Today's Closet Classic sees us roll back to 2001 and gets a very over-looked thriller from Tokyo. The bout doesn't get the attention it deserves, but was a genuine gem of the early part of the decade, and is well and truly worth being considered as a Closet Classic.
Takanori Hatakeyama (24-1-2, 19) vs Rick Yoshimura (38-5-1, 20)
In the late 1990's and early 00's there was a number of must watch fighters from throughout Asia. Among those was 2-weight world champion Takanori Hatakeyama, who you knew was always going to give fans a thrilling bout, no matter who he was in with. Win or lose the exciting Hatakeyama was never going to go into the ring with intention of giving fans anything but their money's worth. As a result he put on thrillers with the likes of Yong Soo Choi, Koji Arisawa, Lakva Sim, Hiroyuki Sakamoto and Rick Yoshimura, in the bout we're going to talk about today. Although not the most skilled, or the biggest puncher Hatakeyama was was a talented, exciting warrior, with incredible heart and determination and a style that improved as his career went on. Win or lose he was always looking to learn from fight to fight, and as a result he was a true fighting champion.
Whilst Hatakeyama was a proven world class fighter Yoshimura wasn't proven at that level, however he was proven at Japanese level. He was a 2-weight Japanese champion and had enjoyed a second reign as the Japanese Lightweight champion. That second reign had seen Yoshimura holding the Japanese title from January 1995, when he reclaimed the title, to the end of 2000, by which he had ran up a staggering 22 straight defenses of the title. Yoshimura was born in America but had adopted Japan, where he had managed to make a name for himself. He wasn't as popular as Hatakeyama, who was a damn star, but was still very well liked in Japan and a win here, over Hatakeyamma, would see him become the WBA Lightweight champion, and give his career a huge boost!
Given the styles of the two men there was no surprise that the action was hot from the off. Straight from the opening bell Hatakeyama started to apply the pressure, forcing his fight on to Yoshimura. To his credit the challenger soaked up the pressure well, but was very much on the back foot from the off, relying on his footwork against the aggression and pressure of the champion. Yoshimura began to find his room and distance in round 2, but that merely spurred Hatakeyama to press harder.
As the fight went on Hatakeyama's pressure began to drag Yoshimura into more and more of a fight. The challenger continued to box and move, soaking up the pressure, but the pressure began to pay off and forced Yoshimura to fight fire with fire. Holding and spoiling from Yoshimura couldn't stop Hatakeyama from marching forward and letting his hands go as he looked to break down the challenger. Despite pressing forward Hatakeyama was forced to take some huge shots on the way in, swelling his face up badly in what ended up being a genuinely brutal clash.
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