With just a few days to go until the anticipated Japanese Super Bantamweight title fight between Yusaku Kuga (19-4-1, 13) and Gakuya Furuhashi (26-8-1, 14) we've decided to share 5 of the very best bouts for the title, and it is a title with a long history, date back to the 1960's, well before the WBC and WBA crowned their first champions.
Sadly a lot of the pre-1980's fights aren't ones we currently have access too, however we feel the 5 we're going to share today are really great fights an should help get you in the mood for the violence we're set to get this coming Friday.
(Note - These are listed in DATE order)
Takuya Muguruma (20-1-1, 14) vs Kazuo Osamu (17-4-2, 11) 
Although sadly a forgotten man among Western fight fans Takuya Muguruma was a man who was rarely in a dull fight. Dubbed the "Endless Fighter" Muguruma came to fight and fight hard every time he stepped in the ring. He wasn't the most polished but was a man who threw a lot of leather and later went on to win the WBA Bantamweight title. In his 7th defense of the title he took on Kazu Osamu who had been stopped in 3 of his 4 losses, but came into the ring here with a point to prove, knowing this was likely to be his one and only shot at the title. Together they brought us a pretty damn brutal fight, with round 3 in particularly being thrilling back and forth round. This is high octane stuff from the off, though that was typical of Muguruma fights from the time.
Mark Horikoshi (17-1, 13) vs Naoto Takahashi (15-2, 10) 
When we first thought about doing this article there was one bout immediately put down on the list and that was the sensational 1989 war between defending champion Mark Horikoshi and popular challenger Naoto Takahashi. This bout, still regarded as one of the very best fights in Japanese boxing history, was really something special and managed to thrill everyone at the Korakuen Hall. This one started technically, with the two men finding their range, but picked up rapidly and rounds 3 and were amazing, before the bout found a whole new gear. Sadly neither man would go on to achieve much after this. Takahashi was essentially ruined by wars catching up with him just a few years later whilst Horikoshi would return to the USA, where he born, and go 3-5. Like Takahashi he too was a ruined fighter after this war.
Manabu Saijo (10-1, 7) vs Susumu Toyosato (9-0, 7)
A rarely spoken about fight from 1990 saw the once beaten Manabu Saijo clash with the unbeaten Susumu Toyosato for the vacant Japanese title, which had been given up by the winner of the previous bout. This one was over-shadowed by the previous contest, but the two men fought like a pair of men each looking to leave their man on the sport. It had everything we could hope to see, including a lot of action, a lot of drama and both being men hitting the canvas, in fact both were dropped in round 2. Whilst this isn't the Horikoshi Vs Takahashi bout it is a genuinely sensational fight that at times is uncomfortable to watch, but is thoroughly jaw dropping.
Rikiya Fukuhara (18-1-1, 14) vs Daisuke Yamanaka (18-2, 13)
Another often overlooked bout was the 2006 war between defending champion Rikiya Fukuhara and determined challenger Daisuke Yamanaka who gave us something that was truly spectacular. Coming in to this one Fukuhara was seeming his second defense and he had won his last 9 in a row, with 7 of those wins coming by stoppage. He had been a brutally destructive puncher on the domestic scene and had been one of the men expected to go on to have a lengthy reign and a successful career. Yamanaka on the other hand was riding a 6 fight winning run, with 5 of his wins by stoppage. Both men were known to be heavy handed, both had strong domestic followings and together they had the crowd in a frenzy almost from the off. The in ring mentality of the two men, and their styles gelled perfectly giving us a brutal battle where huge shots were landed time and time again. This was a damn brutal bout that deserves to be seen.
Note - The sound for this video is oddly in mono, so those watching with headphones will sadly only hear sound in one ear.
Ryoichi Tamura (12-3-1, 6) vs Yusaku Kuga (17-3-1, 12) II
To end this we're looking at a super recent fight from 2019, but a super brutal bout between two men who had already shared the ring in an hellacious struggle a few years earlier. Coming in to this the champion was the all action Ryoichi Tamura, a tough nut who threw a lot of leather and despite not being a big puncher always came into the ring looking to have a fight. In the opposite corner was former champion Yusaku Kuga, who had previously beaten Tamura when he held the title. Given their first bout was a brutal war we knew we expected something similar here in their rematch. The two men didn't disappoint in a bout that had intense action, drama and jaw dropping determination. This was brilliant, and for those tuning in on Friday this is well worth a watch.
Today we delve into the Closet to pull out a classic that has long been over-looked, for far too long. It was a bout that brought excitement, a high level of activity, and styles that gelled well. Given their was some amazing fights right through the 1980's we under-stand why this one was over-looked but it's one that deserves a lot more attention than it seems to get. In fact it rarely ever gets mentioned online, despite being world title bout between heavy handed guys, and being a great, great fight to watch.
Takuya Muguruma (26-2-1, 20) vs Wilfredo Vazquez (26-3-1, 22)
Japan's Takuya Muguruma is one of the countries least well remembered champions. The man from Osaka won the WBA Bantamweight title in March 1987 but lost it less than 2 months later, losing a thrilling bout to Chan Young Park in 11 rounds. His short reign, added to the fact that he's an Osakan fighter fighting at Bantamweight and never fought outside of Asia, do hurt his profile in some ways. Despite the low profile internationally Muguruma knew how to fight. He was heavy handed and fought with an all out aggressive style. He was a marauding nightmare and his only clear loss in 29 bouts, up to this point, had been the loss to Park. During his career he had had built his name domestically on his Japanese title run before stopping Azael Moran for the vacant WBA Bantamweight title. Less than a year after losing his title he got a chance to reclaim the WBA Bantamweight title.
Opposite to Muguruma was Puerto Rican puncher Wilfredo Vazquez. Vazquez had come up shot in his first world bout, losing to Miguel Lora in 1986, but had then travelled to South Korea and dethroned Chan Young Park, the man who had beaten Muguruma. In his first defense of the title Vazquez would travel to Japan and take on Muguruma, giving the Japanese fighter a chance to recapture his title. Despite being a world champion at this point he was relatively unknown himself, and was a long way from becoming a 3-weight world champion. Better known for his other title reigns, that came later in his career, Vazquez was a big puncher, and he carried that power up to Featherweight with no issues. Now a days he is pretty well remembered, and his son would later win a world title, but at this point in time he was fairly unknown.
Given the traits of the two men involved, Muguruma's in your face aggression and Vazquez's huge power and under-rated boxing skills, this had the potential to be very exciting and very explosive.
In the opening minute or so it looked like the boxing skills of Vazquez were going to be the key and he backed up Muguruma early on before the Japanese fighter turned things. For almost 40 seconds at the end of the round Vazquez was forced to fight off the ropes, with Muguruma pinning him there. Vazquez slipped, ducked and dived well, but the back and forth was intense. This wasn't typical opening round action, this was instead intense and thrilling.
Round 2 saw the hot action from the end of the opening round continued and Muguruma was forcing the pressure on to Vazquez, who again found himself pinned on the ropes. Once again the action was back and forth, with both fighting at an incredible pace up close. Muguruma didn't seem to care about Vazquez's reputation as a brutish puncher, and was instead the one taking the fight to him. The action got off the ropes early in round 3, but we again saw the man trading up close, and Muguruma seemed intend on forcing Vazquez back against the edges of the ring, pressing forward with with an intense will to win. Eventually the challenger backed the champion on to the ropes and the two began to unload in a thrilling back and forth once again.
As the bout went on Muguruma started to pay for his aggression, his face swelling badly, and Vazquez managed to begin boxing, moving and using his more accomplished skill set to take come back into the bout and force Muguruma backwards, turning the tables completely.
For those who like action, intensity, heart and desire this is a brilliant lost gem of a fight. It's one of those really amazing, yet over-looked bouts, that fans really owe themselves a chance to see. It really is an incredible bout and one that deserves so much more attention and fanfare than it gets. A true war fought at an incredible level with two men who matched each other wonderfully.
Sometimes the best fights are the very small hall bouts that only a handful of people see. The ones fought away from TV cameras. Other times we get in world title bouts that go massively over-looked, and years on need fans to essentially rediscover them, despite the fact they are fought at a very high level. Today we look at one of those lost world title bouts in out latest Closet Classic. It was a bout from 1987 that many fans won't have seen, but they should!
Takuya Muguruma (25-1-1, 19) vs Chan Young Park (24-3-2, 7)
In one corner was WBA Bantamweight champion Takuya Mugurma, a Japanese fighter from Osaka who had been on a bit of a tear. No one would saw Muguruma was the best fighter out there but he had gone unbeaten since a split decision loss, in Korea, to Youn Kap Choi. That bout had followed a draw with Eiji Oyama. Following those two marks on Muguruma's record he had refused to let the judges get involved in his fights, scoring 7 straight T/KO's, including a 5th round KO of Azael Moran for the WBA Bantamweight. Although he had originally fought at 122lbs Muguruma dropped down in weight to win the WBA Bantamweight title, and was looking like a man in great form.
Chan Young Park had had a strange career up to this point. He was 7-2-2 after 11 bouts, and that had included a loss to former world champion Shoji Oguma, when Park was just 18. He had rebuilt from that going 17-1, with his only loss coming to Khaosai Galaxy in 1983, when Park was just 20 years old. The losses to Galaxy and Oguma helped shape Park into becoming a very good young fighter, and he had reeled off 10 wins to earn a shot at Muguruma and the WBA Bantamweight title. He was still some what lacking a big win before this bout, but he did have decent victories over Neptali Alamag and Ernie Cataluna, who were solid regional level fighters.
Despite being a bout for a world title this wasn't going to be a bout that had much attention. It was between two Asian fighters who really hadn't proven themselves as world class fighters. It was the first defense by Muguruma and the first world title bout by Park, not a bout featuring a top name, or between two proven fighters.
What we ended up getting however, was something a little bit special.
From the early moments it was clear Muguruma wasn't expecting Park to be able to take his power. The Japanese champion pressed forward through out the round and landed some huge shots, including a massive right hand in the first minute. Park took it well, and tried to respond, but was often found being backed up by the power and aggression of Muguruma. Muguruma was intent on not letting Park settling early and continued to aggressively press in round 2. To his credit Park tried to spoil when he needed to, and elected to fight fire with fire and and when he felt comfortable doing so. Despite being backed up it was Park landing the cleaner shots for the most part, and showing himself to be a smart fighter against the aggression of Muguruma.
With the first 2 rounds being violent, and with Muguruma putting some much into them, he seemed to begin to slow a touch in round 3. It wasn't massively noticeable, and he was still full of fire, but his aggression was being blunted just a touch easier. With that happening Park was beginning to stand his ground a bit more, and even forced the champion back a time or two as he began to pick up his pace. Muguruma went down part way through the round, but that was from a nasty clash of heads, rather than a punch. We now had some controversy as Muguruma got time to recover, just as it had began to look like he was slowing.
On the restart Muguruma still seemed a little hazy but quickly found his focus and range. Sadly for the champion the short break didn't really affect Park at all, and the Korean continued to land the better shots.
In the middle rounds Muguruma's face was beginning to look a mess, with some clear swelling around the eyes, he was however not deterred and continued to throw shots, despite the amount of punishment he was taking. Park continued to be the smarter fighter, clinching, countering, out boxing and out thinking Muguruma, but the champion seemed to be spurred by something else, and in round 6 he began to land some huge shots as the two men found themselves trading. By now the bout was taking on a life of it's own.
With both men digging in deep and unloading huge bombs on each other it was becoming obvious that this wasn't going to go the distance. The real question however was regarding who was going to stop who. Was Park going to take out the determined, though crude, champion or was the power and aggression of Muguruma going to break down Park? We'll leave that to you to enjoy.
Whilst it can be hard to REALLY know whether a bout ruined a fighter, we wouldn't be surprised if this helped speed up the retirements of both men. Both took a lot of punishment here, and it's quite possible that neither man was ever quite the same afterwards. This was brutal, punishing, and fantastic 2-way action, well worthy of 50 minutes of any fight fans time!
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