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."
Last week we covered Yong Soo Choi in this series and today we cover one of his major rivals, Takanori Hatakeyama (24-2-3, 19) in this week's "The 5 most significant wins for...". Fans outside of Asia perhaps aren't too familiar with Hatakeyama, and that's a shame as the guy was all action, exciting and in a number of great bouts from the 1990's and early 00's.
Hatakeyama, like Choi, is one of favourites for the Closet Classic series, and fans of that series will be fully aware of how amazing Hatakeyema's fights are and how much fun he is to. Sadly though we're not talking about his most fun bouts here, but his most significant wins. Even with that in mind we still have some tremendous bouts to share of Hatakeyama's, and really is one of those fighters who always gave fans value for money, and massive amounts of excitement.
Shigeru Kotani (February 13th 1994)
We're starting with an obscure one, and in fairness there was a few obscure ones we were considering including Hatakeyama's often replayed KO win over Jae Woon Park and his OPBF title win over Jung Chil Choi. Despite being obscurity Hatakeyama's 1994 win over Shigeru Kotani saw Hatakeyama win the All-Japan Rookie of the Year and certainly helped increase his profile in Japan, and put him on track to success. Not only did the win see Hatakeyama win the Rookie of the Year tournament, at 130lbs, but also claim the MVP, really highlighting his potential. It's worth noting that he was also just 18 years old at this point.
Koji Arisawa (March 29th 1998)
A little over 4 years after winning Rookie Hatakeyama fought Japanese champion Koji Arisawa, in a bout that was described as the biggest Japanese title fight in history. The bout was only a national title fight but it was massive news in Japan pitting two hugely popular and unbeaten fighters against each other for the Japanese Super Featherweight title. The bout was shown live on Japanese terrestrial TV and was held at the Kokugikan. Whilst the bout was highly hyped before hand it easily outdid all expectations and turned out to be a sensational bout, with Hatakeyama stopping Arisawa for the title, and launching himself into a second world title bout.
Yong Soo Choi II (September 5th 1998)
A moment ago we mentioned the win over Arisawa launched Hatakeyama into a second world title fight, that came against Yong Soo Choi. In 1997 Hatakeyama and Choi had fought to an amazing 12th round draw. Hatakeyama had bounced back from that set back by beating Arisawa and then getting a second shot at Choi. The second Hatakeyama Vs Choi bout was almost as good as their first, though tactical changes from Hatakeyama, who realised that he had to use more movement and use his feet more, proved vital. After 12 rounds Hatakeyama took a razor thin win to claim the WBA Super Featherweight title and become a world champion for the first time. Understandably after this win, and the win over Arisawa, he had become one of the top names in Japanese boxing.
Gilberto Serrano (June 11th 2000)
Sadly Hatakeyama's reign as the WBA Super Featherweight champion was a short lived one. He would make only a single successful defense, as 12 round draw with Saul Duran, before losing the belt to Lakva Sim and retiring. His retirement was a short lived one though and less than a year later he returned to the sport and stopped Gilberto Serrano to become the WBA Lightweight champion. The in ring action wasn't as memorable as in some other Hatakeyama bouts, but the contest was still dramatic, with Serrano being dropped in rounds 5 and 7 before being dropped 3 times in round 8. Given the circumstance, of Hatakeyama retiring, unretiring and then moving up in weight, this was a huge win, and lead directly to his next major win.
Hiroyuki Sakamoto (October 11th 2000)
After beating Serrano to claim the WBA Lightweight title we saw Hatakeyama state he wanted to defend against fellow Japanese fighter Hiroyuki Sakamoto. This would be Hatakeyama's first defense of the title and came against the nearly man of Japanese boxing. Sakamoto had come up short in several other world title fights, including one to Serrano that saw Sakamoto dropping Serrano twice in the opening round before swelling around his eyes forced the bout to be stopped. This was brilliant, brutal and thrilling with Sakamoto eventually running out of steam and being stopped early in round 10. For fans of tragic boxing stories Sakamoto's career, and life, is worth reading upon. As for Hatakeyama he was never quite the same fighter after this and wouldn't win another professional bout.
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