On Friday Japanese fans had a chance to see the legendary Hozumi Hasegawa (35-5, 15) in action, though unfortunately it seems like they saw only the shadow of the fighter who had once been among the best pound-for-pound fighters on the planet.
The "Ace of Japan", a former Bantamweight and Featherweight champion, was dipping his toes at Super Featherweight as faced off against world ranked Mexican fighter Carlos Andres Ruiz Machuca (14-2, 5). On paper is was risky match up, but a match up that Hasegawa was expected to win, albeit with some questions being asked along the way.
Sadly for Hasegawa there was more than just a few questions being asked and many times his answeres were unsatisfactory.
The 34 year old Hyogo man started well, showing his experience though was dropped in rounds 3 and 5 as Machuca's right hand did the damage to the talented but aging Japanese veteran. Those knockdowns seemed to suggest that Machuca was going to see off Hasegawa but the Japanese fighter showed his heart and saw off the storm.
Hasegawa's fighting spirit kicked in after the knockdowns as he fought back and managed to establish his boxing to just do enough to claim a number of the later rounds. Those rounds were the difference on the scorecards with Hasegawa taking a razor thin decision, with scores of 95-94, 95-93 and 96-93.
After the fight Hasegawa looked like a man who knew he had been lucky. He looked beaten up, haggard and like his age had caught up with him. There seemed to be a resigned look in his face as he spoke to the crowd and it looked like he knew the skills that had once made him a star were no longer there.
Whilst he did get the win it seemed that Hasegawa wasn't happy, the fans knew this wasn't the Hasegawa they loved and it seemed that even his family were unhappy. In fact it was his family who lead the calls for Hasegawa to retire with his father being vocal about it, and Hasegawa's wife also seeming to suggest that her husband should retire. They'll know that Hozumi wants another world title fight, but after Friday's performance a retirement does seem like an intelligent choice.
Note-A huge thanks to Graham Houston for correcting us, the first knockdown came in round 3 not round 4 as originally reported.
(Image courtesy of daily.co.jp)
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