When we talk about fighters from the past few have a life as interesting and varied as former Japanese world champion Guts Ishimatsu. During a 12 year career he fought 51 times, but in the 40+ years since his retirement he shown that boxing was only a small part of a very, very interesting life. Be it boxing, acting, TV work and a number of other things, Ishimatsu has had his fingers in more pies than we suspect many will be aware of.
Many fans will be aware of Ishimatsu's reign as the WBC Lightweight champion in the 1970's, and many will be aware of his fights with the likes of Robert Duran, Ken Buchanan, Saensak Muangsurin, Ismael Laguna, Esteban de Jesus and Lionel Rose but there was, so much more to Ishimatsu than those legendary opponents
Today we look to share some details about the wonderful life of Ishimatsu as we bring you 10 facts you probably didn't know about... Guts Ishimatsu
1-As we're sure you could have guessed, if you didn't already know, but "Guts Ishimatsu" wasn't his birth name. That was Yuji Suzuki. Incidentally he also had a third name, fighting as Ishimatsu Suzuki early in his career before taking the Guts moniker.
2-Prior to becoming a boxer Ishimatsu wanted to become a PE teacher, but left school himself due to the financial situation of his family. He would move to Tokyo and take up various jobs.
3-Ishimatsu is well known for his love of Banana's with the fruit said to be placed all around his house so he can eat them at any time. His relationship with banana's has seen him co-authoring a book with his daughter about banana recipes. Together he and his daughter won the "First Banana Award" and took part in Banana day.
4-On the subject of his daughter, Yuki Suzuki, she was a very talented gymnast as a youngster before beginning a career in entertainment and even becoming a singer for a rock bang, "Wishful BLank". And of course co-writing a book on banana recipes!
5-Ishimatsu is incorrectly credited as creating the "Guts Pose", a celebration pose where a fighter raises both fists above their shoulders. The urban legend has long been that Ishimatsu created it when he won the WBC Lightweight title in 1974. The rumour has been further grown by Japanese quiz shows. In reality it seems the pose was actually created in the 1960's at a US bowling alley.
6-In 1996 Ishimatsu ran for office, as a member of the Liberal Democrat party.
7-Ishimatsu earned his first world title fight due to an upset! In January 1970 he was picked to face Jaguar Kakizawa, who was on the verge of a title fight. At that point Ishimatsu was a 20 year old boasting a distinctly average 15-5-4 (10) record. Kakizawa on the other hand was 34-2-2 (5) and expected to cruise past Ishimatsu. Instead of reading the script Ishimatsu upset his country man and was rewarded with a bout against Ismael Laguna in June that year.
8-After beating Shinichi Kadota in January 1972 Ishimatsu stated he wanted to fight then then WBA champion Ken Buchanan. That fight would happen, but not whilst Buchanan was the champion. Instead it took place in 1975 in what was Ishimatsu 3rd defense of the WBC Lightweight title.
9-Following his retirement from the ring Ishimatsu has been busy with acting and work as a "talent". This has seen him star in a number of movies and TV shows, including Steven Spielberg's "Empire of the Sun" and Ridley Scott's "Black Rain". According to IMDB he currently has 71 acting credits to his name, 2 director credits, 2 writer credits and 1 as a producer!
10-Guts Ishimatsu was one of the 6 world champions trained by the legendary Eddie Townsend, who also trained the likes of Hiroki Ioka and Hiroyuki Ebihara and Kuniaki Shibata
Extra Fact 1 - Ishimatsu has explained that the reason he turned to acting was to star along Ken Takakura who was his childhood hero. The two starred together in the aforementioned "Black Rain"
Extra Fact 2 - Hanawa recorded a song called that translates as "Legendary Mana - Viva Guts". Sadly it's rather hard to find a recording of this that we can share. As a result of us not finding any footage of that song we have included a video of Ishimatsu and Daisuke Naito in a series of mobile phone adverts!
(Image courtesy of http://jpba.gr.jp)
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).