to pour it into plastic cups.
6-Although the venue is relatively small it has regularly hosted world title bouts. The first in the venue was held in 1970, and saw Hiroshi Kobayashi retain the WBA Super Featherweight title in his second bout against Antonio Amaya.
7-Although best known for boxing it does host a variety of other events, including professional wrestling. The first wresting there was in 1966 and headlined by Japanese icon Giant Baba.
Today we post our first "Did You Know" article, where we look at the IBF Minimumweight title, which has seen more than 20 champions during it's history, which began in 1987. It's certainly not one of the most well respected titles but is certainly a belt with an interesting history and quite a lot of obscure facts!
1-The first bout for the title took place in June 1987 and saw Kyung Yung Lee stopping Masaharu Kawakami. Officially this was Kawakami's debut, though sources have stated that he did fight under the IBF Japan organisation, and on the on-screen graphic for the bout it is implied Kawakami had had previous bouts and had an 88% KO record
2-The third ever bout for the title saw Samuth Sithnaruepol defeat In Kyu Hwang with a 15 round decision in August 1988. This was the last ever world title bout fought over 15 rounds, and came almost 7 years after the tragic bout between Ray Mancini and Deuk Koo Kim, which had lead to the WBC cutting the length of titles bouts to 12 rounds.
3-Former IBF Minimumweight champions Manny Melchor (38-35-6, 6) and Nico Thomas (29-23-6, 18) both failed to win more than 50% of their professional bouts. Thomas, who held the title for just over 3 months in 1989, won exactly 50% of his career bouts whilst Melchor, who held the title for just over 3 months, won just over 48% of his career bouts. As a result they have two of the worst win rates of any world champions in history!
4-The first decade of the title saw the title exclusively being fought for in Asia, with title bouts in Korea, Thailand and Indonesia. Those 3 countries hosted the first 36 IBF Minimumweight title bouts, and it wasn't until 1998 that the bout was taken outside of Asia. Amazingly after it left Asia, with Zolani Petelo, it would take until 2004 for it to return to the continent.
5-It is the only world title to be held by 2 separate Indonesian fighters, with Nico Thomas and Muhammad Rachman both holding the belt!
6-In 2013 Katsunari Takayama became the first Japanese fighter to hold the title, winning the belt in Guasave against Mario Rodriguez. This was third time lucky for Takayama, who had seen his first challenge for the belt end with a No Contest, and his second was a decision loss, both against Nkosinathi Joyi.
7-Having just mentioned Takayama it's worth noting he is one of two men to have held the title more than once. The other Ratanapol Sor Vorapin, who lost the belt on the scales in May 1996 before reclaiming it less than 2 months later.
8-Ratanapol Sor Vorapin is the only man to have defended the belt more than 10 times! He managed 12 defenses in his first reign alone, and then added 6 more during his second reign for a total of 18, which is more than double of the second most, 7 defenses by Fahlan Sakkreerin Sr.
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).