Recent we've been very Japan centric in this series of looking at great KO's so this week we want to go as far from Japan as we can get, and look at a bout that took place at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas back in 2009. Not only was the bout at one of the best venues in the sport, but it was also one of the best KO's in recent memory. This was gorgeous, brutal, vicious, eye catching and a KO that even now, a decade on, is just as jaw dropping as it was at the time.
Manny Pacquiao (48-3-2, 36) vs Ricky Hatton (45-1, 32)
We don't really think we need to do much of an introduction for either man here. One is an icon of world boxing, and the other is one of the most popular British fighters in history. Despite that we will look, briefly, at the back story.
After Manny Pacquiao shocked the boxing world in 2008, beating Oscar De La Hoya in a legitimate upset, he was the hottest thing in the sport. Pacquiao had jumped from Lightweight to Welterweight and although Oscar was a faded force he was still expected to over-come the little Filipino. Instead Pacquiao put on a sensational performance, beating De La Hoya and become one of the biggest names in the sport, by a long way. Just 5 months later he went to Light Welterweight and took on the then IBO champion Ricky Hatton.
With world titles at Flyweight, Super Bantamweight, Super Featherweight and Lightweight Pacquiao was well and truly on the higher end of the pound for pound list before he beat De La Hoya, but that win cemented his place as a living legend. Ring Magazine had him at #1 pound for pound and it was hard to argue with that ranking given Mayweather had retired following his win over Hatton almost 2 years earlier.
Hatton, from England, had been the face of the 140lb weight class since beating Kostya Tszyu in 2005. He had moved up in weight, but had never looked as good at Welterweight as he had at 140lbs. He first dipped his toe at Welterweight to beat Luis Collazo, narrowly surviving the final round, and had returned there in 2007, suffering a 10th round TKO loss to Floyd Mayweather. Between those bouts he had returned to 140lbs, and resettled there, and he settled there again following the loss to Mayweather.
Although Hatton had lost to Mayweather he had maintained a high pound for pound ranking, with most having him in or around the top 10, and he was widely regarded as the best fighter at 140lbs. The weight suited him. He was physically imposing at the weight, powerful, and could bully opponents.
Although the bout was highly anticipated it turned into a massive mismatch with Hatton being dropped twice in the opening round. To his credit however Hatton managed to make his way into round 2.
To his credit Hatton actually had an acceptable round 2, for the most part, and it appeared that he may be getting a toe grip into the fight. At least it did until around 10 seconds before the end of the round.
With 11 seconds of round 2 left Pacquiao landed a thunder bolt of a left hand that landed bang on the chin. It couldn't possibly have landed cleaner. It was as on point as a punch could ever get.
The shot instantly turned out Hatton's lights. He was gone as his body went limp before he hit the canvas, hard. He was out cold and the referee quickly abandoned the count, knowing that he could have counted to 100 and the Englishman wouldn't have gotten back to his feet.
Medical staff at the venue quickly saw to Hatton, who recovered his senses. His then trainer, Floyd Mayweather Snr, suggest Hatton should retire which he actually seemed to do, for 3 years, before making an ill fated comeback in 2012 when he lost to Vyacheslav Senchenko.
As For Pacquiao he would remain a top level fight for more than a decade after this knockout, though sadly the knockouts did dry up and this was probably the most iconic of his early finishes.
We suspect you've all seen this one before, but it's one that you should probably see again...and again...and again. It is one of the best KO's in the sport's long history.
When we talk about great upsets and shocking results one thing we need to avoid is to remember what was thought at time, rather than our view looking back on the bout years later. Today's "What a Shock" is one such bout that, on review, doesn't look like an upset, but at the time it was. In fact people were scared about the under-dog going into the bout, thinking he was going to be too small and could, potentially, get badly hurt. In the end however the bigger man was a spent man, and looked beyond shot. In fact the older, bigger, naturally stronger man was the one risking his health.
December 6th 2008
MGM Grand, Grand Garden Arena, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA
Manny Pacquiao (47-3-2, 35) Vs Oscar De La Hoya (39-5, 30)
For today's bout we are looking at the 2008 clash between Filipino icon Manny Pacquiao and American star Oscar De La Hoya, the Pacman Vs The Golden Boy.
The bout, dubbed the "Dream Match" was, on paper, interesting with so many sub stories and different threads going into it. It was 2 of the biggest in the sport at the time, though it was also two men who were fighting 3 weight classes apart before the bout, and were both legends in the sport.
In the years before the bout Pacquiao had moved through the weights, from winning his first world title at Flyweight to winning a belt at Lightweight just 6 months before this bout. De La Hoya on the other hand had won his first world title at Super Featherweight before going on to win a title at Middleweight. Just over a year and a half before this bout De La Hoya had given Floyd Mayweather a competitive bout at Light Middleweight. With that in mind they had to find a weight class to agree on, and that turned out to be 147lbs, a weight class that, on paper, suited the bigger De La Hoya.
Whilst weight was one issue the two men differed on so to was age. At the time of this bout De La Hoya was 36. He was seen as being past his best, by some way, but few expected him to be completely shot to pieces. He was seen as a faded star, but still expected to have a decent performance in his body. Pacquiao on the other hand was pretty much in his prime, he was 29 years old and had looked near untouchable in his 2008 win over David Diaz.
Despite the fact De La Hoya was the much older man, and was coming down in weight, he was still widely favoured to be too big, too strong and too powerful for Pacquiao.
In the days before the fight De La Hoya was the clear favourite, priced at -180 (around a 1/2 favourite for those using UK odds), whilst Pacquiao was +150 (3/2). The odds don't suggest a massive mismatch, but Pacquiao was the clear under-dog. The bout led some, including an article on Bleacherreport, to suggest it was going to be Pacquiao who would need saving. In fact one article on Bleacherreport states:
"...let De La Hoya knock Pacquiao out like a good old fashion fight. Don't stop the fight because De La Hoya is putting on a “clinic.” Just let him do his thing. Does Pacquiao have a chance? If he does, it is but small."
Many of our good friends over at Boxingscene also predicted a stoppage win for De La Hoya (with their prediction article here). Some were genuinely scared that this would be the end for Pacquiao.
Despite many thinking Pacquiao was in tough he and his trainer, Freddie Roach, were confident that Oscar was beyond his best and Roach, a former De La Hoya trainer, repeatedly stated that the "Golden Boy" couldn't pull the trigger any more. What we ended up seeing was Roach being spot on.
From the opening bell Pacquiao looked so much smaller than De La Hoya, and De La Hoya did throw the first punch of note. Pacquiao used his feet well, maintained plenty of distance and tried to figure out the reach and size of De La Hoya. Within a minute of the fight starting we saw the speed of Pacquiao being a factor as he landed an eye catching short left hand. As the round went on De La Hoya really did look like he couldn't pull the trigger, he was pushing his shots, he looked flat footed, whilst Pacquiao looked razor sharp. By the end of the round De La Hoya was looking marked up and despite trying to press Pacquiao backwards it wasn't a good round for the American who struggled with the speed and movement of Pacquiao, who repeatedly made De La Hoya miss.
Whilst the first round wasn't a complete domination it was a clear Pacquiao round. The second round however saw Pacquiao begin to dominate. He started the round quickly and was landing at will, with the Pacquiao left hand getting through time and time again. Sadly for De La Hoya he was struggling to land anything, and when he did land something he was tagged back almost immediately and his shots had nothing on them.
As the rounds went on the beating Pacquiao began to hand out was increasing. Rounds 3 and 4 saw De La Hoya take a number of big shots whilst beginning to wilt, and despite Pacquiao being backed onto the ropes a few times he still looked in total control.
By round 6 De La Hoya was looking like he was getting beaten up, and Pacquiao began to hold his feet more, pressing more, and forcing De La Hoya backwards. It was as if De La Hoya knew he was unable to hold his own. He had nothing to offer and was starting to need a KO to win, despite only being half way through the fight. A KO that didn't just look unlikely, but essentially impossible as he wasn't able to land anything hurtful.
Things went from bad to worse for De La Hoya in round 7 as Pacquiao clearly hurt him, and sent him to the ropes, where he unloaded. Were it not for De La Hoya's solid chin and reputation there's a good chance the bout would have been stopped as Pacquiao took shot after shot in the final 90 seconds of the round. His left eye was swelling, his heart breaking, and his desire being smashed to pieces. Despite that he was sent out for round 8 and, when perhaps his team should have said enough was enough.
Whilst the 7th round was a painful one for De La Hoya the punishment he took in round 8 was just as bad as Pacquiao continued to give him a beating, pinning him against the ropes and in the corner. De La Hoya had absolutely no answer, he was just taking a beating and giving almost nothing in return. He was very much looking like a done fighter and even when he threw shots they look incredibly laboured and tired.
After seeing their man take a beating for 8 rounds De La Hoya was finally saved from himself. Referee Tony Weeks made it clear he was going to stop it if the bout continued , but he never got the chance as De La Hoya's pulled him from the bout.
Following this bout, which was described as a "huge upset" by commentator Colonel Bob Sheridan on the international feed of the fight, De La Hoya would retire. The loss essentially sent him out of the ring, and saw him focus on promoting. As for Pacquiao he would further enhance his legacy, winning titles at Light Welterweight, Welterweight and Light Middleweight and putting on some of his best performance after this bout, including wins over Miguel Cotto, Ricky Hatton Keith Thurman, Timothy Bradley and Antonio Margarito. He proved, after this bout, that he was a world class Welterweight and would continue to do so over the following.
Recently in this series we looked at Manny Pacquiao winning his first world title, with his shock win, at the age of 19, against Chatchai Sasakul. That win is one that often goes over-looked when people look over his career despite it being a massive upset against the WBC and Linear Flyweight champion. That however wasn't the only upset scored by "Pacman" and today we look at another upset win by the Filipino icon.
June 23rd 2001
MGM Grand, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA
Manny Pacquiao (32-2, 23) vs Lehlo Ledwaba (33-1-1, 22)
At the time Pacquiao was 22 years old, he boasted an impressive looking 32-2 (23) record but he had mostly fought at Flyweight, where he had claimed the OPBF and WBC titles. He had moved up to Super Bantamweight after struggles to fight at 112lbs got too much, and lead to him being stripped of the WBC Flyweight title in 1999 and he had failed to secure another world title bout after that.
Although well regarded in Asia Pacquiao wasn't known at all outside of Asia and his title reign at Flyweight had been a short one, consisting of just a single defense. Outside of his short world title reign, several weight classes below, there was little to suggest he was a world class fighter, or would become one.
What many don't realise is that Pacquiao wasn't the original opponent for the bout. That was supposed to be Enrique Sanchez, a Mexican who had been injured in training and Pacquiao took the bout on 2 weeks notice. This had given him almost no time to prepare for the bout, tough he had fought just 2 months earlier against Wethya Sakmuangklang, aka Foijan Prawet. In fact this bout, with Ledwaba, was Pacquiao's third fight in 4 months, his first outside of Asia and, as mentioned, a bout he took on 2 weeks notice.
Whilst Pacquiao was an unknown outside of Asia Lehlo Ledwaba was the IBF Super Bantamweight champion. He was from South Africa and had began to get the attention of HBO, who were very impressed by him. He had won the title with a win at home against John Michael Johnson before going on the road to defend it in the US and the UK. By the time he was facing Pacquiao he had defended the belt 5 times and shown himself to be a very talented fighter, who had stopped 4 of his 5 challengers. He had looked like a brilliant boxer, with an excellent jab, some really sharp movements and a good boxing brain. He knew how to control the ring, and how to box smartly, something that was expected to help him get a read on his unknown challenger.
We mentioned that Enrique Sanchez was originally lined up as the opponent for Ledwaba. Whilst Pacquiao hadn't been training Ledwaba was training to face a southpaw, like Pacquiao. Notably however Sanchez and Pacquiao were very different types of southpaws, and in fact Pacquiao wasn't like the footage that was available on him, of which there wasn't a lot like their is now. One thing we often forget is that youtube has made access to footage a lot easier, but that wasn't around in 2001.
Interestingly this was also Ledwaba's third fight 2001, he had also fought 2 months earlier, beating Carlos Contreras, and had also fought in February, stopping Arnel Barotillo.
Before the opening bell Ledwaba had been priced as a clear favourite. He was a known quantity, a talented fighter and some bookies actually refused to take bets on the bout, seeing it as a foregone conclusion for the South African, who seemed to be heading towards greatness.
From the off the two men both looked to quickly feel out what the other man had in their locker. After only a few seconds however Pacquiao found his groove and he looked crisper, sharper and faster than the champion. To his credit Ledwaba looked relaxed and tried to keep control of the center of the ring, landing some solid straight shots. Despite Ledwaba having some nice moments he was being tagged frequently by the Filipino, who had bloodied the champion's nose and looked dominant as we went to the bell.
After winning the first round Pacquiao managed to dominate the second round, dropping the South African champion. Ledwaba, despite being the champion, was put into survival mode about a minute into the round. The champion tried to do what he could to get Pacquiao's respect, landing a good body shot, but couldn't slow the Filipino for long and Pacquiao would regain control before the round was over.
Mentally and physically Ledwaba was being beaten up. His best shots were only having a momentary effect, and he was being punished soon afterwards. By round 3 Ledwaba was in a hole and he knew it. He did well early in the round, creating space and keeping Pacquiao away early on. Pacquiao however turned it on midway through the round and quickly took the play away from the champion with heavy hurtful blows that again saw him take the round. By the end of the round Ledwaba was a bloodied mess.
Round by round Ledwaba was getting beaten up. He looked a done fighter at the end of round 5 and as we went into round 6 the champion was looking like he needed something big to happen to keep his reign alive. Sadly for him something big did happen though not in the way he would have wanted.
Around 30 seconds into the round Ledwaba was dropped from a left hand by the Filipino. On the restart he was still hurt and another left dropped him. The referee didn't even think about letting Ledwaba got to his feet, instead halting the bout.
Pacquiao had been given a chance to shine and had taken it, beating up the champion to announce himself as a heavy handed, fan friendly fighter.
From this win Pacquiao built and built, and became the global boxing star that fans know and love. He would use this to launch his career in the US and quickly became one of the faces of boxing, scoring big wins over the likes of Juan Manuel Marquez, Erik Morales, Marco Antonio Barerra, OScar De La Hoya, Ricky Hatton and Miguel Cotto among others.
Sadly for Ledwaba he never really recovered from this loss, fighting on until 2006 but going 3-4 before retiring following a stoppage loss to Maxwell Awuku.
When we look over the history of a fighter it can be hard to imagine them being an under-dog in some fights. Today we however we look at the first in a number of big upsets scored by one of Asia's greatest ever fighters. It was a win that sent ripples through the lower weights, and the Asian scene, and began the ascent of a true being star.
December 4th 1998
Tonsuk College Ground, Phuttamonthon, Thailand
Manny Pacquiao (23-1, 14) Vs Chatchai Sasakul (32-1-1, 23)
In December 1998 Manny Pacquiao was a relative unknown in the boxing world outside of Asia. Even there he was only really known as an Oriental level fighter who had won the OPBF Flyweight title in 1997 and defended it once. Whilst his OPBF title win had been a good one, stopping long term champion Chokchai Chockvivat, he was still only a teenager and had done little other than stop Chokchai.
The man Pacquiao was up against was 28 year old Thai Chatchai Sasakul. The once beaten Sasakul had avenged his sole loss, he was in prime, at home in Thailand and the WBC and Linear Flyweight champion.
The Thai had beaten the man who had beaten the man who had beaten the man. The line to Sasakul had dated back more than 20 years, from the brilliant Miguel Canto.
The sole loss on Sasakul's 34 fight record had been a close decision loss to Arbachakov in 1995. Just over 2 years later Sasakul avenged that loss, in Japan, by beating Arbachakov and sending the Russian great into retirement. The only other mark on his record was a technical draw in 1996.
Since winning the title Sasakul had defended the belt twice, against Korean challengers, and was expected to be too good for the 19 year old Pacquiao, who was fighting away from the Philippines for just the second time in his career.
Early on Sasakul did indeed look too good for the Filipino teenager. The skills, footwork and movement of Sasakul was too much for the crude, straight line offense of Pacquiao. The Filipino was all too happy to trudge forward, following Sasakul around the round, whilst the Thai moved smartly, landed single shots and retreated.
Round after round the Thai just looked so much smart against the aggressive, but technically flawed, Filipino. Pacquiao had energy, and no one could fault his will and desire, but he didn't seem to have the skills to cut the ring off, or the boxing IQ to land his left hand. His lead hand essentially looked useless, jabbing at the air with no real conviction. Even when Pacquiao did have success, something he had a little bit of in round 4, he couldn't close the distance quick enough to follow up before Sasakul was out of range.
Through 7 rounds it seemed like the champion was on route to a clear decision against the hungry and powerful teenager. There was plenty to like about Pacquiao's effort, but it seemed like he was simply too raw, too crude, too young, at this point to claim a world title. He looked like he was showing enough raw ability to become a champion, down the line, but like this wasn't going to be that night for him. He was proving to be tough and a real trier but a technically limited trier.
Then we got into round 8 and Sasakul's good work early on, establishing a lead was all deleted in an instant.
Early in round 8 Pacquiao began to find the target and Sasakul began to hold his feet just a touch more. The pressure from Pacquiao was likely to blame, but the movement of the Thai was slowing, it stopped him from escaping at will, and made him fight back more. This was giving the taller, longer Pacquiao more chances to land. With just over 30 seconds of the round left Pacquiao landed a left that seemed to hurt Sasakul, who stumbled. This time the Thai wasn't able to get away, backing on to the ropes as Pacquiao pressed forward. Only seconds later Pacquiao landed a dynamite left hand that dropped Sasakul face first. The champion tried to beat the count but struggled, falling again as he ended up being counted out.
The win netted Pacquiao the first of his many world titles and at the age of 19 he had ripped up the pre-fight forecasts.
Of course during his career Pacquiao would make a career out of scoring upsets, recording notable future upsets over Lehlo Ledwaba, Marco Antonio Barrera and Oscar De La Hoyam but they are all for another day.
As for Sasakul he was never really the same after this loss. He would go 31-2 after the bout, but had to wait almost a decade for another world title fight, losing that to Cristian Mijares. By that point he was well past his best.
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 Filipino legend Manny Pacquiao to former Japanese world title challenger Daiki Kaneko.
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- It's fair to say that Manny Pacquiao is a true living legend. What he's done in the sport is unlikely to be matched any time soon and his rise through the ranks is sensational. Born on December 17th 1978 the Filipino has become one of the all time greats. Incidentally on the same day that Pacquiao was born Korean great Jae-Doo Yuh fought his final. As weird as that sounds Pacquiao was born on the day that Yuh retained the OPBF Middleweight title with a win over Hung-Won Kang.
2- Whilst we don't think many will have known that Jae-Doo Yuh had his final bout on Manny Pacquiao's birthday we do suspect that everyone know's that Yuh had a legendary 2 fight series with Japanese star Koichi Wajima. In the first bout Yuh stopped Wajima in 7 rounds, to become the WBA Light Middleweight, whilst their rematch saw Wajima avenge that loss to reclaim the title.
3-Amazingly Koichi Wajima is the only 3-time WBA Light Middleweight champion. He's also a 2-time WBC Light Middleweight champion, a feat he's not alone in having with mover than 5 men to hold that title two, or more, times. Another is the under-rated, and far too often forgotten, Vernon Forrest.
4-Despite often being under-rated Vernon Forrest was a real skilled guy with so much talent and his ability to compete at an incredibly high level in to his mid-to-late 30's was a testament to his ring craft, brilliant jab and fine boxing skills. Away from the ring he was a classy and brilliant guy who's charitable work was amazing and the work Destiny's Child Inc does is incredible. On the same show as Forrest's final fight was the US debut of Indonesian fighter Daud Yordan.
5-Although the hope was that Daud Yordan would carry the Indonesian flag after Chris John eventually hung up the gloves "Chino" never really managed to reach the heady heights hoped of him. Despite that he has had a notable career, fighting in several world title fights and competing in and around the world level for much of his career. He may have failed at the top but was certainly a key figure in a down period for Indonesian boxing. One of his most notable wins was his brilliant 2018 win over Pavel Malikov.
6-Although Russian fighter Pavel Malikov was stopped by Daud Yordan that was not the only fight he had against a notable Asian fighter. Others included Leonardo Doronio, Carlo Magali, Adones Aguelo and, in 2017, Daiki Kaneko, in what was a brilliant 2017 clash. Sadly whilst that was a tremendous bout it was also the final bout of Kaneko's career.
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 former 2-weight female world champion Momo Koseki to Manny Pacquiao.
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-Japanese fighter Momo Koseki might not be a massive name in the world of sport, but few can argue with her success in the sport. She is a 2-weight world champion, a former unified world champion and a fighter with 17 success defenses of the WBC Atomweight title under her belt. She was the MVP of the Atomweight division for around a decade.As a professional she fought of the Aoki Gym and was a stablemate of Sho Kimura.
2-The teak tough and regularly entertaining Sho Kimura is best known for his short, but very fun, reign as the WBO Flyweight champion. He won the belt in a big upset win in China and would defend the belt twice before losing it to fellow Japanese fighter Kosei Tanaka. Prior to winning a world title he won the WBO Asia Pacific Flyweight title, beating Masahiro Sakamoto for that title. A prior hold of that title was Tepparith Singwancha.
3-After winning the WBO Asia Pacific title in 2010 Tepparith Singwancha went on to win the WBA Super Flyweight title. Whilst the way he won the title was a mess his reign was a solid one, defending the belt 3 times, all against world class opponents. Another Thai who won the WBA Super Flyweight title was the legendary Khaosai Galaxy, who held the title for more than 7 years and ran up a record of 19 defenses.
4-Whilst Khaosai Galaxy is regarded as the most successful of the Galaxy brothers his twin Khaokor Galaxy also had very notable success, and was a 2-time WBA Bantamweight champion in the 1980's.
5-As mentioned Khaokor Galaxy was a 2-time WBA Bantamweight champion, though surprisingly he failed to record a single successful defense from his two reigns. Interestingly he made his debut on October 9th 1985. That was the same day that Ji Won Kim made his 3rd defense of the IBF Super Bantamweight title, stopping former former champion Sung In Suh in 66 seconds.
6-Amazingly Ji Won Kim is one of only two men to ever defend the IBF Super Bantamweight title with an opening round win. The other is Manny Pacquiao, who achieved the feat on October 26th 2002, when he blasted out Fahprakorb Rakkiatgym in 166 seconds!
Over the last few years we have seen more and more sports people using their platform to talk politics. We famously saw Colin Kaepernick refusing to stand for the American national anthem and we've also seen Colby Covington go the other way, with a pro-Trump stance. We know some fans want to keep sports and politics apart, and we do understand that, but the reality is that two are linked, and have long been linked. From people like Muhammad Ali, Tommie Smith and John Carlos, George Weah, Alexis Arguello, Irman Khan and Vitali Klitschko sports and politics are do go hand in hand.
Whether you agree with the views of the sports people or not is somewhat irrelevant, it's not going to change things and we will always see sports people show an interest in politics. With that in mind we are going to look at 7 boxers who have, in some way been linked to both politics and sport, in one way or another.
Note - This is not extensive list, a lot of other Asian fighters have involved themselves in both boxing and politics.
Masamori Tokuyama - One Korea
The political affiliation of Masamori Tokuyama is arguably more well known than his boxing career, despite the fact he was a 2-time world champion and managed 9 successful world title defenses.
Tokuyama, who fought 1994 and 2006, was a third generation Zainichi Korean who affiliated with North Korea for much of his boxing Korea and was often seen with the North Korean flag, or the One Korea flag. Unlike many Zainichi Korean's Tokuyama didn't really hide his heritage, and in fact it was used to sell a number of his bouts, such as his two contests with In Joo Cho. He not only fought as a North Korean but also used their national anthem as his ring walk tune and even defended the reported kidnappings of Japanese citizens by North Korea. He was regarded as a hero in North Korea, there was special stamps created in celebration of him and he managed to meet top North Korean officials.
The political views he had drew significant attention and saw him being banned from the USA. After his retirement however he renounced North Korea and became a South Korean citizen, making one of the biggest U-Turns in sport.
Tae San Kil and Heuk San Lee - Political refugee
You can't get much more political than a political refugee and we have a number of those involved in Korean boxing. These include Cameroonian born fighters Tae San Kil and Heuk San Lee, who were both born and raised in Cameroon and have since sought solace in South Korea, with both being given asylum status in their new home.
Both fighters left Cameroon having been in the military and abandoned the Cameroonian team during the 2015 World Military Games. Both cited persecution and abusive treatment as to why they left their team.
Kil, who was born Jean Durandal Etobil Etobil, revealed how his life was in Cameroon when he spoke to the Korea Herald and explained:
"The brutality, torture would torment me physically and mentally. My wage would often be withheld. I had to participate in daily training and maintain ‘the right position,’ even when I was sick,”
Lee, also known as Abdoulaye Assan, swore that he wouldn't return to Cameroon. It was thought that if either did they would have been arrested for deserting the military. The same military that had persecuted them when they were members.
Both failed in their first attempt at getting Asylum status, but thankfully were successful after submitting a petition to the Ministry of Justice, in 2017. Both have managed to carve out small but notable career in their new, adoptive, homeland.
Payao Poontarat - Politician
Thai great Payao Poontarat had a truly remarkable, and yet horribly tragic life, fitting a lot into his 49 years. In 1976 he won an Olympic bronze medal, becoming the first Thai to win an Olympic medal. Following his amateur success he would turn professional and win the WBC Super Flyweight title, before twice losing the Japanese star Jiro Watanabe.
Following his boxing career Poontarat got a role within the police, rising through the ranks there, before later turning his hand to politics, joining the Democratic Party in Thailand.
As a politician Poontarat struggled to begin with but in 2001 he was voted into the Thai House of Representatives, whilst running as a democratic candidate and looked set for a successful career in politics. Sadly any long term hope of his being a major politician ended early when he began suffering from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, and in 2006 he passed away at the age of 49.
Takefumi Sakata - Politician
We stay with boxers who have become politicians as we talk about former world champion Takefumi Sakata, who has actually been in politics for around a decade now and has been elected 3 times now.
As a fighter Sakata fought from 1998 to 2010 and won the Japanese and WBA Flyweight titles, fighting the likes of Daiki Kameda, Denkaosan Kaovichit, Roberto Vasquez and Lorenzo Parra. He announced his retirement in January 2011 and just a few months later he was elected to the Inagi City Council. He has been part of that council ever since being re-elected in 2015 and 2019
As a sitting council member Sakata is an independent and has pushed for better education and stronger child care support among other things
Manny Pacquiao - Politician
We end this with the most obvious example of a boxer being involved in politics as finish with Filipino boxing icon and sitting senator Manny "Pacman" Pacquiao, a man who may one day become the leader of the Philippines.
As a boxer Pacquiao has become a national treasure for the Philippines, a multi-weight world champion and the inspiration to a generation of fighters. As a politician he has quickly risen through the ranks, after originally struggling to make a mark, and is now creating a new legacy in politics.
Pacquiao, like Poontarat, actually failed to get elected in his first attempt, losing in the 2007 to Darlene Antonino-Custodio, whilst running as a Liberal in South Cotabato's 1st district. In 2010 he got elected to the Filipino House of Representatives, whilst running under the People's Champ Movement. He would be re-elected 3 years later as part of the UNA, and has remained in office since.
Despite being in office Pacquiao has certainly shared some questionable political beliefs. They have included being against same sex marriage, and being a backer of Rodrigo Duterte war on drugs, which has pushed for capital punishment. A rather big turn around for a man who originally ran as a Liberal back in 2007.
Unlike Poontarat and Sakata we have seen Pacquiao continue to compete in the sport whilst also holding office, and he has had some notable success since becoming a senator.
And a fighter who has tried to avoid politics:
Hyun Mi Choi - Defector
We're back in Korea here with the very interesting case of Hyun Mi Choi. Unlike Tokuyama, who spoke about his allegiance to North Korea, Choi did the opposite, quite literally.
She was first scouted by the North Korean government, who tried to turn into an amateur star and a North Korean boxing hero. The plan had been to take her to the 2008 Beijing Olympics, when there was talk of female boxing being the Beijing games. In late 2003/early 2004 Choi, and family, would abandon North Korea and move south of the border, defecting from the North to the South.
Unlike some in similar positions Choi has actually tried to distance herself from politics, stating that she wants to be known for boxing, rather than the defection. Despite that she has played a major role in proving that defectors can be a positive and her career in the ring is one of the few boxing highlights South Korea has had in recent years.
Choi is, unlike some on this list, linked to politics due to things outside of her control and sadly for her she will remain a figure in Korean political discussion, whether she wants to be, or not.
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 Kazakhstan's first world champion Vasily Jirov....and Filipino great Manny Pacquiao.
1-As the IBF Cruiserweight champion Vasily Jirov was the first Kazakh to win a world title, but he isn't the only world champion from Kazakhstan, another is Middleweight great Gennady Golovkin.
2-On April 25th 2009 Gennady Golovkin recorded his 16th professional win, stopping Anthony Greenidge in 5 rounds. The main event of that card saw Felix Sturm retain the WBA Middleweight title as he stopped Japanese challenger Koji Sato, who had entered the bout 14-0 (13)
3-Not many Japanese fighters fighters make their debut in the US, though Koji Sato did actually did begin on US soil when he made his debut in 2005, stopping Francisco Valdez in Las Vegas on his debut. Another Japanese fighter who debuted on US soil was Yasutsune Uehara, who debuted in Honolulu in 1972, in fact his first 5 professional bouts were all fought at the Honolulu International Center.
4-In 1980 Yasutsune Uehara claimed the WBA Super Featherweight title for Japan by defeating Samuel Serrano with a 6th round KO win in Detroit. The win was the Ring Magazine Upset of the Year for 1980
5-Another Ring Magazine Upset of the Year saw a then unbeaten Vic Darchinyan being stopped in 5 rounds by a then unknown Nonito Donaire, who put himself on the map with this win, in a big way, and claimed the 2007 Upset of the Year.
6-Nonito's Donaire's win over Darchinyan wasn't just the Upset of the Year, in the eyes of Ring Magazine, but also KO of the year. With that KO Donaire become the second Filipino to win the KO of the Year award, following on from Morris East who win it in 1992 when he stopped Akinobu Hiranaka. The only other Filipino to hold the award is the legendary Manny Pacquiao taking us all the way through to the iconic Pacman.
As an aside Pacquiao has been on both sides of the of KO of the Year. His KO over Ricky Hatton saw Pacquiao win the KO of the Year award, whilst his loss to Juan Manuel Marquez in their fourth bout saw him on the receiving end of the KO of the Year.
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 Manny Pacquiao and....Akira Yaegashi!
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, or the most fun, and at the end of the days, these articles are supposed to be a bit of fun!
1-Filipino boxing icon Manny Pacquiao has established himself as one of the all time greats, a legend who will not only leave a mark during his career but a mark that will continue to be felt well after his retirement. It's something that few Asian fighters have managed to do. Pacquiao was born on December 17th 1978. That same day Venezuelan fighter Fulgencio Obelmejias won the WBC FECARBOX Middleweight title, yes those regional titles are a lot older than you realise!
2-The hard hitting Fulgencio Obelmejias would go on to achieve a lot more with his career than just holding the FECARBOX title. He would go on to have a number of high profile bouts against the likes of Marvin Hagler, Chong Pal Park and In Chul Baek.
3-The monstrously hard hitting In Chul Baek was one of the stars of Korean boxing in the late 1980's. Win or lose it was rare for his bouts to go to the final bell. In fact in 50 career bouts only 5 bouts went the distance, 90% of his 50 bouts ended in side the distance! Surprisingly he scored at least one (T)KO in every round, except for round 8. Whilst only 10% of his bouts went the distance, he actually scored stoppages in 86% of his career bouts! On man who did see the final bell with In Chul Baek was English born Australian Troy Waters.
4-Although not a big name Troy Waters did have an interesting career. He lost to In Chul Baek by split decision in his 6th professional bout, and later faced Terry Norris, Simon Brown and Felix Trinidad, during a career that saw him go 28-5 (20). Troy Water's wasn't the only boxer in his family, another was Guy Waters.
5-Guy "Arc Angel" Waters wasn't as successful as Troy Waters, but faced some notable names in a career that saw him going up and down the weights. He began his career at Light Heavyweight, even fighting Virgil Hill in 1993 for the WBA world title, moved up to Cruiserweight, where he challenged the then WBC Champion Juan Carlos Gomez in 1998, before dropping down to Super Middleweight. In 2000 Guy Walters beat Yoshinori Nishizawa.
6-Yoshinori Nishizawa was a fighter from the Yonekura Gym, managed by Kenji Yonekura alongside close friend Hideyuki Ohashi. Their friendship has seen Nishizawa become a trainer at the Ohashi Gym. The gym that has promoted Akira Yaegashi through his entire professional career!
(Image courtesy of Pixabay and Boxmob)
The month of November is a crazy one for fight fans with notable fights taking place through the month, he we look at the most notable bouts set to take place during the first week of the month in the first part of our look towards a brilliant looking month.
Hiroki Okada (13-0, 10) v Valentine Hosokawa (20-5-3, 9)
The first title fight of a thoroughly hectic month will see Japanese Light Welterweight champion Hiroki Okada defending his title against veteran Valentine Hosokawa,who has come up short in two previous title fights. For Okada the bout will be his 6th title defense,and if he wins there is the thinking he may vacate the title rather than face mandatory challenger Koichi Aso, who he has beaten twice already, and move on to OPBF title bouts instead. For Hosokawa this will likely be his last chance at a title given that he's 35 years old.
Tatsuya Fukuhara (17-4-6, 6) v Genki Hanai (7-0, 5)
We see more Japanese title action early in the month as Minimumweight champion Tatsuya Fukuhara defends his title against the unbeaten, and fast rising, Genki Hanai. For the under-rated champion this is his third defense of the title and he is likely to fight for a world title in 2017, if he can secure a victory here over Hanai. If he gets that chance it will open big doors for the popular Kumamoto man. For Hanai the bout will be his first title bout, and whilst he could claim the title he may also play party pooper to Fukuhara's world title dreams and get himself in the position for a world title bout. A really intriguing domestic level clash for Japanese fight fans.
Daigo Higa (10-0, 10) v Felipe Cagubcob Jr (6-2-5, 2)
The first OPBF title fight of the month comes on a huge day of action as sees exciting Flyweight contender Daigo Higa look to defend his OPBF title for the first time. The “Romagon of Okinawa” will be up against little known Filipino challenger Felipe Cagubcob Jr. The exciting Higa will be looking to join the mix at world level in 2017 but will need to continue his winning ways to do that, with many expecting him to do just that here with a stoppage. For the Filipino challenger, this will be his first bout away from home and see him taking on his best opponent to date, and a man who has enjoyed mowing through Filipino fights thus far through his career
Zou Shiming (8-1, 2) Vs Kwanpichit Onesongchaigym (39-1-2, 24) II
Staying with the Flyweight division we will not only see an OPBF title fight but also a world title fight as the vacant WBO title goes on the line in a bout between Zou Shiming and Kwanpichit OnesongChaigym. These two men met back in 2014, when Shiming came close to stopping Kwanpichit on route to a wide, and now we have the two men going at it again with a world title up for grabs. A win for Shiming is expected, and if he manages to win he will become the second Chinese world champion, but he has failed to reach the heights expected of him and Kwanpichit has rebuilt well since his loss, winning his last 12 bouts, all by stoppage.
Nonito Donaire (37-3, 24) v Jessie Magdaleno (23-0, 17)
The Super Bantamweight division hasn't been the most exciting in recent years, but does look like a division that is genuinely interesting with a mix of experience veterans and emerging youngsters. One of the veterans of the division is 33 year old Filipino sensation Nonito Donaire who defends his WBO title against emerging destroyer Jessie Magdaleno in a bout that could turn out to be the bout of night. At his best Donaire is a real sensation but at 33 he's not the fighter he once was. Magdaleno has shown real promise but this is a huge step for the unbeaten American.
Oscar Valdez (20-0, 18) v Hiroshige Osawa (30-3-4, 19)
At Featherweight we appear to be seeing the emergence of a new Mexican star, Oscar Valdez. In his first defense of the WBO Featherweight title Valdez will be facing Japan's Hiroshige Osawa, a relative unknown outside of the Japanese scene. Valdez really does look like a special fighter and his rise to becoming a star is exciting to watch, though here we see him up against a veteran who is fighting in what will likely be his only shot at a world title. For Osawa it's now or never and he'll give everything he's got, whether that's enough or not is the big question and unfortunatley it's hard to see him winning here unless Valdez has completely taken his eye off the ball.
Jessie Vargas (27-1, 10) v Manny Pacquiao (58-6-2, 38)
Whilst Valdez is a rising star of boxing there is still some megastars of the sport out there, including Filipino icon Manny Pacquiao, who looks to reclaim the WBO Welterweight title as he takes on once beaten champion Jessie Vargas. The bout will see the 37 year old Filipino attempt to further strengthen his legendary status in the sport, and become a 3-time WBO Welterweight champion which is an incredible feat it's self. For Vargas the bout will give him a chance to score a career defining win. With 10 years age difference between these two there is a possible passing of the torch or further proof that Pacquiao really is a truly special fighter.
Ye Joon Kim (14-1-2, 7) v Yuki Strong Kobayashi (10-5, 5)
To end a hectic weekend attention turns to South Korea where world ranked Super Bantamweight hopeful Ye Joon Kim looks to defend his IBF Asia title. In the opposite corner to the Korean hopeful will be Japanese visitor Yuki Strong Kobayashi, who has previously fought for the OPBF Bantamweight title. Kim is regarded as one of the very few Korean's of any real interest and whilst this won't boost his standing in the sport he is someone who could, potentially at least, create a buzz in Seoul. Kobayashi isn't a terrible fighter, but is Kim fails to win here it's more about Kim being inconsistent rather than Kobayashi suddenly being a massively improved fighter.
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).