One of the rather unique features of Japanese boxing is it's tournaments. Be it a small title tournament, the Rookie of the Year, C Class tournament or some other themed tournaments. One of the more interesting tournaments that we saw begin in 2019, and will end later this year, is the Hajime No Ippo 30th Anniversary tournament. The tournament is a 7 man international Featherweight tournament, featuring 4 Japanese fighters, and one fight from China, the Philippines and South Korea. Today's Treasure trove sees us take the best of the quarter-final bouts from the tournament, and share it with those that may have missed it the first time around!
Tsuyoshi Tameda (21-4-2, 19) vs Jae Woo Lee (6-2, 5)
Going into this it was the quarter-final that we expected the least from. On paper it was the biggest mismatch, but yet it delivered the best bout, by far.
Japan's Tsuyoshi Tameda is a fighter that had been on the radar for a few years. He had competed in the 2011 Rookie of the Year, as a teenager, and had gone on a tear from 2012 to 2016 with wins against the likes of Hero Tito, Takenori Ohashi, Mark Bernaldez. Although his winning run had come to an end in 2016, it had only ended when he lost a decision to Simpiwe Vetyeka. Following the loss to Vetyeka Tameda had gone 8-2 (8), with his only losses coming to the brilliant pairing of Reiya Abe and Hinata Maruta, whilst he had won the Japanese Youth Featherweight title and stopped the likes of Tae Il Atsumi and Joe Tejones.
With 8 fights to his name Jae Woo Lee was a bit of an unknown coming into this bout. He had never previously fought outside of Korea and had suffered 2 losses in 8 bouts. However going through his record there were some interesting take aways. Both of his losses had come in his first 3 bouts, his only win to come on the score cards had come against a natural Welterweight and he had shown a real will to win in his previous bout, pulling out a come from behind KO to claim the KBM Featherweight title. Despite his record showing some signs that he could be a banana skin, he hadn't fought in well over a year following an injury, and he had never previously fought outside of Korea.
Within seconds of the opening bell we seemed to be in for something special as the two men quickly found their range, and it turned out their range was the same. This resulted in both being very happy at mid to close range and both had similar game plans. Take the other man out! Less than half way through the opening round Tameda began to unload on Lee, who responded soon afterwards, and then we started to see a sensational back and forth war. This was perfect two way action between two punchers who believed they had the power and toughness to out last the other in a war.
Round 1 was incredible, but round 2 was even better, the movement of both began to vanish and it was even more a case of toe-to-toe warfare. Hookers and uppercuts were the order of the day, jabs were almost banned.
It wasn't the prettiest of stuff but this was brutal, this was damaging, and this was Asian machismo on full show. This was the gem of the Hajime No Ippo tournament!
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.