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!
One of the great things about following this fantastic sport is the ability to lost in brilliant fights. Fights that maybe you weren't aware, or hadn't seen before. Those fights were the entire reason for this weekly series and it's why we're back again today for what was a very under-rated and often forgotten classic from 2004. It features one of the top Flyweights of the 21st century and a man he described as the strongest fighter he ever faced. Together they gave us something really exciting and action packed.
Pongsaklek Wonjongkam (49-2, 26) vs Trash Nakanuma (23-4, 10)
We suspect that Pongsaklek Wonjongkam needs little introduction. The Thai southpaw dominated the Flyweight scene for around a decade, had two lengthy reigns as the WBC Flyweight champion and scored a host of impressive wins. During his impressive career he scored wins against a genuine who's who including Malcolm Tunacao, Luis Alberto Lazarte, Daisuke Naito, Hidenobu Honda, Koki Kameda, Suriyan Sor Rungvisai and Edgar Sosa. Early in his career he was a very solid hitting boxer-puncher but as time went on his power started to dissipate somewhat and unlike many fighters he relied more on his skills, experience and boxing ability. Right through his career however he was always strong, talented and a very good fighter who could box, brawl and punch.
Whilst many will be aware of who Wonjongkam was, and even his biggest wins, they may not be aware of Japan's Trash Nakanuma. The 28 year old was a teak tough, exciting war monger of a fighter. His two bouts with Takefumi Sakata were absolute wars and coming in to this bout he had been a former Japanese Flyweight champion. Coming in to this he had entered back to back losses, but both defeat had been close and he proven himself as a genuine handful. Technically there was limitations with his boxing, but he was a physically imposing fighter who was strong, tough, aggressive, and could box well enough to make his physical traits work well in his favour. Despite his limitations he certainly wasn't "trash", as some might suggest, but he was a damn good fringe contender from time period, and would have been a nightmare for anyone at the time.
From the off it seemed like Wonjongkam was going to have an easy defense. He was forcing Nakanuma back from the off and looked sharper, quicker and much better than the challenger. If anything Nakanuma looked really timid and almost as if the occasion had got to him and frozen him. Nakanuma began to show flashes of aggression in round 2, but was still looking like he was fighting well within himself and not letting his hands go anywhere near enough.
Thankfully as the bout went on and Nakanuma realised he could take the power of Wonjongkam, and then the touch paper was lit as the two began to fight on the inside throwing some bombs in round 3 as the action began to go through the gears. From here on we were getting something really great to watch. Nakanuma regularly applying pressure, Wonjongkam responding with volume and Nakanuma looking to counter.
Round after round the bout got more intense. It was never an all out war, but it wasn't far off and was hotly contested, exciting, with great back and forth. Nakanuma showed off how tough he was by regularly forcing Wonjongkam backwards and his will to win was growing by the round, but his lack of polish was clear with some of his shots missing by some distance. That hard mattered as counters form Wonjongkam just bounced off the challenger.
Whilst won't be remembered as one of the all time great bouts, it is a hidden gem and well and truly worthy of a watch. A very, very exciting bout that gets better and better as it goes on and a genuine closet classic.
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.
We continue our look at under-rated fighters by look at the first decade of this current century and we suspect some of these names will be more familiar to some fight fans than some of the other names we've features.
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.
Jess Maca (Career tally 48-23-6 (18); record during the 00's 11-7-3 (2))
On paper Jess Maca's record for the decade isn't anything to write home about, and his 1990's was a much more productive decade for the "Japanese Killer". The reality however is that he was still very much an under-rated fight in the 2000's, despite only fighting 21 of his 77 career bouts in the decade. He was not only a continual nightmare of an opponent, but also picked up some of best results in a decade where he wasn't his most effective.
Maca entered the decade as the OPBF Bantamweight champion and almost claimed the PABA "interim" Super Bantamweight title as the decade began, fighting to a draw in Thailand with future world champion Yoddamrong Sithyodthong. In late 2000 he continued his run of form in Japan as he defeated future world champion Katsushige Kawashima. In 2001 he then added wins over Masayuki Arinaga and Ryuichi Minoriyama and Hiroaki Murakoshi before being robbed against Masakazuu Sugawara.
In 2003 Maca's run against Japanese fighters, which had began in the 1990's, came to an end when he was beaten by Hozumi Hasegawa and from there his career never really got going again with regular set backs as he went 6-6-1 and suffered both of his career stoppage losses. Whilst that was a bad run he did still pick up a notable win over Makyo Sugita in Japan and went the distance with Terdsak Kokietgym. Sadly though by 2007 he was a lesser fighter than he once was, and retired following a 2007 loss to Alexander Bakhtin. By that point Maca was 35 and he had seen better days.
Jung-Bum Kim (Career tally 32-3-1 (28); record in the 00's 20-2 (18))
Dubbed the "Oriental Express" Jung Bum Kim was an absolute nightmare on the Oriental scene and he showed it through the decade. He had ended the 1990's as the South Korean Light Welterweight champion and despite losing the belt in 2001, to Hwan Young Park, he quickly reclaimed the title, stopping Sung Woon Cha.
In 2004 Kim moved up in levels and claimed the OPBF title Masakazu Satake in 2 rounds to claim the belt. Sadly following that bout he lost in his US debut, to Arturo Morua, but returned back to Asia and made 5 defenses of the OPBF title, all by stoppage. In fact after losing to Morua we saw Kim go 9-0 (9).
Sadly Kim's competition, for much of the decade, was lacking, but watching him in action it's clear he deserved some better dancer partners. Sadly the era was a bad one at 140lbs for Asian fighters. Wins over Satake and Sataporn Singwancha were as good as things got for him. He could have done more, but was still a total nightmare in a division that was sadly void of regional contenders at the time.
Choi Tseveenpurev (Career tally 36-7-1 (24); record in the 00's 22-2 (14))
British based Mongolian Choi Tseveenpurev had a bizarre decade that could, and probably should, have resulted in a lot more attention than it. He was rough, tough, heavy handed and exciting but sadly spent much of the decade going up against over-matched opposition who really shouldn't have been in the ring with him.
Choi won his first 3 bouts of the decade before losing a decision to Willie Limond in Scotland. Following the loss Choi reeled off 9 straight wins, but they were hard to get too excited about, other than a win over the previously unbeaten Livinson Ruiz. That winning run came to an end in 2004 when he lost a razor thin decision to Lehlo Ledwaba, who had been the IBF Super Bantamweight champion just a few fights earlier. That loss showed that Choi was a good fighter and thankfully acted as a turning point, helping him face better opponents.
Following the Ledwaba bout we saw Choi go 10-0 (8) for the decade and have his most notable wins. They included a decision over the then 9-0 Kevin O'Hara, a KO against the then 13-0 Nikoloz Berkatsashvili, a decision over the then 10-0 Abdul Tebazalwa and a massive KO over the then 20-0 Derry Matthews.
Although not a world beater Choi was a massive danger man, with an iron chin, rock fists and the ability to beat better competition than he faced. A reach shame he didn't get the opportunities his talented deserved more frequently though the decade.
Z Gorres (31-2-2, 17)
The tragedy of Z Gorres is something that every fan from the decade will likely know all too well. Gorres was one a trio of talented Filipino fighters making waves under the ALA banner, alongside Rey Bautista and AJ Banal. Unlike Bautista and Banal however Gorres wasn't a puncher, but was a fantastic boxer with brilliant balance, and boxing IQ. Of the trio Gorres was the most talented and the best boxer, by quit some margin.
After a rather busy start to his professional career, which began in 2000, Gorres would sadly see his unbeaten start come to an end in the summer of 2003, when he was stopped by fellow Filipino Edgar Rodrigo. The loss to Rodrigo was followed by Gorres moving up in weight and scoring noteworthy wins over Sairung Singwancha, Wisanu Kokietgym Glenn Donaire. These led to him getting a world title fight with Fernando Montiel in 2007, and losing a razor thin split decision to the Mexican.
Despite losing to Montiel that wasn't the end for Gorres who would bounce back with a win over Eric Ortiz, a controversial draw with Vic Darchinyan, and noteworthy wins against Cruz Carbajal and Luis Melendez. Sadly however Gorres career came to an end following a brain injury he suffered against Melendez. He was only 27 at the time.
In another timeline Z Gorres was a world champion, sadly however in this one he is one of the unluckiest fighters out there and his career really was ended too soon. He seemed on the verge of a second world title fight, and had been genuinely impressive. A real talent, and one of those sad tales of what could have been. Thankfully Gorres has recovered from his injury enough to enjoy life, but sadly more than a decade later he remains one of the big "what if..." stories of Filipino boxing.
Almazbek Raiymkulov (27-2-1, 15)
There was a time when "Kid Diamond" Almazbek Raiymkulov was looking like he was going to go far in the sport. He was exciting, aggressive and the rare type of fighter that had US TV backing him for a good while, despite being completely unable to pronounce his name. Sadly Raiymkulov failed to reach the heights expected of him, but that's now seen him become rather under-rated now a days.
Raiymkulov began his career in 2001 and won his first 20 bouts before fighting to a draw with Joel Casamayor, a result that looks brilliant on reflection. That draw had followed stoppage wins over the likes of the then 10-0 Ray Narh, Jose Luis Soto Karass and the then 17-0 Koba Gogoladze. Sadly the draw with Casamayor was followed by a loss to Nate Campbell. He would bounce back with wins against the likes of Emanuel Augustus, Miguel Angel Huerta and Javier Jauregui.
Sadly Raiymkulov would end his career after a stoppage loss to Antonio DeMarco. He had failed to reach the heights some had expected for him, but in reality he had a really solid resume and certainly shouldn't be as forgotten as he is now. Not a world champion, but very much a fighter who had a number of solid wins.
Yuki Murai (Career tally 21-18-5 (7)); record during the 00's 13-13-3 (4))
This series has been built around lots of fighters with misleading records, and Yuki Murai is another great example of a misleading record. During the 00's he won less than half of his career bouts, but he faced a who's who, and proved himself as a genuine tough nut giving world class opponents very real tests. From his 12 losses during the decade not a single fighter managed to stop him and instead he was seen a genuine banana skin. A tough, rugged banana skin.
Murai entered the decade with a 2-1-1 record and would fight a number of lower level bouts at the start of the decade, suffering a couple of low key losses along the way. As he began to step up his level of competition however he began to prove himself as an awkward fighter. He managed to push Chatchai Sasakul, Somsak Sithchatchawal, Sompoch Harnvichachai and Teiru Kinoshita, with Kinoshita and Sompoch both being taken right down to the wire.
Although Murai failed to secure any wins of real note in the 00's he managed to give much better fighters, much tougher tests than he had any right to. He was so tough and such a nightmare than no one who got in the ring with him had an easy time and he was being brought over to face title level fighters to help toughen them up test them.
Murai's career was never going to be that of a world champion but he made a career out of being a headache. He was the perfect "journeyman" and managed to give a legitimate effort every time he stepped in the ring.
Vitaliy Demyanenko (Career tally 22-0 (12); record in the 00's 17-0 (11))
In recent years we've seen a lot of notable Kazakh fighters making their mark on the sport. One man who often falls between the cracks in Kazakh boxing history is Vitaliy Demyanenko, who fought much of his career in the 00's and seemed like he was a man close to banging on the door for a big fight, but never landed it.
Demyanenko made his debut in 2005 and reeled off a bunch of low key wins in Kazakhstan before stepping up and beating the likes of Esteban de Jesus Morales, Kiatchai Singwancha, Arnel Tinampay, Anderson Clayton, and even moved over to the US to score a couple of wins before the decade was over.
Whilst Demyanenko is certainly not a "lost Golovkin" his career really could have ended better than it did. His win over Arnel Tinampay showed what he could do, with Demyanenko being one of the few to actually take a clean win over the tough Filipino. He probably deserved a top tier fight before hanging them up, but is instead someone who saw their career fritter away in the early 2010's. A real shame, but also a solid fighter who helped prove their was some capable fighters in Kazakhstan, along with the top, top names.
Norio Kimura (Career tally 35-7-2 (19); record during the 00's 25-4-1 (16))
It's fair to say that Norio Kimura is not a name that will stand out to many, and in fairness it probably shouldn't. He entered the decade 12-3-1 (3) and had won just 1 of his 4 towards the end of the 1990's. He then actually lost his first bout of the 00's. And then he went on a bit of a tear with some notable results and a good climb through the rankings that eventually resulted in a world title fight.
Kimura's most notable results during the decade included a technical draw with Tadashi Yuba, as well as wins over Junichi Ono, Shingo Eguchi, Motoki Sasaki, Shinya Nagase, and Kenryo Matsumoto. He essentially dominated the Japanese domestic scene at 140lbs during the decade, running up an impressive 13 title defenses over a 5 year reign.
Sadly Kimura's career is probably best known internationally for his 2008 loss to Andriy Kotelnik, but the reality is that Kotelnik was never an easy out for anyone and that loss shouldn't over-shadow the fact Kimura was a 2-weight Japanese national champion. The loss to Kotelnik stands out, but his achievements regularly get over-looked.
Nobuhito Honmo (Career tally 29-5-2 (5); record during the 00's 16-2-1 (2))
One of the most criminally under-rated Japanese fighters in recent years was the tough and talented Nobuhito Honmo, who is well known internationally for facing Edwin Valero, but did so much more during career. In fact not did he give Valero one of his toughest bouts but he also recorded a good number of solid wins during the decade.
Honmo had started his career in the 1990's and gone 13-3-1 before we entered the 00's. He hadn't scored any wins of note, and didn't really enter with any real momentum. What little momentum, he did have was pretty much squashed immediately when he lost on his US debut against Amador Vasquez. Following that loss however Honmo went on a 17 fight unbeaten run which included noteworthy wins over Eiichi Sugama, Kinji Amano, to win the Japanese Super Featherweight title, Hidekazu Matsunobu, Koji Arisawa, Tsuyoshi Nakamura, Keita Manabe and Jimrex Jaca, with that win netting Honmo the OPBF title Super Featherweight title.
Sadly for Honmo he would end the decade with a loss, losing in 8 rounds to the then WBA Super Featherweight champion Edwin Valero, becoming only the third man to last more than a round with Valero.
Having book ended the decade with losses Honmo's success in the decade was really credible going 16-0-1 between his defeats. To add in the fact he was a total non puncher makes it even more impressive. He got where he got on skills, durability and ring craft. He was a very smart boxer with a sharp jab and with 8 defenses of the Japanese title he was very much a success story of the decade. Despite the loss to Valero.
Trash Nakanuma (Career tally 27-6 (12); record in the 00's 13-4 (8))
One man who certainly didn't live up to his name was Trash Nakanuma, he certainly wasn't trash. In fact he was one of the more notably Flyweight contenders of the decade and a nightmare to fight. He was physically strong, had a good work rate, incredibly tough and had under-rated power. Those were all tools he showed off against some top fighters during the 00's, before retiring in 2006.
In 2000 Nakanuma recorded 3 wins before upsetting Panieng Poontarat in 2001 to put himself on the map. In 2002 he scored one of the biggest wins of his career, beating Takefumi Sakata in a brilliant bout to claim the Japanese Flyweight title. He would lose the title to Sakata a year later after defending the belt twice. The loss to Sakata was then followed by a razor thin loss to Noriyuki Komatsu and then a very competitive loss to Pongsaklek Wonjongkam. Nakanuma would avenge the loss to Komatsu in 2004 but lost in a second world title fight, to Lorenzo Parra. That was the start of the end for Nakanuma who fought in a couple of low key bouts to end his career.
Although not a world beater the fact Nakanuma pushed both Wonjongkam and Parra close in world title bouts showed he belonged at that level. He held Japanese and OPBF honours and was a very tough man to beat. Yes he lost 4 bouts during the decade but absolutely nobody had an easy time with Nakanuma. He was a real nightmare to fight and deserves more than to be remembered for just his fighting name.
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