It's fair to say that many won't be familiar with Korean fighter Yong Kang Kim (26-5, 11), which is a shame as he accomplished a lot and was one of the final notable names of Korean boxing, fighting from 1985 to 1995. Despite never being a major international star Kim was a 2-time world champion a former Korean national champion and a former OPBF champion, and was certainly someone who deserves a lot more attention than he gets now, around 25 years after his last bout.
For those who aren't familiar with Kim he began his career in 1985 in low profile bouts in Korea. Less than 2 years later he went on to win the Korean Light Flyweight title and by the end of 1987 he was also the OPBF champion. Following that he moved up in weight, winning the WBC Flyweight title in 1988. His reign was a short one but he would later claim his second world title, the WBA Flyweight, in 1991. His second world reign was another short one before his career faded out in 1995.
Despite only fighting in 31 bouts an impressive 10 of those were in world title bouts, and 13 of Kim's career bouts were for some form of title, be it world, OPBF or Korean.
With that small overview of Kim's career, lets take a look at the 5 most significant wins for... Yong Kang Kim
Sot Chitalada I (July 24th 1988)
As mentioned above Kim had won the Korean and OPBF Light Flyweight titles in 1987, taking his first two titles in relatively low key contests. In 1988 however he stepped up massively and challenged Thai Sot Chitalada, the then WBC and Lineal Flyweight champion.
The Thai had won the belt in 1984, when he dethroned Gabriel Bernal, and had run up 6 defenses of the belt before taking on the then 16-0 Kim, who was really untested at this point. Despite being untested Kim would step up to the plat and impress, doing enough to earn a unanimous decision over Chitalada for the title. This was a massive win for Kim, but not coming out performance for the Korean fighter, who used the ring smartly, dictated the tempo at times on the outside and really put on a "non-Korean" style performance. This was a typical come forward performance from a Korean fighter but a more cerebral performance from a fighter who knew winning was more important here than impressing.
Leopard Tamakuma (March 5th 1989)
Kim's first defense came 4 months after his title win, and saw him take a clear and wide decision win over the limited Emil Romano, who finished his career in 1994 with a 19-19-3 (12) record. Roman was limited when he got his shot and went 2-12-2 following his loss to Kim. It's fair to say that whilst a first defense is usually significant, this was pretty much a gimmie first defense. His second however was significant and saw him take on popular Japanese fighter Leopard Tamakuma, who was the reigning Japanese champion. Not only was Kim taking on Tamakuma, but was doing so on Japanese soil.
Despite being the away fighter Kim boxed smart, believed in his style of boxing, moved around the ring well, and picked his spots well, as he took a razor thin unanimous decision win against the Japanese fighter. This wasn't a great fight to watch, and again Kim wasn't trying to win the Fight of the Year award, but it was a smart performance, and his first win outside of Korea, in fact it would be his only win away from home. What makes this win even more notable is the fact Tamakuma would later go on to win the WBA Flyweight title, making this a win that aged really well for Kim.
Elvis Alvarez (June 1st 1991)
Sadly for Kim he would lost the WBC title in 1989, losing in a rematch to Sot Chitalada.A second loss in 1989, this time to fellow Korean Yul Woo Lee, was a major set back and a third loss in 5 bouts, this time to Thai legend Khaosai Galaxy, saw his record quickly descend from 19-0 to 21-3 and it seemed like he had seen better days. In 1991 however he got a shot at WBA Flyweight champion Elvis Alvarez, who had won the title with his own win over Tamakuma.
The talented Colombian champion went to Korea with momentum and it seemed like Kim's career was pretty much over. Kim however proved there was still life left in his legs and out boxed Alvarez on route to a close, but clear, unanimous decision to become a 2-time Flyweight champion. Footage of this one is hard to come by, but all 3 card were close, suggesting a competitive fight, but they were all from neutral judges, suggesting a fair result. Sadly for Alvarez there was no rematch for him, and no chance for him to recapture the title, with the Colombian later moving up to Bantamweight, where he challenged Junior Jones in 1994.
Leo Gamez (October 15th 1991)
In Kim's first defense of his second world title reign he took on Venezuelan legend Leo Gamez, who was looking to carve out his memorable career. Up to this point he had only won one world title, the WBA Minimumweight title, and had skipped Light Flyweight in pursuit of become a 2-time champion. He had, notably, had plenty of fame in South Korea, winning his Minimumweight title with a win against Bong Jun Kim, and had twice challenged Myung Woo Yuh for a Light Flyweight title. He was well known, an exciting fighter to watch and he was coming for a title.
As was typical with Kim fights he didn't dominate. The pressure and aggression of "Torito" gave Kim fits through out the 12 round battle, though in the end Kim did enough to convince all 3 judges that he deserved the victory and to defend his title. The judges scores all favoured Kim by 2 points, with two judges scoring the bout 116-114, but it was certainly a tough out for the Korean. It was also a win that aged remarkably well, with Games later going on to win world titles at Light Flyweight, Flyweight and Super Flyweight, becoming the first fighter to win world titles in the 4 lowest weight classes, something that took 15 years for another to replicate!
Jon Penalosa (March 24th 1992)
One thing that was really notable about Kim's bouts at world level was how many of them went to a decision. He lacked power, he lacked aggression, but he knew how to box and he know how to earn a win, doing to repeatedly against good fighters. Surprisingly however his final win at world level, and his second defense of the WBA Flyweight title, saw him score a rare stoppage win. That came against Filipino challenger Jon Penalosa, the brother of Dodie Boy and Gerry Penalosa.
Entering the bout Penalosa was unbeaten in 16 bouts and was looking to follow in the footsteps of Dodie, who was a former 2-weight world champion by this point. He seemed full of confidence coming into the bout, and was certainly not there to play games with the talented, but frustrating, Korean. Penalosa tried to dominated from the center of the ring and had some real success in the first half of the fight. He was, however broken down by Kim early in round 6. With his man hurt Kim didn't let Penalosa off the hook and ended up finishing him later that same round for his only stoppage win at world level.
Sadly Kim would lose his title a few months later to Aquiles Guzman before vanishing from the ring for 2 years. He would return in 1994, losing again, before making a one off appearance in 1995 and calling it a day. As for Penalosa he ruined by this defeat and went from 15-0-1 entering this bout to retiring 15-4-1, losing his following 3 bouts by stoppage. The bout was the start of the end for Penalosa.
One of the things we, as boxing fans, all want to do is spot the talent before they make it big, and follow their journey from obscurity to the top. Of course to follow them, they need to be on the radar of fans, and with that in mind the guys at Asian Boxing have decided to share some of their picks for the future.
This week they share those picks as they answer the questions:
"Who... should be on the radars of fans but aren't?"
The guys were told to make two choices, with each choice coming from a different country and to pick fighters who really weren't on the radar of fans. Essentially if they were world ranked, they were too well known.
Lee: "I'll be honest and state the obvious. There is probably no Korean boxer right now on the radar of your average boxing fan. It's a sad shame and a real downer for us Korean fans of the sport. Thankfully however the country does some talent coming through the ranks. The most notable of those is a real talent, called Sung Min Yuh. Who I am a huge fan of!
The 20 year old Light Middleweight has been a professional since 2019 and has already won the Battle Royale tournament, the KBM version of "Rookie of the Year", and the KBM Light Middleweight title.
Watching Yuh I see a fighter who has IT. He's talented, he's big, he's growing, he's skilled, he's defensively smart, he can fight inside, he oozes charisma and charm and he knows how to entertain. There is work to do, but at 20 years old and without much amateur experience that's to be expected.
Given the local lack of talent, and his young, young age, I think we'll see Yuh travel outside of Korea before his career is over, and he could well well find himself mixing at a very high level. Get him on your radar now fans!
Outside of Korea, I would also advise taking a look at Ikboljon Kholdarov, who recently turned professional and made his debut in April. He is a super talented young fighter out of Uzbekistan. He was a very highly regarded amateur and someone who has the tools to go a very, very, very long way in the professional ranks. And he has the ability to climb the rankings very quickly."
Takahiro: "I think most Japanese prospects are on the radar of fight fans who read this website. Fighters like Ginjiro Shigeoka, Yudai Shigeoka, Jinki Maeda, Rentaro Kimura, Shokichi Iwata, Shu Utsuki and so many other fighters who have been featured in our "Introducing" series. One man who hasn't been in that series, yet, is Tsubasa Narai.
The 21 year old Narai turned professional in 2019, scoring 3 wins in the year, but really came alive during covid19 delayed Rookie of the Year, winning 4 bouts in the tournament, in 5 months, all by TKO (in fact it took just 9 rounds for him to win those 4 bouts). During his 7 fight career he has barely lost a round, he has been thrilling to watch and he has proven himself as one of the ones to watch going forward. Do not sleep on this unheralded Super Featherweight hopeful.
Kazakhstan is another country that we have spoken about a lot in our "Introducing" series and done numerous articles on some of the nations most promising talent. One fighter who hasn't had much attention is Mikhail Kokhanchik, who made his professional debut last November. The 22 year old Cruiserweight made his debut last year and he looked like a man who every fan should have on their radar. He's not a big guy at Cruiserweight, but he's aggressive, lets his hands go and likes to come forward. He was a good amateur who sadly struggled to fight on the international stage due to the depth that Kazakhstan had, but now I see him being one to watch going forward. He's not the most polished fighter, but he looks like a lot of fun and very impressive on debut."
Scott: "My first pick this week Thai professional novice Thitisak Hoitong, who made his professional debut last year, beating Wittawas Basapean (aka Samartlek Kokietgym) in a 6 rounder. He looked fantastic on his debut, showed cased a brilliant boxing brain, a lot of variation in what he could do in the ring and really looked like the sort of fighter who could be moved very quickly. He was a good amateur, but given how good he looked in his professional debut I get the feeling his moved to the paid ranks will be an excellent one.
Of course saying that I'm assuming other top Thai hopefuls, like Phoobadin Yoohanngoh, Chainoi Worawut, Thanongsak Simsri, Phongsaphon Panyakum and Thananchai Charunphak are all already on your radar.
Another fighter who should be on the radar of every fight fan, is Filipino fighter April Jay Abne, a very young Flyweight who looks like he has all the tools to reach the higher levels in the sport. He is talented, sharp, very young and very promising. He's in his early 20's and has a lot of time to develop. Sadly however he's not been particularly active in recent years and has lost the momentum he seemed to be building in 2019, when he won the Ultimate Boxing Series. Fingers crossed he'll be more active soon and get his career back on track."
The month of May is set to be a very weird one, and one that could see bouts in Japan return to the no fan era, and has already seen shows for the 1st, 5th, 6th and 9th of May being postponed. With more potentially also needing to find new dates.
With that in mind we are going to look at what the current schedule looks like for May, though note that things are in a very fluid situation right now due to the on going pandemic, which has seen several parts of Japan go into another State of Emergency.
London, United Kingdom
Dmitry Bivol (17-0, 11) vs Craig Richards (16-1-1, 9)
The first major bout of note will see Kyrgyzstan born Russian based Dmitry Bivol defending his WBA Light Heavyweight "Super" title as he takes on British fighter Craig Richards. The talented Bivol hasn't been in the ring since October 2019, so it's hard to complain too much about a relatively easy defense, but it's fair to say that this is certainly an underwhelming match up between arguably the best Light Heavyweight in the world and someone who, is potentially only the fifth best in the UK. Richards has the style to ask some questions of Bivol, though it's hard to imagine anything but a dominant win by the champion, who really needs to take this opportunity to look good, and not just take a clear win.
Saturday 8, May 2021
AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas, USA
Elwin Soto (18-1, 12) Vs Katsunari Takayama (32-8-0-1, 12)
A week after Bivol's in action we see Japanese veteran Katsunari Takayama get a chance to become a 2-weight world champion as he takes on WBO Light Flyweight champion Elwin Soto. The now 37 year old Takayama, who turns 38 just days after this fight, is one of the true fan favourites of the lower weights and his wars with the likes of Francisco Rodriguez Jr and Fahlan Sakkreerin Jr have been must watch affairs with drama and action. Soto on the other hand is an emerging force, with a really intimidating reputation as a big puncher, and a youngster with a point to prove. Soto will enter the bout as a very, very clear favourite, and he should be, though Takayama will be entering the bout knowing this is likely to be his final bout at world level, we expect he will go out on his shield, win or lose. For those who haven't seen these two in action before, this will be something to savour!
Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan
Musashi Mori (12-0, 7) Vs Satoshi Shimizu (9-1, 9)
Given how many Japanese shows have already been affected by the State of Emergency, which is supposed to be lifted on May 11th, it seems likely that the first major Japanese show of the month will come on May 13th, and it is one that is headlined by something a little bit special. That's a Featherweight unification bout between WBO Asia Pacific champion Musashi Mori and OPBF champion Satoshi Shimizu. This will be a brilliant match up between a skilled youngster, in Mori, who is a very fighter with a good boxing brain, and a flawed, ugly fighter with insane power, in Shimizu. Although stylistically a potential mess, this should be really entertaining and see both men forced to answer some very serious questions about their ability.
Kazuki Nakajima (9-0-1, 8) Vs Kai Chiba (13-1, 8)
A second title bout on this show will see the unbeaten Kazuki Nakajima take on the once beaten Kai Chiba in a bout for the now vacant OPBF Bantamweight title, which was given up by Takuma Inoue a few weeks ago. Nakajima is an interesting fighter who isn't the most natural boxer, and does look rigid and stiff, but has frightening power and long powerful levers. He's the type of guy who can be befuddled by movement, but can destroy people if they stand in front of him. Likewise Chiba is a fighter who hasn't typically used his feet as much as he should, but also has very respectable pop on his shots and could the type of fighter who could get Nakajima's respect. Although Chiba should box and move there is a real chance that he will be dragged into a shoot out here and this could end up being a "blink and you miss it" type of bout.
Keisuke Matsumoto (2-0, 2) Vs Hiromu Murota (6-4-2, 4)
Third generation fighter Keisuke Matsumoto looks to build on his fledgling career as he takes on Hiromu Murota in a scheduled 8 rounder. Matsumoto hasn't looked the most convincing in his first two bouts, though he shown a lot to like, including an ability to bite down when he's needed to and we suspect the plan for him is to build up his experience in bouts like this going forward. The 25 year old Murota shouldn't be much of a threat, though does come in to this following a draw with former Japanese Super Featherweight champion Seiichi Okada and is unbeaten in his last 5 following a 2-4-1 start his pro career.
Katsuya Yasuda (7-0, 4) Vs Tomoki Takada (8-5-2, 5)
Ohashi's "forgotten man" Katsuya Yasuda will be looking for his 8th win as he takes on Tomoki Takada. The plan for Yasuda seems to be much slower than some of the other top Ohashi fighters, but his talent is clear and his performance against Omrri Bolivar last September earned rave reviews from his promoter. Interestingly Takada, despite his record, comes into this bout ranked #9 by the JBC and a win for Yasuda would boost his standing in the sport massively. although no world beater Takada is dangerous and has scored 3 opening round KO's in his last 5. If he lands he could chin check Yasuda, though it's hard to imagine anything but a win for the Ohashi man.
Manchester Arena, Manchester, Lancashire, United Kingdom
Hyun Mi Choi (18-0-1, 4) Vs Terri Harper (11-0-1, 6)
Just 2 weeks after the Bivol bout our attention turns to the UK against as Korean fighter Hyun Mi Choi gets the chance to unify her WBA female Super Featherweight title with the WBC and IBO versions held by English fighter Terri Harper. Choi looked less than impressive in her international debut, last December against Calista Silgado, and will need a much better performance here to over come Harper, who is quickly becoming one of the faces of female boxing. Harper on the other hand needs to build on her last performance, which was an excellent display against Katharina Thanderz. The winner of this will be the queen of the division, and will be looking to the others titles to their collection in what should make for a great year or two at 130lbs in female boxing.
Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan
Kazuto Takesako (11-0-1, 11) Vs Riku Kunimoto (4-0, 2)
After numerous delays we'll finally see Japanese Middleweight champion Kazuto Takesako defending his title in a mandatory against Riku Kunimoto. This bout was originally sheduled for the Champion Carnival in 2020, then got delayed due to covid, training issues, an injury and then the recent State of Emergency in Tokyo. On paper Takesako will be the big favourite and will be tipped to be too strong and too good for Kunimoto, who will be fighting for the first time in over 2 years. On the other hand Kunimoto has the style that could pose real issues for Takesako, who is powerful but a bit robotic, and the movement and speed of Kunimoto could see him asking real questions of the champion.
Last years Japanese Rookie of the Year was an odd one as the Covid19 pandemic completely decimated the calendar and saw the Rookie of the Year being pushed backed massively, and not ending until February 2021, 2 months after the originally planned date. Despite the delay to the finals we did see some really promising fighters emerge from the tournament, one of whom was Lightweight fighter Hiromasa Urakawa (7-1, 4), who really impressed through the tournament.
With that Rookie of the Year triumph under his belt, and a bright future ahead of him, we though it was a good idea to give Urakawa the "Introducing" treatment, as he looks to build on his success and move towards potential title fights.
The very basics for Urakawa is that he's a 24 year old Lightweight from the Teiken Gym, who was born in March 1997, but it's what he is as a boxer that we're interested in.
Unlike many Japanese fighters Urakawa didn't really have much of an amateur background in the sport, in fact he's explained in the past that the reason he's involved in the sport was that he "wanted to see a match of an acquaintance". There was no major story there, like there is with many fighters, and no big name fighter seems to have inspired him, instead it was a love of the sport that a friend was doing.
With little to no amateur experience Urakawa made his debut in March 2018, aged 20, and took on Shuichi Aso at Korakuen Hall, live on G+. Within seconds of his debut Urakawa had looked raw, heavy handed and exciting, shaking Aso very quickly in the bout. As the contest went on Urakawa continued to show some nice traits, including a good jab and nice belief in his power and aggression. He did however show a lot of raw qualities and it was very, very clear that he was inexperienced. He looked rigid, tense, and like he was trying to put a lot on almost every shot he threw and it was clear that he was a young man who was a work in progress. Albeit a young man with something exciting about his raw style.
Urakawa would return to the ring 4 months later for his second bout, which saw him quickly stopping Koshi Fujisaki, with that bout ending after just 1 minute. The ending was from a brilliant right hand that dropped Fujisaki, who almost tried to tackle Urakawa by the ankles unaware of where he was for a few seconds. Urakawa's bout continued to be televised, with his third bout being shown, on tape delay, on G+ against Hiroki Sakakubo. Once again Urakawa's power was a difference maker, as he landed a right hand, dropping Sakakubo early in round 2 and then finished him off later the same round with a flurry of big shots.
The win over Sakakkubo came in a preliminary bout of the 2019 East Japan Rookie of the Year. Sadly for Urakawa however he could come up shot in his very next bout an be eliminated from the competition when he was out pointed by Shinnosuke Saito. Sadly the bout saw the usual aggression of Urakawa being tamed, massively, as he seemed too focused on defensive work, rather than showing off his raw aggression. It was the wrong tactic, and something he later admitted in an interview with Boxmob.jp.
Having lost his unbeaten record to Saito and been eliminated from the 2019 Rookie of the Year Urakawa looked to get back on the horse, and ended the year with a KO win against Ren Matsuoka. This saw Urakawa get back to being an aggressive fighter, and once again his power paid dividends as he dropped Matsuoka midway through the second round, and Matsuoka was unable to continue.
In 2020 Urakawa entered the East Japan Rookie of the Year again, and kicked off his campaign in September, when boxing resumed in Japan. Despite having been out of the ring for over 9 months Urakawa again showed off his power, as he took out Yuki Aizawa in 3 rounds. This was, up to this point in his career, the most polished performance from Urakawa's career. He showed aggression, but also a more mature edge to his boxing. He was tighter defensively than he had been earlier in his career but kept his nasty power, dropping Aizawa late in round 2, then forcing a stoppage at the very start of round 3 with Aizawa's team threw in the towel.
Following his win over Aizawa we then saw Urakawa return to a live TV broadcast as he took on Toshiki Tanaka in the East Japan semi-final. This was, on paper, a big of a gimmie for Urakawa, but to his credit Tanaka came to win and gave the heavy handed Urakawa some real questions to answer early in the bout. Sadly however the bout was curtailed in round 3 when Urakawa was left cut from a clash of heads. Despite only going 2 and a bit rounds the bout went to the scorecards with the judges all giving the bout to Urakawa.
Sadly the planned final for the East Japan Rookie of the Year Lightweight bout fell through at short notice, when Urakawa's scheduled opponent Ryan Joshua Yamamoto, failed to make weight for the contest. This saw Urakawa admit he was frustrated, and he seemed genuinely angry about the situation as he was essentially in the best condition of his career. Although it was a frustrating experience it did allow Urakawa a final to the All Japan final, which we got in February. That final saw him take on Eiji Togawa and the two men delivered a genuinely solid match up, with both showing respect to the other, and both also showing some hunger to win, and to be crowned the All Japan Rookie of the Year. Togawa put in a genuine effort in every round, but in the end the cleaner, heavier, more telling shots were landed by Urakawa, with all 3 judges giving the decision to the Teiken fighter after 5 well contested rounds.
Since his Rookie of the Year triumph, back on February 21st, we've not seen Urakawa return to the ring, though we would expect him back in action in the Summer on a Teiken promoted card. Fingers crossed when we do see him return, it'll be in a solid 6 rounder, giving him a chance to show his continued improvement in the ring.
Although it's unlikely that Urakawa is a world champion in the making he is a fun fighter to watch, a raw fighter with some potential and some one with the ability to make some noise at the upper echelons of the Japanese domestic scene. Don't expect to see him in huge bouts, but do expect him to be in some fun contests, when matched against the right type of fighters. Something we suspect Teiken will do for him.
Rather interestingly every bout of Urakawa's has been shown, either on G+ or on Boxing Raise, meaning people can actually watch every professional bout of his, at least at the time of writing.
Between 1985 and 1990 Korean fighter Yul Woo Lee (19-3, 10) embarked on a short, but exciting and successful career as a talented Light Flyweight and Flyweight. He's not a name that many international fans will be too aware of, but he is someone who is worthy of attention and is one of the few multi-weight Korean world champions.
After making his debut in 1985 Lee, known as "Hot Pepper", raced through the ranks, and won the WBC Light Flyweight title in 1989, in his 18th professional bout. His reign was a short one, but he would win the WBA Flyweight title less than a year later, before ending his career after losing in his first defense to Leopard Tamakuma.
Following his retirement Lee went on to run a boxing school before being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Sadly Lee passed away in 2009, at the age of 42, from his cancer.
With Lee's memory and career in mind, we've decided to take a look at the 5 most significant wins for... Yul Woo Lee
Romy Navarrete (April 19th 1987)
We start going through Lee's most significant wins by looking at one that aged well, and is criminally under-rated by pretty much everyone, and that was his 1987 win over Filipino fighter Romy Navarrete, the younger brother of Rolando Navarrete.
It's fair to say that Romy Navarrete is not the well established name that his brother was, however he was no easy out, and managed to win titles at domestic level and later the Oriental level, winning the OPBF Flyweight title in 1989. He was also not an easy man to stop, as Greg Richardson and Luisito Espinosa both found out. Lee however stopped Navarrete in 7 rounds in 1987, to move to 10-0. This win aged really well with the Filipino winning the OPBF title just 7 fights later.
Armando Ursua (December 13th 1987)
Lee's second win of note came just 8 months after he stopped Navarrete and saw him take out former world title champion Armando Ursua from Mexico, in what would actually be Ursua's final bout. The Mexican veteran was well past his best, and was 31 years old with over 50 bouts to his name, but he still had name value and had been a world champion in 1982, when he beat Hilario Zapata for the WBC Light Flyweight title.
Not only was Ursua a former world champion but he was also a man known in Asia. He had lost the WBC title via close decision in Japan and had then gone 10 rounds with Jung Koo Chang, and later Dodie Boy Penalosa. For Lee to not just beat Ursua, but to stop him, was a genuine statement and only the 9th stoppage loss of Ursua's long career. This was a cynical bit of match making, and a smart win for Lee and his career.
German Torres (March 19th 1989)
Sadly Lee's winning run came to an end in May 1988, when he was upset by Miguel Mercedes, aka Miguel Nagashima, who went on to fight for the newly created WBO Light Flyweight title in March 1989. Mercedes lost to Elvis Alvarez in the title bout and just 16 days later Lee got his won world title shot, taking on Mexican veteran German Torres, the then WBC king.
Lee, unlike Mercedes, made the most of his world title shot and ended up breaking down Torres in the 9th round to claim the WBC Light Flyweight title and become a world champion in his 18th bout. Torres, fighting 73rd time, showed his toughness and experience but it wasn't enough to survive with Lee who fought like a man determined to make the most of his big chance. Whilst this was, clearly, a big personal win for Lee it was also huge for Korean boxing given that Torres had won the title 3 months earlier in South Korea against Soon Jung Kang, who retired following the bout. Torres had also previously beaten Jong Kwan Chung, and had gone the distance 3 times with Korean legent Jung Koo Chang. Notably this was also the first time Torres had been stopped since 1977, when he suffered a TKO loss to Rocky Mijares, in what was Torres' 10th professional bout. Sadly for Torres this was the start of the end for him and he would go 4-2-1 afterwards, never competing anywhere close to world level after this bout.
Yong Kang Kim (November 25th 1989)
Lee's world title reign was a short one, losing the belt in his first defense to Humberto Gonzalez in June 1989. Just 5 months after losing his title he was back in the ring and took on the then 19-1 Yong Kang Kim. Although not a huge name himself in the West Kim was a really successful fight and coming in to this one he was a former WBC Flyweight champion, who had narrowly lost the belt to Sot Chitalada just a few months before he faced Lee.
The bout between Lee and Kim was essentially a world title eliminator, and the winner would be moving on to a world title fight. Both men knew it, and both men knew they needed a win. This lead to a hotly contested bout that saw both men make a valid argument to get the judgement after 10 rounds. In the end however Lee took a razor thin decision, helped in part by a knockdown he scored in round 8.
The win over Kim was a major one in so many ways for Lee and his career. It was not just a win over a former world champion, and it not only lead Lee to getting another world title fight, which we'll talk about shortly, but it was also one that aged well as Kim ended up winning the WBA Flyweight title in 1991 to become a 2-time world champion. In fact Kim was still competing at a high level in 1994, when he competed in his final world title bout, losing a decision to Saen Sor Ploenchit. This was, easily, Lee's best win against a fellow Korean.
Jesus Rojas (March 10th 1990)
Around 4 months after scoring his win over Yong Kang Kim fans in Korea saw Lee return to the ring and challenge WBA Flyweight champion Jesus Rojas, from Venezuela. Rojas had won the title In Colombia in 1989, when he beat Fidel Bassa, and was looking to make his first defense. Lee on the other hand was looking to become a 2-weight champion and one of the few men, at the time, to have won world titles at Light Flyweight and Flyweight.
This bout is a bit of a forgotten war, with Lee coming forward like a man possessed and "Kiki" battling brilliantly on the back foot. This, hidden gem, was a bout that really deserves to be seen and was a forgotten thriller that went 12 rounds with a lot of leather being thrown through out. After 12 rounds the Korean narrowly out pointed Rojas, taking a razor thin split decision win to claim the title. The three cards here were all close, reflecting the hot competitive nature of the bout.
Sadly for Lee his reign was a short one, and he would lose the belt in his first defense to Leopard Tamakuma, whilst "Kiki" would rebuild and win the WBA Super Flyweight title in 1998.
We all have fighters we're personal fans of, that we feel go over-looked and don't get the attention and love they should. There are so many amazing fighters through the history of the sport, that it can be easy to over-look them, and never go back.
With that in mind the guys at Asian boxing have been tasked at trying to highlight some of those fighters, as they answer the question:
"Who... should every fight fan go and check out?"
The question came with 2 rules. Each one of the guys was allowed to name two fighters, and the fighters in question all had to be retired (they will be answering a similar question about active fighters in the future). With those rules in mind, lets look at the suggestions put forward!
Lee-"I'm going to pick two Korean fighters here, both of whom are among my personal favourites.
The first is Light Flyweight legend Myung Woo Yuh, who was just so much to watch and made offensive, pressure fighting look like an art form. Yuh was strong and tough, but it wasn't those qualities that made him a must watch. Instead it was his incredible work rate and the overall excitement of his fighters. He climbed into the ring to fight and he unleashed punches like some kind of perpetual punching machine. It would be easy to just say he threw a lot of leather, but that wasn't true. He didn't just throw a lot, but he landed a lot. He seemed to know where he was in the ring, and despite throwing, a lot, he rarely missed. There was some bizarre magic going on with his fights, where his punches were some how attracted to his opponents. He was an offensive genius. One of the greatest offensive fighters ever. I know most, including Yuh himself, would say Jung Koo Chang , was better but I always preferred watching Yuh.
Given my first pick was Yuh I don't think I need to explain that I like offensive fighters! With that in mind my second pick is former Featherweight Young Kyun Park, who was just so, so much fun. Dubbed the "Bulldozer" he really did fight like a bulldozer. Technically he flawed, very flawed, but he was all action and a marauding offensive force who came forward, threw a lot of heavy leather and just, well, bulldozed through people. His reign WBA Featherweight world title reign, from 1991 to 1993 was short in terms of time, but it was a really busy reign with 8 defences in total. He beat some top fighters during his time, including Antonio Esparragoza, who he took the title from, Eloy Rojas, Seiji Asakawa and Koji Matsumoto, and always put on a show. A forgotten legend!"
Takahiro-"I only have one pick this week, but I think it's a good one! Naoto Takahashi. The prince of the reversal. The former 2-weight Japanese national champion. The man who encapsulated what boxing meant to me! The man who I can enjoy watching any time.
Naoto Takahashi fought from 1985 to 1991, fighting just 23 bouts. But from those 23 bouts there was so many instant classics. His bout with Mark Horikoshi is one of the best bouts to ever take place at Korakuen Hall, and is the must watch bout of his. It's amazing. But it's not a one off great bout. His second bout with Mitsuo Imazato and his first bout with Noree Jockygym are amazing. Even his less memorable bouts, like his second bout with Tadashi Shimabukuro and his first bout with Mitsuo Imazato were brilliant action clashes.
Takahashi was a man known for boxing with his heart, not his head. His career was short because he took a lot of punishment, retiring due to a brain injury, but the way he fought appealed to me so much. He gave fans value for money. He gave his all. He won my boxing heart. Amazing fighter. If you've never seen him, go watch him. Now!
Oh, I have to make 2 choices? Okay! Fine! My second choice is Hozumi Hasegawa! The sensational 3 weight world champion.
There are lots of reasons to watch Hasegawa! Like Takahashi he often fought with his heart, rather than his brain. He was a smart fighter, when he wanted to be, but often had a fight when he didn't need to, which always made me a fan! Even at the end of his career, in his final round against Hugo Ruiz, he managed to let the fighting spirit show as he fought off the ropes. Another reason is his record and the perception that Hasegawa was feather fisted. He wasn't! He was actually a huge puncher, who showed his power at world level, stopping Veeraphol Sahaprom and Vusi Malinga among others. His power was freakish, and was powered by his speed. He was a dazzling fighter to watch. A speed demon with scary power, a very good boxing brain, and a heart that told him to fight! Fight! He was also just a very, very good guy!"
Scott-"I've decided to pick two very different fighters, one for excitement and one for technical brilliance.
The exciting fighter I want every one to watch is Takanori Hatakeyama, though it was a really hard choice between him, Lakva Sim and Yong Soo Choi who were all around at the same time and all involved in some amazing bouts, many between each other. I've gone with Hatakeyama however as as its not just his wars that are great but he also has some other highlights.
If you're going to watch great bouts with Hatakeyama involved you need to watch his two wars with Yong Soo Choi, his bouts with Koji Arisawa, Gilberto Serrano, Hiroyuki Sakamoto and Rick Yoshimura along with his loss to Lakva Sim. If you just want a highlight to watch his KO against Jae Woon Park is one of the most brutal KO's ever scored.
Honestly though you can't go wrong with fights featuring Sim or Choi if you've seen all of Hatakeyama's.
As for technical brilliance, I suggest everyone goes and watches Gerry Penalosa in action. The fantastic Filipino is one of the best technical boxers from any part of Asia, ever. He was intelligent in the ring, and did so many things incredibly well. His technique was brilliant, his understanding of the sport was on another level to many out there, and did the little things that so many fighters ignores. His balance was tremendous, his ability to read range was brilliant, he was accurate, didn't waste much of anything and was incredibly tough. Too tough for his own good at times.
Sadly whilst Penalosa was fantastic he was also an incredibly unlucky fighter. There are so many fights that could, and probably should, have gone his way. Sometimes he was to blame, he was bit too cautious at times, and didn't go all out to win the judges over on foreign soil. But other times he was robbed, such as the deplorable split decision loss against Eric Morel.
For fans wanting to see a technical genius, incredible skills and a fighter who got by without the freakish traits of a Manny Pacquiao or Nonito Donaire. He was the sort of fighter that every fight fan should watch and enjoy. He's not flashy, he's not oozing charisma, and his fights weren't always the most enjoyable to watch, but he was a genuine boxing genius. A brilliant boxing mind, and a man who showed that skills genuinely do pay the bills."
It's not often we get to talk about female fighters in this series but this week we get one of those rare opportunities, as we take a look at emerging Thai hopeful Phannarai Netisri (7-0, 4), a German based Thai hopeful who has been turning heads in her adopted homeland over the last couple of years. She's certainly not a big name, but could be set for a big 2021, if things go her way over the next few months.
The talented 20 year old, also known as Fai Phannarai and "Sweet Chilli", was born in Khon Kaen, one of the major cities in Thailand, where she originally grew up with her grandparents. She would later relocate to Germany along with her mother, who decided Germany was a place for a better life. Prior to relocating however Fai had been training Muay Thai, something she was introduced to by her grandfather. That training carried in good stead when she moved to Germany and took up kick boxing, winning her first 3 bouts.
Of course kicking might not be boxing, but it did give Fai a good foundation to build off as a boxer, which she did under the guidance of Jiri Resl in Germany.
In 2019 Fai made her professional debut, aged just 19, and made an immediate impact in the sport, stopping fellow debutant Elizabeta Konaj in just 44 secords. Although this bout was an obscure one, tucked away on a small card in Bayern, it was a perfect way for Fai to begin her boxing career, shaking off some nerves and getting a boost of confidence straight away.
Fai was back in the ring 3 months after her debut, taking on fellow novice Sanja Cebic, a southpaw from Serbia. Thankfully this bout is actually online allowing fans a chance to see what Fai is like as a fighter and at this point in time she was offensively wild, and looked powerful but nervous. Cebic's southpaw stance and long arms gave Fai something to think about, but as the bout went on the Thai begun to land the bigger shots and started to calm down somewhat. She still seemed wild through out, but was a clear and worthy winner after 4 rounds.
By the end of 2019 Fai had squeezed in 2 more bouts, showing off her power with a 4th round TKO against Croatian fighter Manuela Zulj and an opening round win over Valeria Aletta Kovacs. Again footage of Fai in action showed up, with her bout against Zulj being online. She still seemed like a fighter with nervous energy to begin with, but settled very quickly, and put on an exciting and aggressive performance, before forcing the referee to save Zulj, who had been beaten into submission in the corner.
Having fit 4 bouts into less than 6 months in 2019 Fai was, like many fighters, a lot less active in 2020 as Covid19 really put a hold on boxing around the world. Amazingly however she did manage to fit in 3 bouts, including 2 in the Czech Republic. The first of those was against Eva Hrkotova in what looked like a big beer tent at a festival or something. This bout with Hrkotova ended when Hrkotova was apparently DQ'd, for spinning around and turning her back... errr, yeah we were confused by that too. The second bout in the Czech Republic saw Fai take a 6 round decision win over the much bigger Veronika Andrisikova. In November 2020 she returned to a German ring to beat Kim Angeline Jaeckel, in the 5th round of a scheduled 10 rounder.
The bout with Jaeckel was the best performance that we've come across from Fai, who looked composed, sharp, and a lot, lot more polished than she had earlier in her career. She threw nice body shots, came forward with a lot of upper body movement, and broke down a naturally bigger fighter, who seemed to want to avoid a fight. Despite the negativity of Jaeckel it was clear to see that Fai had improved a lot from her early bouts, and her improvement in just 18 months was massive. She looked polished, comfortable and confident in the ring, rather than rushed and feeling like she needed to throw big shots. This was a performance of a professional and it was a real mark of the fighter she had become.
We're expecting to see Fai back in the ring later this month in a WBC Youth title bout, with her opponent expected to be Cheyenne Hanson, if Hanson recovers from what was a nasty injury she suffered a few weeks ago. If that takes place we'll see Fai in a real fight for the first time. A win there and the Thai will prove she's one to watch. A loss however wouldn't be the end of the world for the Thai youngster, who has come a long way in a short amount of time, and can certainly continue improving.
If not often we get to talk about European based fighters or female fighters, but Fai is certainly someone making a mental note of, and she looks like she could, potentially, go on to make noise in women's boxing in the coming years.
We've included Fai's most recent bout below, and as you can see Jaeckel really didn't want to fight, but Fai did what she needed to and got some rounds in.
When we discuss the greatest combat sport practitioners of all time one Thai who deserves a mention is the legendary Samart Payakaroon (21-2, 12). His boxing career was his secondary in ring career, after having been one of the great Muay Thai fighters of all time. His success in Muay Thai saw him being described by some as the greatest ever Muay Thai fighter, and even those who don’t rate him at #1 all have him in the chasing pack. He was a multi-time Lumpinee Stadium champion and a true legend in Muay Thai.
He was also a very impressive boxer, though his career only lasted 23 bouts in total, spanning from 1982 to 1994. It was also a career that had several breaks in it as other activities, including singing and acting, which saw him avoid in-ring competition. Despite having a stop-start professional boxing career he fit a lot into to his 23 fights, beat several notable names, won a world title and further enhanced his reputation as a combat sport king. His boxing success didn’t match up to his Muay Thai success, but he was still a top fighter in the 1980’s. With that in mind we want to bring you the 5 most significant wins for... Samart Payakaroon!
1 - Netrnoi Sor Vorasingh (August 24th 1982)
Following his very, very successful Muay Thai career Samart kicked off his professional boxing and made his debut in the second half of 1984. His opponent for his debut was fellow Thai Netrnoi Sor Vorasingh, himself a former WBC Light Flyweight champion. For a fighter to debut against a former world champion is impressive, but Samart did exactly that, and did so in a 10 rounder, something that is almost unheard in recent years.
The bout saw the 19 year old Samart take a 10 round decision win over the then 23 Netrnoi, who had attempted to reclaim the WBC Light Flyweight title less than a year earlier, when he lost in 10 rounds to the brilliant Hilario Zapata. The win was a real statement from Samart, who announced himself to the professional boxing ranks and answered a number of questions immediately, such as proving his stamina and how he would deal with a fellow southpaw. This was also the first time Netrnoi had lost to a Thai in since his 10th professional bout, when he stopped at Flyweight by Fahsithong Fairtex. Sadly this would also be Netrnoi’s final bout, with the youngster passing away less than 4 months later following a motorcycle accident.
2 - Neptali Alamag (July 31st 1984)
Sadly after making a very impressive debut Samart vanished from boxing for over a year before returning in 1984. After returning to the ring he scored two low key wins before taking on the highly experienced Neptali Alamag, from the Philippines. Although not a big name Alamag was a well regarded regional level fighter. He had been a professional since 1974 had well over 50 bouts to his name, had never been stopped before and was the OPBF Bantamweight champion. He was a solid fighter, by any standards, never mind for a man competing in just his 4th professional bout.
Despite the fact Alamag was a solid fighter he was no match for Samart who ended up stopping him in 7 rounds in a very impressive early career result. This wasn’t just impressive by virtue of stopping a tough guy, but Samart had stopped a reigning OPBF champion and essentially began the end for Alamag who was stopped again in his following fight and would never win again before retiring a few years later. This was a statement on the regional scene and proof that Samart was a heavy handed beast of a hopeful and someone who could be moved much, much quicker than an average hopeful.
3 - Lupe Pintor (January 18th 1986)
After moving to 11-0 (6) Samart got his first world title fight, taking on Mexican legend Lupe Pintor for the WBC Super Bantamweight title. The 30 year old Pintor had been stripped on the scales, but the title was still up for grabs for the 23 year old Samart, who was looking to win a title in just his 12th professional bout. On paper a massive step up, and Samart’s most notable bout, by far, up to this point.
Despite the step up the Thai dominated. He won the first 4 rounds with no issues before stopping Pintor in round 5 with a straight left hand. The loss for Pintor seemed to be the end for the Mexican great, and he wouldn’t fight again for almost 8 years before mounting a very poor comeback to the sport when he was well past his best. As for Samart this was his career defining moment up to this point, and a huge win for his career. Not only was a world title win, but it had come within a few years of his debut, and saw him become the latest man to prove that top Muay Thai’s could also be top boxers.
4 - Juan Meza (December 10th 1986)
Sadly Samart’s reign was a short lived one and he was a title holder for just 16 months, and made only a single defense of the title. That came in 1986 when he took on former champion Juan Meza, himself a huge punching Mexican fighter who had established himself as one of the best fighters to watch in the lower weights. Meza’s 1984 bout with Jaime Garza had seen him win the title in one of the greatest 1 round shoot outs ever, though he had only managed a single defense before losing the belt himself, to aforementioned Lupe Pintor.
Samart managed to really impress against Meza, winning pretty much everything through the first 11 rounds before giving us a highlight reel finish to the bout in the dying seconds of round 12. The Thai great dropped his hands, went to the ropes and evaded a huge barrage from Meza, who threw the kitchen sink at Samart. Samart avoided pretty much everything thrown his way, before landing a left hand of his own and stopping Meza. The ending to this fight has been seen time and time again and has seen Samart being dubbed the “Thai Matrix” in some modern day videos of the bout. Whilst it was significant as his first, and only, defense, the bout was even more significant in the longer term, with the finish often being the first thing of Samart’s that modern day fans saw. This win, and especially the finish, helped introduce Samart to a much wider audience than any of his other results.
5 - Tiger Ari (January 23rd 1994)
Sadly for Samart his career failed to really kick on after his first defense. He lost the title 5 months later to Australian legend Jeff Fenech in 1987, and after that fought just twice over the following year. In 1988 he seemed to be done with boxing and would go on to do various activities outside of the ring before returning to boxing in 1993. In his third bout after returning to the sport he took on Tiger Ari, a Filipino best known for his time fighting in Japan. Although no world beater Ari was a very good regional level fighter, having held the OPBF Super Featherweight title from 1992 to 1993. He was tough, experienced, tricky and certainly not an easy man to beat. In fact coming into this bout he was sporting a 33-4-1 (11) record and was 13-1 in his last 14 bouts.
Aged 31 Samart was not the fight he had once been, but he did enough to take a 10 round decision over the 26 year old Ari. Sadly for Samart this was essentially the start of the end for him and he would fight just 3 more times, notably losing the final one of those bouts to WBA Featherweight champion Eloy Rojas, before retiring from in ring competition. Although it was his final big win, it was also one that aged well, with Ari later going on to reclaim the OPBF title, and proving he was still a lively and solid fighter into the early 2000’s, well after Samart beat him.
Every year boxing journalists talk about the latest entrants to the International Boxing Hall of Fame, an event that has become less international as the years have gone on and become sadly rather American centric. Whilst not everyone in the sport can be included there are a lot of names that should be in one of the sections that aren't there, for whatever reasons. Today the team at Asian boxing have been tasked with looking at some of those names and making a case for some Asian boxing people who should be in the Hall of Fame.
Unlike many of these types of articles however we weren't just focusing on boxers. After all the hall of fame looks at things like Participants and Observers, and this left the team with a lot of interesting possibilities ranging from promoters to artists, from significant industry insiders to photographers.
With that in mind let see who the guys came up with to answer the question:
"Who... belongs in the hall of fame?"
Lee - "I have two very different choices, and both really do belong in the hall of fame for very different reasons.
My first nomination is Filipino Manuel Nieto, who was one of key people involved in the development of the OPBF, serving as it's first president. He wasn't the only man involved at the start of the formation of the then OBF (Oriental Boxing Federation), his presidency of the organisation is part of the reason we are still talking about the OPBF more than 60 years on. The body is well respected, not something we can typically say for boxing organisations, and is still going strong. That was, in part, to Nieto's great work.
My second nomination is "Mama Shim", or Young-ja Shim. Shim is an often forgotten name in global boxing but was one of the most important female promoters in the sport and one of the most remarkable Korean promoters. She was the star Korean promoter of the 1980's and 1990's and promoted the likes of Kyung Yun Lee, Yong Kang Kim, Sung Kil Moon and Bong Jon Kim. Her inclusion in the non-participant category would be a fitting place for her. Sadly she died in 2020 but this would be a great way to honour her life, death and career in the sport.
Whilst writing this I also came up with a third suggestion that I would like to make, even if he wasn't Asian. And that is Sidney Jackson. Jackson was an American boxer originally, but would become better known as the first great trainer in Uzbekistan, where he basically put down the foundations of the Uzbek amateur system which is now one of the best in the world. There are people in the Hall of Fame that did a lot for boxing than Sidney Jackson who's name is rarely mentioned outside of amateur boxing fans, and that is a massive shame. What Jackson did helped create a boxing powerhouse, and we really do not recognise his achievements anywhere near enough."
Taka - "I have 3 names I want to nominate.
Firstly, former boxer Joichiro Tatsuyoshi. I would put him in for the same type of reasons as Arturo Gatti and even Barry McGuigan. Tatsuyoshi isn't an all time great boxer. There is no denying he was a limited boxer, with massive technical issues and a career that didn't reach the heights in the ring that many need to become a Hall of Famer. What he did however was fame. He was a star among stars, he helped cause a boxing boom in Japan and he was a star. A true star. A man who the media and fans connected with and a man who inspired so many fighters afterwards. Yes Tatsuyoshi doesn't belong there on talent, but what he did for the sport was huge. He is fame.
Given that Sylvester Stallone is in the Hall of fame as an Observer I want to nominate two other Observers. The first of those is Jyoji Morikawa, who has had a massive, massive impact on boxing due to his fictional work, as well as his continued involvement in the sport as a promoter. Whilst I don't think every boxing fan will recognise Morikawa's name they will recognise his work, as he is the man behind Hajime No Ippo and that brilliant Ring Magazine cover featuring Naoya Inoue. Morikawa's work has inspired so many Japanese youngsters to take up the sport, and has also seen his work become an international success. If Stallone is in then Morikawa deserves to be knocking on the door.
My second Observer nomination is a bit of a gimmie, and that's photographer. Naoki Fukuda. If we're being honest when we think of boxing photographers there's only a handful of names that we ever think about, and Fukuda is always among those names. His work has regularly been award winning and his ability to take a picture at the right time has seen him become the sports star photographer. He is a special man behind the camera and someone who deserves his place in Canastota one day. As I said he's a gimmie, and if he doesn't get in then serious questions need to be asked!"
Scott - "I'm being super selfish here with 4 names I want to nominate but they include only one is a fighter and the the 3 are connected to each other.
The one fighter is Masako Takatsuki, who I will get blank looks at mentioning. I nominate her for the Women's Trailblazer category, which is really lacking in terms of fighters. She was the first Japanese professional female fighter and was a rather notable curiosity in an era before female boxing was even recognised in Japan. Her boxrec record shows her as having gone 1-1 but her complete record is reported as being 8-2-1 (3). Due to the JBC not recognising female boxing at the time, and they didn't until the 21st century, many of her bouts were fought either overseas or under the auspices of the All Japan Women's Martial Arts Federation, who crowned her the first All Japan female boxing champion. To be the first Japanese female boxer is, to me, a trailblazer, especially given how female boxing in Japan would become in the 00's and the 2010's, some 30 years after Takatsuki's final bout.
The other 3 I want to mention are Hiroyasu Kikuchi, Munehide Tanabe and Yachiyo Manabe, who between them are responsible for much of the Japanese boxing as we know it now.
Hiroyasu Kikuchi was the clerical powerhouse of the early JBC, serving as the first Executive Director, and was responsible for the collection of a lot of data used in boxing. Such as health records, contracts and records. He was the administrator that allowed others to work around him and it was due to his great work that things went, relatively, smoothly during the country's new era of professional boxing. He was also a brilliant mediator and a fantastic negotiator. His impact in boxing is so overlooked. He worked not just for the JBC but also the WBA and WBC during his career in the sport and was also an often overlooked factor in the rise of Yoshio Shirai.
Although not known outside of Asia, Munehide Tanabe and Yachiyo Manabe are really important figures in Japanese boxing, and are brothers-in-laws who helped establish Japanese boxing.
Born in 1881 Munehide Tanabe was a business man who later became one of the key figures in Japanese boxing. He would be one of the key early figures in the Korakuen Stadium Company, now known as the Tokyo Dome, and would go on to be the first commissioner of the JBC (holding the role from 1952 to 1957), establishing the organisation with Akira Honda. After that he helped bring Japan in line with the NBA (National Boxing Association, now the WBA), and later helped develop the Oriental Boxing Federation, which later became the OPBF. During his roles he was a major player in establishing the creation of the Korakuen Hall, the Holy Land of Japanese boxing. Interestingly he is inducted in the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame, for the effects he had on baseball in the country, which saw him play a role in creating the Korakuen Eagles. His role in professional sport in Japan is incredibly over-looked and deserves more than a paragraph here.
Sadly Munehide Tanabe passed away in 1957 and his role of JBC commissioner ended up being passed on to his brother-in-law, Yachiyo Manabe. Manabe, a lawyer and businessman himself, continued the excellent work of Tanabe and served as the JBC's commissioner from 1957 to 1975. Not only did he head the JBC for almost 20 years but he also played a major role in the development of the OBF (which he later served as a chairman for), helped further build the Korakuen Group and guided Japanese boxing into becoming a powerhouse of the sport. He was later named honorary chairman of the WBA for life due to his huge, and amazingly overlooked, impact on the sport. He was also inducted into the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame and, along Tanabe, deserves a place in the Boxing Hall of fame for the work he did in helping set up the JBC. Outside of boxing he played massive role in baseball, crafting a relationship with the Yomiuri Giants, and also began boxing’s relationship with NTV, which continues to this very day!
In many ways Tanabe, Manabe and Kikuchi were the founding fathers of modern day Japanese boxing, along with Akira Honda."
VsThe back end of April is a brilliant month, as we run into what will be a packed May. Over the next 2 weeks or we get title fights at almost every level, from Japanese youth to World, we get world title eliminators and we get notable names all in action as the sport begins to kick on and we head towards bigger and better times in the world of Asian boxing.
Amakusa Park Gym, Asakuchi, Okayama, Japan
Seigo Yuri Akui (15-2-1, 10) Vs Yuto Nakamura (11-6-1, 8)
To begin this part of the month attention turns to Okayama for a bout featuring Japanese Flyweight champion Seigo Yuri Akui, who tests the water at Super Flyweight. The explosive puncher will be up against youngster Yuto Nakamura, who's a talented fighter but was really thrown to the wolves last time out, when he took on Ryo Akaho at 122lbs. This should be a good test for Akui and a chance for him to go a few rounds, though he should be favoured to pick up the win and give local fans something to cheer about.
Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan
Hironobu Matsunaga (17-1, 11) Vs Rei Nakajima (4-0)
In a compelling Japanese Light Middleweight title bout we'll see defending champion Hironobu Matsunaga take on unbeaten challenger Rei Nakajima. This bout is one that's easy to over-look, but do so at your own peril. Matsunaga has proven to be one of the most fan friendly fighters in Japan, with an aggressive pressure style, that makes for great viewing whilst Nakajima is one of the smartest and quickest fighters in the country. The styles here should gel and we're expecting a really interesting contest between two men with very different styles.
Kai Ishizawa (7-1, 7) Vs Yuni Takada (8-6-2, 3)
Another title bout will see JBC Youth Minimumweight champion Kai Ishizawa defending his title against Yuni Takada. The exciting Ishizawa is expected to go on to bigger and better things over the coming years, but it seems clear that he wants to make at least one defense of the Youth title, which he won in 2018, before being forced to vacate it. Takada isn't a terrible challenger, though sadly for him he's up against a very special young fighter and we suspect Takada will struggle to survive when Ishizawa begins to go through the gears.
Reiya Abe (20-3-1, 9) Vs Koshin Takeshima (4-1-1, 3)
In a compelling non-title fight we'll see "genius" boxer Reiya Abe take on former amateur standout Koshin Takeshima. The once touted Abe has struggled in recent years, and we've often felt that for all his talent his style doesn't make for the most fun viewing, as he's a negative technician. A tweak to his in ring mentality and style would serve him well. As for Takeshima he was touted when he turned professional but has struggled to really put a complete performance together and another setback here will see his floundering career move to the point of no return. Interestingly this is a bout neither man can really afford to lose, but yet it's not a bout that we expect will be particularly fun, or exciting.
EDION Arena Osaka, Osaka, Osaka, Japan
Kenshiro Teraji (17-0, 10) Vs Tetsuya Hisada (34-10-2, 20)
Long reigning WBC Light Flyweight champion Kenshiro Teraji looks to make his 8th defense as he takes on determined Japanese challenger Tetsuya Hisada in a bout that is 4 years in the making. These two were meant to fight in 2017, when Kenshiro was the Japanese champion and Hisada the mandatory to that title. Since then the two men have gone their own ways, with Kenshiro winning the WBC title and Hisada winning the Japanese belt before challenging Hiroto Kyoguchi in 2019. Last year these two were again pencilled in to fight, before legal issues saw the bout being cancelled. Although we've waited a long time for this bout, it is one that still has some real allure, and it should be an excellent match up, with Kenshiro's footwork and boxing brain taking on the pressure and aggression of Hisada. A really compelling contest.
Ayumu Hanada (5-0, 4) Vs Mammoth Kazunori (6-3-1, 6)
Perhaps the hidden gem of the next few weeks is a match up between youngsters, as Ayumu Hanada takes on Mammoth Kazunori in what should be a genuine shoot out. Hanada, aged 19, is dubbed "Flaco" and despite his record hasn't really been seen by Japanese fans. Instead his first 4 bouts took place in Mexico, and he really is just starting to connected with Japanese fans. Sadly however he's only fought for 104 seconds in front of a Japanese audience. As for Kazunori he's a very flawed fighter, and he can be out boxed relatively easily, but with his light out power, he is always a threat and he can really mess people up with just a single clean shot, as we saw in 2019 against Lerdchai Chaiyawed. This might not be on your radar, but it really should be!
Convention Center, Ginowan, Okinawa, Japan
Daigo Higa (17-1-1, 17) Vs Ryosuke Nishida (3-0, 1)
Former WBC Flyweight champion Daigo Higa looks to make his first defense of WBO Asia Pacific Bantamweight title as he takes on unbeaten hopeful Ryosuke Nishida, in what is a huge step up for Nishida. The talented and exciting Higa impressed everyone early in his career, until he lost the WBC title on the scales, prior to a bout against Cristofer Rosales. He would go on to lose to Rosales and be given a lengthy suspension for failing to make weight. Since then has had to move up 2 weight classes, and has struggled to really look like the fighter he once was, though was very impressive last time out against Yuki strong Kobayashi. In the opposite corner to Higa is a taller, longer, rangier and naturally bigger southpaw, looking for a chance to shine and make a name for himself. Nishida will enter as a very clear under-dog, but a win for him will see Nishida be the latest young Japanese fighter to have a rocket strapped to him and be sent to the moon. A high, high reward bout for both men, and a brilliant match up of pressure fighter and pure boxer.
Banana Sports Complex, Binan City, Laguna, Philippines
Charly Suarez (5-0, 4) Vs Lorence Rosas (9-5-2, 3)
Over the in the Philippines talented Filipino fighter Charly Suarez looks to secure his next win as he takes on Lorence Rosas. Sadly, given his talent, this is the latest in a line of underwhelming match ups for Suarez who turned professional with high expectations but is still treading water. Whilst this is only his 6th bout as a professional he is now 32 and his best years are behind him. Coming in to this Rosas haslost 4 in a row, and it's hard to imagine that run changing against someone as talented as Suarez. Fingers crossed Suarez's next bout will be a, long over due, step up in class.
Gqeberha, Eastern Cape, South Africa
Christian Araneta (19-1, 15) Vs Sivenathi Nontshinga (9-0, 9)
Over in South Africa we get a IBF Light Flyweight world title eliminator eliminator as once beaten Filipino puncher Christian Araneta takes on heavy handed South African Sivenathi Nontshinga, in a bout that will certain go under-the-radar of many fans. The talented Araneta was unfortunate in his sole loss, which came due to an injury against Daniel Valladares, but other than that loss he has looked fantastic and like one of the best pure punchers at 108lbs. Nontshinga is still a boxing baby with just 9 professional bouts to his name, adding up for 44 rounds, but he has already scored solid wins against Siyabonga Siyo and Ivan Soriano and has looked really exciting, heavy handed and dangerous. Interestingly the winner of this will, likely, become the mandatory for Felix Alvarado in what would be a sensational bout later in the year.
This is just an opinion, maaaan! It's easy to share our opinions, and that's what you'll find here, some random opinion pieces