One funny thing about upsets is that we can, genuinely, forget they were even upsets when we look back on them years later. They were shocking at the time, but due to what happened afterwards their shock factor subsides as we realise what was supposed to be a mismatch for one fighter turned into a coming out party for another. Today we look at one such bout, as a former world title challenger took on a novice, in what was supposed to be a tune up bout, but instead opened the door and moved the novice instantly into a contender.
August 7th 2004
Prefectural Gymnasium, Osaka, Osaka, Japan
Nobuo Nashiro (4-0, 3) vs Hidenobu Honda (26-3, 14)
History books will show Nobuo Nashiro as a 2-time WBA Super Flyweight champion, having won the title in for the first time in just his 8th professional bout. What most don't realise is that he wasn't all that highly touted as a prospect when he started his career. As an amateur he had gone 38-19 (20) and despite being talented wasn't expected to be moved in the way he was. His big break out win actually came in a big Japanese upset when he was supposed to be the opponent for former 2-time world title challenger Hidenobu Honda.
Although Nashiro was fairly talented, and had been matched harder than most novices, he was raw and didn't look like a special fighter in his first 4 bouts and was tested by Takashi Taketazu, who had lost his previous 2 bouts. Honda on the other hand was dubbed a "defensive master" having his 30th professional bout. Up to this point his only losses were a very early career set back against Keisuke Ono, in 1996, and losses to Pongsaklek Wonjongkam and Alexander Munoz, both of whom hard to work for their victories.
What we've of course seen in Japan in recent years are a lot of prospects being moved super fast, like Naoya Inoue and Kosei Tanaka. Nashiro wasn't on their level of trajectory, but was regarded as a decent prospect all the same. Not an elite level prospect, but a solid hopeful. The type of fighter that Honda, who was still world ranked, should beat to prepare for another world title fight.
What we ended up seeing was very different to what was expected. Instead of being a "bite dog", as some suggested Nashiro would be, he ended up being a fighter who saw his opportunity and took the fight to Honda from the opening round. He pressured and pressed, out working Honda who's defensive skills were tested time and time again.
Given Honda was supposed to be using the bout as a tune up, no one seemed to tell Nashiro that his role was to lose. Instead Nashiro fought every round as if it was a big chance for his career. He looked crude at times, awkward at other times, but was strong, powerful, energetic and hungry. He fought with energy, letting his shots go, and more than willing to take one if he needed to.
After 10 rounds Nashiro managed to take home the decision, a close but clear unanimous decision.
The bout took Nashiro from an "unknown boxer" to being one of the next big hopes of Japanese boxing, and less than 2 years later he won the WBA Super Flyweight title for the first time.
Despite the big upset loss this wasn't the end for Honda. It did kill his third shot at a world title, though he would later go on to fight for, and lose in bouts for, the Japanese Super Flyweight and OPBF Bantamweight titles.
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).