The Japanese domestic has been filled with classics over the years, and it seems that we are adding to that list every few months. Today we take you back to 1988 for a bout that will long in the memories of Japanese fight fans who got a sensational treat for a domestic title. It was a bout between unbeaten men who really showed how much the domestic title meant. It featured one man who went on to win world titles in 2 divisions, and someone who never the chance to win one, despite once looking set to go all the way. Together they made for a sensational bout.
Koji Arisawa (18-0, 15) vs Takanori Hatakeyama (20-0-1, 15)
The 26 year old Koji Arisawa was the unbeaten champion and a rising force on the domestic scene. He had won the title in April 1996, in his 13th bout, and had defended it 5 times, all by stoppage. His 5 combined defenses had taken 25 rounds, and he looked like someone rising and on his way to a Super Featherweight world title fight. He was a known slow started, and could be hurt early, but when he found his groove he was a monster, with high work rate, heavy hand a real mean streak in the ring.
At 22 years old Hatakeyama was the younger fighter, but also the more experienced. He had won the OPBF Super Featherweight title in 1996 and made 3 defenses challenging WBA world champion Yong Soo Choi in 1997. After fighting to a draw with Choi we would see Hatakeyama return to domestic level to face Arisawa. With an unbeaten record, a reputation as an exciting fighter and some able to attract female fans to boxing Hatakeyama had wide appeal and like Arisawa big things were expected from him.
Given the styles, popularity, and the fact both so highly regarded this bout was dubbed the 究極の日本タイトルマッチ (Kyūkyoku no Nihon taitorumatch) "ultimate Japanese title match". Unlike most domestic title matches this wasn't fought at a small venue, like the Korakuen Hall but instead at the Kokugikan, a venue typically used for world title bouts. The purses for both men were huge compared to a typical Japanese title match, and the bout was aired live on Fuji TV, a rarity for a Japanese title fight.
Although their was pressure on both men to deliver that pressure didn't show, and both got down to work early on, with bombs coming from both in the first round. The intensity of the action, and huge crown noises made this more than a Japanese title bout, it made it an event. Regularly the two men would stand together and trade bombs. Whilst the bout was intense, all action and huge shots the two combined all that with crisp punching, both throwing clean shots, and even on the inside they avoiding smothering their work, with both looking to technically correct shots. They both looked to respond after getting hit and given the reputation both had as power punchers there was always the potential for either man to hurt the other.
The longer the but went the more the intensity rose, with both men moving less and trading more, making round 8 a very special round.
A rarity in boxing is a bout living up to expectations, this however very much exceed them, later winning the Japanese award for the fight of the year.
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