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."
With no fights currently taking place, and we don't need to explain why, we've decided to begin a new series looking at fights that could have been. These are match ups that may, or may not, have been mooted but are fights that could have happened. Not only do we intend to look at who the men involved were, but when the bout could have been made, why we would have liked it, how we feel the bout played out and how history played out instead.
Chris John Vs Hozumi Hasegawa
We began this series with an all out war, and this week we go in a very different direction for what could have been a genuine show case of incredible boxing skills, speed, ring IQ and pure ring craft. It's a match up between two men who knew how to box, were surprisingly aggressive and would have made the bout look like high speed chess of the highest order. For a purest this would have been something special, and it would have been exciting enough to have made even the most blood thirsty enjoy it. This would be a Featherweight showdown for the ages between Indonesian great Chris John and Japanese Ace Hozumi Hasegawa.
The window for this bout isn't mega huge, like it would be for some bouts, but there was a clear overlap in 2010 and 2011 when the two could have clashed in a unification bout. At the time John was enjoying a lengthy reign as the WBA "super" champion whilst Hasegawa was the WBC champion. Alternatively the bout could have taken place a little bit later with just the WBA "super" title of John's on the line.
Ideally however this would have taken place in April 2011, when Hasegawa instead took on Jhonny Gonzalez, and was stopped. Had we seen this instead we would have had a unified WBA/WBC champion, as well as a special, special bout.
Chris John is the greatest boxer in Indonesian boxing history. He was a very long reigning WBA champion at Featherweight, and had his title upgraded from interim, to regular to super. His reign is much maligned for not facing the biggest names the division had, but unlike anyone else at the time he was proving a willing road warrior and was taking some solid scalps along the way. During his long reign he fought in Indonesia, Singapore, Australia, Japan and the US. Whilst he lacked massive amounts of power John made boxing look natural and easy. He moved around the ring with excellent balance, had an excellent boxing brain, could adapt and had solid hand speed. He lacked in the physical aspects of the sport, but more than made up for it in the technical areas.
Hozumi Hasegawa was similar in some ways to John. He wasn't a power puncher, but he was quick, razor sharp puncher, with an excellent boxing brain, a willingness to brawl when he needed to and was a southpaw to boot. His weakness was his chin, but even that was rarely exposed and was often covered by his excellent will to win and tenacity. Although not a big puncher he did hurt fighters when he landed clean, and was a great example of the old adage "speed kills". This was seen against the tough Vusi Malinga and his KO of Veeraphol Sahaprom was something special. Featherweight wasn't his best weight, that was Bantamweight, and his time at 126lbs was was relatively short, but an excellent win over Juan Carlos Burgos showed he could have success there.
How would we see it playing out?
Where both men lacked was their physicality. Neither was easy to push around, but neither made a knack of physically bullying opponents either. Instead both boxed. They boxed in different styles, but they were both boxers at heart, and not fighters. They both liked creating some space to work with, countering mistakes and taking advantages of when an opponent slipped up. But both could force the action when they needed to and, when they landed clean, they could do damage.
Physicially the bigger guy would be John, the natural Featherweight, and he would almost certainly boss the few clinches we'd see. John also has a slightly longer reach, though both guys are pretty much the same height. Hasegawa would however perhaps edge the speed, both hand and feet, and his southpaw stance could prove a problem for John.
Early on we'd expect to see a very technical chess match. John probably the more aggressive in the first round or two, but not by much as both looked to draw a mistake from the other, with patience being the key. From there on though the bout would pick up, and we'd start to see a slow build, yet always compelling, technical war. We don't expect many exchanges, but what we'd get would be sensational.
Sadly for Hasegawa we do see him coming up short, as natural size plays a part over 12 rounds. It'd be close, hotly competitive, and intriguing through out with both men showing amazing foot work and ring craft, with John just sneaking the decision.
Would history of been changed?
Looking at the time frame we'd want the bout, against early 2011, Hasegawa wouldn't have faced Gonzalez, if he lost here, and the WBC linage from him would have been starkly different. It would potentially have done away with the reigns of Daniel Ponce De Leon, Abner Mares and even Gary Russell's long reign, which has ran since 2015. We would still expect to see Hasegawa move down in weight, and eventually become a 3-weight champion.
As for John history would look kinder on him, and the Indonesian super fight with Daud Yordan would have been pushed back to later in 2011. There's a chance his reign would have ended earlier than it did, as this bout may have put some miles on his clock, but in reality if he squeezed this in then continued with what he did his loss to Vetyeka, which we would envision now being in 2014, would have come when he was 49-0-3.
Of course it's hard to know for a fact how things would have played out, both in the ring and in terms of politics, but we suspect the Featherweight division would look a bit different had we seen the "Dragon" and the "Ace" clash in 2011.
We at Asian boxing are always looking to do something a little bit different and bring attention to things that are perhaps not the most well known. With that in mind we though we'd put together a small list of songs about Asian boxers. We know this is a long way from a complete list, but we do think it's a pretty varied list.
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