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 world champions Guts Ishimatsu and Ben Villaflor
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-Japan's Guts Ishimatsu was one of the more notable Japanese fighters of the 1970's. He is a former WBC Lightweight champion, who reigned for a little over 2 years. He lost his world title in 1976, to Esteban De Jesus and then moved up in weight to challenge Thailand's Saensak Muangsurin.
2-A few years ago we saw Vasyl Lomachenko win his first world title in his third bout, with many declaring it a record. What he actually did was tie the long standing world record set way back in 1975 by Thailand's Saensak Muangsurin. As a professional boxer Muangsurin's career was one of the shortest of any multi-time world champion, fighting just 20 times in his career and going a less than stellar looking 14-6 (11). Despite his lack of fights he repeatedly fought at a very high level, fighting in 12 world title bouts. The first of those 12 world title bouts saw him win the WBC and WBA Light Welterweight titles, stopping Perico Fernandez.
3-Spain's Perico Fernandez fought between 1972 and 1987, fighting mostly in Europe. His loss to Muangsurin was one of two bouts he had in Asia, along with a 1978 bout to Katsuhiro Okubo, who he stopped in 8 rounds.
4-It's fair to say that Katsuhiro Okubo isn't a notable name, fighting just 19 times in a 4 year career that spanned from 1978 to 1982. Despite his short career he did fight in a couple of title fights, including a 1979 loss to Battlehawk Kazama, who defended the Japanese Lightweight title inside a round.
5-The Japanese Lightweight title was the only one that Battlehawk Kazama won, however he did also fight for the WBA Super Featherweight title in 1980, when he was stopped in the 13th round to Samuel Serrano.
6-Although not too well remembered in recent years Samuel Serrano was an excellent fighter in the 1970's and 80's. His first title world title fight had come in April 1976, when he challenged Ben Villaflor, in a bout that ended in a 15 round split decision draw.
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).