We've all heard of Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, and we've decided to put our spin on things with "Six degrees of separation" looking to connect Asian fighters you may never have assumed were connected! Today we connect a former Thai world champion to a former Japanese world, as we connect Venice Borkhorsor and Japanese bad boy Jiro Watanabe.
Just as ground rules, we're not doing the more basic "A beat B who beat C who beat D" type of thing, but instead we want to link fighters in different ways. As a result we will limit A fought B connections, and try to get more varied connections together, as you'll see here! We also know there are often shorter routes to connect fighters, but that's not always the most interesting way to connect them.
1-In the early 1970's Venice Borkhorsor was the WBC Flyweight champion, winning the belt in 1972 before vacating it to move up in weight. Another Thai southpaw who held that title was Pongsaklek Wonjongkam, who pretty much monopolised the title during his pomp.
2-The legendary Pongsaklek Wonjongkam had a number of notable rivals, but his biggest rivalry was with Daisuke Naito. The two men fought 4 times during their rivalry, and it really was a well matched 4 bout series.
3-Talking about 4 bout series between Thai and Japanese fights at world level it's impossible not to mention just how amazing the 4 fight series between Veeraphol Sahaprom and Toshiaki Nishioka. That series saw the two men battling for the WBC Bantamweight title, and although Nishioka failed to win any of the 4 bouts it helped establish him as a top contender, and helped further strengthen Veeraphol's reputation as an top tier fighter.
4-Another legendary rivalry at Bantamweight was between the iconic pairing of Eder Jofre and Fighting Harada, both of whom are widely considered the best their nations have ever had. Jofre, a brilliant Brazilian, only ever lost to Harada, with both of his defeats coming to the Japanese great.
5-Prior to beating Eder Jofre for the unified Bantamweight titles Fighting Harada had already established himself as a solid fighter and had previously won the WBA Flyweight title, way back in 1962, more than 2 years before his first bout with Jofre. Prior to winning a world title however Harada's first notable achievement as a professional was winning the 1960 All Japan Rookie of the Year, beating future friend and world champion Hiroyuki Ebihara in the final.
6-Another All Japan Rookie of the Year Flyweight winner, who beat a future world champion in the final, was Jiro Watanabe. Watanabe won the 1980 tournament, stopping future WBC Flyweight champion Koji Kobayashi in the final.
(Images courtesy of JPBF and Komthai)
Japan's Jiro Watanabe will remain one of the sports enigma's. He was an excellent, natural fighter, with a real mean streak through him. A strong, powerful, and skilled Super Flyweight who despite not being the quickest or the sharpest was a real nightmare. He could be dropped in any era of the Super Flyweight division and he would give anyone a tough time thanks to his heavy hands, toughness and physical strength.
Of course what he did after boxing is pretty well known, being a known member of the Yakuza where he worked as an enforcer and was found guilty of various crimes as part of the criminal organisation. The whole Yakuza relationship is worthy of a book, however that's not the focus here, instead we're here to give you 10 facts you probably didn't know about...Jiro Watanabe
1-As an amateur Watanabe went 4-0, fighting out of the Osaka Teiken gym.
2-Whilst Watanbe's professional boxing career was a major success it appears he was a natural athlete and could have been a success in other sports. Notably he was a very talented swimmer before turning to boxing.
3-Unlike many fighters Watanabe doesn't come from a poor background. His father was a successful businessman.
4-Watanabe was a converted southpaw. This explains, in some ways, why he had such devastating hooks and such solid jabs.
5-In 1985 Watanabe made history by becoming the first Japanese fighter to successfully defend a world title outside of Japan, which he did in South Korea against Suk Hwan Yun. Prior to Watanabe's win Japanese world champions were 0-5 in world title defenses away from home, with losses for Fighting Harada, Hiroyuki Ebihara, Kuniaki Shibata, Guts Ishimatsu and Royal Kobayashi. It would be more than 20 until someone replicated the achievement, with Toshiaki Nishioka's win over Jhonny Gonzalez in 2009.
6-Exactly half of Watanabe's 28 professional bouts were made up with world title bouts, with the Japanese star going 12-2 in them. Similarly he would score 7 wins over people who held world titles at some point in their career's Koji Kobayashi, Rafael Pedroza, Gustavo Ballas, Shoji Oguma, Soon Chun Kwon and Payao Poontarat, twice. Interestingly in the final of the 1980 Rookie of the Year Watanabe knocked out Koji Kobayashi in the opening round of their bout.
7-In 1980 Watanabe won the Japanese Newcomer award and would later go on to claim the Best fighter award, similar to what is now the MVP award, 4 years in a row, from 1982 to 1985. Incidentally he would also win the Japanese Fight of the Year award every year from 1982 to 1985.
8-Watanabe's retirement ceremony from professional boxing came on September 17th 1992 at the Osaka-Jo Hall, sharing the stage with Joichiro Tatsuyoshi's WBC Bantamweight title defense against Victor Rabanales, an unsuccessful defense for Tatsuyoshi.
9-After retiring from boxing, but before he began to be involved in the various criminal activities with the Yakuza, he was involved in legitimate businesses. Sadly it didn't take long for his legitimate activities to turn criminal and he was first arrested in 1995 for his illegal activities, with the first arrest coming for extortion.
10-In 2007, after more than a decade of criminal links, he was banished from the Japanese Boxing Commission (JBC) despite being a former WBA and WBC Super Flyweight champion.
Extra fact - According to multiple Japanese sources he was criticised by the legendary Fighting Harada for ballooning in weights between fights. He would have to lose up to 12Kg, 26.5lbs, to make weight
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).