We know all about Mexican Machismo, often giving us special all-Mexican bouts, but it appears that all-Japanese fights can give us something very similar. Today we look at one of those in the latest Closet Classic.
Takanori Hatakeyama (23-1-2, 18) vs Hiroyuki Sakamoto (35-4, 25)
In 1999 Takanori Hatakeyama retired from boxing following his his loss Lakva Sim, a loss that saw him lose the WBA Super Featherweight. That retirement didn't last long however and less than a year later Hatakeyama returned to the ring and stopped Gilberto Serrano to become a 2-weight champion, claiming the WBA Lightweight title with an 8th round win over Serrano. Prior to his retirement Hatakeyama had been one of the biggest names in Japanese boxing and had a reputation as a must watch fighter. His bouts provided a lot of action, and contests against Koji Arisawa, Yong Soo Choi and Lakva Sim were amazing bouts. After winning the WBA Lightweight title he made it clear he wanted to make his first defense against countryman Hiroyuki Sakamoto.
Whilst Hatakeyama was now a 2-weight world champion Sakamoto had come up short in 3 previously world title bouts, including a loss to the aforementioned Gilberto Serrano in a thrilling but short bout. He had become one of Japanese boxing's nearly men, and despite his set backs he had remained a popular fighter due to his will to win, his exciting contests and his heavy hands. He had twice dropped Serrano in their bout before facial damage saw him being stopped in what was a great bout. He was tough, vicious and, like Hatakeyama, he knew how to give fans the action and excitement they expected.
Fans had come into this expecting something special. On paper the men were made for each other. They were both aggressive, exciting fighters who loved to get in the ring and have a war. Those expectations were met from the opening seconds with the two men getting to it almost immediately and firing off heavy shots on the inside straight away. It seemed like, for once, it was Hatakeyama who was being forced to back up as Sakamoto unloaded huge hooks on the champion, before the champion fired back himself, in an opening round that needs to be seen to be believed. It left both men looking like they had swelling on their face, and that was just the first 3 minutes.
Having started at an exceptional pace it wasn't a surprise to see both men continue to let bombs go on each other. As with almost all Hatakeyama fights this was thrilling action and heavy bombs away stuff, with the two trading some brilliant leather on the inside. Regularly it looked like Sakamoto was the stronger, more imposing guy, determined to make the most of his 4th world title fight, but Hatakeyama was the more skilled, controlling the action better, despite seeming to be the smaller men.
As the bout went on the action continued to be fought at a high pace, but it seemed to be taking it's toll on the challenger, who struggled as the bout continued. Despite that he continued to come forward and kept trying. Even when he was shaken Sakamoto stood his ground and tried to fire off, continuing to give everything he had to try and take the title from his hugely popular foe.
This isn't the best of the great wars we've seen from Hatakeyama in this series, but it's yet another amazing bout from Hatakeyama, who admitted after the bout that Sakamoto's punches were the most intense he ever felt. This was brutal, brilliant and a bout that those who haven't seen really should make time for.
In this series we've looked at lots of fights and a number of those have featured the same fighter several times. When those particular fighters, such as Rex Tso or Yon Soo Choi, are involved we know to expect something special. Today we feature two series regulars facing off in what was another Close Classic from the late 1990s.
Takanori Hatakeyama (22-0-2, 17) Vs Lakva Sim (10-1-1, 9)
After winning the WBA Super Featherweight title in 1998, in his second attempt at the belt, Takanori Hatakyama made his first defense against Saul Duran, and he earned a draw against the Mexican to retain his title. The exciting Japanese fighter, one of the most popular fighters in the country at the time, would then make his second defense as he took on Mongolian warrior Lakva Sim. At this point in time Hatakeyema was a genuine star, and at 23 years old it was felt he still getting better. His win over Yong Soo Choi, in their second bout, showed improvement from their first bout. As well as improving he was also legitimately regarded one of the most exciting fighters in Asia in the late 1990's.
Lakva Sim entered the bout as a real danger man. His only loss to this point had been a razor thin one to Yong Soo Choi, when Sim challenged the then WBA Super Featherweight champion in just his 6th bout. The only other mark on his record was a draw, in Korea to Bong Chul Kim. Despite those set backs Sim was a real tough out for anyone in the sport. He was physically imposing, heavy handed, set a high work rate and was scarily tough. He was the sort of fighter that took a bomb, and walked forward like it was nothing. He could be out boxed, at least in spurts, but was so aggressive and tough that eventually he found ways to drag fighters into his fight. When they did they took incredible punishment, win or lose.
Unsurprisingly this bout started with Hatakeyama fighting smartly, creating distance and trying to work at range with his footwork. It was the tactic that had helped him to beat Choi in their second bout, and was the type of tactic that was going to be needed to beat Sim, however as with Choi rematch he was also going to need to get Sim's respect.
Hatakeyama kept a similar game plan in round 2 as he did in the opening round, trying to use his feet to create space and negate Sim's pressure. Sadly though his inability to get Sim's respect meant the Mongolian was beginning to build momentum behind his offensive work and gradually began forcing his fight on Hatakeyama. The Japanese fan favourite landed some of the more eye catching blows in the round, but it was clear that Sim was starting to get into his range.
After a couple of decent, but not quite sensational rounds, things really came alive in round 4 as Sim's pressure forced Hatakeyama to really begin to fight fire with fire, and that's where the bout picked up, quickly going from a good fight in a thrilling one. It was clear that Sim was working his way into things but Hatakeyama wasn't overwhelmed, and was having moments of his own. Could the local star hold on, and find a way to neutralise the pressure, or was the challenger going to grind him down?
Whilst not a brutal 12 round fight, like some other Hatakeyama and Sim fights, this was still a thrilling action fight, and real proof of toughness, from both men, for as long as it lasted.
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.
Often in boxing if we see two men clash in a thriller we want an immediate rematch. Sadly quite often when we get them it's not quite as good the second time around. The punishment of their first bout, and experience of sharing the ring with their opponent, came make a rematch feel somewhat disappointing given how good the first was. Sure we get the odd bout where the sequel is just as good, it's rare for the sequel to be better than the first.
Today we look at rare bout where the rematch was probably better, and where the experience of the first bout between the two men was a positive. It allowed both fighters to tweak their game plans, but not negatively impact the bout, and like their first contest the two men took part in exhilarating war.
Yong Soo Choi (24-2-1, 14) vs Takanori Hatakeyama (21-0-1, 17) II
In 1997 Yong Soo Choi had travelled over to Japan to record his 6th defense of the WBA Super Featherweight title, fighting to a draw in a 12 round thriller with Takanori Hatakeyama. That was their first bout, and that was a strong contender for the 1997 Fight of the Year. It was a thriller, with the two men landing huge shots through out in what was an instant classic.
Following their first contender Choi had return to Korea and made his 7th defense of the title, stopping Gilberto Serrano in Seoul, in 9 rounds. That win over Serrano had seen Choi being behind on two of the score cards be he finally got to a tiring Serrano with some huge booming hooks. After dropping Serrano Choi knew he had his man there to take when the bout resumed and he quickly dropped him a second time. Despite the win the result really covered over what had been a rather poor performance from Choi, who had looked slower, older, and wilder than he had in previous fights. He had looked like someone who had lost something, though it was little surprise given the sheer number of wars he had been in during title reign.
Choi wasn't the only getting a win in after the first bout between the two men, with Hatakeyama scoring one of his career defining wins, a stoppage over Koji Arisawa in what has been dubbed "the biggest Japanese title fight". Whilst Choi had looked looked poor in his interim bout Hatakeyama had looked the opposite. He had looked like a man who had learned from 12 rounds with Choi and he really shone in his win over Arisawa, in what is a real must watch for fans of this series. Now aged 23 Hatakeyama had matured a bit more, physically, from their first bout and had knew he could go 12 with Choi, having done so in their first bout.
As anyone who saw their first will know, these two matched each other well. Both were tough guys, heavy handed, liked to let shots go and had staggering wills to win. Stylistically they were made for each other. Although Hatakeyama was just that little bit quicker Choi was physically more imposing and that made their first bout so compelling. It turned out their second bout would be just as good.
The first round wasn't as thrilling as it had been in their first bout. Hatakeyama seemingly aware that he could outbox Choi, if he stuck to a game that involved creating distance and using his speed. Of course trying to use his legs was always going to be a draining strategy, especially if he couldn't get Choi's respect. With that in mind he knew he'd have to hold his ground sometimes, and when he did the bout came alive, with the two men launching huge bombs at each other.
Despite the tweak to Hatakeyama's style it actually only helped the bout, as it limited the amount of time the two guys were too close, to work, and reduced the number of clinches.
As the bout went on the action got more and more violent, with round 8 being absolutely sensational, and one of the best rounds of 1998. And that wasn't even the end as the two men continued chip away at each other and knock absolute lumps out of each other.
We won't ruin how this ends, but like their first bout, if you've never seen it you owe yourself the opportunity to watch this thrilling, punishing and hotly contest war between two men who were just amazingly well matched and made for absolute barn burners!
When you get two exciting, tough fighters you tend to expect an expect an exciting fight. Today we look at one such bout as one of the most exciting Korean's of the 90's took on one of the most exciting Japanese fighters of the same time in their first, of two, sensational bouts the men had. Sadly we sit here in 2020 and neither of the men involved are remembered as big names internationally, but both are still significant in boxing in their homelands. Thankfully being able to talk about a fight like this gives us a rare opportunity to shine a light on both men.
Yong Soo Choi (23-2, 13) vs Takanori Hatakeyama (20-0, 16) I
Korean warrior Yong Soo Choi was a fantastic action fight, who was limited, but aggressive, tough and heavy handed. He had claimed the WBA Super Featherweight title in October 1995, when he stopped Victor Hugo Paz. As a champion he was known for having exciting wars, with two all out thrillers against Yamati Mitani and a war with Lakva Sim. By the time we got to October 1997 he had notched 5 defenses and was already established as the sort of fighter who provided fantastic action, no matter who he was up against. Whilst he could put on a thriller with anyone his most exiting fights came against fellow tough guys, who liked to fight with high volume of power shots.
In October 1997 Choi clashed with unbeaten Japanese star Takanori Hatakeyama, a huge popular fighter who's style was some was similar in some ways to Choi's. Although less experienced tan the champion the 22 year old Japanese fighter, did look like the more technically rounded fighter though he was certainly the one stepping up in class and in what was his first world title fight. With a 20-0 record at the time his biggest achievement coming into the fight was an OPBF title reign, despite that he seemed to be developing in to a real star, with an aggressive style and brutal punching power. Given his age he was developing, getting stronger and hadn't had the damaging wars Choi had had.
From the first round it was clear we were set for something special as the two men kept meeting and unloading power shots in some thrilling exchanges. This wasn't the typical feeling out round of a world title bout, but the start of a war between two huge punching, two guys, each trying to out man the other. Choi was the more aggressive, pushing the action, and relying more on his pressure, Hatakeyama the one more willing to give ground, use his feet and create space, but time and time again the two men just met head on.
Round by round the action grew, along with some swelling around the challenger's face, a result of the power shots he was being caught by. Despite being the younger, fresher man it was Hatakeyama who was showing signs of damage whilst the rocked faced Choi never showed any damage, despite taking share of clean shots.
The exchanges up close became more and more frequent as the bout went on, with Hatakeyama's legs slowing due to the tempo of the war. The bout began to slow later on, with the exchanges being less frequent, but when they happened they were just as brutal with holes in the defenses of both men becoming wider and more open.
If you've not seen this one you owe yourself the 50 minutes or so it takes to watch two men beat the snot out of each other in a genuine 1997 Fight of the Year contender. This is brutal, explosive, competitive, damaging and chapter 1 of a 2 chapter series between men, who were very hard to split across their two fights.
So this is the 4th in our mini series looking at Asian boxers in commercials and today we do a special looking at 5 adverts that were based around food and drink, and trust there's more of these for future editions of this series. In fact it appears food and drink is probably the #1 subject for Asian fighters to advertise!
Joichiro Tatsuyoshi - Stir Fried Beef
Whilst we said food and drink was the #1 subject for Asian fighters to be involved in commercials for, we didn't say they were all good, and that's obvious here in a 1994 advert featuring Japanese icon Joichiro Tatsuyoshi. For those saw edition 2 of this series you should be aware Tatsuyoshi didn't do a great Nissan commercial, and this wasn't any better. For a guy who oozed natural charisma his adverts were terrible.
Takanori Hatakeyama - Kirin Beer
We like beer! Do you like beer? It seems that Takanori Hatakeyama likes beer! Here we see the popular Hatakeyama bringing in the laundry before the rain begins and enjoying a can of Kirin lager afterwards. This is simple, slightly comedic and essentially void of dialogue. Not the best advert but still an interesting look at Japanese commercials circa 2001...they typically weren't great.
Ryota Murata - Pork miso soup
As we've seen already some Japanese food adverts were awful, though in fairness there does seem to be a bit more polish to this Ryota Murata advert for some a Sukiya product, in fact a soup set. It's not an amazing advert but compared to the two above, it works much better in selling the product, with the product clearly on view.
Guts Ishimatsu - Sweet Gum
When a former boxer has legitimate acting roles you tend to think they can work a commercial, and Guts Ishimatsu can certain work commercials. He's been in a lot of them including this one for a sweet gum. The veteran is a natural on camera and the advert not only looks professional and works and also has a comedic element. A really solid advert for...gum... Nothing amazing, but solid.
Manny Pacquiao - Uni-Pak Sardines
Whilst Guts Ishimatsu has been in a lot of commercials, we believe that Filipino great Manny Pacquiao has been in more, and we mean a lot more. They vary in quality and humour, but the Filipino marketing teams know what they are doing with the "Pacman". Here we have an advert for Uni-Pak Sardines, and this probably the best of the food and drink adverts on this list, with Pacquiao and friends enjoying the sardines. It's light-hearted, it's silly and it's got Pacquiao not taking himself too seriously.
The Japanese domestic has been filled with classics over the years, and it seems that we are adding to that list every few months. Today we take you back to 1988 for a bout that will long in the memories of Japanese fight fans who got a sensational treat for a domestic title. It was a bout between unbeaten men who really showed how much the domestic title meant. It featured one man who went on to win world titles in 2 divisions, and someone who never the chance to win one, despite once looking set to go all the way. Together they made for a sensational bout.
Koji Arisawa (18-0, 15) vs Takanori Hatakeyama (20-0-1, 15)
The 26 year old Koji Arisawa was the unbeaten champion and a rising force on the domestic scene. He had won the title in April 1996, in his 13th bout, and had defended it 5 times, all by stoppage. His 5 combined defenses had taken 25 rounds, and he looked like someone rising and on his way to a Super Featherweight world title fight. He was a known slow started, and could be hurt early, but when he found his groove he was a monster, with high work rate, heavy hand a real mean streak in the ring.
At 22 years old Hatakeyama was the younger fighter, but also the more experienced. He had won the OPBF Super Featherweight title in 1996 and made 3 defenses challenging WBA world champion Yong Soo Choi in 1997. After fighting to a draw with Choi we would see Hatakeyama return to domestic level to face Arisawa. With an unbeaten record, a reputation as an exciting fighter and some able to attract female fans to boxing Hatakeyama had wide appeal and like Arisawa big things were expected from him.
Given the styles, popularity, and the fact both so highly regarded this bout was dubbed the 究極の日本タイトルマッチ (Kyūkyoku no Nihon taitorumatch) "ultimate Japanese title match". Unlike most domestic title matches this wasn't fought at a small venue, like the Korakuen Hall but instead at the Kokugikan, a venue typically used for world title bouts. The purses for both men were huge compared to a typical Japanese title match, and the bout was aired live on Fuji TV, a rarity for a Japanese title fight.
Although their was pressure on both men to deliver that pressure didn't show, and both got down to work early on, with bombs coming from both in the first round. The intensity of the action, and huge crown noises made this more than a Japanese title bout, it made it an event. Regularly the two men would stand together and trade bombs. Whilst the bout was intense, all action and huge shots the two combined all that with crisp punching, both throwing clean shots, and even on the inside they avoiding smothering their work, with both looking to technically correct shots. They both looked to respond after getting hit and given the reputation both had as power punchers there was always the potential for either man to hurt the other.
The longer the but went the more the intensity rose, with both men moving less and trading more, making round 8 a very special round.
A rarity in boxing is a bout living up to expectations, this however very much exceed them, later winning the Japanese award for the fight of the year.
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