When we talk about the greatest Japanese fighters of all time Fighting Harada and Hiroyuki Ebihara will make any short list. They are two of Japanese boxing's all time legends and two men who will always be regarded very highly by anyone who knows about boxing in Japan. A man who was regarded as better than the pair when they all began their careers in the early 1960's is the now often forgotten Katsutoshi Aoki. He was so good that even Harada himself described Aoki as the most talented, and the trio were all expected to have massive success in their careers, being dubbed the "Shōwa no sanbagarasu", or the "Trio of Showa" relating to the Showa period of Japanese history.
Sadly Aoki had so many issues that he is now rarely remembered by Japanese fight fans, and when he is, he's regarded as one of the nation's biggest boxing disappointments. A man that many believe should have been a world champion, but is better known for issues with drink and crime.
1-Despite being an excellent natural talent Aoki hated training, and did all he could to avoid road work and sparring. Stories from Japan suggest things were so bad that when he was doing unsupervised road work he covered himself in pond water to convince his team he'd worked up a serious sweat. This was a huge part of why he under-achieved in the ring.
2-Aoki was a genuine problem drinker. He would often drink on the morning of fights, and have trouble sleeping the night before fights, mixing alcohol with sleeping pills to try and help him sleep. For some fights he had only 2 hours of sleep.
3-His power saw him being given the moniker of "Megaton Punch".
4-Aoki would lose, by stoppage, to both Ebihara and Harada. His loss to Ebihara saw him lose his unbeaten record, and fall to 16-1-1 (7) whilst the loss to Harada came when Aoki was the OPBF Bantamweight champion and Harada, who was world ranked #1 at the time, was looking to move towards a Bantamweight world title fight.
5-The bout between Aoki and Harada was dubbed "Battle of the Century" in Japan and had a reported attendance of 11,000. Although Aoki wasn't defending his OPBF title, in fact the bout was a 10 round none-title fight, it was seen in Japan as being a world title eliminator for a bout against Eder Jofre.
6-Although his career was a huge disappointment Aoki did achieve a decent amount. Beating the likes of Leo Espinosa, Piero Rollo and Kenji Yonekura and becoming a 2-time OPBF Bantamweight champions, a world title challenger. Amazingly he was just 19 when he first won an OPBF title, showing just how prodigious his talent was.
7-After making his debut, aged 17, on June 6th 1960, Aoki would go 18-1-1 within a year of being a professional fighter. That's 20 fights within a calendar year, one of the most active schedules of any Japanese boxer in history. That level of activity did slow, but he would manage to fight 66 fights into a career that lasted just over 7 years and saw him retire at the age of 25
8-Despite being a heavy drinker, Aoki blamed a lack of luck, not his issues with alcohol or his dislike of training, for his disappointing career.
9-Since retirement Aoki has been arrested a number of times for things ranging from assault, theft, property damage, fraud and possessing illegal stimulants. He had also attempted to commit suicide, at least once. He has also been hospitalized, at least once, for alcoholism.
10-Aoki is featured on the reprinted version of "O Galo De Ouro", a biography about Eder Jofre. Although not on the original 1962 version Aoki is on the reprinted version from 1979, where him being knockdown by Jofre is the cover image, hence the image at the top of this article.
Extra Fact - Aoki had spoke about becoming a kick boxer in 1969, though nothing ever came of this.
Extra Fact 2 - Aoki would lose 10 of his last 12 bouts, including losses to future world title challenger Takao Sakurai and future world champions Kuniaki Shibata and Hiroshi Kobayashi
Extra ...rumour-Over the last 20 years or so news of Aoki has been very limited, and one rumour is that he had been killed by a homeless friend. There is little to support this rumour, but we felt it worthy of including here.
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).