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."
When we talk about the biggest stars in Japanese boxing history few will rival Joichiro Tatsuyoshi (20-7-1, 14). The Osakan fighter was an enigma at the best of times. He had a unique style, with his hands lower than most, he put on exciting fights. got moved quickly through the ranks and was very much a unique fighter in Japanese history.
Although incredibly talented Tatsuyoshi's record doesn't show how good he really was, and in reality he's a hard man to really rate. At his best he was very good and a legitimate 2-time world champion though his career was plagued with injuries and it's fair to say his style limited his longevity, though helped make him a star. He could have fought with a more "safe" style but wouldn't be remembered in the way he is today. Thanks to his style and popularity he helped inspire many of the Japanese that followed him, and many recent Japanese fighters point to Tatsuyoshi as to why they took up the sport.
Of course these weekly articles aren't to talk about the legacy or impact a fighter has in general, but instead their 5 most significant wins. So with that in mind lets look at the 5 most significant wins for... Joichiro Tatsuyoshi
Greg Richardson (September 19th 1991)
In just his 8th professional bout Tatsuyoshi took on WBC Bantamweight champion Greg Richardson. Richardson had won the title in February 1991, when he beat Raul Perez, and had defended the title once, against Victor Rabanales, prior to this bout. Despite having 4 losses to his name Richardson was a world class fighter who had rebuilt well from a 5-2 (2) start to his professional career and had been unbeaten since a split decision loss to the then unbeaten Jesse Benavides almost 4 years earlier. Tatsuyoshi out boxed Richardson early on, and was well up on the scorecards by the time Richardson returned in his corner. With the win the young Japanese star had gone from popular contender to world champion in just 2 years! This win set an officially recognised Japanese speed record for the fewest fights to win a world title.
Victor Rabanales II (July 22nd 1993)
Sadly after winning the WBC Bantamweight title Tatsuyoshi would be forced out of the ring due to an issue with his eyes. That meant we didn't see him in action for a year and as a result Victor Rabanales clashed with Jang Kyun Oh for the "interim" title. After winning the interim title Rabanales would fight Tatsuyoshi and defeat the Japanese fighter, giving him his first loss in 1992. The two men would clash again in 1993 and this time Tatsuyoshi would come out on top, taking a split decision over Rabanales, to claim the WBC "interim" Bantamweight title, and avenge his first defeat.
This win for Tatsuyoshi wasn't just him getting revenge over the man who had beat him, but lead to Tatsuyoshi getting a bout with fellow Japanese fighter Yasuei Yakushiji. That bout would be huge in Japan, and would be one of the highest profile bouts of the decade for Japanese fans.
Sirimongkol Singwancha (November 22nd 1997)
By November 1997 Tatsuyoshi's career looked about done. He was 14-4-1 (11) and was looking like a man who's style had caught up with him, with repeated injuries. He had suffered two losses to Daniel Zaragoza and seemed very much like a fighter who peaked too soon and faded early. He then shocked the boxing world by stopping the then 16-0 (6) Thai fighter Sirimongkol Singwancha. Singwancha, the then WBC Bantamweight champion, had won the WBC "interim" Bantamweight title in 1996 and had then become the regular champion, and made defenses including one over Victor Rabanales. He had all the momentum behind him, and that showed early on as he out boxed Tatsuyoshi. In round 4 Tatsuyoshi managed to make the bout into a war, and in round 7 broke down the champion, stopping him in an amazing bout to become a 2-time world champion. This win saved Tatsuyoshi's career and lead to arguably another of his biggest wins.
Paulie Ayala (August 23rd 1998)
In his second reign as the WBC Bantamweight champion Tatsuyoshi made 2 successful defenses, before running into Veeraphol Sahaprom. The second of those saw him over-come the then 25-0 Paulie Ayala. The bout saw Tatsuysohi taking a technical decision against the American to retain the title and have a rare win that aged well. After this bout Ayala would quickly bounce back, being crowned the Ring Magazine Fighter of the Year in 1999, the year he won the WBA Bantamweight title with a win over Johnny Tapia. This was a big win for Tatsuyoshi, but sadly lead the end of his second reign as he suffered back to back losses to Veeraphol Sahaprom and lead to what seemed like the end of his career...after all he did announce he was retiring.
Parakorn Charoendee (October 26th 2008)
After Tatsuyoshi suffered back to back losses to Sahaprom he was out if the ring for 3 years. It seemed likt that was it, and that he was done. Then he got bit by the boxing bug and returned in 2002, winning 2 bouts. The second of those bouts saw him suffer an injury to his leg that seemed to retire him. That was until 2008 when he returned, in Thailand, and beat little known Thai Parakorn Charoendee, in 2 rounds. The win over Charoendee was a nothing win in all reality, however it was a significant one. It made the then 38 year old Tatsuyoshi continue his career. It made him think there was still something in his legs, and even with Osaka Teiken and the Japan Boxing Commission both essentially asking him to retire he continued on. Without this win he would have almost certainly been retired.
Sadly Tatsuyoshi would fight again after this win, and be stopped by Thai teenager Sakai Jockygym, in 7 rounds. This was to be Tatsuyoshi's final bout.
This story doesn't end well and now a days Tatsuyoshi is slurring is words and showing signs of being punch drunk.
Sadly there's an even darker end to all this. The man who beat Tatsuyoshi in his final bout, Sakai Jockygym, would sadly pass away before the year was over. The 19 year old would travel to Japan 7 months after beating Tatsuyoshi to face Kazuyoshi Niki. He took punishment through out that bout and passed away from injuries sustained in that loss.
In July 1975 Thailand's Saensak Muangsurin, pictured, shocked the world by winning a world title in just his third professional contest. For much of the last 40 years fans thought that record was an untouchable record, one that would never be beaten and very few fighters would have either the testicular fortitude or skills to even dream about challenging it.
Just this past weekend however a fighter came very close to beating that record. Vasyl Lomachenko (1-1, 1), fighting for just the second time as a professional after a stunning amateur career, was just a single judge away from managing to win the WBO Featherweight world title in his second bout.
Lomachenko's failure to win the world tile might have been "bad" for his legacy and for those hoping to see "history" created that night, though in another way it may have been one of the greatest things to happen in recent memory for professional boxing. Lomachenko's competitive effort signalled that professional novices could hold their own against experienced championship level fighters. Although Lomachenko may have been an exceptional amateur he was still a baby in terms of professional experience and he showed that a fighter doesn't need to have been a professional for years to have world class skills.
In failing to secure the record Lomachenko has actually left the door open to others wanting to tie, or even beat the record.
One man who seems interested in trying to tie the record is Japanese teenage Takuma Inoue (1-0), pictured below, who faces the world ranked Fahlan Sakkreerin Jr (23-2, 15) on April 6th.
Sakkreerin Jr is currently ranked by all 4 organisations and a victory over him would open up doors with any of the WBA, WBC, WBO or IBF. Whilst some of these doors won't be worth trying open for obvious reasons, for example having a champion that you simply wouldn't risk a young novice against, others are very much open. In fact some of these possibilities are so open that it's hard to imagine Inoue refusing to consider them.
At the moment the WBA have a vacant title at Light Flyweight. If Inoue gets past Fahlan in their encounter it's hard to imagine Inoue not being rewarded with a top 5 rankings with the WBA. A top 5 ranking would surely leave Inoue in a position to challenge for either the vacant title, if it's still vacant, or have a shot at the next champion.
It may seem an extreme way to treat an 18 year old but with Inoue holding his own in sparring with WBC Flyweight champion Akira Yaegashi it's hard for Ohashi Gym and Inoue himself not to at least consider trying to tie the world record. He'd be in an ideal position, if he beats Sakkreerin Jr, to tie the record and most importantly he'll know a loss isn't a huge set back. He could easily rebound, like Lomachenko, at either the OPBF or Japanese level and rebuild from their.
Of course there is risk there for Inoue though the youngster will surely be aware that he could cement his place in the history books if he takes the risk and the gamble pays off.
The interesting thing for Inoue though isn't just that he'd be in a position to challenge for a world title in his third fight but that he's the next in the line of Japanese fighter who are swiftly coming through the ranks with ideas of grandeur.
We all know how great Joichiro Tatsuyoshi was and his rapid climb up the ranks back in the early 1990's was brilliant. Though of course his national record was beaten a few years back by Kazuto Ioka. Joichiro's national record had stood for almost 20 years before Kazuto Ioka burst on to the scene and defeated Oleydong Sithsamerchai to break "Jo's" record.
Now, just over 3 years after Ioka set a national record, Naoya Inoue (5-0, 4) is trying to beat Ioka's achievement. If Naoya is successful and claims a world title in his 6th fight, when he battles Adrian Hernandez for the WBC Light Flyweight title, then one must wonder what is next.
For me, and knowing what Takuma has been involved in in the gym, the next step is for Takuma to either get a world title fight in fight #3 or fight #4, if he gets past Sakkreerin Jr.
There is every chance that if Takuma does manage to fight for, and win, a world title in his third bout then more fighters will be looking to try and break the record and claim a world title in their second bout. On paper it's beyond what is currently allowed in Japan, due to domestic rules, but it's a marker set down to suggest that in this day and age Muangsurin's record is there to be challenged, not just admired.
(Pictures courtesy of boxrec and Ohashi Gym)
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