Boxing has many interesting figures related to it with colourful characters popping up all over the place. We know about some of those, such as Don King, Jorge Paez and Mike Tyson. Some of those are less well known, such as Masao Suzuki, who we don't think will be on the list of people fight fans, especially those in the west, will be aware of. If you know what he did, however, you would likely be a lot more interested in him, and his empire.
Born in September 1932 Suzuki was evacuated from Tokyo, where he was born, to Yamagata, where he lived for much of his childhood whilst the second world war went on. After returning to Tokyo after the war Suzuki studied and had a number of part time jobs, including cleaning toils and pulling rickshaws.
Sometime after the war Suzuki set up the Kadoebi group. The group currently has a rather wide ranging number of business. Among those businesses is a jewellery business, Kadoebi boxing and the Kadoebi line of Soaplands.
Whilst suspect anyone reading this will be aware of Kadoebi boxing gym, which has a host of fantastic fighters and has brought through a number of world champions since it was set up in 1977. In recent years it has proven to be one of the major gyms in Tokyo, and they, more than any other gym, have been actively signing talented from other other gyms. The gym is a well regarded one, with some of the best trainers in Japan and some of the best fighters. Although not quite on the level of Teiken, Watanabe and Ohashi, in regards to how international fans see them, they are not far behind that trio, and their Slugfest shows are among some of the best in Japan.
Whilst we assume most know about the boxing gym, we don't think too many reading this will be aware of the others businesses under the Kadoebi group.
The Kadoebi jewellery shop in Toshima-Ku, Tokyo, is a pretty notable and successful business. It's not only got a shop but also a website, and the shot sells some genuinely stunning looking jewellery, including rings, necklaces and earrings.
Whilst we wouldn't usually connect boxing and jewellery this is certainly not the only link between the two, and former world champion Katsushige Kawashima also now sells jewellery.
What is more interesting when it comes Suzuki's empire is the 31 Soaplands, for which he is known as the "emperor of soap", and for which there is certainly some dealings which could draw comparisons between Mr Suzuki and some of the more colourful boxing figures in the west.
For those unaware of Japanese culture Soapland isn't too far of what westerners would describe as a brothel. Technically they aren't, but they are certainly very close to being a brothel with clients often visiting for a certain type of release and receiving an "awa odori", or a "bubble dance".
The venues, which are advertised online and don't hide what they are, but do have limitations for who can enter including limiting visitors to those being over a certain age, and reportedly can be picky on their clients, with foreigners sometimes not allowed to attend them.
Although Soaplands are legal Mr Suzuki has been arrested several times, and was notably arrested in May 2009 for links to prostitution. Given the Soaplands themselves are still open however, it would seem clear that Mr Suzuki's operations are legal, and do obey the law of the land.
One thing to note, if you a Western going to Japan and see "Kadoebi" on the side of the building, is just make sure you're going into the right type of Kadoebi building.
In the west the sport has promoters with some interesting past, and MTK Global certainly have interesting "business" men associated with it, though they often try to hide those links. With Kadoebi the opposite is true. The Soaplands and gym both go under the "Kadoebi" name, and the main Kadeobi group website lists the gym, the Soaplands and the Jewellery shop together, as well as a recruitment page for those looking to work Kadoebi.
With 3 successful business set up in totally different fields Masao Suzuki is one of the most interesting businessmen in boxing. Whilst his name might not get too much attention in the west he's someone we feel boxing fans should know more about.
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).