With the current lack of live fights we've decided to take on an interesting task of looking for the most under-rated boxers from various decades. We've decided to begin this series looking at the 1960's and running with a few basic rules.
Firstly none of the fighters here can have won a world title at any point during their careers, that means not only in the relevant decade, but at all. To be considered for any decade a fighter might have either fought during 5 years of the relevant decade, just that decade, or more than half of their career in that decade. As a result of those rules we will also only be considering their records for that decade, which will be mentioned alongside their career records where necessary.
Also just for clarity we are only considering Asian fighters for this series.
Where a fighter fights in multiple decades, as long as they fill one of the criteria, they can be considered for multiple decades.
Also please note this isn't a comprehensive list of over-looked fighters from the decade and the list could have been much, much longer than it is.
Mitsunori Seki (Career tally 61-11-1 (35); record during the 1960's 50-9 (31))
We're going to start this by saying that Mitsunori Seki was one of the best fighters to never win a world title, regardless of the decade. He is almost certainly the best Japanese fighter to never win a world title and was regarded as a genuinely unlucky fighter back in his day. During his career he did get chances at the top, with 5 world title bouts, though he was unlucky to face really top level fighters. His first world title fight was a split decision loss to Pone Kingpetch, he then went on to come up short against Sugar Ramos, Vicente Saldivar, twice, and Howard Winstone.
With 11 career losses it's easy to downplay how good Seki was but given 5 of his losses came in world title fights and others came to the likes of Jose Medel, Chartchai Chionoi, Hiroshi Kobayashi and Vicente Milan Derado you realise he was only losing to world class fighters. He also notched wins against Leo Espinosa, Chartcai Chionoi, Tanny Campo and Kang Il Suh.
Seki was a really talented southpaw, he had enough snap in his power to get the respect of opponents, without being a banger, and was regarded more as a fencer style boxer. He moved from Flyweight to Featherweight, and really had his best days at 126lbs where he dominated the OPBF scene. Between September 1962 and March 1968 Seki ruled supreme on the OPBF title scene, making 12 defense of the OPBF Featherweight title. He still holds the record for most defenses of that particular title, and for the longest reign.
In the modern day boxing scene of 4 world titles, Seki would have certainly held some form of a world crown during his long career that just lacked that 1 career defining win.
Kang Il Suh (Career tally 41-11 (13); record during the 1960's 39-11 (11))
On paper Kang Il Suh's record, like that of Mitsunori Seki, is less than great, but records only tell half a story and Suh is another great example of that.
The Korean began his career in 1961 and fought right through to 1972 and faced several notable fighters of his era, as well as picking up a number of early career losses.
In May 1963 Suh fell to 14-4 (7) following that he went 25-7 during the decade with his losses coming to Mitusnori Seki, Flash Elorde, twice, Rene Barrientos, Hiroshi Kobayashi, Raul Rojas and Yoshiaki Numata. Not a bad line up if you ask us! Even more notably he pushed Elorde razor close in both of their bouts, and likely would have got the decision had the bouts not been in the Philippines.
On the other hand he notched some very strong wins, over-coming Hiroshi Kobayashi and Yoshiaki Numata, before losing rematches to both, and took the unbeaten record of the then 17-0 Mando Ramos, in the US.
Whilst Suh wasn't a world beater he's a fighter who's career is massively over-looked, and like Seki a bit of luck could very much have changed his standing in the sport.
Takao Sakurai (Career tally 30-2 (4); record during the 1960's 27-2 (4))
Winning an Olympic gold medal at the 1964 Olmypics in Tokyo was the launch pad to big things for Takao Sakurai, who was instantly a Japanese star when he turned professional in 1965. In just his second bout he was fighting in 10 round bouts and he quickly scored notable domestic wins over the likes of Katsutoshi Aoki, Toyoharu Mizuta and Yoshio Nakane. He would win his first 22 bouts before losing in a world title bout to Lionel Rose, by majority decision.
Sadly the loss to Rose, in 1968, would be Sakurai's only shot at the world title and though he would later fight in a world title eliminator against Ruben Olivares, suffering his second loss in that bout. He bounced back from that loss well, beating Katsuyoshi Takayama and then winning the OPBF Bantamweight title to end the decade on a high.
Given his amateur success, his close bout with Rose and his OPBF title win, it's really odd how Sakurai has been forgotten by many in the sport. He was in the Bantamweight division during one of it's toughest eras and even finished the decade ranked #2 by Ring Magazine, which really tells you how highly he was thought of at the time.
Kiyoshi Tanabe (21-0-1, 5)
Dubbed the "Tragedy Boxer" Kiyoshi Tanabe is one of boxing's biggest "What if's".
The talented Japanese Flyweight had won bronze at the 1960 Olympics, losing a debatable decision to Sergei Sivko. He would then turn professional in 1963 and be moved aggressively. In only his 4th professional bout he beat the much more experienced Katsuo Yachinuma then did a number on Eishiro Iwaya just weeks later. In 1964 alone he fought 7 times as he climbed up the domestic scene.
In 1965 Tanabe notched a win over Ric Magramo before taking the Japanese Flyweight title in October. He would defend his national title twice whilst moving towards bigger fights. A bigger fight came in February 1967, and he shone, stopping WBA Flyweight world champion Horacio Accavallo in 6 rounds. It was a huge win, a massive statement and should have set up a rematch with the Argentinian, who had only lost once in his previous 80 bouts.
Sadly just as Tanabe was on the verge of his big shot he was forced to retire due to a detached retina. This would end Tanabe's career just as he was looking like he was about to hit his prime.
Aged just 26 when he last fought the future seemed so bright for Tanabe, but fortune didn't shine on him and his career. By the time he retired he proved he could be defensively smart, following the guidance of his first trainer, and could also be a vicious and aggressive fighter, as he was in his final bout. He had linked up with Eddie Townsend close to the end of his career, and that relationship really could have lead Tanabe to the very top.
Ric Magramo (Career tally 35-17-5 (15); record during the 1960's 35-16-5 (15))
Another fighter in this list with double digit losses, but another man who took on a who's who, was Ric Magramo. The Filipino Flyweight not only lost to Kiyoshi Tanabe, as previously mentioned, but also lost to the likes of Walter McGowan, Bernabe Villacampo, Hiroyuki Ebihara, Erbito Salavarria and Berkrerk Chartvanchai.
Obviously losing a lot but to good fighters is one thing, but Magramo also had his share of good wins as well. Those included two wins over Bernabe Villacampo and two wins over Erbito Salavarria as well as a win over Kenichi Iida and one over Baby Lorona. Those wins alone show he was a fine fighter. Sadly though he was a very streaky fighter, and when he lost one he tended to lost a few more around the same time. This was best seen between January 1964 and August 1965, when he went 4-7.
Whilst Magramo was never a world class fighter, and was far too inconsistent to ever be consider world class, he had 4 wins men who held world titles. A staggering number given there wasn't 4 world titles flying around back in the 1960's.
Katsuyoshi Takayama (Career tally 45-11-6 (12); record during the 1960's 45-9-6 (12))
When we spoke about Takao Sakurai we mentioned Katsuyoshi Takayama and that's not without reason. Takayama was himself a man who banged on the door tough era. He did get a world title fight, but that was pretty much the start of the end for him.
Takayama made his professional debut in 1962 and debuted with a loss. Following that he reeled off a 35 fight unbeaten run with wins against Speedy Hayase, Seisaku Saito, Baby Lorona, Katsuo Saito and Salvatore Burruni. Those wins lead him to his 1966 world title fight with Horacio Accavallo, which he lost by split decision.
Following Takayama's loss to Accavallo he never really managed to recapture the form which he had shown up to that point. He went 13-9-3 (1) after losing in his world title fight. Despite the bad form there was some notable results, such as his 1967 win over Speedy Hayase, and his 1969 wins over Leo Calderon, in Honolulu and Eiji Morioka, in what would be his final bout of the decade.
With Takayama his record stated one thing, but at several times during the decade he was legitimately among the best at Flyweight and Bantamweight. Had there been a Super Flyweight division in the 1960's he would have been a very serious player.
Teruo Kosaka (Career tally 63-9-2 (26); record during the 1960's 41-5-1 (19))
Amazingly Teruo Kosaka was 19 years old when the decade began but was already a veteran with 27 bouts to his name! Despite the experience he had prior to the decade it was the 1960's that really saw him shine with a further 47 bouts, including 3 world title bouts.
Lets start by, again, looking at Kosaka's losses. From the 5 he suffered in the 1960's 3 came in world title bouts, with 2 of those coming to Flash Elorde and one to Carlos Ortiz. His others losses in the decade both came to Elorde. That's right in the 1960's Kosaka lost 4 times to Flash Elorde and once to Carlos Ortiz. Notably all 3 of his world title bouts ended with Kosaka being stopped.
Whilst Kosaka's losses are nothing to be ashamed of it's worth looking at what success he had as well.
Kosaka began the decade by reeling off 16 straight wins, and winning the Japanese Lightweight title in December 1960. A loss to Elorde in 1961 was avenged the following year, making Kosaka a unified Japanese and OPBF Lightweight champion. In 1963 Kosaka would score a win over future world champion Pedro Adigue Jr, to give him a second big win over a man who would win a world title. He also picked up several awards from the Japanese annual boxing awards, including the Fighting Award, in 1961 and 1962, and the skills award in 1964.
Sadly for Kosaka he could never secure a big win on the top stage and was actually stopped in all 3 of his world title bouts. Despite that he's very, very over-looked now a days, and wins over Elorde and Adigue are very respectable victories.
Eigo Takagi (37-8-2, 8)
Fighting between 1963 and 1968 Eigo Takagi was another of the man on the outside looking in on a stacked Bantamweight division. He failed to ever get a world title fight, but was certainly close to a shot at times during his ultra active, though short, career.
As with many under-rated fighters featured on this list a lot of fans will look at Takagi's record and instantly over look him. With 8 losses in 47 bouts he lost rather frequently, however it's worth starting this by noting he began his career 7-6-1 (3), with those 14 bouts coming in the space of his first year as a professional. After that he went 31-2-1 with wins over Katsuo Yachinuma, Tiny Palacio, Speedy Hayase and Ushiwakamaru Harada, twice.
Takagi's first win over Harada netted him the Japanese Bantamweight title, which he defended against Fighting Harada's brother the following year, before losing the belt in his final bout, a third clash with Harada.
Whilst Takagi never got a big career defining victory this list was never about those who had the most success, but the most over-looked. With that in mind it needs to be said that Takagi didn't get a single title fight until his 40th professional bout, his first clash with Harada, in 1967. He was certainly over-looked.
Koji Okano (27-2-1, 18)
Typically Japanese fighters at 140lbs do get over-looked and their success there is limited. Koji Okanao is one of the many over-looked fighters at weight, who fought 30 times between 1963 and 1968. During his active career he won the Rookie of the Year and was the inaugural Japanese champion at 140lbs.
After making his debut in June 1963 Okano was matched with fellow novices, before going on to win the All Japan Rookie of the Year at Lightweight in January 1964. Later that same year he beat Kazuyoshi Kubokura to claim the Japanese Light Welterweight title, and become the first holder of that belt.
It's not totally clear how many defenses Okano made, with some sources stating he made a single defenses and others stating he made 2, but that was the only title he managed to ever fight for, despite going unbeaten until 1967, losing for the first time in his 28th bout. More about that loss a little later.
During his unbeaten run Okano not only took the Rookie of the Year and Japanese title but also beat the well travelled Paul Armstead, future OPBF champion Chun-Kyo Shin and former OPBF title challenger Tsunetomi Miyamoto. Despite his long unbeaten run Okano would lose 2 of his last 3, with the first of those coming to the brilliant Rene Barrientos, and the second coming 4 months later to Akihisa Someya, in a Japanese Lightweight title bout. After that loss he retired.
Ushiwakamaru Harada (Career tally 36-20-14 (14); record during the 1960's 21-7-8 (10))
Some one we briefly mentioned earlier in this article was Ushiwakamaru Harada, the brother of Japanese legend Fighting Harada. Whilst Ushiwakamaru didn't have the success of his iconic brother it's impossible to explain how over-looked he was during his car career. With 70 career bouts, it's easy to just look at the numbers and write him off, but that totally misses the point of his career, and the idea of this article.
Beginning his career in 1965 he ended up fight 36 times in the decade, claiming the Japanese Bantamweight title twice, reclaiming it from Eigo Takagi in their third bout, he also managed a draw with Chucho Castillo, and 2 draws with Yoshio Nakane. His other notable results from the decade included wins over future OPBF champions Hyun Kim, and Katsuo Saito.
Harada also, notably, fought the legendary Ruben Olivares, a bout that ended in a confounding stoppage that seemed really ill judged
Technically Harada got his best results in the 1970's, but what he did in the swinging 60's was solid though the decade and certainly made him worthy of a mention here.
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