This week's Closet Classic isn't one from too long ago, in fact it took place in December 2017 and was a Japanese national title fight between two men who had actually faced off 9 years earlier, in a Japanese Rookie of the Year bout that ended in a 5 round draw. Their rematch was years in the making, and turned out to be a bloody, damaging action packed bout, which was sadly edited down by the TV company showing the bout. Despite the heavy edits the bout is certainly worth a watch
Koichi Aso (22-7-1, 15) Vs Valentine Hosokawa (21-6-3, 9) II
Koichi Aso, who had also fought as Shamgar Koichi, had had a hard career, but a thrilling action packed and exciting one. he was never going to be a world beat, but with his shaven head, high octane aggression and front foot style he made for fan friendly bouts. Sadly for him his aggression had cost him early in his career, and his 2011 loss to Shinya Iwabuchi really did come down to his own aggression and pressure style. As he matured however he tightened up his defenses and developed his all round skills, whilst keeping the same aggressive mentality. This had seen him giving Hiroki Okada fits in 2014 and winning the Japanese title in 2017, when he beat Kazuki Matsuyama. Sadly his 2017 bout with Yusuke Konno, regarded a really special bout by those in the venue, was never shown in any sort of length, with only very short highlights shown, but his second defense was made, mostly, available.
Valentine Hosokawa, at this point, was 36 years old. He had fought to a draw with Aso in the 2008 Rookie of the Year, before winning the tournament. He had managed to battle for titles a few times, giving Shinya Iwabuchi and Min Wook Kim tough bouts in 2013 and given Hiroki Okada fits in 2016, regardless of what the scorecards said. He had proven himself as a capable domestic contender, with a high volume, pressure style, that really did involve him throwing a lot of leather, and taking the fight to his opponent. Given his age, and his sheer number of tough bouts, Hosokawa was seen as a man who was likely on his way out of the sport. He was still good, but certainly seemed to be on his way out, and he had lost 2 of his previous 3 bouts.
Despite the feeling this would be a thriller from the off it really wasn't. The first round was very much a feeling out round, with both men taking their time, to get a read on the other. The power of Aso was clearly something that Hosokawa had to respect, but it was the challenger who seemed to be the one coming forward.
From round 2 however things began to pick up, as Aso's pressure began to rear it's head and forced a tempo to the fight.
Sadly a number of rounds weren't aired from round 2, but when the fight resumed on the TV broadcast we were in round 7, and given how this round went, it was clear the tempo had increased, with both men now starting to really amp up their work rate, this was thrilling action at times, with Aso roaring in and Hosokawa trying to make him pay. Blood was spraying out of Aso's left eye, and both men, knowing the fight was close, were letting big shots go. Both were testing their power against their opponents chins and despite the fight being a bit crude and rough, it was one of those that was hard to look away from.
As we entered the final stages this had broken down from a boxing contest to a fight, a rough, wild fight.
This isn't a beautiful fight to watch, far from it, but it's a tough fight, an action fight, and it turned out to be a bout that seemed to leave Aso a much lesser fighter afterwards. It was clear the two were friends, and it was clear they had shared something brutal together.
Despite having so many missing rounds, this is a bout that we enjoy just as much for the action as the emotion and the respect. This is a bout that shows even fighters who beat each other up can still have massive respect for each other. A classy fight, even if it's not the most action packed or dramatic.
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