When we talk about the most important people in boxing we tend to talk about the decision makers at the top of the sport, and not the ones a little bit further down the system who are making changes that will be felt by every fight fan. One man who falls in that category is former fighter turned trainer, turned promoter Ichitaro Ishii (21-3-1, 16). With that in mind we decided that this week would focus on bring you 10 facts about Ishii, who seems to be shaking up the sport and thinking outside of the box in ways that we don't really see from promoters. He's also doing so in a way that has helped rebuild Japanese boxing during the torrid times of Covid 19 pandemic.
Ishii is unlikely to be a name Western fans are familiar of, but his impact is something that Western fans who follow Japanese boxing will have been feeling in 2020, 2021 and the coming years. He's also someone we should all be looking at to see what future trends boxing could end up seeing from promoters, as he is genuinely a very forward thinking promoter.
1-Before he took to boxing Ishii was actually into baseball, and it was baseball that he played before taking up boxing in college. Surprisingly it was a PRIDE bout between Rickson Gracie and Nobuhiko Takada that attracted Ishii to combat sports.
2-Despite beginning to box in college Ishii didn't actually have any amateur experience. Instead he made his professional debut at the age of 19 in September 2001. For someone with out any amateur fights his success in the sport, which we'll get on to a little later on, was genuinely impressive.
3-We mentioned that Ishii was 19 when he debuted, it's worth noting that at the time he was a freshman at the prestigious Meiji University, a private university which is regarded as one of the most significant in Japan. Similar in many ways to the Ivy League in the US. Show that even back when he debuted he was an intelligent young man, and that intelligence is now proving vital in his work as a promoter.
4-Ishii's first loss came to Kazuyoshi Kumano in the 2002 East Japan Rookie of the Year, where Ishii lost a razor thin decision to Kumano at Super Featherweight. Although not a big name, or a major success, Kumano is known for later beating the then debuting Keita Obara in 2010. Following Ishii's loss to Kumano he moved up in weight and began to campaign as a Lightweight.
5-Rather notably Ishii was trained by former world champion Royal Kobayashi for his first 20 professional bouts. Sadly the relationship ended after Ishii travelled to train in Thailand and Japan, becoming one of the first Japanese fighters to travel to train. This saw him training at Rudy Hernandez's gym in LA and spending time training in Thailand, training at Veeraphol Sahaprom's gym.
6-In 2008 Ishii unified both the Japanese and OPBF Lightweight titles, beating Hiroshi Nakamori for the Japanese title in March and Randy Suico for the OPBF title. Sadly though his reign with both titles was short, and he had lost both by the time he retired in 2009. He decided to retire immediately after losing to Ryuji Migaki in April 2009.
7-Ishii's career ended when he was just 27, retiring from the ring and moving from an active in ring competitor to a trainer. He had notable success in a trainer role and was the chief trainer for Ryol Li Lee when he won the WBA Super Bantamweight title, in an upset win over Poonsawat Kratingdaenggym in 2010. He was also the trainer for Daiki Kaneko among others.
8-Ishii became the chairman of the Yokohama Hikari Gym following the death of Kazunori Miyakawa. In an interview with the fantastic Daisuke Sugiura, Ishii revealed the death of Mr Miyakawa was the biggest loss of his life.
9-Now-a-days Ishii is best known for being one of the men behind the A-Sign Boxing platform, along with Issei Nakaya of the Hachioji Nakaya gym. The A-Sign service has been one of the big success stories of recent years, and has been at the forefront of why Ishii is such a great promoter. The service has been a hit on YouTube, providing a mix of recorded fights, live streams, interviews, documentaries and chat series. It's through these videos that Ishii, and Nakaya, have helped great a huge following for his shows and helped build a following for fighters featured in his events, including the fast rising Jin Sasaki and the charming Takuya Yamaguchi.
Despite being known as a YouTube service now, A-Sign launched as very different service, essentially selling a tape delay PPV service, though it has now evolved into a much, much more accessible and successful service, under crowd funding and sponsorship basis.
10-Going back to Ishii's interview with Daisuke Sugiura, which was done in 2020, Ishii revealed the most painful loss as a promoter was the 2015 bout between Ryo Akaho and Pungluang Sor Singyu. Ishii and Akaho had spent over a year preparing for the world title fight, spending time in the Philippines. Despite being a painful experience it was also regarded as a major learning experience and Ishii has now explained that he is much less emotional as a trainer.
For those wanting to read the interviews referenced with Daisuke Sugiura it's a two part interview, and is well worth reading!
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).