During the first half of the 1980's Osaka had a thrilling action fighter on their hands in the form of Hidekazu Akai. The heavy handed and exciting Osaka was a huge punching fighter who was a genuine attraction in the region with his exciting in ring style. Despite only going 19-2 (16) in the professional ranks Akai fought for a world title and retired in his mid 20's, due to a series injury. Unlike many fighters, however, he has found a new lease of life after boxing, and is known in Japan for his post boxing career just as much, if not more so, than his career as a fighter.
Whilst his name isn't one that we suspect many fans to be aware of, Hidekazu Akai is a really interesting individual, one we were so interested by that we decided we'd cover here, as we bring you 10 facts you probably didn't know about... Hidekazu Akai
1-As an amateur Akai went 44-12 (22) and was an inter-high school champion and also won gold as the Asia Junior Championships and reached the last 8 of the 1979 Golden Belt Tournament in Romania.
2-As a boxer Akai was nicknamed the "Rocky of Naniwa". For those unaware of what Naniwa is, it's an historical name for Osaka city, where Akai is from. Rocky is of course alluding to Rocky Balboa.
3-In March 1981 Akai became the All Japan Rookie of the Year at 140lbs stopping Fujio Ozaki. Ozaki would go on to win the Japanese Lightweight the following year, then the Japanese Welterweight and OPBF titles. Ozaki would also challenge for world titles twice, losing to Marlon Starling and Mark Breland in WBA Welterweight title fights.
4-Whilst Fujio Ozaki, see above, went on to in 3 titles Akai himself didn't win a single title, at any level. He was a hugely popular boxer, and his post career success has been massive, but to think he failed to even win a Japanese national title is a genuine surprise. The only world title bout he had, of any kind, was his 1983 bout with the then WBC 140lb champion Bruce Curry.
5-Akai's career ended in 1985 after his 7th round KO loss to Masaharu Owada due to an acute subdural hematoma and a cerebral contusion, which required a craniotomy at the Tominaga hospital in Osaka. He was given only a 20% survival chance during transportation to hospital and a 50% survival chance after surgery. Even after the life saving surgery he had considered returning to sport before being recommended to retire by his doctor.
6-In 1996 the then 37 year old Akai was the runner in a special charity marathon on Japanese TV.
7-Hajime No Ippo character Sendo Takeshi is based on Akai.
8-Akai has released a number of books following his retirement and a couple of musical singles. Given the sound of one of those singles we're not in a rush for an Akai album! For those interest we've included a video from his 2009 single at the end of this article.
9-Hidekazu's daughter is Saki Akai, a professional wrestler, actress and model.
10-Akai has been raking up credits as an actor. He has been involved in TV series, movies and video games and is building a very solid reputation for himself, with more than 20 years worth of work in the entertainment industry following his boxing career! His acting career not only dwarfs his boxing one but has seen him picking up a number of awards, including the Best Actor award at the 1991 Yokohama Film Festival, and he jointly held the Best Newcomer Award at the 1989 Yokohama Film Festival.
Extra fact 1- Hidekazu's son Eigoro Akai is an amateur boxer
Extra fact 2-During his 21 fight career Akai fought only twice at Korakuen Hall and only 4 times outside of Osaka. In those bouts he went 4-0 (4)
Extra fact 3- Both of Akai's losses were stoppages in the 7th round. Incidentally he never scored a stoppage after the 5th round.
The 154lb Light Middleweight division is one of the most interesting in the sport, both globally and in regards to Asian fighters. The division has no standout on the global scene, and whilst that can be bad for a division it actually helps to make the division really intriguing with a feeling that the top 5 or 6 guys, if not more, can all beat each other. The division could hold some brilliant tournaments and it'd be very hard to pick the eventual winner.
Saying that however we're not here right now to discuss the division at large rank the top Asian fighters in the division. And boy is this a trickier one than we imagined with a huge drop off towards the bottom end of the top 10.
1-Israil Madrimov (5-0, 5)
The 25 year old Israil Madrimov is one of the most promising fighters on the planet, and in just 5 fights has proven to be an exceptional talent with all the tools to be a superstar in boxing. The talented Uzbek, dubbed "The Dream", can box, bang, brawl, fighter, punch, entertain and looks to have all the tools to be something very, very special. With wins over solid fringe contenders, like Alejandro Barrera and Charlie Navarro we've seen Madrimov facing very advanced competition for someone with so few fights and he has been impressive every time we've seen him. Madrimov is one of the surest "future world champions" in the sport today.
2-Sadriddin Akhmedov (11-0, 10)
Another man we're tipping for the top is Kazakh youngster Sadriddin Akhmedov, but like Madrimov he's not just one for the future but a fantastic fighter right now. Akhmedov, a Kazakh based Canadian, is a boxer-puncher who is an absolute joy to watch. He's not as destructive as Madrimov but at just 22 years old he is still looking like a very, very special fighter. His record isn't the best among the Asian fighters, but his skill-set, and talent is incredible and in regards to the eye he's passing with flying colours. His best wins are over the likes of John Ruba and Jose Antonio Villalobos but he can clearly beat better than he's been facing. Akhmedov is one of the best hidden gems in world boxing today.
3-Takeshi Inoue (16-1-1, 10)
The most proven of the Asian fighters at the weight is former world title challenger Takeshi Inoue. The 30 year old Japanese mauler is best known for his 2019 loss to Jaime Munguia, in which he took Munguia 12 rounds and managed to back up the Mexican youngster. Inoue has scored wins against the likes of Akinori Watanabe, Yuki Nonaka and Riku Nagahama, he's also a former unified Japanese, OPBF and WBO Asia Pacific champion and the current WBO Asia Pacific king. In terms of professional accolades he's top, but it really feels like Akhmedov and Madrimov both have significantly better skills and potential.
4-Hironobu Matsunaga (16-1, 10)
Japanese national champion Hironobu Matsunaga is someone in a very rich vein of form and has won his last 10 in a row, following a loss in the 2014 All Japan Rookie of the Year final at Welterweight. The pint size fighter from the Yokohama gym is one of the shortest men in the division but also an absolute nightmare to fight. Matsunaga is a physically strong pressure fighter who breaks opponents down with volume and pressure. He doesn't have a big international performance under his belt but wins over the likes of Je Ni Ma, Koshinmaru Saito and Nobuyuki Shindo he has proven his ability on the domestic and fringe regional scene and is, for us at least, the #2 in Japan.
5-Madiyar Ashkeyev (14-0, 7)
We return to Western based Kazakh's now with 31 year old fringe contender Madiyar Ashkeyev, who is based in Oxnard, California. The unbeaten Ashkeyev turned pro in 2015 and has slowly been making a name for himself, with decent wins against the likes of Luis Hernandez, Cecil McCalla and Rodolfo Ezequiel Martinez. The hope is that Ashkeyev will jump in with a higher level of opponent later in the year, though his career has been rather frustrating at times and it has felt like he could have stepped up a level much earlier. A talent, but some one with questions still to answer and at 31 time is ticking down on his prime years.
6-Teerachai Kratingdaenggym (43-1, 31)
Once beaten Thai Teerachai Kratingdaenggym, also known as Tewa Kiram, is best known for his loss to Lucas Matthysse at Welterweight. Since then he rebounded well with 5 wins and a move up in weight. We'd love to see him in with a regional level test soon, but the WBA Asia champion is a man who is hard to get a read on. We know he's better than many Thai's with padded records, and we thought he was giving Matthysse fits. He does however have a questionable chin, as we saw against Matthysse, and we do wonder if he can dig deep when the going gets tough. A solid boxer-puncher, but we wouldn't be surprised if his level was fringe regional, and we certainly wouldn't fancy him against any of the guys above him.
7-Akinori Watanabe (39-7-1, 33)
Japanese veteran Akinori Watanabe has had a truly compelling career since he turned professional in 2004. He was a crude puncher early on, suffering a number of stoppage losses as a result, but has become a more rounded boxer-puncher in recent years, and looks much sturdier at 154lbs than he did at Welterweight. During his long career he won Japanese, OPBF and PABA Welterweight titles and since moving up he has held the Japanese "interim" title and the OPBF title. Although not a world class fighter, by any stretch, the 34 year old is a good, solid, regional level fighter, and someone who would put up a fight, win or lose, against anyone else on this list. The top guys would beat him, but they'd be forced to work for their wins.
8-Tonghui Li (12-2, 6)
Chinese 30 year old Tonghui Li is a bit of a wild card. He's a former OPBF "silver" and IBF Asia champion and has some notable wins against the likes of Romeo Jakosalem, Larry Siwu and Arnel Tinampay. Sadly though he's also picked up a couple of losses, including a 2018 defeat to Jung Kyoung Lee. Li is one of those fighters who we don't expect to see much from, but a win over Tinampay means a lot and we wouldn't be that shocked if we saw him fighting for a regional title when boxing resumes. Li against Watanabe or Teerachai would be very interesting, and maybe the sort of bout we could end up with in December if travel restrictions allow.
9-Rei Nakajima (3-0)
Another wild card selection is 21 year old Rei Nakajima, a Japanese fighter promoted by Nobuhiro Ishida. At 5'5" he's a very short Light Middleweight but also a very, very talented fighter in the division. Having debuted last July it's still really early to get too excited about him, but he's proven he can do 6 rounds, something he's now down 3 times, and with a win over Patomsuk Pathompothong this early in his career it seems like he and his team have got eyes on making a mark at title level sooner rather than later. Yes it's early, yes he's unproven, but boy does this kid look good!
10-Arnel Tinampay (26-25-1, 12)
The dark sheep of the division is tried and tested Filipino journeyman Arnel Tinampay, who has one of the sports most confusing and misleading records. With just 26 wins from 52 bouts it's easy to suggest that Tinampay isn't good, but the reality is that his record could, and should, be very different. The 35 year old has scored notable upsets against the likes of Yosuke Kirima, Shoma Fukumoto and Koshinmaru Saito and had a number of losses that should have been wins, including a 2019 bout against Hassan Mwakinyo. If you're preparing to face Tinampay and look at his record rather than look at footage of him you're in trouble.
On the bubble:
Jugn Kyoung Lee, Nobuyuki Shindo, Nath Nwachukwu, Sung Miun Yuh and Vikas Krishan
When we talk about boxers dying young we usually think about them dying from injuries sustained in fights. That's a tragedy, but in many ways it's one we can all understand, even if we don't want to accept that it's an unfortunate risk of the sport we follow. When fighters get hit in the head a consequence, can be, significant brain trauma and in extreme cases death. It's a sad reality of boxing and the sport we follow, and love.
What we don't tend to even consider is a fighter, or in the particular case a former fighter, dying whilst doing something they love away from the ring. Doing a hobby they enjoy away from boxing. Sadly however Seiji Asakawa, who would earn the nickname "Prince of the new frontier", passed away doing just that, something he enjoyed. He did so after retiring from boxing to enjoy his health and his life, but was still taken away from this world at the young age of 33.
Unlike many who die young his death was seemingly a genuine accidental, albeit a freak accident that took place back in 2001 near Miki City.
Before we talk about his death lets talk about Asakawa as a fighter, as he is sadly all too forgotten less than 20 years after his untimely death.
Asakawa made his debut in March 1986 and was instantly showing signs of being a promising and exciting fighter. He would stop his first 3 opponents and before going on to win the West Japan Rookie of the Year in December 1986, stopping Kiyotaka Katahira. The following February he beat Shinichi Sugazaki to become the All Japan Rookie of the Year. He was exciting, good looking and a lot of fun to watch. He was also proving to be a real talent.
Later in 1987 Asakawa scored his first 10 round win, defeating Masakatsu Sakuma with a majority decision. This was a bout that saw Asakawa needing to dig deep to go beyond 6 rounds for the first time in his career. Sadly in 1988 his winning run came to an end, as he was stopped in 2 rounds by Kazuya Kano, just 5 months later he was eliminated from an A Class tournament on a tie-breaker round against Keiichi Ozaki. Officially the bout with Ozaki was a draw, but it was still a set back.
Within just a few months Asakawa had gone from 10-0 (7) to 10-1-1 (7), thankfully however he was given a big break in early 1989 when he got his hands on Kano in a rematch, and stopped his nemesis in 8 rounds to claim the Japanese Featherweight title. He would defend the belt 4 times, including a remarkable 2 round humdinger with Kengo Fukada that saw both men being dropped in the opening round. His reign would end in 1990, when he was stopped by Toshikazu Sono, but he would recapture the belt 7 months later by defeating future 3-time world title challenger Koji Matsumoto.
Having become a 2-time Japanese champion Asakawa had bigger things on his mind and in 1992 he challenged WBA Featherweight champion Young Kyun Park, a dangerous, tough and exciting Korean. Park and Asakawa put on a jaw dropping, all action war, with Asakawa eventually being stopped by the Korean, who was wonderfully known as "Bulldozer".
Despite the loss to Park we saw Asakawa continue on, winning the OPBF Featherweight title 6 months after the Park bout, when he beat Chris Saguid. He defended that belt once before working his way towards a second world title bout, facing Park's conqueror Eloy Rojas in March 1994. Sadly for Asakawa he would lose, in 5 rounds, to Rojas and admit after the bout that Rojas was the better fighter whilst apologising to the fans.
Later that same year Asakawa hung up the gloves, at the age of 26 with a career record of 23-4-1 (17)
After retirement Asakawa remained a popular figure in Japan, he was looking to train fighters and was featured on radio programs. His personality kept him popular as he moved into his 30's with a reputation as being an honest, likeable, man who seemingly had a very genuine personality and a bright future.
Sadly in summer 2001 all that changed.
Asakawa is said to have been out fishing on July 25th in a rubber boat near Miki City. Fishing was one of his hobbies and like everyone doing their hobbies he would have felt safe, like a man enjoying a good time. Sadly the boat he was in, which had been moored to the coast, was washed away, with Asakawa on board. Sadly he was never seen alive again.
After several days searching Asakawa's body was found, on July 30th, he was just 33 years old.
Asakawa's funeral, took place just days after his body was discovered and even now here is still remembered among Japanese fans for his style, personality, looks and excting bouts with Fukuda and Park.
We continue with our 5 Bouts to enjoy during Isolation series as we continue with another themed idea.
This time we have got 5 bouts featuring a debutant, with the theme here being "debuts".
From these 5 bouts 5 men have won world titles and another bout has a very young promising fighter who is tipped for big things. We suspect some people have seen some of these, but whether you've seen them or not the bouts are well worth the time in watching again with some great skills on display and real promise.
Hinata Maruta (0-0) Vs Jason Canoy (24-5-2, 18) 
Kosei Tanaka (0-0) Vs Oscar Raknafa (12-4, 5) 
Akira Yaegashi (9-2, 6) Vs Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (0-0) 
Ryota Murata (0-0) Vs Akio Shibata (21-7-1, 9) 
Naoya Inoue (0-0) vs Crison Omayao (16-4-1, 4) 
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 Pancho Villa to Muangchai Kittikasem.
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-Filipino boxing great Francisco Villaruel Guilledo, better known as Pancho Villa, will always be one of the sports biggest "what if's...". Whilst he was the first Filipino world champion and is still regarded as one of the greatest Filipino fighters he did pass away at the tragically young age of 23 and even with 87 bouts to his name there is a feeling he still had a lot more to give the sport. Villa was one of the fighters who had a song named after him on "Ghosts of the Great Highway".
2-"Ghosts of the Great Highway" was a 2003 release by American musical quartet Sun Kil Moon. The album isn't too well known, even by boxing fans, but it is a notable album and features tracks named after 3 boxers. As mentioned one of those was Pancho Villa, another was the tragic Deuk Koo Kim.
3-Deuk Koo Kim famously died after a bout with Ray Manchini in 1982 for the WBA Lightweight title. Sadly Kim's entire career is pretty much over-shadowed by his death but his actual career had seen him win the OPBF Lightweight title prior to facing Mancini. Kim had made 3 defense of the OPBF title before facing Mancini. Another fight who defended that same title 3 times was Shinichi Kadota.
4-Shinichi Kadota made his debut at the Kokugikan, in Tokyo, on April 30th 1967. On the same card as the show were several notable fighters picking up wins. One of the was Masao Oba whilst another was Takeshi Fuji, who beat Sandro Lopopolo to win the Light Welterweight throne in the main event of the card.
5-When he won the Light Welterweight throne, taking the unified WBC and WBA titles, Takeshi Fuji became Japan's 4th world champion, their first at 140lbs and the first non-Japanese to win a world title whilst fighting out of a Japanese Gym. He was born not in Japan, like the 3 prior Japanese world champion, but in Hawaii, where he was a third generation Japanese-American. The second non-national Japanese world champion was Yuri Arbachkov, who was a Russian fighter fighting out of the Kyoei Gym, who won the WBC Flyweight title.
6-Yuri Arbachakov's reign as the WBC Flyweight champion ran from 1992 to 1997. He won the title by stopping Thailand's Muangchai Kittikasem, in 8 rounds.
We continue to try to shine a light on the unheralded, and often little spoken about, Asian fighters of the past as we continue our 5 Midweek Facts series. This time we turned our attention to a former OPBF Flyweight champion who we don't think many will have heard of, yet was a regional champion and was said to be on the verge of a world title fight.
The man in question is Masaharu Naganawa (12-1-2, 2), a fighter who fought from 2003 to 2007 and later set up a boxing fitness gym. Sadly his career was a short one but one that showed what a technically excellent boxer he was, before it came to an end.
1-Prior to joining a boxing gym Naganawa had hoped to become a soccer player in the J League.
2-As a professional Naganawa fought of the the Gifu Yokozeki gym, where he became their first OPBF champion thanks to a decision win over Jojo Bardon in August 2007. That win not only saw Naganawa claiming the OPBF Flyweight title but also avenging his sole career defeat. Interestingly from his 15 bout career he beat all his opponents apart form Yuki Sano, who he fought to a draw with in 2004
3-We mentioned in the introduction that Naganawa's career was a short one. That was sadly due to a retinal detachment that forced him to retire at the age of 23 and just after his career defining win.The injury forced him to cancel a scheduled bout with Masafumi Okubo in April 2008.
4-Sticking on the subject of Naganawa's retirement, he had, supposedly, been on the very of a WBC world title fight with Daisuke Naito. The plan had been for the two to clash in August 2008, if Naganawa had beaten Okubo and Naito had retained his title against Pongsaklek Wonjongkam. Whilst Naito did retain Naganawa's retirement ended the plans of the bout.
5-Following his retirement from the sport as an active fighter Naganawa has set up the Fitness Boxing Gym Minerva in Gifu Prefecture. The gym is typically open every day of the week, other than Thursday and Sunday. Interestingly the gym claims to have more female members than male ones,
The Welterweight division is a one of the most notable in the sport, and has been heavily dominated by American fighters in recent years, with the likes of Floyd Mayweather Jr, Keith Thurman, Errol Spence, Terence Crawford, Shawn Porter, Timothy Bradley and others all being among the big name US fighters of the last years. It's also a division where Central Asian fighters are starting to make a mark, and where a certain Filipino still resides. It's not the best division for Asian fighters but it's certainly not the worst, and more than interesting.
1-Manny Pacquiao (62-7-2, 39)
The Filipino might be 41 years old but it's hard to deny that is the #1 Asian fighter in the division. Last year he scored good wins over Adrien Broner and Keith Thurman, showing their was still life in his legs. He's really in a league of his own in regards to Asian fighters at 147lbs and whilst he is certainly not the rapid fire, prime Pacquiao we all fell in love with, he's a more calculated and smart fighter and is going to be a very tricky man to dethrone. Talk of big fights for Pacquiao remain on the radar and it's going to be very interesting to see what is next for him.
2-Kudratillo Abdukakhorov (17-0, 9)
Unbeaten Uzbek Kudratillo Abdukakhorov might be some way behind Pacquiao but is also some way ahead of those ranked behind him. He's set for an IBF title fight, at some point, and with wins against Keita Obara, Luis Collazo, Charles Manyuchi and Dmitry Mikhaylenko he's got a very strong record for a contender. Sadly whilst it's clear that Abdukakhorov is a talented boxer, very skills, we do wonder about his power, his toughness and his physical tools, all of which are perhaps not on the same level as his movement, skills and hand speed. A very talented fighter, but someone who is perhaps going to struggle when he mix at the highest level.
3-Daniyar Yeleussinov (9-0, 5)
Another central Asian fight with a lot of potential and a very high skill level is unbeaten Kazakh Daniyar Yeleussinov. The excellent Yeleussinov won an Olympic gold medal in 2016, at the Rio Olympics, and has been matched impressively so far whilst managing to take some good strides forward. There has been questions over his style and power, but stoppages in 2019 over Reshard Hicks and Alan Sanchez were impressive and he certainly has the tools to go a very long way. Can he adapt and become a world champion? We'll see but the 29 year old certainly has the potential to fight at the highest level.
4-Keita Obara (23-4-1, 21)
Hard hitting Japanese national champion Keita Obara may now have had enough to over-come Abdukakhorov but there's not many Asian fighters who would be favoured over the heavy handed man from Tokyo. Obara isn't going to be a world champion, we've seen him suffer a spectacular loss at world level before and suffer several setbacks since then, but he's in a good gatekeeper like position in the sport. Those above him have the potential to go all the way, but those below him in this list are unlikely to get close to the top, or at least get close to the top any time soon.
5-Nursultan Zhangabayev (8-0, 5)
Another unbeaten Kazakh here is Nursultan Zhangabayev, who looks like the dark sheep of the division. He's not had much attention, especially in the west, but has already scored notable victories Xingxin Yang, Arnel Tinampay, Ivan Matute and Steve Gago. Not only has he scored some solid wins but he has also been picking up wins around the globe, with bouts in China, Russia, Kazakhstan and Australia. Strong, tough, with a good work rate, and a real will to win, Zhangabayev is someone who is showing the tools to go a long way in the sport, but will need some strong backing to help him get the bouts he needs to make it to the top.
6-Riku Nagahama (12-2-1, 4)
Another Japanese fighter in this top 10 is OPBF champion Riku Nagahama. The 28 year old scored the best win of his career last time out, defeating Kudura Kaneko, and has shown great improvement since being stopped by Yuki Nagano around 2 years ago. There are still questions for Nagahama to answer, and his chin certainly doesn't seem anything amazing, but he's improving and the win over Kaneko is good enough for a mid-place ranking here. He has the potential to climb up these rankings but in reality it's going to take another big win to see him climb and we're not sure he can get another big win any time soon.
7-Yuki Beppu (21-1-1, 20)
Another Japanese fighter who deserves to be mentioned in here is WBO Asia Pacific champion Yuki Beppu, who really has been under-rated for much of his career, following his win in the Rookie of the Year. Beppu has been matched for the most part, but he earned a draw against Charles Bellamy, an impressive result at the time, ran Yuki Nagano close in a Japanese title eliminator and then took part in an amazing bout last year against Ryota Yada. Beppu might not be the best, or have the greatest chin, but his will to win is incredible, he has solid power and under-rated skills. He's someone who will struggle to get into would level bouts, but will be a major player at regional level.
8-Bobirzhan Mominov (10-0, 8)
Unbeaten Kazakh hopeful Bobirzhan Mominov has yet to score a big win but has shown enough to be excited about and has shown he can do it where ever he is. He has notches wins in Argentina, Kazakhstan and the US. Sadly however his level of competition added to inactivity, with just one bout in 2019, do leave us with a lot of question about his potential. Fingers crossed we see what Mominov has to offer later this year. He's looked good, but hasn't had the competition needed for us to really know anything about his potential.
9-Roman Zakirov (7-0, 4)
It's good to mention new countries in these pieces, and especially countries we don't think of when we speak about boxing. One great example of that is Azerbaijan, which is the birth place of the talented Roman Zakirov. Zakirov struggled on his professional debut, but since then has gone from stride to stride, with wins over Karen Avetisyan, Daniel Vega Cota and Meshack Mwankemwa. It's going to be interesting to see where Zakirov can go and who will help push his career along. Fingers crossed we see him making a mark at the highest level, but it's a push to imagine him ever having the backing needed to be a champion. At 23 he's young, talented and has potential. Hopefully that potential can be developed.
10-Kenbati Haiyilao (6-2-1, 1)
China's Kenbati Haiyilao rounds out the top 10 thanks to an upset win last year over Nick Frese. The tall, rangy Chinese fighter wasn't expected to be a test for Frese but ended up out boxing the Thai based Dutchman. Aged just 24 Haiyilao has shown something to get excited about and despite the 2 losses against his name he certainly has a lot of promise and is someone we're looking forward to seeing more of. He looks skilled, he's proven he can do 10 rounds, he can box, has a good jab and has the potential to go further in the sport. If he can be matched well and get good sparring. A talented yet unknown hopeful.
*For the sake of these Rankings Sergey Lipinets has been regarded as Russian
On the bubble:
Yuki Nagno, Fazliddin Gaibnazarov, In Duck Seo, Youli Dong and Kudura Kaneko
When we look through the history books there's a boxing oddity of sorts from Central Asia. That is Ruslan Chagaev. He's the only Asian fighter to win a world Heavyweight title, he's only the second ever Uzbek world champion and he also holds another notable first.
Although not the most well regarded fighter Chagaev plays an important part in history, for both professional boxing and amateur boxing, and is someone who deserves a lot more attention than he gets.
Whilst we can't get Chagaev the attention he deserves what we can do is bring 10 facts you probably didn't know about...Ruslan Chagaev
1-Although Chagaev wanted to be a boxer at a young age, trying to do so in first grade, he was turned away from the sport due to his age. As a result he actually ended up playing basketball originally, then went on to weight lifting, before finally turning to boxing and linking up with Aleksandr Razmakhov
2-Chagaev has a reported amateur record of 81-4. His losses came in the semi final of the 1996 World Junior Championships, to Yurkis Sterling, the 1996 Olympics, to Luan Krasniqi, the 2000 Olympics, to Vladimir Chanturia, and the 2009 World Championships, to Felix Savon.
3-After making his professional debut in 1997 Chagaev would go on to win the World Amateur Championships that same year, before being stripped due to his professional experience. He would however go back to the amateurs full time, following the decision to regarded his first 2 professional bouts as exhibitions, and win the gold at the 2001 World Championships. Essentially he became the first fighter with a professional record to win a World Amateur Championships medal, 18 years before fellow Uzbek Bakhodir Jalolov did it, albeit under very different circumstances.
4-As an amateur he would twice defeat Cuban great Felix Savon, though one of those wins came at the aforementioned 1997 World Amateur Championships, which he was later disqualified from.
5-Chagaev was the first Asian fighter to win a world Heavyweight title, winning the WBA Heavyweight title for the first time in 2007 when he out pointed Nikolay Valuev. He would later reclaim the title to become a 2-time WBA Heavyweight champion.
6-In his 38 fight professional career Chagaev fought in his native Uzbekistan just once. He also fought in the US (6 times), Germany (26 times), Austria (2 times) and Russia (3 times).
7-Chagaev married a woman called Victoria, and they've reportedly had 3 kids together, Arthur, Alan and Adam.
8-Chagaev's mother, Zamira, died in Moscow in 2005
9-The Uzbek press once ran a story that Chagaev was having an affair with Gulnara Karimova, the daughter of the then President of Uzbekistan Islam Karimov.
10-In 2019 Chagaev was announced as the new trainer for Russian female fighter Fatima Dudieva. Their first bout together came in November with Dudieva defeating Dorota Norek with an 8 round decision.
Oriana Johnson (@Oriabanana)
As we are in Mental Health Awareness week in the UK (taking place 18th May - 24th May 2020), there is a lot of discussion on the support and help available for those who have mental health difficulties. This has, of course, been amplified by the current on going crisis and issues that have come from that. Although, there is still a critical discussion on the support services in the UK, there is a similar discussion in Japan after the suicide of Michitaka Muto in April 2016.
Japanese fighter Michitaka Muto (4-3-1) (武藤道隆), was once aiming for big things in the sport before he died from suicide aged 28 or 29. Whilst he failed to achieve the heady heights he had hoped for in the ring he certainly touches lives.
As a fighter Muto debuted in 2013, fighting out of the Katsuki Gym. He would go unbeaten in his first 4 bouts, going 3-0-1, before losing 3 of his 4 final bouts, including a decision loss to Seigo Yuri Akui.
As well as being a boxer Muto was also a teacher, but it's what happened outside the realms of his work that really brought him to the attentiion of the wider Japanese public.
In February 2016 Muto was diagnosed with schizophrenia 2 months before his death by suicide. Schizophrenia symptoms are typically confused thinking, delusions, hallucinations (both visual and audible) as well as becoming withdrawn. The treatment for schizophrenia is a mix of therapy, medications and support from multi-agencies. For those with acute symptoms or in crisis, there may be a detention in a psychiatric ward.
Muto was reportedly in crisis as in February 2016, he was admitted to a psychiatric ward after behaving erratically and strangely related to his diagnosis of schizophrenia. This stay at the psychiatric ward meant medication had stabilized his schizophrenic symptoms.
On the evening of his discharge, Muto became agitated, which resulted in being restrained and medicated similarly to the day he was admitted to the ward in crisis. Muto's family were feeling uneasy with the discharge, which happened as scheduled, and it seems like he was not well enough to be discharged. His condition was described as worse than it was when he was admitted.
After his discharge, Muto was cared for by his father, who ensured his anti-psychotic medication was taken. It is an important point to raise, that anti-psychotic medication can make suicidal symptoms worsen and consideration needs to occur when prescribed to suicidal patients.
Muto wanted to be readmitted to the psychiatric ward due to the symptoms and the distress he was feeling, but was told he was not able to be readmitted. This was due to the fact that they do not admit patients back for at least 3 months after the discharge. Looking at this form an external view, this feels very unsupportive and unprofessional, as it was obvious that Muto was still suffering with his mental health and needed care in the ward. It must of been incredible difficult for his father too, who has been caring for his son but knowing he needed professional care.
Sadly Muto died by suicide in April 2016, 2 months after the first visit to the psychiatric ward.
Michitaka Muto's father worked with a team to create a documentary, roughly translated as "The Death of a Boxer: My Father's Fight for Mental Health", regarding his son's treatment and death. Sadly have yet to locate, however reports from those who have seen it state it it highlights some issues in Muto's mental health care as well as highlighting issues within the service. It seemed that the hospital management valued profits of the service above that of the patients. The director of the documentary, Hiroshi Wada, hoped that the documentary encourages viewers to think about mental health care more.
Our thoughts go out to Michitaka Muto's family and friends, as well as anyone who is bereaved by suicide.
If you are struggling with your mental health, please seek support and health from your local crisis centre. You are not alone.
Shocks and surprised are simply part of boxing. They happen and there is no way to expect them, or anticipate them. Sure there might be signs, sometimes, of what is to come but they rarely show their face at the time and when we see the signs we often have the advantage of 20-20 hindsight vision. We look at one such bout today as we take you all the way back to 1977.
July 19th 1977
Yokohama, Kanagawa, Japan
Shuzo Yoshida (23-10-2, 12) vs Dong Kyun Yum (50-4-6, 21) II
We suspect that some of the of these semi-regular features will have some pretty recognisable names, this one doesn't. In fact from the two fighters the name of Dong Kyum Yum is the more rrecognisable, and we suspect only hardcore fans will even recognise that.
The Korean was a notable fighter in the 1970's, winning the Korea, OPBF and WBC Super Bantamweight titles during a long and successful career. Whilst there had certainly been some controversy along the way he had managed to score very notable wins over the likes of Royal Kobayashi, Spider Nemoto and Jose Cervantes. His world title reign only last 6 months but his OPBF title reign consisted of 5 defenses and spanned close to 2 years.
Shuzo Yoshida on the other hand wasn't much of a success and is certainly not someone we suspect many fans will be familiar with. In fact outside of Japanese boxing circles the number of fans who will recognise his name is tiny. His most notable win was a decision over Flipper Uehara, for the Japanese Featherweight title, but he lost in a rematch just 2 months later. That was the highlight of Yoshida's otherwise unremarkable career up to 1977.
With 9 losses from his first 34 bouts Yoshida wasn't expected to test Yum when the two men clashed the first time, in April 1977 in Korea. Yoshida however put in a good enough effort against the then WBC Super Bantamweight champion, in a non-title bout, to get a rematch with the Korean in Yokohama just 3 months later. In between the bouts Yoshida was rested, spending 3 months completely out of the ring, whilst Yum had lost his title to Wilfredo Gomez and lost a decision to Soo Hwan Hong.
We're not sure what the idea was for Yum to fight 4 times in just over 3 months but it was clear he couldn't possible be in the best of shape here. Despite that he was still expected to win against the Japanese fighter.
The first round of the bout saw Yoshida looking to create space and room, boxing at range. Yum had no issue with that and looked comfortable, he didn't throw much, not a surprise given the level of activity he had had in recent months, but he didn't look in any problems in a slow and pedestrian opening round. Yum applied pressure but didn't do much with the pressure before heading on to the back foot himself and looking to use his educated footwork.
If we're being honest round 1 was completely unremarkable.
Round 2 was much of the same early on, nothing much to talk about. Both men sticking to mostly their jabs, and happy to fight at range in a slow tempo affair. It was almost like a public spar, with neither man showing any sort of intensity. With just seconds in the round left however Yoshida caught Yum with a peach of a lefthook-straight right hand combination, dropping the Korean as the round ended. Yum went to his corner, didn't look interested as the referee counted 10 and just left the ring.
Whilst the "KO" wasn't a clean one, Yoshida had shocked the former world champion, and scored a massive upset win.
Surprisingly this was only Yum's second stoppage loss, and would turn out to be his final defeat. He bounced back with 4 wins before ending his career in 1980 with a draw against Soo Hwan Hong. As for Yoshida, he went 4-4 (4) afterwards before he retired, losing in his final bout in 1980.
This is a real oddity of a result, and finish, but on hindsight, Yum's team were likely pushing him too much too soon and it took it's toll on him.
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).