We often focus on the most recent fights in a lot of our series, and the reality is that we prefer the higher quality footage that we get. There are, however, legends from the past that we think every fight fan has to love. The men in question may not have been the best that their division has ever given us or all time greats but that doesn't take away from the fact they had something special about them. In this week's "Reliving the Finish" we look at a KO that ended the final world title reign of one of these legends and damn near forced him to retire.
Koichi Wajima (31-4-1, 25) Vs Jose Duran (59-4-9, 21)
The man in question is Koichi Wajima, if you've never seen him before you really need to. Pretty much every fight we was in resembled a Rocky movie, with Wajima fighting in a style that seemed part hyper active child, part Kangeroo and part Frog. His fights were typically dramatic, exciting, and full of hayemakers, by both him and his opponents. He wasn't what we would describe as a polished fighter, but he was so unusual and unorthodox that he was pretty much impossible to prepare for with sparring. He used a patented "Frog Jump Punch", which was literally what you'd imagine, had incredible and will win and a style that was very energy intensive.
During the 1970's Wajima was a 3-time Light Middleweight champion with his final reign only being a short one. It began in February 1976, when he won the WBA title, and ended that May when he came up against Jose Duran.
Although not as legendary Jose Duran is an often forgotten Spanish fighter who was a very notable fight back in the 1970's. Heading into this bout with Wajima he gone to the Olympics, in 1968, won the Spanish national title and the European title. In his only previous world title bout he had lost a decision to Miguel de Oliveira, in 1975.
Aged 30 entering this bout Duran likely knew that this wasn't going to get another shot like this. By now Wajima was 33, his style and toughness had taken a toll on him and although not "chinny" he did get hit a lot and there were question mark about his durability. From his 4 previous losses he had been stopped 3 times, with 2 of losses coming in his previous 4 bouts.
Duran got off to the start he would have wanted and took control of the bout quite early, dropping Wajima in round 2 with a right hand and out boxing the older, smaller, shorter, crude man. Wajima was down again in round 14, from a a brlliant combination to the head from Duran.
One thing Wajima always had was heart and that was his downfall in still being in the bout was we entered round 15.
In the final round Wajima kept coming forward, he was tired, absolutely exhausted, and even more wide open than usual. With less than a minute of the round gone Duran took advantage of Wajima's almost non-existent defense and planted a gorgeous straight right hand on to the chin of the Japanese icon, sending him crashing down.
Some how Wajima tried to get up but his effort was never going to be enough as the referee completed the 10 count.
Duran was crowned as the new champion, though sadly his reign was a short one losing to Argentinia's Miguel Angel Castellini just 5 months later. Sadly Wajima would return to the ring, and suffer another stoppage loss in 1977, to Eddie Gazo, before hanging them up for good. By then Wajima was well and truly a legend and had been one of the top Japanese sports stars of the 1970's.
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).