A few months ago whilst enjoying a binge of random fights we came across a number of bouts featuring long forgotten Japanese based Kenyan Isaiah Ikhoni, who is listed on boxrec as Isaya Ikhoni (14-2, 10).
Ikhoni had a short but thrilling career in the early part of the 1980's with some genuine tear ups on the Japanese scene. Although his career never saw him make his way to world title bouts, despite being very close to one when his career finished, he was in some absolutely enthralling bouts, and his 1 round war with Hiroshi Osumi is a must watch for fans who enjoy pure shoot outs.
Given how much we enjoyed watching Ikhoni we thought we'd try to shine a light on his career and feature him in one of these weekly fact pieces.
Given his style and his thrilling bouts we expected this to be one of the easier facts pieces, though surprisingly the former Japanese Super Featherweight champion isn't the easiest of men to get information about. Despite that, we think we've managed to come up with 5 facts that are worth sharing, and of course we've included the bout with Osumi at the end of this article.
1-As an amateur Ikhoni reportedly fought in more than 100 amateur bouts. Whilst his full record is unknown it's known that he on the 1980 Golden Cup of Kenya, came runner up in the 1980's King's Cup in Thailand and won the President's Cup in 1981, in the Philippines.
2-Ikhoni was the first international boxer to join the Yonekura Gym. The Gym, at the time one of the most prestigious in Japan, re-named him Yonekura Ikhoni, and he would only actually fight as Isaya Ikhoni very later in his professional career.
3-In 1985 the hugely popular Hidekazu Akai was forced to retire due to a bleed on the brain. Following Akai's injury boxers in Japan were required to under-go CT scans, and a number of those scanned showed irregularities including Ikhoni who was pretty forced to retire from boxing in Japan as a result. He originally wanted to fight on but was talked out of it by the chairman of the Yonekura gym, who explained that life was more important than fighting. Following his retirement he worked as a trainer at the Yonekura gym.
4-At the time of his retirement Ikhoni was world ranked and seemed on the verge of a world title fight. He had climbed into the rankings on the back of 8 straight wins, including 5 defenses of the Japanese Super Featherweight title. Those 5 defenses saw him tying second, at the time, for the most defenses of the belt
5-As of 2020 Ikhoni was still involved in boxing, and was helping bring through a new generation of fighters in Kenya, where he played a part in the 2020 National Novices Boxing Championships.
One of the best things about boxing is just how well hidden and even forgotten some things are. Today we have a great example of that in this edition of "Remarkable Rounds" which comes from the early 1980's. The bout is not one that we suspect many fans will have seen but every single fight fans owes it to themselves to watch, and then watch again. It’s less than a full 3 minutes, but it has more drama, action and twists than many 12 round bouts.
Isaya Ikhoni (4-1, 4) vs Hiroshi Osumi (4-4-1, 4)
Before we discuss the round we do need to introduce the two men involved in it. In one corner was Japanese based Kenyan Isaya Ikhoni, then fighting as Yonekura Ikhoni after taking the Yonekura name from the gym he was fighting out of. Prior to turning professional Ikhoni had been a successful amateur, with reportedly over 100 bouts and upon turning professional he looked really good. By just his third bout he was fighting in 10 rounds, and raced out to 4-0 (4) in just over 6 months as a professional. He was then beaten by Hikaru Tomonari and the loss seemed like a real setback for him. To rebuild his confidence he went in with the limited Hiroshi Osumi.
Sporting a 4-4-1 record Osumi wasn’t a particularly good boxer, but he was a solid fighter, with fight changing power. He was crude, but if, and when he landed he could really mess people up. Despite his 4 losses it’s worth noting that 3 of those had come to Cheyenna Yamamoto, a future Japanese national champion and his draw had come to Masaharu Owada, another future Japanese champion. He had only been stopped once in his 4 losses coming into this, and that was against Cheyenne Yamamoto, in 6 rounds in their third bout, and he went in against Ikhoni with the intention of upsetting the talented Kenyan.
From the very first seconds Osumi was pressing forward whilst Ikhoni was looking to box and move. Within 30 seconds we saw the first knockdown and it was a big one as a huge overhand right from Osumi dropped Ikhoni. Ikhoni got to his feet quickly but the Kenyan seemed to be in all sorts of trouble when Osumi waded in and the referee gave Ikhoni a standing count.
The bout could have been stopped after the knockdown, it could have been stopped when the referee decided to give Ikhoni a standing count. It could also have been stopped soon afterwards as Osumi started to ragdoll his man around the ring. Ikhoni there to be taken out and Osumi knew it as he pursued his man. Ikhoni held, spoiled, tried to clear his head, slipped and ducked and did all he could to try and see out the aggressive charge of Osumi. He was then hurt again and decided his best plan was to fight fire with fire. After a huge flurry from Ikhoni we had the third knockdown of the fight, with Osumi hitting the canvas. He tried to get to his feet, and he tried to continue, but he couldn’t and he ended up being counted out after just over 2 minutes of the round.
This was chaos. This was thrilling. This was a remarkable round and this is worth every second of your time to watch. A truly brilliant 1 round shootout.
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).