With the current lack of live fights we've decided to take on an interesting task of looking for the most under-rated boxers from various decades.
We are now on to the third decade in the series, the 1980's.
As with the other articles in the series we have got a few basic rules in place regarding eligibility.
Firstly none of the fighters here can have won a world title at any point during their careers, that means not only in the relevant decade, but at all. To be considered for any decade a fighter might have either fought during 5 years of the relevant decade, just that decade, or more than half of their career in that decade. As a result of those rules we will also only be considering their records for that decade, which will be mentioned alongside their career records where necessary.
Also just for clarity we are only considering Asian fighters for this series.
Where a fighter fights in multiple decades, as long as they fill one of the criteria, they can be considered for multiple decades.
Also please note this isn't a comprehensive list of over-looked fighters from the decade and the list could have been much, much longer than it is.
Chung Il Choi (career tally 14-2, (13); record during the 1980's 9-2 (8))
Korean puncher Chung Il Choi is a rather interesting fighter from the time period, and one of the most exciting. He began the decade with a 5-0 (5) and fought only 11 times during the decade, but a mark, and should have held a world title.
Choi began the decade with two blow out wins before take a decision over Yoshitaka Ikehara, in what would be his only bout to last the schedule. Following that win he would score solid wins over Rod Sequenan and Rey Tam. By the end of 1981 he had gone 8-0 (7) for the decade and shot up the world rankings to earn a shot with WBC Super Featherweight champion Rolando Navarrete.
The bout between Choi and Navarrete was a barn burner, and a criminally over-looked bout. It was also a highly controversial one with Navarrete being dropped in round 5 and the bell sounding early to end the round. This was as close as Choi came to winning a world title, and he would stopped himself in the 10th round of the bout. He would get a second shot, losing to Rafael Limon 8 months later, after Limon had taken the title from Navarrete. Sadly he was stopped in 7 rounds by Limon, whilst in the lead on all 3 cards.
Sadly after losing to Limon in 1982 Choi left the sport. He was only 24 years old and could easily have continued on, but for whatever reason he hung them up instead.
Eung Shik Kim (Career tally 20-2 (16), record during the 1980's 19-2 (15))
Korean Light Welterweight Eun Shik Kim fought through much of the 1980's, debuting in 1982 and finishing his career in 1990. During the decade he fought 21 bouts winning the Korean and OPBF titles along the way. Whilst not a big name he certainly left his mark on the regional scene, running up 5 defenses of the OPBF title.
The hard hitting Korean took the OPBF title in his 7th professional bout, less than a year after his debut. Whilst his reign was an amazing one it would include 3 notable defenses as he managed to retain the title against Akio Kameda, twice, and Francisco Ferrer. He see his reign end in 1985, when he lost a decision to the then 18-0 Kyung Duk Ahn and never get a chance to avenge the loss.
Despite losing the OPE title he continued on beating Tricky Kawaguchi in 1986 and Elmer Leonardo the following year before losing to former foe Francisco Ferrer in 1988. He would only fight twice more after that, with both bouts taking place in Japan, before he hung them up.
Given he holds two wins over Akio Kameda, who would get two world title fights, he deserves a mention here, and he's certainly better than his competition would suggest. A real shame he didn't get in with other notable names during his career as he had the power, toughness and skills to be much better known.
Neptali Alamag (Career tally 41-9-6 (12); record during the 1980's 14-5-3 (5))
Although more than Neptali Alamag's career took place in the 1970's, including a win over former world champion Venice Borkhorsor, we want to focus on just his work between 1980 and 1986, when he fought for the final time. Durign that time frame he fought 22 bouts and faced a mini who's who.
After going 4-1 in 1980 Alamag made his US debut and upset Frankie Duarte, before travelling to Korea and losing a decision to Seung Hoon Lee. He would return to his native Philippines and win 5 in a row before fighting to a draw with future world champion Ji Won Kim. Alamag would prove the draw was no fluke by going the South Korea and again earning a draw with Kim, this time in Seoul, in a rematch.
It took until 1983, when he was fighting in his 50th career bout, until Alamag won his first title, the GAB Bantamweight title, when he beat Amado Cabato. The following year he added the OPBF belt to his collection with a KO win over Japan's Mitsuo Imazato, who was the Japanese national champion at the time. Sadly that would be his last big result.
Alamag's career ended with a 0-2-1 run in his last 3 bouts, but did include a bout against future world champion Samart Payakaroon in 1984. On paper his 41-9-6 (12) record doesn't look great, and even his record for the decade doesn't look amazing. The reality is that he was a lot better than those numbers suggest and his two draws with Kim were the only marks on an otherwise perfect record for the Korean who retired 16-0-2 (7).
Rod Sequenan (Career tally 56-25-5 (33); record during the 1980's 28-11-1 (13))
Although not a rarity in general Rod Sequenan is a rarity in regards to these articles as he fought over 3 decades, beginning his career in the 1970's, fighting through the 80's and sticking with the sport to the mid 1990's. With that said we're really just focusing on the 40 bouts he had during the Freed Decade.
Sequenan was never a world beater, but he was the sort of fighter who could pick up the sneaky upsets. He did this against the likes of former world title challenger Sa Wang Kim, twice, Il Bok Lee, a win that net him the OPBF Super Featherweight title, Jin Shik Choi, who was then 9-0, Ronaldo Sumalis and Jong Jong Pacquing.
As well as his wins he could, when he was on song, be a nightmare for better fighters. He gave Hwan Kil Yuh fits in the first ever IBF Super Featherweight world title fight, pushed Lester Ellis hard in their first bout and almost upset the then rising Mark Fernandez in 1985.
With 11 losses in his 40 bouts during the decade Sequenan was never a true top contender, but was a handful and a banana skin. If you over looked him you could end up being beaten, and he could, on his day, be a real horror to face off with.
Francisco Ferrer (Career tally 34-28-7 (16); record during the 1980's 31-16-7, (15))
Having mentioned Francisco Ferrer earlier it's worth speaking about him in more detail as well. The Filipino certainly ended his career badly, losing 12 of his 15 bouts in 1990's, but during the 1980's he was a very capable journeyman who fought at a fairly high level with some mixed results.
Ferrer made his debut in 1980 and in 1982 he scored his first win of note beating former OPBF champion Fred Rolando Pastor. He had some mixed results after that but did show what he could do in 1984, when he ran Australian veteran Jeff Malcolm very close, losing a split decision "Down under". He also gave the big punching Akio Kameda a tough bout in 1986, made Seung Soon Lee work for 10 rounds before Lee's 1989 world title bout, beat Eung Shik Kim in their second bout and gave Fujio Ozaki an incredibly tough bout for the OPBF Welterweight title.
Sadly for Ferrer he was inconsistent through much of the 1980's. When he was on song he was a threat to anyone on the regional scene, but rarely got over the line in the tougher bouts. He was however much, much better than what his record suggests, even if he does lack the wins to show how good was.
Kongtoranee Payakaroon (12-2, 9)
Our unofficial "best to not win a title" fighter from the 1980's was Thailand's excellent, smart, and highly skilled Kongtoranee Payakaroon who's professional career ran from early 1985 to 1988 and boy was he matched hard and unlucky.
Kongtoranee, the older brother of Samart Payakaroon, had been a fantastic Muay Thai fighter before transitioning to professional boxing in 1985 with a 10 rounder against Ruben De La Cruz. In just his second bout he beat former world champion Payao Poontarat and by the end of the year he had also added a win over former Japanese Light Flyweight champion Kentoku Nakama. Late in 1986 he challenged the sensational Gilberto Roman and came up short against the then WBC Super Flyweight champion. Despite the loss he remained a well respected fighter and just 13 months later got a shot at Khaosai Galaxy.
When Kongtoranee faced Khaosai Galaxy the hard hitting Galaxy was 32-1 (29) and had already made 6 defenses of the WBA Super Flyweight title. Galaxy got the decision there, but it was a controversial one, and Kongtoranee deserved better from the judges than he had got. He had spent the fight boxing and moving, flummoxing Galaxy, who never looked comfortable at all with the skills of his challenger.
After feeling hard done by against Galaxy we saw Kongtoranee walk away from boxing, returning to Muay Thai and then turning his hand to being a trainer.
Prayurasak Muangsurin (21-7, 14)
If you look at Prayurasak Muangsurin's record and dismiss him off hand we wonder what you're doing reading this article! He's here not because he lost 25% of his career fights but what he did in the ring, and even when we consider his losses he should still be mentioned in this list. During a career a career that ran from 1982 to 1987 he left his mark on the sport, beat several fighters who reached the top and twice fought for world titles himself.
Prayurasak began his career in May 1982 and score 2 wins in his first 2 weeks as a pro. Later that same year he scored a win over future world champion Samuth Sithnaruepol. The following year Prayurasak would defeat Kim Chul Ho, sending the former WBC Super Flyweight champion into retirement. Sadly for Prayurasak the Super Flyweight division wasn't a good one for his punch resistance and in 1984 he was stopped by both Ju Do Chun, the then IBF Super Flyweight champion, and Elly Pical, a future 3 time world champion.
After a rough patch following those losses he re-found his form and moved up to Super Bantamweight. It was here he claimed the Thai national title, and then the OPBF title, beating Youn Kap Choi in a lose bout for the Oriental title. This lead to his second world title bout, and sadly that also ended in a loss to the fantastic Seung Hoon Lee in 1987. Sadly that loss was pretty much the end of Prayurasak's career and he only fought twice more.
With 3 losses to either reigning or future world champions it's easy to understand how Prayurasak suffered so many losses. Sadly it's the other losses that look bad on his record, but he was very much a contender during his heyday.
Hidekazu Akai (19-2, 16)
The always exciting Hidekazu Akai was dubbed the "Rocky of Naniwa" and will always be best remembered by Western fans for his 1983 loss to Bruce Curry in a WBC Light Welterweight title fight. There is, of course, so much more to Akai, both in and out of the ring.
Whilst we won't discuss Akai's out of the ring successes it should be noted that now in Japan he's probably just a well known for non-boxing activity as he is for his in ring career. That's actually a great tale given that in 1985 boxing almost took his life.
Akai started his career in 1980 and reeled off 14 straight wins, with 13 knockouts to begin his career. They included a big win over Fujio Ozaki in the All Japan Rookie of the Year, and saw him reel off 12 straight KO's, setting a then Japanese record. His style saw Asahi began to back him as a broadcaster and despite having not even won a Japanese title he was already getting just as, if not more, popular as Jiro Watanabe. Sadly though he would lose to Bruce Curry in 7 rounds, and fail to win the WBC title.
Just over 3 months after the loss to Curry we saw Akai back in the ring, taking a 10 round decision over Yohi Arai before scoring 4 more wins. Sadly a brain injury suffered in a shock loss to Masaharu Owada in early 1985 ended his career, and left him close to death. Thankfully the fighter recovered but would never fight again.
Having never won any kind of title Akai is an oddity in many ways. In fact he only ever fought in one title bout, the loss to Curry, yet if you ask Japanese fans from the 1980's about him they will rave about him. It's a real shame that his career ended at the age of 25, though he had certainly left an impression on the domestic stage.
Shunichi Hozumi (Career tally 29-5 (8); record during the 1970's 15-5 (6))
Shunichi Hozumi is not someone we think many fans will be familiar with, but he was a pretty major figure in the lower weight classes in the 1980's. He made a big impact on the Japanese scene, twice challenged for world titles and scored a number of over-looked wins.
Hozumi began the 1980's with a 10-0 (2) record but really began o make his mark in 1980. That was the year he not only beat former world title challenger Tito Abell, but also the year he upset Tadashi Tomori to become the Japanese Light Flyweight champion. Hozumi's reign as the Japanese champion at 108lbs was a short one though and he quickly moved up in weight, losing in an OPBF Flyweight title bout to Hong Soo Yang. In 1981 he lost for the second time, this time in a bout for the Japanese Flyweight title. He would however settle at the weight in 1982 claimed the Japanese title at Flyweight to become a 2-weight Japanese champion.
In 1983 Hozumi got his first world title bout, and lost in 2 rounds to Santos Laciar, the then WBA Flyweight champion. Despite the loss Hozumi really wasn't discouraged and continue to rule as the Japanese Flyweight champion until December 1985. During his reign he beat Koki Ishii in a title defense, Jackal Maruyama in a non title bout and Takashi Sakakibara. Those wins earned him a second world title bout, though he wasn't able to over-come the excellent Hilario Zapara and retired the following year after losing to Oh Kong Son in South Korea.
Although not spoke about much anymore Hozumi was a talented fighter, with a technical style, fighting on the outside and he certainly deserves a lot more attention than he gets from fans now a days.
Shunichi Nakajima (Career tally 23-7 (13); record in the 1980's 22-4 (12))
We end this with another Japanese national champion who had gone massively over-looked in recent years after being a key fighter in the 1980's domestic scene. That is Shunichi Nakajima, who fought 26 times in the 1980's and was a very solid Super Flyweight. Whilst his most notably bouts came in the 1990's, his biggest successes came in the 1980's, when he went 22-4.
Nakajima debuted in 1984 and won his first 6 bouts, including a win over former Japanese title challenger Kazutaka Higa. Just 15 months after his debut he fought for the Japanese Super Flyweight title, and lost a close decision against Tadashi Maruo. Rather than stepping backwards after that loss he continued to be matched hard and sadly suffered 2 more loss, to Rae Ki Ahn in South Korea and Leopard Tamakuma in Japan. He had gone from 6-0 to 7-3 in the space of just 10 months.
Despite the set backs Nakajima continued going forward with his career, losing against in 1987 when he travelled to Korea and lost to Byung Kwan Chung in a bout for the OPBF Super Flyweight title. He bounced back immediately from that to beat Masayuki Takahashi in an A Class tournament final. That was followed by Nakajima finally scoring a big win in 1988, when he claimed the Japanese Super Flyweight title with a win over Koji Nishikawa. That began a great run for Nakajima who would defend the title 5 times before the decade was over.
By the end of the 1980's Nakajima was world ranked and ready to get a world title fight in the 1990's. Although his record isn't the greatest he did end the decade in the title mix, not something we'd have expected for someone who started their career 7-3.
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