Every so often a relatively recent fight gets forgotten. The can be due to where it was, who was in it or simply the fact it wasn't high profile enough. One great fight that was massively over-looked came back in April 2014, and it had everything. It combined blood, heavy leather, drama, action and excitement to give us an instant classic. Sadly it was an instant classic that is now well often over-looked. That may have been due to the fact neither fighter really accomplished a lot, or the fact it wasn't for a major title. Despite that the bout deserves a rewatch, and deserves some more attention all these years on.
Shuhei Tsuchiya (15-2, 13) vs Leonardo Zappavigna (30-2, 20)
In one corner was Japanese slugger Shuhei Tsuchiya, who was making his international debut here as he travelled off to Australia. Although not a big name Tsuchiya was an exciting fighter to watch. He had won the 2010 All Japan Rookie of the Year, reeled off 12 straight stoppages to win begin his career and was 14-0 (12) before suffering a loss to Shoji Kawase. Despite losing his unbeaten record in 2013 he had bounced back and had ended the year with a win against Kazutaka Takakuwa, to lead him into this bout. In the ring Tsuchiya was a bit limited, but aggressive, heavy handed and a very TV friendly fighter. The Japanese Lightweight would, later, go on to claim the Japanese title but this would be his first title fight as he attempted to claim the WBO Oriental Light Welterweight title.
Popular Australian Leonardo Zappavigna was a former world title challenger, who had made something of a buzz in the US, with some action packed wins, before losing to Miguel Vazquez in an IBF world title bout. He had struggled to rebuild from that loss, losing to Ammeth Diaz, but had began to rediscover his form, stringing together 5 wins coming into his clash with Tsuchiya. Although not the most talented "Lenny Zappa" was a thrilling all action warrior, who had under-rated power, came to fight and was typically in fun to watch bouts. His lack of speed held him back against the sharp shooting Vazquez but he had looked explosive in wins against the likes of Ji Hoon Kim and his bout with Fernando Angulo was thrilling.
Given what we knew about the two men this looked like a stylistic dream. We had two come forward fighters, both with technical limitations, both a touch on the slower side and both of whom believed in their power. This had the hallmarks of something very exciting, even if neither man was world class.
The opening round saw the two men start quick, despite Tsuchiya almost tripping on something that was on the canvas. Within around 30 seconds both men had looked at landing something big. It wasn't a hugely brutal round, but it was one that saw both men doing more than just feeling their opponent out.
By round 2 the pace was beginning to increase and the more crisp punching of Zappavigna, along with his physical strength, was proving too be a bit of a difference maker. Despite this Tsuchiya always looked dangerous and wasn't there to make up the numbers. Instead he was digging his toes in and by the middle rounds he was playing his part in what was quickly developing into an all out war.
An in ring war, of course, takes it's toll and by the end of round 5 Tsuchiya was sporting sporting swelling and bruising over his right eye whilst Zappavigna was sporting facial damage of his own. It was the damage of Zappavigna's that would worsen, badly, and he would began to have huge gashes on both sides of his face as we began to get a blood bath. That blood bath coincided with both men taking more risks and fighting at closer range, making this a rare bout that gets better, and better the longer it goes on.
This is a real thriller that's well worth a watch. It's not always pretty, but it's always entertaining and as both men slow the action gets more bloody and both men are forced to battle through adversity in cracking fight that many won't have seen.
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