When you get two exciting, tough fighters you tend to expect an expect an exciting fight. Today we look at one such bout as one of the most exciting Korean's of the 90's took on one of the most exciting Japanese fighters of the same time in their first, of two, sensational bouts the men had. Sadly we sit here in 2020 and neither of the men involved are remembered as big names internationally, but both are still significant in boxing in their homelands. Thankfully being able to talk about a fight like this gives us a rare opportunity to shine a light on both men.
Yong Soo Choi (23-2, 13) vs Takanori Hatakeyama (20-0, 16) I
Korean warrior Yong Soo Choi was a fantastic action fight, who was limited, but aggressive, tough and heavy handed. He had claimed the WBA Super Featherweight title in October 1995, when he stopped Victor Hugo Paz. As a champion he was known for having exciting wars, with two all out thrillers against Yamati Mitani and a war with Lakva Sim. By the time we got to October 1997 he had notched 5 defenses and was already established as the sort of fighter who provided fantastic action, no matter who he was up against. Whilst he could put on a thriller with anyone his most exiting fights came against fellow tough guys, who liked to fight with high volume of power shots.
In October 1997 Choi clashed with unbeaten Japanese star Takanori Hatakeyama, a huge popular fighter who's style was some was similar in some ways to Choi's. Although less experienced tan the champion the 22 year old Japanese fighter, did look like the more technically rounded fighter though he was certainly the one stepping up in class and in what was his first world title fight. With a 20-0 record at the time his biggest achievement coming into the fight was an OPBF title reign, despite that he seemed to be developing in to a real star, with an aggressive style and brutal punching power. Given his age he was developing, getting stronger and hadn't had the damaging wars Choi had had.
From the first round it was clear we were set for something special as the two men kept meeting and unloading power shots in some thrilling exchanges. This wasn't the typical feeling out round of a world title bout, but the start of a war between two huge punching, two guys, each trying to out man the other. Choi was the more aggressive, pushing the action, and relying more on his pressure, Hatakeyama the one more willing to give ground, use his feet and create space, but time and time again the two men just met head on.
Round by round the action grew, along with some swelling around the challenger's face, a result of the power shots he was being caught by. Despite being the younger, fresher man it was Hatakeyama who was showing signs of damage whilst the rocked faced Choi never showed any damage, despite taking share of clean shots.
The exchanges up close became more and more frequent as the bout went on, with Hatakeyama's legs slowing due to the tempo of the war. The bout began to slow later on, with the exchanges being less frequent, but when they happened they were just as brutal with holes in the defenses of both men becoming wider and more open.
If you've not seen this one you owe yourself the 50 minutes or so it takes to watch two men beat the snot out of each other in a genuine 1997 Fight of the Year contender. This is brutal, explosive, competitive, damaging and chapter 1 of a 2 chapter series between men, who were very hard to split across their two fights.
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