One of the amazing things about Closet Classics is getting the chance to find over looked fights featuring fighters who don't get the love they deserve. Today we find one such bout, and it's one that has often gone over-looked and is a genuine hidden gem of the Asian boxing world. It wasn't a Fight of the Year contender, but was a surprisingly fun to watch bout, that combined skills, action and featured a modern day star. Also it was a bout that got better the long it went,
Chris John (33-0, 19) vs Osamu Sato (26-2-3, 15)
When we think of Indonesian legend Chris John we don't typically think of thrilling bouts and all out wars. In fact for the most part we think of John's technical skills, his speed, his smart combinations and his ability to get in and out without taking too much damage. What's often forgotten however is that John had real dog in him, and when he needed to fight he could. He wasn't afraid of having a fight, as he did in his 1997 thriller with Muhammad Alfaridzi. He were have another of Johnson's more action packed bouts as the "Dragon" went to Japan to defend his WBA Featherweight title.
For John the bout was his first defense of the WBA title, after being upgraded from the interim champion that he'd become when he beat Oscar Leon around 9 months earlier.
Osamu Sato, who had been involved in some thrillers by this point, was well known for his action bouts, including his 2002 thriller with Willie Jorin, and his come brilliant bout with Yoddamrong Sithyodthong. Entering this bout he had been a former WBA Super Bantamweight champion, and despite only having a short lived reign "Hulk" was still very popular in his homeland thanks to aggressive style, and pressure mentality. He wasn't the most polished fighter out there, but was a physically strong and imposing one with a great engine and a genuine will to win.
From the opening round it was clear that Sato lacked the skills to box with John, but that had never held Sato back in the past against better boxers, like Yoddamrong and Jorin, as he fought to his strengths. He wasn't going to try and out point the Indonesian, but instead he was going to try and out fight John, out muscle him and out strength him. He was going to press, push, come forward and fight.
The opening round saw John as the aggressor quite often, whilst Sato often backed off, trying to get a read on the champion. It was something we'd seen a lot from Sato over the years, with the Japanese local coming forward in bursts. From then on however we began to see Sato coming forward more and more often.
With Sato pressing for much of the fight it left him open to clean counters as, but he had moments of success himself, with his blows not looking as clean, but looking heavier. He looked to be the aggressor, pushing the fight more round by round, again a tactic we had seen from him in the past. The difference in hand speed and technique was obvious, but the pressure from Sato often forced John to move away, rest and was having success, albeit rather limited success at times.
As the bout went on Sato's aggression continued, launching huge right hands around the guard of John, who was forced to pick his counter shots more intelligently, leaping on the mistakes Sato made. Sato's desperation made the action more and more thrilling, and yet John didn't get engaged in a sloppy war, but boxed, a brilliant, polished fight against a fun and aggressive fighter, who became the perfect foil for the Indonesian.
This bout wasn't the most action packed, or competitive, but it was a pretty fun, clean bout that had an edge of drama running through out and saw both men landing a solid number of big shots. A real fun bout with an excellent final round.
Today we go back the early 2000's for another Closet Classic as Thailand and Japan faced off at the Super Arena in Saitama in a bit of a forgotten classic between two men who made a mark on the boxing world but neither is too well remembered now a days, as both were only short term world champions.
Yoddamrong Sithyodthong (29-0-1, 12) vs Osamu Sato (24-1-2, 13)
Few fans from the west will remember Thai fighter Yoddamrong Sithyodthong yet the exciting Thai was a pretty notable fighter in the late 1990's and the 00's. His impact at the top wasn't huge but with over 50 bouts to his name, several against notable fighters, he is someone who certainly played a part in an interesting Super Bantamweight scene. Around the turn of the millennium he scored a notable win over Ratanachai Sor Vorapin, fought to a draw with the always under-rated Jess Maca and in 2002 he claimed the WBA Super Bantamweight title, with a win over Yober Ortega at the age of 21. In 2004 he would also go on to face the all action Mahyar Monshipour, in what was another Monshipour's many thrilling wars. Between the Ortega bout and the Monshipour bout Yoddamrong travelled to Japan and faced off with Osamu Sato, with the Thai looking to make his first defense of the WBA Super Bantamweight title.
Osamu Sato was a fun to watch Japanese fighter from the Kyoei gym. His competition, on the whole, was limited with his best results up to this point being coming in a controversial draw against Willie Jorrin, in what was a fantastic war 3 months before facing Yoddamrong, and a win over Yong In Jo for the OPBF title. Although not the most impressive man in the ring the Japanese fighter was a physically strong warrior, who had proven his heart and desire against Jorrin, where he pulled himself off the canvas twice to earn a very hard fought draw. Against Jorrin we saw Sato impress not just with his heart and desire but also his energy and stamina. At 25 years old he was coming into his physical prime but wasn't living up to the nickname of "Hulk" that he had adopted. In fact whilst he was physically strong he appear to be lacking punching power, as shown by a sub 50% TKO rate entering this bout.
After a lengthy TV build up to the bout the men then got to work and the bout started quite slowly. It wasn't a slow, slow start but Sato fought cautiously, wanting to see what the 21 year old champion was bringing to the ring. By the end of the opening round however both men were starting to open up more and it was the physical strength of Sato against the handspeed and combinations of the Thai champion. The speed of the Thai seemed to be the key in round 2 as he picked his moments to strike and let his shots fly in bursts, though that drew fire back from the Japanese fighter. Sato tried to give payback but early on he struggled to land too much clean, with the Thai's movement and speed proving to be a difference maker.
As the bout went on though Sato began to have success with his pressure, and instead of Yoddamrong getting in and out it the was Thai who was being forced backwards under the growing intensity of the challenger, who began to force a tough and tough fighter on the champion.
The bout wasn't either man's most exciting bout, but was certainly a worthy watch a very engaging war that swung one way then the other. A genuine hidden gem and a perfect Closet Classic.
Recently we've covered quite a few fights that are well known in the West in this series. This week however we're looking at one that Western fans probably aren't too familiar with, and one that certainly didn't get mentioned in the "End of Year" awards from Western media. Despite that it was an amazing bout that pitted a rising and popular Japanese fighter against an unbeaten American world champion, and was an instant classic.
Osamu Sato (24-1-1, 12) Vs Willie Jorrin (28-0, 12)
Coming in to the bout the unbeaten Willie Jorrin was seeking his second defense of the WBC Super Bantamweight title. He had won the belt in the UK, beating Michael Brodie for the belt in Manchester, and then returned to the US for his first defense, against Oscar Larios, in what was a rather fun to watch bout. He then jetted off to Japan to face to face once beaten "Hulk" Osamu Sato. More about Sato in a moment. Aged 32 at this point Jorrin's prime was gone but he was still a talent, and with his unbeaten record and world title he wasn't just travelling over to Japan to lose. He was their to collect his paycheck, keep his title and beat up the local star whilst remaining unbeaten and building towards bigger bout down the line.
Managed by Kyoei Sato had rebounded well from an early career set back He had lost in his 5th professional bout and was once 7-1-1 (3) but had reeled off 17 straight wins over the previous 4 years to get himself in the world title mix. Not only had he been in good form but at 25 years old he was coming into his physical peak. Just 10 months before facing Jorrin Sato had won the OPBF title title, and had defended it once by the time Kyoei had put up the money to bring Jorrin to Japan. Despite his winning run there was little knowledge of Sato outside of Japan, and his biggest win was probably over Korean Yong In Jo, the man he took the OPBF title from, or the very shop worn Yasushi Araia, a former Japanese national champion who had lost 3 successive bouts before facing Sato.
The bout started with Jorrin boxing on the back foot and Sato pressuring, making for a nice meshing of styles with Jorrin turning the tables occasionally and backing up the local. The power of Jorrin, whilst not destructive, was enough to get Sato's respect whilst Sato himself struggled to close the distance and impose his fight, despite the pressure.
In round 3 things went from bad to worse for Sato, who was dropped twice by Jorrin. These knockdowns weren't hard knockdowns with Sato getting up quickly from both, but they killed the momentum he seemed to have built earlier in the round.
Finding himself in a hole Sato knew he had to turn it around, and he looked to do that immediately, pressing hard in round 4 and dragging Jorrin into a war. From here on the bout became a brutal, hard, damaging and punishing battle of attrition. The two men spent long sequences trading blows on the inside and gets fans on to the edge of their seats, and it was here that Sato's power and aggression could turn the fight around.
We won't ruin the full fight, but this was a real hidden gem, with an edge of controversy, and showed that both were world class fighters, with round 12 worthy viewing for any fan! That was brutally entertaining and beautifully violent.
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