We know all about Mexican Machismo, often giving us special all-Mexican bouts, but it appears that all-Japanese fights can give us something very similar. Today we look at one of those in the latest Closet Classic.
Takanori Hatakeyama (23-1-2, 18) vs Hiroyuki Sakamoto (35-4, 25)
In 1999 Takanori Hatakeyama retired from boxing following his his loss Lakva Sim, a loss that saw him lose the WBA Super Featherweight. That retirement didn't last long however and less than a year later Hatakeyama returned to the ring and stopped Gilberto Serrano to become a 2-weight champion, claiming the WBA Lightweight title with an 8th round win over Serrano. Prior to his retirement Hatakeyama had been one of the biggest names in Japanese boxing and had a reputation as a must watch fighter. His bouts provided a lot of action, and contests against Koji Arisawa, Yong Soo Choi and Lakva Sim were amazing bouts. After winning the WBA Lightweight title he made it clear he wanted to make his first defense against countryman Hiroyuki Sakamoto.
Whilst Hatakeyama was now a 2-weight world champion Sakamoto had come up short in 3 previously world title bouts, including a loss to the aforementioned Gilberto Serrano in a thrilling but short bout. He had become one of Japanese boxing's nearly men, and despite his set backs he had remained a popular fighter due to his will to win, his exciting contests and his heavy hands. He had twice dropped Serrano in their bout before facial damage saw him being stopped in what was a great bout. He was tough, vicious and, like Hatakeyama, he knew how to give fans the action and excitement they expected.
Fans had come into this expecting something special. On paper the men were made for each other. They were both aggressive, exciting fighters who loved to get in the ring and have a war. Those expectations were met from the opening seconds with the two men getting to it almost immediately and firing off heavy shots on the inside straight away. It seemed like, for once, it was Hatakeyama who was being forced to back up as Sakamoto unloaded huge hooks on the champion, before the champion fired back himself, in an opening round that needs to be seen to be believed. It left both men looking like they had swelling on their face, and that was just the first 3 minutes.
Having started at an exceptional pace it wasn't a surprise to see both men continue to let bombs go on each other. As with almost all Hatakeyama fights this was thrilling action and heavy bombs away stuff, with the two trading some brilliant leather on the inside. Regularly it looked like Sakamoto was the stronger, more imposing guy, determined to make the most of his 4th world title fight, but Hatakeyama was the more skilled, controlling the action better, despite seeming to be the smaller men.
As the bout went on the action continued to be fought at a high pace, but it seemed to be taking it's toll on the challenger, who struggled as the bout continued. Despite that he continued to come forward and kept trying. Even when he was shaken Sakamoto stood his ground and tried to fire off, continuing to give everything he had to try and take the title from his hugely popular foe.
This isn't the best of the great wars we've seen from Hatakeyama in this series, but it's yet another amazing bout from Hatakeyama, who admitted after the bout that Sakamoto's punches were the most intense he ever felt. This was brutal, brilliant and a bout that those who haven't seen really should make time for.
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