Between 1996 and 2006 Japan's Jun Toriumi (24-6-1, 10) had a solid career that often goes over-looked in recent years, where many fans look back on a fighter for their record rather than their in ring activity, and their own personal achievements.
Toriumi may have lost around 20% of his career bouts but he still managed to carve out a genuinely successful career, winning the OPBF Super Bantamweight title in 2005, scored a win over Sornpichai Kratingdaenggym and shared the ring with the likes of Shigeru Nakazato, Hozumi Hasegawa and Nobuto Ikehara.
Although we're not here to give a full career synopsis of toriumi today, we are here to share some details about his career and life, as we bring you 5 Midweek Facts about Jun Toriumi!
1-Toriumi went to the Hanasaki Tokuharu High School. That's the same high school as numerous other notable boxers, including Takashi Uchiyama, Akinori Watanabe, Shinya Iwabuchi, Nobuyuki Shindo, Tsukimi Namiki and Kazu Arisawa. It really is hard to believe how many notable boxers have come through that single high school in the last few decades, and it's clear that the High School has strong links to the Watanabe Gym, given how many fighters from the school ended up at the gym.
2-As an amateur Toriumi ran up a solid 42-17 (13) record, and came third in two notable Japanese amateur competitions. As a result of his amateur record he was regarded as a genuine prospect when he eventually turned professional in 1996, aged 22.
3-As a youngster Toriumi was featured on the cover of "Men's Street", a Japanese fashion magazine. At the time he was regarded as a very good looking young man, which lead him to having that cover star role.
4-Following his retirement from the ring he became a manager a gym of a former stablemate, and then later set up his own gym, the "TEAM 10 COUNT" gym, which he founded in 2010. Incidentally he was given a 6 month suspension of his gym owner and managed licenses in 2020 due to breaching rules regarding fees.
5-The boxer isn't the only Jun Toriumi of note. Another Jun Toriumi is a well known figure in the field of pathology, and is a co-writer in a number of books regard pathology, including "Basics of Human Patholgy" and "Pathology and treatment". Sadly it's hard to find a significant amount about him, but several of his books are available on the Japanese Amazon.
When it comes to talking about Thai fighters from the 1990's and early 00's it's fair to say that Foijan Prawet (77-6, 46), aka Wethya Sakmuangklang, is not a name that many fans will know too much about. That's despite the fact that the Thai fought for the better part of 20 years, faced some genuinely notable names, challenged for a world title and had more than 80 bouts in his 16 year career that saw him travel around the globe.
The Thai fought from 1993 to 2009 and and really did fight some of the most notable fighters of his era, including a young Filipino by the name of Manny Pacquiao in 2001, the then WBC world champion Guty Espadas Jr and notably contender Rolly Lunas, and he also won the OPBF Super Bantamweight title.
Today we bring you 5 Midweek Facts about Foijan Prawet, as we look to shine a light on one of the forgotten Thai fighters of the 30 years.
1-Foijan wasn't the only boxer in the family. His brother, Kumarnthong Por Pluemkamol, also had success in the ring winning the OPBF Bantamweight title, in a massive upset win against Jun Toriumi in 2005. This makes them one of the very few sets of brothers to have won OPBF honours, and in fact they both also won the Thai national title
2-On the subject of his OPBF title reign, Foijan was the third Thai to hold the OPBF (or OBF) Super Bantamweight title and the first since since Prayurasak Muangsurin, who won the title almost 2 years before Foijan.
3-As is the case with many Thai fighter's there is some despite about Foijan's record. Boxrec lists him as being 77-6 (46) whilst Thai sources actually have him listed as being 78-6 (46).
4-If we accept his Boxrec record as correct, Foijan's away form is much more impressive than we usually see for Thai fighters. He went 7-5 away from home, including wins over Masakazu Sugawara, Hurricane Futa and Kyohei Tamakoshi and losses to Guty Espadas Jr, Manny Pacquiao and Rolly Lunas. On the other hand he did go a frankly ridiculous 70-1 at home in Thailand, with the one loss at home coming early in his career to Mongolian fighter Sukhbayar Nemekbayar.
5-Foijan was born on July 6th 1976. That's the same day as Ski Cross legend Ophélie David, American actor Bashir Salahuddin, award winning US journalist Mary Wiltenburg, mathematician Ioana Dumitriu, and Candian Ice Hockey players Greg Crozier and Chris Dingman.
Between 1979 and 1989 Korean fighter Seung Soon Lee (31-4, 23) managed to have a solid career, winning 31 of his 35 career bouts. During his days in the ring he notably won the South Korean Welterweight title, as well as the OPBF Welterweight title, he scored a win on US soil, stopping Sergio Sanchez, and even ended up landing a world title fight in 1989.
Sadly Lee's career is best remembered internationally for his penultimate bout, a quick loss to Mark Breland, but prior to that he had had a distinguished career in the East.
Today we plan to shine a light on Lee's career as we bring you 5 Mid Week Facts about Seung Soon Lee, as we remember the often forgotten Korean fighter.
1-On December 7th 1980 Lee won the Korean Rookie of the Year, beating Taek Jong Jung in 3 rounds.
2-Lee's 10 year career, spanning from 1979 to 1989 was a strange one in a number of ways, one of which was his activity level. Given he fought 35 times in his career it would be fair to assume that he was fairly busy through his career. After all an average of 3.5 fights a year would make sense. Instead however he squeezed in more than 25% of his total career bouts in 1980 alone, with 9 bouts from January 1st 1980 to December 31st 1980. This was a stark comparison to 1988, when he fought just once, or 1986 and 1989, years where he fought twice.
Similar, in some ways, is the fact that Lee's losses are also not evenly distributed through his career. He lost on his debut, before reeling off 29 straight wins, then finished his career with 3 losses in 5 bouts.
3-Staying on the subject of his losses Lee actually beat everyone he faced other than Mark Breland and Hyung Duk Choi, his debut opponent. His second loss came to Young Kil Jung, who he had beaten twice earlier in his career, and his final loss came to Jun Suk Hwang, who he had also beaten earlier in his career, in fact he had stopped Hwang in 1987.
4-Going into his 1989 bout with Mark Breland for the Welterweight title, Lee was ranked #2 by the WBA, a ranking that like we see now a days made absolutely no sense at all. Some things never changed. Amazingly Lee was also paid a reported $60,000 for the bout. Given it lasted 54 seconds he was essentially paid $60,000 for less than a minutes work! Nice!
5-For those interesting Lee does actually hold a world record! At the time of writing, his 54 second loss to Breland is the shortest ever bout for the WBA Welterweight title. In fact it's one of only two bouts for the belt to have been stopped in the opening round, the other was Donald Curry's win over Roger Stafford in 1983. That bout lasted 48 seconds longer than Lee's with Breland.
Between 2006 and 2017 Japan's Kentaro Masuda (27-9, 15) made for some brilliant fights as an under-reated, heavy handed and rugged Super Bantamweight and Bantamweight. Although never a world beaten Masuda was a 2-time Japanese national champion who scored notable wins against the likes of Yu Kawaguchi, Konosuke Tomiyama, Tatsuya Takahashi and Yushi Tanaka.
Sadly for Masuda having 9 losses on his record standsout as and leaves many to suspect he wasn't a good fighter. The reality however is that he had to learn on the job, and he lost 2 od his first 3 bouts, and 3 of his first 6. He also came across a number of solid fighters, such as Hidenori Otake, Ryosuke Iwasa, Shohei Omori, Mark John Yap and Takuma Inoue, and as a result suffered losses to very good fighters.
Although his name won't come up regularly in conversation he is someone we are big fans of, and with that in mind let us bring you 5 Midweek Facts about Kentaro Masuda, as well as sharing one of his fights at the end of the article.
1-Before becoming a professional boxer Masuda competed in Kyokushin, which is a full contact martial art. He was actually genuinely impressive at Kyokushin and came third in Japan at an All Japan competition.
2-In a June 2012 interview with Boxmob Masuda stated that Ryosuke Iwasa was going to be a world champion in the "near future". Although it took a bit of time for this to actually happen his prediction did come true, in 2017 when Iwasa stopped Yukinori Oguni to win the IBF Super Bantamweight title.
3-During his 36 fight career Masuda never competed in January. That was the only month during his 11 year career that he never fought in. A big reason for that is likely due to the fact he fought in December on 8 different occasions, meaning that that without fighting in back to back months, he was rarely available for a January bout.
4-After retirement Masuda has remained involved in the sport and became a trainer. He has been teaching both Karate and boxing. He has worked at Akifumi Shimoda's gym ad Yuichi Kasai's, done personal training and helped with the development of Miyo Yoshida, who he knew before she became a boxer, and taught Karata. He also opened up his own boxing in 2021, called RAD Boxing, which is focused on teaching kids from 4 years old to 6th grade.
5-Masuda shares his birthday with American actor Brian Michael Smith, American world champion rower Cara Stawicki, country singer Eric Paslay, controversial Chinese weight lifter Liu Chunhong, Jewish animator Adam Bizanski and and American actor Max Goldblatt.
In May 2019 we saw Japan's Ryuichi Funai (31-8, 22) fight for the final time as he faced off IBF Super Flyweight champion Jerwin Ancajas. The bout was a one sided beating for Funai, who lacked the speed, tenacity and work rate to get to the Filipino, who was too quick, too sharp and far too good. Following that bout Funai retired from the sport, having achieved one of his dreams of fighting in the US.
Sadly Funai is probably better remembered for that loss than anything else in his career, but the very likeable, friendly and rather quite Funai was in fact a very solid fighter. During his 39 fight career he reached the East Japan Rookie of the Year final, won the Japanese Super Flyweight title, beat the likes of Gakuya Furuhashi, Teppei Kikui, Kenta Nakagawa, Takayuki Okumoto, Warlito Parrenas and Victor Emmanuel Olivo.
In the ring Funai's style was basic, he lacked world class tools, but he still managed to earn a world title fight, a big fight in the US and a chance to fight for a world title before ending his career.
Today we want to shine a light on Funai and his career as we bring you 5 Midweek Facts about Ryuichi Funai
1-Prior to taking up boxing Funai placed basketball at Junior High School, and didn't begin boxing until he was High School and visited the Watanabe gym. Soon afters he began to train as an amateur fighter and managed to run up a 4-4 (2) record, a less than stellar start to his career, but one that gave him something of an under-standing of the ring and how to box, before he began his professional journey in 2005.
2-Like many fighters from Tokyo, Funai spent almost his entire career fighting at the Korakuen Hall. From his 39 professional bouts, 34 took place at the Japanese "Holy Land" of boxing. The other 5 took place at the Super Arena in Saitama, the Sangyo Hall in Kanazawa, the EDION Arena Osaka, the The Ota-City General Gymnasium and the Stockton Area
3-In 2017 Funai beat Kenta Nakagawa in 7 rounds to claim the Japanese Super Flyweight title. Despite the fact the men fought each other they were actually very good, long term friends who had gone to high school together, Tokyo Metropolitan Port Technical High School, and had set up a boxing club together.
Interestingly after their 2017 fight the two had agreed to go to a Ramen shop together, with the loser paying for a meal together. Unfortunately the one they had agreed to go to was closed on the day they went
4-Following his retirement from boxing Funai began to "MR. CHICKEN Chicken Restaurant", where he sold Singaporean chicken rice meals. Since then he has left that job and set up his own business, selling curry from a mobile restaurant. His specialities are "Futara Shoten" and "Keema Curry".
Funai getting into the food industry really isn't much of a surprise and in 2020 he revealed that he was debating going to cooking school instead of becoming a professional boxer. He also revealed that he had trained to be a chef early in his boxing career and had a part time job in a kitchen whilst he was fighting.
5-As well as selling curry Funai is also a boxing trainer, working 3 times a week, at 3 different gyms, including the "SOETE" gym of former Watanabe Gym stable mate Akio Shibata.
Through the history of the sport we have seen so many fighters being regarded as a sure thing, and as the next big star of the sport, but their career failed to pan out in the way many had expected. One of the most notable examples of such a fighter from Japan was Satoshi Koguchi (11-7-1, 10) who was regarded as one of the nations brightest ever talents when he turned professional in the late 1970's.
Sadly however Koguchi never delivered on his talent when he needed to, and despite turning professional with huge expectations on his shoulders he finished his career with an under-whelming record and little of note to show for his 6 years in the pro ranks. Instead his career serves as a clear reminder that no one in this sport is a sure thing, no matter how talented they are.
For those who don't know much about Koguchi we're looking to change that here as we bring you 5 Midweek Factsab out Satoshi Koguchi!
1-As an amateur Koguchi was a standout fighter who recorded a then Japanese record 61 straight wins in the amateurs, a record that stood for more than 30 years and wasn't broken until Kuntae Lee in 2013, when Kuntae Lee scored a 62nd straight win in his brilliant amateur career. As an amateur Koguchi would win two national high school championships and fight at the 1978 World Amateur Championships, but was eliminated in the first round.
2-Koguchi's decision to turn professional was due to the failure of his parent's business, and the need to earn money.
3-There was real controversy over Koguchi's professional standing when he turned professional, which hindered his career. He had signed contracts with both the International Boxing Gym and the Sasazaki Boxing Gym. Which left both feeling feeling they had promotional rights to him. Sadly the contractual issues saw him having his debut delayed by around two years, in what is regarded as the "boxing version of the Egawa Incident", mirroring issues with baseball star Suguru Egawa. It seemed, when he did turn professional, some of his desire for the sport had waned.
4-When he did finally make his debut he did so with special training from former Japanese world champion Shozo Saijo and he even sparred with Carlos Zarate before making his professional debut. Sadly however he neglected road work, and reportedly lacked the attitude to become a boxing star, a preferring to smoke, drink and enjoy the company of females, rather than focusing on his boxing career.
Rather interestingly his inability to focus on the sport saw him never winning any form of professional title, though he did fight for Japanese titles 3 times and scored wins over 3 future Japanese champions Tsutomu Itokazu, Tatsunari Hisahiro and Noboru Godai.
5-Following his retirement, in 1985 after losing to Takuya Muguruma, Koguchi became a trainer at the Kyoei Gym, helping train Katsuya Onizuka. He would win the Best Trainer Award in 1992 before transferring gyms in 1994 and helping Shinji Takehara to a world title. He would then go on to open up his own gym in 1996 and later lead Shingo Wake to a world title fight.
Bonus Fact -
Koguchi's newphew is Manabu Koguchi, the man who gave Hidenori Otake his first loss.
Between 1995 and 2004 Japanese puncher Junichi Watanabe (29-5, 20) was putting on some of the most exciting bouts in Japanese rings. Win or lose the man originally from Yamanashi was able to generate real excitement in the ring whilst making a name for himself at both Bantamweight and Super Bantamweight.
To international fans Watanabe might now be a well known fighter but in Japan he was certainly a popular fighter thanks to his unique look, his heavy hands and his rather questionable chin. In fact it was his durability that caused him to suffer 3 of his 5 defeats. Despite those losses he managed to score plenty of notable wins himself, claiming the Japanese Super Bantamweight title in 2001, with a win over Setsuo Segawa, which he subsequently defended 6 times before losing the in 2003 to Yoshikane Nakajima.
This week we're going to share some facts on Watanabe as we bring you 5 Midweek facts about Junichi Watanabe
1-Watanabe's boxingnick name was the rather unique, and genuinely brilliant, "Golden Wolf". The nickname was due to how he looked, with his blonde hair and ponytail.
2-Although never an amazing boxer Watanabe had a much feared straight left hand, which was known for it's genuine potency. Whilst he never showed in any sort of major international bout, the power well known about in Japan and that was shown very clearly in September 1998 when he dropped future world champion Toshiaki Nishioka with a single left hand in the opening minute of their bout! Sadly for Watanabe he couldn't finish off Nishioka who recovered and stopped him in the very next round.
3-After winning bouts and doing an in ring interview Watanabe would often sign off by thanking fans and then telling them to drink a beer on their way home. Often adding that it's cold weather and that he thought the fight would have warmed them up.
4-After retiring from in ring activity, following his loss to former WBA Super Bantamweight champion Yober Ortega in 2004, Watanabe went on to become a cook
5-The fighter shares his name with a now deceadedJapanese author. The Junichi Watanabe who was a writer wrote most a lot about extra marital affairs, and his 1997 novel "A Lost Paradise became a best seller in 1997. He was also the winner of the prestigious Naoki Prize in 1970. Sadly the writer passed away in 2014, aged 80, after a battle with cancer.
In recent years we have seen Japanese fighters regularly move from being top domestic amateurs into top professionals, with the likes of Naoya Inoue and Kazuto Ioka being tow of the many examples. Sadly that's not always been the case and some of the best amateursJapan has had haven't made as big of a mark on the professional ranks as we, and many others, had anticipated. One such example is Akihiko Nago (31-8-2, 14), who was tipped for stardom when he turned professional but never managed to reach the heady heights expected of him.
Fighting between 1995 and 2013 Nago was always a talented fighter, but an inconsistent one, lacking focus at times when he really needed it.
In just his 11th bout Nago won the Japanese Super Flyweight title, and defended it twice including a notable win over Keiji Yamaguchi. Sadly however losses to Hideki Todaka and Masamori Tokuyama in world title fights ended his hopes of winning a world title. Subsequent losses to Amorn Longsiriphoom, in a massive upset, Yokthai Sithoar, Yasuo Kijima, Katsuyuki Takayoshi, Juan Jose Beltran and Takamomi Abe littered the latter part of his career. That was despite scoring decent wins over Setsuo Segawa, Hidenonbu Honda.
Today we're going to shine a little bit of a light on Nago's time in the sport as we bring you 5 Midweek Facts about Akihiko Nago.
1-Nago graduated from the Konan High School, which was the same school as several other notable bothers, including Flipper Uehara, Yoko Gushiken and Puma Taguchi, as well as Shigeji Nakaima, who's better known for his work as a boxing promoter rather than an active fighter. Interestingly Nago would actually be promoted by Gushiken early in his career, only leaving the Shirai Gushiken gym after his loss in to Masamori Tokuyama in December 2000.
2-Prior to turning professional in 1995, as a teenager, Nago had gone 48-6 (27) in the amateurs and won the Interscholastic and the National Athletic meet. That amateur success saw him turning professional with a lot of expectation and hype, with many viewing him as a future star of Japanese boxing.
3-At the time of writing Boxrec is missing a bout that Nago had in July 1999. That bout, which took place as a tune of up for Nago ahead of his bout Hideki Todaka, saw Nago score a 3rd round win over Jun Magsipoc. Interestingly however Boxrec do have a bout for Magsipoc dated July 23rd 1999 against Jerry Pahayahay.
4-Nago's ring walk music was "Victory Song" by the Diamantes. The band are a Latin band from Okinawa and the song can be head below, with the video of the song being included at the end of this article..
5-Nago had planned a return to the ring, to take on Masashi Noguchi at Korakeun Hall, on September 24th 2016. He would have been edging towards his 40th birthday had the bout gone ahead and had been out of the ring for close to 3 years. The fight ended up being called late on due to Nago suffering an injury and Noguchi instead took on late replacement Jitti Boonsamsan.
When looking back over the history of boxing there are so many forgotten names. They range from forgotten champions to fighters who were little more than a local note on the sport and from those who achieved lots, to those who merely dipped their toes into the sport before going on to do something else with their life. One such fighter who is now often forgotten is former OPBF Light Flyweight champion Takahisa Masuda (20-9-3, 5).
As a professional Masuda fought between 1996 and 2009 and whilst his career isn't too well remembered now, more than a decade on from his final bout, he is still a very significant figure in boxing in Ehime, where he was born and now has his own gym. His career saw plenty of ups and downs, including a world title fight in 2009, an OPBF title reign and a Japanese title fight. He was never a world beater, but he was a good, solid professional, who is sadly forgotten just over a decade since his last fight.
Although Masuda is certainly not a major player in the grand scheme of Japanese boxing he is someone who deserves more attention than he gets, and with that in mind let us bring you 5 midweek facts about Takahisa Masuda!
1-Masuda was born on May 24th 1979, the same day as American sporting legends Tracy McGrady, the 7-time NBA all star, and former NFL player Kareem McKenzie, himself a 2-time Superbowl winner.
2-As an amateur Masuda went a rather unimpressive 3-2, though rather notably all 3 of his amateur wins were reportedly by stoppage, a rarity in amateur boxing where stoppages aren’t particularly common.
3-Masuda was supposed to get a world title fight in April 2009 against the then WBA Flyweight champion Denakaosan Kaovichit, but the bout fell through due to contractual issues, with reports being that Kaovichit's manager had signed a contract without having permission to do so. As a result Masuda had to wait a further 4 months for his one and only world title bout, which came against Pongsaklek Wonjongkam.
4-Following his retirement, after losing to Pongsaklek Wonjongkam, Masuda became a boxing trainer and then opened up his own gym in Ehime, the Masuda Boxing Gym, which became a professional boxing gym earlier this year.
5-Masuda shares his name with an entertainer, also called Takahisa Masuda, who is well known in Japan for his acting and musical work. He's active in the group NEWS and was also in Tegomass, who released a single called "Miso Soup".
Light Heavyweights in the Orient have always been few and far between. On the whole the region doesn't have the genetics or body type to make a mark at 175lbs on a regular basis. There are however a handful of exceptions with Korean fighter Lee Soo Hang (5-6-2, 4) being one of the very first exceptions to the rule.
Notably Hang's career only ran from 1979 to 1986, and consisted of just 14 fights with him winning less than half of those, but he is certainly a footnote in boxing history, and someone who deserves a lot more attention than he gets, and ever will get.
Rather than having a long introduction here, lets just take a look at 5 Midweek Facts about Lee Soo Hang, and explain why his career is worthy of some series attention.
1-Lee Soo Hang began boxing under the guidance of Mong Hyun Lee at the Gwangdon High School in 1977. The following year he competed as an amateur, winning silver in a national tournament and then turned professional in late 1979.
2-At the time of writing (April 2020) Boxrec do not have a full record of Lee Soo Hang, despite having several profiles of Hang. We won't go through all the bouts of his that Boxrec are missing but they don't have his first two bouts, which took place on back to back days in November 1979 and saw him win Korean Rookie of the Year at Middleweight!
Boxrec also list him as being a southpaw, with Korean sources insisting he was orthodox.
3- Whilst his professional record on Boxrec is incomplete, what is agreed on by Boxrec, and all other sources, is that Lee Soo Hang is that he was the first ever OPBF Light Heavyweight champion, making him a legitimate footnote in the history of the OPBF title. He claimed the belt in July 1982 when he stopped Toshiaki Suzuki in 4 rounds. Sadly he would become the first fighter to lose that title less than a year later.
Incidentally Lee Soo Hang won the OPBF Light Heavyweight title after previously coming up short for the Korean Middleweight title. With his OPBF title win Korea then held 12 of the 13 OPBF titles, with the only exception being the Bantamweight title held by the brilliant Eijiro Murata
4-Sadly winning the OPBF title for Lee Soo Hang was the start of the end and the Korean failed to pick up another win before retiring. In fact he went 0-5-1 afterwards to retire 5-6-2 (4).
5-Unsurprisingly, given he won an OPBF Light Heavyweight title, Lee Soo Hang was a tall man for a Korean. In fact he was reportedly 184cm (just over 6'), which was huge for a Korean in the 1980's and saw him tower most of his fellow fighters from the time. In fact pictures of him that emerged on the internet a few years ago still show him towering over people.
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).