Today we return to the 1990's for a memorable Closet Classic that won the Japanese fight of the year award, and saw a rivalry come to an end with two men clashing, years after they were originally supposed to face off. The bout pit the first true Russian professional boxing star against one of the man tipped to be a Japanese star, and the bout delivered an instant classic, that is now, more than 20 years on, still remembered well by Japanese fans from the era.
Yuri Arbachakov (22-0, 15) vs Puma Toguchi (18-2, 15)
In one corner was the then WBC Flyweight champion Yuri Arbachakov, a Russian born fighter who was based in Japan, where he had essentially been based his entire career. He was a technically brilliant boxer-puncher, combining sensational skills, polished in a long and successful amateur career, with naturally heavy hands, a solid chin and a totally relaxed in ring persona. He was one of two fighters from the former USSR that Kyoei had guided to a world title and wasn't looking to give it up, in fact this was his 9 defence since winning the belt in 1992.
Puma Toguchi, who actually fought under his birth name of Takato Toguchi for this particular bout, was regarded as one of 3 potential Japanese stars at the turn of the 1990's. He, along with Joichit Tatsuyoshi and Katsuya Onizuka, were seen as the trio to watch in Japan. Sadly Toguchi was, unlike the other two, very hard to handle and had had issues with his team in the early 1990's. Those issues had seen him lose the Japanese Flyweight title in 1991, cancelling a scheduled bout with Arbachakov as a result, and had seen him out of the ring for over 2 years as a result. Although a fantastic talent, with heavy hands he was seen as being a clear under-dog here.
With the issues of their cancelled 1991 fight acting as a back drop the two were expected to put on something special when they finally clashed on August 26th 1996. Rather than Toguchi defending the national title, as was the case when the bout was first supposed to take place, this was now a world title fight, and the two men fought as if the belt meant everything.
The first round was a quiet one, with both looking to see what the other hand. From there on however they both began to go through the gears, landing some huge shots, trading blows when they had to. Arbachakov, the better pure boxer, applied constant, heavy pressure, boxing well behind his jab, whilst Toguchi looked to find holes with counters, exploiting the text book approach of Arbachakov.
For those hoping for an all out war, this wasn't that. Instead it was a very well fought boxing contest, with both men having moments, and both fighting through adversity, with Arbachakov badly damaging his right hand which caused him serious issues the rest of his career.
Sadly after this bout neither man really had much success. Arbachakov, who wanted to retire after this win, fought on and suffered a loss to a man he had already beat, whilst Toguchi went 5-1 before retiring, and has suffered with Dementia Pugilistica in recent years.
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