One of the best things about Closet Classics is that they can often be bouts that are very, very, obscure. Or at least, obscure outside of a small regional fanbase. Today we have one such bout which was legendary in Japan in the late 1980's, but now a bout that fans in the West will be aware of. That's despite having a sensational second round that deserves to be seen to be believed. In fact it's a round that features a staggering 5 knockdowns in less than 2 minutes 30 seconds. Better yet the bout also had significance, as it was a national title fight.
We're quite confident in saying most of you reading this won't have seen this bout but it's one you should take the opportunity to watch as soon as you can!
Yasuo Yogi (7-1-2, 3) vs Norikazu Kawana (5-4-1, 2)
The match up in question was a Japanese Minimumweight title bout between Yasuo Yogi and Norikazu Kawana, and was held on February 25th 1988. It's fair to say that neither had a reputation for bouts being dramatic and ending early, but this bout was something incredible.
The 21 year old Yogi had been a former amateur standout who debuted in 1985, interestingly on the same show as Akinobu Hiranaka, and had climbed through the domestic rankings quickly. He had fought in his first title fight in late 1987, losing a decision to Kenjo Yokozawa for the Japanese Minimumweight title, and got a second shot at a belt just 3 months later, against Kawana. Prior to fighting for a title his most notable win was a decision over Missile Kudo and although he clearly had promise he wasn't standing out as anything too special on the domestic scene.
Kawana on the other hand was someone who had an interesting career early on. He had also debuted in 1985, and won his first 2 bouts before stumbling to a 5-4-1 (2) record. The highlight of those first 10 bouts was an OPBF Minimumweight title fight in 1987, against Samuth Sithnaruepol. His best win up to this bout was probably a TKO win over former Japanese title challenger Takeo Onishi. Aged 26 he was the older man, and a southpaw.
With the vacant Japanese title up for grabs both men went into this with hopes of becoming a national champion. Sadly though the first round wasn't the most exciting with both men trying to figure out their range. Yogi, the orthodox fighter in blue, seemed the more patient and the slightly crisper fighter but Kawama certainly seemed hungry to come forward and was the one regularly pressing the action. In fact it seemed Kawana wanted to neutralise the footwork and more polished boxing of Yogi. For the first 2 minutes or so the action was tame, with a highlight late in the round as the two men had a rare exchange and both managed to land some decent blows in the final 30 seconds.
Although the action began to heat up it was, for the most part, a quiet opening round. That makes what happens in round 2 feel even more special.
To begin the second round Kawana came out aggressively and paid the price when he ate a straight right hand and was dropped face first about 40 seconds into the round. He beat the count and looked to get up swinging but was down again just moments later. He knew another knockdown and that was it for him, given the 3 knockdown rule was still in effect for Japanese title fights at the time. The logical thing would be for him to get defensive, focus on seeing out the round and surviving. He did the opposite. Instead of getting negative he looked to get even and managed to drop Yogi with a huge left hand at around 1 minute 20. Yogi beat the count but was hurt soon afterwards and dropped for a second time after the 2 minute mark.
Now we were finely balance, another knockdown before the round was over would finish the bout, and both men knew it as they stood and traded. It was a shoot out for the bout. And sadly for Kawana he would go on to be the recipient of the 5th knockdown, losing via the 3 knockdown rule in one of the craziest rounds we've ever seen.
Sadly for Yogi his reign was a short one, losing in his first defense, and he would have his final bout in 1993, finishing with a career record of 11-7-2 (6). This win being his career defining victory. Kawana on the other hand went 2-4 after this loss, retiring in the early 1990's with a 7-9-1 (3). Whilst neither did much of note after this contest, this bout is something they share and something every fan needs to watch!
For this week's Closet Classic we want to go all the way back to 1983 and to London, England, for what turned out to be a brilliant, though often forgotten, Flyweight thriller that saw two men with very different styles fighting each other to a near standstill. It was a thrilling action fighter against a skilled Filipino southpaw and they put on something of an instant classic.
Frank Cedeno (30-6-3, 13) vs Charlie Magri (28-2, 21)
That bout we're going to talk about is the September 1983 WBC Flyweight title bout between defending champion Charlie Magri and Filipino challenger Frank Cedeno.
Heading in to the bout Filipino fighter Frank Cedeno was seen as a big under-dog in what was his first fight outside of Asia. Prior to this bout he had done little, and had lost his most meaningful bout to date, an OPBF Flyweight title bout against Hong Soo Yang. Although he had held the Philippines national title he had never proven himself as one of the best in Asia.
Coming in to the bout Cedeno had fought 3 times in just over 8 months, and this was his 5th bout in just over 13 months. On paper his best win in that time was over Korean Super Flyweight champion OK Kyun Yuh, but that win was a long, long way away from a world win. What allowed him to fight so often was his style, and he was a very technically smart boxer-mover, who was tough, but typically relied on his skills rather than his toughness.
Englishman Charlie Magri was the stylistic opposite to Cedeno. He was a raging bull in the ring, with a power and pressure style. He was all about aggression and physicality and he had taken the title 6 months earlier with a TKO win over Eleoncio Mercedes. Prior to holding the WBC belt he had held the European title and had won 5 of his previous 6, avenging the one loss.
Not only was Magri a powerful and aggressive fighter but he was also a very popular one, and at the time he was one of the few stars British boxing had. He had the hopes of a country behind him and a large and vocal crowd cheering him on in Wembley Arena.
From the opening round it was clear Magri was full of confidence. He came out quickly and was happy to let his hands go, dragging Cedeno into a great little battle early in to the first round. Cedeno played his part and fought back as the two traded shots in a surprisingly action packed opening round. It seemed pretty obvious that Magri didn't want this to go long and in round 2 he increased his pace further. Despite Magri increasing his tempo Cedeno was managing to take things well, and used the ring well, relying on the ropes to take some of the sting out of Magri's shots. It seemed a smart game plan for the short term, but not something he was going to be able to do through the bout, as Magri was landing some massive body shots.
After two very good rounds, both of which seemed to go in favour of Magri, the pace increased again as we got round 3, and what a round this was! This was high level stuff, with bombs from both, Magri was putting everything in to every shot he threw. He was trying to gut Cedeno with huge body shots, the type of thing that lesser fighters would have quit after feeling one or two of them. Cedeno however took them and came back, landing clean head shots, boxing well and staying composed despite the pressure.
The paces had been electric through the first 3 rounds but it felt like maybe the tide was turning with Magri starting to slow in round 4 and Cedeno finding his ranging with alarming success. Although Cedeno appeared to be taking over, he was feeling the effects himself, and it felt like one good shot, from either man, could be the end.
We had drama, momentum shifts, a thrilling and exciting tempo, intense action, two very back and forth and two different styles that gelled perfectly.
This is a real hidden gem, and one that should be enjoyed by every fight fan! A great, rarely mentioned, Flyweight classic.
As boxing fans we can all enjoy the sport, whilst seeing things very differently to each other. We all have styles of fights we particularly like, or dislike. What some of his see as amazing fights other moight not enjoy quite as much. At the end of the day however we can all appreciate a good, solid, back and forth bout, and if the men each get pushed deep, and both men are forced to answer serious questions during the bout we tend to get something exciting and memorable.
For today's Closet Classic we're looking at a bout that isn't an all out war, it's not a massive tear up, it's actually quite an educated battle. But it's a battle that it thoroughly entertianing, highly competitive and one of the best technical chess matches that we managed to get in 2013. It was also one of the final bouts of the year.
Takashi Uchiyama (20-0-1, 17) vs Daiki Kaneko (19-2-3, 12)
As we all know Japan puts on big boxing events at the end of the year thanks TBS who typically put on a stacked card every year. At point TBS had a rival channel also putting on shows on New Year's Eve. That was TV Tokyo who had their shows lead by WBA Super Featherweight champion Takashi Uchiyama, who appeared in the year ending TV Tokyo show 6 times. In Uchiyama's third New Year's Eve bout he took on fellow Japanese fighter Daiki Kaneko in a bout that had skills, drama and excitement, though was never an all out war. Instead it was a proper tough, punishing, technical fight.
If you didn't follow the Japanese scene in the 00's and 2010's you might not be too familiar with Takashi Uchiyama. The Japanese Super Featherweight was the one constant in the division at the time. He claimed the WBA title in 2010, stopping Juan Carlos Salgado in the 12th round, and made the title his for years. Among his defenses he twice took on Japanese opponents, with the first of those being Takashi Miura, who he fought in a thrilling 2011 bout. In his second he took on Daiki Kaneko.
Outside of Japan Kaneko was a complete unknown, like many domestic fighters in the country. In Japan however he was seen as the rising hopeful at 130lbs. Like Uchiyama he was a big, strong fighter, with solid power, good size and strength at the weight and solid technical ability. He lacked the "good night" power of Uchiyama, but at this point he was 25 years old, some 9 years younger than the 34 year old champion, and he technically was the bigger man, having reach and height advantages over Uchiyama.
Despite having 2 losses to his name Kaneko had gone unbeaten since he was 19 and was 13-0-3 (10) in his previous 16 bouts. They had included him winning the Japanese title in 2012 and defending it 4 times before facing Uchiyama.
In Japan the bout was been seen as potential passing of the torch bout. Kaneko the youngster taking on the veteran. In many it was regarded as Japan's answer to Carl Froch's first bout with George Groves, which had taken place a month earlier in the UK.
From the off this was a technical affair, both men trying to establish their jab, and their range. It was clear, almost immediately, that Kaneko was not just the bigger man, but also the quicker man, and he looked to let shots go in bursts. Despite that Uchiyama was the more well school, his shots were crisper, landing cleaner and his experience at a higher level showed in the way he judged the distance better and picked his shots more intelligently.
Despite being a mostly technical opening rounds, dominated by jabs from bother me, the first 3 minutes flew bye with both men landing plenty of solid single shots. There was a real tension in the ring, and that tension continued into round 2. It was clear that both men were looking to use their jabs to open up their opponents and landing their big, powerful, right hands. Of the two Kaneko mixed things up a bit more, coming in and working the body every so often whilst Uchiyama relied on what he knew worked, his straight punches. What both had in common however was respect of the power the other man had, and the knowledge they could be hurt if either landed with a sustained attack.
Round by the action grew in intensity, with both men feeling more comfortable in there, and the middle rounds, although still a mid-range battle, saw compelling back and forth action. The main change was Kaneko, who began to press more, feeling more desperate and like he needed to up the anti, taking more risks. This actually brought him solid success, though nothing he could sustained for long, with Uchiyama's better timing countering the explosive bursts of the challenger.
That was until round 10 when Kaneko landed a jab, followed by a short left hook and a big right hand. Uchiyama was down, with less than 20 seconds of the round left, he looked hurt when the bout resumed and the crowd were crazy. It was a huge moment late in the bout and it seemed like may, just maybe, the youngster, was down on the cards, had began to get his man exactly where he wanted him. He was then sent out for round 11 to try and take out the defending champion, giving us a special finish to the bout.
We won't ruin what happens in the final rounds, but it is very much a modern day forgotten classic.
This isn't an all out war, this isn't a brawl. This isn't a crude, phone booth slugfest. What it is however is a fantastic tachnical bout, with real drama in the final stages. It's a bout that has skills, technical ability and then men digging deep in the final stages.
Sadly, especially given the significance of Uchiyama in Japanese boxing, this bout often goes overlooked, but it is a great bout and the final rounds are truly sensational.
For this week's Closet Classic we are doing a first and speaking about a contest that featured no Asian fighters. In fact the combatants were two American fighters. Despite that the bout took place in Asia and is one of the most famous bouts in history. In fact it's arguably the greatest bout seen in the Heavyweight division and it took place almost 46 years ago, in fact the bouts anniversary will take place tomorrow, October 1st, and even now, well over 40 years on, the bout is still a legendary contest.
Muhammad Ali (48-2, 34) vs Joe Frazier (32-2, 27) III
For once we don't really think we need to introduce either fighter, with Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier being two of the most iconic fighters ever. Despite that we will briefly look over the two men, their rivalry and what this bout meant.
The bout is, of course, the "Thrilla in Manila", the third and final chapter in the rivalry between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier. A bout that took place in Quezon City, not Manila City as many assume, and a bout that gave us everything we could ever wish to see in a ring.
Coming in to the bout the 33 year old Muhammad Ali had had 50 profession bouts, losing only twice. The first of those losses had come in 1971 to Joe Frazier, and the second had come to Ken Norton in 1973. That first loss hurt Ali a lot, and saw him losing to a man who had essentially won the title he had been stripped of for not fighting in the Vietnam war. Ali had avenged both defeats, beating Norton in a direct rematch and beaten Frazier in 1974 before becoming a 2-time Heavyweight champion thanks to a massive upset against George Foreman. In his 4th defense of his second reign he wanted to not just be level with Fraizer, but to defeat him for a second time, in a rubber match.
Aged 31 himself Frazier was the younger man, but had lost the second bout to Ali and had been splattered by George Foreman in Jamaica just a few fights earlier. He was rugged, tough and aggressive, but his style, and his offensive mentality had seen him take some real punishment through his career. Win or lose. He had given Ali his first loss, as mentioned, but was 5-2 since then and he had really not looked his best for a while. Many had assumed, coming into this, that Frazier was washed up. An easy win for Ali, and a bit of cynical matchmaking and a chance for Frazier to collect a final big payday before retiring.
Many had assumed wrong. Many had overlooked the fact Frazier was as stubborn as they come, and wanted revenge for the mocking he had suffered at the hands of Ali. This wasn't just a boxing bout to "Smokin' Joe", this was a personal war. He hated Ali, and the way Ali had treated him. He had helped Ali during his exile from the sport, and felt like Ali had essentially spit in his face in the years that had followed.
As well as Frazier resentment of Ali the bout had so many other sub-stories, including Ali's affair with Veronica Porche, and the bout being fought in the Philippines, which at the time was under-martial thanks to Filipino president Ferdinand Marcos, who sponsored the fight and was ringside with his wife.
It had history, it had back stories, it had personal animosity and it had two all time greats. And it delivered something truly legendary.
Before the opening bell Ali played the clown with a special trophy that was set aside for the winner, and paid for by President Marcos, trying to further incite Fraizer, and pretending to cry in the corner when fans booed him during the introductions. He further spoke smack with Fraizer when the men were getting their final instructions.
From the opening bell Frazier came forward, ducking low, tried to avoid the snappy Ali jab and pressure Ali. Despite the pressure from Fraizer it was Ali who seemed to land the better blows in the first minute, with Frazier walking into shots. After that however Fraizer’s pressure began to have some success, forcing Ali on to the ropes, where Ali began to clinch. Unlike their second bout, which was marred by holding from Ali, the referee wasn’t letting Ali use the same tactics here and repeatedly split them almost immediately. Despite the good pressure from Frazier through the round Ali finished strong with a good flurry that caught eye.
Frazier continued pressing hard in round 2, and although Ali tried to control him by holding around the neck the referee wasn’t having it and gave Ali a warning early on. The tactics of the two men couldn’t be much more different. Frazier constantly marching forward, looking to grind Ali down, work the body and take the legs of “The Greatest” away. Ali on the other hand was head hunting at range and looking to hold and spoil up close. It was making for an engrossing round of action which continued into round 3, with Frazier refusing to take a backwards step, no matter what Ali caught him with, and for a large portion of the third round Frazier managed to pin Ali on the ropes, until Ali turned him late on and put on a late rally.
Within just 3 rounds it was clear this was going to be something special, and going into round 4 it seemed Ali was starting to feel the pace, despite having the more eye catching success, whilst Frazier was starting to really find his groove, and late in round 4 he also found Ali’s crown jewels with a brutal show that went low.
Before round 5 there was a large “Ali” chant, which the fighters himself played up, before we got another brutal round of Frazier’s pressure against Ali’s clean, solid head shots. It seemed like Frazier was being outboxed, and putting in a lot of effort, but he was also forcing Ali to work really hard every minute of the fight, and asking questions of Ali’s gas tank round after round.
As the rounds went on the violence got more brutal. Frazier was getting close more and more often and forcing Ali against the ropes almost consistently. Ali, as he had done against George Foreman, was fighting well off the ropes, but Fraizer was gradually getting through with more and more leather and the bout was becoming a test of both man’s heart, stamina, toughness and determination. By the end of just the 6th round it seemed the fight was turning in Frazier’s favour and it was becoming tougher, and tougher, for Ali who was starting to take some clean head shots himself as Frazier started to mix it upstairs more often.
We’ll leave the rest of the bout for those wanting to watch it without any more of the bout being ruined, though we suspect many reading this will have seen this legendary bout before. Before we leave you all together though, it needs to be said that this bout pretty much ruined both fighters and is, truly, one of the most punishing bouts in the storied history of the Heavyweight division. It is also the most famous fight to ever take place in Asia, and one of the most gutsy, courageous and exciting fights you could ever wish to see. It is also one of those great fights that more exceeds it's reputation for being an all time classic.
Whilst we, like everyone, loves a great war, a proper tear up with bombs from both men who are managing to punish each other in a great tale of toughness, heart, determination and resilience. They aren't the only types of great bouts though, and we also love a good, exciting, chess match, with great skills and a very high level of tension. A bout that is being fought with both men knowing they could seriously hurt the other with just a single shot. Today we have one of those bouts as we again bring you a Closet Classic!
Hozumi Hasegawa (29-3, 12) Vs Jhonny Gonzalez (47-7, 41)
Between 2005 and 2010 Japan's Hozumi Hasegawa had become one of the countries major boxing stars. He had made 10 defenses of the WBC Bantamweight title, been a multi-time Japanese MVP and was one of the most popular Japanese fighters out there. Sadly his reign came to an end in 2010, when he was upset by Fernando Montiel, but that wasn't the end for Hasegawa who moved up in weight, going from Bantamweight to Featherweight. The move up was a successful one and Hasegawa would win the WBC Featherweight title just 7 months later, when he out pointed the previously unbeaten Juan Carlos Burgos to become a 2-weight world champion.
Although Hasegawa's record suggested he wasn't a puncher his performances showed other wise. He had 12 stoppages in his 32 bouts up to this point, but 7 of those had come in his previous 11 wins and he was proving to be a destructive fighter. He had vicious power in his left hand, and lightning speed, with his combinations being something gorgeous to watch.
In his first defense of the WBC Featherweight title Hasegawa was taking on huge punching Mexican Jhonny Gonzalez.
Gonzalez, like Hasegawa, had originally made his name at Bantamweight, where he won the WBO title. He had held that title from 2005 to 2007 and had made 2 defenses. He was now looking to become a 2-weight champion himself and follow in the footsteps of Montiel, in travelling to Japan to beat Hasegawa. Prior to this bout his career was a bit up and down. He had struggled early on, suffer 2 very early career losses and going 14-4 before winning WBO Bantamweight in 2005, when he stopped Ratanachai Sor Vorapin in what was his 35th bout. Following his title win he had gone 16-3 with stoppage losses to Israel Vazquez, Gerry Penalosa and Toshiaki Nishiok, in what were his 3 most recent world title bouts before facing Hasegawa.
Although he was one of the most naturally heavy handed fighter in recent years Gonzalez was also considered to be a fighter who couldn't really take it. His chin had let him down in 3 of his 7 losses, and he was getting a reputation as being a bit of a glass cannon at world level. He was the sort of fighter who made for unpredictable action. He could take anyone out, but be taken out himself. Despite his power he fight like a puncher, instead he was very much a boxer, who just had freakish power.
The one thing that needs to be very clear is that both of these men had world class power and both men knew the other could hurt them. That immediately saw us go into the bout with a sense of tension, and a feeling like the bout could end at any minute.
From the opening round this was tense, both men were looking to use their lead hand to open up their powerful straights. The action, during the first round, was limited, but this was tense, high speed chess with both men looking to draw a mistake and counter. Both knew a single mistake could see them punished, but both knew their power was likely enough to take out the other. This was brilliant boxing, real high level stuff and engaging from the opening bell.
With neither man managing to take the other out in the opening round we saw more of the same in round 2. This time around Hasegawa put his foot on the gas a little bit more earlier on, before the two men got back to what we had seen in the opening round. This was again high level chess, both men laying traps, but neither getting enough of a bite to really strike. Then tension was growing, and although neither man had landed a fight ending shot, but had gotten through with a few solid shots.
We'll leave the bout here for you to enjoy without spoiling any more of it, but it is an excellent boxing contest, even if it never comes close to becoming a war. This is high level boxing, tension, exciting, enthralling, and an often forgotten modern day classic.
For today's Closet Classic we are bending the definition a little bit on what really counts as a "Closet Classic" and instead looking at a bout which is more of an "instant classic", but it's such a good bout that we can't help but include it in this series. For one it's an amazing bout, with great back and forth action and for two it feature two absolute legends of the sport, albeit with one coming to the end of his career and one still on their way to all time great status.
This is a bout we expect many of you have seen, but one that is always worth a re-watch, and is genuinely a brilliant battle and the second chapter if an iconic rivalry.
Manny Pacquiao (40-3-2, 31) vs Erik Morales (48-3, 34) II
In one corner was 27 year old Filipino southpaw Manny Pacquiao, who was well on his way to establishing himself a special, once in a life time fighter. He had already scored wins against a who's who of who, with victories over the likes of Chatchai Sasakul, Lehlo Ledwaba and Marco Antonio Barrera. He had however suffered a loss in 2005 to Erik Morales, with the Mexican turning southpaw in round 12 to go to war with Pacquiao and make a statement of his machismo.
That was Pacquiao's first loss in the US and his first loss since he was a Flyweight, and suffered a TKO loss in 1999 to Medgoen Singsurat in Thailand, and was seen as an upset for the rampaging Filipino.
As for Morales the win over Pacquiao further showed that he was a modern day great and a true warrior, with his 12th round display becoming an iconic stand by a man who was told not to do anything stupid before going to war. Following that win however Morales had suffered a massive upset loss to Zahir Raheem, in what was the 2004 Ring Magazine upset of the Year. That loss had seen some suggest that Morales was on the slide, whilst others suggested it was a freak result, or a case of a fighter not being focused.
What both men had in common is that they were entertainers in the ring. Pacquiao was a whirling dervish as a fighter. He was crude at times, wild at others, but hugely entertaining with scary power in his left hand and a high work rate. Morales on the other hand was a polished boxer, with a good jab, and good technical skills, but seemed to prefer to ignore that and prove he had balls the size of melons, and was almost always happy to have a war, rather than using his skills.
Both men also had points to prove. Pacquiao had to prove the loss to Morales was a fluke, a one off, and not the end of his rise. He also had the chance to prove that the first bout was decided by gloves, as this time he was wearing his prefered Cleto Reyes gloves. Morales had to prove he wasn't done after the loss to Raheem. Both men came into the ring with hunger to make a statement and a hunger to prove they were still one of the best.
We also had two rabid fan bases, giving us an amazing atmosphere. It had Mexican fans there to support Morales, Filipino fans there to support Pacquiao and boxing fans there to watch chapter 2 of the Pacquiao Vs Morales story.
This started tactically, it was round 1 of fight #2 and not round 13 of Pacquiao Vs Morales, and as a result it was the clean, effective jabs of Morales that were key in the first minute or two. Within the final minute of the opening round however the two men picked up the pace and both managed to land some solid shots with their power hand. It was glimpse of what was to come later in the bout and saw that both men had quickly begin to settle down and get to work. Although the commentators praised a lot of Pacquiao's work it was certainly not a clear round, with Morales have plenty of success himself.
In round 2 we saw the action continue to pick up, with Pacquiao pressing more and Morales playing the role of smart counter puncher. The handspeed and aggression of Pacquiao saw him catching Morales clean repeatedly, but his crude, march forward also saw him eating some huge counters from Morales. Pacquiao almost dropped Morales in the final minute of the round, though it drew the machismo from Morales who decided to go to war in an attempt to get Pacquiao's respect. A tactic that didn't really work. Despite the success of Morales's counter he couldn't avoid Pacquiao's straight left hand, which was catching him time and time again.
Morales looked to create some distance in round 3, using his jab and footwork early on, though it wasn't long before he tried to get Pacquiao's attention again with a flurry of shots. It was a brilliant attempt to rebound after the previous round, but Pacquiao continued to have success with the straight left hand, and no matter how much success Morales had he was still eating the bigger shots and the more painful combinations.
As we entered round 4 Pacquiao's right eye was starting to swell, a result of Morales's long rangy jab, and Morales was starting to time Pacquiao more often with the Mexican starting to use more polished technical skills to take advantages of Pacquiao's flaws. Pacquiao on the other hand was becoming more and more reliant on the left hand, rather than landing his jab. The left hand had had success in rounds 2 and 3, but in round 4 Morales was starting to take it away and with Pacquiao not using his jab it allowed Morales to take some control of the contest and build some momentum.
It was a smart technical change from Morales who came out in round 5 and landed some eye catching leather early before Pacquiao came back as the round went on. Strangely, given the first 4 rounds, this one seemed a lot quieter than the earlier rounds, it was however the calm before the storm and in round 6 Pacquiao's pace increased, as he began to turn the screw and did some damage to Morales part way through the round. Morales tried to respond but was taking more and more punishment, with his face showing the damage from Pacquiao's shots. It was a huge round from Pacquiao and he seemed to send Morales stumbling right on the bell.
Entering round 7 we had already seen the momentum of the bout shift one way, then back and again and again. We had seen both men show some facial damage, both have success and both need to make adjustments. Amazingly we continued to see the momentum shift, with Morales have a great round 7, unleashing his arsenal on Pacquiao as he looked to re-establish himself. It was an amazing start to the round from Morales, but by the end of the round Pacquiao looked to have taken the best from Morales and was punishing the Mexican, who looked like a man fighting on heart and desire alone.
We'll leave the bout here for you to enjoy, and seriously it is one you will enjoy! A fantastic clash of legendary fighters both giving everything they had.
In recent years Western boxing fans have started to take note of the lower weight classes, and a lot of that is thanks to Tom Loeffler and his fantastic series of shows under the "Super Fly" banner. Those shows really opened the door for US fans in particular to enjoy some of the smallest men in the sport and enjoy some of the most exciting fighters out there. Today we look at one of the key fighters from Tom Loeffler's attempts to bring the little men to the attention of American fans, and it just so happens to have been one of the very best fights of 2017.
Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (42-4-1, 29) Vs Roman Gonzalez (46-0, 38) I
The bout in question was a WBC Super Flyweight title bout that took place at Madison Square Garden. It pitted one of the best fighters of the last 20 years against one of the most fearsome little men in recent memory. It was a bout that hardcore fans knew would be something special and the casual fans, who tuned into to Gennady Golovkin and Daniel Jacobs, got to enjoy with out massive amounts of expectations.
Heading in to the Nicaraguan sensation Roman Gonzalez was the WBC Super Flyweight champion and the man many regarded as the best pound for pound fighter on the planet. He had moved through the weights, moving from Minimumweight to Super Flyweight, and found success at every weight to become a 4-weight world champion. In fact he was only the second fighter in history to win world titles at the 4 lowest weights, following in the footsteps of Leo Gamez.
Fans who had followed the lower weights knew that Gonzalez was a special fighter. He was an aggressive pressure fighter who had already beaten a who's who of the lower weights. He had already over-come the likes of Yutaka Niida, Katsunari Takayama, Ramon Garcia Hirales, Juan Francisco Estrada, Francisco Rodriguez Jr, Akira Yaegashi, Edgar Sosa, Brian Viloria, McWilliams Arroyo and Carlos Cuadras. In many cases Gonzalez hadn't just beaten opponents, but had beaten them up with incessant pressure, combination punching and clean, heavy, accurate shots.
Many hardcore fans knew Gonzalez. Far, fare fewer knew Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, a Thai who had previously held the WBC title, but was almost unknown outside of the East. His record had a few marks on it, though following a 1-3-1 start to professional boxing he had gone 41-1, with his only loss being a technical decision to Carlos Cuadras, in Mexico. Many who followed the lower weights were expecting Srisaket to be the next victim of the sensational Gonzalez, though few were totally aware of who, or what, Srisaket brought to the ring.
Those who had followed Srisaket would have known what to expect. He was big, strong, powerful, aggressive fighter. His 2013 win over Yota Sato had seen him fighting like a terminator, breaking down the then Japanese world champion. After winning the title he was avoided, and would only make a single defense before facing Cuadras a year after winning the title. Despite losing to Cuadras we saw Srisaket earn another shot at the title with a beat down of Jose Salgado, though politics had seen him take a back seat in his attempt to reclaim the belt, and he had had to wait almost 2 years for this shot.
Those who were just being introduced to Srisaket quickly got introduced to him as he came out and after a few seconds of feeling out he began to take the fight to Gonzalez, landing short left hands up top and some sneaky body shots. He was getting Gonzalez's respect in the first 2 minutes of the fight before dropping the Nicaraguan with a right hook to the body. Gonzalez's experience showed, he got to his feet and saw out the rest of the round as Srisaket went out seeking a finish.
From there on everyone knew Srisaket was a dangerous fighter, including Gonzalez. Gonzalez however wasn't intimidated, despite Srisaket starting round 2 with bad intentions. This saw Srisaket coming forward, somewhat clumsily, whilst Gonzalez looked to box and move, using his silky skills. Against an energetic Srisaket early on it was the Thai who seemed to land the much heavier blows, forcing Gonzalez back, but Gonzalez certainly had moments himself, landing the cleaner blows. The lead to some sensational back and forth action as both men looked to force their well on the contest during a brilliant 3 minutes of action.
Round 1 and 2 had shown that Srisaket was able to land a shot, take a shot and was big, strong and aggressive. The questions however mounted up. Could he continue to do it over 12 rounds? Could Gonzalez take his pressure? And could Gonzalez hurt him as the rounds went on?
Round by round we found the answers to those questions, and we found that both men were solid, both men could take the power of the other and both men were willing to risk it all, with bout getting better and better through the middle rounds, then reamping up again as we began to head into the final stages, both men aware that the were little between.
By round 3 Gonzalez was starting to get his engine going, he was starting to outland Srisaket and the difference in skill levels was showing. Gonzalez was using smart footwork, good combinations and landing solid blows with regularity, whilst making Srisaket miss. Srisaket however wasn't going to go away. He was a big, strong lump and had waited 2 years for this fight. He wasn't there to roll over to Gonzalez and he began to fight back himself, using his size and power and try and neutralise the quickness and skills of Gonzalez.
As well as the amazing back and forth action there was also controversy in the bout, from the accidental headclashes that occurred regularly. Gonzalez was cut in round 3 from an accidental clash, and they became a regular issue within the bout. It wasn't anything deliberate, from either man, but a result of both men being aggressive fighters and the two men letting shots go whilst fighting out of opposite stances. The southpaw stance of Srisaket and the orthodox stance of Gonzalez lead to headclashes becoming a common thing, and a very painful thing for the naturally smaller Gonzalez.
With great tempo through out, fantastic 2-way action, a sense of controversy and heavy shots landed round after round, by both men, we really were treat to an instant classic here. The bought might only be 4 years old, but this is a definitive classic, and a must watch for every fight fan.
As usual in this series we won't ruin the result, for those who haven't seen the bout, but this is just a tremendous bout, and a brilliant war that really did help put the Super Flyweight division on the map in the US, and in Europe.
Back in the late 00's the Welterweight division had so many things going for it. It had the best fighters in the sport, it had the biggest names, and more amazingly than anything else, the top guys seemed to be fighting each other regularly. Time after time we were getting amazing match ups, between top fighters who seemed happy to face each other in an attempt to prove they were the best. Today we get to share one of those in this week's Closet Classic.
Manny Pacquiao (49-3-2 37) vs Miguel Cotto (34-1, 27)
By November 2009 Filipino sensation Manny Pacquiao had gone from boxing star to global sporting star, thanks to massive, high profile wins over Oscar De La Hoya and Ricky Hatton. Those wins had turned Pacquiao from a star that every boxing fan knew to a man that everyone knew. It had also sown the seeds for "Pacman" to move to Welterweight, where there was a lot of interesting match ups there for him, including a bout with Miguel Cotto.
Aged 30 at this point Pacquiao was now longer the scrawny but imposing fighter he had been at Flyweight, or the one handed destroyer he had been at Super Bantamweight. He was now a highly experienced, round swarmer, able to unload power shots with alarming speed from both hands. His straight left hand was still a murderous weapon, but his lead hand had been developed excellently by Freddie Roach and he was now an all round offensive machine with terrifying speed and power.
Puerto Rican star Miguel Cotto was one of the biggest draws in the sport, and had a huge and loyal Puerto Rican fan base. Like Pacquiao he had fought a genuine who's who of who with wins against the likes of Carlos Maussa, Rendall Bailey, DeMarcus Corley, Pau Malignaggi, Zab Judah and Shane Mosley. He had been an offensive fighter himself, with heavy hands, crunching body shots and a technically intelligent boxing brain. He was a man fans loved and with good reason.
Not only did fans love Cotto and his in ring mentality, but they had also had a huge amount of sympathy for him following a 2008 loss to Antonio Margarito, in a sensational fight. That was a loss that had doubt cast over it in 2009 when Margarito was found to have tried to enter the ring with a plaster like substance in his gloves for a bout against Shane Mosley. That had essentially excused the loss in the eyes of many who saw Cotto as essentially unbeaten, with an asterisk next to the "1" in 34-1.
Coming in to the bout Cotto was the WBO Welterweight champion and a man many regarded as a top 10 pound for pound fighter. For Pacquiao this was his chance to claim a ABC title at a fifth weight, adding the Welterweight title to world title fights at Flyweight, Super Bantamweight, Super Featherweight and Lightweight. for both men it was a chance to further enhance their already impressive legacies.
With anticipation high for the fight we had expected something enthralling. This was two brilliant warriors clashing. It was a test of Pacquiao at a new weight and it was a chance for Cotto to face a naturally smaller man. The only mark on the fight going in was the fact it was at a catchweight, and wasn't at the Welterweight limit. Instead being fought at 145lbs.
Unlike some fights in this series this had the big fight feel. This had the mega fight build up, this had everything going for it, with hype and anticipation all over it. And it damn well delivered.
From the opening moments we saw both men looking to establish themselves, with Pacquiao's speed looking like the difference maker very quickly. Cotto however wasn't intimidated by the speed and looked to press forward, using his jab and left hook to the body to try and get Pacquiao's respect. Right at the end of the round Pacquiao began to dip into his bag of tricks as his confidence began to soar. It was as if he'd taken a few from Cotto, realised he could take the power, and began to move through the gears.
In round 2 we saw Cotto again showing confidence, trying to boxing behind his strong jab and pressure Pacquiao, but he struggled to cope with the speed of Pacquiao, who found his grove by the mid-way point of the round. From there on it was a question of whether Cotto could impose his strength, his power and his physicality on Pacquiao, or slow him down with body shots. It seemed like Cotto really couldn't handle the speed and that was shown again in round 3, when Pacquiao dropped Cotto with a right hook. The knockdown wasn't a bad one, but would be the first of two for the Filipino, with Cotto going down a second time in round 4.
Despite the knockdowns Cotto was still hungry and valiant, fighting back through the middle rounds as the bout continued on. Pacquiao putting on a great showcase of his ability, and Cotto showing the hunger, desire and warriors mentality that had made him a fan favourite.
We'll leave most of the bout unspoiled here, but if you've never seen it before make time to enjoy it in amazing HD thanks to Top Rank. This is a great fight, and a great reminder of recent history, and a time when two true stars of the sport clashed in a sensational bout.
For those wondering, this isn't the best bout we'll feature here in out Closet Classic series. It's certainly not the most competitive or even match up, but it's one of the rare big fighters that lived up to all expectations. It was a virtuoso performance at times, possibly Pacquiao's most complete performance, and one that is, sadly, now often over-looked.
Closet Classics don't need to be old, and today we bring you a bout that was essentially an instant classic from Japan, pitting two of the best Bantamweights of the last decade against each other in a bout that provided everything we could possibly want in a bout. This is from almost 6 years ago and was just brilliant in every which way. It featured two of the best fighters in the division, a boxer-puncher against a pure boxer, high level skills from both, back and forth action and was left with the controversy needed to give us a rematch a year later, in what was another brilliant bout.
Shinsuke Yamanaka (23-0-2, 17) Vs Anselmo Moreno (35-3-1, 12) I
The Bantamweight division has long been closely linked to Japan thanks to a long line of Japanese greats at the weight. The likes of Fighting Harada, Joichiro Tatsuyoshi and Hozumi Hasegawa have carried the division for Japan. In the 2010's it was the turn of Shinsuke Yamanaka, the hard hitting "God's Left" who was carrying the mantle.
Yamanaka had won the title in 2011 and had reeled off 8 defenses before facing off with Anselmo Moreno. The Japanese puncher had created a reputation as a dynamite puncher, and wins over the likes of Vic Darchinyan, Tomas Rojas Malcolm Tunacao and Suriyan Por Chokchai had allowed Yamanaka to prove his ability. Sadly however a failure to secure a big bout in the US, or a unification bout was hanging over his head. Due to an inability to get a unification bout Yamanaka's team went on the hunt for the top opponent he could get, which was Moreno.
Moreno was a brilliant Panamanian fighter who had made 12 defenses of the WBA "regular" and WBA "super" titles respectively. He was a tricky, awkward, smart and intelligent fighter who really didn't get the respect he deserved until it was far, far too late. He like many fighters from outside of the more financially rewarding boxing countries, was very much a fighter who fell victim to the WBA's multiple title system. He had lost his WBA "super" title by technical decision to Juan Carlos Payano in 2014 and failed to secure a rematch. He then accepted the call to face Yamanaka in September 2015.
This was a highly anticipated clash and was one all fans of the lower weights were anticipating. And it delivered with a brilliant match up of styles, skills, drama and high level action, with a chess match feel.
From the off both men were respectful, each looking to get a read on the otherm and trying to see what the other man had to offer without taking too many risks themselves. It was Moreno who seemed to take the opening round, using his jab more effectively than Yamanaka who looked slower than the challenger. Despite being a technical battle of jabs, this saw neither man running. Both were stood in front of each other, looking to draw a mistake to counter. It was excellent, high level chess until near the end of the round when Moreno opened up and seemed to secure the round.
Yamanaka seemed to find his groove a little bit more in round 2, but again it was a battle of southpaw jabs as the two men stood in range daring the other to make a mistake. It may have been mostly jabs, but it was a high tempo battle of jabs with both starting to just open up their arsenal slightly. This was seen more in rounds 3 and 4, when both began to let hard left hands go and the bout moved into second phase.
Sadly for Moreno he was losing on the open scoring as we went into round 5 and he tried to change that around, particularly in round 6, when he began to back up the local fighter. It was clear the open scoring was encouraging the challenger to press forward, and take the fight to the champion, who began to forget about his jab. The change in aggression from Moreno saw him begin to frustrate the Japanese champion in rounds 7 and 8 and it seemed the tide was turning in favour of the Panamanian, who was equal on to of the cards after 8 rounds.
With 4 rounds left we'll leave the bout to you enjoy without any more spoilers.
It was a chess match early, it then grew into something special, momentum shifting through out, there was always a sense of drama, like a single shot could change the bout, and this was two high level boxers matching each other perfectly well at times.
In many ways however the bout was overshadowed, just a year later, by the rematch between the men, which was a lot more explosive, intense and immediately gratifying. This bout on the other hand was cerebral, high level, and much more one for the purist than their second. Both are fantastic fights, but very, very different.
Every so often we have a sensational modern bout that few had much expectations for. On paper it looked like the next step up for a prospect heading places, but ended up being so much more than just that. Today we have one such bout, that really didn't promises a lot but in fact it ended up being one of most under-rated bouts of 2018, and was a hidden of a fighter that gave us everything. We had skills, we had heart, determination, action, drama, and frustrations, in a bout that was thoroughly engaging from start to finish. More than that it also had meaning with the Oriental title on the line.
Carlo Magali (23-9-3, 12) vs Hironori Mishiro (5-0, 2)
Coming in to the bout the 31 year old Carlo Magali was the OPBF Super Featherweight champion a 35 fight veteran. Although not a world beater, and a lot way from being a world beater, Magali was a solid fighter on at this sort of regional level. Although he had 9 losses on his record coming into the bout many of those had been at Lightweight, or above, including defeats to Emmanuel Tagoe and Pavel Malikov, or had come way down the scales, such as a 2009 loss to Vincent Palicte at Bantamweight. When he was fighting at a weight he was comfortable at, and had been able to prepare properly he was a damn good fighter at this type of level, with experience, skills, decent power and the know how to get through some tough times in the ring.
In the opposite corner to the OPBF champion was Japanese professional novice Hironori Mishiro. Mishiro was 5-0, he had turned professional in 2017 after a solid amateur career, and had managed to impress since turning professional. After beginning his career with 3 easy wins he over-came Shuma Nakazato in a tough 6 rounder then beat Shuya Masaki in an 8 rounder.Coming in to this bout he had had 24 rounds of professional experience, had never gone beyond 8 rounds and was giving up pretty all the edges he could in experience. Aged just 23 at the time he was also very much a developing young man. Where he had advantages however was his skills, which were very well developed from his time in the amateur ranks, and his size, with significant reach and height advantages against the short and stubby Magali.
Straight from the opening bell it was clear that the size and speed advantages lay with Mishiro, and Magali knew it too. Magali was quickly onto the front foot, pressing forward and trying to get up close and personal on the challenger. Mishiro however tried to get behind his jab, box and move and avoid a tear up with the powerful looking Filipino. It wasn't the most exciting of rounds but it was pretty clear, if Mishiro could keep this at range Magali was going to struggle. However Magali was determined to get close and seemed to draw out the fighter in Mishiro late in the round.
We again saw Mishiro looking to box at range in round 2, but once again it was clear there was a fighter looking to get out. He was trying to be mature, trying to fight to a gameplan and be smart, but the fighting spirit was building and by round 3 we were seeing him give away his height advantage more often ad Magali began to put his foot on the gas and force Mishiro to respond. By round 4 the bout was a hard one to call, and was getting hard and harder for Mishiro as Magali's tempo continued to increase and the Filipino repeatedly landed big, heavy shots. The strong fight back from the Filipino had seen the scorecards all read 38-38 after 4 rounds.
Magali's momentum was growing and in round 5 he wobbled Mishiro, and seemed to have him badly hurt. This was a huge gutcheck for the youngster who seemed lucky not to end up on the canvas. Magali however was putting a lot of effort into what he was doing and questions had to be asked about whether he could keep up the pace.
Mishiro managed to come back well in rounds 7 and 8, ans the scorecards were reflective of an incredibly close bout at this point. Despite the spirited effort from Mishiro there was still the fear that that he could end up being hurt again, as he was in round 5. There was also a fear that his lack of experience was going to become a major issues in the later stages.
With the scorecards close going into the final 4 rounds it was all to play for as ended up seeing two men continue to dig deep, trade shots and put on a thriller for the OPBF title.
This had skills, bombs, heart and everything we could wish to see from a fight. It also had men with two very different styles combining to make a brilliant bout that's not an all out war, but is a compelling back and forth battle or skills, wills and wits.
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