With more than 100 total world champions from Japan, including female world champions, a number are relatively unknown and scarcely remembered, despite sometimes playing a major role in the sport. One great example is former Flyweight world champion, come gym chairman, come key figure at the JPBA.
Whilst we suspect many hardcore fans have heard of Susumu Hanagata we know fans may now know much about him. With that in mind we bring you 10 facts you probably didn't know about... Susumu Hanagata!
1-During his career Hanagata fought out of the Yokohama Kyoei Boxing Gym, a gym that has since changed it's name and is now the Kanagawa Atsumi Boxing Gym. He was the gym's first, and only, world champion.
2-Hanagata made his debut in November 1963 and would fight 3 times before the year was over. Surprisingly, given he would go on to win a world title, he lost 2 of his first 3 and 3 of his first 5 bouts.
3-Hanagata was 15-8-8 before having his first bout scheduled for 10 rounds. Amazingly those 31 bouts saw him go the distance on all but one occasion, with the exception being a 3rd round technical decision loss to Yoichi Nagumo in 1965. Those bouts were also packed in to just over 4 years. They were interestingly broken down into 16 bouts over 4 rounds, 11 bouts over 6 rounds and 4 bouts over 8 rounds. He also scored his first stoppage in his first 10 round contest!
4-In September 1968 Hanagata defeated Masao Oba, giving Oba his second, and final, loss as a professional. In the years that followed Oba would go on to make his mark as one of the truly legendary Japanese boxers, and would actually avenge the loss to Hanagata in 1972.
5-Hanagata would win a world title in his 5th attempt, and would actually go 1-7 in world title bouts. Despite that he was never stopped in world level bouts, with his only stoppage loss coming in a Japanese title fight.
6-After retiring he set up the Hanagata gym. The gym set a first in 2000 when Keitaro Hoshino won the WBA Minimumweight title, becoming the the first champion from a gym run by a former world champion. This is something that has since been matched with Ohashi Gym and Shirai Gushiken Gym both competing the feat in recent years.
7-Hideyuki Ohashi stated that he almost joined the Hanagata gym when it first opened, though Mr Hanagata was said to have told Ohashi to go with the more established Yonekura gym. The is one of many times where Hanagata, as a gym chairman, has put the fighters best interests ahead of his own interests. Other examples include signing several fighters on 1-fight contracts after the Kyoei gym and the Aoki gym shut their doors, so they could fight.
8-Despite sharing his surname with fighter Saemi Hanagata the two aren't actually related. Instead Saemi took the "Hanagata", and essentially adopted the name from Susumu.
9-In 2018, when Saemi Hanagata won the IBF Atomweight title with a win over Yuko Kuroki, the Hanagata gym became one of the very few gyms to have created both a male and female world champion. In fact Susumua Hanagata joined Yoko Gushiken and Hideyuki Ohashi as the only former world champions to have set up a gym and crafted both a male and female world champion under their guidance.
10-In 2019 Hanagata was appointed chairman of the East Japan Boxing Association and the Japan Professional Boxing Association.
This past Monday we had the chance to see an excellent All Japanese world title fight, with Kosei Tanaka narrowly defeating Sho Kimura to claim the WBO Flyweight world title. It was the latest in a long line of amazing All Japanese world title fighters dating back over 50 years. Here we take a look at 5 memorable all Japanese world title bouts.
Yoshiaki Numata (33-4, 9) Vs Hiroshi Kobayashi (50-6-2, 7)
December 14th 1967 - Kokugikan, Tokyo, Japan
The first ever all Japanese world title fight saw Yoshiaki Numata battle against Hiroshi Kobayashi. Coming in the the bout Numata was the WBC and WBA Super Featherweight champion, having taken the titles from the legendary Flash Elorde. When he won the titles he was the 5th ever Japanese world champion. In his first defense Numata faced off with the much more experienced Kobayashi. Kobayashi had made his name on the Japanese domestic scene mainly, where he had been the Featherweight champion, making 7 defenses before moving up in weight to challenge Numata.
The bout was an action packed one and would be award the Japanese fight of the year. Notably both men went on to have success after this bout and when the WBC and WBA titles split there was an 18 months time window when the two men were both world champions. The bout also got 41.9% of the audience tuning in from the Kanto region, one of the highest ever for a boxing contest!
Masao Oba (31-2-1, 13) vs Susumu Hanagata (34-10-8, 4) II
March 4th 1972-Nihon University Auditorium, Tokyo, Japan
Amazingly it would be more than 4 between the first and the second all-Japanese world title fight, though the wait was worth it with WBA Flyweight champion Masao Oba, one of the greatest Japanese fighters of all time, battling against Susumu Hanagata. This was a rematch of a bout the two men had had in 1968, when an 18 year old Oba was beaten by Hanagata, suffering his second career loss. Following their first bout Oba had become one the best fighters in the division, reeling off 15 straight wins and making two world title defenses. Hanagata had gone 10-2 following their first bout, with both losses coming on the road in world title bouts. This was high work rate and very exciting from both men.
Interestingly Oba's bout with Orlando Amores was voted the Japanese fight of the year for 1972 and unfortunately Oba would pass away less than a year after this bout, following a motor vehicle accident. Hanagata would go on to fight for a few more years and would actually score a huge win over Chartchai Chionoi in 1974 to put his name in the history books.
Yasuei Yakushiji (22-2-1, 16) Vs Joichiro Tatsuyoshi (10-1-1, 8)
December 4th 1994-Rainbow Hall, Nagoya, Aichi, Japan
Almost 30 years after the first ever all Japanese world title fight we had the first “unification” bout between two Japanese fighters as WBC Bantamweight champion Yasuei Yakushiji and Interim champion Joichiro Tatsuyoshi faced off at the Rainbow Hall. This bout was massive for Japanese boxing with Tatsuyoshi being the face of boxing in Osaka, due to his charismatic and exciting style. Yakushiji on the other hand was the more technically correct boxer, but was over-looked by some due to the popularity of Tatsuyoshi. That was despite the fact Yakushiji was the “real” champion and was looking to make his third defense.
This bout would achieve an audience number of 39.4% in the Kanto region, another of the highest ever in Japan, and like the Tanaka Vs Kimura bout it would live up to all the expectations with high tempo action, heavy shots landed by both and very little to split the men, both of whom were looking worse for wear at the end of the bout. This would be another winner of the Japanese Fight of the Year award.
Takanori Hatakeyama (23-1-2, 18) vs Hiroyuki Sakamoto (35-4, 25)
October 11th 2000-Yokohama, Kanagawa, Japan
In 2000 Japanese fight fans had another all-Japanese Fight of the Year as WBA Lightweight champion Takanori Hatakeyama and Hiroyuki Sakamoto beat the ever living snot out of each other in a bloody, violent, thrilling clash. Hatakeyama was the champion going into the bout, he enjoying his second reign as a world champion having previously held the WBA Super Featherweight title, and had won the Lightweight belt in brilliant fashion stopping Gilberto Serrano, with this being his first defense. Sakamnoto had lost two other world title fights, including one to Serrano, but had won the OPBF and Japanese titles. This was mostly an inside war fought between two men who did not want to hear the final bell.
As mentioned this was a Japanese Fight of the Year and seemingly took a lot out of both men. Neither man would go on to score a win of note, and in fact between them the only real good result was a draw in 2001 between Hatakeyama and Rick Yoshimura. This fight essentially ruined both men.
Kazuto Ioka (9-0, 6) Vs Akira Yaegashi (15-2, 8)
June 20th 2012-Bodymaker Colosseum, Osaka, Osaka, Japan
Almost 20 years after the brilliant Yakushiji/Tatsuyoshi bout we had the first true unification bout, as WBC Minimumweight champion Kazuto Ioka faced off with WBA champion Akira Yaegashi. The bout was a brilliant contest with a combination of skills and heart, with Yaegashi fighting through badly swollen eyes for much of the fight and managing to drag Ioka into his fight. Ioka always looked like the guy with more rounded skills, and speed, but Yaegashi's heart, determination and sheer will to win made this into a fantastic bout. It managed to give us some of the best rounds of the year and was another of the All-Japanese world title bouts to be awarded the Japanese Fight of the Year.
In the years since this bout both men have moved through the weights, with both claiming world titles at Light Flyweight and Flyweight, and now, remarkably, both are competing at Super Flyweight as they look to become 4-weight champions.
It's worth noting that there has been a lot All Japanese title bouts than we've covered. These range from the controversial, such as Daisuke Naito's bout with Daiki Kameda, to the frankly massive contest between Daisuke Naito and Koki Kameda which got a ridiculous 43.1% audience share. They also include other Japanese fights of the year, such as Takashi Uchiyama's bout with Daiki Kaneko.
Amazingly there has only ever been one all-Japanese world title fight to end in the first round, and that was the second bout between Masamori Tokuyama and Katsushige Kawashima. Interestingly the trilogy between Tokuyama and Kawashima saw Tokuyama win 2-1 taking decisions in both of his wins. Amazingly there has only ever been 1 draw in an all Japanese world title fight, that came in 2001, in the aforementioned bout between Takenori Hatakeyama and Rick Yoshimura.
For those who care about TV numbers all 3 of the high rating bouts were screened on TBS.
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).