As with many fighters included on this list, Kazuto Ioka would not have been mentioned, at all, on a list for the previous decade. Prior to 2010 Ioka was 3-0 (2). He was very, very, highly touted but a total professional novice with no profile outside of his homeland. Today however he is the first Japan man to win world titles in 4 weight classes, and he is a man who, in a relatively short amount of time, has run up a really impressive resume.
Ioka's first title was the Japanese Light Flyweight title, in October 2010, and since then he has really been a staple at world level. He took his first world title by beating the then 35-0-1 Oleydong Sithsamerchai, made his first defense against future WBC Flyweight champion Juan Hernandez and unified the WBC and WBA titles with Akira Yaegashi. That alone was impressive, but to then go up in weight, claim he WBA Light Flyweight title and score several defenses, including an excellent one of current world champion Felix Alvarado, was great. He of course came up short in his first shot at a Flyweight title, but eventually found his groove in the division and scored 2 wins over Juan Carlos Reveco. A short retirement in 2017/2018 followed before he again impressed in a new weight, beating McWilliams Arroyo, and later claimed the WBO Super Flyweight title. That's the title he defended at the end of 2019, beating 2-time Olympian Jeyvier Cintron, in what was the final title fight of the decade.
With 2 losses, to go along side his 22 wins for the decade Ioka has been active, he's moved through the weights, he's claimed wins over notable opponents, unified titles, and become a genuine star. The early potential he showed has been realised, and realised in impressive fashion.
Sadly for Ioka, and as with a number of other fighters on this list, the number of poor defenses pulls him down the ranking. Wins over the likes of Yodgoen Tor Chalermchai, Wisanu Kokietgym, Noknoi Sitthiprasert and Keyvin Lara, did little to show he wanted to consistently prove himself. They showed that whilst he was happy with the big names, they weren't his biggest focus. Sadly this likely comes down to the Ioka team in general, who fed Kazuto some poor defenses, but at the end of the day we expect more from our top ranking guys on this list. His pursuit of big bouts in the new decade is great, and he's made it clear he wants to face Juan Francicsco Estrada in 2020, but the fact those types of bouts didn't come off in the last decade are a real shame.
Thankfully since leaving his father's guidance Ioka has shown a willingness to prove himself again, and hopefully that will continue into the new decade with the big fights someone of his ability and popularity deserves.
Later this week we'll see Japan's Kazuto Ioka battle against Aston Palicte for the WBO Super Flyweight title. With that bout coming up it seems like this is a perfect time to talk about Kazuto Ioka's most notable bout to date, his 2012 battle with Akira Yaegashi, a true Closet Classic and a major bout in Japanese boxing history. The bout holds a unique status in Japan, and despite being relatively recent the bout has notable sub-story behind it, regarding the mentors of the two men involved. As well all the stories surrounding it, the bout also managed to deliver, in a big way.
Kazuto Ioka (9-0, 6) vs Akira Yaegashi (15-2, 8)
In the late 1980's Japanese boxing had a number of notable fighters making their way to the top of the sport. They included Hideyuki Ohashi and Hiroki Ioka, who both debuted in the mid 1980's and has success in the 1990's, with Ioka becoming a 2-weight champion and Ohashi becoming a 2-time Minimumweight champion.
When they were both professionals Ioka and Ohashi both held Minimumweight world titles, though not the same time, and a bout between the two would have been huge for Japan, pitting Osaka against Kanagawa.
When both Ohashi and Ioka ended their careers they set up gyms, and have had a lot of success as gym owners. Among their star hopefuls were Akira Yaegashi, the big hope of the Ohashi gym, and Kazuto Ioka, Hiroki Ioka's nephew. Both were former stand out amateurs, both were tipped to be stars and in 2011 both held world titles at the same weight, Minimumweight.
Kazuto Ioka, then 23 years old, had raced away to the WBC Minimumweight title, winning the belt in early 2011 when he stopped Oleydong Sithsamerchai, in what was just his 7th professional bout. He had managed to make a couple of defenses, including one over future Flyweight title holder Juan Hernandez. With those wins he had already a star in the Japanese scene, and a man who was starting to get spoken about the hardcore fans, who were impressed by the fact he had ended the reign of Oleydong, who was 35-0-1 when Ioka dethroned him.
Akira Yaegashi on the other hand was 15-2, he had held OPBF and Japanese titles before winning the WBA title in an incredible bout with Pornsawan Porpramook in July 2011. For what it's worth that bout will be covered in a future Closet Classic article. He hadn't managed to make a defense of the title since beating Pornsawan but was was well regarded by those in the know in Japan, and had himself challenged for a world title in his 7th bout, losing to Eagle Den Junlaphan in that title effort due in part to a nasty injury to his temporomandibular join.
With the two men holding world titles the bout was made, it was the first, and still only, time two world titles, from different bodies, were unified in a bout between two Japanese fighters, and it was an incredible bout. It mixed skills, excitement, heart, determination and two different styles.
In one corner we had Ioka, a brilliant young boxer-puncher who had a sensational array of shots and fantastic ring craft. In the other we had Yaegashi, an aggressive, swarming fighter, who picked his spots and launched 2-handed flurries, using his speed to get shots off and try to get away.
The bout started quickly but really grew and grew as it went on, taking on a personality of it's own and pushing both fighters all the way. Ioka, for the first time, was being pushed hard by a fighter determined to upset him, Yaegashi on the other hand was forced to fight with some horrific facial swelling around his left eye. As they began to tire their footwork began to slow whilst their output remained high and the bout really was something incredibly special. It's not an all out war but it's a thrilling, highly skilled battle that every fight fan deserves to watch before Ioka's up coming contest.
Amazingly since this bout both men have become 3-weight champions, picking up titles at Light Flyweight and Flyweight, and both are looking to add Super Flyweight titles to their collections. Ioka get his second shot at a Super Flyweight title when he faces Palicte, whilst Yaegashi is hoping to get his first shot at 115lb title later in the year.
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.
By - George Delis (@Delisketo)
-Kyotaro Fujimoto (19-1): WBO #7 / WBC #20
A heavyweight Japanese fighter is something very rare, let along being ranked in the top 10. The former K-1 champion debuted in 2011 and has had a successful run in the regional scene, currently holding the OPBF & WBO Asia Pacific Heavyweight belts while riding on a 14 fight winning streak. Even though we may never see him challenging for a world title, it’s fun knowing he is there.
Super Welterweight/Jr Middleweight:
-Takeshi Inoue (13-0): WBO #5 / WBA #13 / WBC #19
The undefeated 4-year veteran is climbing the Super Welterweight rankings very fast, managing to place himself as the #5 in the WBO. A former Japanese title holder and now the unified OPBF & WBO Asia Pacific champion, may very well be one or two fights away from his first world title opportunity.
Super Lightweight/Jr Welterweight:
-Hiroki Okada (18-0): WBO #3 / WBA #4 / WBC #9
One of brightest prospects in Japan right now, Okada has never lost a single bout in his entire career. A bona fide knock out artist (13 KOs), he held the Japanese crown for 32 months and defended it 6 times, before winning the WBO Asia Pacific championship from Jason Pagara (41-3) this past December. Since the WBO world champion Maurice Hooker will not participate in the WBSS, this title will probably be his main focus as of now. Okada’s next confirmed appearance is on September 14th in the US (opponent TBA).
-Masayoshi Nakatani (17-0): WBC #7, WBO #13
Much like Okada and Takuma, Nakatani is also another undefeated fighter, who just recently made a record 10th title defense of the OPBF Lightweight championship. Despite the fact that he is ranked “only” #7 by the WBC, it’s worth pointing out that his last bout took place on July 29, so that win wasn’t taken into consideration at the latest ranking updates.
-Nihito Arakawa (31-6): WBO #3
Former Japanese, OPBF and reigning WBO Asia Pacific Lightweight champion, Arakawa has been in many big fights through out his 14-year career. At 36, he is still looking for his second world title opportunity.
Super Featherweight/Jr Lightweight:
-Masaru Sueyoshi (18-1): WBO #7
The 27 year old is steadily making his mark in Japan, suffering only one loss in his 4th pro bout, Sueyoshi has been victorious in his last 15 outings and even won the Japanese title on October of 2017. Another successful year and we might see him challenge for a world title by the end of 2019/beginning of 2020.
-Satoshi Shimizu (6-0): WBC #6
The Bronze Medalist at the 2012 Olympics, made his pro debut on September of 2016 and he has KOed/TKOed every single one of his opponents since then, claiming the OPBF Featherweight crown in just his 4th fight. He will defend that belt against Shingo Kawamura (16-3) later this month. If he can pass that test too, a fight with Gary Russell Jr. for the WBC title could be up for debate.
-Shun Kubo (13-1): WBA #7
The former WBA Super Bantamweight world champion returned this April, after his TKO loss to Daniel Roman in 2017, and won his comeback fight against former OPBF Featherweight champion & world title challenger Hiroshige Osawa (33-5) making a huge impact on his Featherweight debut.
Super Bantamweight/r Featherweight:
-Tomoki Kameda (35-2): WBA #2 / WBC #4 / WBO #9
El Mexicanito, has been on a 4-fight winning streak since moving up a weight class and has already broke the top 5 in both the WBA & the WBC. A fight with Emanuel Navarrete (WBA #1) could potentially set up a world title fight in 2019 with the winner of Daniel Roman/ Gavin McDonnell, which takes place this October.
-Hidenori Otake (31-2): WBO #6 / WBC #8
The reigning OPBF champion is scheduled to take on Isaac Dogboe (19-0) for the WBO World Super Bantamweight title on August 25.
-Takuma Inoue (11-0): WBO #8 / WBC #9
The undefeated former OPBF Super Flyweight champion is set to face reigning OPBF Bantamweight champion Mark John Yap (29-12), in a WBC World title eliminator fight on September 11.
-Hiroaki Teshigawara (17-2): WBO #6
Teshigawara recently stopped former world title contender Teiru Kinoshita (26-3) to defend his WBO Asia Pacific crown, bringing him one step closer to a WBO world championship match.
-Ryo Akaho (32-2): WBO #13
This is more of an honorable mention as Akaho made his return to the ring this past July, since his forced retirement last year, and knocked out Robert Udtohan, thus making it in the WBO world rankings once more.
Super Flyweight/Jr Bantamweight:
-Kazuto Ioka (22-1): WBA #2
In what must be considered the most bizarre ranking of this list, the former 3 division world champion, who’s return to the ring was announced just a couple of weeks ago, is already ranked #2 by the WBA ! Ioka is scheduled to fight WBC Silver champion and 2-time world title contender McWilliams Arroyo (17-3) on September 8, in the States.
-Koki Eto (22-4): WBC #5 / WBO #7 / WBA #9
The former interim WBA World Flyweight champion is currently ranked in the top 10 of the WBA, the WBC and the WBO. He fights Delfin de Asis (9-5) on August 16.
-Ryuichi Funai (30-7): WBO #5 / WBC #10 / WBA #13
Funai knocked out Philippino standout and world title challenger Warlito Parrenas (26-8), in impressive fashion, this past June, and won the vacant WBO Asia Pacific title. A strong first title defense and Funai could be challenging for the world championship by 2019.
-Kosei Tanaka (11-0): WBO #1 / WBC #2
Arguably one of the best fighters that have come out of Japan, Tanaka has won 2 world titles in 2 different divisions within 5 years. Now he looks to add a 3rd one to his collection as he goes one on one with Sho Kimura (17-1) for the WBO World Flyweight championship on September 24.
-Masayuki Kuroda (30-7): WBA #1 / WBC #4 / WBO #5
The current Japanese Flyweight champion has been on a 6-fight winning streak and has defended his belt 5 times since 2017 and now is ranked amongst the top 5 in the world and most importantly #1 by the WBA. A world title match against Artem Dalakian (17-0) sounds very plausible at this point and since both men have already fought this summer and have come out with no injuries, a fight between the two could take place around December.
-Junto Nakatani (16-0): WBC #5 / WBO #13
Undefeated Japanese flyweight prospect Junto Nakatani scored another TKO win on July 7 and now is ranked at the WBC’s top 5.
-Takuya Kogawa (29-5): WBC #8
After a draw with Yusuke Sakashita, Kogawa has retained his spot at the WBC rankings.
-Masahiro Sakamoto (12-1): WBO #4
The former WBO Asia Pacific champion will probably be in line for a WBO World title match against the winner of Kimura/Tanaka in 2019. He is scheduled to face South Korea’s Flyweight champion Ki Chang Go (6-2) on August 11.
-Ryuji Hara (23-2): WBO #1
Much like Ioka’s, this is the second strangest ranking, especially considering that Hara hasn’t fought since October of 2017. Actually Hara has been the #1 ranked flyweight by the WBO since January, despite having only competed once in this division against the debuting Seneey Worachina. Hara was set to face Angel Acosta for the world title on April 7 but an injury prevented him from stepping into the ring.
-Tetsuya Hisada (32-9): WBA #1 / WBC #3 / WBC #6
The reigning Japanese Flyweight champion, since 2016, recorded a 4th successful defense against Koki Ono (12-5) on July 16, thus improving his streak to 11 consecutive victories. Now as the #1 ranked Light Flyweight by the WBA, he is rumored to face Hekkie Budler for the gold sooner or later.
-Hiroto Kyoguchi (10-0): WBA #2
The undefeated IBF World Minimumweight champion has recently decided to move up a weight class and has already reached the top of the WBA ranking. If Hisada doesn’t face Budler right away, then an eliminator between Kyoguchi and Hisada looks more likely to take place.
-Ryoichi Taguchi (27-3): WBC #4 / WBA #4
Despite losing his 2 world title to Budler, Taguchi is still ranked amongst the top Light Flyweights in the world and without a doubt he will gain another crack at the gold in no time.
-Reiya Konishi (16-1): WBO #6 / WBA #7
The former world title challenger and now new WBO Asia Pacific champion, is coming closer to once again fight for the world championship.
-Tsubasa Koura (13-0): WBC #3 / WBA #9 / WBO #11
At only 23 years of age, Koura has already amassed 13 career wins, including 9 KOs, as well as the OPBF Minimumweight championship. His 3rd title defense will take place on August 24 against an unnamed opponent as of yet. It’s safe to say that we will see him in a WBC world title match in early 2019.
-Ryuya Yamanaka (16-3): WBO #6
Yamanaka recently lost the WBO world title to Vic Saludar. Just like Taguchi, he is only a few fights away from competing again for the big one.
-Tatsuya Fukuhara (21-6): WBC #9
Fukuhara has been victorious in both of his 2018 fights but he will need a few more before he can challenge Chayaphon Moonsri again for the WBC world title.
-Shin Ono (22-9): WBO #9
Ono will make his first Japanese title defense against Riku Kano (13-3) on August 24. His last world title fight was in 2016.
(Image - of Fujimoto, courtesy of Kadoebi Gym)
With all the “world” titles out there it's hard to believe that we've only ever had two Japanese fighters who have been 3-weight world champions. The first of those was the controversial Koki Kameda (33-1, 18) whilst the second was Kazuto Ioka (17-1, 10), who achieved the feat earlier this week.
Whilst the recognition of being “3 weight world champions” is something they share, it's certainly not the only thing they have in common. Both have been backed by Japanese TV giant TBS, both made their names at a very young age, both were born in Osaka and both have been fast tracked to the top, winning their first titles very quickly.
Here we'll be taking a look at how the two men match up in their achievements so far, and what the future is likely to deliver for both men.
Kameda, born in 1986, began his career in 2003 as a promising and exciting young fighter. In less than 3 years Kameda claim his first world title, the previously vacant WBA Light Flyweight title, as he narrowly out pointed Juan Jose Landaeta in a controversial split decision. That was Kameda's 12th professional bout and whilst the win was highly controversial he did set the record straight with a clearer win in a rematch just 4 months later. Sadly however that was Kameda's only defense at the weight.
Ioka, born in 1989, made his debut soon after turning 20 and began his career at Light Flyweight. Like Kameda however he dropped down a weight for his first world title bout which came less than 2 years after his debut. Unlike Kameda there was no doubting Ioka's first title win as he stopped long reigning champion Oleydong Sithsamerchai in the 5th round of their bout to claim the WBC Minimumweight title. That was just Ioka's 7th professional bout and saw him setting a then Japanese record, which has since been broken by Naoya Inoue and looks likely to be beaten again in May by Kosei Tanaka.
Whilst Kameda vacated his title and moved up after just one defense Ioka decided he'd hang around a bit and recorded a trio of title defenses. The most notable of those saw him unifying the WBC and WBA titles with a razor thin win over fellow Japanese fighter Akira Yaegashi. The win over Yaegashi really was a fight that saw Ioka mounting a claim to being the #1 in the division but he did move up immediately afterwards.
Kameda's second title reign began in 2009 when he claimed the WBC and Linear Flyweight title with an excellent win over Daisuke Naito. The bout was filled with lot bad feeling between the two men due issues between Naito and the Kameda family following Naito's bout with Koki's younger brother Daiki and that bad feeling helped draw massive interest in the bout. Sadly however it wasn't the most exciting of bouts with Kameda being too good and too quick for the then 35 year old Naito, who would only fight once more before retiring. This really was Kameda's stand out win, and came in fight #22, sadly however it quickly followed by his first loss as Pongsaklek Wonjongkam out pointed him in what Kameda's first defense of the title.
In total Kameda's first two reigns consisted of just a single successful defense. A disappointing return but one that had seen him mix with good company and hold a linear title.
Ioka's second reign began at the end of 2012 when he claimed the previously vacant WBA Light Flyweight title, the same title that Kameda had held in 2006, with a 6th round TKO against Jose Alfredo Rodriguez. As the champion here Ioka defended the belt with defenses against Thai veterans Waisanu Kokietgym and Kwanthai Sithmorseng as well the previously unbeaten Felix Alvarado.
Whilst his was frustrating, despite the excellent win over Alvarado, it's fair to say that Ioka's reign here was of a “secondary” title. The real WBA champion was super champion Roman Gonzalez and although talks of the two fighting did exist the bout never came off with Ioka's team taking the blame. Interestingly however Gonzalez never defended his title whilst Ioka held the “regular” title and instead the Nicaraguan great flirted with the Flyweight division that he later moved to.
Kameda's third reign was at Bantamweight and began less than 9 months after his loss to Wonjongkam. It saw Kameda skipping the Super Flyweight division and going straight to Bantamweight where he claimed the previously vacant WBA title with a decision win over former Super Flyweight champion Alexander Munoz. Kameda's reign here lasted significantly longer than either of his previous two and saw him making 8 defenses. The reign began in Kameda's 25th bout making him one of the quickest fighters to become a 3-weight world champion, doing it in 2 less fights than American Adrien Broner and 9 less fights than Flord Mayweather Jr.
On paper Kameda's reign sounds great however there was a lot to dislike about it. Several defenses were close with split decisions over Hugo Ruiz, Panomroonglek Kaiyanghadaogym and the unheralded Jung Oh Son, there was also less than inspiring defenses, not only against Son but also Nouldy Manakane, Mario Macias and John Mark Apolinario. Not only were the defenses generally lacking but this was secondary title, with Anselmo Moreno holding the “Super title”. Sadly Kameda vacated the title soon before he was supposed to go to purse bids with Moreno and instead said he was dropping to Super Flyweight.
For Ioka his third has just begun and it started when he won the WBA Flyweight title with a close and very competitive win over Juan Carlos Reveco. The win came in Ioka's 18th professional bout, making him the quickest fighter in history to become a 3-weight world champion. This was however his shot at a Flyweight title after having previously come up short against Amnat Ruenroeng in an IBF title fight.
This is a secondary title, with Juan Francisco Estrada holding the “super” title but it's still a notable win over a very good title holder and a win that puts him in the mix for really big fights down the line.
The future for both men looks to be really interesting.
For Kameda the next step is clear. He'll be fighting against Kohei Kono in a battle for the WBA Super Flyweight title at some point in the next few months. That will give give Kameda a chance to become the first 4 weight world champion from Japan. Not only is the future bright for his legacy but also financially following a link up with powerful American promoter Al Haymon.
Sadly for Kameda he is now an “out cast” from the Japanese boxing scene and is, along with his brothers, banned from fighting at home and even if he wins the WBA Super Flyweight title he'll be seen as a “lesser” champion, well behind WBO champion Naoya Inoue.
As for Ioka the future is less clear though arguably more exciting. He is still TBS's boxing poster child, he has the money behind him to bring top opponents to Japan though where he goes next could well be very interesting. There is a possibility of a rematch with Reveco, Ruenroeng or Alvarado there is also possible show downs with Juan Francisco Estrada, Roman Gonzalez or defenses against people like Brian Viloria, Koki Eto, Giovani Segura and Suguru Muranaka.
Ioka may only have a “secondary” title but given the division he is in there is so much to be excited about and so many brilliant match ups for him there the future looks wonderfully exciting. Sadly however we really can't see him moving to Super Flyweight any time soon so a potential super fighter with Inoue is highly unlikely, so to is a fight with Kameda or Kono. Given his age we'll never say never, but becoming a 4 weight world champion doesn't likely for Ioka.
(Image courtesy of-
It's been a while since Japanese boxing fans have had free to air action though over the next few weeks fans will get a number of free to air shows across 4 of the terrestrial channels with each showing at least 1 big name in action.
The first of the shows comes a week today as the unbeaten Shinsuke Yamanaka (22-0-2, 16) defends his WBC Bantamweight title against unbeaten Argentinian Diego Ricardo Santillan (23-0, 15) on April 16th. This will be Yamanaka's 8th defense of the title and will see him attempting to continue his reign of terror in the packed Bantamweight division. For fans wanting to watch this one it will be on NTV at 19:56 Tokyo time with the broadcast set to finish at 20:54.
For those wanting to watch the undercard bouts for that card they are unfortunately not on a free to air channel.
Less than a week later we see action on TBS who will be televising two world title bouts. One of those will see IBF Minimumweight champion Katsunari Takayama (28-7-0-1, 11) defending his belt against Fahlan Sakkreerin Jr (27-3-1, 15) whilst the the other bout will see the mega-popular Kazuto Ioka (16-1, 10) attempt to become a 3-weight world champion as he battles Juan Carlos Reveco (35-1, 19) in a bout for the WBA Flyweight title. The beginning of this broadcast is stated to begin just before 20:00 local time on April 22nd.
From what we understand Sho Ishida (18-0, 10) may have highlights shown if the two main bouts both end early.
To begin May the televised action continues to roll and Fuji TV will begin the month by televising a couple of interesting looking bouts. The first of those will be Takashi Miura's (28-2-2, 21) WBC Super Featherweight world title defense against former IBF Featherweight champion Bily Dib (39-3, 23) whilst the other will be a bout between Ryota Murata (6-0, 4) and Douglas Damiao Ataide (13-1-1, 6). This show will give Miura a chance to really establish himself with fans whilst also allowing Murata to face a world ranked foe in what should make for an enjoyable card.
The hope here is that if both bouts are over early then highlights may be shown from Akira Yaegashi's (20-5, 10) bout, which will see the exciting 32 year old fighting for the first time as a fully blown Super Flyweight.
The last of the free to air shows during the little burst of action comes on May 6th when TV Tokyo get in on the action and televise a couple of interesting bouts between Japanese champions and Thai challengers. The first of those bouts will see WBA Light Flyweight champion Ryoichi Taguchi (24-2-1, 8) defending his title against Kwanthai Sithmorseng (49-3-1, 26) in what will be Taguchi's first defense of the title he won this past December. The other bout is a much more mouth watering contest between unbeaten WBA Super Featherweight “super” champion Takashi Uchiyama (22-0-1, 18) and Thai challenger Jomthong Chuwatana (9-0, 4). Uchiyama will be seeking the 10th defense of the title, as he slowly moves towards the Japanese record of 13 world title defenses, whilst Jomthong look to claim a world title in boxing to go along with his numerous titles from Muay Thai.
At the moment there hasn't been a time announce for either the Fuji TV or the TV Tokyo show however we suspect details will emerge closer to the date.
Of course whilst these channels are free to air in Japan that doesn't mean they will be the only ways to watch the bouts. For example we're aware that the Takayama Vs Fahlan bout will be aired in Thailand, on Mono 29, and the Ioka Vs Reveco bout will be televised in Argentina, on TYC Sports. At the moment however it does seem like some bouts are set to miss out on international coverage and that none of the bouts are set to be televised in the US or UK. Thankfully the free channels from Japan are available via certain methods on line.
(Image courtesy of http://www.kazutoioka.com)
Over the last few years we've seen the emergence of the "Super Prospect" from Japan. Unlike most prospect's the hope with these guys isn't to work their way to a world title in a few years whilst running up a double figure record. Instead the hope is to do things quickly with the emphasis on fighting the fewest fights to become a world champion.
Japanese fighters winning titles early isn't a new thing. In fact in 1976 Yoko Gushiken began his sensation reign as the WBA Light Flyweight champion, dethroning Juan Antonio Guzman in just his 9th fight. Some 11 years later we saw Hiroki Ioka claim the WBC Minimumweight title with a decision win over Mai Thomburifarm to equal Gushiken's achievement.
Between the rise of Gushiken and Ioka we saw Satoshi Shingaki claim a world title in just his 8th bout when he stopped Elmer Magallano for the IBF Bantamweight title to set a Japanese record*. It was an impressive achievement for the Southpaw who at the time was just 2 fights removed from a world itle loss to Dodie Boy Penalosa Jr, all the way down at Light Flyweight!
In 1991 we saw Shingaki's record equalled by the charismatic Joichiro Tatsuyoshi who claimed the WBC Bantamweight title in his 8th bout, when he stopped Greg Richardson. The always exciting "Joe" lost the title in his very next fight but went on to reclaim the belt and become a 3-time WBC champion, albeit with one reign as the "interim" champion.
Another fast riser emerged in 2006 when the insanely tough Nobuo Nashiro claimed the WBA Super Flyweight title in his 8th bout, out lasting Martin Castillo. Like Tatsuyoshi the reign was a short one though it seemed to set the stage for the rise of the super fast. The question however was "how fast is super fast?"
It wasn't until 2011 that a Japanese fighter managed to cut another fight off the record as the talented Kazuto Ioka, the nephew of Hiroki Ioka, managed to break the record and claim a world title in his 7th bout. Ioka, a former amateur stand out, claimed the WBC Minimumweight title, just like his uncle, when he stopped the previously unbeaten Oleydong Sithsamerchai for the title. At the time it seemed likely that Ioka's record would stand for at least decade, especially considering how long it had taken for a Japanese fighter to break the 8 fight barrier.
Sadly for Ioka his record was broken just over 3 years after he set it as Naoya Inoue did it in 6, stopping Adrian Hernandez in the 6th round of their clash to claim the WBC Light Flyweight title. Amazingly Inoue then went on to become the quickest 2-weight world champion, worldwide, whenhe blew away Omar Andres Narvaez to claim the WBO Super Flyweight title. Inoue had essentially taken Ioka's record, smashed it and then put the cherry on top all in the space of 9 destructive months.
Inoue's records, both of them, are amazing achievements. It seems however that one, if not both, may be under threat from a 19 year old wonder kid who may well be every bit as good as Inoue. That is Kosei Tanaka who attempts to claim his first world title at the end of May when he takes on Julian Yedras for the WBO Minimumweight title in what will be Tanaka's 5th professional bout. A sensational achievement if he manages to do it, and it seems his team really believes he will manage it and in some style. It's worth noting that in Tanaka's 4th bout he set a Japanese record for the fewest fights to become an OPBF champion, defeating the then unbeaten Ryuji Hara in 10 rounds.
For sake of comparison we've compared the first few bouts of Ioka, Inoue and Tanaka in the table below. For Ioka and Inoue we've included their first 7 bouts, taking us up to Inoue's first world title defense and Ioka's first world title win. Due to Tanaka having only fought 4 bouts we've only included 4 bouts for him.
*Indicates Japanese Title win
**Indicates OPBF Title win
***Indicates World Title win
^Indicates world title defence
*In 1984 Satoshi Shingaki won the IBF Bantamweight title in his 8th bout but at the time the IBF wasn't recognised by the JBC and his reign is a bit of a grey area. He was technically the first Japanese world champion to have had just 8 fights when he won the title though his reign seems to come with an asterisk and isn't fully accepted by some in Japan.
(Image of Gushiken courtesy of Boxrec.com)
Images courtesy of:
Image of Amnat courtesy of http://www.kiatkreerin.com
Image of Ioka courtesy of http://ameblo.jp/ioka/
Image of Eto courtesy of http://www.zimbio.com
Image of Shiming courtesy of http://www.toprank.com
Image of Muranaka courtesy of http://flash-akabane.com
All other images courtesy of boxrec.com
With the recent news that Kosei Tanaka (3-0, 1) would be fighting Ryuji Hara (18-0, 10) for the OPBF Minimumweight title we got a little bit excited by the idea that Tanaka is likely to challenge for a world title in just his 5th bout, if he gets past Hara. If Tanaka managed to get past Hara and then win a world title in his very next fight he would set a Japanese record for the fewest fights to a world title. The question however is how would he compare to other Asian fighters?
Saensak Muangsurin (3rd fight & 7th fight)
The tied world record for fewest fights to a world title is Thailand's Saensak Muangsurin who claimed the WBC Light Welterweight title in just his 3rd bout when he stopped Perico Fernandez in 8 rounds. This bout, way back in 1975, set an almost unmatchable standard for becoming a world champion and it was more than 30 years later until Ukrainian Vasyl Lomachenko finally managed to tie this record.
Muangsurin was 24 at the time and had had a long and successful career in Muay Thai, in fact he was one of the the top Muay Thai fighters of his era and used that experience to help him on his fast track to the top. Unfortunately Muangsurin's reign was short lived and he lost the title in just his 6th professional bout after making just a single defence of the belt.
Although Muangsurin lost his title in his 6th bout he did regain it a fight later meaning he was a 2-time champion after just 7 fights an amazing achievement that is unlikely to be matched by any other fghter.
Veeraphol Sahaprom (4th fight)
Another of the quickest men to a world title was another Thai Veeraphol Sahaprom who won the WBA Bantamweight title in just his 4th professional contest. Veeraphol, like Muangsurin, was a former Muay Thai fighter who transitioned to boxing with immediate success and won an international title on debut and a world title just 9 months later making him one of the quickest fighters to a world title in both time and fights.
Sahaprom over-came domestic foe Daorung Chuwatana via a narrow split decision to win his first world title and although he lost the belt in his first defence, being stopped in 2 rounds by Nana Yaw Konadu, he would later become the WBC Bantamweight champion and score notable wins over Joichiro Tatsuyoshi and Toshiaki Nishioka.
At the time of his win over in Chuwatana in 1995 for his first world title Sahaprom was just 26 years old, he would continue fighting until 2010 retiring for good at the the age of 41 and establishing himself as one of the great modern day Thai's.
Naoya Inoue (6th fight)
The Japanese record for fewest fights to a world title is held by current WBC Light Flyweight champion Naoya Inoue who won a world title earlier this year with a stoppage victory over the much more experienced Adrian Hernandez. Going in to this bout Inoue was the favourite and was highly regarded as a once in a generation fighter with skills so advanced that many had tipped him as a future world champion from his debut. The rise of Inoue's saw him winning a Japanese title in his 4th bout and an OPBF title in his 5th bout.
Dubbed "Monster" Inoue will be making his first defence this coming Friday when he takes on Samartlek Kokietgym. If Inoue is successful against Samartlek the odds are he will be moving up a weight in an attempt to become a 2-weight world champion within 10 fights, that would be another record we can't imagine many fighters ever beating.
Having only turned professional in 2012 it took Inoue just 18 months to become a world champion, another Japanese record that Tanaka will be chasing.
Kazuto Ioka (7th fight)
Inoue, see above, broke a previous Japanese record when he beat Kazuto Ioka's record of 7 fights. Ioka, who won the WBC Minimumweight title back in 2011 with a 5th round TKO victory over Thailand's Oleydong Sithsamerchai. Ioka had claimed the Japanese title a fight earlier and stepped up big time to beat Oleydong though some did question whether or not the Thai was struggling at the weight. Whether Oleydong was killing himself to make 105lbs or not is immaterial to the fact Ioka was still a complete professional novice.
Following his quick rise to his first world title Ioka has managed to unify belts, in just his 10th bout, and then became a 2-weight world champion in just his 11th professional bout. Ioka did however fail in an attempt to become a 3-weight world champion in his 15th fight, losing to Amnat Ruenroeng.
Ioka begins his climb back following his first loss on September 16th when he fights Pablo Carillo.
Muangchai Kittikasem (7th fight)
Prior to Ioka's there was several other men who world titles in their 7th professional bouts. One of them was Thailand's Muangchai Kittikasem who claimed the IBF Flyweight title with a split decision win over Filipino fighter Tacy Macalos, who was making the first defence of his title.
Like the other Thai's listed here Kittikasem was a former Muay Thai star who turned to boxing, and like the others he had a very successful career. Not only did he win a world title in just his 7th professional bout but he later went on to become a 2-weight world champion when he won the WBC Flyweight title in just his 15th professional fight. In just 29 fights Kittikasem fought 11 world title bouts in a career that lasted less than 11 years in total.
Sung-Kil Moon (7th fight)
A third fighter who won his first world title in his 7th fight was South Korean Sung-Kil Moon who claimed the WBA Bantamweight title with a technical decision win over Khaokor Galaxy after just 17 months as a professional. Moon would twice defend the belt before losing it back to Galaxy 11 months later.
Just 6 months after losing his first title Moon became a 2-weight world champion by defeating Nana Yaw Konadu for the WBC Super Flyweight title making him one of the few fighters to drop down in weight to become a multi-weight world champion.
Moon's 22 fight career lasted little more than 6 years though he was a 2-weight world champion with a stunning 15 world title fights. A genuinely amazing career that may not have lasted long though was incredible all the same.
Images courtesy of:
One of the things we've started to see emerge from Asian boxing, at least at the world level, have been the body shots. For many fighters the target is the head. It's understandable that many do target the head of a fighter primarily but lets be honest it does seem many fighters do ignore the body of an opponent.
For some the body just doesn't come in to it. Muhammad Ali of course, was famous for not throwing body shots and he's not the only one.
This feature however hopes to bring you footage of some of the best body shot KO's of 2013 all from Asian fighters and all from people who either at the top, or in the case of Masayoshi Nakatani on the way to the top. It's a little strange how often these shots are ending fights when thrown from Asian fighters but it's something that does seem to be happening more and more and that's not a bad thing at all.
What a body shot does, when delivered as perfectly as some of these ones are, is take the fight out of the fighter and leaves them feeling very much "er". The shots can completely knock the wind out of a fighter, they can break the ribs and in some case pretty much paralyze a fighter in pain. A perfect head shot KO knocks a person unconscious and takes them out of their senses as their brain tries to reset, a perfect body shot however keeps them conscious whilst giving them severe agony and a huge amount of pain.
Although the shots we're looking at here are all fight ending, what body shots can also do is grind an opponent down softening them up for later in the fight and also cause a fighter to bring their guard down opening up more space for the headshots. Really good body shots are often the difference between a great fighter and just a very good one.
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