For this week's Closet Classic we reach back to 2007 for a real hidden gem of a war from Korakuen Hall. The bout features a Closet Classic series regular, in what was his career first title before going on to become a 2-time world champion, and a man who would come up short at world level just a few months after this bout. This is a big more of a hidden gem than some in the series but boy what a good one it is!
Kohei Kono (17-3, 7) vs Teppei Kikui (21-4, 4) III
Before we speak about the two fighters we'll begin by discussing the history between the two men. In 2003 a then 22 year old Kohei Kono had take a split decision over the then 24 year old Teppei Kikui. In 2005 Kikui got revenge, beating Kono with a close decision win of his own. In 2007 they clashed for the third, and final, time in what was a really hotly contested and personal bout between the two.
Just 9 months after beating Kono we had seen Kikui win the Japanese Super Flyweight title, beating Kuniyuki Aizawa. As the Japanese champion Kikui had made a single defense, dominating Masayuki Arinaga, and moved towards a world title fight. Entering this bout with Kono the talented and skilful Kikui wasn't just the Japanese national champion but also had top 10 rankings with the WBA and WBC. Although not a big puncher Kikui was a talented fighter who had rebuilt well from two losses in 1998 and had only been stopped once, way back in his 9th professional bout.
As anyone who follows this series will know, Kohei Kono made for fun fights. His battles were regularly great wars with the "Toughboy" being a very fan friendly warrior. Kono was incredibly tough yet basic fighter who got in the ring to fight. He wasn't the most polished or skilled fighter but made up for that through sheer bloody mindedness, will, toughness and world rate. Anyone who faced him knew they would be in for a hard night, and that would later lead him to becoming a 2-time WBA world champion. This was, however, his first title bout.
From the opening bell this was crazy. This wasn't "round 1" of a fight, but round 17 of their rivalry and Kono fought like he was desperate to take Kikui out straight away. Within 2 seconds it seemed like Kikui had been hurt and he was dropped within 15 seconds. Despite the champion being dropped he composed himself quickly and Kono was down himself seconds after the restart, albeit from a slip. Kikui realised he was in with a raging bull and tried to spoil, hold and slow down Kono, but was shake again in the middle of the round.
After a thrilling opening round it was clear that things couldn't continue at that tempo forever. No one told Kono however and he fought like a man possessed through round 2. He was a little bit more calm and composed than he had been in the first 3 minutes but was still forcing a high tempo on to the champion, who was using his feet smartly to create space. The space that Kikui created only ever acted as a chance to breath before Kono got close and forced a thrilling exchange between the two men.
Round after round Kono would race forward. For the most part he got the better of things, but he kept himself open, took some huge bombs from Kikui and certainly got punished for his aggression, needing to rely on his granite chin and incredible gas tank. Kikui might have been down early but he wasn't going to go away without a real fight.
If you like Kono fights, and this is his third in this series, you'll know what to expect here. If not, sit down, give yourself 50 minutes and enjoy a real hidden gem from 2007!
The entire idea behind this series has been to share not just the best bouts featuring Asian fighters but also the great bouts that go unmentioned and are massively ignored. The all action wars that people don't talk about, the thrilling battles that have been forgotten, the fantastic fistic skirmisshes that have long been overlooked. Today we think we have a perfect example of a Closet Classic, and boy is it a great fight.
Yul Woo Lee (26-4, 12) Vs Leopard Tamakuma (19-2, 10)
Korean fighter Yul Woo Lee had claimed the WBA Flyweight titlein March 1990 with a debatable decision over Jesus Rojas in Daejeon. In his first defense the Korean travelled to Japan to take on local star Leopard Tamakuma.
Although not a well remembered fighter Lee was an exciting warrior, like many Korean's from the 1980's. he was tough, set a high work rate and made for fun fights due to his volume. Although not unbeatable he was strong and tough. Coming in to this bout he was also holding a world title for the second time, having previously held the WBC Light Flyweight title, which he had taken from German Torres before losing it in his first defense to the brilliant Humberto Gonzalez. He had bounced back from his title loss by moving up in weight and defeated Rojas for the WBA Flyweight title. At Light Flyweight and at Flyweight he was a terrier who set an exciting tempo.
Early in his career Tamakuma had been an out-side but over the years had developed a style that was more eye catching and proved he could fight on the inside if he needed to. He had won the Japanese Flyweight title in 1987 and defended it 4 times before taking on the then WBC Flyweight champion Yong Kang Kim, losing a close decision to Kim. That loss had then been followed up with 3 stoppage wins for Tamakuma who was moving towards a second title shot, a shot that would come in 1990 against Lee.
From the opening seconds of the bout Lee looked like a man possessed. Within about 10 seconds of the bout starting Lee had his head in Tamakuma's chest and starting to let his hands go. Tamakuma did turn Lee but the Korean regrouped and again began to literally push Tamakuma around, pinning him on the ropes in an attempt begin a firefight. From there on the rest of the first round was a close up war with Lee looking to bully his foe. To his credit Tamakuma was holding his own at times, but was being out worked through much of the round.
The second and third rounds were much like the first. Tamakuma had some early success but Lee was on his chest, unloading in high volume and trying to out working the naturally bigger, stronger man. Space between the two men was growing, but when Lee wanted to turn things into a fight he did, as and when he wanted.
By the middle rounds Lee was slowing, the incredible pace he had began with was slowing, but Tamakuma was still looking fresh and was repaying Lee for the early onslought. The Korean was digging deep and refusing to quit as the bout continued to be a thrilling war.
Sadly what was an exciting bout became hard to watch late on, but was never a dull watch. Just a hard one, with the early excitement being the highlight of a real toughman fight. Credit needs to be given to the heard and determination of both, but by the end one man was relying nearly entirely on his toughness and will power.
This isn't one of the all time great bouts, but is is very much a Closet Classic, and was, sadly the end of Lee who would never fight again after this gutsy, if somewhat messy, war.
Last week we covered a tremendously exciting and brutal war for the Japanese Flyweight title. The bout was, just over a year later, given a do-over and today we cover that do-over in what is actually an even better bout than the first!
Takuya Kogawa (20-2, 11) vs Shigetaka Ikehara (23-4-2, 19) II
As those who follow this series will be aware from last week, in January 2012 Takuya Kogawa took a thin decision win over Shigetaka Ikehara to claim the previously vacant Japanese Flyweight title. The bout was a great fight, with both men landing some huge shots through 10 pulsating, rough and exciting rounds. In February 2013 the two men would face off again, in what turned out to be another amazing bout.
Previous to beating Ikehara in 2012 Kogawa had won the OPBF Super Flyweight title, beating Danilo Pena, and had lost in a WBC Flyweight title bout to Pongsaklek Wonjongkam. After beating Ikehara we had seen Kogawa record 2 defenses, beating Tetsuma Hayashi in the first and then stopping Keita Yamaguchi in second. As had always been Kogawa's way, the bouts were exciting, damaging and punishing. He had been unable to secure a second world title fight but clearly desired something bigger than just the national title, however he also didn't want to relinquish the Japanese belt until something big could be guaranteed.
As for Ikehara the loss to Kogawa had been followed by him travelling to Mexico to face Edgar Sosa for the WBC Silver Flyweight title. The bout was a nightmare for Ikehara who never looked like he belonged in the ring with the excellent Sosa and retired in his corner between rounds 8 and 9. He had looked out of his depth and looked like a man who knew he wasn't going to go on to win a world title. Despite that loss he had returned to the ring less than 3 months later and stopped Junichi Ebisuoka at Korakuen Hall and set up a rematch with Kogawa. And oh boy was Ikehara hungry to avenge his loss to his domestic rival!
Straight from the opening bell Ikehara was out firing, dragging Kogawa into a dog fight from round 1. This wasn't round 1 of a fight, but round 11 of a rivalry and Ikehara wanted to get the upper hand immediately. Kogawa was under pressure through out, and a slip caused by the pressure was a sign of just what he was under. Of course Ikehara's pressure left him in harms way, and he took punishment as a result, but seemed to dish out more than he took in a brilliant opening round.
The second round was similarly exciting, with Ikehara managing to drop Kogawa, scoring a flash knockdown to second a 10-8 round against the defending champion. The knockdown elicited a huge roar from the crowd and and saw Ikehara go after Kogawa, who was forced to fight fire with fire. The perception of Japanese fans being "quiet" was totally destroyed as they chanted following the knockdown, before Kogawa managed to recover his bearings. Even when Kogawa looked fine Ikehara's pressure continued and he would rock the champion again before the round was over. This was a sensational round, a truly brilliant 3 minutes of brutality.
Kogawa still looked rocked in round 3, but he wasn't going to just hand over the title because he'd been hurt and instead he saw off the aggression and fire of Ikehara, surviving some truly massive shots from the challenger. He looked to use his feet when his head settled, and finally began to find his range, his tempo and take advantage of a slowing Ikehara. Although Kogawa began to have moments it still seemed like Ikehara was only a couple of punches from rocking the champion once more.
We won't ruin any more of this bout, but this is a real hidden gem in a sea of great gems for the Japanese Flyweight title.
When we look at how significant a domestic title is in acting as a stepping stone to bigger honour, few rival the significance of the Japanese Flyweight title. The amount of world champions who have held the Japanese Flyweight title at some point is incredible. Since 1990 alone we've seen Yuri Arbachakov, Celes Kobayashi, Takefumi Sakata, Daisuke Naito, Tomonobu Shimizu and Toshiyuki Igarashi all take the title before moving on to bigger and better things. Today we get to enjoy a modern day classic for the belt that often goes over-looked and rarely ever gets mentioned.
Takuya Kogawa (17-2, 10) vs Shigetaka Ikehara (22-2-2, 18) I
In late 2011 Toshiyuki Igarashi vacated the Japanese Flyweight title, as he pursued a WBC world title fight. In January 2012 we then saw Takuya Kogawa and Shigetaka Ikehara clash for the vacant title, in what was the first bout between the two men.
Prior to this bout Kogawa was a fairly well known fighter on the Asian scene. He had won the OPBF Super Flyweight title in 2010, beating Danilo Pena, and had challenged WBC Flyweight king Pongsaklek Wonjongkam in 2011. Although he lost to Wonjongkam his effort was a solid one. Following the loss to the Thai great Kogawa returned to Japanese level and in his first bout he fought for the Japanese title against Ikehara. Interestingly his bout with Wonjongkam was aired on tape delay on TBS, rather than being shown live, which didn't help Kogawa's profile in the way it could have, but was still a brave effort against the Thai king.
Whilst Kogawa was pretty well known at the time, and had tasted title glory, the came couldn't be said of Ikehara. Ikehara's biggest wins were a close decision over Masayuki Kuroda and a TKO over the experienced Shingo Yamaguchi, and he had come up short in a pair of title bouts. He had fought to a technical draw with Tomonobu Shimizu in a Japanese title fight in 2009 and lost in 11 rounds to Rocky Fuentes for the OPBF Flyweight title. Ikehara had bounced back from the loss toFuentes.
It took only a few seconds for the bout to erupt, with the crowd roaring loudly after around 10 seconds, and we knew we could be seeing something a little bit special. Not necessarily the tidiest, but violent.
From the opening moments Kogawa was looking to box on the outside, using his feet but Ikehara wasn't having any of that was pressing, losing the distance, and using his physicality to try and get to Kogawa. Ikehara's pressure caused some messiness as he tried to get inside but gave the bout an immediate sense of excitement, and meant he was always coming forward.
After an exciting, but messy, opening round things moved up a gear up Ikehara's heavy shots thudding through the Korakuen Hall and his pressure forcing a response from Kogawa, who had to move through the gears quickly. A clash of heads late in the round left Kogawa in pain, but left Ikehara looking almost impervious to pain.
Round after round the two men exchanged bombs, with Kogawa typically landing the better volume of shots but Ikehara's shots looking, and sounding, much more powerful, especially his body shots. It was very much a case of two men matching each other amazingly well, though with different styles.
Despite both landing bombs the tempo remained high round after rounds, as both men dug deep, let their hands go seemed unwilling to let their foe have the final say in an exchange.
This is one of those many bouts that doesn't get the attention it deserves, but if you have about 40 minutes it's one that really is a hidden gem, and deserves it's place in our Closet Classics!
For today's Closet Classic we delve deep and go back to the summer of 1974 for an often forgotten classic that had a bit of everything. The bout swung one way, then the other, then back and again. It's old school excitement at it's best and comes from a division we don't talk about much, the Light Middleweight division.
Koichi Wajima (29-2-1, 24) vs Oscar Albarado (48-6-1, 35) I
In 1971 Koichi Wajima defeated Carmelo Bossi for the WBA and WBC Light Middleweight titles. He had defended the belts 6 times against an interesting mix of opponents, including veteran Domenico Tiberia, the then unbeaten Miguel de Oliveira, and the often over-looked Ryu Sorimachi. Although not the best boxer on the planet Wajima had proven he could box, he could punch, and he could turn things around when he needed to. He was also a hard man to predict and read, with some very unorthodox offense, including a leaping shot dubbed described as being a "frog jump". Aged 31 by the time we got to this fight Wajima had been in some tough contests and had clearly taken some big punishment in some of his earlier bouts.
In the opposite corner to the Japanese fighter was big punching Texan Oscar Albarado, who was dubbed "Shotgun". Albarado was getting his first world title fight, and his first bout in Asia. Despite this being a step up for him he had been very experienced with 55 fights to his and 35 knockouts. He wasn't a KO artist as such, but was very heavy handed, and what he hit he hurt. At 25 years old it was felt that Albarado was coming into this physical prime, but there was still questions as to whether he had he experience, toughness and stamina to last in a 15 round fight in Japanese conditions, with 10,000 fans cheering on the local champion.
The fight started excitingly, but it seemed like Albarado was getting the better of the early going, though Wajima did have his moments. It seemed that Albarado's heavy jab was a major problem for Wajima at range, but Wajima would begin to pressure more and had real success up close.
As the rounds went on Wajima's success began to grow, but it was clear he felt he had to do more, and his work really did take a toll on him with Albarado took shots cleanly without showing too much damage.
Through the middle rounds the bout had become a real hard man's fight. Both men had landed some serious leather, but there was more come and neither man looked like they were going to quit, despite Wajima losing his balance a few times, though Albarado was never quick enough to catch him off balance.
We don't really want to ruin the drama in this one, as some of the later round action is breath taking, but it's one that every fight fan should enjoy. The two men both took some hellacious damage and neither man would ever be the same afterwards.
Despite the massive amount of damage the two men did to each other in this war they actually had a rematch around 9 months later, and just like this bout, both took significant punishment. After that rematch both men picked up a number of stoppage losses. These wares between the two punish, thrilling, exciting, crazy and looked like scenes from a movie.
This isn't the prettiest bout, or the most technical, but it's beautiful in it's brutality and the carnage is chaotic at times.
When we get punchers colliding there is a feeling that the touch paper could be lit and that we could see fireworks going off at any moment. There is also a tension that neither man will feel comfortable taking a risk and getting punished for it. Today we bring you a bout that's short, and both men really going for an early finish. With that said it should be no surprise that this one doesn't go the distance, but is very much a short, exciting thriller that sees both men being shaken. A little bit of questionable refereeing.
Jung Oh Park (23-2-2, 16) vs Jintoku Sato (15-1, 15)
Fans from the 1990's will potentially recognise the name of Jung Oh Park. In 1995 he challenged the then WBA Welterweight champion Ike Quartey in Atlantic City. Prior to that fight he had held the OPBF title, for several years. In fact he had won the belt in 1990 and held it well into the 1990's. In 1993 he travelled to Japan to defend that Oriental title against the big punching Jintoku Sato, more about him in a moment. For Park this was going to be 9th defense of the title, and a chance for him to pick up his first win on international soil. Coming in to this Park had been devastating, going 12-0-1 (10) in his last 13 bouts, with 8 of those bouts ending before the start of round 3.
Whilst Park was the champion and regarded as a dangerous fighter his challenger was also dangerous. Jintoku Sato was a stop or be stopped fighter. He had suffered his only loss in a 1992 bout against Hiroyuki Yoshino and then bounce back with 4 wins, including a big one over Akira Ohigashi for the Japanese Welterweight title. He was looking to move Japanese level to Oriental level here as he took on Park, the long standing OPBF champion.
With 31 knockouts between them, and both rarely seeing the 3rd round we didn't expect this one to go long. What we did expect was brutal shots, from both, and we were anticipating seeing both men having their chins tested.
We got what we expected!
The opening saw both men trying to make the most of their jabs and open up their offense. Within about 40 seconds we were seeing Sato letting big shots go and Park responded as the bout move through the gears. Within about 90 seconds the two men were stood letting shots go and Park was clearly hurt, forced to hold on. Sato went for the finish and Park fought back, throwing bombs off the ropes. The action continued to be hot right through to the end of the round as both men tried to close the show.
With things starting hotly in round 1 we didn't expect them get any slower and the start of round 2 was absolute fire.
If you want a short but thrilling action bout this is perfect! An exciting, short shoot out to enjoy!
Our closet is packed All-Japan classics, and sadly we've not yet come across a similar number of All-Korean, All-Filipino or All-Thai fights. For whatever reason they area lot less common than brilliant bout featuring two Japanese fighters. There are, admittedly, a few different theories as to why but it's a real shame that we rarely see great domestic show downs from through other Asian countries. Thankfully however today we share a really fun All-Korean bout from the late 1990's.
Jung Bum Kim (9-1-1, 8) vs Hyuk Jin Kwon (5-2, 4)
In one corner was the now often forgotten Jun Bum Kim. At the time of this bout he was the South Korean Light Weltweight champion and was making his second defense of the title that he had won 11 months earlier. At this point in his career little was really said about Kim, but later in his career he would go on to win the OPBF title, and defend it 5 times over 3 years. He would earn the moniker of the "Oriental Express" and when the engine got going the punches began to flow. A fully up and running Kim was a joy to watch, letting punches go like an endless punching machine. If you hit him that wasn't going to stop him and instead it just seemed to drive him on.
In the opposite corner was Hyuk Jin Kwon, who was competing in his first title bout. After this bout his career went a bit crazy, with a bout against the always fun Hiroyuki Sakamoto, one of the real good guys of the sport, a bout at 154lbs in Uzbekistan for the WBO Asia Pacific title, and eventually he would claim the Korean national title at 140lbs. Upto this bout Kim we really hadn't seen anything to suggest he would be able to live with the champion. That didn't stop him thinking he could.
This is quite a short bout, so we won't ruin too much of it, but it is a very, very fun bout.
It begins quickly. The action doesn't start like your typical opening round. Both men let some solid shots go, with the champion, fighting in the silver shorts, looking like the man taking some solid shots as his engine begin to get going. With around 2 minutes of the round gone we see the pace increase further, and the naturally bigger looking Kwon does get off some good shots on the champion, who had fought behind a busy jab.
From the bell to start round 2 the action was again high and Kwon even managed to get Kim on to the ropes for a few seconds.
Again we won't ruin any more of the bout, but for those wanting to watch something of short, fun, Korean bout they could do a lot worse than this. Both men let their shots go, we had some brilliant exchanges, and the action, when it picked up, was intense and brilliant.
The Japanese Featherweight scene in the 1990's is really over-looked now a days. The fighters weren't the best in the world, but a number of them fought in world title bouts during an era where they all seemed to be in some great fights. In recent weeks we've included bouts featuring some of those fighters in this series, and today we include another such fight, this time with two of them facing off. This isn't an out an out war, like some bouts in this series, but it's still a very, very good fight from two men who matched up well and left a lot of themselves in the ring.
Warning, this one is a bit bloody, but bloody good as well
Koji Matsumoto (15-3-1, 7) vs Nobutoshi Hiranaka (12-0, 8)
Now a days Koji Matsumoto is regarded as one of the best trainers in Japan, working at the Ohashi gym where he helped mould the careers of fighters like Akira Yaegashi and Ayaka Miyao. Back in the 1990's he was a genuinely good fighter himself. As a fighter he challenged 3 times for a world title, and gave Yong Soo Choi fits in a very close and competitive bout in 1997. As well as his world title bouts he would also go on to have 3 reigns as the Japanese Featherweight champion. He was a talented southpaw boxer, who was gutsy, a smart mover, and had under-rated sting on his shots. He wasn't a power puncher, but he hit the target clean. He entered 1994 as the Japanese Featherweight champion and was looking to extend a reign that had began back in February 1992.
In the opposite corner was Nobutoshi Hiranaka, the younger brother of former 140lb world champion Akinobu. Like his older sibling Hiranaka was a heavy handed puncher and won a staggering 74% of his amateur bouts by stoppage. That power had carried over to the professional ranks, where he scored 8 stoppages in his first 12 bouts. Whilst his competition wasn't the best early on it was clear he was a brutish puncher and matched that power with an ability to take a shot. Despite being heavy handed he was also a capable boxer, making him more of a boxer-puncher than just a physically imposing banger. His style was aggressive and exciting and it matched up well with his power at domestic level. Having won his first 12 bouts he was now getting his first title bout, and was taking on a very solid champion with world level experience.
The opening round saw the two southpaws try to get a read on each other, but within 30 seconds the bout was had warmed up nicely. They two weren't being over-wreckless, but they were both being aggressive, trading punches in some nice exchanges before getting back behind their jabs and seeing that the other had. It was clear that Matsumoto was the fighter happier with moving, whilst the moustached Hiranaka was the fighter with more pop in his shots and more belief in his power. Despite that belief he was cut around the right eye in the opening round, from a clash of heads. That cut happening so early could have stopped the fight, but instead it went on. Boy did that cut change the graphics of the fight and give Matsumoto a target to work on.
The second round saw both men putting their foot on the gas a little more. This was most notable when Matsumoto got Hiranaka on the ropes and worked away on the challenger with some eye catching blows. Despite good moments from Matsumoto it again seemed like Hiranaka was the more dangerous fighter and his blows seemed to have more on them on a punch by punch basis than Matsumoto's.
By round 4 Hiranaka's shorts had began to look discoloured as the claret ran from his cut. Despite that the two men fought up close through the round, giving us a genuinely incredibly 3 minutes of action, with big shots up close. Unlike many we see now the action wasn't being halted when the men worked up close but was instead mostly exciting, mauling with both men letting their hands go, a lot.
Round by round the blood ran from Hiranaka's cut, and began to not just cover his shots but also that of Matsumoto, and left some small puddles on the ring canvas. It wasn't a total blood bath, but it was getting visibly messy due to the blood. Despite that neither man slowed down, with both desperate for the victory, and the title. This genuinely lead to some amazing moments late on, which we won't ruin any further.
Whilst this isn't one of the more well known war from Japanese boxing history it is a bout that is well worthy of a watch. A proper, gruelling, bloody, war.
One of the most amazing things about the Japanese domestic scene is the sheer number of barn burners we get from it. Whilst not all the bouts are great there does seem to be a much higher proportion of them than we realise. Today we look at a sensational Japanese Light Middleweight title bout from 2001. This isn't the prettiest bout you'll ever get, but is something very special, and very exciting.
Hiroyuki Yoshino (34-8-1, 25) vs Crazy Kim (8-2, 7)
In one corner was veteran Hiroyuki Yoshino, a hard hitting and experienced fighter who had been a professional since 1985. His 16 year career had had some ups and downs but the highs really were high and included a lengthy reign as the Japanese Welterweight champion, from 1988 to 1992, a world title fight in 1993 and an OPBF title reign in 1996. He had walked away from the sport for 2 years, but bounced back and in 2000 he had won the Japanese Light Middleweight title, beating Joya Kawai, to become a 2-weight Japanese champion. Although not a world beater Yoshino was a dangerous puncher, with a brutal left hand, and an aggressive mentality. He made for fun fights and with a suspect chin he was very much a stop or be stopped type of fighter.
Crazy Kim, also known as Toshiharu Kaneyama, was a similar type of fighter to Yoshino in terms of his mental attitude. He looked to make fights fun and exciting, he was aggressive, heavy handed and always looking to take his opponents out early on. In his first title fight he lost a decision to Akira Ohigashi, in 1999, and then lost a second title bout the following year to Joya Kawai. Although he was a novice, with just 10 fights, he had proven he belonged in the title mix, especially with the bout against Kawai which was really close and competitive. He had proven his power on the lower end of domestic level and at 5'11" he was much taller than Yoshino. He was also coming into his physical prime, at 26 years old, much younger than the 33 year old Yoshino, who had taken considerable punishment in his 43 fights up to this point.
From the opening second it was clear that neither man was looking to go to the scorecards. Kim came out swinging huge looping hooks, that were thrown with really bad intent. Yoshino, seeing he was in against someone trying to take his head off began tried to see out the storm early on from the more imposing challenger. Kim didn't care about Yoshino's reputation and dropped him in the first round as his power took it's toll on the champion. Two huge right hands sent the champion down, but he would get to his feet. Yoshino managed to see out the round, but was in all sort of trouble and looked unable to cope with the brutish aggression of the challenger.
The work rate and effort Kim put in to the opening 3 minutes was incredible and whilst it did slow in round 2, which was no surprise, it was still clear he didn't want to hear the final bell. Yoshino however began to find some space, and as Kim slowed Yoshino began to land some shots of his own. Sadly for Yoshino his own shots seemed to bounce off Kim, who may have slowed his out put but still landed the more eye catching single shots, including a solid looking uppercut with about 45 seconds of the round left.
Round by round the experience of Yoshino began to show, that however didn't mean the bout got dull, round 3 was a fantastic round, with both men landing some booming head shots, before Kim pushed Yoshino over. The push was a clear sign from Kim of his physically strength, but only moments later Yoshino dropped him.
With both men dropped in the first 3 rounds it was clear both men could be hurt but neither man wanted to come up short. Their heart and desire couldn't be questioned and that was shown the remainder of the fight, as both men took some heavy leather, dug deep to keep the punches flowing in what was a thrilling, if some what crude, shoot out.
Please note - Some rounds are missing from the TV cut of this war, but the bout is very much worthy of a watch.
We often hear fans complain about the "super" and "junior" weight classes, but in reality a number of those have been undeniable positives for the sport. One of the best examples of that is the consistently fantastic Super Featherweight division. Whilst the division is a "super" division, and not one of the original weight classes, it has been around since the 1920's and is a division that has had so many amazing champions over the years and given us so many great fights that we really need to give the powers that be credit for creating the division.
As may have guessed, today's closet classic looks at one of those great Super Featherweight bouts, as we head back to 1997 for a gem from Korea.
Yong Soo Choi (22-2, 13) vs Koji Matsumoto (24-4-1, 13)
In one corner was a Closet Classic regular, Yong Soo Choi. The teak tough Korean was in so many amazing fights through his career that we do a mini series on just great fights, and it's longer than some careers! Despite the dodgy mullet the Korean was tough, exciting, set a high work rate and made up some technicaly limitations by simply being so damn strong and rugged. His wars with Lakva Sim and Takanori Hatakeyama are certainly proof of how entertaining he is and we get more proof. Enterting the bout Choi had made 4 defenses of the WBA Super Featherweight title, and whilst he had looked impressive as a warrior he had shown technical flaws through out his bouts. This time around he was up against someone who wasn't going to fight his fight with him, like Sim and Yamato Mitani had, but instead was going to use technical skills to try and neutralise him, and out score him.
Southpaw challenger Koji Matsumoto, who is now a trainer at the Ohashi Gym, had come up short in a previous world bout against Korean Young Kyun Park. Against Park a 22 year old Matsumoto had been out classed and then stopped in 11 rounds. He had been gutsy but the fight come far too early in his career. Following that loss he had rebuilt, winning 10 of his subsequent 11 bouts, and scored 9 T/KO's. Now he was in his mid 20's, he was a man, and he had proven himself as an excellent regional level fighter with an OPBF title win. This time he was ready for a world title shot and was fighting a less skills fighter, albeit a champion with an iron jaw, irresistible work rate and incredible will to win.
Unlike some of Choi's other great bouts this wasn't an all out battle of wills from the off. Instead it was an exciting and compelling chess match.
Early on Matsumoto boxed on the move, using his feet well and looking to lure Choi in for counters. Choi, being Choi, kept walking forward, clearly under the belief that if Young Kyun Park could break down Matsumoto so could he. This wasn't the same inexperienced Matsumoto who had lost to Park, and instead of being out worked and out muscled Matusmoto landed some gorgeous combinations, clinched when he needed to and smartly circled to prevent Choi from setting his feet. It was a smart gameplan but one that clearly needed a lot of energy and focus from the challenger.
Although Matsumoto used his feet he never ran from Choi, instead circling closely, stopping Choi from letting loose, whilst getting his own quick combinations off in eye catching fashion. It was a brilliant gameplan from the Yonekura gym for their man.
Of course Choi was never one to give up and given his will to win was incredible. Despite being in a hole early to the boxing skills of the challenger Choi began to claw back the bout in the middle rounds. His power shots and physical strength playing a key role in dragging Matsumoto into his fight. This was where the bout went from chess match to war and where Choi began to shine, landing some huge bombs on the challenger, who took them and fired back. The clever combinations and movement from Matsumoto were fading, as he tried to smother Choi, and take his power away that way.
At times this was messy, at times this ugly, but it always compelling, with some amazing back and forth action, it was always intense and it always felt like Matsumoto's chin would fail him under the growing pressure of Choi's attack.
Whilst it's not the best Choi bout it is still a great fight and one of the many forgetten gems from the history of the Super Featherweight division.
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