We continue to look at some midweek facts this week, as we continue to wait for fights to take place. This week we look at the tragic Seiji Asakawa (23-4-1, 17), a man who really was taken before his time following a tragic accident whilst out fishing, at the age of 33. We don't intend to dwell on his death here, but instead look at some other little things about Asakawa and his career.
For those unaware of Asakawa he was a professional fighter from 1986 to 1994, fighting 28 bouts. During his career he was a multi-time Japanese Featherweight champion, an OPBF Featherweight champion and a 2-time world title challenger. During his career he was great fun to watch, with his loss to Young Kyun Park being a great war in 1992 and his 1989 thriller with Kengo Fukuda being a 2-round shoot out.
With that introduction out there let us bring you 5 midweek facts against Seiji Asakawa.
1-We begin this with one for wrestling fans. Asakawa attended the Ikuei High School at the same time as Koji Kanemoto, aka the third wrestler to place the iconic Tiger Mask in New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW)
2-Asakawa's brother, Takehiko, was the president of Kimuratan Co. The company is best known for selling baby clothes and clothes aimed at young children.
3-For a guy with 17 T/KO's to his name you'd have assumed Asakawa would have at least one opening round blow out. In fact he doesn't. His shortest bouts ended in the second round. In fact he had 4 bouts that ended in round 2, with 3 of those resulting in wins and the other ending in a loss to Kazuya Kano, which he later avenged.
Just as an addition to the above fact 8 of Asakawa bouts ended in round 3, all of which were wins, and 6 ended in round 4, of which he won 5. This means a staggering 16 of his 23 wins came in rounds 2, 3 or 4!
4-The gym Asakawa ran was destroyed in 1995 by the Great Hanshin Earthquake
5-His nickname was "Shinkaichi no kikōshi", or "Prince of the New Frontier". A really brilliant nickname in our eyes!
For the latest in our "Reliving the Finish" series we're looking at a relatively obscure 1990 bout for the Japanese Featherweight title. Whilst the bout isn't too well known in the west it is one of the biggest upsets ever on the Japanese domestic scene, and is true proof that a fighter's record really doesn't tell how good they can be or how dangerous they can be. In fact going in the man scoring the finish had just 1 KO in 9 professional bouts, but ended with on of the most surprising KO's of the year.
Toshikazu Sono (5-4, 1) vs Seiji Asakawa (16-1-1, 12)
Going into the bout the Japanese Featherweight champion was Seiji Asakawa, a man who looked like he was heading on to bigger and better things. He had recorded 5 title defenses, and looked like a man with serious power, a lot of potential and a very bright future. He was returning to Kobe, where he was from, to defend the title in what was supposed to be a tune up for a potential world title fight in 1991.
Toshikazu Sono on the other hand was a fighter going no where. He had lost his last bout, less than 2 months earlier, and was 1-3 in his last 4. He was getting his first title fight, but was expected to be easy for Asakawa to deal with.
After 3 fairly competitive rounds, that Asakawa was winning but was being forced to work in, it seemed the champion had managed to loosen up and was going to start going through the gears and would eventually break down Sono.
With more than 2 minutes gone in round 4 Asakawa found himself backed onto the ropes, and Sono threw a big looping right, then a monstrous left hook that landed hard on Asakawa's jaw. The left hand dropped the champion, hard. To his credit Asakawa got to his knees but had no idea where he was when the referee counted 10.
The knockout saw the title change hands, but wasn't the birth of a new star, as Sono retired following the win, retiring with a bizarre 6-4 (2) record. Asakawa on the other hand would later fight in 2 world title bouts, but would suffer stoppage losses in both of those bouts.
When we talk about boxers dying young we usually think about them dying from injuries sustained in fights. That's a tragedy, but in many ways it's one we can all understand, even if we don't want to accept that it's an unfortunate risk of the sport we follow. When fighters get hit in the head a consequence, can be, significant brain trauma and in extreme cases death. It's a sad reality of boxing and the sport we follow, and love.
What we don't tend to even consider is a fighter, or in the particular case a former fighter, dying whilst doing something they love away from the ring. Doing a hobby they enjoy away from boxing. Sadly however Seiji Asakawa, who would earn the nickname "Prince of the new frontier", passed away doing just that, something he enjoyed. He did so after retiring from boxing to enjoy his health and his life, but was still taken away from this world at the young age of 33.
Unlike many who die young his death was seemingly a genuine accidental, albeit a freak accident that took place back in 2001 near Miki City.
Before we talk about his death lets talk about Asakawa as a fighter, as he is sadly all too forgotten less than 20 years after his untimely death.
Asakawa made his debut in March 1986 and was instantly showing signs of being a promising and exciting fighter. He would stop his first 3 opponents and before going on to win the West Japan Rookie of the Year in December 1986, stopping Kiyotaka Katahira. The following February he beat Shinichi Sugazaki to become the All Japan Rookie of the Year. He was exciting, good looking and a lot of fun to watch. He was also proving to be a real talent.
Later in 1987 Asakawa scored his first 10 round win, defeating Masakatsu Sakuma with a majority decision. This was a bout that saw Asakawa needing to dig deep to go beyond 6 rounds for the first time in his career. Sadly in 1988 his winning run came to an end, as he was stopped in 2 rounds by Kazuya Kano, just 5 months later he was eliminated from an A Class tournament on a tie-breaker round against Keiichi Ozaki. Officially the bout with Ozaki was a draw, but it was still a set back.
Within just a few months Asakawa had gone from 10-0 (7) to 10-1-1 (7), thankfully however he was given a big break in early 1989 when he got his hands on Kano in a rematch, and stopped his nemesis in 8 rounds to claim the Japanese Featherweight title. He would defend the belt 4 times, including a remarkable 2 round humdinger with Kengo Fukada that saw both men being dropped in the opening round. His reign would end in 1990, when he was stopped by Toshikazu Sono, but he would recapture the belt 7 months later by defeating future 3-time world title challenger Koji Matsumoto.
Having become a 2-time Japanese champion Asakawa had bigger things on his mind and in 1992 he challenged WBA Featherweight champion Young Kyun Park, a dangerous, tough and exciting Korean. Park and Asakawa put on a jaw dropping, all action war, with Asakawa eventually being stopped by the Korean, who was wonderfully known as "Bulldozer".
Despite the loss to Park we saw Asakawa continue on, winning the OPBF Featherweight title 6 months after the Park bout, when he beat Chris Saguid. He defended that belt once before working his way towards a second world title bout, facing Park's conqueror Eloy Rojas in March 1994. Sadly for Asakawa he would lose, in 5 rounds, to Rojas and admit after the bout that Rojas was the better fighter whilst apologising to the fans.
Later that same year Asakawa hung up the gloves, at the age of 26 with a career record of 23-4-1 (17)
After retirement Asakawa remained a popular figure in Japan, he was looking to train fighters and was featured on radio programs. His personality kept him popular as he moved into his 30's with a reputation as being an honest, likeable, man who seemingly had a very genuine personality and a bright future.
Sadly in summer 2001 all that changed.
Asakawa is said to have been out fishing on July 25th in a rubber boat near Miki City. Fishing was one of his hobbies and like everyone doing their hobbies he would have felt safe, like a man enjoying a good time. Sadly the boat he was in, which had been moored to the coast, was washed away, with Asakawa on board. Sadly he was never seen alive again.
After several days searching Asakawa's body was found, on July 30th, he was just 33 years old.
Asakawa's funeral, took place just days after his body was discovered and even now here is still remembered among Japanese fans for his style, personality, looks and excting bouts with Fukuda and Park.
Not all shocking results take place on a global scale and today we look a real hidden upset, but still a massive one that took place in 1990 in Japan for the Japanese Featherweight title. The bout is one of the biggest upsets of the year, and just looking at the records of the men involved it was one we doubt anyone would have expected going into the bout.
November 16th 1990
Kobe, Hyogo, Japan
Seiji Asakawa (16-1-1, 12) vs Toshikazu Sono (5-4, 1)
In early 1989 Seiji Asakawa won the Japanese Featherweight title, beating Kazuya Kano. His first defense was a shoot out with the popular Kngo Fukuda, which saw both men being dropped, and by November 1990 he had scored 5 defenses of the belt. He looked well on his way to getting a world title fight, with this supposed to be a tune up, and was proving to be a popular fighter, in fun fights, with big power and a real will to win. At just 22 he ticked a lot of boxes for a future star, and even after his eventual retirement he remained a popular figure among Japanese boxing fans for his likeable personality and boyish good looks. Here he was defending the title for the 6th time and doing it in his home of Kobe.
On the other hand Toshikazu Sono was an unknown. He had won just 5 of his 9 bouts and had scored just a single stoppage. Just 2 months earlier he had been beaten by Yoshikazu Tamasaki, which was his 3rd loss in 4 bouts, and had done absolutely nothing to get a Japanese title fight. The only real thing of note on his record was winning the West Japan Rookie of the Year in October 1987, before losing the All Japan final inside a round against Hideki Uchikoshi.
When we said the bout was supposed to be a tune up for Asakawa before a future world title fight, we were being serious. Asakawa was not supposed to be tested here. He was supposed to sharpen his tools, keep busy and, in 1991, potentially get a world title bout. No one told Sono he was there to lose, and no one told him he couldn't punch. As it turned out, he could bang when he needed to, and he was tougher than expected.
From opening round Sono, who was in white shorts for those interested, was proving himself very capable and was holding his own with the much fancied Asakawa. He wasn't hurting the champion, but was certainly not being blown away or overwhelmed. He held his own in exchanges, and moved around the ring like a man who was a lot more talented than his record suggested. It seemed like Asakawa was doing enough to win the opening round, but it was close and really competitive.
Asakawa opened up more towards the end of round 2 and seemed like he was close to closing the show as the bell rang. He was all smiles in the corner and Sono actually began walking away from his corner before realising where he was when the bell went.
Round 3 was another competitive one, though again it seemed like Asakawa was in control. Sono wasn't looking in awe of the champion, but Asakawa was just doing every thing a little bit better than Sono, and moved through the gears in spurts, as he looked to prove a point, but also get rounds under his belt. He was however forced to take a warning shot of sorts in the final few seconds of the round.
Asakawa should have taken the warning to heart. He didn't.
After a relatively competitive first 2 minutes of round 4 Asakawa began to open up and again seemed to be showing the class of being able to take a round with a good final minute. This time around Sono responded and with with 30 seconds of the round left a left hook from Sono dropped Asakawa face first. Asakawa wasn't out cold, but failed to beat the 10 count.
The new champion was mobbed my his family and friends, whilst the rest of the arena fell silent. They were in shock. The local star had just had everything, his title, his expected world title fight and his aura, destroyed from a single punch.
Surprisingly Sono never actually fought again after this, instead going into the family business. Asakawa on the other hand would rebuild, reclaim the Japanese title, fights for world titles, twice, and claim the OPBF title.
The bout, at the time, was regarded as one of the biggest upsets in Japanese boxing, and even now, 30 years on, it's hard to think of too many bigger surprises in the country.
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).