One of the best things about Closet Classics is that they can often be bouts that are very, very, obscure. Or at least, obscure outside of a small regional fanbase. Today we have one such bout which was legendary in Japan in the late 1980's, but now a bout that fans in the West will be aware of. That's despite having a sensational second round that deserves to be seen to be believed. In fact it's a round that features a staggering 5 knockdowns in less than 2 minutes 30 seconds. Better yet the bout also had significance, as it was a national title fight.
We're quite confident in saying most of you reading this won't have seen this bout but it's one you should take the opportunity to watch as soon as you can!
Yasuo Yogi (7-1-2, 3) vs Norikazu Kawana (5-4-1, 2)
The match up in question was a Japanese Minimumweight title bout between Yasuo Yogi and Norikazu Kawana, and was held on February 25th 1988. It's fair to say that neither had a reputation for bouts being dramatic and ending early, but this bout was something incredible.
The 21 year old Yogi had been a former amateur standout who debuted in 1985, interestingly on the same show as Akinobu Hiranaka, and had climbed through the domestic rankings quickly. He had fought in his first title fight in late 1987, losing a decision to Kenjo Yokozawa for the Japanese Minimumweight title, and got a second shot at a belt just 3 months later, against Kawana. Prior to fighting for a title his most notable win was a decision over Missile Kudo and although he clearly had promise he wasn't standing out as anything too special on the domestic scene.
Kawana on the other hand was someone who had an interesting career early on. He had also debuted in 1985, and won his first 2 bouts before stumbling to a 5-4-1 (2) record. The highlight of those first 10 bouts was an OPBF Minimumweight title fight in 1987, against Samuth Sithnaruepol. His best win up to this bout was probably a TKO win over former Japanese title challenger Takeo Onishi. Aged 26 he was the older man, and a southpaw.
With the vacant Japanese title up for grabs both men went into this with hopes of becoming a national champion. Sadly though the first round wasn't the most exciting with both men trying to figure out their range. Yogi, the orthodox fighter in blue, seemed the more patient and the slightly crisper fighter but Kawama certainly seemed hungry to come forward and was the one regularly pressing the action. In fact it seemed Kawana wanted to neutralise the footwork and more polished boxing of Yogi. For the first 2 minutes or so the action was tame, with a highlight late in the round as the two men had a rare exchange and both managed to land some decent blows in the final 30 seconds.
Although the action began to heat up it was, for the most part, a quiet opening round. That makes what happens in round 2 feel even more special.
To begin the second round Kawana came out aggressively and paid the price when he ate a straight right hand and was dropped face first about 40 seconds into the round. He beat the count and looked to get up swinging but was down again just moments later. He knew another knockdown and that was it for him, given the 3 knockdown rule was still in effect for Japanese title fights at the time. The logical thing would be for him to get defensive, focus on seeing out the round and surviving. He did the opposite. Instead of getting negative he looked to get even and managed to drop Yogi with a huge left hand at around 1 minute 20. Yogi beat the count but was hurt soon afterwards and dropped for a second time after the 2 minute mark.
Now we were finely balance, another knockdown before the round was over would finish the bout, and both men knew it as they stood and traded. It was a shoot out for the bout. And sadly for Kawana he would go on to be the recipient of the 5th knockdown, losing via the 3 knockdown rule in one of the craziest rounds we've ever seen.
Sadly for Yogi his reign was a short one, losing in his first defense, and he would have his final bout in 1993, finishing with a career record of 11-7-2 (6). This win being his career defining victory. Kawana on the other hand went 2-4 after this loss, retiring in the early 1990's with a 7-9-1 (3). Whilst neither did much of note after this contest, this bout is something they share and something every fan needs to watch!
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