Usually if a match ends in decisive fashion we don't get too excited about a rematch. Today however for our Closet Classic, we are looking at a rematch between men who were seen on different levels after their first bout, but ended up giving us something truly special in their rematch. Their first bout wouldn't have made anyone anticipate their rematch was going to be special, but we got something jaw droppingly good. In fact even now, 50 years on, it still stands as one of the greatest Bantamweight bouts of all time.
Kazuyoshi Kanazawa (30-8-1, 17) Vs Ruben Olivares (67-1-1, 62) II
In January 1969 Japan's Kazuyoshi Kanazawa travelled to Mexico and was beaten in 2 rounds by the then unbeaten Ruben Olivares. In the years that followed that victory Olivares had lost his unbeaten record, losing in a second meeting with Chucho Castillo, but had gone on a tear avenging his loss and twice become the World Bantamweight champion.
In October 1971 Olivares travelled over to Japan to give Kanazawa a rematch, this time in Aichi. What we ended up with was a legendary Bantamweight bout.
Before we look at the bout lets briefly look at the two men.
Olivares is one of the true legends of Mexican boxing and his 3 fight series with Chucho Castillo is one of the most violet series of fights out there. As well as going 2-1 against Castillo the heavy handed Olivares had scored notable wins against Japanese Olympic gold medal winner Takao Sakurai, beaten Lionel Rose for the Bantamweight throne and beaten Efren Torres. By the time he travelled to Japan to face Kanazawa he was a massive Mexican fighting star, and at only 24 years old his future looked incredibly bright.
Blessed with brutal power, an exciting style and under-rated skills Olivares was a nightmare for anyone in Bantamweight history. Looking at his record today we see a man who retired for good in 1988 with a ledger of 89-13-3 (7) but a lot of those losses piled up later in has career, when his hard bouts caught up with him and when he moved up to Featherweight, with mixed success.
Whilst Olivares is a legend Kanazawa is much, much less well known. The Japanese fighter had began his career as a teenager, in 1965, and was 11-4-1 (6) after 16 bouts. He then turned things around, winning 19 of 23 bouts including wins over Jesus Pimentel, Jose Medel and Berkrerk Chartvanchai. Strangely, looking back, he never won any form of title, until July 1971, when he took the OPBF Bantamweight. That title win was then followed by him rematch Kanazawa in this legendary bout.
Up to this point Kanazawa had proven to be a fringe level guy, with wins over the likes of Pimentel, Medel and Berkrerk had proven that, but inconsistent and he had lost 2 of his previous 6, both by stoppage, and it seemed his chin was an issue, with 5 of his previous 8 losses coming by stoppage. Against Olivares that was almost certainly going to be his downfall.
In the opening round both men took their time, neither man wanting to make a mistake, and it didn't seem like a bout that was going to go down in folklore as something special. Kaanzawa seemed fully aware of how hard Olivares could punch and was deciding to box, keep things at range and not take risks. Olivares looked like a man who was confident that, sooner or later, he was going to get to his man so didn't feel the need to rush. The entire first round saw very little action.
The pace would increase in round 2, as Olivares began to put his foot on the gas and Kanazawa responded, picking some very nice shots. It wasn't all out action, far from it, but it was wonderful boxing from both, with both men having some moments to excite their teams. Suddenly the crowd were beginning to wake up, and both men were starting to feel more at ease.
The pace continued to increase in round 3, as the men went through the gears. Olivares clearly had the edge in power, and had Kanazawa's full respect, but to his credit the challenger was taking shots well, and picking some excellent shots of his own. It seemed the Kanazawa gameplan was to blunt the attack of Olivares, keep range and counter on the Mexican's mistakes. Late in round 3 those tactics began to shine as he seemed to bother Olivares for the first time.
Despite Kanazawa having success in round 3 Olivares bounced well in round 4 and rebuilt his confidence, despite getting caught by some very solid counters from the unfancied challenger. Olivares did find himself on the canvas part way through the round, but it was judge to have been a slip.
By now the quiet opening round was easily forgotten and the tempo, excitement and drama had grown wonderfully. The two men were finding they were matching each other fantastically, and Kanazawa actually began forcing Olivares backwards in round 5 the momentum continued to swing back and forth. This was already becoming a very, very good, technical fight, but the best was to come much later on.
We won't ruin what happens later in the bout, but as we got into the championship rounds the fight moved yet another gear. The action continued to be exciting and technical but the drama went through the roof as both began to tire, and their movement began to slow. Things got sloppy in those later stages but the drama, heart, determination and excitement more than made up for that.
If you like fights to build, and build, unfurling a story of desire, with a mix of skills then this is something you will love. A truly legendary Bantamweight thriller!
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