Japanese-American boxer Cassius Naito (27-10-2, 13) is not someone we expect too many fight fans in the west to be familiar with but his career is an interesting one that didn't just see him fighting but also going on to run a well respected gym.
The former Middleweight fought between 1968 and 1979 and was a decent southpaw who won the Japanese and OPBF Middleweight titles and during a career that was successful without every being too well regarded away from home. That was despite being a student of the legendary Eddie Townsend.
Whilst we understand Cassius Naito isn't a big name in the west he's a really interesting fighter to learn about, and with that in mind let us share 10 facts you probably didn't know about... Cassius Naito
1-Naito's mother was Japanese and his was father an American, called Robert Williams Jr. Sadly we've not been able to find the name of his mother.
2-Rather interestingly Naito's nicknames included the "Oriental Clay" and the "Japanese Clay", taking the idea from American boxing legend "Cassius Clay". Yes you read that right, Cassius Naito's nickname was inspired by Greatest of All Time. Cassius Clay was also the reason that Naito adopted the Cassius name as well, due to Clay. He adopted "Cassius" in 1969 around the time of his win over John Aguon.
3-Prior to adopting the "Cassius" part of his name Naito fought under his birth name of Junichi Naito
4-Naito was the inspiration for the Alice song "Champion"
5-In 2004 Naito was diagnosed with pharyngeal cancer. He turned down surgery, though did have other treatment. He was later able to open the E&J Cassius Boxing Gym 8 months after being discharged from hospital, around a year after announcing he was suffering from cancer and on the anniversary of Eddie Townsend's death.
6-Whilst Naito never got anywhere close to a world title fight of his own it's interesting to note he went 0-7 against fighters who did win world titles and he fought 4 men who did win world titles. These were Jae Doo Yuh, who Naito lost to 4 times, Koichi Wajima, Masashi Kudo and Chong Pal Park.
7-Naito setting up a gym was, in part, to keep a promise he had made earlier in his career. When he returned to boxing after a multi-year hiatus he promised Eddie Townsend two things, one was to become a champion and the other was to open a gym in the future and train the younger generation, something he is now doing.
8-Due to circumstances outside of his control Naito didn't get the chance to take part in a retirement ceremony when he retired. As a result he actually had his retirement ceremony in 2006, more than 25 years after his actual retirement
9-In 2007 the Naito Gym recieved numerous phone calls regarding the controversial Daisuke Naito Vs Daiki Kameda bout. Cassius, and gym staff, had to explain that Daisuke Naito wasn't connected to gym at all, and that there was blood relationship between Cassius and Daisuke.
10-Whilst Cassius Naito is not related to Daisuke Naito he is related to two other boxers. They are Rikki and Mirai Naito, his two boxing sons.
For “Remarkable Rounds” our idea has always been to try and mix well known rounds with some less well known ones. This week we look at one of the more well known rounds in recent memory, and it was a round that left many fans becoming huge fans of both men, and amazingly came in the final round of a world title fight, following 11 other really good rounds.
We also have a personal affinity to the fight as it’s one we helped fans see as we worked alongside CBC in building attention to the bout, which ended up being an instant classic, and one of, if not the, best fights of 2018!
Sho Kimura (17-1-2, 10) Vs Kosei Tanaka (11-0, 7)
For this round we go back to September 2018 when Sho Kimura was defending the WBO Flyweight title against unbeaten sensation Kosei Tanaka. On paper the two men could hardly be more different.
In one corner was the underrated Sho Kimura, who had won the WBO Flyweight title in a massive upset in China in 2017. Prior to winning the world title Kimura was pretty much an unknown fighter, with even those in Japan not really being familiar with him. His title win came in a huge shock against Chinese star Zou Shiming, and almost immediately the Chinese fans took Kimura as one of their own. After winning the title he had made two defenses, stopping Toshiyuki Igarashi and Froilan Saludar, before taking on fast rising countryman Kosei Tanaka.
At this point in his career Tanaka was well regarded by hardcore fans, who had seen him winning world titles at Minimumweight and Light Flyweight in his first 8 bouts. Despite only having 11 bouts coming into this bout with Kimura he had already proven himself with wins against the likes of Ryuji Hara, Julian Yedras, Vic Saludar, Moises Fuentes and Angel Acosta. Although not a huge name across Japan he was a star in the Chubu region, and CBC were looking to help build him into a bigger star.
Kimura had turned professional with no fanfare or buzz. He had lost in his debut and had pretty much rebuilt himself afterwards, doing so without any sort of notable publicity. He had just gritted his teeth, improved, and slowly built a reputation as a tough guy with limitless energy. He had no major amateur background, he had no big backing and no TV behind him. Instead he had to grind for every bit of success. He was more of a fighter than a boxer.
Tanaka on the other hand was a former amateur standout. He had turned professional to notable publicity in Chubu, and his career was documented from when he was an amateur right up to this bout. He had been treated like a special fighter, with CBC in Nagoya backing him from the off. He was, for all intents, Chubu’s answer to Naoya Inoue, and like Inoue he was deemed a sensational young fighter, with the ability to be a true national star down the line. He was all about speed, skills, and his very solid amateur pedigree. He was a boxer, albeit one with a warrior’s mentality and heart.
The first 11 rounds of this bout were brilliant. Both men had shown what was in their locker, both men had asked massive questions of the other and both had brought the best out of the other man. They had given us 11 amazing rounds. Yet the best was yet to come.
From the opening seconds of the round the two men went up close with Kimura unloading a flurry, then Tanaka came back, Kimura wasn’t to be denied and continued pressing and seemed to be bossing the round until Tanaka came back at him, showing what he could do. Then the two men each tried to exchange big right hands before we were again into a war of wills up close. In this, lengthy, back and forth, Kimura seemed to take the early advantage and certainly out threw Tanaka but was backed up by the cleaner, harder shots of the younger man. Kimura then turned the tables his way, again, and began to grind down Tanaka with volume until Tanaka, once again, responded.
By the end of the round both men looked exhausted, swollen, glad it was over and with a new found respect for each other. Fans however were left amazing by what they had seen, and knew they had sat through something truly remarkable.
It was a round that was like a mini bout, with multiple momentum shifts through it, various changes in tempo and action and a genuinely amazing round. It failed to deliver a knockdown. Neither man was stumbled or badly rocked. Yet it was still a round that perfectly combined action, drama and skills. It was a perfect round, and an absolutely amazing way to end the fight. A truly brilliant ending to a sensational fight.
It's fair to say that female boxing has gained a lot of traction in the last few years thanks to the likes of Katie Taylor, Claressa Shields, Mikaela mayer, Nicola Adams, Delfine Persoon and one or two other ladies who have managed to land big fights on British and US TV. Previously the big female boxing hotspots were Asia, with Japan and South Korea, and Latin America, with Mexico and Argentina leading the way.
The main European interest was Germany, which has sadly faded away drastically as female boxing has began to rise.
In 2013 female boxing got one of it's biggest upsets ever, as one of the sports biggest names was taken out. Inside a round!
April 27th 2013
Arena Mexico, Mexico City, Distrito Federal, Mexico
Riyo Togo (9-4-1, 8) Vs Mariana Juarez (36-6-3, 16) I
We suspect most with a passing interest in female boxing have heard of Mariana Juarez. She is a star in Mexico, a massive boxing name in the country and one of the few true female boxing stars from before the current rise of the sport. Back in 2013 she was working her way towards a WBC Super Flyweight world title bout. Although not the best fighter out there she was a very good fighter, with superstar looks, incredible natural charisma and a body that could turn heads.
Had she chose to model Juarez could likely have made it pretty far, just off her looks. She however chose to box and following some early struggles, losing 2 of her first 3 bouts, had proved to be very successful in the sport. She had real success at Flyweight, winning the WBC Female Flyweight title before moving up in weight with the aim being to add the WVC Super Flyweight title to her collection.
Togo on the other hand was a part time fight who was also reportedly a truck driver. She had done little in the sport other than lose in a Bantamweight world title bout to Yaneth Perez and win the OPBF female Bantamweight title, which at the time had next to no real standing in the sport. Like Juarez she had struggled early on, going 4-2-1 in her first 7 bouts. Despite the set backs she had proven to be a puncher, and was regarded as a very dangerous fighter early on, with 6 wins in the first 3 rounds.
On paper this was supposed to be little more than a stepping stone for Juarez. She was meant to take the next step towards another world title. She was supposed to be the Mexican face of the sport. Sadly for her no one told Togo.
The bout started with the two women boxing, but within seconds the bout had quickly become a brawl with both women letting shots go. Less than a minute into round Juarez seemed to be hurt, but instead of holding and clearing her head she swung and tried to force Togo to back off. From there on we ended up seeing some small breaks, as Juarez found some space to work, but she couldn't get Togo's respect. Instead Togo was trying to walk through Juarez's shots.
With 15 seconds of the round left the two began to trade again and a quick right-left, both on the chin, dropped Juarez. To her credit she got to her feet, but she wasn't looking the most stable. With just seconds left the referee waved off the bout, giving us one of the biggest upsets ever seen in female boxing.
Sadly for Togo a rematch a few months later saw Juarez take a decision, and this win was later clouded over by a glove tampering incident before their rematch, leading some to suggest that Togo had used tampered gloves here. Strangely, given the tempering of the gloves ahead of the rematch, there was seemingly no punishment give to Togo or her team.
Last Friday we finally got the chance to see the Japanese Featherweight title bout between defending champion Ryo Sagawa (10-2, 5) and mandatory challenger Hinata Maruta (11-1-1, 9).
The two men were originally supposed to clash in 2020, as part of the Champion Carnival, but saw their bout being delayed due to Covid 19. There was then a delay to the broadcasting of the bout, due to an earthquake in Japan earlier this month. Despite the delays, and the tragedies surrounding them, it was a bout that we were really looking forward to, and a bout that promised a lot. Thankfully it delivered and was a brilliant bout, well up there with some of the best bouts of 2021 so far. It was high level stuff, exciting and a really, really interesting bout.
In the end Maruta dethroned Sagawa, stopping him late in round 7, and finally lived up to the promise he had shown glimpses of since his days as an amateur. Before then however both men had shown a lot to like and given us a great bout.
With the bout now re-watched we've decided to give it the "Five Take Aways" treatment and share some of the things we took from the bout.
1-This is the best we've seen from Maruta
When he turned professional there was a lot of expectations on the shoulders of Hinata Maruta, who was aiming to win a world title within 3 years of his debut and was regarded as the future of the Morioka Gym. There was a lot of pressure on a man who was just a teenager. It was clear he had insane potential, and watching his early bouts it was clear he could go all the way, but there was also a lot of work to do and he could, at times, admire his work too much, and want to show off the flashy things, rather than get in and get the job done, drawing out bouts that that could have ended quickly. Here we saw him put it all together and put on a career best performance. He still switched off a little bit at times, but all in all this was a brilliant performance, he was sharp, quick, accurate, and when the time came to close the show he did just that. This was, by far and away, the best we've seen from Maruta.
2-Sagawa wasn't there to lose
Over the last few years Ryo Sagawa had been on a great role and had scored a string of notable wins over the likes of Junki Sasaki, Ryo Matsumoto, Shingo Kawamura, Al Toyogon and Reiya Abe. He wasn't going into the ring here to just hand his title over to some young upstart. He may have ended up being stopped in the end, but Sagawa was not in the ring to hand over his title and crown a new prince of Japanese boxing. Instead he fought hard, changed things up and tried to rely on his deep amateur experience and tough professional competition. He boxed early on and managed to turn up the heat as the bout went on, trying to get into Maruta's head and change the momentum of the bout. He wanted to keep his title, keep his career going forward and his effort can not be questioned here.
3-High level boxing can be exciting
There's an old George Foreman quote that we've all heard and seen, "Boxing is like jazz. The better it is, the less people appreciate it". Whilst that can be true, to some extent, we can still get high level boxing contests that are great to watch and highly entertaining affairs, when two fighters aren't overly negative and aren't coming to run and avoid a fight. That was certainly the case here. This was genuinely high level boxing, almost everything was based off technically solid work, jabs were the key for both men, feints and counter punching were seen regularly and both men fought first with their brains, rather than their brawn. Despite this being boxing contest, and not a fight, this was still a hugely exciting bout, and thoroughly entertaining. Really good boxing, and really good bout!
4-The finish was sensational
The big question mark we had coming in to this, in regards to Sagawa, was his chin, and it had let him down early in his career. Here he took some huge shots, with one of the best coming at the end of round 3, and showed surprising toughness and heart. Despite that there was little he could do to prevent the finish in round 7. Early in the round he took some big shots, and came through them trying to turn the fight around, even having some success in dictating the bout and forcing Maruta to back up. Sadly though there was next to nothing he could do to stop the counter right hand that dropped him the first time. That was a peach of a shot. Sagawa getting back to his feet afterwards was impressive, but Maruta had his man hurt, heard the clacker to signify the final 10 seconds of the round and finished with one of the best combinations we'll see this year. A brilliant, brutal, combination to put away the defending champion.
5-The Featherweight division in Japan is incredible!
The argument as to what makes a good division is one that we can go around in circles on, however a good division for us is "having a number of fighters who can be matched to give compelling and even looking match ups, and though fighters having no reason to avoid each other". With that definition in mind what an amazing scene the Japanese Featherweight division is right now. We have pure boxers like Sagawa, Maruta and Reiya Abe, we have punchers like Satoshi Shimizu and Tsuyoshi Tameda, we have craft little fighters like Musashi Mori, warriors like Daisuke Watanabe and Shingo Kusano, and emerging youngsters like Ryosuke Nishida and Rentaro Kimura, Jinki Maeda and Mikito Nakano.
Whilst not all of these fighters will ever compete at world level the domestic picture is incredible and there's no excuse for us to not get more amazing bouts in the division. With Maruta as champion we have potential match ups against Shimizu, Mori and Abe for the next year or two, and we have Sagawa's rebuilding process to look forward to. This division is going to be on fire in Japan for the next 5 or 6 years, if not longer, and to us that's something to be really, really excited about!
Earlier this month we saw a new Japanese Youth Light Flyweight champion being crowned, as Yudai Shigeoka (3-0, 2) scored a TKO win over Ryu Horikawa (3-1-1, 1) to claim the previously vacant title. The bout was later aired on Fuji TV and gave us a chance to see an excellent match up between two youngsters. In fact it gave us a match up that, in many ways, is part of why Japanese boxing is so good right now. Youngsters are risking unbeaten records against each other to deliver great fights and prove themselves, rather than padding their records until they are ranked high enough for a world title fight.
The bout looked great on paper, it seemed to have all the ingredients of being something special in the ring, and matched stylish boxer-mover against a more mature and aggressive pressure-fighter-come-puncher. And when they got in the ring, the two men delivered something sensational.
With the bout having been watched and dissected, it's one we want to go back over and look at again, as we bring you a Five Take Aways article on the fight.
1-The Japanese Youth title is brilliant and unique to Japan
The main Japanese title is the most competitive domestic title on the planet by far. It might not have the same history as the British title, but in recent years the Japanese title has been one that Japanese fighters have gone for, and looked to defend against top domestic fighters adding value to the title. Sadly the British title has been devalued by fighters vacating the belt, and the split between the two top promoters, leading to a lot potentially brilliant match ups simply not taking place. As a result the Japanese title has over-taken the British title in some ways.
Regardless of which title is more meaningful, the idea of a domestic Youth title is something really unique to Japan and is one of the most amazing concepts. It gives youngsters a reason to face off. They get a belt and recognition for winning bouts like this one. They have a reason to risk their records, and a reward for winning. It's something only Japan, and maybe Mexico, could pull off right now, but it's something every major boxing country should be looking to replicate. It repeatedly gives us great bouts and allows young prospects to prove themselves very early on. It really is something truly brilliant.
2-High level skills from two youngsters!
Before the first bell we knew these weren't the typical 3-0-1 and 2-0 novices we see out there. Both men had been very accomplished amateur fighters and both came into this bout with reputations as talented youngsters. In the ring that talent was evident from the very start. Horikawa looked the better boxer, he judges range well, moved like a feather at times and showed impressive punch selection. He showed touches of genuis and is clearly a brilliant schooled young fighter. Shigeoka however looked the stronger, more powerful man and the bully in the clinches, he knew he was the more mature fighter and he made the most of that advantage. Regardless of the styles the two youngsters showed some fantastic ability, heart and determination. We don't tend to see the skills these two showed at this age, and with so few fights to their name, but the skills on show really made this something very special.
3-Shigeoka is a monster...but also a work in progress
We all know Ginjiro Shigeoka is a star in the making, and he was actually working the corner for Yudai, his older brother, but what this bout showed is that Yudai is also well on his way to being a star. The 23 year old looked like a monster at times. He was being outboxed at times by Horikawa early on, but never looked too phased, and instead believed in his power, his toughness and his skills. He was was left with a bloody nose in round 3, but that seemed to drag out the dog in him, drawing out the bed in him and when he felt Horikawa slowing down he really did turn the screw. He might lack the 1-punch power of his brother but his combinations are a thing of beauty, his counter punching is excellent and his huge left hand is going to be a major threat at world level. He is however some one who sill has work to do, and we suspect his team will be working on his defense and his footwork, and at times he looked a bit too stationary for our liking. With just 3 professional bouts behind him, mistakes were expected, but he was still hugely impressive.
4-Akihiko Katsuragi did a great job
Although this was certainly not a dirty fight, the dynamic of the southpaw vs orthodox fighter caused the fighters to fall into each a fair bit and there was more clinching than we typically see in Japanese fights. Despite that Akihiko Katsuragi did really well as the referee. He gave them chances to work inside, but also knew to split them when shots weren't being thrown. He kept out of the way when he wasn't needed and only involved himself when he needed to. He also had a great view of the fighters at all times, and was clear with his instructions. Most notably he was always in position to jump in when needed and Horikawa chance when he was hurt. He didn't jump in too late, nor did he let a youngster get ruined.
This was just good, solid refereeing from a man who has been there, seen it, got the post card and knows what he's doing in the ring. Referees can learn a lot from watching how Katsuragi officiated here.
5-Do not write Ryu Horikawa off!
We've raved about Horikawa's skills already though his problem was almost certainly the fact the bout came too early for him. He's a talented boxer, but he's a kid and his lack of physical maturity and man strength showed. He was out boxing Shigeoka at times, but he lacked the fire power to get Shigeoka's respect whilst Shigeoka was able to bully him around, hurt him and walk through shots when he needed to. Despite the loss we wouldn't write him off. In fact if anything the loss will do him the world of good, it will help his team focus on letting him mature, develop physically and work on that on that side of things. He is technically very good, but also very young and needs to be given time. If he matures, as we expect, by his mid 20's he will be a real force on domestic scene and a potential national champion.
We spoke recently about KO's where a fighter goes down face first, and how graphic they look. We've also mentioned how a fighter can get to their feet and not really have any idea where they are. They are two types of KO and today we look at another type, a body shot KO. A shot where the victim is essentially rendered in so much agony from a shot to the body that they can't beat the count, and sometimes can't even attempt to get to their feet. Today we're going to look at a rather obscure body shot KO, but a brutal one all the same.
Yuji Gomez (9-0, 8) vs Siengthip Sitsyasei (3-6, 1)
Although not too well known in the west Eugenio Gomez, better known as Yuji Gomez, was a Japanese based American born fighter who made a reputation a destructive fighter on the Japanese Featherweight scene. In his first 9 bouts only one had gone beyond a round, and that was his 4 round decision win over Hirotaka Aiuchi in 1999. Gomez was ripping through fighters for fun and was destroying both domestic fighters and visitors. In 2000 he had scored 3 opening round wins before taking on Thai foe Siengthip Sitsyasei.
It's fair to say that few will know anything about Siengthip Sitsyasei. He had fought for the Thai Super Bantamweight title in 1991 and then seemingly vanished from boxing for 8 years before returning in 1999 and losing to In Jin Chi, Yuji Watanabe and Eiichi Suguma, all by stoppage. Coming in to his first with Gomez his record was, reportedly, 3-6 with his last win coming more than 9 years earlier against Nungthai Sitamporn.
For all intents and purposes this was a mismatch. The rampaging Gomez was taking on a limited fighter who was without a win in years and was picking up stoppage losses. That however didn't mean Gomez was going to take it lightly on the Thai. Instead Gomez wanted his 7th straight opening round stoppage.
From the off Gomez was aggressive and about a minute into the fight he has Siengthip on the ropes. From there he let his shots go, landing one left to the body, a right uppercut slipped through the guard, as the Thai bent over a left glanced his head then another left to the body. Down went the Thai and nobody needed to count. Siengthip wasn't getting up. Instead he was left writhing in agony at damn near being split in half from the two devastating left hooks to the mid-section.
Whilst this isn't the biggest KO, or the best it's one of those finishes that leaves you wincing knowing that Siengthip will be urinating blood the following day and will not be on solid food for a while. His insides will have felt this one for a few days afterwards.
We've all heard of Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, and we've decided to put our spin on things with "Six degrees of separation" looking to connect Asian fighters you may never have assumed were connected! Today we connect legendary Filipino Little Dado to controversial Japanese fighter Koki Kameda.
Just as ground rules, we're not doing the more basic "A beat B who beat C who beat D" type of thing, but instead we want to link fighters in different ways. As a result we will limit A fought B connections, and try to get more varied connections together, as you'll see here! We also know there are often shorter routes to connect fighters, but that's not always the most interesting way to connect them.
1-Eleuterio Zapanta, better known as Little Dado, was a Filipino boxer who fought in the 1930's and 1940's running up a brilliant 70-6-11 (22) record. One of his main rivals was fellow Filipino Little Pancho. The two men fought a reported 7 times, with Pancho winning their series 3-2-2. Amazingly these two "Little" men battled 4 times in 1936 alone!
2-Whilst not a huge name in the sport's history Little Pancho was part of a notable boxing family. He was the half brother of the legendary Pancho Villa, one of the greatest Filipino fighters of all time. Pancho Villa was the first Asian boxing star, winning the Flyweight world title in the 1920's, and was one of the very few Asian fighters to make a major mark on the sport before World War II.
3-A song named "Pancho Villa", named after the Filipino great, was featured in the 2003 album "Ghosts of the Great Highway" by American quartet Sun Kil Moon. Villa was one of a number of fighters to have songs named after him on the album with another being tragic Korean fighter Deuk Koo Kim.
4-Whilst Deuk Koo Kim is best known for his sad, and tragic, loss to Ray Mancini it can often be very easy to forget the success he had before facing Mancini. That had included him holding, and defending, the OPBF Lightweight title. Another man to hold that title was often forgotten Indonesian fighter Adrianus Taroreh, who held the title in the 1990's before losing in a world title fight against Orzubek Nazarov in 1996.
5-Sadly Adrianus Taroreh passed away in 2013, at the tragically young age of 46. Prior to even turning professional he was a well regarded boxer and in 1989 he won a gold medal at the South East Asian games in Malaysia. Taroreh took his gold at 60KG's whilst 12KG's lighter fans in Malaysia saw Chatchai Sasakul win gold.
6-In 2008, almost 20 years after winning gold at the South East Asian Games, Chatchai Sasakul fought in his final meaningful bout. That saw him losing in 3 rounds to brilliant Mexican fighter Cristian Mijares in a WBA and WBC Super Flyweight title bout. On the undercard for Sasakul's loss to Mijares was Japan's Koki Kameda, who scored his 19th professional win as he took a decision over Salvador Montes.
The name Tiger Ari (61-7-3, 28) is one that won't resonate at all with fans who don't follow the Asian scene. In fact we suspect some may even be thinking about Tiger Ali Singh, the wrestler, rather than Tiger Ari the boxer. Despite that Ari was actually a really notable fighter back in the 1980's, 90's and early 2000's.
During a remarkable 71 fight career Ari fought in 7 countries, was a 2-time GAB champion and a 2-time OPBF champion. His career, which stretched from 1984 to 2003, saw him share the ring with fighters as diverse as Samart Payakaroon and Cassius Baloyi.
We're not here for a career synopsis on Tiger Ari, but instead the latest 5 Midweeks facts, which this is 5 Midweeks facts about Tiger Ari.
1-Ari's real name is Eder Olivetti. He was named after Brazilian boxing great Eder Jofre. He would however go by the name Tiger Ari due to a relationship with manager Ruben Ortiz, who's company was called Ari Industries Manila. The name stuck, even after Ari left Ortiz. The only real exceptiosn to that were when he was fighting out of Japan, where he fought as "Tiger Asakura".
2-Ali is one of 8 children, several of which were also boxers. These include notable fighters Dino Olivetti, who fought from 1993 to 2003 and Lion Ari, who fought from 1987 to 1992.
3-We mentioned Ari's brothers but it's worth noting that he isn't first generation of the family to fight there was Oscar Reyes, Tiger's father. Interestingly Reyes was a former OPBF Super Featherweight champion himself making him and Tiger one of the rare father-son duo's to have held OPBF titles.
4-Ari was trained by former Flyweight world champion Erbito Salavarria, who held both the WBA and WBC Flyweight titles during his long, successful, and often over-looked career. Salavarria's guidance is said to have helped Ari become an intelligent fighter, whilst another of his trainers was Nestor Angel.
5-Following his retirement Ari has remained in the sport and has helped trained Juiki Tatsuyoshi, notably being Tatsuyoshi's corner for his professional debut in 2015.
The WBC Super Flyweight title has had a lot of attention in recent years thanks to the likes of Carlos Cuadras, Roman Gonzalez, Srisaket Sor Rungvisai and Juan Francisco Estrada all holding the title and fighting for it in front of a US audience. Before those men had their reigns the title was held by the often forgotten Yota Sato (26-3-1, 12).
Sato's reign with the WBC title was a short one, in the early 2010's but his personality, style and and out of the ring activities certainly makes him an interesting character. His in ring career may have only lasted for 9 years, and he was only 29 when he retired, but he's still a figure that we find intriguing. His style wasn't the most fun to watch but it was effective and lead to him scoring wins against the likes of Kohei Kono, Kenji Oba, Suriyan Sor Rungvisai, Silvester Lopez and Ryo Akaho.
With that said let us bring you 10 facts you probably didn't know... Yota Sato
1-Whilst "Yota Sato" is his real name, unlike with some fighters, the Sato is actually an adopted surname. He took the name from his grandmother's friend
2-Sato dropped out of the Tohoku Gakuin University in Sendai.
3-As an amateur Sato went 22-10 (2), including 2 losses to Toshiyuki Igarashi. He chose not to remain an amateur foe a prolonged period as he felt that amateur conventions didn't suit him as a person.
4-In August 2011 Sato was supposed to unify the Japanese Super Flyweight title with the OPBF title held by Ryo Akaho. This bout fell through when Akaho suffered an injury as a result Sato fought Yoshihito Ishizaki. In 2012 Sato would finally face Akaho, with Sato defending the WBC Super Flyweight title against his countryman.
5-A day after winning the WBC Super Flyweight title Sato was stopped by a police officer wanting to know what he did for a job. He was sporting a heavily swollen and bruised face at the time and had a spanner in a rucksack, leading the police officer to question him for around 10 minutes before letting him go on his way...to the press conference to talk about his win over Suriyan Sor Rungvisai a day earlier.
6-Even after winning the WBC Super Flyweight world title Sato continued to work at a gas station. The fighter had been working there since his teens, being paid ￥1000 per hour and he had revealed in interviews than he genuinely loved working there and was proud of being given the responsibility he had there.
7-Sato's reign as the WBC Super Flyweight champion came to an end in May 2013, when he travelled to Thailand and was stopped in 8 rounds by the then unknown Srisaket Sor Rungvisai. That loss would lead to Srisaket's first reign, and his less well remembered one. Srisaket's second reign would famously start when he ended the long unbeaten run of Roman Gonzalez in a massive upset in 2017. The loss to Srisaket would not only end Sato's reign but also his in ring career. He would announced his retirement in June 2013, and then return to the ring for his retirement exhibition on November 20th with former opponent Kohei Kono at Korakuen Hall
8-We mentioned that Sato had a spanner with him when he was questioned by the police after his title win, that was actually with him for skateboard maintenance. He's a really big skateboarder.
9-Outside of the ring not only does Sato spend his spare time skateboarding he also has pets. In 2012 he revealed he had bought himself a Tortoise to add to the fish, turtles, reptiles and lizards that he already had.
10-In 2014 Sato became the manager of a restaurant.
Just over a week ago Japanese Featherweight Hinata Maruta (11-1-1, 9) scored the best win of his career, stopping Ryo Sagawa to claim the Japanese Featherweight title. It was, at last, Maruta living up to the early hype and expectation that had been put on his shoulders when he turned professional aged just 18. It was proof that Maruta was a special talent, and that things were, at last, starting to click for a man who was seemed to be groomed for success.
With the Japanese title now around his waist we've decided to look at 5 potential bouts for the 23 year old Maruta, who will be looking to build on his win over Sagawa and take huge strides towards a potential world title fight.
1-Reiya Abe (20-3-1, 9)
One man we would love to see Maruta in against is the highly skilled Reiya Abe, a talented southpaw counter puncher who would be a very interesting opponent for Maruta. The newly crowned champion would go in to the bout as the favourite, but he would be expected to have a real test here against a man who controls distance well, will look to neutralise the reach and speed of Maruta and is just as talented as the champion. Abe is regarded as a boxing genius in Japan, and it's hard to argue with that, though he can also be a lazy genius and at times cruises a bit too much, waiting for a mistake, rather than pressing the action himself. Against Maruta that would be an issue for Abe though it would also give Maruta a chance to get some experience against an incredibly skilled southpaw. This would be highly level stuff from the off and a compelling bout to view, even if it wouldn't be the most exciting.
2-Shun Kubo (14-2, 9)
Whilst we would absolutely love to see Maruta take on Abe we could under-stand if Maruta wanted to take on a bigger name and someone more well known. If that's the case than a bout against former WBA and OPBF Super Bantamweight champion Shun Kubo would be a smart match up for the Morioka Gym to pursue. Kubo, who faces Ruito Saeki in March, is a long, rangy, technical boxer, but also one who lacks in terms of durability. He's technically solid, and should ask questions of Maruta, but his questionable chin would be a major issue against someone with the power of Maruta. Despite that a win for Maruta against Kubo isn't meaningless. In fact it would be very meaningful. As mentioned Kubo is a former world champion, and he has also only been beaten by world class fighters, losing in 9 rounds to Daniel Roman and in 6 rounds to Can Xu. A win for Maruta over Kubo would see him earning comparisons to Xu and Roman and taking huge strides towards a world title fight of his own.
3-Daisuke Watanabe (12-4-2, 7)
Notably Maruta might not get much of a choice about his first defense and may well be forced to make a mandatory defense against the #1 ranked JBC fighter. If that's the case then he may be expected to take on Daisuke Watanabe, who's very much an under-rated and often over-looked fighter. Watanabe has been matched hard since making his debut in 2014 and was 2-2 after his first 4 bouts. Since then he has scored notable wins against the likes of Gakuya Furuhashi, the current Japanese Super Bantamweight champion, Dai Iwai, Richard Pumicpic and Shingo Kusano, who he beat in the Hajime No Ippo 30th Anniversary tournament last year. Watanabe's record might not look like that of a real threat to someone like Maruta, but his power, aggression and determination would see him asking questions of Maruta, and testing what the young champion has in his locker. Maruta would be a very clear favourite to win, but this would still be a solid match up and very good first defense.
4-Genesis Servania (34-2, 16)
Staying with Japanese ranked fighters, and looking at people who mean something on the world stage, a bout between Maruta and former world title challenger Genesis Servania would be a compelling match up, and a potentially huge opportunity for Maruta. Internationally Servania is known for one, his 2017 world title thriller with Oscar Valdez, that saw both men being dropped. Whilst Servania has done very, very, little since then his name does still man something and a win over him would almost certainly help Maruta leap towards a world title fight. Aged 29 Servania is still very much in his physical prime and isn't a shot fighter, despite how bad he looked against Carlos Castro in 2019. He is however a fairly predictable fighter, who fights behind a tight guard, and is somewhat slow, making for an easy target for someone quick and rangy, like Maruta. On paper this would be a step up for the newly crowned champion, but would also be a bout he'd be expected to win, dominantly.
5-Musashi Mori (12-0, 7) OR Satoshi Shimizu (9-1, 9)
We're cheating a little bit here, but for a good reason. We want to see Maruta face the winner of the May 13th clash between Musashi Mori, the WBO Asia Pacific champion, and Satoshi Shimizu, the OPBF champion, in a bout for the triple crown! Ths bout really sells it's self and would be a unification bout for the Japanese, OPBF and WBO Asia Pacific titles. No matter who wins the May 13th bout between Mori and Shimizu they would make for the ideal dance partner for Maruta in the fall. Of the two Mori is the younger, more technically skilled fighter, and would pose some really interesting questions from a technical stand point for Maruta. Shimizu on the other hand is a crude, open, wild fighter, with lights out power, who would test Maruta's chin and and how Maruta copes with a fighter who is just as long and rangy as he is. Maruta against the winner of Shimizu Vs Mori is the bout that should be made as soon as possible, and the winner of that would be incredibly close to a world title fight in 2022!
Note the bout between Maruta and Sagawa was supposed to be aired last weekend on Fuji TV. Due to the earthquake that hit Japan on Saturday the broadcast was delayed and it will be aired on February 19th as a result
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).