There appears to be something about fights that take place in the build up to Christmas, we're not sure what but the last few years the finals days before Christmas have given us some late Fight of the Year contenders. These have included bouts like Makoto Fuchigami Vs Tomohiro Ebisu, Kompayak Porpramook Vs Adrian Hernandez I and today's Closet Classic which came from the end of 2018 and was another incredible fight. In fact this should go down as one of the rare thrillers bouts between southpaws.
Nobuyuki Shindo (20-4-1, 8) vs Akinori Watanabe (37-7, 31)
Interim titles, for the WBA, are a source of revenue, but for the JBC they are a way to keep the title picture going when there's been an issue with the champion and their health.
In May 2018 Nobuyuki Shindo won the Japanese Light Middleweight title with a narrow win over Ryosuke Maruki, to become a 2-weight Japanese champion. Despite the win he suffered an injury that would keep him out of the ring for a prolonged time. Rather than have the title sit on the side the JBC allowed Akinori Watanabe to take on the aforementioned Maruki for the interim title in August 2018, with Watanabe stopping Maruki in the opening round. The JBC then matched the two champions in December, in what turned out to be a ridiculously good fight.
Shindo, for those who are unaware, is a freakishly long and tall fighter, who's a southpaw making him even more awkward. Although not a puncher he does land quite regularly on opponent, with good accuracy and good speed. At this point he was 32 and had moved into the weight class that best suited his tall, long frame. Despite not being an out and out warrior, he had been in some fun and entertaining bouts bouts, with a lot of very close contests.
Watanabe on the other hand had a reputation as being a bit of a glass cannon. From his 7 losses entering the bout 6 were inside the distance, including 2 opening round defeats. Of his 44 bouts to this point 14 had failed to see the start of round 2, 20 had ended in the first 2 rounds and 29 had ended in the first 4 rounds. Win or lose he was going out swinging and was almost always in fun, fan friendly bouts, even if they weren't going to last long.
The fight started with Watanabe applying pressure and Shindo trying to box off the back foot, moving and making the most of his reach. On paper that was both men applying their tactics, and strangely the bout actually saw both men apply their tactics through out. Despite the tactics contrasting they managed to work brilliantly here and we ended up with a bout that built from a competitive chess into a bloody and violent war. The shots of Shindo never looked particularly hurtful but they left Watanabe's face a swollen and bloodied mess, Watanabe on the other hand always looked dangerous and it often felt like sooner or later he was going to take his man out...if his face could hold up.
What we ended up getting was something very, very special. It wasn't pretty but it was wonderful violent with some of the later action being nothing short of brutally breath taking as both men gave everything they had to unify the Japanese titles at 154lbs.
Not every bout we cover on Closet Classics will be an historic bout of the highest significance, and we're sure our regular readers will be well aware of that by now, so with that in mind we want to share a relatively low key, but thoroughly action packed bout from 2008. A bout that was little more than an incredible shoot out, and had intense, but short lived, action, with both men trying to behead the other from the opening bell. This Closet Classic is boxing's equivalent of wanting to get, ahem, shit faced for the night and not caring too much about the consequences of the drinks you're throwing down your throat.
Akinori Watanabe (16-1, 15) Vs Tsuyoshi Kamiishi (8-6-3, 6)
Coming in to the fight Akinori Watanabe was seen as a huge puncher on the Japanese scene. The 22 year old had only been beaten once, in a Japanese Welterweight title fight to Tadashi Yuba. He was looking to bounce back from that loss in a bout against Kamiishi, who looked like a limited opponent on paper and to score his 16th win. During his first 17 bouts he had already scored scored 15 straight knockouts, between going the distance for a win on his debut and the loss to Yuba, with 8 in the opening round. When he got in the ring we knew dynamite would be thrown.
As for Kamiishi he was a limited fighter, but someone who rarely seemed to hear the bell. He had scored 6 KO's from his 8 wins, including 3 in the opening round, but also suffered 3 opening round losses himself from his 6 losses, 4 of which had been stoppages. He came for the knockouts, and win or lose he was always looking for a short night, making him a must watch fighter.
Given the fact both men seemed to be offended by the bell, we knew we were in for something special here.
From the opening seconds Kamiishi was on the front foot, pressing Watanabe who tried to dissuade his foe with power shots. Kamishii seemed hurt about 30 seconds in but never looked back and began to push his man once again, looking to get inside. When he did that all hell broke loose with Watanabe hurting hurting him, hunting him and then we got incredible fireworks with both being hurt.
This was a 2 and a half minute shoot out, and for the modern age this is a bout worth every second.
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