A few months ago in this series we looked at a man controversially retaining his title, with a technically decision win that should, probably, have been a technical knockout loss. Today we look at another bout involving the man who won that bout, taking on someone who was flawed and limited, but made for a fantastic contender with his strength and power making up for his technical limitations.
Katsunari Takayama (30-7-0-1, 12) Vs Jose Argumedo (16-3-1, 9)
That man we mentioned a few months ago is Katsunari Takayama, who of course get very lucky when he retained the IBF Minimumweight title with his win over Fahlan Sakkreerin Jr by technical decision. Although Takayama deserved to be up on the score-cards, something we don't think anyone would deny, his fight ending cut seemed to come from punches and not an accidental foul. It would have been a harsh way to lose the IBF world title, but sometimes harsh is fair, and a rematch between the two should have been the order of the day. Takayama's face held up fairly well when he returned to the ring to defeat Ryuji Hara 5 months later before he took on Jose Argumedo on the final day of 2015.
Mexican challenger Jose Argumedo was one of those fighters who had done little to deserve a world title shot, if we're being honest, but was someone who looked like he was always going to be a nightmare to fight. He was slow, a bit wild, a bit crude, and often threw shots off balance. But he was stupidly strong, incredibly tough, with solid power. He took a shot well, and was awkward enough to use his physical strength and size in a way that really was a nightmare to come up against. He looked much bigger than Takayama, who was typically the speedier fighter, but one who liked a tear up, a tactic that was likely to be an issue against someone like Argumedo.
The bout started, like so many Takayama bouts this one began with the "Lighting Kid" using his feet, bouncing around range and trying to get his distance. Unlike most of his bouts however he was in there with someone who was happy to have raiding attacks, coming forward and launching shots from weird angles, leading with his head and make things ugly. Around 2 minutes into the round the size of Argumedo seemed to make Takayama realise he shouldn't look to toe to toe too much, but by then the men had already clashed heads once, with another head clash coming soon afterwards.
Whilst it was messy at times it was also packed with intense exchanges and you could feel that, even in the first round, this was going to be a fun fight. Then again it was a Takayama fight, of course it was going to be fun.
The action continued to be a mix of mess up close, intense exchanges, Takayama trying to fight at mid range and Argumedo swinging with little concern of what was coming back at him. At times Argumedo looked crude and wild, sending himself off balance with some of his offense, whilst at other points he was landing really solid shots. Midway through the round Takayama's eye was already a mess. This time the referee made it clear, this was from a clash of heads. The cut was a bad one at such an early point in the fight, with Hiroaki Nakade going to work on it in the corner.
Despite the cut Takayama seemed to have a very good third round, picking his moments better and using his foot work, speed and skill to get in and out. Although Argumedo had his moments, a big one about 2 minutes into the round, it seemed a much better round for Takayama over the 3 minute duration. Takayama also seemed to have a very good round 4, with Argumedo having moments, but being out worked and out landed. Once again Argumedo's head played a role in the action before Takayama was taken over the doctor for the first inspection of the eye. Later in the round Argumendo seemed to be hurt as Takayama turned it on and it felt like the Mexican was starting to feel the pace and tempo of the champion.
Takayama's success grew. Argumedo. who had looked so strong and tough in the first 2 rounds, was starting to back off and he looked much less effective on the back foot. He was the one wanting space and Takayama refused to let him have it. Argumedo again had moments, but was again out worked, out landed, and was clearly the man who was struggling with the tempo and style of the fight.
To his credit Argumedo got back to what had been working in round 6. Throwing wild shots. They had less sting on them than earlier and were much less consistent than they had been in the early stages of the bout, but were there. What was also there was Takayama's body attack, which continued to slow Argumedo and caught the eye whilst forcing Argumedo on to the back foot once again.
As we went into round 7 it seemed the momentum was with the champion. Yes he was cut, yes he was the smaller man, yes he had taken some very solid shots, but he was out working the challenger, landing the shots, seemingly in control, of the action, making Argumedo look clumsy, landing good counters, and even rocking Argumedo at times. The Mexican looked frustrated, realising his power wasn't going to take out Takayama. He looked like his confidence had been chipped away at, and that he was tiring. Once again he had been wobbled and hurt. Takayama's eye however had worsened. Having fought with it since round 2 that was no surprise, and the left side of his face was becoming a bloody mess as we went into round 8. The cut however wasn't affecting his control and he again seemed to simply have too much for the challenger who was again backed up, out landed, and looked like a man who was really struggling for any consistent success.
Very early in round 9 Takayama's face was again a bloody mess. By now the cuts were beginning to look like they were potentially fight ending. The doctor and referee chatted about them, and it appeared that the bout was about to be stopped. Surprisingly, given how long the discussion was, the bout was allowed to continue. When the bout retsrated Argumedo got even more sloppy. He slipped seconds into the restart, repeatedly over-balanced, and struggled to get much on his shots. Takayama didn't managed much consistent success on the restart, as he took began to look tired, with blood now streaming over both eyes. It seemed he was punching through a mist of blood which was getting worse due to the incidental headclashes.
With Takayama's face a total mess the bout was stopped at the end of round 9 as we went to the score cards. It seemed as it Takayama had done enough to retain his titles. He hadn;t dominated the fight, but had clearly done enough for at at least 5 rounds from the 9 completed. At least that was how it seemed.
The judges however felt otherwise, with two judges scoring scoring 84-87 to Argumedo, whilst the third judge had it 86-85 to Takayama. It was a decision that seemed to surprise Argumedo's team.
Following the bout Takayama accepted defeat, though it seemed a very harsh one. Then again this could also have been boxing karma in play given the nature of his controversial win over Fahlan Sakkreerin Jr just 7 months earlier.
Interestingly would return 8 months after this bout to reclaim the WBO title, that he had once vacated, with a technical decision against Riku Kano. Argumedo on the other hand would defend the belt 3 times before returning to Japan and losing it to Hiroto Kyoguchi in 2017.
With all the headclashes, some questionable scoring this is a controversy, though not a total robbery. What it is, however, is a fun, action fight with drama, and it certainly deserves a watch.
Another month is here and we get another chance to dip into the subject of boxers being involved in commercials and adverts. As people familiar with this series will know, this isn't something to take too seriously but is a bit of fun and a chance to see fighters in some interesting roles outside of the ring.
Guts Ishimatsu - Ricoh Printer
A show on to kick off with but one featuring a favourite of this series, former Lightweight world champion Guts Ishimatsu. Ishimatsu was involved numerous adverts, having a long post-boxing career as an actor and talent, and one of his many assignments was Ricoh Printers, featuring in two Ricoh Printer adverts. This one sees Ishimatsu walking in to an office with a before some confused looking colleagues. We're sure the advert makes sense to those able to speak Japanese but to us, it's just amusing to see Ishimatsu, once again, showing brilliant presence on screen and being involved in a humourus role.
Tomomi Takano - Christian & Co
Another regular in this series is female fighter Tomomi Takano, who had the natural aura to draw eyes and attention to anything she was promoting. That's seen here in an advert for Christian and Co. The advert is very modern, very basic and a bit boring if we're being honest, yet it's almost impossible to look away from Takano who really does act as the main factor in an overly artsy commercial. This is very style over substance, and is supposedly the "simple version" of the advert, suggesting there is a more complex version out there, despite us not yet coming across it.
Manny Pacquiao - Anta
Another boxer who has been in numerous commercials over the years is Filipino sensation Manny Pacquiao, who has put his face to pretty much everything and anything. Here is a commercial he filmed for Anta Sports Products entitled "I am a Fighter". The entire video focuses more on Pacquiao and his career than the product he's selling, which is a bit strange. In fact almost the entire advert is based on Pacquiao with Anta barely getting an actual mention in the video. Very odd for the brand awareness if we're being honest.
Gennady Golovkin - GGG Energy Drink
Kazakh boxer Gennady Golovkin is undeniably the greatest professional boxer from Kazakhstan so far. He's also the only one to have an energy drink emblazoned with his his name, or rather his initials. Sadly the advert here is a very weird one being mostly training with the energy drink coming at the very end of the video. We understand the idea behind it, with the energy drink fuelling Golovkin's great training, but it very much feels like a missed opportunity and it would have made more sense to push the product at the start of the video, or during the middle of it, rather than flash it at the end of the advert for a few seconds.
Katsunari Takayama - BODYMAKER
We suspect long term fans of Japanese boxing will remember the "Bodymaker Colosseum", and that was a deal where sports where company Bodymaker bought the naming rights for the Osaka Prefectural Gymansium for a number of years. Bodymaker also had a number of notable athletes promoting their clothing, such as Katsunari Takayama, who featured in a number of commercials for them. They included this very basic one of him sprinting in their clothing as part of one of his work outs. Again a very simple advert, but one where we at least see the brand's logo during the advert as well as at the end. We can at least understand what Bodymaker are here, even if the advert isn't the most artistic one out there.
To close out the Closet Classic series for 2020 we thought it would be a good idea to feature a bout that took place "on this day", and with New Year's Eve being a big day for boxing in Japan in recent years it left us with a lot of options. We've gone with a bout that isn't one of the more famous New Year Eve bouts, but is very much a Closet Classic. It's a bout that goes over-looked, and often ignored, yet was a real thriller between two exciting little men. Not only was it a thriller but their controversy, excitement and drama.
Katsunari Takayama (30-7-0-1, 12) Vs Jose Argumedo (15-3-1, 9)
Coming in to the bout the always fun to watch Katsunari Takayama was the IBF Minimumweighgt champion, and was hunting his third defense of the title. He was 32 years old and had had a long and successful career winning the WBC, WBO and IBF Minimumweight titles, along with the WBA interim title. Although not the most skilled or the biggest puncher in the sport he was an all action fighter who could box, but almost always ended up in a war and had provided so many Fight of the Year contenders, including a sensational 2014 war with Francisco Rodriguez Jr. The reason Takayama was so great to watch was that he let his hands go, a lot, and took risks as he attempted to break down opponents with work rate. He lacked power but made up for that with volume, speed, heart and desire and even in his 30's was still a little energiser bunny full of energy, and able to fight at a very high work rate through the full 12 rounds. Sadly for Takayama the wars he'd been in had taken a toll on his flesh, and he was prone to cuts, which had been a massive issue 2 fights earlier against Fahlan Sakkreerin Jr, and caused that bout to be stopped in round 9.
Whilst Takayama was a known quantity at world level, the same couldn't be said of Mexican challenger Jose Argumedo. The 27 year old Mexican had lost on debut, to future WBC champion Oswaldo Novoa, and later lost a rematch to Novoa, but had scored decent wins on the Latino scene with victories against the likes of Saul Juarez, Martin Tecuapetla and Javier Martinez Resendiz. Other than Novoa the only other loss on Argumedo's record was a split decision to Carlos Velarde. Although not too well known he has proven to be a limited, but very strong and tough fighter. He came forward a lot, took a good shot and hit hard for a Minimumweight. Notably this was his first bout outside of Mexico and his first world title bout, in what was a clear step up in class.
The bout started with Takayama trying to use his speed against the slower but visibly bigger Argumedo. Despite being the slower man Argumedo was managing to land plenty of eye catching shots, which had more power on them than Takayama's quicker blows. Within 2 minutes of the first round it was already clear we were going to get a treat to end 2015, and the bout did not disappoint as the action got more and more intense. The only problem was the occasional clash of heads, which were a result of the two men fighting at such an aggressive and exciting pace.
In rounds 2 the action became more and more intense, with both men landing a lot of leather. Despite the two men having very different styles they were both delivering fireworks to end the year, and they were giving us some amazing exchanges. Not only were they both unloading shots but they were both taking them clean as the bout started to go through the gears. Sadly the round also saw Takayama suffer a cut, from a clash of heads. The cut seemed to put a big question mark on "how long" the bout would last, and with that in mind Takayama knew he would have to put his foot on the gas even more.
From there on we ended up getting something truly tremendous, between two men who fought incredibly hard for the title, and gave all they could in a thrilling contest.
We won't ruin what happens here, but this is a tremendous bout, and if you're looking for some fireworks before ringing in 2021, this is a great throw back to 5 years ago, and a bout that if you've not seen before is seriously worth a watch. On the other hand if you already seen it, watch it again, it's a second viewing!
In recent "Controversial Clashes" we've looked at questionable judging and going a big further back referees allowing fighters to bend the rules with fouling and spoiling to the point where very limited boxing took place. Today we look at something else, something where the controversy wasn't immediately obvious, and where it probably deserved a review, and a rematch, with no one being truly at blame, but the finish perhaps wasn't the most fair. Thankfully this bout wasn't too overshadowed by the controversy, and it was a genuinely good bout. As always we'll look at the fighters, the fight and the controversy.
Katsunari Takayama (28-7-0-1, 11) Vs Fahlan Sakkreerin Jr (27-3-1, 15)
We roll back to April 22nd 2015 for this bout, which took place at the Prefectural Gymnasium in Osaka. A venue that had previously been known as the "Bodymaker Colosseum" and is now known as the EDION Arena Osaka.
In one corner was Japanese veteran, and cult boxing fan favourite, Katsunari Takayama. At the time Takayama was enjoying a reign as the IBF Minimumweight champion and was making his first defense since recapturing the title in December 2014, when he beat Go Odaira for the IBF and WBO titles. At the age of 31 Takayama wasn't an old fighrre in terms of years, but was an old fighter in terms of damage. He had been in a lot of tough bouts and had taken a lot of punishment during a hard 36 fight career. Win or lose he was always in amazing fights, but his body, and particularly his skin, were showing signs of his long career.
In the other corner was second generation fighter Fahlan Sakkreerin Jr, who was 21 years old and boasted a 29-3-1 (17) record and was looking to claim a title that his father had held in the 1990's. A win for Fahlan would have seen him and his father become the first father-son champions in Thai boxing history, and he had full belief and confidence that he could pick up the win. Added to that confidence was the fact that last time he fought in Osaka, at the end of 2013, he scored a career best win and upset Ryo Miyazaki in one of the big upsets of 2013. In fact not only was that in Osaka, but it was actually at the same venue that he was fighting Takayama in. Despite having a lot of fights to his name he was young, hungry and hadn't taken much punishment in his 33 fights.
Like many Takayama bouts the fight started with Japanese fighter looking to find his rhythm before coming forward, using a lot of energy with his bouncing footwork. There wasn't too much to get excited about in the opening minute, but then the bout began to get going with a handful of eye catching exchanges. From there the bout began to build and as the final round closed out you could feel the fight catching fire, very quickly. The round had gone from first gear to third gear in the final minute or so. Not only was the bout catching fire, but both men looked up for it.
In round 2 the pressure from Takayama started to show it's self, pushing Fahlan backwards, and occasionally getting him on to the ropes, where he began to unload. The bout continued to go through the gears and the bout began to settle into this round with Takayama pressuring, getting Fahlan on to the ropes and the two men letting their shots go.
The dynamic between the two fighters and their styles, with Takayama pressing and Fahlan boxing off the ropes, slipping and sliding, made it feel like a smaller version of the legendary bout between Somsak Sithchatchawal and Mahyar Monshipour. Not quite the same intensity, but a very similar fight from a stylistic point of view. Whilst some will appreciate the skills that Fahlan showed with his back on the ropes, and they were very smart moves and counters, it was also easy to be impressed by Takayama's aggression, output and intensity.
Despite being on the front foot so much Takayama was taking some clean counters and his face was starting to swell around the eyes quite early on. It wasn't threatening to stop the fight, but it was clear that he was taking shots himself, and that his eyes were marking up. Then the swelling became a cut, with Takayama having blood pouring out of of his left eye. Despite the cut, and the real risk of making it worse, Takayama continued to press on, trying to break down and stop the Thai challenger. By the time he went to his corner at the end of the round the damage was clear. This was a nasty on the eye lid, a cut that Takayama's mentor Hiroaki Nakade couldn't stop. By the time the fighters came out for round 9 it was clear the bout wasn't going to last long. Just over 20 seconds into round 9 Takayama was taken over to the doctor for the first time, his face a swollen mess, with cuts on both eyes. The fight was allowed to continue but time was ticking and a second inspection, with less than a minute of the round remaining, saw the doctor halting the contest.
The question however was what caused the cut?
There was no clear indication from the referee, when the bout was stopped Takayama looked close to tears. It seemed that he felt his title was gone. He had been fighting like a man who needed a stoppage, surely he assumed the cut was from a punch. He fought that way at least and his post fight emotion seemed to show as much. Fahlan also seemed to think he had scored a huge stoppage win. The crowd also booed the decision to stop the bout.
After the bout was stopped we then, to the surprise of everyone, went to the scorecards. The news of that drew a loud roar from the crowd, who realised their man should retain his title. Unsurprisingly, given the action we saw, the cards ended up favouring Takayama, who got the nod with a technical decision to retain the title.
The decision was met with annoyance form the Thai's team, who could be seen shaking their heads as Takayama's arm was raise and when they realised what had happened.
What made the whole situation worse was that, there had been no clear indication that the cut was caused by anything but a punch. The replays, which were shown by the Thai's team in the days that followed the fight, seemed to make it very clear that the damage was from punches, and given the way Takayama had fought it seemed obvious that he too thought it was from a punch.
Sadly we never got the rematch. Fahlan would later move up in weight, losing to some of the top Light Flyweights of the time, whilst Takayama would defend the title against Ryuji Hara before losing the belt, in another decision, to Jose Argumedo. Incidentally Takayama seemed to deserve the technical decision win over Argumedo a lot more than he deserved this win.
Earlier today the UK price for the PPV of Anthony Joshua Vs Kubrat was announced, at £24.95. Whilst this price is only for the UK, with DAZN having global on it in their various territories, it has been a sore point with British fans. Afterall we're in a recession, with job losses and the PPV is coming less than 2 weeks before Christmas and at a higher price than usual.
The typical solution is for defenders of PPV to either yell "don't watch it then" or "find a free stream", ignoring the bigger issues at hand.
For once I'm not here to talk about the good or bad of PPV, something I've spoken about so many times in the past. Instead I'm here to talk to the hardcore fans who want to watch fights and want to support the sport. Today I'm not here to tell you where to get free streams for Jsohua Vs Pulev, or not to pay for it, or how watch an international feed. Instead I'm here to promote some free streams for events from through out Asia. Once again showing that you can follow the sport, and enjoy fights without opening your wallet.
And seriously for those wanting boxing in coming weeks there is a lot of free content out there, that you don't need to jump through hoops for.
The free boxing run begins tomorrow from the Philippines with an interesting card from Sanman promotions under the name "The Restart", which will be their first show since boxing was allowed back in the country.
The main event here will see former WBO Bantamweight champion Marlon Tapales (33-3, 16) battle against Eden Sonsona (36-11-2, 13) with a supporting bout featuring former 2-time world title challenger Aston Palicte (26-4-1, 22) battling Reymark Taday (10-12-1, 5). The card will also feature Joey Canoy (15-4-1, 8) and the very promising Dave Apolinario (13-0, 8)
This will be available for free over Sanman Promotion's Facebook page.
On November 23rd we have two options from Japan one for an event in Osaka and one for a card in Tokyo.
Of the two it's the Osakan event this is, by far, the more attractive featuring two different parts.
The main event for the first part will see former multi-time world champion Katsunari Takayama (31-8-0-1, 12) take on 2-time world title challenger Reiya Konishi (17-2, 7).
The second part of the event will see a supporting bout between former world title challenger Sho Ishida (28-2, 15) and Japanese Youth Bantamweight champion Toshiya Ishii (3-0, 2). As well as that interesting match up we'll also have title action as Riku Kano (16-4-1, 8) clashes with Ryoki Hirai (12-6-1, 4) for the vacant WBO Asia Pacific Light Flyweight title.
For fans wanting to watch this one we've got the embedded live stream below thanks to TV Osaka
The show from Tokyo is a much smaller event being between hard hitting youngster Jin Sasaki (8-0, 7) and Tatsuya Miyazaki (9-13-1, 9). Another notable bout on this card will see the always fun to watch Ryugo Ushijima (4-1-2, 2) take on veteran Hyuma Fujioka (10-10-1, 1)
If this is the show you want to watch a free stream will be put on by the promoter via the A-Sign.boxing.com YouTube channel. This is again free and watching it is supporting the sport, the promoter and the fighters.
If a world title fight is what you require to be interested in a fight then November 27th will be a day to circle with the "Bloodline Battle" between Wanheng Menayothin (54-0, 18) and Panya Pradabsri (34-1, 22), for Wanheng's WBC Minimumweight title, being made available online for free.
It's expected that this will be available on Petchyindee's Facebook page, who typically show stream their events. If not Channel 7 can typically be streamed through officials means here through their website, though a Thai VPN may be needed.
Staying with Thailand just a day after Wanheng looks to go to 55-0 we'll see 16 year old sensation Phoobadin Yoohanngoh (9-0, 5) defending a regional title against Atchariya Wirojanasunobol (13-0, 5) for free on Thairath.
The show, which will be promoted by TL Promotions under their "The Fighter" banner, is usually streamed by the promoter on their Facebook page however options also include an official stream via the TV company, Thairath, who have a live stream on their website.
On November 29th we get something a little bit special as Seki-chan, a boxing die hard in Japan, has actually paid out of his own pocket to attain the rights for a 2-part show in Kariya. The shows aren't big, but for those wanting to talk about "supporting boxing" they are perhaps the clearest example of grassroot support of professional boxing out there. The idea a fan can buy the rights for a show and share them internationally is just amazing, and a great sign of what boxing fans can do for the sport.
The most noteworthy bouts here are a clash between Shin Tomita (10-8-2) and Naoya Haruguchi (17-11, 7) and a bout between the always fun to watch Ryosuke Maruki (16-7-1, 11) and Tsunehiko Aitoku (5-9-2).
For fans interested in this part 1 will be here
and part 2 will be here
Back in Thailand again here as WP Boxing put on their next show, and this will be available over WP Boxing's Facebook and YouTube channels. This show will be a double header with Apichet Petchmanee (7-0, 2) re-matching Musheg Adoian (7-2, 7), after their controversial first bout, and will also see once beaten prospect Phongsaphon Panyakum (10-1, 5) take on former world champion Kompayak Porpramook (60-10, 41).
For Facebook the stream will be here and for those wanting to watch on YouTube the stream will be on here.
We get more free boxing the day after the Joshua Vs Pulev bout Shinsei Gym put on a show. This will feature Yumi Narita (4-4-3, 1) and Mont Blanc Miki (4-3-1, 1) battling over the Japanese female Minimumweight title live on YouTube and an excellent 8 round match up between Yuki Yonaha (7-3-1, 5) and Motoki Osanai (4-2, 1). This will be shown live on the Boxing Real YouTube channel and should be a really high quality stream, given other Boxing Real streams.
When we think of the WBA and their propensity to give us "interim" champions alongside their "regular" we get genuinely annoyed. The idea behind "interim" titles do actually make sense, and if they were used as they are supposed to be used, we'd be happily in favour of them. Sadly the WBA have watered down the sport by having interim world champions, regular world champions and super champions in pretty much every division, without a need for them. If a champion is injured then, by all means, set up an interim champion with a unification bout when the champion is fit and healthy, but other than that there is no need for one.
The reason for us mentioning that is that today's Closet Classic is a great WBA Regular/interim title unification bout from 2007 and one of the rare times that we have seen the WBA titles being unified!
Yutaka Niida (20-1-3, 8) Vs Katsunari Takayama (18-2, 7)
In one corner was WBA "regular" Minimumweight champion Yutaka Niida, a very talented, but now often over-looked fighter from Yokohama. Niida was enjoying his second reign as the world champion, having beaten Noel Arambulet in 2004 to reclaim the title. Following his win over Arambulet for the title Niida had made 3 defenses and looked like he was rebuilding his career after a rather odd few years. Although not a puncher Niida was a talented, speedy and technical fighter, who was well schooled, knew his way around the ring and typically controlled the distance well. Sadly now-a-days Niida is best known for retiring after losing to Roman Gonzalez, but back in 2007 he was genuinely regarded as one of the best at 105lbs.
In recent years Katsunari Takayama has become known as one of the most exciting fighters in recent memory, and a real trail blazer for Japanese boxing. The "Lightning Kid" was a warrior. He was quick, light punching and always put on a show. He was certainly not a puncher, but he was intense, setting a high tempo and trying to our work and out fight opponents. Takayama was not only quick with his hands, but also his feet and was pretty much boxing's answer to the energiser bunny. Even back in 2007, when this bout took place, he was known for having great fan friendly bouts, though they were often closer than they needed to be. With Takayama's lack of power and warrior mentality often making things much tougher for him than they needed to be.
In September 2006 Niida was supposed to defend his title against Takayama, however a training injury forced a delay to the bout. Due to that injury the WBA had allowed Takayama to fight for the interim title, with Takayama beating Carlos Melo for the interim title in November 2006. When Niida was back to health we then, finally, saw the two men clash.
Given this bout was 7 months over-due, taking place in April 2007 and not September 2006, it quickly became clear that both men didn't want to take time getting to know each other. After around 15 seconds Takayama took the advantage, putting Niida on to the seat of his pants. Niida wasn't hurt but it was clear he wanted to get revenge for the knockdown, and from there we had a sensational bout in the making with both men happy to let their shots go.
Niida was the one pressing forward, for the most part, though Takayama was smartly nipping in and out, letting his hands go in flurries and making the most of his younger, fresher legs. He seemed fully aware that if he stood toe to toe he was going to be in trouble, though stood his ground often enough to give us some amazing exchanges.
For fans who like brawls this has enough brawling in it to be worthy of a watch, but it's not a slugfest, instead it's a brilliant technical war. It combines the volume of a brawl with sharp technical skills from both. The bout is full of action with technique, drama, controversy and competitiveness making it a brilliant contest from the the first bell to the very final seconds.
If a fighter was ranked based solely on how exciting their fights were then Katsunari Takayama (31-8-0-1, 12) would be damn close to the top of any recent rankings. Sadly for our Fighter of the Decade top 10 a fighter needs to have a string of impressive wins over top competition, and not just give us thrilling action fights and amazing memories. For Takayama the wins over top competition were lacking, but yet he still had a notable decade, with a 8-4-0-1 (3) record and multiple world title wins.
Takayama started the decade chasing the IBF Minimumweight title, winning an eliminator in South Africa. Sadly for him his pursuit wasn't immediately successful and he would fight to a no contest, and a loss, to Nkosinathi Joyi and then suffered a controversial loss in the Philippines to Mateo Handig.
Having started the decade 1-2-0-1 Takayama really did get off on the wrong foot but would finally claim the IBF title, in his third shot at the belt, when he beat Mario Rodriguez in Mexico. He defended the belt twice, beating Vergilio Silvano and Shin Ono, before returning to Mexico and losing a unification bout with WBO champion Francisco Rodriguez Jr. That bout was one of the best bouts of the last decade, but with it being a loss we can't really give Takayama's standing a boost for his effort alone.
Thankfully Takayama would go on to claim the IBF and WBO titles when Rodriguez vacated the belts and moved up in weight. He did this by stopping Go Odaira and then defended the IBF title against Fahlan Sakkreerin Jr and Ryuji Hara, with the Fahlan bout being another sensational fight, after vacating the WBO title. Sadly he would again lose after just 2 defenses, coming up on the wrong end of a technical decision to Jose Argumedo.
In his final professional bout Takayama would become a 2-time WBO Minimumweight champion, thanks to a technical decision win over youngster Riku Kano.
It's rare a guy can claim two IBF and WBO world titles but still miss out on a top 10 rankings on a Fighter of the Decade list, but for Takayama it seems about right. He was unfortunate to have such short reigns as world champion, and despite how fun he was to watch he did lack a real top tier win. Victories over Mario Rodriguez, Hara, Fahlan, and Ono really aren't enough to earn him a top 10 place. Not quite. But still a great try and a very solid decade for Takayama, who retired in 2017 to pursue dreams of becoming an Olympian. Sadly those dreamed ended in 2019 in a loss in a very early stage of qualifying for the Japanese national championships.
One of the big issues with the lower weights are the lack of unification bouts. The divisions are stacked with talent but we rarely see the best face the best, and instead we see a lot of fighters establishing long reigns against lesser fighters. A great case of that is seeing the reign of Wanheng Menayothin, who has faced a string of lesser challengers rather than unifying with the likes of Knockout CP Freshmart. Thankfully when we do see the best fight the best we usually get something spectacular, as we saw in 2014 when the IBF and WBO Minimumweight world titles were unified in one of the best bouts in recent years.
Katsunari Takayama (27-6-0-1, 10) vs Francisco Rodriguez Jr (17-2, 13)
August 9th 2014 will go down in history as the date we got one of the greatest Minimumweight bouts of all time. It saw IBF Minimumweight champion Katsunari Takayama travel to Mexico to take on WBO champion Francisco Rodriguez Jr. The bout delivered 12 rounds of beautiful brutality from two men who stylistically gelled perfectly and gave us none stop action, some amazing trading sequences and yet a technically solid performance from both.
Entering the bout Takayama was a 31 year old Japanese warrior who had done what most didn't think of. He had handed over his JBC license to pursue the IBF and WBO titles, travelled to South Africa, the Philippines and Mexico in pursuit of those belts. He wanted to be a grandslam champion, he wanted to own all 4 major titles and went about it the right way. Not only did he want to take titles but he also put on great fights, building a reputation with hardcore fans for all action bouts, incredible work rate, amazing toughness and his willingness to battle through adversity.
At 21 years old Rodriguez was a rising youngster who was really only known for 2 fights, in 2013 he had lost to Roman Gonzalez, being stopped in 7 rounds, but had become a world champion just 6 months later, bullying and stopped the then unbeaten WBO champion Merlito Sabillo. Rather than have an easy first defense he looked to unify and just 5 months after his title win he took on Takayama, looking to unify before out growing the division. He had shown real tenacity, incredible strength and size for a Minimumweight but looked like the type of fighter who's time in the division could end at any time due to a struggle to make the limit.
Given the styles of the men we knew this had the potential to be something amazing, and yet the bout easily exceeded the expectations.
At the opening bell Takayama rushed at Rodriguez. It didn't take long however to see Takayama trying to box and move, using his foot work, speed and combinations whilst Rodriguez began to apply pressure, using his physicality to walk down Takayama. Despite the differing styles the two were never apart for more than a few seconds.
This was the type of bout where even those who typically ignore the smaller guys managed to get caught up the action and enjoy a pulsating, 12 round war. This is what the little guys can do, and this is something every fan should watch, rewatch and watch once again.
Enjoy our latest, Closet Classic.
Today we celebrate a new period in Japanese history, the Reiwa period. This ends the Heisei era, which began back in January 8th 1989, and although the change is not likely to be noticed in the west it is a major event in Japan.
We thought, with the end of the era, it was worth looking at the 10 most influential fighters of the Heisei era.
Just a caveat, before we begin, by influential we're not looking at the fighters who were the most successful during the era, but those who had a long last effect on the sport, specifically in Japan. Those who forced changes, influenced fighters or inspired fighters who followed them. To be considered they had to have fought between January 8th 1989 and April 30th 2019.
10-Takashi Uchiyama (24-2-1, 20) - The Watanabe Wonder
Several fighters on this list have gotten here due to their influence with fighters who have followed in their footsteps, or fighters who have turned their hand to promoting. Takashi Uchiyama on the other hand helped put the gym he was fighting for on the map. The Watanabe Gym had been opened for a few years but didn't really have a star to focus on, they lacked a fighter who could help attract top prospects and a man who carry the gym. In Uchiyama they had that star. Uchiyama's long reign as the WBA Super Featherweight champion, from 2010 to 2016, made his one of the major faces of Japanese boxing and he would inspire the Watanabe Gym, which is now regarded as one of the best in Japan. His effect on the Watanabe gym today has lead to fighters like Hiroto Kyoguchi and Ryoichi Taguchi becoming major forces. He's now running a gym of his own, and it's clear that Uchiyama's influence is going to continue well into the future.
9-Katsuya Onizuka (24-1, 17) - Superstar Spanky K
Popular fighters are influential due to their ability to draw a crown, get people talking and get eye balls on the sport. That was certainly the case with Katsuya Onizuka, who's popularity was huge in the 1990's. He turned professional in 1988 and would fight through to 1994, running up 5 defenses of the WBA Super Flyweight title, and even having a video game released with his likeness in Japan. Onizuka was certainly controversial, with numerous suspect wins, but his popularity kept people interested and kept watching. Following his retirement he would train fighters in Fukuoka, work for TBS in a commentary position and continue to have a pretty notable impact in the sport, much more so than fans in the West would realise.
8-Kazuto Ioka (23-2, 13) - Bar setting prodigy
The Osakan boxing scene is the second biggest in Japan, behind that in Tokyo, and for the better part of a decade the face of Osakan boxing was Kazuto Ioka. He drew huge TV rating, he was crowned as super prospect from his debut and he would, famously, win the WBC Minimumweight title in just his 7th bout. His career has been remarkable, winning world titles in 3 divisions, and chasing a 4th divisional world title. He's notable won an all-Japanese unification bout, a real rarity, challenged for a 4th divisional world title and set the mark for fewest fights to a world title, a mark that has since been beaten by Naoya Inoue and Kosei Tanaka. Ioka put a marker down for the newest wave of Japanese fighters, and really helped kick start the era of the Japanese super prospect.
7-Hozumi Hasegawa (36-5, 16) - Hyogo Hero
We're going to mention a man who inspired a generation of fighters a little bit further down this list, but Hozumi Hasegawa also fills that role excellently. In fact Hasegawa ois the man many current fighters cite as an inspiration, especially those in the Hyogo region. He was, for a long time, the one fighter from Hyogo who kept the region on the map, he was "The Ace" of Japan for years, a multi-time JBC MVP, a 3 weight world champion, a sensational fighter in the ring and someone who's appeal did actually cross over from Japan to the West. Hasegawa began his career in 1999 and despite some early defeats he would go on to win world titles at Bantamweight, Featherweight and Super Bantamweight, he was a TV star in the ring, with a great style to watch and with a list of notable names on his record. He wasn't the megastar that some had anticipated, but he was a big name, and the face of Japanese boxing during a little bit of a transition period in the 00's
6-Sugar Miyuki (11-1, 4) - Female punching pioneer
Women's boxing today is thriving in Japan, and Kasumi Saeki recently showed how good the top youngsters are. We've recent world champions like Naoko Fujioka, Ayaka Miyao, Etsuko Tada and Shindo Go all make their mark but the real OG is Sugar Miyoshi. A fighter you won't easily find on boxrec, where she's listed under her birth name of Nojima Miyuki and has an offiial record of 1-1. Miyuki was oriinally a Shoot Boxing fighter, a style more similar to kick boxing than regular boxing, but would turn to boxing in 1995, years before the JBC would recognise female boxing. In 1997 she would go on to win the IWBF Minimumweight title, becoming Japan's first female world champion. Her work in boxing saw him raise the profile of the sport in the country, fighting exhibitions and working as a trainer. She would clearly kick start the female boxing movement in Japan, long before any of the others, and was a key factor in careers for the likes of Miki Kikukawa and Yumi Takano. She pre-dates the like of Feujin Raika by years and also played a role in showing that fighters could convert from one of Japan's other combat sports leagues. Although Miyuki is only "officially" listed at 1-1 we know that's wrong, due to footage of her and reliable sources, we her impact it still being felt, directly and indirectly to this very day!
5-Naoya Inoue (17-0, 15) - International man of focus
It's hard to really figure out where Naoya Inoue sits in this list. He hasn't inspired a generation of fighters, he hasn't forced rules to change, he hasn't set up a gym, or played a part in the running of the sport. However what he has done, internationally, has drawn eyes to Japanese boxing, he has managed to capture an international audience like no other Japanese fighter, getting American and European fans talking, and featuring as a cover star for magazines that often put Japanese boxing down their list of priorities. He has, arguably, become the first Japanese fighter, in a long time, to become a global star. His real influence is likely to be more notable in the Reiwa era, but it's impossible to state how much he has done since his debut in 2012. He, more than any other fighter, has made Japanese boxing global and we expect that will be something felt for a very, very long time.
4-Hiroki Ioka (33-8-1, 17) - First generation Ioka!
Today Kazuto Ioka is one of the biggest names in Japanese boxing. His unclue, Hiroki Ioka, is however a man who deserves on any list of influential fighters. The talented former 2-weight world champion saw his career begin before the Heisei era but his influence grew through out the era. He won his first world title in 1987, 3 months before the Heisei era began, but would make his first defense just weeks after the new emperor took the throne. He went 22-8-1 (11) during the Heisei era, defending the WBC Minimumweight title and winning the WBA Light Flyweight title. He would also chase a third divisional world title, coming up short at both Flyweight and Super Flyweight. After retiring in 1998 he would turn his hand to promoting, inspire his nephew to fight and guide numerous careers, as well as working as part of the West Japan Boxing Association. His influence may often be over-looked but he has been incredibly influential and will continue to be so in the Kansai region.
3-Katsunari Takayama (31-9-0-1, 12) - Rule changing road warrior
It's hard to ignore just how influential Katsunari Takayama was to Japanese boxing during his 40 fight career. The Minimumweight warrior was a trend setter who pushed his dreams and forced the JBC, and the JABF, to change how they did things. His pursuit of the IBF and WBO world titles eventually helped their legitimacy in Japan, and played a part in getting the JBC to recognise both the titles. He also brought real attention to the Minumumweight division, in part thanks to his incredible fight with Francisco Rodriguez Jr. He also, very notable, pushed the JABF into allowing former professional fighters to return to the amateur ranks. Whilst Takayama will never go down as one of the all time greats, it's impossible to ignore the effect that his career had on Japanese boxing.
2-Hideyuki Ohashi (19-5, 12) - The Phoenix
In the west Hideyuki Ohashi is relatively unknown, though plays a massive role in Japanese boxing, and has done for over 30 years. At the start of the Heisei era Ohashi was 9-3 (5) though went 10-2 (7) during the rule of Emperor Akihito, becoming a 2-time Minimumweight world champion during that 12 bout run. What he's he's done since hanging up the gloves in 1993 has been amazing, and he has not only played a role in the governing of Japanese boxing, due to roles with the JBC and JPBA, but also ran the Ohashi Gym. That gym has given us the likes of Katsushige Kawashima, Akira Yaegashi and Naoya Inoue. The "Ohashi Gym" is one of the most significant in Japan right now and looks to go from strength to strength.
Koki Kameda - Insanely popular, controversial, and a real star. His effect as a fighter was divisive but few can argue that he's not, even in retirement, a major draw.
Kiyoshi Hatanaka - A massive figure in boxing in Chubu, formerly a fighter and now the region's leading promoter with the likes of Kosei Tanaka and Kento Hatanaka making their name under him
Akinobu Hiranaka - Huge punching fighter who's work in Okyama as a promoter has started to build a notable, and exciting, local scene
Toshiaki Nishioka - Japan's fighters have tended to stay at home, fighting in the confines of of Japan. Nishioka would be one of the few fighters to go out of Japan for fighters on a semi-regular basis. He would fight in the US, Mexico and France during his career and prove that Japanese fighters could win away from home.
Yoshihiro Kamegai - Who spoke about Naoya Inoue dragging eyes to the Japanese scene. The same can also be said of Yoshihiro Kamegai, who actually became a bigger name in the west than in Japan, thanks to his fun to watch brawls. We wouldn't suggest many fighters follow his style, but his mind set of making it big in the US has helped lead the way for others.
Ryota Murata - It's unclear how much influence Murata has, or hasn't had. His TV figures are huge, his popularity, even now, is massive, but the real influence is the intangible, and that's the amateur success. We've yet to see Japanese amateurs really flourish on the international stage since Murata's 2012 Olympic gold medal, but it's expected that the 2020 Olympics will be a very successful one for Japan. It's assumed that Murata's amateur triumph may potentially have a similar effect to Amir Khan, who won an Olympic medal in 2004 and saw the UK team have a massive games in 2012.
1-Joichiro Tatsuyoshi (20-7-1, 14) - A generational influence
Few fighters can match the influence that Joichiro Tatsuyoshi had to the current Japanese scene. "Joe" made his debut 8 months after the start of the Heisei era and fought through to 2009, albeit with some breaks in there. During his career he would be a 2-time WBC Bantamweight champion, and whilst he was fast tracked to a title his influence was less due to his title reigns and more his style, his personality and his charisma. His effect on Japanese boxing was inspiring a generation of fighters, helping to kick start the current era of Japanese boxing. Even now he is still insanely popular, and when he appears at ring, as a member of the crowd, the cameras regularly zoom in on him. Enigmatic, exciting and incredibly charismatic the Osakan is still a star, though had had to pay for his boxing with various issues now effecting him.
Boxing might be the sweet science but, if we're all being honest, it's also a fight. Due to it being a fight we of course love the true fighters, the ones who come to the ring with the intention of stopping their opponents and are willing to do all they can to finish a fight early. In this feature we're going to take a look at 10 of the most fun to watch Asian fighters. Some fighters you will be familiar with whilst others you may not be too aware of, one thing is for certain however, these men mean business every time they step in the ring.
-Wanheng Menayothing-Intelligent pressure fighter, even though he lacks lights out power he is great fun to watch
-Akira Yaegashi-A real warrior who is coming to the end of his career though will always go out on his shield and give fans good value.
-Takuya Kogawa-A warrior through and through. Though he lacks power he does enjoy a tear up and is scarcely in a dull fight
-Suguru Muranaka-Another warrior who enjoys a tear up and is more than happy to let his hands go despite not being a note puncher.
-Knockout CP Freshmart-With a name like “Knockout” you already know he's looking for the stoppage every time.
-Rex Tso-Like many featured above this man from Hong Kong is flawed but that's what makes him so much fun with every fight being a war
-Kyoo Hwan Hwang-Korean teenage has got ability though often lets his "Korean instinct" kick in and turns every fight so far into a slugfest
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