Every so often we end up with a bout that really deserves a lot more attention than it gets, and today we look at one of those bouts. In fact we look at a bout that helped boost the career of one of the most exciting men of the 1990's, and was a bout that saw East and West collide as a Japanese world champion faced an Irish challenger in what was a great battle in Nagoya.
Yasuei Yakushiji (24-2-1, 16) Vs Wayne McCullough (16-0, 13)
Japanese fighter Yasuei Yakushiji was a major player in the Bantamweight scene in the early 1990's. He had won the WBC Bantamweight title in 1993 when he was a replacement for Joichiro Tatsuyoshi, and beat Korean Jung Il Byun. The decision over Byun was regarded as a robbery, even in Japan, leading to a rematch in July 1994, which Yakushiji won by 11th round TKO. That lead to a bout between Yakushiji and Tatsuyoshi, which was a massive fight in 1994. Yakushiji narrowly over-came the hugely popular Tatsuyoshi to record his third defense, and unify the WBC and WBC "interim" titles. An close decision win over Cuauhtemoc Gomez followed for his 4th title defense before he took on unbeaten Irishman Wayne McCullough. By this point Takushiji was getting a reputation for getting the nod in close decisions. It was clear he was a talented, tough, fit, hungry fighter, but also a very flawed one who relied on his toughness and stamina, and not his skills.
In 1992 Wayne McCullough had represented Ireland at the Olmpics, and had won an Olmypic silver medal. Followinf that he turned professional, doing so in Las Vegas, and had won his first 16 bouts, including a solid win over former Tatsuyoshi opponent Victor Rabanales. In the ring McCullough was a talented boxer, as had been seen from his performance in the Olmypics, and had adapted quickly to the professional scene. He had proven himself to be a solid puncher, with an amazing engine and a sensational chin. It was always going to take a top level fighter to beat him due to his work rate and toughness, and it was hard to think of many fighters who match him punch for punch. On paper this was a step up from the fighters he had been facing in the professional ranks, it was also seen as a big chance for him to make a name for himself. Sadly though he knew he was up against it with the fight coming in Nagoya, where Yakushiji was a star.
Given both guys could take a shot, both could fight at a solid pace and both had respectable power this looked good on paper. Even if we were expecting potentially dodgy scorecards it still looked like we were going to get something very special.
Straight from the off this was starting fast with McCullough fighting like a man who knew he had to impress the judges and make every round clear. Yakushuji on the other hand tried to respond to the high tempo that McCullough was setting, and as a result we had some brilliant back and forth through the opening round. This wasn't crude brawling but was aggressive, exciting and thrilling boxing. Things were, for the most part, being thrown properly, jabs were being used to set up other shots and the pace of everything looked like it was being shown in fast forward. This looked less like a real life fight and more like a fight from a movie.
Of course after 2 fast rounds at an insane pace we would have expected the action to slow down, and whilst it did it wasn't the typical "slow down" that we would expect and it was still a high tempo war. Round after round, after round, we just waited for a man to make a mistake as the other looked to unload, giving us some absolutely insane exchanges. For the most part it was the challenger coming forward and letting his shots to go and Yakushiji trying to use his feet, but when they both let their hands go we were getting sparks of something truly fantastic with both desperate to land the last blow in an exchange.
For those who haven't seen this this is really worth a watch. A brilliant yet forgot instant classic between two men who had styles and hunger that made for something fantastic!
Following this bout Yakushiji would retire whilst McCullough would go on to have an excellent career, marred by a long battle out of the ring with the BBBofC regarding a brain scan. He would later release his autobiography "Pocket Rocket: Don't Quit" which is an interesting and insightful read and become a trainer. Yakushiji on the other hand opened up a gym in Japan.
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