One of the most amazing things about boxing is the sheer number of stories the sport has given us over the years. They range from the incredibly well documented, such as Muhammad Ali's and Mike Tyson's, to the almost unknown stories of fighters who never managed to become famous enough for fans around the world to know about them.
Over the years many, many stories of boxers, their careers and their lives have managed to be told through biopics, something that seems to be coming more and more popular in recent years. In recent years alone we have seen biopics released about a wide array of fighters from our great sport. These have included movies about legends like Muhammad Ali, Manny Pacquiao, Roberto Duran and Max Schmelling, fan favourites like Vinny Pazienza, Chuck Wepner, Mickey Ward and national heroes like Mary Kom, Muhammad Shah and Olli Mäki.
With those movies in mind the team of guys behind Asian boxing was tasked with answering the question of:
"Who... should have a biopic made about their life and career?"
The only rule for this was that the fighter had to be Asian and the idea of the biopic was to tell a story that hadn't been told before to a wider, global audience.
Lee: "There are a lot of fantastic stories of fighters from Asia, and a lot of really good ones from Korea. I would love to see the tale of Yo Sam Choi given the big screen treatment, as I think it would really tear at the heart strings of viewers. His WBC world title win, with his battle to keep Korean boxing relevant, his retirements, his untimely death and his organ donations would be a really touching story with implications that could massively help raise the profile of organ donations. It could even end with interviews from the people who received organs and their families, as a poignant ending and showing that Choi still lives on. It's also worth noting that LeeSSang did a song regarding Choi, and it would be an amazing song to feature in the movie.
Another that I would love would be a biopic on Hyun Mi Choi. I know Choi's story is starting to be told thanks to her signing with Matchroom, but a lot of the story will never really be told. The way she was scouted for the 2008 Olympics, her and her family fleeing from North Korea, the need to create a new life in South Korea, the rise through the amateur ranks, her world title win, the double crossing of her team and the way she was taken advantage of, before finally making it big and fighting in the US.
Whilst I would love Yo Sam Choi's tale to be told, and I think it would be an amazing advert for what organ donations can do, I think the emotional push and pull would be an incredibly painful one to watch. As for Hyun Mi Choi it would be a feel good story, and a chance to get an insight into North Korea and what the regime was like. Two really good potential stories."
Takahiro: "If we were going to have a biopic about a fighter there are lots of names that spring to mind, but I think the best, as a viewer, would be Jiro Watanabe. The story would have carious chapters. Starting with his childhood and his success in Nippon Kempo as a youngster. Then for the middle portion we move on to boxing, the disappointment of his first world title fight, the eventual rise to the top, the politics between the WBC and WBA that denied him a unification, his world title reign and his unfulfilled rivalry with Khaosai Galaxy. Then we get to the bulk of the action and the eventual conclusion, his down fall, the Yakuza issues, and the stories that have plagued him since he hung up the gloves.
If I'm allowed a second choice I would also love to see a movie on the international stage of Iwao Hakamada. As many will know Hakamada wasn't a famous boxer, but his name is well known internationally due to the "Hakamada Incident" where he was found guilty of the murders of his boss and their family. He would serve a lengthy time on death row before his legal team, with the help of those in Japanese boxing, managed to get his case retried. I think a biopic on Hakamada, at one of the film festivals, would raise the profile of Hakamada further and really force the world to take a look at the Japanese criminal justice system. A system that has failed Hakamada, and needs to be changed. I think given the success of "The Hurricane" this would do well, and would be the spiritual brother of that movie
I will take biopics on Jiro Watanabe or Iwao Hakamada please!"
Scott: "Whenever I see this question one name that always jumps immediately to mind is Hiroyuki Sakamoto. He has a tale that would just feel so good to watch, despite a dark start. He was abused as a child, along with his brother, and he would end up in an orphanage. Despite that he was bit by the boxing bug, and ended up being a star in the sport. He was a star despite not being a loud mouth, or really talking much at all. He let his boxing do the talking and was known as the "Japanese Duran" due to his power and aggression.
After a sad start to the movie we would get to see Sakamoto fight through the rankings, becoming a multi time world title challenger, with a lot of focus on his astonishing fight with Gilberto Serrano, one of the craziest comebacks in the sport. Then his big opportunity against Takanori Hatakeyama. More disappointment. I would end the part about his in ring career here, though can see some value in showing the final few bouts of it. Then fast forward a few years and we'd get the chance to see Sakamoto's post boxing career, the success of the SRS Boxing Gym which he set up, as well as Sakamoto receiving the "HEROs SPORTSMANSHIP for THE FUTURE" award for his charitable work with the Aozora Foundation that he set up. We'd go from grief, and extreme sadness at Sakamoto's child hood and career to jubilation to what he does now.
As well as Sakamoto I think another fighter who deserves the big screen treatment is Sirimongkol Singwancha. His career and life is crazy. His father basically pushed him into boxing, he raced to a world title, had an incredible 1997 bout with Joichiro Tatsuyoshi, had a scandal with nudes back in 2005, a drug issue in 2009 saw him given a 20 year sentence, he was given an early pardon, then would fight on, and on, and on! Fighting all the way in to 2020, when he was in his early 40's and very much a washed up fighter."
When we talk about the fighters who have the most controversy, and even mystique, around them after retirement few rival Jiro Watanabe (26-2, 17). His out of the ring activity has involved the Yakuza, being a hired thug and various arrests. Inside of the ring however he was a genius, a very lazy but a genius all the same.
Durign his 7 year professional career, that spanned from 1979 to 1986, Watanabe fought 28 times with half of his career, 14 total outs, spent in world title bouts. From those bouts bouts it should come as no surprise that former 2-time Super Flyweight champions scored some big wins and some super significant ones. In fact some of Watanabe's wins are genuinely significant in ways we may not realise.
With that said, here are the 5 most significant wins for... Jiro Watanabe.
Koji Kobayashi (February 2nd 1980)
We start with an early career win for Watanabe as he took on Koji Kobayashi in February 1980. By this point Watanabe was 6-0 (6) whilst Kobayashi was 6-0-2 (4), the two men were clashing in the All Japan Rookie of the Year final at Flyweight and Watanabe made a statement in stopping Kobayashi inside a round. The win not only netted Watanabe his 7th straight win, all by stoppage, and the Rookie of the Year but also a win over a future world champion. Whilst Kobayashi may not be a big name he would go on to win the WBC Flyweight title in 1984, stopping Frank Cedeno. Sadly Kobayashi's reign was a short one, but the win for Watanabe certainly is a major one, and often over-looked one.
Rafael Pedroza (April 18th 1982)
Watanabe came up short in his first world title fight, losing a close 15 round decision to Chul Ho Kim in South Korea, but a 1982 bout with Rafael Pedroza saw Watanabe claim a top tier title in his second shot at the top. The Japanese southpaw managed to take a a clear decision over Pedroza, from Panama, who was making his first defense of the WBA Super Flyweight title. The tough Pedroza really had no answer to Watanabe's consistency. The bout was certainly not an exciting one, with Watanabe respecting Pedroza's power and toughness, but those who enjoy watching a fighter controlling distance and tempo of a bout from their footwork and lead hand will find this one pretty impressive.
Payao Poontarat I (July 5th 1984)
After making 6 defenses of his WBA title Watanabe faced WBC champion Payao Poontarat. The hope was to find the best in the division and unify the two titles. Of course boxing bodies don't like to get on and the WBA decided that they didn't like the idea of a unified champion and stripped Watanabe for not facing Khaosai Galaxy. Despite the WBA's decision the bout went ahead and in the eyes of many this decided the king of the division. Sadly it failed to really crown the divisional king as what ended up happening was Watanabe took a huge controversially decision. The Japanese fighter, who claimed the WBC title due to the win, was seen as being very lucky to get the decision. Poontarat felt robbed and Watanabe himself suggested that Poontarat had been the superior boxer. The controversy lead to a rematch...
Payao Poontarat II (November 29th 1984)
...and the that rematch came in November 1984, with the WBC title on the line. This was Watanabe's first defense of the title he took from the Thai and again the action was pretty even at times. Despite being competitive it did seem like Watanabe had improved from their first bout, changed things a touch whilst Poontarat failed to have the same level of success he had in the first bout. Although it was competitive Watanabe was well up on the scorecards as he tried to right the wrongs of their first encounter. Poontarat was down in round 5, from a gorgeous right hook, and dropped again in round 11 before the referee halted the action and saved the Thai from further punishment. Whilst the first bout might have been inconclusive in terms of a winner their was no doubting the better man here with Watanabe making it clear he was the #1 in the division.
Interestingly just 8 days before this rematch Khaosai Galaxy beat Eusebio Espinal for the WBA title that had been stripped from Watanabe for facing Poontarat the first time around.
Suk Hwan Yun (December 13th 1985)
We suspect readers of this will be wondering why the little known Korean Suk Hwan Yun makes up the final result here. Afterall Wayanabe beat the likes of former champion Shoji Oguma, Inaugural IBF champion Soon Chun Kwon and former WBA champion Gustavo Ballas. The reason is simple. They were better wins than this one, but this one was more significant. Watanabe's bout with Yun saw the WBC Super Flyweight champion travel over to South Korea to take on the Korean challenger, and then stop Yun in 5 rounds. Yun had been bounced off the canvas twice in round 2 before being stopped a few rounds later. This would go on to be Watanabe's final win but it was more the circumstances around the win that made it significant.
The talented Japanese fighter was always expected to beat Yun, the two men were on different levels and the Korean did nothing before hand to earn a shot at Watanabe. The bout however was the first time, in history, that a Japanese world champion successfully defended a world title on foreign soil. prior to this the likes of Fighting Harada, Hiroyuki Ebihara, Kuniaki Shibata, Guts Ishimatsu and Royal Kobayashi all lost their titles on the road. It would take until 2009 for another Japanese fighter to repeat the feat, with Toshiaki Nishioka doing it against Jhonny Gonzalez.
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