Usually in our Closet Classic series we tend to talk about wars, thrillers and action packed bouts with great drama. Today we keep on the drama theme, but we also merge it with a bout that really a technical undressing by a boxing great. That however does not mean it's a bad bout. Far from it in fact. This was really high level stuff and the perfect example of the beauty of boxing.
Yoshiyuki Uchida (21-2-1, 19) vs Gilberto Roman (48-4-1, 34)
In one corner was relatively unknown Japanese challenger Yoshiyuki Uchida, a man that many outside of Japan won't know anything about, and even those in Japan would struggle to remember many of his bouts. Up to this point he had fought 24 pro bouts and won 19 inside the distance but the names on his record didn't really say too much. He had turned professional in 1981 and hadn't really made much of a name for himself in his first 19 bouts, despite going an impressive 17-1-1 (15). It wasn't until his 20th bout that he scored a real win of note, stopping former world champion Koji Kobayashi in 1985, and sending Kobayashi into retirement. In 1986 Uchida lost in a Japanese Flyweight title bout, to Koji Nishikawa, before bouncing back to win the Japanese Super Flyweight title in 1987. Just 10 months later he was getting a shot at the WBC champion Gilberto Roman.
Mexican legend Gilberto Roman is one of the greats at Super Flyweight. A brilliant outside boxer with a fantastic boxing brain. Although not a huge puncher he had more than respectable power to go with his outstanding technical brilliance. He had shown his skills to a Japanese audience in 1986, when he dethroned the Jiro Watanabe, and had then gone on a mini world tour with defenses in France, Argentina, Thailand and Mexico before losing the belt to Santos Laciar on Cuts. He would reclaim the title in 1988, in the US, before returning to Japan to take on Uchida in his first defenses of his second reign. Coming in to this bout Roman had scored notable wins over the likes of Watanabe, Kongtoranee Payakaroon, Frank Cedeno and Sugar Baby Rojas, among others. He was certainly a world class fighter, and a truly exceptional boxer.
From the very first bell what we saw was a pure boxing contest, fought at a super high speed. Both men seemed happy to use their jabs to feel the other out, and both seemed to almost be happier at the same range. Neither man getting too close, as Uchida looked to prove he could box with one of the best pure boxers in the sport. It was a mistake from Uchida to fight this way, but allowed Roman to show case the skills that had seen him become a 2-time champion. Uchida trying to box with Roman was a mistake, especially with his low level of activity. He looked to change that in round 2 but failed, as Roman began to tag him more and more consistently with clean jabs. Everything was clean. There was no holding, and instead it was a genius going to work on someone who didn't deserve to be in the ring with him.
Given that Roman was giving Uchida a boxing less we didn't expect much drama. It was a schooling from the tremendous Mexican. Then in round 4 we finally got drama as Uchida began to chance Roman. He was taking shots as he pressed forward but, after about 50 seconds of the round it paid off, as he dumped the Mexican on to the seat of his pants with a jab. Roman wasn't hurt. Embarresssed, maybe, but certainly not hurt. Uchida however was encouraged and kept coming forward, buoyed on by the fans who had started to believe in their man.
We won't ruin what else happens from here, but for those who like clean punching, technical skills, and ring craft this is fantastic. Roman really showing how amazing he was. It's still such a huge shame he was taken before his 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