We've spoken multiple times about how great the fights for the Japanese Middleweight title often are. In 2016 we saw the "interim" belt give us something totally mind blowing as veteran Makoto Fuchigami and hard hitting fighter Tomohiro Ebisu put it on the line in a pre-Christmas treat at the Korakuen Hall. The bout, as mentioned for the interim title, had come about following an out of the ring accident for Hikaru Nishida, who had fallen down some stairs forcing him to cancel a planned defense. Whilst the reason for the bout wasn't a good one, the fight it's self was something special.
Tomohiro Ebisu (16-4, 16) vs Makoto Fuchigami (23-11, 14)
December 24th 2016 saw Hachioji Nakaya promote one of their most memorable bouts. The card it's self was most forgetable, barring the main event. In fact the 6 under-card bouts combined for just 14 rounds, but the main event gave us a late runner for the Fight of the Year, or at least the Japanese Figth of the Year.
In one corner was former world title challenger Makoto Fuchigami, who had famously fought Gennady Golovkin in 2012, but had been in a number of thrillers at the domestic and regional level, including his 2011 bout with Koji Sato. The win over Sato had seen him unify the OPBF and Japanese titles but in the years that followed he had sort of struggled, going 5-5 including the loss to Golovkin, and a pair of losses to both Akio Shibata and Hikaru Nishida. In fact when Nishida suffered his injury he was training for a third bout with Fuchigami.
For those who haven't seen much of Fuchigami, perhaps only the Golovkin fight, he had an awkward style. He was super relaxed, rode punches well and threw them from some unorthodox angles himself. Although lacking in power he often landed clean blows at this level and showed real guts to time and time again, to turn fights around. He was never the most explosive, or toughest, but he was one of the gutsiest, bravest and exciting Japanese Middleweights of his time.
In the other corner was the stop of be stopped Tomohiro Ebisu. Like Fuchigami he had previously held the Japanese Middleweight title, stopping Sanosuke Sasaki in 2013, though had a very short reign and lost the belt in his first defense less than 6 months later. Through his first 20 fights, leading up to this bout, he had never heard the final bell, with an 8th round TKO win over Yasuyuki Akiyama being the closest he had come, having just over 2 minutes of that bout left. Of his 20 bouts 12 had finished, one way or another, in the first 3 rounds. He was a true glass cannon
Although not the most skilled of fighters Ebisu's power and dodgy chin made him a must watch fighter. An offensive monster, who knew he had to try and take a fighter out before they caught him on the jaw. He made for short but lively fighters, and whilst few of them were truly memorable, they were often fun, exciting and edge of the seat stuff.
What we got when Fuchigami and Ebisu clashed as a skilled boxer, against a huge puncher and they gave for a stylistically thrilling match up, that had both men landing bombs from the early stages. Fuchigame tried to fight as the smart man, using his edge in speed and technical ability, whilst Ebisu looked to land booming power shots, trying to take out the more experienced man. It made for a hot start to the fight, which just got better and better. Even moments of lower activity where thrilling, with Ebisu refusing to just be held and punching as Fuchigami tried to tie him up, forcing Fuchigami to use a different defensive approaches.
From round 1 this was a cracking back and forth, and was a pre-Christmas treat for fight fans looking to open present the following day.
Originally this bout was available for free on the A-sign boxing site, before becoming a reward for those who had used the paid service. Since then it has been one of the most under-watched videos on the A-Sign youtube channel, and really deserves so much more love than it's hard since being uploaded for free this past March. Give it a watch, as this is a closet classic that shouldn't be left in the closet!
Recently Reddit user negative5 created a threat asking about the "Best Fights No One Talks About?" and that made us realise that we really don't talk about closet classics very often. We share a lot of videos, but rarely single any of them out as being anything massively special, or drawing longer term attention to a fight from the past. With that in mind we've decided to answer negative5's question, with a regular feature looking at the great bouts that no one talks about.
Like our "Introducing..." features we're wanting to make this a weekly feature, talking about a fight, putting things into perspective, and then sharing the video of the bout.
To begin this series we're going to look at a Japanese Middleweight bout. On paper that might seem like a strange place to start, though the reality is that Japanese bouts at Middleweight are regularly amazing bouts. In just the last few years we've seen a handful of amazing Japanese title bouts at 160lbs and this is among the best of them.
Koji Sato (20-1, 18) Vs Makoto Fuchigami (17-6, 8)
This bout took place on December 12th 2011, coming in this bout Sato was a seen as the biggest hope in Japanese Middleweight boxing since Shinji Takehara took the WBA title from Jorge Castro in 1995. Sato had been a Japanese amateur standout, a huge puncher who had won an OPBF title in his 9th fight, and would later challenge Felix Sturm in 2009. Despite losing to Sturm there was still real hope that he could go on to win a world title before his career would end. He had rebuilt from the loss to Sturm with 6 wins, including 5 by stoppage.
Whilst Sato was the OPBF champion and the man expected to go on to big things Fuchigami was the Japanese champion, a slippery fighter who had lost 3 of his first 5 bouts and 5 of his first 12. Despite those setbacks the southpaw was developing his skills, and in his 20th bout he would take the Japanese title, stopping Tetsuya Suzuki in 6 rounds. Coming in to this bout he had won 7 in a row, 6 by stoppage, recorded 3 defenses of the title but was still regarded as a major under-dog against Sato, in fact he was there to play the next victim to the huge punching Teiken promoted fighter.
What we got was one of the best fights of 2011, and one of the best Japanese and OPBF unification bouts of all time. This is our first Closet Classic, and this is a fight that really does answer negative5's question, of "Best fights no one talks about?".
Enjoy and just as a heads up, this won't be the only Fuchigami fight in this section!
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