One of the amazing things about Closet Classics is getting the chance to find over looked fights featuring fighters who don't get the love they deserve. Today we find one such bout, and it's one that has often gone over-looked and is a genuine hidden gem of the Asian boxing world. It wasn't a Fight of the Year contender, but was a surprisingly fun to watch bout, that combined skills, action and featured a modern day star. Also it was a bout that got better the long it went,
Chris John (33-0, 19) vs Osamu Sato (26-2-3, 15)
When we think of Indonesian legend Chris John we don't typically think of thrilling bouts and all out wars. In fact for the most part we think of John's technical skills, his speed, his smart combinations and his ability to get in and out without taking too much damage. What's often forgotten however is that John had real dog in him, and when he needed to fight he could. He wasn't afraid of having a fight, as he did in his 1997 thriller with Muhammad Alfaridzi. He were have another of Johnson's more action packed bouts as the "Dragon" went to Japan to defend his WBA Featherweight title.
For John the bout was his first defense of the WBA title, after being upgraded from the interim champion that he'd become when he beat Oscar Leon around 9 months earlier.
Osamu Sato, who had been involved in some thrillers by this point, was well known for his action bouts, including his 2002 thriller with Willie Jorin, and his come brilliant bout with Yoddamrong Sithyodthong. Entering this bout he had been a former WBA Super Bantamweight champion, and despite only having a short lived reign "Hulk" was still very popular in his homeland thanks to aggressive style, and pressure mentality. He wasn't the most polished fighter out there, but was a physically strong and imposing one with a great engine and a genuine will to win.
From the opening round it was clear that Sato lacked the skills to box with John, but that had never held Sato back in the past against better boxers, like Yoddamrong and Jorin, as he fought to his strengths. He wasn't going to try and out point the Indonesian, but instead he was going to try and out fight John, out muscle him and out strength him. He was going to press, push, come forward and fight.
The opening round saw John as the aggressor quite often, whilst Sato often backed off, trying to get a read on the champion. It was something we'd seen a lot from Sato over the years, with the Japanese local coming forward in bursts. From then on however we began to see Sato coming forward more and more often.
With Sato pressing for much of the fight it left him open to clean counters as, but he had moments of success himself, with his blows not looking as clean, but looking heavier. He looked to be the aggressor, pushing the fight more round by round, again a tactic we had seen from him in the past. The difference in hand speed and technique was obvious, but the pressure from Sato often forced John to move away, rest and was having success, albeit rather limited success at times.
As the bout went on Sato's aggression continued, launching huge right hands around the guard of John, who was forced to pick his counter shots more intelligently, leaping on the mistakes Sato made. Sato's desperation made the action more and more thrilling, and yet John didn't get engaged in a sloppy war, but boxed, a brilliant, polished fight against a fun and aggressive fighter, who became the perfect foil for the Indonesian.
This bout wasn't the most action packed, or competitive, but it was a pretty fun, clean bout that had an edge of drama running through out and saw both men landing a solid number of big shots. A real fun bout with an excellent final round.
One of the best things about boxing is just how global it is. In few other sports will we see two men from totally different continents battle it out for victory on a third continent. Today we look at a bout that really does show the global appeal of the sport, as a we see a Thai fighter battle with a Panamanian in the US. More notably the video we're using is from Thai TV. Whilst the global appeal of the fight is interest the bout it's self is something special, with both men being dropped in a brutal, thrilling and action packed war!
Yodsanan Sor Nanthachai (44-2-1, 36) Vs Vicente Mosquera (20-1-1, 10)
Yodsanan Sor Nanthachai, dubbed the "Thai Tyson", was a strong and aggressive Super Featherweight who had won the WBA Super Featherweight title in 2002 with a win over Lakva Sim. Whilst there is a debate over whether he deserved the victory or not he had managed to score defenses since winning the belt making his international debut in his second defense before making his US debut 6 months later. He returned to the Us for his 4th defense 8 months later. Coming into this bout bout Yodsanan had been unbeaten in well over 30 bouts and for over a decade! Given his style any bout featuring Yodsanan had the potential to be action packed, though, they also had the potential to be over very quickly.
In the opposite corner to the destructive Thai was Panama's Vicente Mosquera. Dubbed "El Loco" Mosquera was fighting in his first world title bout and was fighting outside of Panama for just the second time in his 22 bout career. Up to this point he had had just 2 set backs, both coming against Armando Cordoba, who he had a draw against in January 2000 and a narrow loss to March 2000. He had racked up 9 wins following that loss, including wins over Ali Oubaali, the brother of Nordine Oubaali, and future world title challenger Roinet Caballero. Come in he had been in good form, but little suggested he was going to be part of something special.
From the opening moments it was clear we were going to be getting something thrilling as Yodsanan began to pressure the man from Panama, there was no real feeling out process and instead both were throwing heavy leather within the first minute. Around 50 seconds in Yodsanana's legs seemed to buckle and although he recovered he seemed be feeling the effects of Mosquera's shots more than expected, especially given how he had gotten taken huge shots from Sim. Within the final 30 seconds of the round the Thai was forced to touch down for the first of the bouts knockdowns.
In round 3 the fight came alive with a lot more drama as Mosquera was dropped, for the first time in his career, then he came back and dropped Yodsanan later in the same round, in what was an insane 3 minutes of wild, crazy action.
As the fight went on the drama began to subside a little, but the action didn't with both men regularly connecting with massive shots, rocking each other in a crazy fight that saw both men needing to withstand serious punishment. Mosquera, the better boxer, seemed the more comfortable and the more natural, but the power of the Thai always posed a threat to the challenger, who knew he had to be wary.
We had more drama late, with another knockdown in round 11, the most significant of the ones from the bout.
You've never seen this one, this is an insane battle of toughness, heart, desire, action and drama.
Had it not been for the insane first bout between Diego Corrales and Jose Luis Castillo that took place around a week later, this would have been remembered as something special. Sadly however it was easily forgotten following one of the greatest fights in history.
When certainly fighters get in the ring you tend to know you can expect something exciting. There are fighters who simply give us excitement by the bucket load, and others that don't. Today we feature a bout featuring someone we know always gave his all in the ring, in what was a short, but thrilling, brutal and bruising bout from the turn of the century. It was a bout that provided drama, excitement and, sadly, heartache for one of boxing's true good guys.
Hiroyuki Sakamoto (35-3, 25) vs Gilberto Serrano (18-4-1, 15)
Coming in to this Venezuelan fighter Gilberto Serrano was the WBA Lightweight champion, he had taken the title from Stefano Zoff in November 1999 and was looking to make his first defense 4 months later as he took on Hiroyuki Sakamoto. Prior to winning the title Serrano was a hard hitting fighter who had lost in his first world title fight, a war with Yong Soo Choi, but had moved up in weight and found success at 135lbs, busting Zoff's eye to the point where the Italian needed to be stopped. Despite being from Venezuela Serrano had been a genuine world traveller with bouts all over the place, including his title win in the US and his loss to Choi in Korea, though this was his first contest in Japan.
Whilst Serrano was the world champion he was travelling to the lions den to face off with the popular Hiroyuki Sakamoto, a popular Japanese fighter. Sakamoto had had a hard life, being abused as a child before moving into a children's home. He had lost his first two world title fights, including a split draw to Stevie Johnston, but had kept banging on the door, doing enough to get a third shot. In the ring he was a heavy handed, aggressive fighter and was dubbed the "Japanese Duran" for his aggressive style that always saw him bringing the pressure and making everything a war. He wasn't the most skilled but was tough, strong, powerful and very exciting to watch.
After a lengthy TV build up, which focused on Sakamoto's upbringing and hard luck story, we got to the ring. Given the styles and power of the two men it was clear we should expect something exciting, and that's exactly what we got.
After about 50 seconds of feeling each other out the bout caught fire and with one of the first clean shots that landed Serrano went down. The crowd went crazy and Sakamoto went into seek and destroy mode. Serrano, to his credit, got on the back foot, knowing about Sakamoto's power, and looked to fire off combinations at range. There was an immediate tenseness before Serrano suffered the second knockdown, just after the 2 minute mark. From there on the round was a war with Sakamoto looking to take Serrano down for the third time. Despite dominating the round Sakamoto was left with a gash under his left eye
Round 2 started hot, with Serrano looking to make up for the 10-7 opening stanza and Sakamoto looking to take out the champion, knowing the gash under his eye was going to be a ticking time bomb. As a result round 2 was another action packed one, but this time it was Serrano getting the best of it, and unleashing heavy shots to the head of Sakamoto. The challenger struggled with the foot work and movement of the champion and the shots coming his way had left both of his eyes swollen messes less than 2 minutes into round 2. From there on the drama intensified. Would Sakamoto's eyes hold out long enough for him land another bomb? Was he even able to see enough to even land a bomb? Could Serrano take bomb? The euphoria of the opening round knockdowns was instantly gone and Serrano was taking advantage of Sakamoto's injuries.
Sakamoto was near blind heading into round 3, but pressed forward regardless, hoping to chase down the heavy handed champion. Due to his pressure Sakamoto was left with a bloodied nose, his eyes swelling further, but his desire driving him on in search of the hail Mary he was beginning to need. He continued searching at the start of round 4, knowing that he needed something, and he needed it quickly as what was left of his sight was rapidly disappearing.
Whilst not an all out war, this is one that fans deserve to watch. The big shift in momentum from the opening round to the second, the heart and desire of Sakamoto, the power of both men, the sense that if Sakamoto landed clean he could change everything. An incredible display of will against skill.
Today's Closet Classic sees us roll back to 2001 and gets a very over-looked thriller from Tokyo. The bout doesn't get the attention it deserves, but was a genuine gem of the early part of the decade, and is well and truly worth being considered as a Closet Classic.
Takanori Hatakeyama (24-1-2, 19) vs Rick Yoshimura (38-5-1, 20)
In the late 1990's and early 00's there was a number of must watch fighters from throughout Asia. Among those was 2-weight world champion Takanori Hatakeyama, who you knew was always going to give fans a thrilling bout, no matter who he was in with. Win or lose the exciting Hatakeyama was never going to go into the ring with intention of giving fans anything but their money's worth. As a result he put on thrillers with the likes of Yong Soo Choi, Koji Arisawa, Lakva Sim, Hiroyuki Sakamoto and Rick Yoshimura, in the bout we're going to talk about today. Although not the most skilled, or the biggest puncher Hatakeyama was was a talented, exciting warrior, with incredible heart and determination and a style that improved as his career went on. Win or lose he was always looking to learn from fight to fight, and as a result he was a true fighting champion.
Whilst Hatakeyama was a proven world class fighter Yoshimura wasn't proven at that level, however he was proven at Japanese level. He was a 2-weight Japanese champion and had enjoyed a second reign as the Japanese Lightweight champion. That second reign had seen Yoshimura holding the Japanese title from January 1995, when he reclaimed the title, to the end of 2000, by which he had ran up a staggering 22 straight defenses of the title. Yoshimura was born in America but had adopted Japan, where he had managed to make a name for himself. He wasn't as popular as Hatakeyama, who was a damn star, but was still very well liked in Japan and a win here, over Hatakeyamma, would see him become the WBA Lightweight champion, and give his career a huge boost!
Given the styles of the two men there was no surprise that the action was hot from the off. Straight from the opening bell Hatakeyama started to apply the pressure, forcing his fight on to Yoshimura. To his credit the challenger soaked up the pressure well, but was very much on the back foot from the off, relying on his footwork against the aggression and pressure of the champion. Yoshimura began to find his room and distance in round 2, but that merely spurred Hatakeyama to press harder.
As the fight went on Hatakeyama's pressure began to drag Yoshimura into more and more of a fight. The challenger continued to box and move, soaking up the pressure, but the pressure began to pay off and forced Yoshimura to fight fire with fire. Holding and spoiling from Yoshimura couldn't stop Hatakeyama from marching forward and letting his hands go as he looked to break down the challenger. Despite pressing forward Hatakeyama was forced to take some huge shots on the way in, swelling his face up badly in what ended up being a genuinely brutal clash.
For today's Closet Classic we're going to be doing something a little bit different as we look at an amateur fight. For those who don't follow amateur boxing this will be something a little bit different, whilst those who follow amateur boxing will know what an incredible was this bout was, and why it is worth time, of any fan, to watch.
Ryota Murata Vs Ievgen Khytrov
As we write this, with Coronavirus essentially putting sport on ice in mid March 2020, Ryota Murata is the WBA Middleweight champion, one of the major faces of Japanese boxing and one of the most fun to watch fighters out there. Sure Murata might not be technical genius but the tough, powerful and physically imposing Japanese fighter is always a fun go to watch, with his pressure style guaranteeing action, no matter what. For fans who have followed him since he turned professional his technical flaws have been evident, but yet he was still a solid amateur, with big power and an exciting power-based style. At the 2011 World Amateur Championships he was a dark horse who had made his was to the final with a string of solid wins, stopping Abbos Atoev and beating Stefan Haertel, Darren O'Neill and Esquiva Falcao.
Highly established Ukrainian amateur Ievgen Khytrov went in to the tournament as an outsider himself. Although more established on the international scene than Murata he wasn't seen as one of the top 8 seeds. He had looked good in the tournaments earlier in the year and had reached the final thanks to wins over the likes of Nursahat Pazzyyev, Aleksandar Drenovak and Bogdan Juratoni. He was part of a very strong emerging Ukrainian team and whilst not regarded as one of the absolute sensations of the team, such as Vasyl Lomachenko and Oleksandr Usyk who were both seeds, he was still seen as one to watch following a win over Abbos Atoev at a tournament just a few weeks earlier. Like Murata he was seen as an aggressive, exciting fighter, but he was more polished and set a brilliantly high work rate.
From the opening moments it was clear that we were set for something special as the two men met head to head in the center of the ring and began to let their shots go. It was clear that Khytrov was the more natural boxer, and the more active, but Murata was looking to make his physical strength pay as he applied some basic but strong pressure. The bout continued to be a thrilling toe to two battle from the opening bell right through, with Murata trying to land his booming right hand whilst Khytrov out worked and outshined Murata with his crisp punching and smart footwork.
For those who think amateur fights are all touchy, tappy stuff this is something totally different and something well and truly worth a watch.
Often in boxing if we see two men clash in a thriller we want an immediate rematch. Sadly quite often when we get them it's not quite as good the second time around. The punishment of their first bout, and experience of sharing the ring with their opponent, came make a rematch feel somewhat disappointing given how good the first was. Sure we get the odd bout where the sequel is just as good, it's rare for the sequel to be better than the first.
Today we look at rare bout where the rematch was probably better, and where the experience of the first bout between the two men was a positive. It allowed both fighters to tweak their game plans, but not negatively impact the bout, and like their first contest the two men took part in exhilarating war.
Yong Soo Choi (24-2-1, 14) vs Takanori Hatakeyama (21-0-1, 17) II
In 1997 Yong Soo Choi had travelled over to Japan to record his 6th defense of the WBA Super Featherweight title, fighting to a draw in a 12 round thriller with Takanori Hatakeyama. That was their first bout, and that was a strong contender for the 1997 Fight of the Year. It was a thriller, with the two men landing huge shots through out in what was an instant classic.
Following their first contender Choi had return to Korea and made his 7th defense of the title, stopping Gilberto Serrano in Seoul, in 9 rounds. That win over Serrano had seen Choi being behind on two of the score cards be he finally got to a tiring Serrano with some huge booming hooks. After dropping Serrano Choi knew he had his man there to take when the bout resumed and he quickly dropped him a second time. Despite the win the result really covered over what had been a rather poor performance from Choi, who had looked slower, older, and wilder than he had in previous fights. He had looked like someone who had lost something, though it was little surprise given the sheer number of wars he had been in during title reign.
Choi wasn't the only getting a win in after the first bout between the two men, with Hatakeyama scoring one of his career defining wins, a stoppage over Koji Arisawa in what has been dubbed "the biggest Japanese title fight". Whilst Choi had looked looked poor in his interim bout Hatakeyama had looked the opposite. He had looked like a man who had learned from 12 rounds with Choi and he really shone in his win over Arisawa, in what is a real must watch for fans of this series. Now aged 23 Hatakeyama had matured a bit more, physically, from their first bout and had knew he could go 12 with Choi, having done so in their first bout.
As anyone who saw their first will know, these two matched each other well. Both were tough guys, heavy handed, liked to let shots go and had staggering wills to win. Stylistically they were made for each other. Although Hatakeyama was just that little bit quicker Choi was physically more imposing and that made their first bout so compelling. It turned out their second bout would be just as good.
The first round wasn't as thrilling as it had been in their first bout. Hatakeyama seemingly aware that he could outbox Choi, if he stuck to a game that involved creating distance and using his speed. Of course trying to use his legs was always going to be a draining strategy, especially if he couldn't get Choi's respect. With that in mind he knew he'd have to hold his ground sometimes, and when he did the bout came alive, with the two men launching huge bombs at each other.
Despite the tweak to Hatakeyama's style it actually only helped the bout, as it limited the amount of time the two guys were too close, to work, and reduced the number of clinches.
As the bout went on the action got more and more violent, with round 8 being absolutely sensational, and one of the best rounds of 1998. And that wasn't even the end as the two men continued chip away at each other and knock absolute lumps out of each other.
We won't ruin how this ends, but like their first bout, if you've never seen it you owe yourself the opportunity to watch this thrilling, punishing and hotly contest war between two men who were just amazingly well matched and made for absolute barn burners!
One of the things we love about doing this series, more than any other, is the total lack of limits we have for it. The only real limit is "the fight must be good". There isn't really an age limit, or a limit based on the profuile of the bout, or the location. As a result we get to enjoy some really high profile bouts, and some really obscure bouts, some new bouts and some older ones. Today we look at one of the more obscure ones, and one we only have access to thanks to some amateur camera style footage. Despite the limited quality of the footage the bout is a real fun hidden gem from the Japanese scene back in 2012.
Koichi Aso (14-4-1, 9) vs Tomohiko Sakai (7-4, 1)
The shaven headed Koichi Aso is one of the Japanese domestic level fighters who epitomises everything we love about Japanese boxing. He's a flawed but aggressive, exciting, heavy handed fighter who pushes forward, no matter what. He's never been a world beater, and never looked like being one, but what he has been is an exciting warrior who has always been worth watching. His rough around the edges style has cost him through his career in terms of wins but his style has long made him one of the more memorable domestic level Japanese fighters of the last decade or so. Coming in to this bout he had been struggling. He had lost 2 of his previous 3, including an opening round loss to Shinya Iwabuchi, and seemed to be clearly in need of a win.
Tomohiko Sakai on the other hand a real obscure fighter, even in Japanese circles. He had been a professional for years, with little success, and despite regularly fighting at Korakuen Hall he hadn't really managed to create any buzz. He was, for all intents, an unknown, who had been in just a single 8 rounder prior to face Aso. On paper he was the lamb to the slaughter, and having debuted as a Super Flyweight, was expected to be bully, battered and beaten up by Aso. Given Sakai's lack of power, with just a single stoppage to his name by this point, it was almost impossible to see him holding his own with Aso.
What we ended up getting wasn't a Fight of the Year contender, but it was a damn fine little bout at Korakuen Hall, as Aso's pressure was on show from the opening moments, and Sakai relied on his boxing skills, his hand speed and punch picking. It was the typical pressure fighter Vs boxer style match up, and like many bouts of that style match up, it was clean good fun early on.
It seemed inevitable that, sooner or later, Aso's pressure was going to break down Sakai, but instead Sakai became aggressive, feeling he could take the power of Aso and we began to see more and more inside action. Aso was still the one who was mostly on the front foot, but when Sakai needed to he fired back, and made sure to hit Aso with enough to keep Aso honest and take rounds with his clean and effective punches.
As the fight went on the pace never really slowed down in terms of output, it was instead full consistent, exciting exchanges. Sadly it perhaps lacked in the drama stakes, with neither man ever looking like they were hurt, but it turned into a very hotly contested and competitive bout, something that wasn't expected, and was a legitimate hidden gem of the 2012 boxing calendar which had the fans wonderfully engaged through out.
A very good and very fun little war that, sadly turned out to be Sakai final bout.
When you have two fighters known for their exciting styles, which mix aggression, power and scary toughness, face off we tend to expect a special type of fight. Today we look at once such fight from the early part of this century, and this really was a properly brutal war that saw the fighter landing heavy leather through, in what turned out to be an instant classic. Despite being an instant classic it's one we suspect most fans haven't actually seen, making it a perfect fight for this series.
Yodsanan Sor Nanthachai (37-2-1, 31) vs Lakva Sim (16-2-1, 13)
Thailand's Theera Phongwan went by a number of names, such as Yodsanan 3-K Battery, which he was called in this fight, and Yodsanan Sor Nanthachai. No matter what name he was using he was always an aggressive, hungry fighter who came forward and looked to take the heads off of his opponents. Due to his style and power he was dubbed the "Thai Tyson" on his rise through the ranks. He had suffered a couple of early set backs, losing twice in his first 10 bouts, before reeling off a long unbeaten run to earn a shot at the WBA title. In many ways he was the Srisaket Sor Rungvisai of his era, a hard hitting southpaw from Si Sa Ket. Like Srisaket, Yodsanan also got his shot on the back of his destructive run, rather than the level of his competition.
Lakva Sim on the other hand a 30 year old Mongolian who had won the WBA Super Featherweight title in 1999 when he beat him and broke down popular Japanese star Takanori Hatakeyama. His reign was a short one, losing the title in controversial fashion to Jong Kwon Baek, but he was owed a second shot due to the controversy of the loss. He had racked up 5 straight wins following his title loss, and had looked destructive against the likes of Hidekazu Matsunobu. Although he was getting on Sim was still very highly regarded for his power, aggression, toughness and thrilling style. He had been unlucky in both losses, both split decision defeats in South Korea to more experienced fighters, and had given everyone he had faced absolute fits with his all out aggression.
Given the fact both men had similar hard hitting styles it's fair to expect this to be a war, and it really lives up to the expectations.
From the opening round both men were finding themselves in range, and both were finding themselves launching some huge bombs, with Sim often forcing Yodsanan on to the back foot and catching him with hard short right hands up top. The Thai responded in kind with some big left hands and nasty body shots. By the end of the first round we were already seeing both men needing to prove their toughness. Things then ramped up a gear in round 2 as both men had moments where their power and aggression forced the other backwards.
With the sun beaming down on the two men, in an outdoor event in Thailand, we would have expected the bout to slow down, a lot, but instead the pace remained hot. The heat and humidity seemed to take their foot work and movement away, rather than their output, and both men continued landing huge head shots and wicked body shots.
Even when the pace did, eventually slow, it seemed that we still had a lot of brilliant back and forth action with Sim the one forcing the pace, with his pressure. Yodsanan, who should have been the man more adapt with the Thai conditions, seemed to be the one flagging more, but even then he still had real bursts of activity and huge power shots in what was a genuine test of both men's toughness and mental fortitude.
We don't think many fans will have seen this punishing war, but really if you're reading this, you owe it to yourself to get 50 minutes of free and watch this all heavy handed, bombs away thriller from 2002!
This weekly feature is one of our favourites to do, and is a great chance to rewatch some amazing bouts from the past. This week we go back to 1994 for an instant classic, and one of the most watched all-Japan bouts in history. It's a bout that was a product of the WBC having an interim champion and a real champion unifying the titles, and was something that exceeded the high expectations that many in Japan had for the bout, and was a massive ratings success across various Japanese regions.
Yasuei Yakushiji (22-2-1, 16) Vs Joichiro Tatsuyoshi (10-1-1, 8)
In one corner was WBC "regular" Bantamweight champion Yasuei Yakushiji, a star in the Chukyo region where the bout was held. Yakushiji had suffered 2 losses early in his career, when he started 2-2, but had gone 20-0-1 following that run. He had claimed the WBC title in December 1993 when he beat Korean Jung-Il Byun, and had defended the belt twice, including stopping Byun in a rematch. Although not a name that was known on the wider boxing world, he was a solid and well respected Japanese fighter who had made his name as the star fighter of the Matsuda gym.
Interestingly Yakushiji got his opportunity at Byun due to stepping in as a substitute for Jocihiro Tatsuyoshi, who had had to cancel a bout due to an eye injury.
Whilst Tatsuyoshi had missed out on a bout with Byun he was actually the interim champion, having won that title back in July 1993 when he beat Victor Rabanales in their second clash. Sadly it was that bout that saw Tatsuyoshi suffer his eye injury and take almost a year away from the ring. Despite the lengthy break from the ring he was still a Japanese boxing megastar, and just 5 months prior to facing Yakushiji he had made his US debut, stopping Josefino Suarez on an Elorde card in Hawaii. Enigmatic, with an exciting and unique style, Tatsuyoshi was the Japanese megastar of his era.
The bout, held in Nagoya, saw Yakushiji get home advantage but even as the away fighter Tatsuyoshi had a huge fan base at the Rainbow Hall, with fans from Osaka following their hero across the country as well as local fans who were fans of the style and personality of the Osakan.
From the opening round it was clear that Tatsuyoshi was going to be on the outside, fighting behind a very busy jab and on his toes. He was the quicker, more agile man and the one with the smarter feet. Yakushiji on the other hand was going to have to press the fight, and take shots to get at "Joe of Naniwa".
By round 2 Yakushiji was starting to find his own range as the bout moved from first gear, into second gear and the action began to pick up. From there on things just got better and better as the two men really began to get the best out of each other in a brilliant, thrilling, technical and highly competitive back and forth. It wasn't a brawl with wild and reckless bombs in the early stages, but was a brilliant technical war, with both men using their jabs to unlock the bigger artillery in their arsenals. Even when the pattern changed, and Yakushiji got on the back foot things were still real technical exciting.
In the middle round the action heated up further, we again weren't seeing brawling, as such, but very technically correct and exciting action. Punches were at mid-to-close range, they were traded back and forth and they were clean shots. Very rarely did we see the two men falling into each other, or being forced into a clinch as they responded with shots when they were tagged, rather than smothering.
We won't ruin the bout totally, but if you like excellent, high level, aggressive boxing, this is a special fight, with an excellent atmosphere, and was the first time, in history two Japanese fighters fought to unify world titles, the WBC "regular" and WBC "interim" titles. The fact this was such a fantastic bout makes it a genuine must watch, for every fight fan!
Not every fight we cover in Closet Classic will be a close, hotly contested bout, but that doesn't take away from their appeal. To we look at a bout that saw one man being dropped 7 times, but refusing to just accept defeat. We saw an established champion beat down a big hope, and we saw real intense action between swarmer and boxer. This was an instant classic, and yet not a bout known for being a competitive contest.
Jung Koo Chang (35-1, 15) vs Hideyuki Ohashi (8-2, 4) II
In 1983 Jung Koo Chang announced himself as a top fight, avenging his sole loss and stopping the brilliant Hilario Zapata to begin his legendary reign as the WBC Light Flyweight champion . After beginning his reign Chang quickly went on a tear, beating the likes of German Torres, Sot Chitlada Katsuo Tokashiki, Isidro Perez and Hideyuki Ohashi. He had cemented his place as one of the divisions all time greats come the summer of 1988 when he travelled to Japan for a second bout with Ohashi. By this point Chang was only 25, but already had looked like he was losing a step. He'd fit 14 world title defenses into his reign by this point, and had fought 36 times in less than 8 years, with almost half of his bouts being fought at world level.
By the time June 1988 rolled around the highly touted Hideyuki Ohashi was ready to get his second shot at Jung Koo Chang, the man who had stopped him in 5 rounds back in December 1986. Ohashi was regarded in Japan as a boxing genius, the talent that only comes around once in 150 years. Sadly he had been too inexperienced, too light punching, and not good enough when he had faced Chang the first time around, in what was Ohashi's 7th professional bout. He had rebuilt from that loss with a trio of victories, including one over former world title challenger Tomohiro Kiyuna. His team would likely have been hoping the extra experience and cracks forming in Chang's armour would give Ohashi a chance to become a world champion.
Given the fighters involved it was always clear this wasn't going to be a bout where the two men were standing off waiting for a mistake but instead a match up between offensive machine and a natural boxing talent. Only a minute in and Chang was already forcing the action on to Ohashi, who was having to respond boxing in the pocket, trying to pick his counter shots to dissuade the advancing Korean icon.
The aggression of Chang refused to slow down, even when Ohashi managed to land some really clean head shots, as he did in round 2. All the good work of Ohashi seemed to just anger Chang, who roared back, unloading with more intensity on the Japanese challenger. The moments of success for the local made for some thrilling scenes, that sent the Korakuen Hall in fits of excitement, even if the punishment he gave Chang was always returned with interest.
Sadly for Ohashi the power and aggression of Chang saw the Korean score 3 knockdowns in round 3. Some how however Ohashi ended the round rocking Chang, battling through the adversity to give us a a dramatic turn.
Having come close to being stopped in round 3 Ohashi seemed to become more determined and bloody minded than ever, standing his ground more and delivering some solid and hurtful shots on to Chang, who was forced to slow down in round 4. Chang was still on top, but Ohashi was making him pay more regularly for his aggression.
The success of Ohashi was never looking like it would be enough to stop the rampant Chang, even when the pace slowed in round 6. Chang resumed total control of the bout and would go on to drop Ohashi twice in round 7, but Ohashi refused to be beaten there and then and continued to dig his toes in and bite down on his gum shield. Ohashi's heart and desire kept him going, despite the punishment he was taking.
The was a bit of a one sided classic, but a thriller, an action packed bout, one that seemed to show there were cracks with Chang, but that even a Chang at 85% was too much. It was proof that determination and will to win is an incredible facet of a boxer, who refused to quit against all sorts of adversity.
Yes, this wasn't an ultra competitive back and forth, but was some how still an instant classic.
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