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.
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).