On January 26th Japan's Takeshi Inoue (13-0-1, 7) will attempt to become just the 4th Japanese fighter to win a world title at 154lbs. With that in mind I though we'd have a look at the previous 3 Japanese fighters to achieve the feat.
Koichi Wajima (31-6-1, 25)
The master of the “Frog Punch” Koichi Wajima was Japan's first champion at 154lbs, and the only Japanese fighter to win world titles at the weight more than once. He was also the 10th Japanese fighter to ever win a world title.
Wajima was born in 1943 and made his debut at the age of 25, in the summer of 1968. His career was short, though it never seemed plausible for him to have an incredibly long career given his age when he debuted, but what he achieved was genuinely remarkable.
In his 12th professional bout Wajima claimed his first title, the Japanese Light Middleweight title, stopping Noriyasu Yoshimura in 4 rounds. That win saw Wajima's record move to 12-0 (11) and actually ended Yoshimura's career after just a single defense. Wajima would suffer his first loss just weeks later, and suffer another defeat in early 1970, dropping to 13-2 (12), from then on however he went on a tear, going unbeaten for 17 fights.
That 17 fight unbeaten run saw included 8 successful defenses of the Japanese Light Middleweight title before and win his first world titles, the then unified WBA and WBC Light Middleweight titles. Wajima would win the titles by taking a split decision over Carmelo Bossi and would make 6 defenses of the belt. The defenses including wins over veteran Domenico Tiberia, the unbeaten Miguel de Oliveira and countryman Ryu Sorimachi, before he lost the title to Oscar Albarado. A rematch with Albarado saw Wajima become a 2-time champion but he would lose in his first defense to Jae Doo Yuh. A rematch with Yuh saw Wajima defeat the Korean to become a 3-time champion.
Sadly Wajima's third, and final, reign lasted just 3 months before he lose the title to Jose Duran. He would attempt to reclaim the WBA title but would lose his final bout to Eddie Gazo then retire from fighting. Despite being long retired he does currently run a gym, and recently saw protege Hiroaki Teshigawara become the OPBF Super Bantamweight champion.
Masashi Kudo (23-1, 12)
The second Japanese fighter to win a world title at 154lbs was Masashi Kudo, a now often forgotten fighter from the 1970's. He was born in 1951 and made his debut in 1973. In just his 6th professional fight he won the Japanese Middleweight title, defeating Nobuyoshi Ozaki, and he would record 8 successful defenses before moving down in weight.
At 154lbs he would defeat Eddie Gazo with a 15 round split decision to win the WBA Light Middleweight title. He would record 3 defenses, two of them by close decision, before losing the belt to Ayub Kalule in 1979. After that loss Kudo retired from boxing.
As a fighter Kudo was technically very limited, but he was a very strong, powerful guy, with a fantastic engine. Prior to turning his hand to boxing he had been a very solid wrestler, and his physical strength from wrestling likely helped him have his success in the boxing ring. If we're being honest he was an over-achiever to say the least, but a very tough guy.
Tadashi Mihara (24-1, 15)
The third, and most recent, Japanese fighter to win a world title at 154lbs was Tadashi Mihara. He was born in 1955 and debuted soon after his 23rd birthday, in 1978. He raced away to the OPBF title, winning that in just his 5th bout, and made 6 defenses before making his US debut.
On his US debut he stopped Ramon Dionisio, as part of the under-card to Sugar Ray Leonard Vs Ayub Kalule, which was for the WBA Light Middleweight title. Leonard, who beat Kalule, vacated the title and Mihard would then return to the US to face Rocky Fratto for the vacant title. Mihara would narrowly defeat Fratto to become the WBA champion, but his reign was short lived and he would lose the title less than 3 months later, wheen Davey Moore beat him.
Despite the loss to Moore Mihara would continue to fight, and would claim the Japanese title which he defended 5 times, before ending his career in 1985.
Interestingly Mihara is the only one of these men to have won the title on American soil, something Inoue will be looking to do, he was also unbeaten in 14 when he won the title, Inoue is currently 13-0-1. One final coincidence is that Munguia (34-0) and Fratto (24-0) were both unbeaten.
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).