For today's fight we wish we got we're not looking at world class fighters for once, but we are looking at a bout we desperately wanted, not due to the talent of the men, but due to the styles of them. In fact this was one of the bouts we clamoured for for yeas, but sadly, never got. It was the #1 present request on our Christmas list, and something we were willing to trade in exchange for birthday and Christmas gifts but still, the boxing gods denied us! Damn them!
Rex Tso Vs Jamie Conlan
For the first time in this series we look outside of Asia for one of the fighters involved as we pit Hong Kong star Rex Tso against Jamie Conlan in a bout we were desperately wanting back in the 2010's. This bout, for us, had all the ingredients for a FOTY contender and would, had it gone ahead, been one for the ages with two styles that gelled perfectly, two solid local fan bases, and cult international followings for both men. This was a bout that would have had two B level guys tearing down the house in what would have been an incredible, memorable, sensational war. On paper it was also an easy one to make, and the two men had long enough overlap in careers to have given us the bout at various times.
Unlike some bouts in this series the time window for this one spans years. It could have taken place from around 2013 right through to 2018. The earliest possible would have been 2013 when Bob Arum was taking the Zou Shiming express over in Macau, with Tso often appearing on those shows, to 2018 when both men seemingly walked away from professional boxing. To be fair both men had taken a lot of punishment by then, having been involved in numerous FOTY but had they fought in a 2018 retirement bout we'd have no complained.
Although the window for the bout is large, though bout would have made most sense in 2015, 2016 or 2017, when both were world ranked contenders at Super Flyweight and when both were were very much cult stars. Maybe early 2017 would have been the ideal time, after Conlan's 2016 war with Anthony Nelson and after Tso's battle with Ryuto Maekawa, but the window was huge for the two men to fight.
There hasn't been many fighters form Hong Kong worth talking about, but the one that was worthy of attention was Rex Tso, an all action fighter dubbed the "Wonder Kid". Tso was one of the very few faces of Hong Kong sport and seemed to realise, relatively quickly, that he was the nation's boxing hero. He was a likeable, friendly, personable man outside of the ring, but when inside the ring he was an all action punching machine. Technically he could box, and we did see him boxing at times, but it was never hard to make Tso becoming a fighter, and draw the warrior out of him. It was that warrior spirit and mentality that quickly made Tso into a star at home and a cult hero among hardcore fight fans.
Tso's career was short, with just 22 bouts, but from those he was involved in a string of instant classics. His bouts with Mako Matsuyama, Michael Enriquez, Ryuto Maekawa, Hirofumi Mukai and Kohei Kono were action packed and drama filled bouts that are all worthy of a re-watch any time you question your love of the sport. Sadly though those wars took their toll and he fell out with the head of DEF HK, his promoter, and decided to fight as an amateur after damage to his eyes forced a long break from the ring.
Whilst Hong Kong is an obscure place for boxing Northern Ireland isn't and that's exactly where Jamie Conlan is from. Despite his roots he was dubbed "The Mexican" due to his style, heart and determination. There was a lot of limitations with Conlan in the ring, as there was with Tso, but there was no doubting the love and good will Conlan had for his thrilling battles. He was very much a fighter who came to put on a show and give fans value for money. He was certainly a less skilled fighter than his brother, Michael Conlan, but in many ways he connected with the fans better than his brother due to his easy to watch bouts and the drama they often had.
Sadly Conlan's career was even short than Tso's, fighting just 20 times, but he helped give British fans some of the best bouts in recent memory. His win over Anthony Nelson was something special, his war with Yader Cardoza was spectacular and his guts against Junior Granados helped him eek out a win. Sadly his determination and heart weren't enough at world level and he was dominated by Jerwin Ancajas in an IBF world title fight in 2017, before retiring.
How would we see it playing out?
We're going to start this by admitting we have no idea who we would have favoured here. Both of these men had almost identical flaws. They were defensively limited, fought with their hearts on their sleeve, and had to grit out some tough moments, even when they took home wins. They made easy bouts hard, and made hard bouts even harder. On paper Tso would probably be the slight favourite, but it would be a 55-45 type of thing in his favour.
Although we could say picking a winner here would be hard the reality is that we, the fans, would be the winner. This would start with both men boxing, for a round or two, before the pace picked up, and from there on we'd be getting a war. Both men would be trying to out last the other in a high tempo brawl of insane proportions. CompuBox operators, if they were working the fight, would give up at the intense exchanges, and we would see a fight fit for a phone booth.
Sadly, given the limitations and determination of both men, they would both be taking a lot of punishment and it may well hasten their retirements, though they would sure give the fans something to remember them by!
Would history of been changed?
In reality this would have been little more than a blip on the wider boxing world. The winner would likely have been offered a world title fight, but we can't imagine either man coming out on top at that level. We saw Conlan being undessed by Ancajas and Tso struggled past a well beyond his prime Kohei Kono, and we suspect any world champion from the time would have done a number on either man. But in many ways we don't think that would have harmed their reputations.
Neither of these men are ever going to go down in any "all time great boxers" list, but both will go down as some of the best warriors and most exciting fighters of their era. In many ways the memories they gave us in the ring is their legacy, it is their history. They will be better remembered than many better and more successful fighters. Had they fought it would have given us another memory of both, but that's pretty much a bout in isolation, rather than a bigger picture thing.
As we write this it is worth noting that Conlan is still involved in the sport as part of MTK Global whilst Tso has seemingly still got eyes on the Olympics, though an appearance in Tokyo does look very unlikely.
Back in December we looked at some boxers who were involved in music, either with their own recordings, or when they inspired songs. Now we've decided to look at other times Asian boxers featured in media outside of the sport. We've tried to find some pretty interesting examples and whilst we know there are thousands of examples, we've tried to feature some that are less well known, or rather amusing.
Samart Payakaroon in "The Body Guard"
One of the fighters we featured in the songs by Asian boxers was Thai great Samart Payakaroon. Samart wasn't just a boxer who turned to singing however but also acting, and did so in a number of roles, including a rather humorous role in Thai movie "บอดี้การ์ดหน้าเหลี่ยม", aka The Bodyguard.
Samart's role in the movie wasn't a massive one, but was a tongue in cheek comedy role in the movie, and it's genuinely fantastic to see what he was able to do in 2004 film. Incidentally the movie also features Khaosai and Khaokor Galaxy, who place twins in the movie, however the clip below is just Samart in what is genuinely a a clip worthy of 3 minutes of any ones time.
Katsuya Onizuka's Boxing video game
In the last few years the clamour for a new boxing game has grown, with Fight Night Championship now being a rather old and dated. Notably however former Japanese Katsuya Onizuka had a game that took his name back in the 1990's!
"Onizuka Katsuya Super Virtual Boxing" was a Japanese only Super Famicom game released in late 1993. Back then Onizuka, known as "Spanky K", was the WBA Super Flyweight champion and one of the most popular fighters in Japan. Interestingly the game was released around 3 weeks after his rematch with Thanomsak Sithbaobay.
Unlike most boxing games this one actually uses a first person mode, similar to Punch-Out!!
Onizuka has also featured in some other media, and is now known in Japan due to art work, with his paintings getting attention in his homeland and being available to buy.
Zou Shiming makes cameo in Transformers 4
Bob Arum's big hope to have a Chinese expansion was built primarily on the shoulders of Zou Shiming, a former Chinese amateur standout. Sadly the idea of making Macau an Asian boxing hub has failed, and Shiming's career has sadly been cut short due to injuries. Saying that however he is still very popular in China and a big name in his homeland.
Before his in ring career faltered he had a small part in Hollywood blockbuster Transformers 4. It wasn't a long cameo, or even a particularly long one, but it was a notable one with the producers of the film wanting to use Shiming to try and make the movie bigger in China, and tap into the growing Chinese film market.
This is less humours than the Samart Payakaroon clip, but still worthy of a few minutes to see Shiming trying to act!
Some thing totally different to everything else on this list is this old item that used to be sold on the Kameda shop. This was the "Kameda Roll", a food item that the Kameda brothers put their name to.
Back in 2010 this was pretty big news in Japan, back when all 3 of the Kameda brothers were active fighters. It was a collaboration between the Kameda brothers and Kitahorie Charbon, a cafe in Osaka. For those who know about Osaka they will know the area is regarded as having some of the best food in Japan and this roll was certainly interesting.
It was described on www.excite.co.jp as being a "melon bread-like biscuit dough with a two-layer structure of fluffy sponges with plenty of egg yolk", and was apparently a success back when it was released. Sadly though it hasn't been the raging, long term success of the George Foreman grill.
Rex Tso in HUAWEI Honor advert
Boxers being used in adverts isn't a new, or unique thing, but the partnership between Hong Kong's Rex Tso and Chinese phone giant HUAWEI was more than just Tso being used to advertise the phone. It was actually a solid partnership that ended up with HUAWEI streaming some of Tso's fights on their facebook page as the brand looked to make the most of their deal with the fighter.
The art featuring Tso for the phone is a pretty weak one if we're being honest, showing more of Tso training than any real attempt to sell the phone. The focus was clearly more on merely raising the brand awareness than showing what the phone could do, which is a shame as the Honor 6 was a fantastic phone. Still seeing Tso in this role was rather weird and it's clear that's, not the most natural of actors, despite his incredible charisma.
Other adverts that were considered included Gennady Golovkin's adverts for Apple Watch, which again did little to make us think anything positive of the device.
Naoya Inoue's under pants advert
We finish this article with one more advert, the Body Wild Airz advert featuring Japanese star Naoya Inoue, Unlike the Rex Tso advert this does try and sell the product, which are underpants.
Inoue became the face, and body, of the advertising campaign for the Body Wild underwear and whilst it was really smart marketing in many ways it does seem a rather peculiar of using one of the biggest stars in Japanese boxing. It also makes the product easy to rip, which does seem the best of ideas for those behind the product, even if that wasn't the idea behind the advert. Of all the adverts we came across featuring Asian boxers seemed the most bizarre. A boxer, selling boxers!
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