Over the last few weeks we've been quietly enjoying some of the great fights for the Japanese Light Middleweight title, and thought the belt deserved a bit more attention. In our eyes it made perfect sense to give the belt the "Did you know..." treatment and enjoy a chance to talk about the linage of a belt that few even mention.
The belt has been around since the mid 1960's and has had some notable fighters holding it over the years. Whilst it's not got the mega strong lines of the Japanese Super Flyweight title it's had a few world champions holding it, and is very much an over-looked belt which deserves more attention. It's also given us some absolute thrillers between the ropes.
Rather than talking about the great bouts form the division, we'll save that for another day, we have brought you a bumper edition of the "Did you know..." series.
-The first bout for the title saw Muneo Mizoguchi over-come Nakao Sasazaki for the belt in July 1966.
-Mizoguchi's reign saw him defend the title 3 times until he lost the belt in 1968 to Noriyasu Yoshimura. Rather interestingly the first bout after Mizoguchi won the title saw him not defending it, but rather moving up in weight to challenged for the Japanese Middleweight title.
-The third champion was Koichi Wajima, who also became the first 2-time champion and a future world champion, in fact he would go on to become a 3-time world champion. He was also the first fighter to vacate the title, doing so to end his second reign.
-American born US based fighter George Carter was the first fighter to successfully win the title and then move up in weight to win the Japanese Middleweight title. He was the first of 3 American born fighters to win the title.
-Rather interestingly Turtle Okabe was the first man to do the opposite of Carter winning the Japanese Middleweight then moving down to win the Light Middlweight title.
-Raizo Kashima, who held the title for 5 months in 1973, finished his career with a 10-12-2 (2) record.
-Prior to winning the title Hitoshi Nakagawa had lost his previous 3 bouts by T/KO. After winning the title he would lose his final 4 bouts. Similarly Hiroshi Hikichi never won a bout after he won the title in 1975, going 0-4-1 in his 5 subsequent bouts before retiring.
-Talking about Hiroshi Hikichi he won the title on the under-card of Hisasmi Numata's WBC Bantamweight title fight with Rodolfo Martinez in OCtober 1975
-Interestingly Tadashi Mihara did the opposite of Koichi Wajima, winning a world title and then going on to win the Japanese title afterwards. In fact Mihara is one of the very few fighters to ever do things that way across any division.
-Carlos Elliot was the second American born fighter to win this title, after George Carter.
-The most defenses of the title is 20! That was set by Hitoshi Kamiyama, who held the belt from January 1989 to March 1995. He is also the longest reigning champion in terms of time as well.
-Notably Hitsohi Kamiyama's reign was the first one of the Heisei era in Japanese history, with Kamiyama winning the belt just a day after the Heisei era began.
-Satying with Hitoshi Kamiyama his reign was following by that of his stablemate Tatsufumi Ito, who won the belt on the same day as Kamiyama's retirement ceremony.
-The second longest reign saw Akira Ohigashi record 10 defenses of the belt, only half that of Kamiyama's record setting reign.
-One of, it not both, Joya Kawai and Crazy Kim featured in every bout for the title from February 1999 to December 2006.
-It took almost a year between Nobuhiro Ishida's first and second defenses of the title
-In 2009 Akio Shibata unified the Japanese and OPBF titles by beating Yuki Nonaka. This bout is the first of 8 bouts where the titles were fought for together, and it was the first to be fought over 12 rounds as a result.
-From the 8 bouts where the OPBF and Japanese titles were together Charles Bellamy was involved in 7 of them. He was also the third American born fighter to hold the title.
-Tadashi Yuba's title win in 2013 saw him become the first 5 division Japanese national champion in history. Prior to winning this belt he had won the Ligthweight, Light Welterweight, Welterweight and Middleweight titles.
-In 2018 Akinori Watanabe became the first, and so far only, fighter to win an interim version of this title.
-At the time of writing there has been 146 bouts for the belt, including a single interim title bout, crowing 39 regular champions, and an interim champion.
-In 1987 Nobuyuki Tabata became the first man to win the belt with a KO1 result, since then only Tadashi Yuba, in 2013, has done that. Although Akinori Watanabe won the interim title with the same result. In total only 4 of the 145 bouts for the regular title have ended in the opening round.
-There have been 8 draws in bouts for the title. Michihiro Horihata defended the belt twice with a draw, whilst both Kenji Shibata and Hiroshi Hikichi were involved in draws as both champion and challenger. This trio are the only men to have been involved in more than one draw for the belt.
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).