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."
One of the many things that boxing has a long history of is "nicknames" and with that in mind we've decided to share some of our favourites in a new series looking at nicknames. To kick this series off we're including some of our favourites and some of the most unique, though as this series goes on we will share some awful ones as well!
Young Kyun Park - "Bulldozer"
Few nicknames will every sum up a fighter as well as "Bulldozer" summed up Korean warrior Yung Kyun Park, the former Featherweight king. Although not one of the more well known Korean fighters he was among the excellent wave of Korean fighters that made their mark on the sport in the 1980's and 1990's, and he was very much a bulldozer in the ring.
Armed with an iron chin, an incredibly work rate and a vicious power Park carved up a very good career in the ring from 1986 to 1995, going 28-3-1 (16). Although his career was short it was intense and he held the WBA Featherweight title from March 1991 to December 1993, in which time he managed to make 8 successful defenses.
If you've never watched a Park fight we desperately advise you watch his bouts with Seiji Asakwa, Koji Matsumoto and the first bout with Eloy Rojas. After that you'll understand why he was dubbed the "Bulldozer"
Naoya Inoue - "Monster"
Another nickname that sums up a fighter incredibly well is "Monster" for current Japanese star Naoya Inoue. The name has been adopted by a few other fighters in recent years, such as Can Xu and Andrew Moloney, but in reality there is only one "Monster" and that's Inoue.
Although an excellent boxer, and one of the best boxer-puncher's in the sport, Inoue is a physically imposing guy with freakish physical strength, nasty power and the ability to destroy fighters with his heavy hands.
Originally he wasn't a fan of the nickname himself, but the name has stuck and it's certainly summed up his in ring style very, very well. He's a monster, and he destroys things that are in front of him. Not too much more to it than that!
Mikito Nakano - "Manos de Acero"
We've only seen this one used once or twice but the nickname of "Manos de Arceo", literally "Fists of Iron", is attributed to rising Japanese prospect Mikito Nakano and is a name that was absolutely love. It's obviously an alternate take on Roberto Duran's iconic "Manos de Piedra", but is still a damn cool name, and one thing we love is that the name seems to be the Spanish variant, and not a Japanese version.
Although Nakano is certainly not a big name in the sport, yet, he has shown the potential to be a star, and if he can live up to that potential we are going to love hearing announcers yell out "Manos de Acero". A truly brilliant nickname and one befitting of a future star!
Elly Pical - "The Exocet"
Having names like "Bomber" is nothing new in boxing, and we have seen those types of names through out the years. Though taking the name after a specific military weapon of the time is certainly more unique and that was the case with Indonesian great Elly Pical, who adopted the nickname of "The Exocet".
For those under a certain age the name might not stand out too much, but the weapon, which translated as "Flying Fish", was a French made missile that the British used in the Falklands war and it did serious damage. The weapon was making a name for it's self when Pical was starting to create a buzz, and his left hand was dubbed the Exocet, with the fighter himself taking on the nickname later in his career.
Give the force of the military weapon the name was a perfect one for Pical, it's just a shame that he sometimes failed to land with his killer shots, resulting in a surprisingly low KO rate of just 42%.
Veeraphol Sahaprom - "Deathmask"
Although Thai great Veeraphol Sahaprom had a number of nicknames none were as imposing or as threatening as "Deathmask", a nickname that sounded vicious, dangerous and terrifying. The name referred to Sahaprom's amazing poker face, and how he was a visibly emotionless fighter in the ring, but it sounded so much more sinister, like a mask used to suffocate opponents.
Many Thai's do have nicknames that can get lost in translations, but "Deathmask" is just a brilliant nickname and an incredibly unique one, that really gives off a truly terrifying aura. That aura wasn't just an act however, and in the ring Veeraphol was a tremendous fighter, having success in both Muay Thai and professional boxing.
Having been a 2-time world champion and scoring notable wins against many of the top Bantamweights of his era few can doubt the ability of Sahaprom, and his second world title reign was a brilliant one lasting more than 6 years and 14 successful defenses.
As we continue this fun little series we remain in South Korea for a second week running. Last week we looked at Hi Yong Choi and this week we move over to his Hyundai promotions stable mate Young Kyun Park (28-3-1, 16). Like Choi it's fair to say that Park wasn't the most polished or rounded of fighters but he was certainly a thrill a minute fighter with an ultra aggressive style that lead to him being dubbed the "Bulldozer".
As a professional Park fought between 1986 and 1995, holding the WBA Featherweight title in the early 1990's. Although not too well remembered in the West he's the type of fighter that fans typically think of when they think Korean boxing. A strong, come forward fighter with clear technical limitations, but an incredible will to win, terrifying stamina and a jaw of titanium.
With that all said lets bring you the 5 most significant wins for... Young Kyun Park
Kyong-Mo Chung (December 28th 1986)
One thing we mention in a lot of these, at least for Japanese fighters, is their triumph in the Rookie of the Year. The same sort of tournament is held in Korea and in 1986 Park won the tournament, beating Kyong Mo Chung in the final in late December. This was Park's first big win and was his 5th bout in less than 3 weeks. Given how harsh the Korean Rookie of the Year tournaments can be, cramming a lot of fights into a very small time frame, this was a stellar win for Park who showed off his energy and mental toughness. He had fought 11 rounds in the previous bouts in the tournament and yet showed enough in reserve to take a 6 round decision over his foe. Whilst there were much bigger wins to come for him domestically, this is the one that stands out as being the most significant.
Antonio Esparragoza (March 30th 1991)
Despite winning the South Korean Super Bantamweight and OPBF Featherweight titles it's hard to mention either of those as Park's wins at domestic and Oriental title level were rather forgettable. That leaves us with a bit of a gap to Park's second significant win, his WBA Featherweight world title win over Venezuelan puncher Antonio Esparragoza. Coming in to this Esparragoza was 30-1-4 (27), and had been a long reigning world champion, holding the belt since March 1987. His reign had taken him all over the world, with defenses in the US, Italy, Japan, Belgium, Mexico and South Korea, where he had beaten Chan Mok Park 10 months prior to facing Park. Park out worked the 31 year old champion, and explained that he had gotten a bit of luck in catching Esparragoza at the right time. Park's work rate, toughness and desire helped him earn a clear decision over Esparragoza and take the world title just weeks after his stable mate had taken his first, giving Hyundai Promotions two world titles and helping put them on the map.
Eloy Rojas I (September 14th 1991)
In Park's second defense of the WBA title he took on the then unbeaten Eloy Rojas. Rojas, sporting a 22-0 (21) record had a reputation as a heavy handed fighter and momentum of being an unbeaten fighter. Park didn't seem to care about what Rojas brought to the table and pressed forward from the off, backing up Rojas and trying to take him out. Rojas gutted out some awful moments early on and managed to ride out the storm to survive the early onslaught. Although he was brave and tough Rojas was in such a big hole that he ended up coming up well short on the scorecards as Park took a clear decision. These two would later rematch, twice, with Rojas winning both of their subsequent bouts, but without this win Park would never have had the rivalry with Rojas that he had, and that would have been a huge shame.
Seiji Asakawa (January 25th 1992)
If there is a single bout of Park's that needs to be watch it's his 9 round war with Japanese challenger Seiji Asakawa. This was Park's third defense of the WBA title, coming 5 months after his win over Rojas, and boy what a doozy it was. Asakawa had entered as a 2-time Japanese national champion and boasted a 19-2-1 (14) record. At the time Park was 20-1-1 (11) and it was clear that Asakawa entered the bout with the belief that he was the puncher. That wasn't the right gameplan to take into a bout with Park and the Korean broke down Asakawa in a thrilling bout. This is the type of bout where it's immediate significance is perhaps not the highest, but afterwards it's the sort of bout we suggest every fan watches as an introduction to Park, and will certainly be a bout that lives long in the memory. Sometimes having a bout that is a must watch war is every big as significant as a domestic or regional title win, and this is that type of bout.
Koji Matsumoto (April 25th 1992)
The significance of a bout can be very much a debatable subject. On paper Park's 1992 win over Koji Matsumoto, in what Park's 4th defense looks fairly routine. Park stopped Matsumoto in the 11th round whilst a mile ahead on the scorecards. For all intents the bout wasn't a special defense, though it was his first defense against a southpaw. What it actually lead to however was a brilliant friendship between two men who are still close today. Park has stated that Matsumoto is the only former foe he's still in touch with, and Park has been invited to a number of fights in Japan promoted by the Ohashi gym as a result of this contest. In terms of boxing, and Park's legacy the bout isn't one of the most significant, but on a personal level this is a bout that certainly means a lot to both. It's also likely part of the reason the Ohashi gym has been willing to send fighters over to Korea. The longer term significance of this bout is really important, and something that still impacts the sport now, almost 20 years later.
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