Over the last few years we've seen a growing number of fighters being put on the fast track to the top, and they've genuinely come from across the globe. We've had Japanese fighters like Naoya Inoue and Kosei Tanaka, Thai's like Knockout CP Freshmart, Ukrainians like Vasyl Lomachenko and Oleksandr Usyk as well as Russian based fighter Dmitry Bivol. Whilst not all fast tracked fighters get the success they are looking for, with Lu Bin and Mark Anthony Barriga both coming up short recently, it's been an exciting period to see prospects raced to success.
As well as those who have had chances straight away we've also seen a number of fighters having to wait, though looking like they could be hot shotted straight into the title picture, the likes of Israil Madrimov seemed like they could compete best in the world straight away. Win or lose it's hard to imagine someone like Madrimov wouldn't at least be competitive with someone like Tony Harrison, and that's not us trying to be disrespectful to "Super Bad".
It got us thinking, who has fought for a world title on debut? And how have they done? And if we're being honest our research showed more fighters than expected had actually gotten a shot, with one notable success having done better than just fight for a title but also win it!
Surprisingly from 8 examples we found 5 were from Asia, with the other 3 coming from across America.
The most notable example, and the first we found, was US Heavyweight Pete Radamacher, who made his professional debut in 1957.
The then 28 year old Rademacher had won an Olympic gold medal in 1956 and had amassed a reported amateur record of 72-7. His route to an Olympic gold medal had seen him stop all 3 of his opponents, and do so in a combined 6 rounds before he headed to the professional ranks. On debut, on August 22nd 1957, he faced off with the then 32-1 Floyd Patterson, the Heavyweight champion of the world!
The bout was widely seen as a mismatch, though Rademacher did have success and dropped Patterson in the second round. Sadly however Rademacher was unable to build on that and Patterson roared back, dropping the challenger a total of 7 times before scoring a KO towards the end of round 6.
Despite losing on debut Rademacher would go on to have a pretty good career, going 15-7-1 (8). Those numbers however don't do credit to what he did, with wins over LaMar Clark, a real fraud, George Chuvalo and Bobo Olson, whilst being matched insanely tough through his career. His losses came not only to Patterson but also Zora Folley, Brian London, Doug Jones, Archie Moore and Karl Mildenberger.
The Controversial Lovera
It would be 18 years until we had another debutant challenger, with Paraguayan Rafael Lovera fighting for the WBC Light Flyweight title against Luis Estaba on September 13 1975.
The title had been stripped from Italian Franco Udella, who refused to fight Lovera. Udella had become the inaugural champion in April 1975, beating Valentin Martinez for the title. For some reason the WBC allowed Lovera to fight for the belt, though he was stopped in 4 rounds by Estaba. Estaba himself would go on to hold the belt until 1978, when he was stopped by Freddy Castillo, having had 11 defenses of the belt. Lovera would never return to the ring, retiring 0-1.
1984 see the IBF do a double
Interestingly 1984 saw two different debutant challengers, at least we think so.
We say that because the first of those was Indonesian fighter Joko Arter, and it's impossible to be 100% about Indonesian records. What is known is that Arter was the second Indonesian to fight for a world title, following Thomas Americo, and didn't fair very well in what is thought to be his only professional bout.
The debuting Arter took on Korean fighter Min Keun Oh on March 4th 1984 in a bout for the newly created IBF Featherweight title, and he was stopped in 2 rounds by the Korean. We've not been able to find any other bouts featuring Arter afterwards, though we do know that Keun's reign was regarded as a very disappointing one, and he lost in his third defense.
Interestingly Joko's brother, Dobrak Arter, would go on to have significantly longer career, though his record, like that of Joko is pretty unclear, with reports being that he fought over 80 times, whilst Boxrec have only 23 of his bouts in their database.
Exactly 5 months after Arter lost we have the year's other debutant challenger, Filipino Joves De La Puz. The Filipino took on Japan's influential Satoshi Shingaki in a bout for the IBF Bantamweight title, in what was Shingaki's first defense, and came close to shocking the boxing world, losing a narrow split decision to Shingaki over 15 rounds.
The bout, which was held in Japan, really is an oddity in lots of ways, not just the debut challenge but it was also the first time a Japanese fighter had defended an IBF title on Japanese soil, under the auspices of the renegade IBF Japan outfit. Sadly it appears Puz, like many others on this list, never actually returned to the ring, and he needs to go down as a real "what could have been?" given that a close loss to Shingaki, over 15 rounds, shows there was something about him.
More IBF mess, this time Minimumweight
We stay with the IBF and the IBF Japan for the next debutant title challenger, Masaharu Kawakami. On June 14th 1987 Kawakami fought Kyung Yung Lee in the inaugural IBF Miniumweight title bout, losing in 2 rounds to Lee.
Unlike a number of fighters on this list Kawakami would actually go on to fight further bouts, losing by stoppage 6 months later to Romero Opriasa and then in 1990 to Joe Constantino. However their is a huge asterix to his name when it comes to this, for several reasons. Firstly the graphic on the screen for the bout suggests Kawakami has an 88% stoppage rate and secondly Kawakami had been scheduled to fight in a professional bout prior to face Lee, though that bout was turned into to an exhibition with details regarding the bout being very sketchy. Sadly we've not been able to find in depth details on that contest, but it certainly appears there was something very odd about Kawakami's entire career.
We stick with the IBF for the next debutant challenger, Domingus Siwalette, who fought for the IBF Minimumweight title against Ratanapol Sor Vorapin on September 26th 1993. Siwalette, like Joko Arter, was an Indonesian fighter so we're not totally sure on his professional record, though the suggestion is that this was his professional debut, with their being a struggle for qualified fighters at the weight at the time.
Siwalette was stopped in the 4th round by the Thai world champion and began what was a disappointing career. Like Kawakami he did continue to fighter after his loss, and like Kawakami there is no record, at the time of writing, of him ever scoring a win. Instead Siwalette went 0-10 in his career, losing 3 of his 10 bouts by stoppage. That sounds amazingly bad, though his competition is actually pretty scary. Not only was he beat by Ratanapol, but also Fahlan Sakkreerin Jr, Pichitnoi Sithbanprachan and Muhammad Rachman. In just 10 recorded bouts he fought 4 fighters who would hold world titles!
The last man
Only a few months after Siwalette's shot we saw the most recent male debutant world title challenger, Arturo Mayan. Mayan, a Mexican fighter, would get his world title shot on January 7th 1994, when he challenged Puerto Rican Alex Sanchez, and was stopped in 90 seconds in Spain. Sanchez, the then WBO Minimumweight champion was making his first defense, just weeks after winning the title, and would actually go on to make quite a few defenses before coming undone in 5 rounds against the legendary Ricardo Lopez.
Mayan's 90 second loss to Sanchez was the Mexican's only bout, and in fact his career is the shortest of any world title challenger, by quite some margin in fact.
The Solitary Success Story
The most recent world title debutant, that we could find, came in 2008 and was actually female fighter Hyun Mi Choi, a North Korean refugee who is now based in South Korea. Choi did what none of the men could, and ended actually winning the WBA female Featherweight title on her debut, as she defeated Chunyan Xu by unanimous decision on October 11th 2008. Impressively she did this at the age of 17!
Choi no only won her world title debut but then went on to defend it. In fact she made 7 defenses before moving up to to become a 2-weight world champion, adding the WBA female Super Featherweight title to her collection.
Notably Choi has run up wins over a number of good fighters, including Claudia Andrea Lopez, Sandy Tsagouris, Fujin Raika, Diana Ayala and Mayra Alejandra Gomez. At the moment her record stands at 16-0-1 (4), and is set to make her next defense on June 29th, against Japanese challenger Wakako Fujiwara.
Given we are more than 20 years removed from the last male debutant world title challenger it's unlikely we're set to see another any time soon, if ever, though with the rise in female boxing we really wonder if we will, some day soon, see someone match Choi's incredible debut achievement.
(Image courtesy of Ohashi Gym, boxrec and the KBA)
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).