Often when we do these Closet Classic articles we look at thrill a minute wars, with regular exchanges of power shots rather than the high skilled technical chess bouts that really do show that high tempo bouts can be full of skill. Today however we look at a bout that combines a notable historic foot note along side a lot of skill, a bit of politics and a lot of intrigue. It's a bout that will have gone very over-looked in the west, but in Asia this was big with a lot of sub stories. It was also not the most competitive of bouts, but was still one worthy of including in out Closet Classic feature.
In Joo Cho (18-0, 7) Vs Masamori Tokuyama (21-2-1, 5)
In 1998 In Joo Cho, from South Korea, took a controversial decision over Gerry Penalosa to claim the WBC Super Flyweight title, he successfully defended the belt 5 times, including a second controversial win over Penalosa, before facing Masamori Tokuyama who was also known as Chang Soo Hong. Cho had proven himself a capable fighter, but someone who lacked power and was instead a technical fighter who was most comfortable at range, using his straight punches and countering. Although he lacked power, he did score a fantastic 1-punch KO against Pone Saengmorakot in his second world title defense, his only stoppage win in 6 world title bouts coming in to this bout.
Cho may have been the champion but he wasn't the big interest here for most, that was instead the challenger, a third generation Japanese-Korean who was fighting under the North Korean flag. Tokuyama was a political fighter who tied his name to North Korea in very controversial fashion. Despite his political affiliation he was an excellent boxer, with fantastic movement, a brilliant jab and great work rate. Like Cho he lacked power, always an issue when travelling abroad, especially in a political nature like this. Coming in to this Tokuyama had won his last 7, winning the OPBF Super Flyweight title and defended it twice, but this was still regarded as a notable step up in class.
What we ended up getting, unsurprisingly, was a high level chess match between two men who looked to set a high pace at range. The bout rarely had a hook or uppercut thrown, but there was a huge number of jabs, straights and clean shots from both. This was high level boxing chess and was thoroughly engaging, despite not being a war, it was a bout that was interest from the first round to the last.
Sadly for Cho this was the start of the end for him, and a rematch 8 months later saw him being stopped by Tokuyama as surprisingly took him out with a single shot, a huge right hand, in the 5th round. That was the end of Cho, who would never fight against.
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