For this edition of "What a Shock!" we're looking at a relatively recent bout between two men who both had genuinely notable careers, and are both active at the time of writing. This upset wasn't a massive one, but was certainly a surprise, especially with the bookies who saw one man as the very clear favourite, and the eventual winner as the clear under-dog.
May 7th 2014
Bodymaker Colosseum, Osaka, Osaka, Japan
Kazuto Ioka (14-0, 9) Vs Amnat Ruenroeng (12-0, 5)
At the time of this bout Japanese fighter Kazuto Ioka was a real star of the lower weights. He had won his first world title in just his 7th professional bout, before unifying the WBC and WBA Minimumweight titles and then winning the WBA Light Flyweight title. In just 14 bouts he had already beaten Oleydong Sithsamerchai, Juan Hernandez, Akira Yaegashi and Felix Alvarado. Aged 25 he was seen as being in his pomp, and was out growing the Light Flyweight division.
With his body maturing and growing Ioka then looked to become a 3-weight world champion, doing what his uncle Hiroki tried to do during his career, and moved up to the Flyweight division. In his first bout at Flyweight he challenged the tricky and slippery IBF champion Amnat Ruenroeng, who had actually beaten Ioka in the amateurs.
At this point in time Amnat wasn't particularly well known as a professional fighter. He had won the world title a few months earlier, beating Rocky Fuentes for the vacant title, but that was his only win of any note. Not only was he untested at the highest level but he was also 34 years old, an age that is ancient for a Flyweight, and this was set to be his first bout outside of Thailand. In fact he was travelling not just out of Thailand for the first time but was heading to Ioka's backyard, with this being Ioka's 13th bout at the Bodymaker Colosseum, which was previously known as the Prefectural Gymnasium in Osaka.
Given his age, his lack of top tier experience and travelling for the bout the odds were stacked against against Amnat. The bookies knew that things were stacked against Amnat, and the British ones made him a 3/1 under-dog for the bout whilst Ioka was a 2/9 favourite. Even with the move up in weight Ioka was expected to be too good for Amnat, who was taking a massive step up in class.
To begin the bout both men looked to find the range with their jab, and it quickly became apparent that Amnat was the crisper fighter, with the longer arms and the quicker handspeed. He seemed to manage to control the distance well for large portions of the opening round. When he was backed up, later in the round he looked very composed under Ioka's pressure and also looked the more physically imposing man, pushing Ioka around when he needed to. Despite looking the more skilled and quicker man, Ioka was the one coming forward and being the aggressor.
Ioka continued to press forward in round 2, but he was regularly tasting jabs on his way in, pressing with limited success, and having no real answers when Amnat let his hands go in short but crisp combinations. As the rounds went on the handspeed, reach and combinations of Amnat continued to score at ease against Ioka. Ioka was struggling to get close, was struggling to get his shots off and struggling to make his pressure count for much. He had moments but struggled round after round to have any sustained success.
In the middle rounds Ioka tried to turn the bout around, and had more success than he had earlier on, but still struggled to build moment. When he won rounds he seemed to win competitive ones, and rarely stamped his foot on the fight, with Amnat always responding. Even when he pinned Amnat on the ropes, as he did for many of the middle rounds, Ioka was still being caught by clean counter shots and having his aggression used against him. He looked the aggressor, and the man putting so much effort into everything he did, but the relaxed, calm counter punching of Amnat really caught the eye of the judges, with his uppercuts being fantastic.
In round 10 Amnat was deducted a point, as he hit on the break. This was one of the first times we had seen some of the sneaky, dirty tricks that Amnat had in arsenal which he would later become well known for. Despite the deduction he looked the more relaxed fighter whilst Ioka looked like he was the one chasing the bout, as if he knew he had to do more. He may have been at home but that didn't assure him of victory, like it might in some countries, with 3 neutral judges scoring this bout.
The desire to turn the tables from Ioka was clear in round 11, when he raced at Amnat to begin the round, again forcing the Thai backwards, but again taking clean, accurate counter shots as he came forward. It was clear that the strength, power and physicality that Ioka had at the lower weights wasn't helping him here. Instead Amnat was able to tie him up when he wanted, which he did repeatedly in round 11, further frustrating the Osaka local.
Ioka seemed to know he needed a knockout at the end of round 11, and came out for the final round with aggression in mind, landing a nice body shot early and pressing hard through the round. He knew he needed to get inside, and get to work up close, neutralising the reach of Amnat. Sadly for Ioka Amnat also seemed to know that, and tied him up when he got close, stifling Ioka's aggression.
After 12 rounds it seemed like a close bout, but one where Amnat had fiddled his way to victory, even with the point deduction. It wasn't pretty, but the clean punching of Amnat early on, and the counters in the middle of the bout had put him in the lead early on. A lead that he protected with some ugly tactics late on. It was a performance that he seemed confident was enough to earn him a victory, whilst Ioka looked less confident in his corner. In fact Ioka looked like he knew he hadn't quite done enough.
Then we got the scorecards. The first went to Ioka 114-13, and got a roar from the crowd. The second went to Amnat, 115-1112. Then we had the third score, 119-109, a completely bizarre score either way. There was then had a pause, before the announcer confirmed that the title was staying with Amnat.
Amnat would later go on to record 4 more defenses of the title before losing it to John Riel Casimero in 2016. In the years that followed he would compete at the Olympics and in Kickboxing whilst also becoming a high class gatekeeper in Thailand, where he is still an active fighter.
As for Ioka he would later go on to win the WBA Flyweight title and the WBO Super Flyweight title, becoming the first Japanese man to become a 4-weight world champion, and despite this loss has remained one of the most significant figures in Japanese boxing.
Note - Fight begins about 11 minutes into the video below.
We often focus on the most recent fights in a lot of our series, and the reality is that we prefer the higher quality footage that we get. There are, however, legends from the past that we think every fight fan has to love. The men in question may not have been the best that their division has ever given us or all time greats but that doesn't take away from the fact they had something special about them. In this week's "Reliving the Finish" we look at a KO that ended the final world title reign of one of these legends and damn near forced him to retire.
Koichi Wajima (31-4-1, 25) Vs Jose Duran (59-4-9, 21)
The man in question is Koichi Wajima, if you've never seen him before you really need to. Pretty much every fight we was in resembled a Rocky movie, with Wajima fighting in a style that seemed part hyper active child, part Kangeroo and part Frog. His fights were typically dramatic, exciting, and full of hayemakers, by both him and his opponents. He wasn't what we would describe as a polished fighter, but he was so unusual and unorthodox that he was pretty much impossible to prepare for with sparring. He used a patented "Frog Jump Punch", which was literally what you'd imagine, had incredible and will win and a style that was very energy intensive.
During the 1970's Wajima was a 3-time Light Middleweight champion with his final reign only being a short one. It began in February 1976, when he won the WBA title, and ended that May when he came up against Jose Duran.
Although not as legendary Jose Duran is an often forgotten Spanish fighter who was a very notable fight back in the 1970's. Heading into this bout with Wajima he gone to the Olympics, in 1968, won the Spanish national title and the European title. In his only previous world title bout he had lost a decision to Miguel de Oliveira, in 1975.
Aged 30 entering this bout Duran likely knew that this wasn't going to get another shot like this. By now Wajima was 33, his style and toughness had taken a toll on him and although not "chinny" he did get hit a lot and there were question mark about his durability. From his 4 previous losses he had been stopped 3 times, with 2 of losses coming in his previous 4 bouts.
Duran got off to the start he would have wanted and took control of the bout quite early, dropping Wajima in round 2 with a right hand and out boxing the older, smaller, shorter, crude man. Wajima was down again in round 14, from a a brlliant combination to the head from Duran.
One thing Wajima always had was heart and that was his downfall in still being in the bout was we entered round 15.
In the final round Wajima kept coming forward, he was tired, absolutely exhausted, and even more wide open than usual. With less than a minute of the round gone Duran took advantage of Wajima's almost non-existent defense and planted a gorgeous straight right hand on to the chin of the Japanese icon, sending him crashing down.
Some how Wajima tried to get up but his effort was never going to be enough as the referee completed the 10 count.
Duran was crowned as the new champion, though sadly his reign was a short one losing to Argentinia's Miguel Angel Castellini just 5 months later. Sadly Wajima would return to the ring, and suffer another stoppage loss in 1977, to Eddie Gazo, before hanging them up for good. By then Wajima was well and truly a legend and had been one of the top Japanese sports stars of the 1970's.
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 former 2-time world title challenger Yuji Watanabe to former WBC Flyweight champion Toshiyuki Igarashi.
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-Between 1990 and 2000 Yuji Watanabe was a popular Japanese fighter with an exciting style, and a questionable chin, running up an impressive 25-5-1 (23) record. The "1" in that record was a draw with South Korean fighter Seung Ho Yuh in January 2000 for the OPBF Lightweight title.
2-Although not a particularly big name Seung Ho Yuh did face some very notable fighters during his career, which saw him go 13-3-1 (7). They included Lakva Sim and Jose Luis Castillo, who he challenged for the WBC Lightweight title in 2001.
3-Mexican fighter Jose Luis Casillo is best known for his rivalries with Diego Corrales and Floyd Mayweather Jr. As well as his rivalries with those two he fought a genuine who's who during his 80 fight career and was a 2-time WBC Lightweight champion one of the very few men to capture that title twice. Another 2-time WBC Lightweight champion was Mando Ramos
4-During his career Mando Ramos didn't fight many Asian fighters, though he did step in the ring with Korean born German based fighter Mi Whan Kim, who was stopped in 2 rounds by Ramos back in 1974.
5-At the time of writing Mi Whan Kim is credited on Boxrec with an impressively disappoint 0-22 record during his career, which ran for much of the 1970's. His first recorded bout came on September 29th 1972 the same day that Thailand's Venice Borkhorsor claimed the WBC Flyweight title, stopping Betulio Gonzalez in 10 rounds in Bangkok to claim the title.
6-After winning the WBC Flyweight title Venice Borkhorsor only made a single successful defense of the belt, with that defense coming on February 9th 1973 against Filipino challenger Erbito Salavarria, and being scored a wide win for the defend Thai champion. Another fighter who only managed a single defense of that very same title was Japan's Toshiyuki Igarashi.
Between 2000 and 2013 Filipino fighter Rolly Lunas notched an under-rated 34-9-1 (20) record whilst becoming a multi-time OPBF champion and claiming various other belts. At his best he a solid Bantamweight contender, and did fight at world level, though is often forgotten now a days.
Although never a world champion Lunas was a genuinely notable figure on the Asian scene and the Bantamweight scene. He started his career in the Philippines, winning his first 13 bouts, but spent a good chunk of his career in Japan, fighting under the moniker "Rolly Matsushita", whilst based at the Kashimi Gym.
During his 44 fight professional career Lunas scored notable wins over the likes of Malcolm Tunacao, Foijan Prawet, Rasmanudin, Jerope Mercado, Kohei Oba and Ryuichi Funai. He also shared the ring with the likes of Noriyuki Komatsum Anselmo Moreno, Hiromasa Ohashi and Chris Avalos.
Today we're going to focus on Lunas as we bring you the latest in our "5 Midweek Facts" articles!
1-As an amateur Lunas claimed a 52-4 record and apparently fought in 5 national level competitions
2-During his years in Japan Lunas would be one of the chief sparring partners to Japanese icon Hozumi Hasegawa. Interestingly Mack Kurihara, who has trained Lunas, has stated that Lunas and his team were wanting to fight Hasegawa, when the "Ace of Japan" was the WBC Bantamweight champion.
3-In October 2008 Lunas got his sole world title fight, when he took on Anselmo Moreno in Panama. There is some speculation that Lunas only got a week's notice for this bout, but it seems that he got longer than that at Mack Kurihara gave an interview 3 weeks before the bout talking about the bout. Interestingly Moreno had fought in the previous September whilst Lunas fought in August, meaning that the turn around, for both men was very short. Moreno's turn around was 6 weeks whilst Lunas's was around 12 and a half weeks.
4-Lunas's cousin is Stephen Lunas, who has worked in the past as Mercito Gesta's cut man. In fact it was Stephen Lunas who helped secure Rolly's chance to make a name in the US, where he linked up with US trainer Vincent Parra. Stephen Lunas also served as part of John Riel Casimero's team in 2020.
5-Interestingly Lunas was pencilled into fight in 2015, in what would have been his first bout in well over a year, though had to pull out of the bout due to injuries. Injuries that seemingly finished his in ring career. He had been affected by injuries in the past and reportedly both of his hands were injured ahead of his bout with Moreno in 2008.
Thailand is often an over-looked country when it comes to boxing stars, and figures from Thai boxing history are among the most over-looked. Part of that is the fact they rarely fight outside of Asia, the same problem that also limits the international attention of Japanese fighters, and part of the reason is that their records tend to be very padded and lack the quality to go with the quantity of their victories.
One such over-looked fighter is former WBA Super Flyweight champion Yokthai Sithoar (28-6-3, 17), who was born Manit Klinmee but is much better known by his fighting name.
Yokthai fought between 1994 and 2004 and racked up a 37 fight career that saw him take on some of the most notable men of the lower weights from his era. He beat Alimi Goitia for the WBA title in 1996, defended it against Satoshi Iida and Jesus "Kiki" Rojas, and later shared the ring with Hideki Todaka, Katsushige Kawashima, Akihiko Nago, Osamu Sato and Shoji Kimura.
Rather than sharing a full career synopsis here however, lets just take a brief look at the former Thai world champion, as we bring you 10 facts you probably didn't know about... Yokthai Sithoar
1-Yokthai was born on Christmas day 1974. Nothing more to add other than that Christmas is awesome as we all already know!
2-Prior to making a mark in professional boxing Yokthai had competed in Muay Thai, where he managed to create a bit of a buzz for his punching ability. His punches had earned the nickname of "Fist of the Hell Cyclone", which needs to go down as on eof the greatest names in sports history.
3-In terms of his boxing achievement's Yokthai was the first ever PABA Super Flyweight champion, winning the title on August 5th 1995, when he beat Russian fighter Ilshat Tukhvatullin in 10 rounds. He also managed 3 defenses of the title before moving on to the world level.
4-On August 24th 1996 Yokthai won the WBA Super Flyweight title, becoming the 8th man to hold the title. Before he lost the belt, less than 18 month later, he had amassed 4 defenses of the belt, the same as the previous 2 champions combined!
5-Following a 5 fight win-less streak from July 2003 to June 2004 Yokthai hung up his boxing gloves and turned his attention to MMA and kickboxing. Around 4 years after his last boxing bout he he participated in an exhibition bout at DEEP GLOVE 3 where he took on fellow former boxer Koji Arisawa, with the hope of moving into to K-1.
6-Yokthai's cousin is former kick boxer and MMA star Rambaa Somdet, widely regarded as one of the greatest Strawweights in MMA history.
7-In 2009 Yokthai married former MMA fighter and professional Hikaru Shinohara, with the two marrying on February 12th 2009 and having their first child together in November that year.
8-Following Yokthai's marriage to Hikaru Shinohara, the two went on to open up the Yokthai Gym, in Miyagi prefecture. The gym was set up to teach Muay Thai to children in the Japanese countryside and was set up with the right intention. Sadly however it was a financial victim of the Great East Japan Earthquake, in 2011, which saw the numbers of trainees drop dramatically, and forced Yokthai to take part time jobs to make ends meet.
9-In 2012 Yokthai was arrested after hitting his wife after arguing over money and living expenses. Despite the issues the two had they were seemingly still married in 2019 when they featured on a Fuji TV show together, with the gym still surviving at the time, albeit, just surviving.
10-Although fighting is obviously something Yokthai has enjoyed through his life, given his success in Muay Thai and boxing, and the fact he competed in MMA, losing at DEEP 50 IMPACT against Shinya Aoki, there is also a mellower side to Yokthai. That's seen in the fact that he has had a hobby of raising Betta Fish, also known as Siamese fighting fish.
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 former 2-time WBC Bantamweight champion Joichiro Tatsuyoshi to former Japanese fighter Yuji Watanabe, himself a 2-time world title challenger.
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-September 29th 1989 was when Joichiro Tatsuyoshi made his professional debut, on a card at the Prefectural Gymnasium in Osaka. Also on that card was a 23 year old Flyweight called Takahiro Mizuno, who scored a 4th round KO over Yasuo Yamamoto.
2-It's fair to say that Takahiro Mizuno is not a particularly well known fighter, in fact very few reading this will be aware off him. However he did fight several notable fighters, the most well known of which was Yuri Arbachakov, who he faced for the Japanese Flyweight title in 1991. That bout was for the vacant title which had been stripped from Puma Toguchi, who was supposed to defend against Arbachakov.
3-The heavy handed Yuri Arbachakov was one of a a number of fighters who signed with Kyoei Gym in the late 1980's and early 1990's. Arbachakov made his debut on the same show as many of those Kyoei fighters, including Viachaslau Ianouski, Vyacheslav Yakovlev and, most notably Orzubek Nazarov.
4-Hard hitting Lightweight Orzubek Nazarov made his mark by becoming the first Kyrgyzstani world champion, winning the WBA Lightweight title in 1993 and holding it until 1998. During his successful reign he notched up 6 defenses of the title, and scored defenses in South Africa, the USA and Japan. Sadly his reign came to an end in 1998 when he lost a decision in France to Jean-Baptiste Mendy. On the same show as that loss Kazakh born Russian Anatoly Alexandrov claimed the WBO Super Featherweight title.
5-Sadly Anatoly Alexandrov is better known for his title loss than any of his successful defenses, and that was due to the fact he lost the title in brutal fashion to Brazilian great Acelino Freitas in terrifying fashion. The bout lasted just 101 seconds but saw Alexandrov left out cold for several minutes. Despite his title loss being brutal it's worth noting he managed to go 12 rounds in a close decision loss to Genaro Hernandez in 1997.
6-The fantastically talented Genaro Hernandez didn't face many Asian fighters during his career, which ended in 1998 following a loss to Floyd Mayweather Jr, though he did face two Japanese challengers in 1992, when he was the WBA Super Featherweight champion. The second of those was the then 10-0 Yuji Watanabe, who he stopped in 6 rounds.
Between 2003 and 2016 Japan's Akio Shibata (27-9-1, 13) amassed a credible record and was showered in gold, even if he never really made any sort of an impact on an international audience. In fact many international fans will likely only know him for one reason, being the guy that Ryota Murata made his professional debut against in 2013. A bout that saw him being stopped in 2 by Murata.
Sadly that loss, in really the only bout that international fans will have seen, over shadows what was a very successful career for Shibata. So successful in fact that he was a 3-time Japanese national champion and a 2-weight OPBF champion, and was actually a unified champion at both Light Middleweight and Middleweight.
Shibata, who fought out of the Watanabe Gym, was a model professional and managed to carve out a genuinely impressive career, one that actually becomes even more impressive when you realise Shibata picked up boxing later than most and was 9-5-1 (5) after his first 15 bouts.
With that out of the way let ups bring you 5 Midweek Facts and Akio Shibata and further build your knowledge about this criminally under-rated Japanese fighter.
1-Back in Junior high school Shibata was a basketball player. Stood at 6'0", around 6" taller than an average Japanese male, and with long rangy arms it is little surprise that he was a success in the sport as a youngster. He didn't even start boxing until he graduation from a vocational school. Prior to turning to boxing he had preferred team sports, including basketball, baseball and soccer.
2-Shibata is a licensed teacher and kindergarten teacher, and was working part time at a nursery early in his career. In fact he was he reportedly worked as a nursery teacher for 5 years years, from the age of 21.
3-During a 37 fight career Shibata rarely left Tokyo, in fact he very rarely fought outside of the legendary Korakun Hall. Of 37 bouts 32 took place at Korakuen Hall, two took place at the Ariake Colosseum, including his bout with Ryota Murata and the other three took place at the Arena in Odawara, the IMP Hall in Osaka and the Bunka Hall in Yokohama. Similarly almost everyone Shibata fought was a Japanese fighter, with the only exceptions being Charles Bellamy, a Japanese based American, and Michael Speed Sigarlaki, an Indonesian fighter.
4-In recent years Shibata has become involved in trainer fighters and is a major figure at the SOETE gym, where he is the main representative, the face of the company and the main trainer. Interestingly he's not the only former fighter now acting as a trainer at the gym, as former Watanabe Gym fighter Nihito Arakawa is also among the training staff there!
5-In 2019, whilst doing an interview about SOETE, Shibata revealed that he had been bullied in elementary school, and felt a connection to Hajime No Ippo, which also featured a character who had been bullied before turning to boxing. The memories of bullying also inspired him to bounce back from his famous loss to Ryota Murata, with Shibata seemingly thinking he was being bullied into retirement and had a point to prove.
Bonus fact - Interestingly Shibata made a promise to himself after losing to Murata, and that was that he would retire after his next loss. Something he did following his 2016 loss to Hikaru Nishida, ending his 13 year career. Prior to that Shibata had had different rules for when he would retire. He admitted that he had planned to retire when he either had an even record, or lost in 3 a row. Only changing those rules after the Murata bout.
When it comes to well known names from the history of Japanese boxing Hideki Todaka (21-4-1, 10) is not one such name. In fact most outside of Japan probably haven't ever heard of Todaka, or if they have it's likely the way he lost in a massive upset to Leo Gamez in 2000, with Gamez then becoming a 4 weight world champion. Sadly though the memory of Todaka should be a lot stronger than it is, as he really was a major player in boxing in Central Japan.
Todaka's career ran from 1994, when he debuted in a 4 rounder, to 2004, when he retired on the back of a loss to Julio Zarate. By that point he had won the Japanese Light Flyweight, WBA Super Flyweight and WBA "interim" Bantamweight titles and had beaten several noteworthy opponents, including Jesus "Kiki" Rojas, Akihiko Nago, Yokthai Sithoar and Leo Gamez.
Sadly though despite his solid achievements Todaka is still often over-looked. And with that in mind we felt he deserved the chance to be highlighted this week as we bring you 10 facts you probably didn't know about... Hideki Todaka
1-Todaka was born on March 16th 1973, a date that not many famous people were born on. Those that were include actor Tim Kang, who featured in the 2008 Rambo, Soprano's, The Office and the on going Magnum P.I. Remake as well as featuring in video games Mirror's Edge Catalyst and Prey.
2-In his third professional bout Todaka beat the then 5-0 Koji Fujiwara, inside a round. That contest was seen by legendary trainer Mack Kurihara, who was the trainer of Yasuei Yakushiji who headlined the show. Following the win Kurihara told Todaka he could become a champion. Several years later Todaka contacted Kurihara and began to trainer under the guidance of Kurihara.
3-Early in his career Todaka used 2pac's "Changes" as his ring walk music.
4-As with many Japanese fighters from outside of Tokyo, Todaka wasn't particularly well known in Japan when he got his first world title fight against Jesus Rojas in 1999. He was, at the time, regarded as a "local" boxer in Aichi, where he was based at the time fighting out of the Green Gym. Interestingly from his 26 bouts Todaka only had two in Tokyo, with bout taking place at the Kokugikan.
5-At the time of writing Todaka is the second, and so far final, man to have won a world title whilst fighting out of the Midori Gym in Nagoya City. He followed in the foot steps of fellow former WBA Super Flyweight champion Satoshi Iida, who was the star of the gym before Todaka's rise to the title. Prior to joining the Midori gym he had fought out of the Miyazaki World Gym, a very small local gym in Miyazaki Prefecture.
7-Sadly much of Todaka's career was plagued by injuries. He was said to be regularly injured in training and would also suffer a number of injuries in bouts. These included a broken hand, that resulted in him vacating the Japanese Light Flyweight title early in his career, and a badly fractured jaw in his 2000 upset loss to Leo Gamez, which kept him out of the ring for well over a year, as well as suffering Ophthalmoplegia heading in to that fight. He was also said to have back problems before he'd even turned professional. Given those injury problems, that genuinely plagued his career, it was really impressive that he went on to have the success he managed.
8-From our research Todaka is the only boxing world champion to have come from Miyazaki City. Whilst that sounds like an impressive feat it is worth noting that Miyazaki's population is rather small, and at the time of writing stands at around 400,000. That's a similar population to Arlington, Texas and Tulsa, Oklahoma.
9-Following his retirement from the sport Todaka opened the "Todaka Boxing Gym -STUDIO Bee-", where he is attempting to nurture the next generation of Japanese fighters.
10-Todaka is credited on Tsuyoshi Nagabuchi's 2007 album "Come on Stand up!", where he is given a "Special" thanks from Nagabuchi. Interestingly Todaka regularly used songs by Nagabuchi for his ring walk, including "Hold Your Last Chance", which Todaka credits for changing his life his loss to Leo Gamez.
Bonus fact 1 - Originally Todaka's team were in a discussion for him to face WBA "regular" champion Johnny Bredahl in early 2004. Sadly contracts didn't get sorted and instead Todaka lost to Zarate whilst Nobuaki Naka got a shot at Bredahl, with these bouts taking place exactly a week apart.
Bonsu fact 2 - Todaka currently serves a promoter, promoting shows under the banner of "The Greatest Boxing".
When we talk about great upsets and shocking results one thing we need to avoid is to remember what was thought at time, rather than our view looking back on the bout years later. Today's "What a Shock" is one such bout that, on review, doesn't look like an upset, but at the time it was. In fact people were scared about the under-dog going into the bout, thinking he was going to be too small and could, potentially, get badly hurt. In the end however the bigger man was a spent man, and looked beyond shot. In fact the older, bigger, naturally stronger man was the one risking his health.
December 6th 2008
MGM Grand, Grand Garden Arena, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA
Manny Pacquiao (47-3-2, 35) Vs Oscar De La Hoya (39-5, 30)
For today's bout we are looking at the 2008 clash between Filipino icon Manny Pacquiao and American star Oscar De La Hoya, the Pacman Vs The Golden Boy.
The bout, dubbed the "Dream Match" was, on paper, interesting with so many sub stories and different threads going into it. It was 2 of the biggest in the sport at the time, though it was also two men who were fighting 3 weight classes apart before the bout, and were both legends in the sport.
In the years before the bout Pacquiao had moved through the weights, from winning his first world title at Flyweight to winning a belt at Lightweight just 6 months before this bout. De La Hoya on the other hand had won his first world title at Super Featherweight before going on to win a title at Middleweight. Just over a year and a half before this bout De La Hoya had given Floyd Mayweather a competitive bout at Light Middleweight. With that in mind they had to find a weight class to agree on, and that turned out to be 147lbs, a weight class that, on paper, suited the bigger De La Hoya.
Whilst weight was one issue the two men differed on so to was age. At the time of this bout De La Hoya was 36. He was seen as being past his best, by some way, but few expected him to be completely shot to pieces. He was seen as a faded star, but still expected to have a decent performance in his body. Pacquiao on the other hand was pretty much in his prime, he was 29 years old and had looked near untouchable in his 2008 win over David Diaz.
Despite the fact De La Hoya was the much older man, and was coming down in weight, he was still widely favoured to be too big, too strong and too powerful for Pacquiao.
In the days before the fight De La Hoya was the clear favourite, priced at -180 (around a 1/2 favourite for those using UK odds), whilst Pacquiao was +150 (3/2). The odds don't suggest a massive mismatch, but Pacquiao was the clear under-dog. The bout led some, including an article on Bleacherreport, to suggest it was going to be Pacquiao who would need saving. In fact one article on Bleacherreport states:
"...let De La Hoya knock Pacquiao out like a good old fashion fight. Don't stop the fight because De La Hoya is putting on a “clinic.” Just let him do his thing. Does Pacquiao have a chance? If he does, it is but small."
Many of our good friends over at Boxingscene also predicted a stoppage win for De La Hoya (with their prediction article here). Some were genuinely scared that this would be the end for Pacquiao.
Despite many thinking Pacquiao was in tough he and his trainer, Freddie Roach, were confident that Oscar was beyond his best and Roach, a former De La Hoya trainer, repeatedly stated that the "Golden Boy" couldn't pull the trigger any more. What we ended up seeing was Roach being spot on.
From the opening bell Pacquiao looked so much smaller than De La Hoya, and De La Hoya did throw the first punch of note. Pacquiao used his feet well, maintained plenty of distance and tried to figure out the reach and size of De La Hoya. Within a minute of the fight starting we saw the speed of Pacquiao being a factor as he landed an eye catching short left hand. As the round went on De La Hoya really did look like he couldn't pull the trigger, he was pushing his shots, he looked flat footed, whilst Pacquiao looked razor sharp. By the end of the round De La Hoya was looking marked up and despite trying to press Pacquiao backwards it wasn't a good round for the American who struggled with the speed and movement of Pacquiao, who repeatedly made De La Hoya miss.
Whilst the first round wasn't a complete domination it was a clear Pacquiao round. The second round however saw Pacquiao begin to dominate. He started the round quickly and was landing at will, with the Pacquiao left hand getting through time and time again. Sadly for De La Hoya he was struggling to land anything, and when he did land something he was tagged back almost immediately and his shots had nothing on them.
As the rounds went on the beating Pacquiao began to hand out was increasing. Rounds 3 and 4 saw De La Hoya take a number of big shots whilst beginning to wilt, and despite Pacquiao being backed onto the ropes a few times he still looked in total control.
By round 6 De La Hoya was looking like he was getting beaten up, and Pacquiao began to hold his feet more, pressing more, and forcing De La Hoya backwards. It was as if De La Hoya knew he was unable to hold his own. He had nothing to offer and was starting to need a KO to win, despite only being half way through the fight. A KO that didn't just look unlikely, but essentially impossible as he wasn't able to land anything hurtful.
Things went from bad to worse for De La Hoya in round 7 as Pacquiao clearly hurt him, and sent him to the ropes, where he unloaded. Were it not for De La Hoya's solid chin and reputation there's a good chance the bout would have been stopped as Pacquiao took shot after shot in the final 90 seconds of the round. His left eye was swelling, his heart breaking, and his desire being smashed to pieces. Despite that he was sent out for round 8 and, when perhaps his team should have said enough was enough.
Whilst the 7th round was a painful one for De La Hoya the punishment he took in round 8 was just as bad as Pacquiao continued to give him a beating, pinning him against the ropes and in the corner. De La Hoya had absolutely no answer, he was just taking a beating and giving almost nothing in return. He was very much looking like a done fighter and even when he threw shots they look incredibly laboured and tired.
After seeing their man take a beating for 8 rounds De La Hoya was finally saved from himself. Referee Tony Weeks made it clear he was going to stop it if the bout continued , but he never got the chance as De La Hoya's pulled him from the bout.
Following this bout, which was described as a "huge upset" by commentator Colonel Bob Sheridan on the international feed of the fight, De La Hoya would retire. The loss essentially sent him out of the ring, and saw him focus on promoting. As for Pacquiao he would further enhance his legacy, winning titles at Light Welterweight, Welterweight and Light Middleweight and putting on some of his best performance after this bout, including wins over Miguel Cotto, Ricky Hatton Keith Thurman, Timothy Bradley and Antonio Margarito. He proved, after this bout, that he was a world class Welterweight and would continue to do so over the following.
Today we head back just a few years, to December 2017, to share one of the most remarkable, strange and destructive KO's of recent years. It was one that came as a surprise, to everyone, and saw the old adages of "protect yourself at all times" and "fight to the bell" play out in real time. It also ended in what a big upset and shook up the Japanese Featherweight scene at the time.
Takenori Ohashi (14-4-2, 9) vs Kosuke Saka (16-3, 13)
Entering the bout Takenori Ohashi had done little to earn a title fight, but he was getting a shot at Featherweight champion Kosuke Saka. On paper this might have looked like a fair evenly matched bout but in reality few gave Ohashi any real chance.
The 28 year old Ohashi had started his career well, but lost in the East Japan Rookie of the Year final in 2010, being stopped in a round by Coach Hiroto. Following that loss he had gone 9-3-2 (4) with stoppage losses to Tatsuya Takahashi and Tsuyoshi Tameda. In his 6 bouts heading into his title fight he had gone 3-1-2 (2).
Whilst his form was was up and down Ohashi really had the same problem as many other punches. He was slow. Really slow. He hit like a mule, but was slow, could be timed, and had very predictable movement. Thankfully for him he really could punch. As we'll see here, and in a future "Reliving the Finish" that we have planned for later in the year.
Saka on the other hand had been on a tear. He had suffered his first loss in the 2012 All Japan Rookie of the Year final, to Masayuki Ito, and his other losses had both come in 2014, losing to Jun Hamana and Hiroshige Osawa. Following those losses in 2014 he had gone 8-0 (8) and stopped the likes of Ryuto Kyoguchi, Takafumi Nakajima and Shota Hayashi. Coming in he had all the momentum, he was in great form, destroying people and was looking to make his first defense of the Japanese Featherweight title.
Saka was aggressive, high octane, a pressure fighter who let his hands go and broke people up. His shots lacked the lights out power of Ohashi's, but he was quicker, sharper, threw much more leather, and beat people up.
Sometimes however we get upsets, and sometimes they come because a fighter has a lapse in concentration. That is exactly what happened here, in very eye catching fashion.
Before we get to the ending we do need to point out that through the first 4 rounds Ohashi was out performing all pre-fight expectations. He had more than held his own with Saka, which was a surprise in it's self. We then got into round 5.
For much of round 5 Ohashi was landing the better punches, he even seemed to rock Saka early in the round, but never looked close to stopping the champion. That was until the very, very end of the round.
When the clacker went to signify 10 seconds left in the round Saka misheard it, assumed it was the bell and turned his back on Ohashi whilst heading to his corner. Ohashi saw his chance and from behind landed a legal, and massive right hand on a defenseless and unsuspecting Saka.
Unsurprisingly Saka hit the canvas, hard. Again Ohashi could hit like a mule and giving him a free shot like this was always going to end the fight. To his credit Saka tried to get up, managing to sit up, but he had no idea where he was as the referee finished his count.
Officially Saka was counted out at 3:06 of round 5.
It seemed unfair, it seemed harsh, but it was totally fair and totally brutal. It was a sickening way for Saka to lose the title, but sharp thinking saw Ohashi capitalise and become the new champion with a career defining win.
Despite the win Ohashi's reign was a short one, losing in his first defense to Taiki Minamoto in April 2018. As for Saka he would rebuild and in 2019 claimed the Japanese Super Featherweight title, by stopping Masaru Sueyoshi, to become a 2-weight Japanese champion.
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).