On July 18th boxing fans at the Portopia Hotel in Kobe will get the chance to be part of a small bit of history as they get the opportunity to see the first ever fight taking place at the excellent hotel. The bout, an IBF Super Flyweight world title contest, will see Teiru Kinoshita (19-0-1, 3), himself an employee of the the hotel, fighting against South African puncher Zolani Tete (18-3, 16).
One thing that struck us was that this was going to be the 5th "Japan Vs South Africa" world title bout in the last few years and the first not to feature either Katsunari Takayama and Hozumi Hasegawa who between them have been involved in all 4 of the previous clashes between the nations. With that in mind we've decided that it was worth looking over the short history of the other recent Japan Vs South Africa world title clashes.
Of course the rivalry between the two isn't a big one. It's not like the rivalries between the Oriental countries which have seen some great fights between Japanese fighters and Thai's, Thai's and Filipino's and Filipino and Japanese. But the rivalry has started to warm up, especially since the JBC began to recognise the IBF and it seems likely that we will see more and more meetings between fighters from the two nations.
Hozumi Hasegawa Vs Simpiwe Vetyeka
The first of these of these bouts was just over 7 years ago as the then WBC Bantamweight champion Hozumi Hasegawa, then with a record of 21-2 (7), battled against the unknown Simpiwe Vetyeka, who was unbeaten with a record of 16-0 (9) though had faced no one of real not.
The bout, which took place on May 3rd 2007 at the Ariake Colosseum, gave us one of the least exciting Hasegawa fights as both men waited on the other to strike. It was as if both were scared of the counters from the others whilst hoping to land their own counter shots. As a result it was a somewhat tiresome affair that did little to helped boost Hasegawa's standing in the sport at the time, though he did manage to take home a decision.
Although both men stood off each other Hasegawa did manage to find some conviction late in the bout to secure the victory and his 4th world title defence though it was his first world title defence in which he failed to score either a stoppage or a knockdown and the first bout that he failed to score a knockdown in since his first bout with Thai legend Veraphol Sahaprom.
For Vetyeka it was actually his first world title bout. In later years he really came to prominence with back to back victories over Daud Cino Yordan and Chris John and in reflection it's a better win for Hasegawa in hindsight than it was at the time. Of course we'd all learn, over the following few years, just how good Hasegawa really was. Sadly though I think he went unappreciated by too many of boxing's fans from the west who refused to give him a watch and this bout arguably solidified their views on him at the time
As with the victory over Vetyeka this was a win that looks better on paper than it did at the time. Malinga was a well deserving challenger courtesy of the win over Sahaprom but no one expected him to really bounce back from this loss. Instead of fading away however Malinga went on to twice challenge for the IBF version of the title and took both Stuart Hall and Leo Santa Cruz the distance in fights that he made tricky.
For Hasegawa it was a sensational victory that helped to boost him in the eyes of the fans who made an effect to track the fight down. His perceived "feather fist" reputation was blown to smithereens courtesy of a victory that showed just how exciting the "Ace of Japan" could be when he really wanted to let his hands go.
Up to the point of the headclash the action had been high paced with Takayama landing the great quantity of shots but the much better shots had come from Joyi who appeared to be the much more powerful fighter and appeared to wobble Takayama several times in the opening round. Despite the problems Takayama had had in the opening round he was looking happy to take the fight to Joyi and keep a high pace as if the idea was to out work the South African, a tactic we expect to see from Kinoshita.
The headclash immediately caused blood to gush from over Takayama's right and left the doctor with no option but to stop the fight though didn't end their rivalry...
Nkosinathi Joyi Vs Katsunari Takayama II
...14 months after their first clash Takayama and Joyi would meet for a second time and like their first bout it saw Takayama as the travelling fighter as the JBC refused to recognise the IBF.
This time the two men wouldn't see a premature ending to their bout and instead we had 12 rounds of very good action between the two that saw an off looking Joyi struggle with Takayama who aggressive throughout in a performance that deserved much better than it got.
Despite many feeling that Takayama had been taking too many hard shots against Joyi in their first fight the Japanese fighter did all he could to secure his rematch with out too much fear. It seemed clear, from his willingness to take the rematch, that he was confident of victory and it seemed that he thought he was getting to Joyi in their first bout. This time around he showed why he was so confident as he really took the action to the South African champion in a bout that couldn't have been any more different to the Hasegawa/Vetyeka bout that I started this article with. It was really all action.
Sadly for Takayama he would find the judges less than impressed by his activity with all 3 judges scoring the bout widely in favour of the defending champion despite neutral observers suggesting the bout could very easily have gone either way. With out trying to sound like a Takayama "fanboy" he probably should have known he wasn't going to get the rub of the green early on when a hurt Joyi held on for dear life with the referee doing nothing about it.
For Joyi this would be his second and final successful defence of the IBF title which he would lose, in a massive upset, to Mario Rodriguez in Mexico. Takayama showed his desire for the title by travelling to Mexico to defeat Rodriguez and, at the third time of asking, became the IBF Minimumweight champion.
Going in to the Kinoshita/Tete bout Japan lead the way in recent results with 2 wins from the 4 bouts. A win for Tete would balance the score though with personal and national pride at stake we're expecting history to go out of the window and the men to think about the present. With that in mind we've got to admit we're really excited about the contest and, fingers crossed, we'll get to see a really entertaining bout on July 18th.
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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).