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!
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