As we start to get closer and closer to the end of the 2019 Treasure Trove series we continue to re-watch some low key bouts, some obscure and unheralded contests and some bouts that we simply forgot about. Today is one of those that we somehow just forgot about. It's one that we probably should have covered much, much earlier in this series and yet kept getting over-looked despite being a fantastic low key bout and the type of contest this series was set up to show case.
Shohei Yamanaka (0-0) vs Tatsuhito Hattori (3-1-1, 1)
In one corner was the debuting Shohei Yamanaka, a 27 year old who was looking to kick off his career with a win. There was very little to talk about in regards to him and he had nothing in terms of any amateur experience.
In the other corner was the more interesting Tatsuhito Hattori. He had debuted as a Light Flyweight way back in 2003 and had gone 2-1-1 by the end of 2004. Sadly he then disappeared from boxing for 4 years before making a 1 off return in 2008. Then he vanished again, for over 10 years, before resurfacing for this bout with Yamanaka, all the way up at Super Bantamweight. It was a strange career and one that lost all momentum that it could have had. In fact by the time this bout came along he was 35 years old and had remained out of the ring for pretty much the entere of his physical prime.
Despite the status of the two men, as professional rookies, they took their chance to shine in the first Japanese televised card of 2019.
From the off off Yamanaka came forward, boxing behind his jab and pressing the older man. It was clear that he felt his size and youth were going to be a difference maker and at times he seemed to look capable of bullying Hattori around the ring. Hattori however showed a sense of calmness under pressure and looked to counter, taking his time and showing a good boxing brain whilst Yamanaka expanded a lot of early energy.
Whilst the first round was good it was certainly not a round of the year contender. In round 2 Yamanaka put his foot on the gas, and rocked Hattori in the opening seconds, this forced a response from the 35 year old, though it was a rather weak response with Yamanaka then forcing him on to the ropes. To his credit Hattori fought back well off the ropes but took a number of huge right hands though the round as Yamanaka's size and strength again showed against the older, smaller, man. By the end of the round it seemed like Yamanaka would eventually break down Hattori, who showed some nice skills but was being caught repeatedly.
Then the bout changed and in round 3 as Hattori began to let his hands go more, landing numerous clean counter shots on Yamanaka, who continued to march forward. The skills, and slippery, under-rated defense work of Hattori then caused the moment of the fight as he landed a short left hand counter on Yamanaka, who went down to the seat of his pants. It was a massive moment and although Yamanaka got to his feet the single shot had essentially wiped out the lead he had earned in the first two rounds.
With the knockdown being such a fight changer in a 4 rounder it was essentially all to play for in the final round and both men knew it as they gave us something absolutely incredibly. In the opening seconds Yamanaka came forward, then Hattori responded, and from there it was pretty much a back and forth, tit for tat war. Yamanaka's shots seemed to have more thudding power on them, but Hattori landed the cleaner single blows. Both men were fighting their style, but Yamanaka was looking like a man desperately digging deep, whilst Hattori looked relaxed and calm as he slipped rolled.
Whilst this will not be considered a Fight of the Year contender this was the perfect example of why we do these Treasure Trove articles. This was a hidden gem, hidden part way down a card that was televised incredibly early in 2019. This was a forgotten treasure, and this is a bout that deserves to be seen! At just around 20 minutes we suggest everyone tried to make time to enjoy this brilliant little fight that deserved much more attention than it got!
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.