For today's closet classic we roll the clock back to an historic bout from back in 1987, and it's a bout that, sadly, doesn't get the attention it deserves. That's despite the bout being a genuine major one for the division it was in. In fact it was a bout that saw an inaugural champion being crowned and a record being set, that still stands more than 30 years on.
Hiroki Ioka (8-0, 5) vs Mai Thomburifarm (11-1, 4)
The bout in question was the first ever WBC Minimumweight title bout, which took place in October 1987 in Osaka, just 4 months after the inaugural IBF title fight. The division wasn't well-established at this point, but this was a very much a major fight at 105lbs, and pitted an 18 year old Japanese hopeful against a Thai riding an 11 fight unbeaten run.
Hiroki Ioka, the uncle of Kazuto Ioka, had turned professional in 1986 under the guidance of the legendary Eddie Townsend. Ioka had debuted at the age of 17 and debuted in January '86, and had run up 5 straight wins by the end of the year. In 1987 he had beaten Kenji Ono for the Japanese Minimumweight title, setting the record as the youngest Jappanese national champion, before moving on to this WBC title fight. The youngster had been nurtured by Townsend to be an outside fighter, using his long and rangy body to fight off the jab, and with his Japanese title win there was a lot of momentum behind him. Despite the momentum he was still only 18 years and 9 months old. He was looking to set the Japanese record as the youngest world champion, and this was seen as a major step up.
Thai fighter Mai Thomburifarm had lost on his debut, in 1986, but then reeled off 11 straight wins. His competition hadn't been great, though as is always the case with Thai's from that era the records of his opponents are very much questionable and may well be incomplete. What is known is that prior to this fight with Ioka Mai had won the Thai Light Flyweight title. Coming in to this fight he was in his mid 20's but had never previously fought outside of Thailand.
From the off Ioka looked to make the most of size and speed. He got behind his jab, kept it pumped out and tried to neutralise the pressure of the Thai visitor. Ioka's big flaw, through his career, was his relative lack of power and he struggled early on to get the respect of Mai, who continued to come forward. The Thai's hunger and fire kept him coming forward but he continually struggled to get close enough, early on, to get his shots off with much success.
As the bout went on the pace of the bout increased, with Ioka occasionally pushing back Mai and letting his shots go. Mai responded, at times, but generally got the worst of things, as Ioka's clean and accurate punches took their toll on the Thai.
Whilst certainly not an all out war, and very much a show case of boxing, moving and jabbing, this was more exciting than most technical match ups and certainly had it's share of flash points and exciting moments, especially late on as both men started to wear the wounds of their bout.
For those looking for excitement and action this isn't a thrill a minute bout, despite having it's moments. It won't even be remembered as one of the greatest Minimumweight bouts ever. It is however a bout that deserves it's place in the Closet Classic series. It's a bout that helped build the division, and showed that technical and tactical bouts can still be very fun to watch!
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