Usually when we look at upsets in this series we focus on upsets where the Asian fighter walked away with the win. Today however we are going to look at a bout where the Asian fighter was on the wrong end of a notable, and often forgotten, upset. The bout is a brutal and one sided one, that saw history being set, and deserves to be more than just a footnote in boxing annals, though is sadly very much a forgotten bout.
Hideki Todaka (17-2-1, 8) Vs Leo Gamez (32-7-1, 24) I
In one corner was WBA Super Flyweight champion Hideki Todaka. Aged 27 he was supposed in his prime and was in great form. Despite having 2 losses against his name he had avoided defeat in his last 14 bouts, going unbeaten for more than 5 years, after a 4-2 start to his pro career. During his unbeaten run he had claimed the Japanese Light Flyweight title, in 1996, and gone on to fill out his frame and take the WBA Super Flyweight title in 1999.
Although not amazingly well remembered now a days Todaka was regarded as one of the faces of Japanese boxing at this time and a notable star in Nagoya, where he was based. After winning the WBA Super Flyweight title, beating Jesus Rojas in their second bout, following a technical draw, he had made successful defenses against Akihiko Nago and Yokthai Sithoar whilst proving his ability and building his profile.
At the start of the year 2000 Todaka was ranked #3 by Ring Magazine and just months into the year he solidified his ranking with a win over Yokthai, who had began the year ranked #6. He was legitimately regarded as one of the very best in the division behind only In Joo Cho and Mark Johnson. In October 2000 he returned to the ring for his third defense.
In the opposite corner to Todaka was 37 year old Venezuelan veteran Leo Gamez. Although Gamez was a solid name at this point he was seen as being well past his best and it seemed like he had been brought over to Japan to be an easy defense for Todaka. "Torito", as he was known, hadn't fought in over a year, with his previous bout being a KO loss to Sornpichai Kratingdaenggym 13 months earlier. Not only had he been inactive but he had lost 3 of his previous 6 and had gone 5-4 since 1995.
Despite being regarded as a faded force Gamez had been a major player in his prime. He had been very closely associated with the WBA and had won the WBA Minimumweight title in 1988, before adding the WBA Light Flyweight and Flyweight titles to his collection. Despite his haul of world titles Gamez had been quite smart in how he had gone about his title bouts. He had been the first WBA Minimumweight champion, he had won the vacant WBA Light Flyweight title and had won the WBA Flyweight title from the rather limited Hugo Rafael Soto, who was making his first defense. Notably none of his reigns had lasted long, and he had never really been the best in any division.
Given his age, inactivity and form few gave Gamez any chance against Todaka in Nagoya.
In the early moments Todaka looked bigger, younger, stronger and more powerful than Gamez. The challenger was forced backwards pretty much every time Todaka landed and it looked like the pre-fight perceptions were right, Gamez was over-matched. Despite that Gamez was finding some very clean, accurate shots, boxing well off his jab and using the ring well whilst making Todaka land on the arms and fall short.
Sadly for Todaka his successes in round 1 were quickly forgotten, with round 2 being a nightmare for him as he struggled to defend against anything Gamez threw his way. Time and time again Gamez would land clean shots and make Todaka miss. It was a testament to Todaka's spirit that he shrugged off some of the shots that Games was starting to landing, such as the big right hands Gamez began landing at will mid way through the round. Todaka was trying to come forward but was eating a lot of leather.
The punishment from Gamez intensified in round 3, as he continued hammering Todaka with huge shots, likely realising that Todaka was having some sort of problems, which we'll get on to a little later. The punishment added up by the end of round 4 Todaka was bleeding from the mouth, a tell tale sign of a broken jaw. Given the shots he was taking it was little wonder, and Games could certainly smell blood.
Todaka came out for round 5 busy, active, throwing a lot of jabs and trying to turn the bout around. He was hungry and brave, and putting in a great effort, despite being clearly a damaged fighter. This was his best round since the opening stanza, and he gave everything, likely knowing his title was slipping away. Gamez took it, defended himself well when he needed to and continued to target Todaka's head with hooks and uppercuts on the inside and big right hands at range. Towards the end of the round it seemed clear that Gamez had seen out the worst of the storm from Todaka.
Gamez resumed control in round 6, landing big shots with both hands. Todaka continued to grit his teeth and fight hard, but repeatedly missed, and walked into huge shots. Round after round he was taking massive uppercuts, being countered and having his already damaged jaw tagged clear, over and over. Every time Todaka built some momentum Gamez took the play away with head shots and punished Todaka, with interest.
In round 7 Gamez put his foot on the gas and hurt Todaka who stumbled. Todaka responded by yelling at Gamez, who followed up by hammering Todaka with sustained head shots until Todaka hit the canvas.
Todaka was done and he knew it, staying down a broken, beaten man.
With the win Gamez became the first fighter to win world titles at 105, 108, 112 and 115lbs. That's a feat that even now, more than 20 years on, has only been done by 3 other fighters.
It was a massive shock, not just that Gamez had won but how bad Todaka had looked. The rising star of Japan had looked like a brave but out classed fighter by someone most assumed was on the slide, big time. It was later revealed that Todaka had gone into the bout suffering from Ophthalmoplegia, an issue that caused him to see 2, or even 3, Gamez's. It was why he struggled to defend against Gamez's shots and why he struggled to land his own.
Sadly for Gamez his reign was a short one, losing in his first defense to Celes Kobayashi. He would then lose 4 of his 6 subsequent bouts, including a rematch with Todaka in 2003 for the WBA "interim" Bantamweight title. He would retire after a 2005 loss to Poonsawat Kratingdaenggym, whilst the wrong side of 40.
After this loss Todaka took close to 17 months away from the ring. That gave him time to heal his jaw and rest his body, which was in desperate need of a break. He picked up 3 low level wins in 2002 before beating Gamez in a rematch, then losing to Julio Zarate in 2004 and retired at the age of 30.
When it comes to well known names from the history of Japanese boxing Hideki Todaka (21-4-1, 10) is not one such name. In fact most outside of Japan probably haven't ever heard of Todaka, or if they have it's likely the way he lost in a massive upset to Leo Gamez in 2000, with Gamez then becoming a 4 weight world champion. Sadly though the memory of Todaka should be a lot stronger than it is, as he really was a major player in boxing in Central Japan.
Todaka's career ran from 1994, when he debuted in a 4 rounder, to 2004, when he retired on the back of a loss to Julio Zarate. By that point he had won the Japanese Light Flyweight, WBA Super Flyweight and WBA "interim" Bantamweight titles and had beaten several noteworthy opponents, including Jesus "Kiki" Rojas, Akihiko Nago, Yokthai Sithoar and Leo Gamez.
Sadly though despite his solid achievements Todaka is still often over-looked. And with that in mind we felt he deserved the chance to be highlighted this week as we bring you 10 facts you probably didn't know about... Hideki Todaka
1-Todaka was born on March 16th 1973, a date that not many famous people were born on. Those that were include actor Tim Kang, who featured in the 2008 Rambo, Soprano's, The Office and the on going Magnum P.I. Remake as well as featuring in video games Mirror's Edge Catalyst and Prey.
2-In his third professional bout Todaka beat the then 5-0 Koji Fujiwara, inside a round. That contest was seen by legendary trainer Mack Kurihara, who was the trainer of Yasuei Yakushiji who headlined the show. Following the win Kurihara told Todaka he could become a champion. Several years later Todaka contacted Kurihara and began to trainer under the guidance of Kurihara.
3-Early in his career Todaka used 2pac's "Changes" as his ring walk music.
4-As with many Japanese fighters from outside of Tokyo, Todaka wasn't particularly well known in Japan when he got his first world title fight against Jesus Rojas in 1999. He was, at the time, regarded as a "local" boxer in Aichi, where he was based at the time fighting out of the Green Gym. Interestingly from his 26 bouts Todaka only had two in Tokyo, with bout taking place at the Kokugikan.
5-At the time of writing Todaka is the second, and so far final, man to have won a world title whilst fighting out of the Midori Gym in Nagoya City. He followed in the foot steps of fellow former WBA Super Flyweight champion Satoshi Iida, who was the star of the gym before Todaka's rise to the title. Prior to joining the Midori gym he had fought out of the Miyazaki World Gym, a very small local gym in Miyazaki Prefecture.
7-Sadly much of Todaka's career was plagued by injuries. He was said to be regularly injured in training and would also suffer a number of injuries in bouts. These included a broken hand, that resulted in him vacating the Japanese Light Flyweight title early in his career, and a badly fractured jaw in his 2000 upset loss to Leo Gamez, which kept him out of the ring for well over a year, as well as suffering Ophthalmoplegia heading in to that fight. He was also said to have back problems before he'd even turned professional. Given those injury problems, that genuinely plagued his career, it was really impressive that he went on to have the success he managed.
8-From our research Todaka is the only boxing world champion to have come from Miyazaki City. Whilst that sounds like an impressive feat it is worth noting that Miyazaki's population is rather small, and at the time of writing stands at around 400,000. That's a similar population to Arlington, Texas and Tulsa, Oklahoma.
9-Following his retirement from the sport Todaka opened the "Todaka Boxing Gym -STUDIO Bee-", where he is attempting to nurture the next generation of Japanese fighters.
10-Todaka is credited on Tsuyoshi Nagabuchi's 2007 album "Come on Stand up!", where he is given a "Special" thanks from Nagabuchi. Interestingly Todaka regularly used songs by Nagabuchi for his ring walk, including "Hold Your Last Chance", which Todaka credits for changing his life his loss to Leo Gamez.
Bonus fact 1 - Originally Todaka's team were in a discussion for him to face WBA "regular" champion Johnny Bredahl in early 2004. Sadly contracts didn't get sorted and instead Todaka lost to Zarate whilst Nobuaki Naka got a shot at Bredahl, with these bouts taking place exactly a week apart.
Bonsu fact 2 - Todaka currently serves a promoter, promoting shows under the banner of "The Greatest Boxing".
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).