One of the most important fighters in Japanese boxing history is the charismatic Joichiro Tatsuyoshi (20-7-1, 14). His record, on paper, might not look like anything special but his career really was something else. He was the Japanese star of the 1990's, a multi-time world champion and the inspiration to a generation of Japanese fighters that followed him.
Although Tatsuyoshi suffered 7 losses in his 28 bout career he was involved in 10 world title bouts, 11 if you include an interim world title bout again Victor Rabanales, won a world title in his 8th bout and attracted a huge amount of fans to sport. His appeal to female fans was described, by some, as being similar to that of Oscar De La Hoya's impact in the US and he was an absolute star. Even now, more than a decade after his last bout, he gets an awful lot of attention from those reporting in the sport.
Today we are going to bring you 10 facts you probably didn't know about... Joichiro Tatsuyoshi
1-As a teenager Tatsuyoshi was a talented amateur, running up a reported 18-1 (18) record. There was hope of him going to the 1988 Olympics but after missing out on the games, due to a loss in qualifying, he left the gym and reportedly spent around 6 months homeless, before meeting the woman that would later become his wife.
2-Tatsuyoshi admitted to being bullied as a child. Although he was bullied he did add that he had never not a school fight, though has been quoted as saying he never actually punched anyone properly in those school fights, instead hitting them with open palm slaps.
3-Tatsuyoshi often used the "Death Game" theme, from the as his ring walk music.
4-In 1987, years before making his professional debut Tatsuyoshi was used as a sparring partner by Azael Moran, who was putting final touches to his preparations to face Takuya Muguruma for the WBA Bantamweight title. Tatsuyoshi, then a teenager amateur, ended up embarrassing the then highly ranked Moran, and had the sparring cut short. In fact Moran was so badly embarrassed after 1 round that his team stopped the sparring.
5-Among many part time jobs that Tatsuyoshi had during his amateur career were jobs at a Udon restaurant and a Sauna
6-Following Tatsuyoshi's WBC Bantamweight title win against Greg Richardson the Japanese fighter had to spend a lengthy time away from the ring due to a retinal fissure. It was one of a host of problems he had with his eyes during his career.
7-Tatsuyoshi's father died in January 1999, at the age of 52.
8-Tatsuyoshi was named after Jo Yabuki, from anime Ashita No Joe. Interestingly he would be featured, in art form, in another major Japanese boxing work of fiction, being featured on the cover of Hajime No Ippo "Chapter 183", where he is also mentioned by name.
9-Tatsuyoshi has a very close relationship to Japanese actress Kayoko Kishimoto, with the two having a brother-sister like friendship. Although Kishimoto isn't well known in the west she is a very highly regarded actress in Japan, best supporting actress at the 23rd Japan Academy Prize for her role in Kikujiro (1999). She's also well known for her commercials from the 1980's.
10-Other people Tatsuyoshi is known to be friends with are baseball star Ichiro Suzuki and musician Tomoyasu Hotei, the man who did "Battle Without Honor or Humanity", aka the Kill Bill theme song.
Earlier this year we began doing some short historical pieces about individuals from the sport. We intend to continue them later in the year, but for now we have decided to spin that idea off slightly and focus less on an individuals and more on the stories we see from the East. Today we look at an incident from Spring 1987 that featured a then 16 year old youngster and a man preparing to challenge for a world title. The story isn't too well known in the west, but was a hot topic in Japanese boxing circles around the time, and helped increase the aura around one of Japanese boxing's future stars.
Lets begin by taking you all back to early 1987. Bernardo Pinago had vacated the WBA Bantamweight title, to move up in weight, and to fill the vacancy, just weeks later Takuya Muguruma was going to face Panama's Azael Moran.
Muguruma was a fighter from the Osaka Teiken gym, along with a promising young amateur fighter by the name of Joichiro Tatsuyoshi.
At the time Tatsuyoshi was a promising 16 year old amateur with an 11-0 (11) record in the unpaid ranks.
To help prepare for the bout with Muguruma an agreement was made for Moran to spar a Japanese amateur provided by the gym. We tend to see these types of things quite often a few days before a fight.
The amateur the gym sent for Moran to spar with, as we assume you can guess, was Tatsuyoshi.
The plan had been for Moran to use the session to show what he could do for the media in attendance. The two we scheduled to spar for 3 rounds, and it was assumed that Moran, who was highly ranked by the WBA, would have a rather easy time with the Japanese teenage, shake some rust and move on to the bout with Muguruma with no issues.
As it turned out no one told Tatsuyoshi to take it lightly on Moran. Presumeably no one thought they had to, he was inexperienced and still a kid. They would, surely, have assumed Moran, who had close to 20 pro bouts by this point and was about to fight for a world title, wasn't wanting a teenager to hold back in a spar.
What was supposed to be a 3 round spar was cancelled after just a round. Moran was left with a bloodied nose, serious embarrassment and his team were furious. They felt they had been double crossed, though it turned out their man had legitimately been embarrassed by a young, inexperienced amateur.
For Moran the who situation must have been mentally crippling. If he had been beaten up to the point of cancelling a spar with a youngster from the Osaka Teiken gym, what was Muguruma going to be able to do to him in an actual fight?
As it turned out Muguruma would stop Moran in the 5th round of their clash.
As for Tatsuyoshi the whole incident boosted his career massively. He had a huge boost to his reputation, the story of Tatsuyoshi beating up Moran went across Japan like wild fire and he was being dubbed a future world champion. Of course we all know what Tatsuyoshi would later go on to achieve, becoming a star during the 1990's. This however showed his potential very early!
*Note - There are some minor inconsistencies between different paper reports from the time, though they all agree that the two sparred, for a single round in Spring 1987, with Moran cancelling the final 2 rounds of the session due to Tatsuyoshi overwhelming him.
This past Monday we had the chance to see an excellent All Japanese world title fight, with Kosei Tanaka narrowly defeating Sho Kimura to claim the WBO Flyweight world title. It was the latest in a long line of amazing All Japanese world title fighters dating back over 50 years. Here we take a look at 5 memorable all Japanese world title bouts.
Yoshiaki Numata (33-4, 9) Vs Hiroshi Kobayashi (50-6-2, 7)
December 14th 1967 - Kokugikan, Tokyo, Japan
The first ever all Japanese world title fight saw Yoshiaki Numata battle against Hiroshi Kobayashi. Coming in the the bout Numata was the WBC and WBA Super Featherweight champion, having taken the titles from the legendary Flash Elorde. When he won the titles he was the 5th ever Japanese world champion. In his first defense Numata faced off with the much more experienced Kobayashi. Kobayashi had made his name on the Japanese domestic scene mainly, where he had been the Featherweight champion, making 7 defenses before moving up in weight to challenge Numata.
The bout was an action packed one and would be award the Japanese fight of the year. Notably both men went on to have success after this bout and when the WBC and WBA titles split there was an 18 months time window when the two men were both world champions. The bout also got 41.9% of the audience tuning in from the Kanto region, one of the highest ever for a boxing contest!
Masao Oba (31-2-1, 13) vs Susumu Hanagata (34-10-8, 4) II
March 4th 1972-Nihon University Auditorium, Tokyo, Japan
Amazingly it would be more than 4 between the first and the second all-Japanese world title fight, though the wait was worth it with WBA Flyweight champion Masao Oba, one of the greatest Japanese fighters of all time, battling against Susumu Hanagata. This was a rematch of a bout the two men had had in 1968, when an 18 year old Oba was beaten by Hanagata, suffering his second career loss. Following their first bout Oba had become one the best fighters in the division, reeling off 15 straight wins and making two world title defenses. Hanagata had gone 10-2 following their first bout, with both losses coming on the road in world title bouts. This was high work rate and very exciting from both men.
Interestingly Oba's bout with Orlando Amores was voted the Japanese fight of the year for 1972 and unfortunately Oba would pass away less than a year after this bout, following a motor vehicle accident. Hanagata would go on to fight for a few more years and would actually score a huge win over Chartchai Chionoi in 1974 to put his name in the history books.
Yasuei Yakushiji (22-2-1, 16) Vs Joichiro Tatsuyoshi (10-1-1, 8)
December 4th 1994-Rainbow Hall, Nagoya, Aichi, Japan
Almost 30 years after the first ever all Japanese world title fight we had the first “unification” bout between two Japanese fighters as WBC Bantamweight champion Yasuei Yakushiji and Interim champion Joichiro Tatsuyoshi faced off at the Rainbow Hall. This bout was massive for Japanese boxing with Tatsuyoshi being the face of boxing in Osaka, due to his charismatic and exciting style. Yakushiji on the other hand was the more technically correct boxer, but was over-looked by some due to the popularity of Tatsuyoshi. That was despite the fact Yakushiji was the “real” champion and was looking to make his third defense.
This bout would achieve an audience number of 39.4% in the Kanto region, another of the highest ever in Japan, and like the Tanaka Vs Kimura bout it would live up to all the expectations with high tempo action, heavy shots landed by both and very little to split the men, both of whom were looking worse for wear at the end of the bout. This would be another winner of the Japanese Fight of the Year award.
Takanori Hatakeyama (23-1-2, 18) vs Hiroyuki Sakamoto (35-4, 25)
October 11th 2000-Yokohama, Kanagawa, Japan
In 2000 Japanese fight fans had another all-Japanese Fight of the Year as WBA Lightweight champion Takanori Hatakeyama and Hiroyuki Sakamoto beat the ever living snot out of each other in a bloody, violent, thrilling clash. Hatakeyama was the champion going into the bout, he enjoying his second reign as a world champion having previously held the WBA Super Featherweight title, and had won the Lightweight belt in brilliant fashion stopping Gilberto Serrano, with this being his first defense. Sakamnoto had lost two other world title fights, including one to Serrano, but had won the OPBF and Japanese titles. This was mostly an inside war fought between two men who did not want to hear the final bell.
As mentioned this was a Japanese Fight of the Year and seemingly took a lot out of both men. Neither man would go on to score a win of note, and in fact between them the only real good result was a draw in 2001 between Hatakeyama and Rick Yoshimura. This fight essentially ruined both men.
Kazuto Ioka (9-0, 6) Vs Akira Yaegashi (15-2, 8)
June 20th 2012-Bodymaker Colosseum, Osaka, Osaka, Japan
Almost 20 years after the brilliant Yakushiji/Tatsuyoshi bout we had the first true unification bout, as WBC Minimumweight champion Kazuto Ioka faced off with WBA champion Akira Yaegashi. The bout was a brilliant contest with a combination of skills and heart, with Yaegashi fighting through badly swollen eyes for much of the fight and managing to drag Ioka into his fight. Ioka always looked like the guy with more rounded skills, and speed, but Yaegashi's heart, determination and sheer will to win made this into a fantastic bout. It managed to give us some of the best rounds of the year and was another of the All-Japanese world title bouts to be awarded the Japanese Fight of the Year.
In the years since this bout both men have moved through the weights, with both claiming world titles at Light Flyweight and Flyweight, and now, remarkably, both are competing at Super Flyweight as they look to become 4-weight champions.
It's worth noting that there has been a lot All Japanese title bouts than we've covered. These range from the controversial, such as Daisuke Naito's bout with Daiki Kameda, to the frankly massive contest between Daisuke Naito and Koki Kameda which got a ridiculous 43.1% audience share. They also include other Japanese fights of the year, such as Takashi Uchiyama's bout with Daiki Kaneko.
Amazingly there has only ever been one all-Japanese world title fight to end in the first round, and that was the second bout between Masamori Tokuyama and Katsushige Kawashima. Interestingly the trilogy between Tokuyama and Kawashima saw Tokuyama win 2-1 taking decisions in both of his wins. Amazingly there has only ever been 1 draw in an all Japanese world title fight, that came in 2001, in the aforementioned bout between Takenori Hatakeyama and Rick Yoshimura.
For those who care about TV numbers all 3 of the high rating bouts were screened on TBS.
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).