When we look back over the year we've had we've genuinely had so many dramatic and exciting hidden gems, gems that have slipped to the bottom of the Treasure Trove and have gone over-looked, for far too long. Here we bring you one of those gems, and it's one that saw China and Japan go to war in a bout that had big punches from both, a moment that drew a "wow" from the commentator, and despite not being the tidiest or prettiest of bouts was thoroughly entertaining, from the first round to the eventual finish. The isn't a fight that will be featured on any FOTY lists, but deserves a place on everyone's watched list, and is the latest piece of treasure we want to share with you!
Baishanbo Nasiyiwula (15-2-1, 6) vs Yusuke Konno (14-4, 7)
Chinese fighter Baishanbo Nasiyiwula, referred to as Baishanbo from here on, began his career with a 13 fight unbeaten run before travelling to Japan and losing a very close 8 round bout to Rikki Naito in 2017. He would bounce back with a win before travelling to the US and giving the big punching Fredrick Lawson a tough bout in 2018. Following his loss to Lawsonwe had seen Baishanbo notch two decisions, aid won a couple of minor titles at 140lbs. He had proven himself to be a tough fighter, with a rough around the edge style, aggressive with a mean mentality. He regularly seemed to be a big of a dislikable fighter, with several incidents whilst weighing in for fights, but was an entertaining guy to enjoy watching and the dislikable edge only made him more fun to watch. He was flawed, as a fighter and as a person, but he was fun and wild.
Aged 30 Yusuke Konno was a fighter who's record suggested limitations, but in reality only told half the story. From his 4 career losses 3 had been incredibly close, and the other as a 10th round TKO loss to Koichi Aso in a Japanese title fight, that he was leading with just 42 seconds to go! In another world Konno could have been unbeaten. Coming in to this he had bounced back from the loss to Aso, in 2017, with wins over Kazuya Muraki, Takashi Inagaki and Vladimir Baez, showing his determination, his heart and his desire. He was wild, like Baishanbo, and he was tough, like Baishanbo, he was also a veteran of the Japanese scene and someone who was much, much, better than his record suggested. Despite being the clear under-dog this was his chance to shine, his chance to pick up a win on the road, and to claim the WBA Asia Light Welterweight title.
This had the ingredients to be sloppy, both were clumsy, and neither was technically sound. But the flaws of both could make for a good fight, if the stars aligned just right we could get something a little bit special. Thankfully for us we did get something a bit special, in fact we got something very special.
In the opening round Konno make it clear he wasn't there to pick up a loss, dropping Baishanbo with a solid combination almost 2 minutes in. From there on the bout turned into a real nail biter, with both landing some huge head shots in some back and forth sequences. For the most part Baishanbo was the quicker man, he shots looked cleaner and crisper, but Konno took them well and returned with his own thudding shots, never wanting to let Baishanbo have the final say in any exchange.
There were lulls in this, but the exciting exchanges, which were frequent, meant that it was never dull and meant that we were always on the edge of our seats. Every time it seemed like the fighters wanted to get a breather one, or the other, or both, would land something and like a chemical reaction more huge shots would fly back and forth.
This wasn't pretty, this wasn't beautiful or flawless, this wasn't a pearl. But this was the perfect diamond in the rough, and if you can see past the lack of beauty you'll see this was a real treasure worth enjoying. A fantastic war of wills.
Takahiro Onaga is a regular contributor to Asian Boxing and will now be a featured writer in his own column where his takes his shot at various things in the boxing world.