For this week's treasure trove we get to share one of the true forgotten classics from 2019, and a bout that had skills, excitement, drama, competitive action and ticked the boxes that we all want to see from fights. It did so in a way that combined everything else with high level boxing, and two men who both wanted to move their careers forward, and both delivered great performances in a bout that really deserved more international attention that it got.
Hironori Mishiro (8-0-1, 3) vs Yoshimitsu Kimura (12-1, 7)
In one corner was OPBF Super Featherweight champion Hironori Mishiro, a man tipped for success from the moment he signed a professional contract with the Watanabe Gym. He had been a talented amateur and after 3 fights, to get comfortable with the professional scene, he was put on the fast track. In just his 6th bout he won the OPBF Super Featherweight title, beating Carlo Magali, and was unfortunate not to unify the title with the Japanese title just 4 months later, fighting to a draw with Masaru Sueyoshi.
In his fourth defense the then 25 year old Mishiro took on 23 year old challenger Yoshimitsu Kimura.
Kimura wasn't tipped for big things when he turned professional. Instead of a strong amateur background Kimura had learned on the job and began his career in 4 rounders before winning the 2016 All Japan Rookie of the Year. In 2018 he stepped up, big time, and came up short against tricky Filipino Richard Pumicpic, in a WBO Asia Pacific Featherweight title bout. Following that loss he allowed his frame to fill out and quickly found his groove at Super Featherweight, with 3 stoppages.
The bout looked interesting on paper and the two fighters seemed to not only respect each other, but also boxing history, producing a poster for the event that mirrors the design used for the iconic bout between Takanori Hatakeyama and Koji Arisawa. The build up had been genuine, the fighters were genuine and both were regarded as very solid technical fighters.
What we didn't expect was a bout that was going to deliver a brilliant, high tempo battle of skills, wits and determination.
From the opening moments the two men looked to set a high pace behind their jabs. Both men were looking to create space for their jabs, though it was Mishiro who seemed to establish his first. As a result Kimura began to chance tactics, trying to get inside and letting shots go up close. Sadly for him Mishiro responded and a right hand dropped the challenger less than 2 minutes into the bout.
With the knockdown scored Mishiro took the early lead however Kimura wasn't done, not in the slightest. He hadn't been hurt and his hopes were merely banged.
The technical action was back in play in round 2, with Mishiro using his jab well, keeping range for the most part, but Kimura wasn't afraid of the champion and picked his moments to step on the gas. This gave us a quiet, but tense round, where we had some exciting moments, but nothing too dramatic until late on.
From there on the bout began to build and build with Kimura settling well in round 3 and beginning to put his foot on the gas in round 4. He had realised he couldn't match Mishiro in a boxing contest and instead looked to make things into a war. Mishiro was forced to respond as Kimura's pressure began to amp up. By the mid-point of round 4 we were starting to see something a little bit special unfold in front of us. It wasn't a brawl, it wasn't a war, but it was a technical, exciting battle that had a bit of everything between two men who matched each other really well.
The middle rounds saw more and more action coming on the inside as the two men became happier to stand their ground and let their shots go, trying to get the upper hand.This lead to some amazing exchanges, with Mishiro generally landing the flashier work and Kimura landing the harder shots. For those who like to watch single rounds the 7th was particularly good, with both being hurt during a fantastic 3 minutes of action.
The brilliant back and forth was becoming more and more tricky to score, with the judges struggling to split them in what was a fantastic 2-way technical battle. A battle so tightly fought that it genuinely went to the wire.
This wasn't an all out war, it wasn't a pure technical fight, instead it merged the two perfectly. It gave us smooth boxing, brilliant technical work, a high tempo, some thrilling exchanges and such a hotly fought and competitive bout that it is well worthy of a watch.
Note - Not all rounds are shown on the broadcast of this fight, but the ones that are show just how great this contest was, and makes it worthy of a place in the Treasure Trove.
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.