When you get two exciting, tough fighters you tend to expect an expect an exciting fight. Today we look at one such bout as one of the most exciting Korean's of the 90's took on one of the most exciting Japanese fighters of the same time in their first, of two, sensational bouts the men had. Sadly we sit here in 2020 and neither of the men involved are remembered as big names internationally, but both are still significant in boxing in their homelands. Thankfully being able to talk about a fight like this gives us a rare opportunity to shine a light on both men.
Yong Soo Choi (23-2, 13) vs Takanori Hatakeyama (20-0, 16) I
Korean warrior Yong Soo Choi was a fantastic action fight, who was limited, but aggressive, tough and heavy handed. He had claimed the WBA Super Featherweight title in October 1995, when he stopped Victor Hugo Paz. As a champion he was known for having exciting wars, with two all out thrillers against Yamati Mitani and a war with Lakva Sim. By the time we got to October 1997 he had notched 5 defenses and was already established as the sort of fighter who provided fantastic action, no matter who he was up against. Whilst he could put on a thriller with anyone his most exiting fights came against fellow tough guys, who liked to fight with high volume of power shots.
In October 1997 Choi clashed with unbeaten Japanese star Takanori Hatakeyama, a huge popular fighter who's style was some was similar in some ways to Choi's. Although less experienced tan the champion the 22 year old Japanese fighter, did look like the more technically rounded fighter though he was certainly the one stepping up in class and in what was his first world title fight. With a 20-0 record at the time his biggest achievement coming into the fight was an OPBF title reign, despite that he seemed to be developing in to a real star, with an aggressive style and brutal punching power. Given his age he was developing, getting stronger and hadn't had the damaging wars Choi had had.
From the first round it was clear we were set for something special as the two men kept meeting and unloading power shots in some thrilling exchanges. This wasn't the typical feeling out round of a world title bout, but the start of a war between two huge punching, two guys, each trying to out man the other. Choi was the more aggressive, pushing the action, and relying more on his pressure, Hatakeyama the one more willing to give ground, use his feet and create space, but time and time again the two men just met head on.
Round by round the action grew, along with some swelling around the challenger's face, a result of the power shots he was being caught by. Despite being the younger, fresher man it was Hatakeyama who was showing signs of damage whilst the rocked faced Choi never showed any damage, despite taking share of clean shots.
The exchanges up close became more and more frequent as the bout went on, with Hatakeyama's legs slowing due to the tempo of the war. The bout began to slow later on, with the exchanges being less frequent, but when they happened they were just as brutal with holes in the defenses of both men becoming wider and more open.
If you've not seen this one you owe yourself the 50 minutes or so it takes to watch two men beat the snot out of each other in a genuine 1997 Fight of the Year contender. This is brutal, explosive, competitive, damaging and chapter 1 of a 2 chapter series between men, who were very hard to split across their two fights.
With the current lack of live fights we've decided to take on an interesting task of looking for the most under-rated boxers from various decades. We've decided to begin this series looking at the 1960's and running with a few basic rules.
Firstly none of the fighters here can have won a world title at any point during their careers, that means not only in the relevant decade, but at all. To be considered for any decade a fighter might have either fought during 5 years of the relevant decade, just that decade, or more than half of their career in that decade. As a result of those rules we will also only be considering their records for that decade, which will be mentioned alongside their career records where necessary.
Also just for clarity we are only considering Asian fighters for this series.
Where a fighter fights in multiple decades, as long as they fill one of the criteria, they can be considered for multiple decades.
Also please note this isn't a comprehensive list of over-looked fighters from the decade and the list could have been much, much longer than it is.
Mitsunori Seki (Career tally 61-11-1 (35); record during the 1960's 50-9 (31))
We're going to start this by saying that Mitsunori Seki was one of the best fighters to never win a world title, regardless of the decade. He is almost certainly the best Japanese fighter to never win a world title and was regarded as a genuinely unlucky fighter back in his day. During his career he did get chances at the top, with 5 world title bouts, though he was unlucky to face really top level fighters. His first world title fight was a split decision loss to Pone Kingpetch, he then went on to come up short against Sugar Ramos, Vicente Saldivar, twice, and Howard Winstone.
With 11 career losses it's easy to downplay how good Seki was but given 5 of his losses came in world title fights and others came to the likes of Jose Medel, Chartchai Chionoi, Hiroshi Kobayashi and Vicente Milan Derado you realise he was only losing to world class fighters. He also notched wins against Leo Espinosa, Chartcai Chionoi, Tanny Campo and Kang Il Suh.
Seki was a really talented southpaw, he had enough snap in his power to get the respect of opponents, without being a banger, and was regarded more as a fencer style boxer. He moved from Flyweight to Featherweight, and really had his best days at 126lbs where he dominated the OPBF scene. Between September 1962 and March 1968 Seki ruled supreme on the OPBF title scene, making 12 defense of the OPBF Featherweight title. He still holds the record for most defenses of that particular title, and for the longest reign.
In the modern day boxing scene of 4 world titles, Seki would have certainly held some form of a world crown during his long career that just lacked that 1 career defining win.
Kang Il Suh (Career tally 41-11 (13); record during the 1960's 39-11 (11))
On paper Kang Il Suh's record, like that of Mitsunori Seki, is less than great, but records only tell half a story and Suh is another great example of that.
The Korean began his career in 1961 and fought right through to 1972 and faced several notable fighters of his era, as well as picking up a number of early career losses.
In May 1963 Suh fell to 14-4 (7) following that he went 25-7 during the decade with his losses coming to Mitusnori Seki, Flash Elorde, twice, Rene Barrientos, Hiroshi Kobayashi, Raul Rojas and Yoshiaki Numata. Not a bad line up if you ask us! Even more notably he pushed Elorde razor close in both of their bouts, and likely would have got the decision had the bouts not been in the Philippines.
On the other hand he notched some very strong wins, over-coming Hiroshi Kobayashi and Yoshiaki Numata, before losing rematches to both, and took the unbeaten record of the then 17-0 Mando Ramos, in the US.
Whilst Suh wasn't a world beater he's a fighter who's career is massively over-looked, and like Seki a bit of luck could very much have changed his standing in the sport.
Takao Sakurai (Career tally 30-2 (4); record during the 1960's 27-2 (4))
Winning an Olympic gold medal at the 1964 Olmypics in Tokyo was the launch pad to big things for Takao Sakurai, who was instantly a Japanese star when he turned professional in 1965. In just his second bout he was fighting in 10 round bouts and he quickly scored notable domestic wins over the likes of Katsutoshi Aoki, Toyoharu Mizuta and Yoshio Nakane. He would win his first 22 bouts before losing in a world title bout to Lionel Rose, by majority decision.
Sadly the loss to Rose, in 1968, would be Sakurai's only shot at the world title and though he would later fight in a world title eliminator against Ruben Olivares, suffering his second loss in that bout. He bounced back from that loss well, beating Katsuyoshi Takayama and then winning the OPBF Bantamweight title to end the decade on a high.
Given his amateur success, his close bout with Rose and his OPBF title win, it's really odd how Sakurai has been forgotten by many in the sport. He was in the Bantamweight division during one of it's toughest eras and even finished the decade ranked #2 by Ring Magazine, which really tells you how highly he was thought of at the time.
Kiyoshi Tanabe (21-0-1, 5)
Dubbed the "Tragedy Boxer" Kiyoshi Tanabe is one of boxing's biggest "What if's".
The talented Japanese Flyweight had won bronze at the 1960 Olympics, losing a debatable decision to Sergei Sivko. He would then turn professional in 1963 and be moved aggressively. In only his 4th professional bout he beat the much more experienced Katsuo Yachinuma then did a number on Eishiro Iwaya just weeks later. In 1964 alone he fought 7 times as he climbed up the domestic scene.
In 1965 Tanabe notched a win over Ric Magramo before taking the Japanese Flyweight title in October. He would defend his national title twice whilst moving towards bigger fights. A bigger fight came in February 1967, and he shone, stopping WBA Flyweight world champion Horacio Accavallo in 6 rounds. It was a huge win, a massive statement and should have set up a rematch with the Argentinian, who had only lost once in his previous 80 bouts.
Sadly just as Tanabe was on the verge of his big shot he was forced to retire due to a detached retina. This would end Tanabe's career just as he was looking like he was about to hit his prime.
Aged just 26 when he last fought the future seemed so bright for Tanabe, but fortune didn't shine on him and his career. By the time he retired he proved he could be defensively smart, following the guidance of his first trainer, and could also be a vicious and aggressive fighter, as he was in his final bout. He had linked up with Eddie Townsend close to the end of his career, and that relationship really could have lead Tanabe to the very top.
Ric Magramo (Career tally 35-17-5 (15); record during the 1960's 35-16-5 (15))
Another fighter in this list with double digit losses, but another man who took on a who's who, was Ric Magramo. The Filipino Flyweight not only lost to Kiyoshi Tanabe, as previously mentioned, but also lost to the likes of Walter McGowan, Bernabe Villacampo, Hiroyuki Ebihara, Erbito Salavarria and Berkrerk Chartvanchai.
Obviously losing a lot but to good fighters is one thing, but Magramo also had his share of good wins as well. Those included two wins over Bernabe Villacampo and two wins over Erbito Salavarria as well as a win over Kenichi Iida and one over Baby Lorona. Those wins alone show he was a fine fighter. Sadly though he was a very streaky fighter, and when he lost one he tended to lost a few more around the same time. This was best seen between January 1964 and August 1965, when he went 4-7.
Whilst Magramo was never a world class fighter, and was far too inconsistent to ever be consider world class, he had 4 wins men who held world titles. A staggering number given there wasn't 4 world titles flying around back in the 1960's.
Katsuyoshi Takayama (Career tally 45-11-6 (12); record during the 1960's 45-9-6 (12))
When we spoke about Takao Sakurai we mentioned Katsuyoshi Takayama and that's not without reason. Takayama was himself a man who banged on the door tough era. He did get a world title fight, but that was pretty much the start of the end for him.
Takayama made his professional debut in 1962 and debuted with a loss. Following that he reeled off a 35 fight unbeaten run with wins against Speedy Hayase, Seisaku Saito, Baby Lorona, Katsuo Saito and Salvatore Burruni. Those wins lead him to his 1966 world title fight with Horacio Accavallo, which he lost by split decision.
Following Takayama's loss to Accavallo he never really managed to recapture the form which he had shown up to that point. He went 13-9-3 (1) after losing in his world title fight. Despite the bad form there was some notable results, such as his 1967 win over Speedy Hayase, and his 1969 wins over Leo Calderon, in Honolulu and Eiji Morioka, in what would be his final bout of the decade.
With Takayama his record stated one thing, but at several times during the decade he was legitimately among the best at Flyweight and Bantamweight. Had there been a Super Flyweight division in the 1960's he would have been a very serious player.
Teruo Kosaka (Career tally 63-9-2 (26); record during the 1960's 41-5-1 (19))
Amazingly Teruo Kosaka was 19 years old when the decade began but was already a veteran with 27 bouts to his name! Despite the experience he had prior to the decade it was the 1960's that really saw him shine with a further 47 bouts, including 3 world title bouts.
Lets start by, again, looking at Kosaka's losses. From the 5 he suffered in the 1960's 3 came in world title bouts, with 2 of those coming to Flash Elorde and one to Carlos Ortiz. His others losses in the decade both came to Elorde. That's right in the 1960's Kosaka lost 4 times to Flash Elorde and once to Carlos Ortiz. Notably all 3 of his world title bouts ended with Kosaka being stopped.
Whilst Kosaka's losses are nothing to be ashamed of it's worth looking at what success he had as well.
Kosaka began the decade by reeling off 16 straight wins, and winning the Japanese Lightweight title in December 1960. A loss to Elorde in 1961 was avenged the following year, making Kosaka a unified Japanese and OPBF Lightweight champion. In 1963 Kosaka would score a win over future world champion Pedro Adigue Jr, to give him a second big win over a man who would win a world title. He also picked up several awards from the Japanese annual boxing awards, including the Fighting Award, in 1961 and 1962, and the skills award in 1964.
Sadly for Kosaka he could never secure a big win on the top stage and was actually stopped in all 3 of his world title bouts. Despite that he's very, very over-looked now a days, and wins over Elorde and Adigue are very respectable victories.
Eigo Takagi (37-8-2, 8)
Fighting between 1963 and 1968 Eigo Takagi was another of the man on the outside looking in on a stacked Bantamweight division. He failed to ever get a world title fight, but was certainly close to a shot at times during his ultra active, though short, career.
As with many under-rated fighters featured on this list a lot of fans will look at Takagi's record and instantly over look him. With 8 losses in 47 bouts he lost rather frequently, however it's worth starting this by noting he began his career 7-6-1 (3), with those 14 bouts coming in the space of his first year as a professional. After that he went 31-2-1 with wins over Katsuo Yachinuma, Tiny Palacio, Speedy Hayase and Ushiwakamaru Harada, twice.
Takagi's first win over Harada netted him the Japanese Bantamweight title, which he defended against Fighting Harada's brother the following year, before losing the belt in his final bout, a third clash with Harada.
Whilst Takagi never got a big career defining victory this list was never about those who had the most success, but the most over-looked. With that in mind it needs to be said that Takagi didn't get a single title fight until his 40th professional bout, his first clash with Harada, in 1967. He was certainly over-looked.
Koji Okano (27-2-1, 18)
Typically Japanese fighters at 140lbs do get over-looked and their success there is limited. Koji Okanao is one of the many over-looked fighters at weight, who fought 30 times between 1963 and 1968. During his active career he won the Rookie of the Year and was the inaugural Japanese champion at 140lbs.
After making his debut in June 1963 Okano was matched with fellow novices, before going on to win the All Japan Rookie of the Year at Lightweight in January 1964. Later that same year he beat Kazuyoshi Kubokura to claim the Japanese Light Welterweight title, and become the first holder of that belt.
It's not totally clear how many defenses Okano made, with some sources stating he made a single defenses and others stating he made 2, but that was the only title he managed to ever fight for, despite going unbeaten until 1967, losing for the first time in his 28th bout. More about that loss a little later.
During his unbeaten run Okano not only took the Rookie of the Year and Japanese title but also beat the well travelled Paul Armstead, future OPBF champion Chun-Kyo Shin and former OPBF title challenger Tsunetomi Miyamoto. Despite his long unbeaten run Okano would lose 2 of his last 3, with the first of those coming to the brilliant Rene Barrientos, and the second coming 4 months later to Akihisa Someya, in a Japanese Lightweight title bout. After that loss he retired.
Ushiwakamaru Harada (Career tally 36-20-14 (14); record during the 1960's 21-7-8 (10))
Some one we briefly mentioned earlier in this article was Ushiwakamaru Harada, the brother of Japanese legend Fighting Harada. Whilst Ushiwakamaru didn't have the success of his iconic brother it's impossible to explain how over-looked he was during his car career. With 70 career bouts, it's easy to just look at the numbers and write him off, but that totally misses the point of his career, and the idea of this article.
Beginning his career in 1965 he ended up fight 36 times in the decade, claiming the Japanese Bantamweight title twice, reclaiming it from Eigo Takagi in their third bout, he also managed a draw with Chucho Castillo, and 2 draws with Yoshio Nakane. His other notable results from the decade included wins over future OPBF champions Hyun Kim, and Katsuo Saito.
Harada also, notably, fought the legendary Ruben Olivares, a bout that ended in a confounding stoppage that seemed really ill judged
Technically Harada got his best results in the 1970's, but what he did in the swinging 60's was solid though the decade and certainly made him worthy of a mention here.
Today's Closet Classic sees us digging into the realms of the relative unknown to share a fight from a Korean Rookie of the year tournament from almost 20 years ago. By it's self that might not sound too tempting, but when we include fights in our Closet Classic series you should realise they are worth watching, and this is no exception!
Hae Won Kim (3-0, 3) vs Hyun Joong Kim (2-0, 2)
Entering the bout Hae Won Kim had only been a professional for a matter of weeks. He had debuted on January 16th 2001, with a 3rd round KO win against Kwang Woo Jo, and had managed to score 2 more wins before January was over. Yes you did do the maths right, that was 3 fights in half a month from Kim. Whilst that's impressive it is worth noting that only his debut lasted more than a round, and all 3 of those bouts were against fellow novices.
Whilst not quite as active Hyun Joong Kim had made his debut on January 19th, with a 3rd round KO over Young Ho Lee, and had notched his second win on January 30th to lead into this bout. He had fought one fewer bout, but had seen just as many pro rounds as Hae Won Kim, having gone into round 3 in his first bout and round 2 in his second bout.
As anyone who has watched Asian rookie tournaments will attest to the quality in match ups can vary. Some are amazing bouts between young and surprisingly polished professionals, with 2019 Japanese Rookie of the Year winner Katsuki Mori being a fantastic example of that. Others however are crude, wild punchers, who have gotten by on power, aggression and the lack of experience of their opponents. We'll admit we've not see the bouts that lead Hae Won Kim and Hyun Joong Kim to the final, though within seconds of the final beginning it was easy to assume they had gotten here simply hitting harder and taking a better shot than their opponents.
From the opening bell the two looked awkward, clumsy and unpolished. But they matched up perfectly. After some attempts at jabs from both and then a clumsy slip, the two began to find their groove, unleashing power shots, with Hyun Joong Kim scoring a knockdown half way through round 1 with a huge right hand. We suspect this was the type of thing that has seen his first 2 opponents begin to unravel, but Hae Won Kim got back to feet and looked to resume the action, despite bundled down later in the round and then dropped a second time.
Prior to the second knockdown it was clear Hae Won Kim was hurt, his leg, which appeared to be hurt on the first knockdown, had become a real problem, and with a 10-7 opening round against him it was clear he was in a lot of problems. Those problems got worse early in round 2, before he turned the tables, dropping Hyun Joong Kim. It was here the pace slowed down, with Hyun Joong Kim seemingly having punched himself out, before being dropped again.
Knowing there was about to be a 10-7 round against him Hyun Joong Kim got back to his feet and came out firing.
We won't ruin the ending, but lets just say this is wild, exciting, crude, and fun. It's something the purists will want to complain about, but in reality we all enjoy this type of crazy war!
Back in February we sent our Patrons an email requesting suggestions for what bouts they'd like to see included in this series, and one of the responses was the 2008 WBA Minimumweight title bout between Yutaka Niida and Roman Gonzalez. So here's that bout now being covered.
Yutaka Niida (23-1-3, 9) vs Roman Gonzalez (20-0, 18)
Although somewhat forgotten by fans now a days Yutaka Niida was incredibly highly regarded back in the mid 00's. He was in the Ring Magazine top 10 from 2003, ending the year #5, to this bout. He had been ranked #1 by Ring in 2004, 2005 and 2007, and was #2 to Ivan Calderon in 2006. He was also a 2-time WBA champion, having first won the title in 2001, ending the second reign of veteran Chana Porpaoin, before reclaiming the title in in 2004, and avenging his sole loss to Noel Arambulet in the process.
Whilst Niida's first reign had been a short one, with Niida retiring as the champion, he had returned to the ring and come into this bout with 7 defenses of the WBA belt, including wins over Juan Jose Landaete, a then unbeaten Eriberto Gejon, OPBF champion Jae Won Kim and future multi-time world champion Katsunari Takayama. Those defenses put Niida 4th, at the time, for most defenses for a Japanese world champion.
At this point the then 21 year old Roman Gonzalez was a relative unknown outside of Nicaragua. This was only his third bout away from his homeland, with the two other two also taking place in Japan. On paper it was a massive step up for the youngster, who was highly regarded by those around him, but rather untested. Of course looking back with hindsight we now know that Gonzalez was one of the best fighters in recent memory, but at the time he really hadn't done anything to suggest he was going to be the star he has since become.
Up to this point Gonzalez's best win up to this point likely being a 10 round decision over 2-time Japanese title challenger Hiroshi Matsumoto, and that was one of two times he had been taken the distance. The step up from Matsumoto to Niida was seen as massive, and this was set, on paper, to be a massive test for Gonzalez.
Despite the bout being the first major bout of Gonzalez's career the future Nicaraguan great took control early, boxing aggressively from the early going. He was aggressive, boxing behind his jab, and backing up Niida, who was taking time to scout and see what Gonzalez was about. Fighting with a high guard Niida had moments in the opening round, but for the most part he was under pressure from the footwork of Gonzalez who burst into life a couple of times during the round.
The second round was much like the first, though things did seem to move up a gear with a few more exchanges as both became more willing to let shots go. Niida was still the more cautious, likely trying to take the steam out of Gonalez's pressure, and find angles to counter from. Whilst Gonalez was starting to get inside more, and force a response from the champion.
In round 3 things really began to move through the gears, with both men letting their leather fly on the inside, giving us some exhilarating exchanges. It was here we began to see the touches of genius that we would become accustomed to over the following decade from the little Nicaraguan master. It was also here where Niida began to try fighting back, showing the spirit of a champion, despite lacking the fire power needed to get Gonzalez's respect.
We won't ruin what happens after the third, but those that know anything about Gonzalez's career will know the rest. Regardless, enjoy the bout that helped establish the legend of "Chocolatito".
If you'd also like to suggest a bout for us to cover, or help support the work we do, please consider becoming a Patron here www.patreon.com/Asianboxing
So this is the 4th in our mini series looking at Asian boxers in commercials and today we do a special looking at 5 adverts that were based around food and drink, and trust there's more of these for future editions of this series. In fact it appears food and drink is probably the #1 subject for Asian fighters to advertise!
Joichiro Tatsuyoshi - Stir Fried Beef
Whilst we said food and drink was the #1 subject for Asian fighters to be involved in commercials for, we didn't say they were all good, and that's obvious here in a 1994 advert featuring Japanese icon Joichiro Tatsuyoshi. For those saw edition 2 of this series you should be aware Tatsuyoshi didn't do a great Nissan commercial, and this wasn't any better. For a guy who oozed natural charisma his adverts were terrible.
Takanori Hatakeyama - Kirin Beer
We like beer! Do you like beer? It seems that Takanori Hatakeyama likes beer! Here we see the popular Hatakeyama bringing in the laundry before the rain begins and enjoying a can of Kirin lager afterwards. This is simple, slightly comedic and essentially void of dialogue. Not the best advert but still an interesting look at Japanese commercials circa 2001...they typically weren't great.
Ryota Murata - Pork miso soup
As we've seen already some Japanese food adverts were awful, though in fairness there does seem to be a bit more polish to this Ryota Murata advert for some a Sukiya product, in fact a soup set. It's not an amazing advert but compared to the two above, it works much better in selling the product, with the product clearly on view.
Guts Ishimatsu - Sweet Gum
When a former boxer has legitimate acting roles you tend to think they can work a commercial, and Guts Ishimatsu can certain work commercials. He's been in a lot of them including this one for a sweet gum. The veteran is a natural on camera and the advert not only looks professional and works and also has a comedic element. A really solid advert for...gum... Nothing amazing, but solid.
Manny Pacquiao - Uni-Pak Sardines
Whilst Guts Ishimatsu has been in a lot of commercials, we believe that Filipino great Manny Pacquiao has been in more, and we mean a lot more. They vary in quality and humour, but the Filipino marketing teams know what they are doing with the "Pacman". Here we have an advert for Uni-Pak Sardines, and this probably the best of the food and drink adverts on this list, with Pacquiao and friends enjoying the sardines. It's light-hearted, it's silly and it's got Pacquiao not taking himself too seriously.
Every so often we get reminded of a closet class by accident, and that's the case with today's bout, which we stumbled on again recent and remembered just how brutal, exciting and thrilling it was. And also how controversial it was, added to the drama and the story of the fight, which was amazing even with out controversy! This was a bout from Korea that really had it all, and was at the highest of levels.
Lakva Sim (11-1-1, 10) Vs Jong Kwon Baek (20-0, 18)
Although not really well remembered in the west Lakva Sim is an historically significant name in Asian boxing. He was the first ever Mongolian world champion and the first real star from Mongolia, winning world titles at Super Featherweight and Lightweight and being the thorn in the side of bigger name fighters through the 1990's and early 00's. Wearing a weathered and weary face Sim was tough, heavy handed, exciting, aggressive and brutal. He was the product of the tough Mongolian conditions and having been a stellar amateur he was fast tracked, winning the PABA on debut and challenging for a world title in his 6th bout.
Although Sim came up short in his first world title bout, it only took until his 13th professional bout for him to claim a title. That bout saw Sim travel over to Japan and stop the hugely popular, and up to that point unbeaten, Takanori Hatakeyama to claim the WBA Super Featherweight title. He then travelled to Korea to make his first defense, taking on Jong Kwon Baek.
The then unbeaten Jong Kwon Baek was a rising hopeful of Korean boxing. He had won the Korean Rookie of the Year before winning the Korean and OPBF Lightweight titles. His early promise and power had seen him stop his first 11 opponents, and then go on a 7 fight T/KO run coming into this bout. He had proven to be exciting, explosive but was relatively untested, and even his title wins had been over limited opponents, such as Ali Albaracin. Although he was stepping up massively he had home advantage and the momentum of an unbeaten record.
The bout started, like many, with the men trying to figure each other out. It didn't take long for them to begin letting shots go though, with bombs being thrown within the first 90 seconds or so. It wasn't an all out fire fight straight away, but it was clear both were willing to let shots go and towards the end of the round, it had started to show signs that we could see something special.
The pace began to heat up in round 2 and early in round 3 the bout had become a thrilling war with Sim applying pressure and forcing Baek to fire back, as the two began to trade hooks and uppercuts. This continued through round 4 as the pace and tempo of the bout increased, with Baek trying to stamp his authority on the bout and Sim trying to prevent the local favourite from ahead of steam.
The fourth round really was something special as we saw two incredibly tough men landing bombs on each other and although round 5 was a little bit exciting the two men really did continue to land bombs through bout, with round 6 being another exceptional round that saw both men proving their incredible chins. That led brilliantly to a brutal 7th round, as both men again had their will to win tested.
Controversy struck in round 8, when referee Stanley Christodoulou deducted a point from Sim, but that didn't change the in ring action, which continued to be brutal, punishing and thrilling.
We won't ruin how this one ends, but if you like seeing two strong, powerful, tough guys go to war, this is right down your alley. A sensational, over-looked an brutal bout, with a touch of controversy, and a lot of action! A brilliant bout!
Before the world was over-taken by the current on going issues that have essentially put boxing on a freeze we had written a number of previews for bouts that were scheduled to take place. For the most part those bouts are listed as "postponed" but this week one of those bouts was officially cancelled as Yuto Takahashhi announced his retirement. With that in mind we have decided to post our preview of the bout, and we'll be doing the same for any others that we had written and later get cancelled.
With that said, let us bring you the first "Scrapped fight preview", with the caveat that this was written back in February, before a single card in Japan was effected by the ongoing issues. The preview hasn't been edited since it was originally done.
We'll continue to add to this series as, and when, other previewed fights get officially cancelled.
One of the great things about the Champion Carnival is some of the match ups we get are just ones we didn't think we wanted, until we see them on paper and realise "that's a really interesting fight". One such case is the Japanese Light Flyweight title bout between defending champion Yuto Takahashi (11-4, 5) and mandatory challenger Masamichi Yabuki (10-3, 10). If we're being totally honest this is not a bout we expected to be talking about last August, when Takahashi was ranked at Minmumweight and Yabuki was in the mix at Flyweight, but time has moved on and we are now on the verge of this bout.
Back in August Takahashi revealed he was supposed to fight Norihito Tanaka for the Japanese Minimumweight title, before Tanaka got injured. He thought about retirement and admitted that his head wasn't in a good place. In October however he moved up in weight and claimed the Light Flyweight title with an upset win over Kenichi Horikawa. As for Yabuki, who had been fighting as a Flyweight, he moved down in weight last year and stopped Rikito Shiba in December to become the mandatory challenger, in what was his first bout at 108lbs.
Although not the biggest Light Flyweight out there Takahashi is a nightmare to fight. He sets a high work rate, has sneaky power, and throws crisp hurtful shots. He's not a puncher, not by any metric, but he lands clean and he regularly, and there's enough on his shots to sting, as Yuta Nakayama found out last year. His most impressive performance so far was his win over Horikawa, last October, and it showed how smart he was. He out worked Horikawa over 10 rounds, made the veteran look old and slow, and used his feet to smartly control the tempo and range of the bout.
Despite Takahashi's win over Horikawa there are still questions over the champion and it's hard to know whether the win over the veteran was due to Takahashi being that good, or whether Horikawa was finally beginning to look his age. In the end it seemed like Horikawa was, at times, up against a younger, smaller version of himself.
As mentioned Yabuki has dropped down in weight to fight for the title, an his only previous bout at Light Flyweight was his win in an eliminator last year. He made his debut in 2016, at Flyweight, and reached the Rookie of the Year final, where he lost to Junto Nakatani. Another winning run came to an end when he was stopped in 92 seconds by Seigo Yuri Akui, and not long after that he would lose a decision to Cuban Daniel Matellon. If we're being honest they are not bad fighters to lose against, but at that point his record sat at 7-3 (7). Since then he has 3 wins, including winning his international debut in January 2019 and taking notable domestic wins against Ryuto Oho and Rikito Shiba.
Given all 10 of Yabuki's wins are by stoppage it's needless to say he's heady handed. Whats notable however is that he's very much a heavy handed pure-boxer. He likes to move around the ring, using his legs to set up angles and draw mistakes. He has a heavy jab, a dynamite right hand and understand how to draw opponents on to his shots. Given he was heavy handed at Flyweight it's needless to say he's a brutal puncher at Light Flyweight.
We're expecting to see this being a match up that is stylistically suited to Yabuki. Takahashi will press forward, look to close the gap, and work on the inside. That isn't going to be easy against the bigger, stronger and more powerful Yabuki. Instead we expected Yabuki to tag Takahashi as he comes in, breaking down the champion gradually with his heavy shots.
Takahashi is tough, but he's up against a genuine puncher here and we see the power of Yabuki being too much, especially in the middle rounds.
Prediction - TKO7 Yabuki
When we look to doing our Closet Classic pieces we like to mix up fights we expect Western fans to have seen and some they haven't. Today's is one where we expect a lot of Western fans to have seen, but maybe not seen recently. It is, however, one of those bouts that is truly worth a rewatch, and is one of the best bouts we saw in 2015. In fact it's genuinely one of the best bouts from the last decade, with power shots being thrown by both men, both being hurt, and the action being thrilling. It was the type of fight where both men were perfectly well matcher, and heading in anticipation was high based on the men involved.
Takashi Miura (29-2-2, 22) Vs Francisco Vargas (22-0-1, 16)
Heading into the fight Japan's Takashi Miura was the WBC Super Featherweight champion. He had gained a reputation as a Mexi-killer, after beating the likes of Gamaliel Diaz, Sergio Thompson, Dante Jardon and Edgar Puerta, and was seeking his 5th defense of the WBC title. Although Miura was making his US debut here he had managed to be on the radar of plenty of fans due to bout with Sergio Thompson, which took place in Mexico, his loss to Takashi Uchiyama, and the fact he'd beaten the well known Billy Dib. He wasn't a star as such, but was well known among hardcore fans as an exciting, heavy handed, southpaw slugger. He was a truly destructive fighter, and the fact 7 of his wins had come by decision gave off the wrong perception. He hit harder than his record suggested.
Mexico's Francisco Vargas was the WBC mandatory challenger for Miura and was building a reputation as a must watch fighter. Win or lose Vargas was a thrill a minute fighter, and had been on a great run whilst building his name in the US. Coming in to this he had beaten notable fighters like Jerry Belmontes, Abner Cotto, Juan Manuel Lopez and Will Tomlinson. He was regarded as a serious action fighter who pressed the fight, fought at a high pace and had serious power. He was grinding opponents down, and whether they survived the distance or not they were getting beaten up be the man dubbed "Bandito". For him not only was the WBC title on the line, but also Mexican pride and a chance to avenge his fellow Mexican fighters who had been unable to take the title from "Bomber Left".
From the off we knew to expect an explosive clash, and that's exactly what we got. The first round saw both men jockeying for ring control whilst looking to unleash their power. This saw both men landing some huge shots, and at one point Miura was badly hurt, before finding the space to fire back, and land a left hand. It wasn't enough to slow the Mexican's pressure, but was enough to get himself some space to recover. From there we had a brilliant clash of styles, and both men being rocked, hurt and dropped.
In round 4 it was Miura's power that had a major break through, as he dropped Vargas and left the Mexican badly cut. Vargas was likely fortunate that the round was close to over by the time he was dropped and saw out the remainder without being caught. He then bounced back, worked his way back into the fight, before being left looking close to done at the end of round 8.
We won't ruin anything else from this one,but we will say this is a must watch fight, and was regarded by many as the 2015 Fight of the Year. It was dramatic in the extreme and amazingly exciting, brutal and saw both men taking serious punishment.
When we have some free time we're hoping to add a series of fun articles to the site. Hopefully these will be enjoyable little short features