On January 22nd we’ll see a potentially thrilling Japanese Super Bantamweight title fight, as hard hitting champion Yusaku Kuga (19-4-1, 13) looks to defend his title against the gritty Gakuya Furuhashi (26-8-1, 14) in the headline bout of DANGAN 238, which will be streamed live on Boxing Raise.
With that bout in mind we thought it was a great time to return our “Did You Know…” series, as we take a look over the history of the Japanese Super Bantamweight title, which sees it’s history dating back to the mid 1960’s and has seen numerous notable fighters holding the belt.
-The first man to hold the title was Hajime Taroura, who won the inaugural title in 1964. This was around 12 years before the WBC recognised the weight class and around 13 years before the WBA recognised the weight class!
-Taroura’s reign saw him defend the title 9 times in total between August 7th 1964, when he won the title, to February 12th 1969, when he finally lost it. Meaning that by the time he lost it, there was still no recognition of the weight class by the world title bodies. His 9 defenses still stands as the most defenses in a single reign! His reign, that lasted almost 4 years and 6 months, is still the longest, by some margin.
-Staying with Taroura’s reign, all 10 of his title bouts, his title win and 9 defenses, went to decision.
-A final Taroura fact is 3 of his 9 defenses ended in draws, including 2 of his 3 defenses against Koichi Yamamoto. Since then there have only been 4 more draws for the title.
-The second champion was Kuwashi Shimizu, who stopped Taroura in 3 rounds to score the first KO in a bout for the title.
-Shimizu’s reign lasted less than 3 months as he, himself, was stopped in his first defense by Kanjiro Nakajima in late April 1969.
-Despite losing in his first defense Shimizu would quickly reclaim the title, stopping Nakajima in a rematch in July 1969.
-When Kenjiro Nakajima retired his record was a losing one, with a career ledger of 9-13-3-1 (5)
-In 1970 the amazingly named Attack Harada won the title. Sadly his reign lasted just over 3 months. Despite his short reign he was involved in the first, and became the first fighter to lost the belt by technical decision, when he lost to Sarutobi Koyama.
-Sticking with Harada for a moment, he finished his career with a strange looking 23-29-4 (4) record, having fought outside of Japan 15 times, with 5 bouts in the US. Strangely his record in the US was an unbeaten one, going 4-0-1 (2).
-The first man to vacate the title was the aforementioned Sarutobi Koyama, who dethroned Attack Harada and ran up 4 defenses before handing the title back. He vacated due to issues with his eyes, which also lead to his retirement.
-Snappy Asano, probably the second best name of any fighter to hold this title, filled the vacancy left by Koyama. After winning the belt Koyama reportedly entered the ring and gave flowers to the new champion.
-The 9th man to hold the title was Waruinge Nakayama, the first fighter born outside of Japan to hold the title. The Kenayn born 3-time Olmypian held the title for less than 2 years but ran up an impressive 4 defenses before a 1977 loss to Yu Kasahara.
-During his Japanese title reign Nakayama fought in the first ever WBC world title fight at the weight, losing to Rigoberto Riasco. This makes him the first Japanese Super Bantamweight champion to fight for a world title. In fact he did so twice in 1976, also facing Carlos Zarate later that same year for the WBC Bantamweight title.
-The man who dethroned Nakayama was Yu Kasahara in 1977. Kasahara would be the first Japanese champion to fight for the WBA title, facing Soo Hwan Hong. This wasn’t just the second ever WBA Super Bantamweight title fight, but it was also the first time a world title at the weight had been contested in Japan, the country that had recognised the division for well over a decade by this point!
-Kasahara, like his predecessor, also managed 4 defenses.
-On 1979 Kasahara was dethroned by Hiroyuki Iwamoto who’s first reign was an underwhelming one, with just 2 defenses. He would however reclaim the title in 1980 and record a subsequent 8 defenses, making him first in terms of total defenses of the title, at 10, and second for a single reign, at 8. He’s the only man with more defenses of the belt than Hajime Taroura, though did need 2 reigns to manage to break his record which had stood for well over a decade.
-In 1983 Takuya Muguruma dethroned Hiroyuki Iwamoto, via 4th round RTD. As a champion Muguruma held the title for just over 3 years, one of the longest reigns, and notched 7 defenses, good enough for the third most defenses of the title, before vacating it in late 1986. More notable than all that however was that Muguruma became the first man to go from Japanese champion at the weight to a world champion, winning the WBA Bantamweight title in 1987, when he stopped Azael Moran for the vacant title.
-The 1980’s seemed to be the era where the title really did come into its own. Not only did we get Iwamoto’s 8 defense reign and Muguruma’s 7 defense reign but the popular Mark Horikoshi also secured a solid reign with 6 defenses.
-Horikoshi, who was born in America, was the second non-Japanese born fighter to win the title, following the Kenyan born Wakayama.
-In 1988 Horikoshi defended the belt against Atsushi Oyakawa, this was the last time the belt was fought for in Osaka! Current champion Yusaku Kuga wasn’t even born when that happened!
-Sadly for Horikoshi his reign is best remembered for the way he lost the title in 1989, coming up short in a bout often regarded as one of the best fights to ever take place at Korakeun Hall. That was his sensational battle with Naoto Takahashi, which we’ve included at the end of this article. If you’ve never seen it it is worth watching any day!
-Despite going through hell to win the title Takahashi’s reign was a short one, with the “Prince of the Reversal” defending the belt just once before vacating it at the end of 1989.
-Manabu Saijo was the man who filled the vacancy left by the hugely popular Takahashi, and was also the first champion of the 1990’s. Sadly his reign was also a short one, losing in his second defense, when he was stopped by Hiroaki Yokota.
-Yokota’s reign ended in 1992 when he vacated the belt after 3 defenses. He would later go on to challenge Wilfredo Vazquez at the age of 32, a then record for the older Japanese fighter to fight for a world title.
-The vacancy left by Yokota was filled by Yuichi Kasai, a future multi-time world title challenger. Kasai would go on to record 2 defenses before vacating the belt, to challenge for world titles and later win the OPBF title. Much later on Kasai would become one of the most highly regarded trainers in Japan. Kasai was also the first champion at the weigh from the Teiken gym in Tokyo, though there had previously been an Osaka Teiken champion.
-Kasai to do win the vacant title and to vacate it himself, something that has only happened twice since.
-Following Kasai’s decision to vacate we saw a genuine upset as Silverio Tan stopped Yasushi Arai for the title in 1994. There is some dispute about Tan’s record, though it is accepted that Tan had more losses than wins when he stopped Arai for the belt, and the TV graphics for his first defense had him listed as 4-6 (4).
-After Tan won the title he would go a reported 1-5. Again there is some dispute about his final career record but that would give him a definite losing record when he retired in 2002.
-One final fact about Tan, he joined Nakayama and Horikoshi as champions born outside of Japan who won this Japanese title.
-Yasushi Arai would get revenge over Tan in a rematch that the two had in 1995. Amazingly after winning the title Arai notched his first 3 defenses inside a year, all of which went 10 rounds.
-In 2000 Manabu Fukushima won the belt by split decision, defeating Yutaka Manabe. This was the first time the title had ever changed hands by split decision, with all other split decisions, of which there had been 2, favouring the champion.
-Since the year 2000 the most defenses by a fighter has been 6 defenses, with Junichi Watanabe and Masaaki Serie both managing half a dozen defenses of the belt.
-In 2004 Yoshikane Nakajima defended the belt against Setsuo Segawa on a world title double header. This was the last time the bout was fought for outside of Tokyo, with the bout taking place in Saitama.
-In 2005 Shoji Kimura won the title, becoming the second man to win it by split decision. This was rather a notable bout as it came on the under-card of world title double header which saw Yutaka Niida retain the WBA Minimumweight and Hozumi Hasegawa begin his legendary reign as the WBC Bantamweight champion.
-In 2007 Akifumi Shimoda won the title and made 3 defenses. He would later win the OPBF title, and then go on to win the WBA title, making him the first Japanese fighter to complete the set at 122lbs, winning domestic, regional and world honours. He was also the first Japanese national champion at Super Bantamweight to win a world title at the weight, rather than Muguruma who dropped down in weight to win a Bantamweight world title.
-Shoji Kimura became a 2-time champion in 2009, becoming only the third man to reclaim the title. Unlike the previous 2-time champions Kimura didn’t beat the man who had beaten him for the title, and didn’t have reigns that sandwiched his conqueror, but instead it took him almost 4 years to reclaim the belt. A record that still stands as the long gap between reigns of the belt.
-Masaaki Serie became the third man to win the title by split decision when he dethroned Kimura in 2009, he almost made his first defense by split decision, giving the title it’s first back-to-back split decision bouts.
-During Serie’s reign we saw the “interim” title being used for the first, and so far only, time with Mikihito Seto winning the interim title in April 2011. This was due to Serie missing the 2011 edition of the Champion Carnival due to injury. The interim title wasn’t needed for long however with Serie defeating Seto to unify the titles in July 2011.
-Serie vacated the title in 2012 and was followed by Hidenori Otake, who won the previously vacant title by split decision before running up 5 defenses and then vacate it himself. This means Otake was the second man to win the vacant title and vacate it himself.
-Rather surprisingly Otake’s successor followed suit, with Yukinori Oguni winning the title Otake had given up, and vacating it himself.
-Oguni joined a very select list of fighters who held the title before going on to win world honours, upsetting Jonathan Guzman in 2016 for the IBF Super Bantamweight title, in one of the very final bouts of 2016.
-Since Oguni vacated the belt only 4 men have held the belt. These were Yasutaka Ishimoto, Yusaku Kuga, twice, Shingo Wake and Ryoichi Tamura.
-Interesting Kuga has beaten 2 of the 3 other champions that have held the title since Oguni, beating Ishimoto for his first reign and Tamura for his current reign, though was beaten himself by Wake.
-With 2 reigns to his name Kuga is one of just 4 fighters to reclaim the title.
-Amazingly the first “TKO1” in a bout for the title came in 2018, when Yusaku Kuga stopped Ryo Kosaka. Kuga is also the only man to have achieved that result twice, having also stopped Yosuke Fujihara inside a round in 2019.
-At the time of writing there has been 143 bouts for the title, and 1 interim title bout.
-There has been 42 reigns of the title, 1 reign of the interim title and 4 fighters have recaptured the belt.
-As previously mentioned there has only ever been 7 draws in bouts for the title. Amazingly 3 of those came in the first 7 bouts for the belt!
-Since 1998 all but 1 of the bouts for the title has been held in Tokyo, with the one exception coming in Saitama.
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).