Former Super Flyweight world champion Masamori Tokuyama (32-3-1, 8) is probably best known, at least internationally, for his political views rather than what he achieved in the ring. In the eyes of many he was the first and only North Korean world champion, and was a North Korean sympathiser, despite living in Japan. He was one of the Japanese fighters who reached out into a hostile political climate and managed to succeed, becoming a multi-time WBC champion.
Whilst we could talk in depth about Tokuyama, his political views and his controversies outside of the ring that's not what we are here for at the moment. Instead we're going to discuss the 5 most significant wins for... Masamori Tokuyama.
During his 36 fight career Tokuyama certainly scored some massive wins, and we're not going to fit all of his big wins into these 5 we're including here, but we feel we have picked the 5 with the most significance.
Hiroki Ioka (December 19th 1998)
We start with one that is significant, but perhaps less so for Tokuyama than for the man who lost, Hiroki Ioka. The talented Tokuyama had failed in his 3 biggest fights up to this point, with set backs against Manny Melchor and Nolito Cabato. Despite those set backs Tokuyama put it all together and stopped former 2-weight world champion Hiroki Ioka in 5 rounds at the end of 1998. The win certainly helped put Tokuyama on the boxing map, with a win over a former world champion, but also ended Ioka's career and the former champion would retire afterwards. Notably this was the only loss Ioka had in a non-world title bout.
Pone Saengmorakot (September 17th 1999)
Less than a year after beating Ioka we saw Tokuyama claim his first title, as he out-pointed once beaten Thai Pone Saengmorakot for the OPBF Super Flyweight title. Just 3 months prior to this bout Pone had challenged WBC world champion In Joo Cho and this was a chance for Tokuyama to prove he belonged in the world title mix. Although Tokuyama couldn't stop Pone, like Cho had, the win was still a major one for Tokuyama who took a huge step towards landing his first world title bout.
In Joo Cho I (August 27th 2000)
Tokuyama got his first world title fight in August 2000 when he travelled when he managed to lure In WBC Super Flyweight champion In Joo Cho over to Japan for the first bout between the two men. The champion was 18-0 (7) at the time and had racked up 5 defenses of the title, including one in Japan against Keiji Yamaguchi. Despite Cho's form he was unable to keep up with the speed and tempo of Tokuyama, who was too quick, too sharp and too smart for the defending champion. Tokuyama took a clear decision over Cho and was crowned the new WBC Super Flyweight champion. The win saw him become the first "North Korean" world champion, and put him on the map globally as a boxer. Notably he was boxing under the North Korean flag here, whilst Cho was under the South Korean flag, adding a real odd feel to the fight.
In Joo Cho II (May 20th 2001)
During his first reign as the WBC Super Flyweight champion Tokuyama scored a number of notable wins, including beating Gerry Penalosa twice, both controversial decisions and Katsushige Kawashima. For us however the most significant, not to be confused with the best, came in a rematch with Cho just 9 months after their first bout. This time Tokuyama had to travel to Cho's back yard, with the fight in Seoul. As with their first bout there was more to this than just two world class fighters, with Tokuyama fighting under a unified Korean flag. The bout was Tokuyama's international debut, in fact it was his only fight outside of Japan and ended with with him landing the punch of his career, a huge right hand, that knocked out Cho. The bout would end Cho's career whilst giving Tokuyama's a huge boost.
Despite his recognition as a North Korean Tokuyama's win here could be regarded as the second time a Japanese fighter managed to retain a world title on foreign soil, given he was born and raised in Japan and fought the rest of his career in Japan. If we give the win that recognition he was the first since Jiro Watanabe back in 1985.
Katsushige Kawashima III (July 18th 2005)
In 2004 Tokuyama's reign as the WBC champion came to an end, when he was stopped inside a round by Katsushige Kawashima, in what was the second bout between the two men. Around 13 months later they would go again in a rubber match and Tokuyama wouldn't have too many problems here as he took a clear and wide decision over the Ohashi gym fighter. Kawashima put up a solid effort but was too crude for the talented Tokuyama who used his feet and avoided getting caught, as he had in June 2004. This win would see Tokuyama becoming a 2-time world champion, and sadly he only fought once more after this win, defeating Jose Navarro and retiring as the WBC champion.
Honestly Tokuyama is such an interesting figure and we would fully under-stand fans suggesting we should have included his wins over Gerry Penalosa, who to the significance of the Penalosa name, and even Jose Navarro, due to Tokuyama then becoming only the second ever Japanese world champion to retire whilst still a champion. The truth is that there is some real debate with Tokuyama's wins, and his place in history is going to be a very interesting one to focus on in the future. He's certainly a talented boxer, a success in the ring and a captivating tale away from the sport.
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