Whilst many fighters we feature in this fortnightly series will only be included once, as not many fighters score multiple great knockouts, a small handful will be featured mutliple times. For today's "Reliving the Finish" we think we'll probably be included the most obscure multi-time entrant, but to be fair this was even better than his previous entry, and was far more needed.
Takenori Ohashi (16-5-2, 10) vs Shun Wakabayashi (9-3, 2)
Regular readers of this series will likely remember us featuring Takenori Ohashi and his brutal win over Kosuke Saka for the Japanese Featherweight title. It was a finish that came when Saka mistook the 10 second clacker as the bell to end the round, turned his back and got laid out big time by Ohashi. The finish saw Ohashi claim his biggest win, by fair, as well as picking up the Japanese Featherweight title and ending an impressive run from Saka.
In the eyes of some that knockout for Ohashi proved the old adage of "protect yourself at all times", and it was Saka's huge mistake that Ohashi jumped on. Sadly for Ohashi his title reign was a short one, and he lost the title just 4 months later, when he was battered and beaten up by Taiki Minamoto in his first defense. He had then bounced back with a win over Ruito Saeki before being matched with Shun Wakabayashi.
Before we talk about Wakabayashi we just want to quickly explain who Ohashi was as a fighter. He was crude, slow, unpolished, defensively naive, but boy could he punch, and his record, showing just 10 stoppages in 23 bouts, is not indicative of his power. Instead it was a sign that he struggled to get to his opponents, who were often happy to pick him off and use their speed, or get away and survive. What he hit he hurt, and when he landed clean he tended to see off opponents.
The then 28 year old Wakabayashi had once been 4-3 (1) as a professional before rebuilding with 5 straight wins, including minor upsets over Taichi Ueno and Chinlei Lin, as well as a more notable upset win over Xian Qian Wei. He wasn't much of a name but was in good form and had been impressive, winning not just as home but also picking up two wins on Chinese soil.
Wakabayashi wasn't a puncher. Not by any stretch. He was however a very good boxer-mover, who was light on his feet, used the ring, and boxed well at range. He seemed to have the momentum behind him and the skills needed to take a win over the slower Ohashi. Technically he was likely seen as the under-dog, against a former Japanese champion no less, but plenty would have been picking him against the very slow Ohashi.
Those who picked Wakabayashi would have been very pleased by what they saw in the first 6 rounds as he out sped, out boxed and out manoeuvred Ohashi. The smart movement and simple, but effective, boxing of Wakabayashi seemed to be taking him to a clear decision win. He was making it look easy.
That was until round 7, when we got a sign of just how devastating Ohashi's power really is.
Ohashi managed to land a big right hand over the top, a shot that may have shaken Wakabayashi, though he took it well and didn't show any signs of being hurt. Just moments later however a shorter, stiffer counter right stiffened Wakabayashi's legs. The short right was immediately followed by a brutal left uppercut which instantly turned out the lights on Wakabayashi, who crashed to the canvas.
This was a brutal finish by Ohashi, who had to have been behind before pulling out one of the best KO's we saw in a Japanese ring in 2018.
Whilst maybe not quite as good as Ohashi's brutal free shot finish on Saka this was still something to behold. A brilliant combination and a truly gorgeous finish by a true Japanese domestic level puncher.
Today we head back just a few years, to December 2017, to share one of the most remarkable, strange and destructive KO's of recent years. It was one that came as a surprise, to everyone, and saw the old adages of "protect yourself at all times" and "fight to the bell" play out in real time. It also ended in what a big upset and shook up the Japanese Featherweight scene at the time.
Takenori Ohashi (14-4-2, 9) vs Kosuke Saka (16-3, 13)
Entering the bout Takenori Ohashi had done little to earn a title fight, but he was getting a shot at Featherweight champion Kosuke Saka. On paper this might have looked like a fair evenly matched bout but in reality few gave Ohashi any real chance.
The 28 year old Ohashi had started his career well, but lost in the East Japan Rookie of the Year final in 2010, being stopped in a round by Coach Hiroto. Following that loss he had gone 9-3-2 (4) with stoppage losses to Tatsuya Takahashi and Tsuyoshi Tameda. In his 6 bouts heading into his title fight he had gone 3-1-2 (2).
Whilst his form was was up and down Ohashi really had the same problem as many other punches. He was slow. Really slow. He hit like a mule, but was slow, could be timed, and had very predictable movement. Thankfully for him he really could punch. As we'll see here, and in a future "Reliving the Finish" that we have planned for later in the year.
Saka on the other hand had been on a tear. He had suffered his first loss in the 2012 All Japan Rookie of the Year final, to Masayuki Ito, and his other losses had both come in 2014, losing to Jun Hamana and Hiroshige Osawa. Following those losses in 2014 he had gone 8-0 (8) and stopped the likes of Ryuto Kyoguchi, Takafumi Nakajima and Shota Hayashi. Coming in he had all the momentum, he was in great form, destroying people and was looking to make his first defense of the Japanese Featherweight title.
Saka was aggressive, high octane, a pressure fighter who let his hands go and broke people up. His shots lacked the lights out power of Ohashi's, but he was quicker, sharper, threw much more leather, and beat people up.
Sometimes however we get upsets, and sometimes they come because a fighter has a lapse in concentration. That is exactly what happened here, in very eye catching fashion.
Before we get to the ending we do need to point out that through the first 4 rounds Ohashi was out performing all pre-fight expectations. He had more than held his own with Saka, which was a surprise in it's self. We then got into round 5.
For much of round 5 Ohashi was landing the better punches, he even seemed to rock Saka early in the round, but never looked close to stopping the champion. That was until the very, very end of the round.
When the clacker went to signify 10 seconds left in the round Saka misheard it, assumed it was the bell and turned his back on Ohashi whilst heading to his corner. Ohashi saw his chance and from behind landed a legal, and massive right hand on a defenseless and unsuspecting Saka.
Unsurprisingly Saka hit the canvas, hard. Again Ohashi could hit like a mule and giving him a free shot like this was always going to end the fight. To his credit Saka tried to get up, managing to sit up, but he had no idea where he was as the referee finished his count.
Officially Saka was counted out at 3:06 of round 5.
It seemed unfair, it seemed harsh, but it was totally fair and totally brutal. It was a sickening way for Saka to lose the title, but sharp thinking saw Ohashi capitalise and become the new champion with a career defining win.
Despite the win Ohashi's reign was a short one, losing in his first defense to Taiki Minamoto in April 2018. As for Saka he would rebuild and in 2019 claimed the Japanese Super Featherweight title, by stopping Masaru Sueyoshi, to become a 2-weight Japanese champion.
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).