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.
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