One of the things we love about doing this series, more than any other, is the total lack of limits we have for it. The only real limit is "the fight must be good". There isn't really an age limit, or a limit based on the profuile of the bout, or the location. As a result we get to enjoy some really high profile bouts, and some really obscure bouts, some new bouts and some older ones. Today we look at one of the more obscure ones, and one we only have access to thanks to some amateur camera style footage. Despite the limited quality of the footage the bout is a real fun hidden gem from the Japanese scene back in 2012.
Koichi Aso (14-4-1, 9) vs Tomohiko Sakai (7-4, 1)
The shaven headed Koichi Aso is one of the Japanese domestic level fighters who epitomises everything we love about Japanese boxing. He's a flawed but aggressive, exciting, heavy handed fighter who pushes forward, no matter what. He's never been a world beater, and never looked like being one, but what he has been is an exciting warrior who has always been worth watching. His rough around the edges style has cost him through his career in terms of wins but his style has long made him one of the more memorable domestic level Japanese fighters of the last decade or so. Coming in to this bout he had been struggling. He had lost 2 of his previous 3, including an opening round loss to Shinya Iwabuchi, and seemed to be clearly in need of a win.
Tomohiko Sakai on the other hand a real obscure fighter, even in Japanese circles. He had been a professional for years, with little success, and despite regularly fighting at Korakuen Hall he hadn't really managed to create any buzz. He was, for all intents, an unknown, who had been in just a single 8 rounder prior to face Aso. On paper he was the lamb to the slaughter, and having debuted as a Super Flyweight, was expected to be bully, battered and beaten up by Aso. Given Sakai's lack of power, with just a single stoppage to his name by this point, it was almost impossible to see him holding his own with Aso.
What we ended up getting wasn't a Fight of the Year contender, but it was a damn fine little bout at Korakuen Hall, as Aso's pressure was on show from the opening moments, and Sakai relied on his boxing skills, his hand speed and punch picking. It was the typical pressure fighter Vs boxer style match up, and like many bouts of that style match up, it was clean good fun early on.
It seemed inevitable that, sooner or later, Aso's pressure was going to break down Sakai, but instead Sakai became aggressive, feeling he could take the power of Aso and we began to see more and more inside action. Aso was still the one who was mostly on the front foot, but when Sakai needed to he fired back, and made sure to hit Aso with enough to keep Aso honest and take rounds with his clean and effective punches.
As the fight went on the pace never really slowed down in terms of output, it was instead full consistent, exciting exchanges. Sadly it perhaps lacked in the drama stakes, with neither man ever looking like they were hurt, but it turned into a very hotly contested and competitive bout, something that wasn't expected, and was a legitimate hidden gem of the 2012 boxing calendar which had the fans wonderfully engaged through out.
A very good and very fun little war that, sadly turned out to be Sakai final bout.
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