Japan's Jiro Watanabe will remain one of the sports enigma's. He was an excellent, natural fighter, with a real mean streak through him. A strong, powerful, and skilled Super Flyweight who despite not being the quickest or the sharpest was a real nightmare. He could be dropped in any era of the Super Flyweight division and he would give anyone a tough time thanks to his heavy hands, toughness and physical strength.
Of course what he did after boxing is pretty well known, being a known member of the Yakuza where he worked as an enforcer and was found guilty of various crimes as part of the criminal organisation. The whole Yakuza relationship is worthy of a book, however that's not the focus here, instead we're here to give you 10 facts you probably didn't know about...Jiro Watanabe
1-As an amateur Watanabe went 4-0, fighting out of the Osaka Teiken gym.
2-Whilst Watanbe's professional boxing career was a major success it appears he was a natural athlete and could have been a success in other sports. Notably he was a very talented swimmer before turning to boxing.
3-Unlike many fighters Watanabe doesn't come from a poor background. His father was a successful businessman.
4-Watanabe was a converted southpaw. This explains, in some ways, why he had such devastating hooks and such solid jabs.
5-In 1985 Watanabe made history by becoming the first Japanese fighter to successfully defend a world title outside of Japan, which he did in South Korea against Suk Hwan Yun. Prior to Watanabe's win Japanese world champions were 0-5 in world title defenses away from home, with losses for Fighting Harada, Hiroyuki Ebihara, Kuniaki Shibata, Guts Ishimatsu and Royal Kobayashi. It would be more than 20 until someone replicated the achievement, with Toshiaki Nishioka's win over Jhonny Gonzalez in 2009.
6-Exactly half of Watanabe's 28 professional bouts were made up with world title bouts, with the Japanese star going 12-2 in them. Similarly he would score 7 wins over people who held world titles at some point in their career's Koji Kobayashi, Rafael Pedroza, Gustavo Ballas, Shoji Oguma, Soon Chun Kwon and Payao Poontarat, twice. Interestingly in the final of the 1980 Rookie of the Year Watanabe knocked out Koji Kobayashi in the opening round of their bout.
7-In 1980 Watanabe won the Japanese Newcomer award and would later go on to claim the Best fighter award, similar to what is now the MVP award, 4 years in a row, from 1982 to 1985. Incidentally he would also win the Japanese Fight of the Year award every year from 1982 to 1985.
8-Watanabe's retirement ceremony from professional boxing came on September 17th 1992 at the Osaka-Jo Hall, sharing the stage with Joichiro Tatsuyoshi's WBC Bantamweight title defense against Victor Rabanales, an unsuccessful defense for Tatsuyoshi.
9-After retiring from boxing, but before he began to be involved in the various criminal activities with the Yakuza, he was involved in legitimate businesses. Sadly it didn't take long for his legitimate activities to turn criminal and he was first arrested in 1995 for his illegal activities, with the first arrest coming for extortion.
10-In 2007, after more than a decade of criminal links, he was banished from the Japanese Boxing Commission (JBC) despite being a former WBA and WBC Super Flyweight champion.
Extra fact - According to multiple Japanese sources he was criticised by the legendary Fighting Harada for ballooning in weights between fights. He would have to lose up to 12Kg, 26.5lbs, to make weight
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Thinking Out East
With this site being pretty successful so far we've decided to open up about our own views and start what could be considered effectively an editorial style opinion column dubbed "Thinking Out East" (T.O.E).