These articles aren't always going to be about the big names, or the modern day fighters, instead we do want to occasionally turn our attention to some less known fighters to try and bring attention to why they were significant and their importance in the boxing world. That is why today we want to bring you 10 facts you probably didn't know about...Kenji Yonekura.
Yonekura isn't a name that many Western fans will have heard of but his significance in Japanese boxing is huge, as you'll find from some of these facts.
1-Yonekura participated in the 1956 Olympics, losing in the quarter final to French fighter Rene Libeer. This loss aside, Yonekura was regarded as a very good amateur and he compiled a 71-7 (19) record in the unpaid ranks.
2-Due to his amateur pedigree big things were expected from Yonekura in the professional ranks. As a result he made his professional debut in an 8 round bout against 17 fight veteran Shichiro Kimura.
3-In November 1958, less than 5 months after making his professional debut, Yonekura fought for the Japanese Flyweight title, facing off with Sadao Yaoita. This was just Yonekura's third professional bout. Had he won it would have set a Japanese record for the fewest fights to a Japanese title. A record that would still stand today! The current record is 4 fights, and is currently held by 5 fighters including Naoya Inoue and Joichiro Tatsuyoshi.
4-Although Yonekura came up short in winning a Japanese title in his 3rd pro bout he did actually win the title just 2 months later, in his 5th pro bout, as he defeated Atsuto Fukumoto for the title in January 1959. That title win came less than 7 months after his professional debut!
5-Despite being tipped as a future world champion when he turned professional Yonekura would end his career with a professional record of 13-10-1 (1). Despite that less than great record he won the Japanese Flyweight and OPBF Bantamweight titles, and twice fought for world titles, losing to Pascual Perez and Jose Becerra.
6-For his world title bout, a loss to Pascual Perez, there was close to 11,000 fans in attendance at the Tokyo Metrpolitan Gymnasium. This was Yonekura's 7th professional bout, his second against Perez. Reportedly Perez was paid $40,000, with Yonekura said be getting a fraction of that, reportedly just under $1400. Interestingly the most expensive tickets for the bout were ¥5000, about $14 at the time. Rather interestingly after the fight Perez told the press that Yonekura was the hardest puncher he had ever faced, a real surprise given Yonekura would only score 1 stoppage his entire professional career.
7-After retiring from being a fighter Mr Yonekura set up the Yonekura Gym in 1963. The gym was run by Mr Yonekura until August 2017 when it closed it's doors due to his age and health.
8-The gym Yonekura ran created 5 world champions. Kuniaki Shibata, Guts Ishimatsu, Shigeo Nakajima, Hideyuki Ohashi and Hiroshi Kawashima. Of course we're still seeing Yonekura's effects in the sport with Mr Ohashi now running the successful Ohashi gym, which has hired former Yonekura fighters Yoshinori Nishizawa and Koji Matsumoto as trainers.
9-In 2011 Yonekura had ¥800,000, around $6,780, stolen from the Yonekura Gym. A man took an attache case that had the cash in it and ran out of the gym with it.
10-Yonekura was the 9th president of what is now known as the Japan Professional Boxing Association, being in the role from March 1986 to March 1989
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 Kenji Yonekura to Ryoichi Taguchi.
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-One of the most famous Japanese promoters is Kenji Yonekura, a former Olympian who later went on to promoter a number of world champions. Prior to become a promoter, with the legendary Yonekura Gym, Yonekura had challenged Flyweight champion Pascual Perez, who eventually lost the Flyweight title to Pone Kingpetch.
2-The talented Pone Kingpetch lost the Flyweight crown thrice. The first of those reigns came when he lost to Japanese legend Fighting Harada, before later losing to Harada's close friend Hiroyuki Ebihara and Italian Salvatore Burruni.
3-Fighting Harada wasn't the only fighter in the family with his brother, Ushiwakamaru Harada, also being a decent fighter. Ushiwakamaru fought a number of notable opponents and actually scored a win over Soo Hwan Hong.
4-Korean fighter Soo Hwan Hong was the first ever WBA Super Bantamweight champion, pulling himself off the canvas 4 times to stop Hector Carrasquilla. In the first WBC Super Bantamweight title fight the loser was Waruinge Nakayama.
5-Waruinge Nakayama may have lost in his Super Bantamweight world title fight, losing to Rigoberto Riasco, but he did win the Japanese Super Bantamweight title beating Seiichi Eto in 1975. Nakayama made 4 defenses of the Japanese Super Bantamweight title, as did Hidenori Otake, who also came up short in his world title efforts.
6-Hidenori Otake competed in the 2007 East Japan Rookie of the Year. Otake actually lost to Manabu Koguchi, however one man who won on that show, which took place on November 4th 2007, was Ryoichi Taguchi!
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).