One of the absolute legends of Asian boxing is Japanese fighter Yoshio Shirai, who managed to become Japan's first world champion back in the 1952. He's a man who's place in history is sorted, and who will go down as one of the most important Japanese fighters of all time. To commemorate the anniversary of his world title win we though this was the perfect time to include him in this on going series of articles.
For those who don't really follow boxing history Shirai fought from 1943 to 1955. No one is 100% sure on his career record, but it's thought that he had around 60 bouts, either a little over or a little under. Whilst not every bout he had was recorded or even known, most are. With that in mind we feel pretty confident in bringing you the 5 most significant wins for... Yoshio Shirai.
As is always the case with these articles the bouts will be listed in chronological order, with an explanation of the result, and what made the bout so significant. In this particular case there is, of course, a very clear #1 but it's certainly not the only win of major note for Shirai.
1-Nobuyuki Ishimori (July 30th 1948)
We start this list with an obscure one, but one that really laid the ground work for what would become an historic relationship for Japanese boxing. Shirai's July 1948 win over Nobuyuki Ishimori was the first bout that Shirai had with American trainer and manager Dr Alvin Robert Cahn, the man who would bring scientific training into Japanese boxing. Cahn had repeatedly requested Shirai to work with him and this was, reportedly, the first bout they had together. Shirai would stop Ishimori in 2 rounds and and it seemed pretty clear that Cahn's teachings and methods had something to them.
2-Yoichiro Hanada II (January 28th 1949)
Around 6 months after working with Dr Cahn the American managed to get Shirai a shot at the Japanese Flyweight champion, and pre-war hero, Yoichiro Hanada. Hanada had previously beaten Shirai, back in 1947, and this would have been a great chance to Shirai to see the improvements he was making, and for Cahn to convince his man they were going on to bigger and better things. This rematch saw Shirai avenge his prior loss to Hanada by stopping the veteran in 5 rounds to claim the Japanese Flyweight title. This was Shirai's first title win, and was further proof that what he was being taught was working. The scientific methods of Cahn, which focused on the jab, and being defensively smart, were becoming the key to Shirai's in ring style.
3-Hiroshi Horiguchi I (December 15th 1949)
Around 11 months after winning the Japanese Flyweight crown Shirai would become a 2-weight Japanese champion, defeating Hiroshi Horiguchi in the first of two bouts between the men. Horiguchi, the brother of the legendary Piston Horiguchi, was a fighter who had a busy style, let his hands go a lot and would later face the iconic Flash Elorde. Shirai did what he needed to to out box, out move and out think Horiguchi to claim his second title. He would only defend the belt, successfully, twice, but it was clear that this was the next step towards bigger and better things for Shirai.
4-Dado Marino II (December 4th 1951)
In May 1951 Shirai got his first bout with the then Flyweight world champion Dado Marino. The bout had 35,000 fans in attendance and had been set up by Cahn and Marino's manager, himself a Japanese-American. Shirai failed to win, but did enough to prove that he belonged in there with a great champion like Marino, who had failed to make the contracted weight. Less than 7 months later Shirai would get a rematch with Marino in Hawaii, in what was Shirai's international debut. In Hawaii Shirai avenged his loss, stopping Marino in the 7th round. The win was massive, and showed that Shirai had the ability to beat the world champion in a non-title bout.
5-Dado Marino III (May 19th 1952)
With their series split at 1-1 Shirai and Marino would meet for a third time. This time their was a lot more at stake, with the Flyweight title on the line. With 40,000 fans in the venue this was make or break for Shirai and Dr Cahn. A win here would see the post-war ray of sporting hope for Japan shine brightly, whilst a loss would have seen their new sporting hope dashed in a time when Japan needed success. They needed hope. Shirai fought well to begin with, but was shaken in the middle rounds. Cahn had to draw on his relationship with Shirai to get the most from the fighter, who cleared his head and, in the end, deserved a clear decision.
This win over Marino put Shirai on the map, etched his name into the history books and will go down as one of, if not the, most significant win in Japanese boxing history. Interestingly the two men would clash once more after this, with Shirai defending the title against his Filipino rival 6 months later, in what would be Marino's final bout.
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