Earlier in this series we looked at a brilliant 2002 Japanese Flyweight title bout between two men who were amazingly well matched and gave us something very special. The two men in question would then rematch the following year and once again they delivered a sensational war. That bout, like their first one, has made it's way into our ever growing Closet Classic series!
For those who haven't seen it, let us bring the second bout in the Sakata Vs Nakanuma rivalry!
Takefumi Sakata (19-1-1, 8) vs Trash Nakanuma (23-2, 10) II
In 2001 Takefumi Sakata had claimed the Japanese Flyweight title, with a close win over Masaki Kawabata. He had then reeled off 3 defenses of the title, including a very hotly debated one with Daisuke Naito. Just over a year after winning the title however he would go on to lose the belt in a nail biting action bout against Trash Nakanuma. That bout was sensational, with the two men matching each other perfectly and delivering a 10 round thriller.
Following his title loss Sakata had rebuilt with two wins. One of those saw him take a technical decision over former OPBF Light Flyweight champion Koki Tanaka whilst the other saw him stopping former world title challenger Jin Ho Kim. Those bouts kept Sakata in the mix and in April 2003 he got a chance to reclaim his title as he got a rematch with Nakanuma.
Despite the almost negative and derogatory sounding name Trash Nakanuma was one of the most under-rated Flyweights of his era and an absolute nightmare to fight. He wasn't the quickest or most technically sharp fighter but he was teak tough, incredibly strong and had brilliant stamina. He was the sort of fighter who wouldn't look amazing on the eye test but gave everyone he faced real problems, and later went on to give Pongsaklek Wonjongkam one of his toughest bouts. Although very good he could be seen as a bit of a slow starter at times and one of those fighters who grew into bouts as they went on.
After beating Sakata in their first bout Nakanuma had made two defenses of the belt, stopping both Ryo Kitano and Takeyuki Kojima, and was looking to score a 22nd straight win as he entered this bout with Sakata.
Given the fact the two men had engaged in a 10 round war just a year earlier the two fighters knew each other well and that showed from the off.
Early on it was Sakata who seemed to start better, taking center ring, but Nakanuma picked his spots well and landed some of the more eye catching shots in the first minute. The round didn't quite have the same tempo as their first bout, but it was certainly not a typical, slow feeling out round with both men letting some heavy leather go in a very competitive round.
The pace began to pick up further in round 2 with Sakata again the one taking center ring to begin with but around mid way point Nakanuma began to come forward more himself and put his foot on the gas. When this happened the two men engaged in some great back and forth. The bout moved up again in round 3 as we saw the tempo continue to build. One again Sakata was the one pressing and letting his shots go, whilst Nakanuma looked to counter, land the smarter shots and pick his moments. This smarter, game plan from Nakanuma resulted in him shaking Sakata, who's toughness saw him through some stormy moments in round 3 before ending the round well.
Sakata looked to bounce back early in round 4 but Nakanuma was looking to prevent the challenger from taking over and again landed the better single shots in what a thrilling and intense round of action. From here the bout just kept getting better and better, with the intensity increasing from both fighters. It seemed both men knew the action was close and felt they needed to do more than the other to try and differentiate themselves. This lead to some amazing back and forth, thrilling exchanges and a really intriguing style clash as Sakata continued to use volume whilst Nakanuma's heavier, cleaner shots caught the end more.
We won't ruin what happens in the final half of the fight, but this is one of those bouts that's starts good, gets really good and then gets even better. Each round gets better than the one it follows, building to a sensational finish.
This is a real hidden gem well worthy of a watch!
There is something special at the Japanese domestic scene, and it seems that it gives amazing fights on an incredibly regular basis. There are, of course, some poor fights in Japan but there's a lot of great fights and a lot of those manage, some how, to go under the radar of the wider boxing public. Some bouts from Japanese domestic scene do however get an international following on the cult scene, and today we at one of those rare bouts that has gotten some international attention among hardcore fans.
Takefumi Sakata (17-0-1, 7) vs Trash Nakanuma (20-2, 8) I
In one corner was Japanese Flyweight champion Takefumi Sakata, who was seeking his 4th defense of the title. Sakata, known as "Burning Fist", was unbeaten and the only mark on his record was his controversial draw with Daisuke Naito in 2001, so controversial that one of Naito's team mates ended up getting suspended by the JBC for his protest which went well beyond the realms of a typical protest. Up to this point the 22 year old had proven himself a talented individual, with a lot of promise but very much bubbled below the limelight. Whilst he would, later on, win a world title he was never a huge star but was often a very fun fighter to watch, and he combined toughness and will to win, with under-rated skills and stamina. A lack of power certainly prevented him from being a big star, but he certainly left his mark on the sport.
Aged 27 Trash Nakanuma is one of those many fighters from the International Boxing Gym who had a name that stood out. The gym had a knack of having fighters adopted names, and it certainly helped the gym's fighters get attention. Like many of those "re-named" fighters Nakanuma was a real talent. He was physically strong, had under-rated ability and incredible fitness. He had turned professional in 1993 and despite losing 2 of his first 4 bouts he had really found his form, reeling off 18 straight wins. Up to this point his most notable victory was against the then unbeaten Panieng Poontarat, who was 24-0, but it was clear he had ability, promise and was coming into his physical prime. Despite being 27 he was a physically "young" 27 having spent almost 2 years out of the ring following a battle with meningitis.
Straight from the opening bell Sakata came out firing, pressing Nakanuma backwards and putting the challenger on to the ropes. Nakanuma used his footwork to get off the ropes but the intention from Sakata was clear. He was going to look to dictate the pace, and we weren't going to get a feeling out round. Just a minute into the bout the two men stood head to head and looking to fight on the inside. Nakanuma was the one showing the more versatile skills, mixing it on the inside and getting away, but it was the fire of "Burning Fist" that burned brightly and he was the one forcing the bout.
The opening round flew with the thrilling we got, 3 minutes of pure intensity. That intensity continued in round 2, though Nakanuma was beginning to hold his feet more, battle on the inside more and picked some fantastic body shots, trying to extinguish the fire of Sakata's attacks. Sakata wasn't having it, and fired back, giving us another 3 minutes of intense and brilliant action.
Needless to say the hunger, desire and work rate of the two men didn't slow down, with the two men fighting tooth and nail round after round in a breath taking bout that saw two men match each other step for step in a sensational war of desire.
For those who love phone booth wars, all action bouts and incredible intensity this is well and truly worthy of a watch. It is such a great fight and is a perfect example of what to expect in Japanese title fights.
These two would clash in a rematch, in what was another amazing battle, and interestingly both of these men would go on to fight for world titles. Sakata would go on to win the WBA Flyweight title whilst Nakanuma twice came up short, but the fact both men went on to fight at that level shows just how good they were, and having them battle for a domestic title was brilliant.
This is incredible, exciting, competitive and wonderfully intense. There isn't a bad minute in the fight and it truly is something very special.
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