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.
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.
In recent years unbeaten records have become a marketing tool, to help promote a fighter. In the past they weren't quite the same thing and fighters who had them didn't out and out try to protect them. As a result fighters who retired as world champions with unbeaten records were few and far between. One of the few from Asia was Korean Ji Won Kim, who retired in 1986 with a 16-0-2 (9) record following 4 defenses of the IBF Super Bantamweight title. To this day Kim is one of only 2 Asian men to have retired as an unbeaten world champion, with the other being Pichit Sithbanprachan.
Whilst we suspect many have heard of his name we also doubt fans know much at all about Kim, his life and his career. So here we bring you 10 facts you probably didn't know about... Ji Won Kim
1-Kim was one of 6 children in the family.
2-Prior to turning professional Ji Won Kim was an excellent amateur. Whilst we've not been able to track down his full amateur record we know he won the 1980 Asian Championships in Bombay among other international tournaments, and had Korea not boycotted the 1980 Olympics he was expected, by those in Korea, to be in the mix for a medal
3-The first 9 of Ji Won Kim's bouts all went the distance. That's not that interesting until you realise that only 2 of his final 9 bouts went the distance, and only 1 of his 5 world title bouts went the distance, with 3 of them not even going beyond 5 rounds. He is a great example of a fighter developing his power as he built his in ring experience.
4-Whilst Kim's record of 16-0-2 (9) is pretty well known something that perhaps isn't too well known is that both of his draws came to Neptala Alamag, a Filipino who later went on to win the OPBF Bantamweight title. This was the only opponent that Kim failed to defeat during his 18 bout career.
5-Only one of Kim's opponents wasn't from Asia. Ruben Dario Palacio, from Colombia, was the only person Kim faced who wasn't from Korea, the Philipines or Indonesia. In fact Palacio and Saipa Monod, from Indonesia, were his opponents from places other than Korea and the Philippines.
6-Ji won Kim was the third man to hold the IBF Super Bantamweight. He won the title from Sun In Suh, the second champion, and would defend it against both Bobby Berna, the first champion, and Suh. In what is a rather peculiar little detail to his reign as the champion.
7-Kim reportedly earned ₩27,000,000 for his defense against Bobby Berna
8-According to Korean sources the official date of Kim's retirement came on November 24th 1986, more than 5 months after his final world title defense. That means his 18 fight career lasted less than 5 years, and his world title run, which included 4 defenses, lasted less than 2 years.
9-After retiring Kim would go on to have success as an actor and a singer. Interestingly his family are actually talented in the entertainment field as well, with several of his siblings being involved in some form of entertainment, be it singing, acting or even a director. In fact his brother, Jee Woon Kim, has been a very successful director and picking up numerous awards for his work. Whilst Ji Won's sister Ji Sook Kim has been a very successful actress.
10-Also after retiring Kim admitted that he was rather lazy and had he devoted himself to the sport he felt he could have been Korea's first 3 weight world champion. It seems clear that Kim, who stated he retired after issues with the Korean Boxing Commission, could have done a lot more with his career given he was only 26 when he walked away from the ring.
Extra Fact - Ji Won Kim's cousin, Suk-Kim Chang, competed at the 1974 Asian Games in Tehran.
One of the fighters we had several requests to cover in this series was hard hitting Russian Yuri Arbachakov. In the late 1980's he was one of the best amateurs on the planet and later become a dominant force in the professional as a long term WBC and Lineal Flyweight champion.
Although a lot is written and said about Arbachakov, who opened the door for a lot of Soviet fighters, there is a lot of interesting things hidden below the surface. Today we look at some of those things as we bring you 10 facts you probably didn't know about...Yuri Arbachakov
1-As an amateur Arbachakov was an absolute monster. His amateur record was 165-21 and he would completely dominate in 1989 winning the Soviet, European and World Championships. That career defining year had followed him being over looked for the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, where Timofey Skryabin, an eventual bronze medal winner, was sent instead.
2-Arbachakov was one of a number of fighters from the then USSR to sign with Kyoei, helped in part by professional wrestling icon Antonio Inoki, himself a friend of the then head of Kyoei and a man who play a part in helping Kyoei sign a number of fighters over the years. The only other former USSR fight to go on to have a world right from the group was Orzubek Nazarov. This was all done under the perestroika program and he was reportedly paid around $2,200 a month to join Kyoei and train with them.
3-As a professional Arbachakov fought as "Yuri Chakov", "Yuri Ebihara" and "Yuri Arbachakov. He was also dubbed the "Russian Hitman". The name Yuri Ebihara wasn't liked by the fighter, due to a number of reason including it sounding a lot like a naughty word in Russian, but was meant as an homage to former Kyoei world champion Hiroyuki Ebihara. The original Ebihara was a former Flyweight world champion himself, and he sadly died in 1991, the year after Arbachakov made his professional debut. This would be one of a number of issues between Kyoei and Arbachakov during his time with the Japanese promoter.
4-In just his 6th professional bout Arbachakov stopped former world champion Rolando Bohol, at the time this was only the second time Bohol had been stopped, with the first coming just over 2 years earlier to Duke McKenzie in an IBF world title fight.
5-In 1991 Arbachakov was supposed to have a Japanese Flyweight title fight with Puma Toguchi, as part of the Champion Carnival, but issues between Toguchi and his promoter lead to Toguchi being stripped of the title, and later take an extended break from the ring. In 1996 the two men would finally face off, with Arbachakov stopping Toguchi in 9 rounds to retain the WBC Flyweight title. Interestingly their 1991 bout had a date set, and posters made, and tickets sold, before the fight fell through. As a result Arbachakov would fight Takahiro Mizuno for the vacant title almost 4 months after the planned showdown with Toguchi. The poster for this originally planned bout can be seen below.
6-On the under-card of Arbachakov's WBC Flyweight title win against Muangchai Kittikasem at the at the Kokugikan, was Mickey Rourke! The American actor, who was 39 at the time, scored an opening round win over the very poor Darrell Miller. The win moved Rourke to 2-0-1 (1) and saw Miller fall to 11-40-5 (3) and it was the 23rd time Miller had been stopped.
7-Arbachakov would become the first Russian world champion in 1992 when he stopped Kittikasem, and stills holds the record for most defenses of a Flyweight world title by a Japanese managed fighter, with 9 defenses.
8-Arbachakov is pictured on the album cover of Sharan Q's debut album "Explosion! Hennachoko Punch". Those with eagle eyes will spot Yuri is wearing a WBA title in the image, that belt is borrowed from Katsuya Onizuka, as Yuri's own WBC title hadn't arrived by the time of the photo shoot. This album cover can be seen below.
9- After retirement Arbachakov that he didn't believe he could be a world champion.
10-Arbachakov married a Japanese woman in 1996
Extra Fact 1 - There is an amateur tournament held in Arbachakov's name, that's the "Yuriy Arbachakov Prizes National Tournament", which has been held in Kemerovo, Russia.
Extra Fact 2 - Arbachakov regularly criticised Kyoei for the way they treat him, and the other international fighters. He told the press that they were forced to live in cheap apartments and were reportedly treat badly, even as world champions.
Extra Fact 3 - Despite fighting his final bout in 1997 it was over a year later before Arbachakov would have his retirement ceremony, which took place in February 1999 at Korakuen Hall. His retirement came, in part, to chronic hand issues after breaking his hand in his bout with Puma Toguchi.
Few Japanese fighters have ever split opinion like Koki Kameda. The flamboyant, arrogant, cocky, confident, attention grabbing, headline stealing fighter knew how to get attention and how to benefit from having fans and haters. He seemed to know that having fans want to see him lose was just as valuable as fans wanting to see him win.
Although a lot is known about Kameda a lot isn't, so today we bring you 10 facts you probably didn't know about... Koki Kameda
1-Prior to turning to boxing Kameda had originally taken up karate at the age of 4, then went into boxing at the age of 11 and quickly made his mark, taking part in a televised exhibition with former world champion Hiroki Ioka. As an amateur Kameda went 16-1 (12) and won the All Japan Championships as a teenager.
2-In April 2005 Kameda transferred from the Green Tsuda gym to the Kyoei Gym. The transfer cost a reported ¥30,000,000 (around $300,000)
3-Kameda's first 8 opponents were all Thai, and he didn't face a single Japanese opponent until his 22nd bout, when he fought Daisuke Naito. By that point he had faced opponents from Thailand, Venezuela, Mexico, Nicaragua, Indonesia, USA and the Philippines. In fact during his entire career he only face 2 Japanese foes Naito and Kohei Kono.
4-Kameda was dubbed the "Naniwa no Token", or the "Fighting Fist of Naniwa", with Naniwa being old name for what is now Osaka. Haters and detractors in Japan did however tweak it to make it the "run-away dog of Osaka"
5-The original opponent for Kameda's March 8th 2006 bout wasn't Carlos Bouchan, but instead Edgar Sosa. The bout, Kameda's 10th as a professional, saw Sosa pull out on February 14th with a hand injury. Interestingly Sosa would fight just 3 weeks later, beating future world champion Gilberto Keb Baas.
6-Kameda's 2009 bout with Daisuke Naito had an average TV rating of 43.1%. That was impressive by any standard, but the peak rating actually went up to 51.2%, the highest peak rating of any show on Japanese TV in 2009! The average rating is higher than that of any other all-Japanese world title bout in history. Despite splitting opinion Kameda was, for years, a huge ratings hit for TBS in general and a number of his fights peaked at over 30% of the Kanto region
7-Kameda's final defense of the WBA "regular" Bantamweight title in 2013, which saw him beat Jung Oh Son, used 1/2 point scoring, and due to it being held in Korea and being held later than usual for televised bouts in Japan the scores hadn't been collated by the time the bout went off the air on TBS. Due to that the actual result wasn't known in Japan until the news report that followed the airing of the fight.
8-Whilst it's well known that Koki and brothers Daiki and Tomoki are fighting brothers the family's boxing connections are much bigger than that. With their sister, Himeki Kameda, and their cousin, Kyonosuke Kameda, also being professional fighters.
9-Kameda has a credited role as an actor in the 2010 movie "BOX!" (also known as "Bokkusu").
10-On May 7th 2017 Kameda took part in a special event on streaming service AbemaTV, essentially titled "10,000,000 yen if you beat Koki Kameda". It was a special event that saw Kameda fight against 4 opponents in a single event. The show was a huge success for AbemaTV, so big in fact that it crashed their servers with over 14,000,000 people tuning in. Interestingly one of the fighters that Kameda faced, "Joe Blog", would later make his professional debut on a Kyoei promoted card put together by Kameda.
Extra fact 1 - Kameda's 2015 bout with Kohei Kono is the only time an all-Japanese world title fight has taken place on US soil, with the bout being fought in Chicago.
Extra fact 2 - Kameda is a published author, with 2 Japanese books available with Kameda listed as the author. "Koki Kameda declares war" and "It's so Strong".
The sport of boxing is full of tragic fighters, one of the most tragic was Korean fighter Yo Sam Choi who's death in 2008 took away the last flame of Korean boxing. Choi was a hero of the sport in his homeland, and a genuinely popular figure who put the sport first when many in the country had left the sport.
Today we look at 10 facts you probably didn't know about...Yo Sam Choi, and add a few extra facts for good measure for a Korean warrior who really was taken before his time.
1-Born on March 1st 1972 Choi was the 5th of 6 children in the family
2-On January 17th 1994 Choi won the South Korean Light Flyweight Rookie of the Year crown, thanks to his win over Sang-Chul Lee. Incredibly that was Choi's third bout in 7 days!
3-According to multiple Korean sources Choi's bout on October 22nd 1994, which is listed on boxrec as being against "unknown" at the time of writing, came against Filipino journeyman Lee Escobido.
4-Choi's world title win 1999 against Saman Sorjaturong saw the Korean suffer a broken jaw.
5-There was a plans for Choi to defend his WBC Light Flyweight in December 2000 and in Pyongyang, in what was supposed to be a rematch with Saman Sorjaturong. The venue had been selected, as the Pyongyang Indoor Gymnasium but the event fell through when the broadcaster pulled out, with some Korean sources also reporting that the promoter of the event, had passed away.
6-In a 2001 interview with Choi's then promoter Madam Yongja Shim, it was revealed that there had been an offer for $500,000 for Choi to face Ricardo Lopez from Don King. Madam Yongja Shim, stated that she turned it down, and asked for $1,000,000
7-Choi's 2002 bout with Shingo Yamaguchi was put together at short notice after financial issues lead to Choi needing to defend the title or be stripped. The sponsorship issues had lead to a planned June 2001 bout with Jorge Arce falling through, with that bout taking place more than a year after it had originally been planned. Interestingly Yamaguchi was promoted by Katsuo Tokashiki, who also promoted the fight in Chiba. This was an interesting aside as Tokashiki was himself known by Korean fans for his bouts in the 1980's against the likes of Sung Nam Kim, Hwan Jin Kim and Jung Koo Chang.
8-To prepare for his 2002 bout with Jorge Arce Choi trained in the Philippines and did over 140 rounds of sparring. Following his title loss to Arce in Choi began to be trained by Korean legend Jung Koo Chang, himself a former WBC Light Flyweight champion.
9-Choi would pass away after suffering a fatal injury in his win against Heri Amol in 2007. Although Choi was declared brain dead on January 2nd 2008 his ventilator wasn't switched off until the following day. This was at the request of Choi's mother.
10-The Leessang song "Champion" was dedicated to Choi, who was friends with the two members of the Korean hip-hop due. It was part of their 2009 album released just over a year after Choi's death.
Extra fact 1 - According to the Korean press there was several times where Choi wasn't paid to fight, with Choi himself explaining that "money is not important".
Extra fact 2 -Several reports in Korea suggest that the plan for 2008, was for Choi to challenge WBO Flyweight champion Omar Andres Narvaez. Of course due to Choi's untimely passing those plans never came to fruition.
Extra fact 3 - Following his death Choi's organs were donated, the 6 recipients. In total his heart, liver, kidney's and corneas were removed for donation. Sadly organ donation is still incredibly low in South Korea, though reports suggest that people are more open to it now than they were when Choi's organs were donated.
Extra fact 4 - In 2010 the hospital that treated Choi before his death lost a legal case to Choi's mother, due to their failure to provide proper first aid to Choi. Reports suggest that they were made to pay as much as ₩15,000,000 (South Korean Won). They weren't found responsible for his death, but were found to have failed in it's duty of care. His passing also saw changes to law in Korean medical law.
Exactly 18 years ago today, April 19th, Japan's Daisuke Naito travelled to Thailand to compete in his first ever world title fight, going up against his most notable rival, Pongsaklek Wonjongkam. With that anniversary now here it seemed the perfect time to cover Naito in one of our weekly series.
So here we are with 10 facts you probably didn't know about... Daisuke Naito
1-Naito's parents divorced when his mother was pregnant with Daisuke. By that point his parents already had another son, who was 4 years old at the time.
2-As a child Naito was a natural athlete. He competed in athletics and made the table tennis club at junior high school and shined at handball in in Highschool. Sadly though school wasn't a happy time and in the second year of junior high school Naito became a target for bullying, which continued to worsen, and was ignored by teachers. The bullying became such a big part of Naito's life that he has campaigned against bullying in adulthood and TBS also did a special dramatization on Naito and the way he was bulled, entitled “Naito Daisuke Monogatari: Ijimerarekko no Champion Belt" (The Daisuke Naito Story: Champion Belt for a Bullied Child)”
3-Naito took up boxing to try and becoming strong, with the idea that he could scare off bullies is they struck again. His mother, however, wasn't a fan and described the sport as useless when he first started.
4-On December 19th 1998 Naito stopped Noboru Fukuyama in 1 minute to become the All Japan Rookie of the Year at Flyweight. This win, in his 10th bout, saw him advance his record to 9-0-1 (7) and was his 6th opening round T/KO. He would end his career with 8 of them in total.
5-Naito's first ever title fight saw him fight to a draw with the then Japanese Flyweight champion Takefumi Sakata. The bout was followed by the "Ogushi Incident", which ended with Naito's stablemate Hiroto Ogushi drunkenly storming the ring and having his license suspended. These were ugly scenes with Ogushi reportedly brandishing a weapon and later ranting outside the officials office. This would be the end of Ogushi's career whilst both Naito and Sakata would go on to win Flyweight world titles.
6-It's well known that Naito's first bout with Pongsaklek Wonjongkam, a 34 second loss to the Thai great, is the shorted Flyweight world title bout in history. What isn't reported as much is that Naito himself holds the record for winning the shortest ever Japanese title fight with his 24 second win over Takeyuki Kojima. Another thing that isn't too well known is that the blow out against Kojima would be Naito's 8th, and final, opening round T/KO win!
7-The third bout between Naito and Wonjongkam, which took place in 2007, was shown on Tokyo MX, who stepped in after the original broadcaster decided not to air the bout. Many in the west won't be familiar with Tokyo MX and that's because they are a tiny channel compared to the likes of TBS and Fuji, and are independent of the big news networks that dominate Japanese TV. This was later awarded the Best Match Award at the Japanese boxing awards. Of course this was Naito's world title win over Wonjongkam and the TV channels realised the error of their ways. The following year Naito had 3 televised fights, all on TBS, and each of them peaked at over 24% in the audience viewing in the region. That included the 4th bout between Naito and Wonjongkam, which hit a huge 26.3%.
8-Naito's regular ring walk music was "Romanticが止まらない" by CCB
9-Naito got married in the year 2000 and has had 2 sons.
10-Naito's bout with Koki Kameda in 2009 hit an audience rating of 43.1% in the Kanto region on TBS. That's a record high for an all-Japanese bout, and broke a record that had stood for more than 40 years, with the previous record being a 41.9% rating for the 1967 clash between Hiroshi Kobayashi and Yoshiaki Numata.
Extra Fact - Away from boxing Naito has been involved in various things, ranging from TV work for almost every TV network in Japan, to releasing a a book and doing a duet for an animated film. He has also opened a ramen shop in Hokkaido.
Chinese fighter Chaozhong Xiong may have been maligned by some fans but the "Little Bear" has proven to be a significant figure in the world of boxing, specifically Chinese boxing. His influence is still being felt today thanks to the growth of Max Power Promotions, which is the promotional company that he fought under, and has lead to fighters like Can Xu getting big opportunities at the world level.
Although now retired Xiong is a figure that not many fans seem to know much about, other than that he was the first Chinese world champion. With that in mind here are 10 facts you probably didn't know about...Chaozhong Xiong.
1-Xiong's parents are both farmers. He's was their second son, and the middle child of the family, with his parents having 3 boys. Sadly his parents were poor, and struggled with paying for the tuition fees for Xiong and his his brothers.
2-Xiong dropped out of school in 2000 to help support his family. Originally the plan was to follow his older brother in to the army, but ended up doing vocational work as a repairman for a year. That repair failed to interest him and he ended up dropping out and working more manual jobs instead. Among the jobs he did were mining and working on a banana plantation. Whilst working as a miner he would often work 10 hour days for as little as ¥10 (Chinese Yuan) a day, which was around $1.20 at the time.
3-Xiong's first world title fight didn't come at his natural Minimumweight, the division he would later make his name at, but instead Flyweight. In 2009 he challenged the then WBC, and Linear, Flyweight champion Daisuke Naito. The bout was a messy one, with both men being penalised a point for head clashes, and Naito was actually dropped in round 6, though did enough to narrowly defeat Xiong.
4-On November 27th 2011 Xiong got married in Maguan County, and had a son together in September 2016.
5-Xiong is best known for being the first male Chinese world champion, though he only got that opportunity due to the then WBC president Jose Sulaiman being involved. Sulaiman paid a a $25,000 step aside fee to Denver Cuello to allow Xiong to fight for the title ahead of Cuello. That lead to Xiong beating Javier Martinez Resendiz in November 2012.
6-Outside of China Xiong went 1-4, with his sole win on foreign soil coming against Denver Cuello in 2013, in what was Xiong's second defense of the WBC Minimumweight title. Xiong's losses on the road came in Japan, 3 times, and Monaco.
7-Xiong's third world title defense, which took place on November against Lookrak Kiatmungmee, was originally set to be against Omari Kimweri. A late change of opponent was needed when Kimweri was unable to enter China due to immigration issues. As a result the, very limited, Thai got the shot on short notice.
8-In 2013 the local government gave Xiong ¥750,000 (Chinese Yuan) as a reward for his achievements in boxing. The payment saw internet users question the decision as the local area, of Maguan County, was full of poverty. The local government defended the choice by stating it was to help inspire others to follow Xiong and become a success.
9-Xiong became the first, and so far only, Chinese fighter to win a full version of an OPBF title. He did that by beating Crison Omayao by unanimous decision over 10 rounds to claim the previous vacant title.
10-Although it never actually ended up happening, Xiong was pencilled in to fight in Las Vegas in May 2013 against Carlos Ortega from Panama. This bout was cancelled, and Zhong never actually ended up fighting in the US during his 36 fight career. As a result we had to wait until 2019, when Can Xu defended the WBA Featherweight title against Manny Robles III, to see a Chinese fighter defending a world title on US soil.
Extra fact 1 -Xiong faced off with Lu Bin in 2016 at a special event put on by CCTV5 to celebrate Chinese new year. Sadly for Xiong he was easily beaten by Bin, who was too quick, too skilled and too sharp for the then former professional world champion. This bout isn't on the record of either man as it was fought with a unique rule set.
Extra fact 2 -On his 35th birthday Xiong scored his last wins as a professional, beating Panya Pradabsri for the WBA International Minimumweight title. There was certainly a feeling he got a birthday present from the judges. He would only fight once more afterwards, losing to Knockout CP Freshmart almost 10 months later.
When we talk about Japanese world champions from the 1990's one name that will always be mentioned is that of Joichiro Tatsuyoshi, who even years after his final bout is still incredibly popular in his homeland. During his career only 1 Japanese fighter beat him, and that was Yasuei Yakushiji.
Sadly Yakushiji isn't as well remembered by the wider boxing fan based as the charismatic Tatsuyoshi, despite his win over "Joe of Naniwa". With that in mind we wanted to change things a little bit, and today we bring you 10 facts you probably didn't know about...Yasuei Yakushiji
1-Yakushiji went 21-6 (9) as an amateur and began boxing due to the influence of his father, himself an amateur boxer.
2-Rather surprisingly Yakushiji lost 2 of his first 4 bouts, including the All Japan Rookie of the Year final in 1987 to Mitsuo Kawashima. His early results saw many people write him off as a potential world champion and even saw him being called a coward for the style he had in those early bouts, which was a very negative style. Those losses would go on to be his only losses until his final bout in 1995, with Yakushiji retiring with a record of 24-3-1 (16) and having made 4 defenses of the WBC Bantamweight title.
3-In 1989 Yakushiji had his JBC license suspended for 6 months due to being arrested for speeding during the coming of age ceremony in January. During this ban Yakushiji travelled to Singapore, and fought against John Matienza, in what was his only bout outside of Japan.
4-In June 1990 Yakushiji's bout with Jun Yonesaka resulted in Yonesaka passing away from injuries. Following the bout Yakushiji considered retiring from the sport. In the years that followed Yakushiji would visit the grave of Yonekura, with this being shown on local TV.
5-As a professional Yakushiji's ring regular walk out music was "Let's Groove" by Earth Wind & Fire .
6-Yakushiji's career defining win against Joichiro Tatsuyoshi came on the 64th birthday of his then trainer Miyagi "Mack” Kurihara. Impressively this win drew a 39.4% audience rating in the Kanto region of Japan, a number that looks unreal compared to today's standards where even a massively viewed boxing event doesn't break 20%. We've included this legendary bout at the end of the article.
7-In 2012 Yakushiji announced that he had been scammed out of a significant amount of money from an investment fraud, reportedly costing him more than ¥130,000,000
8-In December 2012 Yakushiji divorced the woman he'd been married to for 18 years. In 2015 he later remarried a woman who was 18 years his junior
9-Following his retirement form boxing Yakushiji had starred in a number of TV shows and movies, as an actor and voice actor. He has also done commentary work for episodes of Diamond Glove. He also opened the Yakushiji gym, helping bring through a new generation of fighters.
10-Yakushiji is known as a car enthusiast and has owned a Lamborghini Diablo, among other cars.
Extra Fact - Yakushiji was the only man to beat Korean Jung-Il Byun in the professional ranks, beating him twice. The Korean is of course most famous for his in ring protest at the 1988 Olympics when he refused to leave the ring after a loss to Aleksandar Hristov
When we talk about Japanese fighters who became fan favourites away from home few rival Yoshihiro Kamegai, who really made his name more in the west in the final few years of his career. The tough man from the Teiken gym was involved in some incredible bouts and whilst he wasn't the greatest boxer of all time he also knew how to put on a show with his incredible chin, work rate and will to win.
Whilst we all know Kamegai was a tough guy, there is a lot fans likely don't know about the talented Japanese warrior and with that in mind we look to bring 10 facts you probably didn't know about...Yoshihiro Kamegai!
1-Kamegai went 57-12 (31) in the amateurs and won 3 amateur titles on the Japanese domestic scene, including 2 in 2004, the year before his professional debut.
2-Walk out song was "Endless Journey" (終わりなき旅) by Mr Children, which we've included at the bottom of this article
3-In his 6th professional bout Kamegai was involved in rather remarkable scene where veteran referee Ukrid Sarasas was dropped, hard, by Kamegai's opponent Yasuhiro Kondo. Ukrid would later be a judge for Kamegai's sole defense of the OPBF Welterweight title in 2014 over Jung Hoon Yang.
4-In May 2010 Kamegai won the East Japan Boxing Association MVP of the month, for the previous month. Interestingly the Fighting Sprit award winner for that same month was Nihito Arakawa, two men are were both known for having bouts when they stepped foot in a US ring!
5-Kamegai's reign as the Japanese Light Welterweight champion ended in 2011 when he was forced to cancel a bout, at late notice, against Shinya Nagase. The bout was pencilled in for February 5th 2011, with Kamegai pulling out on February 3rd due to suffering from influenza and vacating the title as an apology. In fact both of Kamegai's title reigns, as the Japanese Light Welterweight and OPBF Welterweight champion, ended with him vacating.
6-During his professional career Kaegai won two of the Japanese annual boxing awards. For 2010 he, along with Ryo Miyazaki, won the new-comer award and in 2016he won the Best fight of the Year award for his April clash with Jesus Soto Kareass. Thsi was also shared alongside Shinsuke Yamanaka's September clash with Anselmo Moreno.
7-Strangely Kamegai never won a bout that went beyond 10 rounds, going 0-2 in 12 round bouts, and was actually 1-6-2 in bouts that went 10 or more rounds, winning only the first one he had back in 2007 against Daisuke Hata. On a somewhat connected note he scored stoppages in rounds 1-9
8-He adopted the "Maestrito", nickname from Mexican fighter Jose Luis Lopez, himself a former WBO Welterweight champion. He was later given the nickname "Corazón De Acero", or "Steel Heart" in English, by Oscar De La Hoya
9-For Kamegai's bout with Miguel Cotto the Japanese fighter got a reported $192,000 as his purse compared to Cotto's $750,000, meaning Kamegai got just over 25% of Cotto's purse
10-From his 10 bouts in the US Kamegai went 3-5-2 (3). He won his US debut, on October 1st 2011, won against Oscar Godoy, in December 2014 and won the rematch with Jesus Soto Karass in September 2017. In Japan however Kamegai went 24-0 (21). Whilst that down to his competition being much tougher in the US than it was in Japan, it's still interesting to see just how different his results were in the two counties.
Extra Fact - Despite his losses in the US Kamegai seemed to have a lasting effect on opponents he fought Stateside. Greg Vendetti, Miguel Cotto, Robert Guerrero all lost in their bout immediately following their wins over Kamegai, whilst Alfonso Gomez never fought after beating him. The only man to avoid this curse was Johan Perez, though he would go 7-6-1 following the Kamegai bout. Similarly the two men who earned a draw with Kamegai, Jorge Silva and Jesus Soto Karass, lost in their bout immediately following their clash with Kamegai.
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).