This weekly feature is one of our favourites to do, and is a great chance to rewatch some amazing bouts from the past. This week we go back to 1994 for an instant classic, and one of the most watched all-Japan bouts in history. It's a bout that was a product of the WBC having an interim champion and a real champion unifying the titles, and was something that exceeded the high expectations that many in Japan had for the bout, and was a massive ratings success across various Japanese regions.
Yasuei Yakushiji (22-2-1, 16) Vs Joichiro Tatsuyoshi (10-1-1, 8)
In one corner was WBC "regular" Bantamweight champion Yasuei Yakushiji, a star in the Chukyo region where the bout was held. Yakushiji had suffered 2 losses early in his career, when he started 2-2, but had gone 20-0-1 following that run. He had claimed the WBC title in December 1993 when he beat Korean Jung-Il Byun, and had defended the belt twice, including stopping Byun in a rematch. Although not a name that was known on the wider boxing world, he was a solid and well respected Japanese fighter who had made his name as the star fighter of the Matsuda gym.
Interestingly Yakushiji got his opportunity at Byun due to stepping in as a substitute for Jocihiro Tatsuyoshi, who had had to cancel a bout due to an eye injury.
Whilst Tatsuyoshi had missed out on a bout with Byun he was actually the interim champion, having won that title back in July 1993 when he beat Victor Rabanales in their second clash. Sadly it was that bout that saw Tatsuyoshi suffer his eye injury and take almost a year away from the ring. Despite the lengthy break from the ring he was still a Japanese boxing megastar, and just 5 months prior to facing Yakushiji he had made his US debut, stopping Josefino Suarez on an Elorde card in Hawaii. Enigmatic, with an exciting and unique style, Tatsuyoshi was the Japanese megastar of his era.
The bout, held in Nagoya, saw Yakushiji get home advantage but even as the away fighter Tatsuyoshi had a huge fan base at the Rainbow Hall, with fans from Osaka following their hero across the country as well as local fans who were fans of the style and personality of the Osakan.
From the opening round it was clear that Tatsuyoshi was going to be on the outside, fighting behind a very busy jab and on his toes. He was the quicker, more agile man and the one with the smarter feet. Yakushiji on the other hand was going to have to press the fight, and take shots to get at "Joe of Naniwa".
By round 2 Yakushiji was starting to find his own range as the bout moved from first gear, into second gear and the action began to pick up. From there on things just got better and better as the two men really began to get the best out of each other in a brilliant, thrilling, technical and highly competitive back and forth. It wasn't a brawl with wild and reckless bombs in the early stages, but was a brilliant technical war, with both men using their jabs to unlock the bigger artillery in their arsenals. Even when the pattern changed, and Yakushiji got on the back foot things were still real technical exciting.
In the middle round the action heated up further, we again weren't seeing brawling, as such, but very technically correct and exciting action. Punches were at mid-to-close range, they were traded back and forth and they were clean shots. Very rarely did we see the two men falling into each other, or being forced into a clinch as they responded with shots when they were tagged, rather than smothering.
We won't ruin the bout totally, but if you like excellent, high level, aggressive boxing, this is a special fight, with an excellent atmosphere, and was the first time, in history two Japanese fighters fought to unify world titles, the WBC "regular" and WBC "interim" titles. The fact this was such a fantastic bout makes it a genuine must watch, for every fight fan!
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