We all know that boxer's have a limited life span in the sport. Whilst many may go on to become trainers, managers, commentators, or remain in the sport in some way many turn to completely different careers once their days as an in ring warrior is over. Mostly these careers will be rather typical and mundane work, like an office worker or a warehouse operative. You know, the normal jobs that anyone could do. Others, for example Guts Ishimatsu Hidekazu Akai, end up behind a camera as successful actors.
Another former boxer who turned to acting, albeit a different kind of acting, is former Japanese Featherweight champion Yuji Gomez who has bared all, quite literally, in his post boxing career...as an adult film star.
Yeah, after retiring from fucking people up in the ring Gomez turned to fucking them in other ways, and has been a genuine success in the world of the adult flicks.
So lets rewind and talk a bit about Gomez, before concentrating on his post boxing roles.
Gomez, born Eugenio Gomez, was born in New York to a Puerto Rican Father and Dominican mother. He was originally a power lifter who turned to boxing after high school and would visit Japan in 1998. It was in Japan that he would fight his entire boxing career running up a very good 21-5 (20) professional record. His career was an exciting one, and win or lose his bouts didn't tend to go long, with 15 of his 26 bouts ending in the first round. Only 5 of his bouts went beyond 6 rounds and none went into a 9th round.
During Gomez's professional boxing career, which spanned from 1999 to 2009 when he turned 37 and his license experience, he won the All Japan Rookie of the Year and the Japanese Featherweight title.
In 2013 Gomez turned his hand, or rather his....man parts, to something new. Becoming an actor in some adult videos. The first of those was released in October 2013 and he followed that up with another before the year was of, showing off what was said to be a 28cm piece of kit.
From what we understand, following his first two movies coming out in 2013 there was 11 more released in 2014, with each released on the first of the month except in June for some reason. Presumably the porn industry in Japan has a dry month in summer. That was followed by 11 more releases in 2015, this time with one in June but not in October, a further 8 in 2016 and one in 2017.
Whilst we won't link to any of his work, for obvious reasons, those who are curious should be able to find stuff relatively easily.
For a man well known for his opening round blow outs Gomez's career in porn has proven he's very comfortable at lasting more than 3 minutes when he needs to!
Boxers end up moving on to all sorts of things in life, and of course come from all backgrounds. One of the interesting cases of a boxer moving onto things that effect people more than just the fans of the sport is Jiro Akama, who had moved from punching opponents, to playing a major role in the day to day life of people in Japan.
We need to preface this by saying Akama's professional boxing career was a short one, which we'll get on to later on, but he was a good amateur. In the unpaid ranks he was the vice captain of his team and he did show some genuine promise, though boxing wouldn't be his main calling.
Born in Kanagawa in 1968 Akama was a smart student and went to Rikkyo University in Tokyo, which is one of the supposed "big 6" in Japan. After he graduated from University he actually moved to Manchester, in England, to study at the University of Manchster, where he got his diploma. He then returned to Japan to help his father Kazuyuki Akama who was a member of the Kanagawa Prefectural Assembly at the time.
Whilst helping his father Akama also began working in the local are to help people who have disabilities. It was clear he had big ambitions to help people, putting other people first in life.
In 1998, at the age of 29, Akama made his professional debut. The promise he had shown as an amateur just wasn't there though and he lost on debut to Takejiro Kato, losing a 4 round decision to Kato at Korakuen Hall. This bout cam in July 1998 on a card that also featured Akihiko Nago, Osamu Sato, Hiroyuki Maeda and the tragic Seiji Takechi. This would turn out to be Akama's only professional fight. Although he had shown promise in the amateurs this would turn out to be his only professional fight for Akama, there was a bigger calling for him.
The year after his sole professional bout Akama ran for the Kanagawa prefectural assembly himself, looking to follow in his father's footsteps. He ran as an independent and was elected, at the age of 31. Although he ran as an independent, and was the first independent elected in 16 years, he would soon join the Japanese Liberal Democratic Party (LDP).
Whilst serving the local community Akama released a manga of his journal, he was then re-elected in 2003 and began to move forward through the LDP, building his reputation and building his standing to the point where he was essentially out growing the local prefectural assembly.
After serving in the Kanagawa prefectural assembly from 1999 to 2005 Akama then progressed his out of the ring career quite significantly and moved from local politics to national politics. He would then become the Member of the House of Representatives for the 14 wards of Kanagawa, similar to an MP in the UK.
Akama would serve as a Member of the House of Representatives from 2005 to 2009. His focus was on improving Kanagawa and getting it more autonomy. He lost in the 2009 election but would return to the national stage in 2012, where he has remained ever since. Not only has he been a Member of the House of Representatives since 2012, but he has become a major player in Japanese politics, joining Shinzo Abe's cabinet in 2014, and remaining there when Abe shifted his cabinet in 2016.
Of course being a member of the cabinet has meant the pressure is on Akama to be one of the key figures behind Shinzo Abe, and he has been. He has also paved the way to massive development between Japan and Taiwan, being the first Japanese deputy minister to visit the country for official business in over 40 years.
As we write this he is the chairman of the LDP General Affairs Department, a major role in the ruling party in Japan and a position of great responsibility.
Although Akama's boxing career was a short one, especially his professional career, there is no doubting the impact he has had on life in Japan, and at 52 years old it's fair to say he still has ambitions that are yet to be fulfilled. Maybe, just maybe, a former boxer will, in the coming years, become the Prime Minister of Japan.
Although not a big name in the West Japanese fighter Tatsuki Kawasaki (22-5, 17) has one of the sports many interesting stories. In fact in some ways his story is the complete opposite of Jiro Watanabe. He may not have been anywhere close to the success of Watanabe, but his life certainly bares some comparison to the Super Flyweight great.
If you're reading this article we suspect that you may know that Jiro Watanabe went from being a boxing great in Japan to a member of the Yakuza and a man who's professional boxing career has been overshadowed by his criminal activity. Kawasaki on the other hand went from the Yakuza to professional boxing.
As a youngster Kawasaki was in trouble regularly. He was however a lonely man, who would sleep on the stairs in multi-tenant buildings, go in to bars alone and seemed to be a youngster carrying a lot of anguish. His mother had died when he was in elementary school and and the relationship with his father was fraught, to say the least. It was during the rough patch in his youth that he began to box, learning to fight. The tools he had learned had however been used in a way they weren't supposed to be, and he would later be arrested for an assault.
Kawasaki's criminal activity grew, getting worse. He went from an assault, to being caught with an illegal pistol, and then ended finding solace in the criminal under-belly. Looking for a family, and for elders he could feel comfortable around Kawasaki joined the Yakuza, explaining it was like a family to him. His life in the Yakuza saw him being taken under the wing of some of those much higher up the organisation than he was. But it didn't take long for Kawasaki's links to the Yakuza to break down.
Things went from bad to worse as Kawasaki began to meddle in drugs. He would end up paranoid and suffering from hallucinations. Life was so bad he attempted suicide, and would later end up in a drug rehabilitation facility as he tried to beat his personal demons. Around a year after entering the facility he would leave, and would then end up rekindling with a former flame.
Yuka, his girlfriend, acted as a rock when Kawasaki had finished rehab. She acted as an inspiration to him, as he began to work normal jobs. She was the reason Kawasaki avoided rejoining the Yakuza, and helped him connect with some old friends.
Those old friends included the Arisawa brothers, Kazu and Koji. The friends suggested that Kawasaki should return to boxing, now his life was back on the straight and narrow. Rather than making a decision himself Kawasaki turned to Yuka for guidance and she was fine with the idea.
Before being allowed to get a license with the JBC Kawasaki had to put his money where his mouth was and pay a significant amount to erase a large tattoo on his back, as well train. Whilst the tattoo, which was genuinely huge, wasn't completely removed it was reduced, drastically. That was one of the first steps Kawasaki made before devoting himself to the sport.
In July 2000, at the age of 26, Kawasaki would finally make his professional debut and by the end of the year he was 3-0 (3), getting his career under-way and had completely turned his life around.
Over the years that followed Kawasaki would embark on an exciting career, that saw him often fight in a "stop or be stopped" manner. From his 27 professional bouts 21 ended inside the distance, with Kawasaki fighting right through to the end of 2008. Whilst he failed to win any titles he did face a number of notable fighters. He scored wins over the likes of Tetsuya Suzuki, Kazutaka Nishikawa and Keiichi Arai and lost to the likes of Crazy Kim and Nobuhiro Ishida, twice. He would challenge for the OPBF and Japanese Light Middleweight titles and be involved in some thrilling bouts thanks to aggressive in ring style.
It's hard, maybe, to see a fight that was a pure highlight for Kawasaki in the ring, though reports of his bout with Crazy Kim suggest that was something special. The highlight however was the dramatic turn around in his life. He had left his past behind him and become a bright, popular and exciting boxer on the Japanese scene.
Whilst Kawasaki failed win titles he managed to win in life. He went from being part of the Yakuza, to trying to commit suicide as a drug addict to becoming a success story for boxing. The hard hitting southpaw may have had the potential to go further in the sport had he committed to boxing earlier, but it's fair to say that boxing, along with Yuka, help save Kawasaki from himself and gave him purpose.
With so many bad stories of boxers in the press for things to do with criminal activity, and general misbehaviour it can be easy to overlook the positive stories, and Kawasaki is certainly a positive story for boxing to look at.
Quite often when we do research for one thing we stumble on something that's just weird and very different to what we were looking in to. We were recently researching the career of Koji Arisawa for a piece that will go up later this year, likely in or around December, and stumbled on Masayuki Koguchi (19-7, 3). More specifically we stumbled on the event that made Koguchi a well known name in Japanese boxing in the early 00's.
Koguchi had began his boxing career in 2000 and like many lesser known fighters he had very mixed success early on. He would lose his second professional bout and would also lose to Kazuyoshi Kumano in the 2002 Rookie of the Year. He really wasn't much of known fighter heading into the end of 2005, but that all changed on December 13th 2005.
Aged 28 at the time and sporting an 8-4-2 (2) record Koguchi was really still just an under-card fighter, often fighting on cards featuring the more well known Koji Arisawa, the man we were researching when we stumbled on Koguchi's story. On December 13th 2005 Arisawa fought for the final time, in an easy bout against Pichitchai Kawponkanpim to go out on a win.
Prior to Arisawa's bout Koguchi was facing Daichi Shibata and during the bout the wig Koguchi was wearing to cover his baldness began to come off his head. After the wig coming undone several times his cornerman removed it from the fighter between rounds 4 and 5. The incident lead fans into a sense of shock, and then loud laughter filled the arena as they realised what had happened whilst Koguchi continued the fight with his bald head on show.
Koguchi ended up winning the bout, stopping Shibata in 7 rounds, but the results was barely a footnote compared to the hair wig incident.
Following the bout Koguchi was cautioned by the JBC, as fighters weren't to wear anything other than gloves above the waist. He was given a "severe caution" but it was accepted that the wig had no impact on Shibata and the result wasn't over turned, though the two men would go on to have a rematch the following year.
Following the incident Koguchi was contacted by a number of TV shows, wanting to feature him and interview him, as well as hair growth companies wanting to sponsor him. Despite not being a particularly successful fighter he had suddenly become the man of the moment in Japanese sport.
When speaking about the whole wig situation in 2019 Koguchi revealed that he wanted to "look good" explaining why he wore it to fight in. Later on however he fought with out them, likely realising the the JBC wouldn't let him get away with it again.
Whilst Koguchi didn't fight in a wig after the the incident he did begin to wear various wigs as part of his ring walk and threw them into the crowd, often to great crowd reactions.
Following Arisawa's retirement Koguchi would go on to have his most successful run in the ring. He would headline a number of shows and even managed to secure a Japanese Super Featherweight title fight in 2009, which he lost to future world champion Takashi Miura.
Outside of the ring Koguchi got married in 2012, and works in the transportation industry. At the moment he still dreams of opening a boxing gym of his own in the future, but that dream does seem rather unlikely to come true.
All too often during these "Tales from the East" segments we talk about serious, and often depressing things. Deaths, suicides, lives taken too soon. Today however we get to talk about a fun and interesting story from 2012 that we don't think many would have heard about, at least not those outside of Japan.
On March 28th 2012 a man was pulled over by the police as the Seibu-Shinjuku Station. He was asked to explain what he did for a living, as he looked rather suspicious.
The man in question was sporting a seriously bruised and swollen face, rather unkempt hair, tattoos on his arm, wearing some sports clothes and was carrying a ruck sack with a spanner in it. He looked, for all intents, like a man who had, perhaps, been involved in a bit of a fight. Or was planning revenge for what had been done to him.
Unbeknowst to the police officer the man in question had indeed been in a big fight. In fact just a day earlier he had been in a world title fight at the Korakuen Hall. He had been stopped by the police officer on his way to a press conference, to talk about his big win the day before. He didn't want to start the conversation by telling the police man that he was a newly crowned boxing world champion, after all the fighter in question was known to be reserved and quite shy. Even if he was more confident, if the policeman didn't recognise him, it would likely seem like a lie to just blurt out that he was a world champion. Seemingly he didn't feel like he was famous enough to tell them who he was and instead spent 10 minutes answering questions from them.
For those wonder, that man was Yota Sato, who, just a day earlier, had beaten Suriyan Sor Rungvisai to win the WBC Super Flyweight title, shocking the talented Thai with 2 knockdowns to secure the win.
Whilst he may have explained his job, and why he was looking bruised and beaten, and even where he was going, you may be wondering why exactly did he have a spanner?
Well Sato might be a world class boxer but his big out of the ring hobby was skateboarding. He had the spanner to help tighten things on his board. Not to clobber people with.
So, a day after he won the WBC Super Flyweight title, Yota Sato was stopped by a policeman wanting explanations as to why he looked like he had been in a fight.
Apparently Sato was actually stopped again a few weeks later, though this time he was carrying his WBC Super Flyweight title around with him, helping to explain that he was indeed a world champion.
Interestingly this isn't actually a one off. There was also a case where Takahiro Ao, the then WBC Super Featherweight, was questioned by police in regards to bike thefts in Oji. Rather funnily Ao had previously been put in the position to be the Chief of the Kashiwa station for a day, meaning he had been in a "higher position" than the officer questioning him.
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.
Oriana Johnson (@Oriabanana)
As we are in Mental Health Awareness week in the UK (taking place 18th May - 24th May 2020), there is a lot of discussion on the support and help available for those who have mental health difficulties. This has, of course, been amplified by the current on going crisis and issues that have come from that. Although, there is still a critical discussion on the support services in the UK, there is a similar discussion in Japan after the suicide of Michitaka Muto in April 2016.
Japanese fighter Michitaka Muto (4-3-1) (武藤道隆), was once aiming for big things in the sport before he died from suicide aged 28 or 29. Whilst he failed to achieve the heady heights he had hoped for in the ring he certainly touches lives.
As a fighter Muto debuted in 2013, fighting out of the Katsuki Gym. He would go unbeaten in his first 4 bouts, going 3-0-1, before losing 3 of his 4 final bouts, including a decision loss to Seigo Yuri Akui.
As well as being a boxer Muto was also a teacher, but it's what happened outside the realms of his work that really brought him to the attentiion of the wider Japanese public.
In February 2016 Muto was diagnosed with schizophrenia 2 months before his death by suicide. Schizophrenia symptoms are typically confused thinking, delusions, hallucinations (both visual and audible) as well as becoming withdrawn. The treatment for schizophrenia is a mix of therapy, medications and support from multi-agencies. For those with acute symptoms or in crisis, there may be a detention in a psychiatric ward.
Muto was reportedly in crisis as in February 2016, he was admitted to a psychiatric ward after behaving erratically and strangely related to his diagnosis of schizophrenia. This stay at the psychiatric ward meant medication had stabilized his schizophrenic symptoms.
On the evening of his discharge, Muto became agitated, which resulted in being restrained and medicated similarly to the day he was admitted to the ward in crisis. Muto's family were feeling uneasy with the discharge, which happened as scheduled, and it seems like he was not well enough to be discharged. His condition was described as worse than it was when he was admitted.
After his discharge, Muto was cared for by his father, who ensured his anti-psychotic medication was taken. It is an important point to raise, that anti-psychotic medication can make suicidal symptoms worsen and consideration needs to occur when prescribed to suicidal patients.
Muto wanted to be readmitted to the psychiatric ward due to the symptoms and the distress he was feeling, but was told he was not able to be readmitted. This was due to the fact that they do not admit patients back for at least 3 months after the discharge. Looking at this form an external view, this feels very unsupportive and unprofessional, as it was obvious that Muto was still suffering with his mental health and needed care in the ward. It must of been incredible difficult for his father too, who has been caring for his son but knowing he needed professional care.
Sadly Muto died by suicide in April 2016, 2 months after the first visit to the psychiatric ward.
Michitaka Muto's father worked with a team to create a documentary, roughly translated as "The Death of a Boxer: My Father's Fight for Mental Health", regarding his son's treatment and death. Sadly have yet to locate, however reports from those who have seen it state it it highlights some issues in Muto's mental health care as well as highlighting issues within the service. It seemed that the hospital management valued profits of the service above that of the patients. The director of the documentary, Hiroshi Wada, hoped that the documentary encourages viewers to think about mental health care more.
Our thoughts go out to Michitaka Muto's family and friends, as well as anyone who is bereaved by suicide.
If you are struggling with your mental health, please seek support and health from your local crisis centre. You are not alone.
Boxing is a sport that is full of tragedy. It's a sport that has more depressing stories than pretty much any other. The amount of boxers who been murdered or died doing what they love is sadly longer than anyone wishes to even think about. Sadly though the tragedy of the sport and it's stars is part of it's history, and even, in some morbid way, part of the fascination with some fighters.
Today we look at one of the fighters who managed to get out of the sport with faculties intact, but even then was unable to have a long and prosperous life outside of the ring. In fact when he passed away he had spent several years of his life in a vegetative state, with the hope being that he would make a recovery, a recovery that never came.
Today we're going to be talking about Hwan Kil Yuh (26-2-3, 11), who fought as a professional from 1979 to 1985. He was dubbed the "Korean Hagler", due to his hair style, and was an exciting, tough fighter who's career was exciting, short but ultra active. Whilst his career was a short one it was intense.
During his 6 years in the professional ranks Yuh claimed the OPBF Featherweight title in 1981, when he beat Jung Han Hwang, and then went on to win the IBF Super Featherweight title in 1984.
Yuh began his career in March 1979 with a win over Yun Bok Cho in Busan and ended the year with a 7-0-1 (5) record. He would remain busy in 1980 with another 6 wins, though ended the year with his first loss, a decision to future South Korean Featherweight champion Hyun Ahn in Seoul.
The loss to Ahn was then followed by a fantastic run from Yuh, who went on to win 15 in a row. That winning run saw Yuh over-come Jung Han Hwang for the OPBF title in 1981, ending Hwang's reign less than 2 months after he took the total from Royal Kobayashi. Sadly Yuh's reign with the OPBF title wasn't a great one, but he did make 3 defenses in the space of 10 months. As he edged towards a world title fight he vacated the OPBF belt, setting up his 1984 clash with Rod Sequenan for the IBF Super Featherweight title.
Yuh's bout for IBF Super Featherweight title saw him take a close decision over veteran Sequenan to become the first ever IBF champion at the weight. He also made a single successful defeat, stopping Sak Galaxy, the man who gave Khaosai Galaxy his sole professional loss. Sadly though he lost in his second defense, as he lost a close decision to Lester Ellis in Australia, in what was a real tough and messy fight.
After losing the IBF title Yuh fought just once more, beating former world title challenger Tae Jin Moon, before walking away from the sport at the age of 23. He achieved more than most fighters ever will, being both a regional and world champion. Given he was so young when he hung them up he essentially had a long life ahead of him. At least that was the hope.
Following his in ring career Yuh ran a restaurant Goyang, Korea. That was until September 2006 when he was injured in a hit and run incident. The injuries he suffered left him in a vegetative state at the Myongji Hospital. He would spend more than 2 year in hospital, with the hope being that on day he would show some signs of recovery. Sadly those signs never came and he would pass away on April 21st 2009, aged just 46.
Sadly, given that usually Korean papers are amazing to read through online, there isn't a lot available of Yuh. A shame given his place in history, as the first IBF Super Featherweight champion. Given his short career that's perhaps no surprise but it is still a shame that the "Korean Hagler" had his life cut short, essentially in his mid 40's.
Yuh got out of the sport fine, but sadly was still taken far, far too soon.
If we're being honest the weigh in for a fight is rarely interesting. Whilst there are exceptions to this rule, usually when the fighters decide to throw punches at each other the day before their actual bout, those exceptions are few and far between. Today however we're going to discus one interesting weigh in from 2006. The weigh in didn't get much attention outside of Japan, but was certainly got the Japanese fans and media talking.
In May 2006 Koki Kameda (then 10-0, 9) was taking on Nicaraguan Carlos Fajardo (then 15-6-1, 10). Fajardo had been reportedly struggling to make weight and rather than keeping his mouth shut about the situation Kameda used it as a chance to promote himself, and the fight.
At the press conference a few days before the fight Kameda was eating and drinking, mocking Fajardo's weight issues. It was clear he was trying to get into Fajardo's head, and had no problems with making the weight himself. In fact the bout was at Flyweight, a weight that Kameda really did make very easily at the time and would later move down from, dropping to Light Flyweight. Fajardo on the other hand looked gaunt and like he really was taking a lot out of himself to make 112lbs. He had fought as low as Minimumweight but hadn't fought in almost a year coming into this bout, and had seemingly been coming to the end of his career.
Having really mocked Fajardo at the press conference we then moved on to the weigh in and Kameda continued playing mind games. Rather than just getting on the scales and off, and putting weight back on for their bout Kameda had one more trick to play on May 4th, the day before the weigh in.
Unbeknowst to most at the weigh in he had brought along a pan with an image of Fajardo's face on it. He then proceeded to bend the frying pan in front of the press, showing off his strength and making it clear he was going to crush the Nicaraguan.
Both men made weight, with Kameda hitting the scales at 112lbs and Fajardo weighing in at 111¾lbs, but the weigh in was more about the frying pan incident than the men making weight.
When the men got in the ring the bout proved to be a mismatch, with Kameda stopping Fajardo in 2 rounds. The Nicaraguan might have made weight but still looked drained and weak in the ring and was no competition for Kameda.
Rather interestingly the whole frying pan story got an extra twist this year, with Shiro Kameda, Koki's father, appearing on TV in Kansai and revealed some details about Koki's pre-fight actions. Not just for this bout but others. For this he revealed that the that whilst the frying pan looked solid it was an incredibly cheap pan, that cost around 100yen, it was soft, and that anyone could have done it. That however didn't take away from the attention Kameda got for pulling the stunt way back in 2006.
When we talk about the most important trainers in Japanese boxing history one name that standouts out is Eddie Townsend, arguably the most notable and successful trainer to ever make a mark in Japan. Townsend was born in Hawaii to an Irish-American father and a Japanese mother, making him a Japanese American, and he would go on to train 6 future world champions. He wasn't the only American trainer to make a major impact on Japanese boxing however and today we look at another trainer from America who made an impact before Townsend went on to train 6 world champions.
Dr Alvin Robert Cahn is not someone we expect people to be familiar with, but his impact is massive, and that was despite the fact that originally, he wasn't a boxing trainer. In fact he was scientist.
Cahn was born in 1892 as part of a Jewish family in Chicago. He would go to the University of Illinois and would become a very impressive nutritional scientist. His scientific mind and ability lead to him working for the government and later working in Japan at the GHQ following the second world war.
Whilst living and working in Japan Cahn spotted a young 24 year old boxer who was training in Tokyo. That was Yoshio Shirai. At the time Shirai's career wasn't going anywhere, he was injured, he was considering jacking it in and walking away from the sport.
Shirai had shown some early promise but injuries and poor health had curtailed his career, and a loss to Japanese Flyweight champion Yoichiro Hanada seemed to show that he was lacking some of the tools needed to be a star. Despite Shirai questioning his future Cahn, who was just a scientist, had seen something in Shirai.
At the time Japanese boxing was based very much on aggression, stamina and determination. The biggest star of the era was Piston Horiguchi, known for his relentless energy. That however was a style that had limitations and Cahn was a fan of more technical boxing, a style that was more American than the come forward sluggers that had been on the Japanese scene. In Shirai, Cahn saw a long, rangy young man, a man with the physical traits to fight in a way he liked. He didn't have the experience of a boxing trainer, but recognised that Shirai had the tools to go far.
With a translator alongside him Cahn went to visit Shirai, a number of times. Finally convincing the fighter, who had gotten into sport as a youngster when watching Kangaroos boxing at a circus, to let Cahn work with him. In fact not only was Cahna talking Shirai into working with him, but into not retiring form boxing all together. Cahn repaid that faith quickly, and began to work on helping Shirai heal from his injuries, which had been suffered in the war. Cahn help to feed Shirai, getting him the nutrition he needed to physically mend his body. He also helped Shirai financially, and got Shirai to sign an exclusive contract.
With Shriai's body better than it was, and health better than it had been in years the focus was on the skills that Shirai needed. The first focus was on the jab, something that Cahn made a focus of Shirai's training, sending hours working on it, to get Shirai to perfect the shot. It was, in Cahn's eye, the most vital tool in a boxer's arsenal, and with Shirai having a long frame the jab was even more potent. That was only part of what Cahn worked on with Shirai, using data and analysing opponents, explaining that the mental part of the sport was just as important as the physical aspects.
Shirai would excel under Cahn, and would avenge his 1947 loss to Yoichiro Hanada in 1949, defeating Hanada for the Japanese Flyweight title. Hanada has essentially had a 14 year reign by this point. Shirai not only beat Hanada, but sent him down for the count. Just 11 months later Shirai would take the Japanese Bantamweight title from Hiroshi Horiguchi, the brother of the legendary Piston Horiguchi.
Holding, and defending, the Japanese Flyweight and Bantamweight, Shirai would become the new face of Japanese boxing, and with Cahn working on scientific training methods with Shirai things were continually improving. Cahn also had his eye on bigger things. It was great training the best fighter in Japan, but the world was a bigger vision and the man they were targeting was Dado Marino, a Filipino who was recognised as the best Flyweight on the planet in 1950.
In 1951 Cahn would get what he wanted, and his man would get a bout with Dado Marino in May 1951, thanks to Marino's manager being a Japanese-American and being willing to set up a non-title bout. This was a chance to prove what Shirai could do. Sadly Shirai would fail in his bout with Marino, losing a split decision. The loss was a set back, but showed that Shirai belong at that level. It should be noted that Marino was way over the Flyweight limit, and that the bout was very close and competitive. It was also fought in front of around 35,000 fans at the Korakuen Baseball Stadium.
A rematch with Marino occurred later in 1951, this time in Hawaii, and this time Shirai would avenge the loss, stopping the Filipino in 7 rounds to earn his place in the Flyweight world rankings. The training of Cahn had seen Shirai become the first world ranked Japanese fighter, it had spurred a now found hero and had essentially forced the formation of the Japan Boxing Commission (JBC).
On May 19th 1952 Shirai would get a third bout with Marino, this time for the Flyweight world title. Before the fight Cahn spoke to Shirai with intensity, and tried to make the situation clear to his. This wasn't a bout for Shirai, but for Japan, telling him “Don’t fight for yourself. You’re fighting for a Japan that has lost all confidence and hope after the war. Right now, the only way Japan can compete in the world is through sports. Win, and you will give your country courage.” The advice worked and helped spur on Shirai, who would defeat Marino with a 15 round decision to become the Flyweight world champion, a huge national hero.
Shirai fought the bout with a high intensity early on. That saw him being rocked, and shaken but Shirai recovered, and continued to be spurred on and encouraged by his trainer. Cahn seemed to realise his man had made a mistake and began to hammer back into him the basis of Shirai's training. That worked, and Cahn's advice kicked in, with Shirai calming down, cleaning his head, and boxing smartly against a tiring Marino. The win saw more than 40,000 people watching the bout live, at the venue.
Shirai had become the bright light of Japan. He wasn't just their new boxing or sport hero, but was the new national hero in a country that had been left ruined by the second world war. With Cahn by his side the pairing also proved that Japan and American could work side by side.
With the title win not only had Japan developed a new star, but Cahn had been right all the time. His scientific approach to training, nutrition and technique had proven vital.
Cahn would continue to work with Shirai and would continue to teach his charge things. There's a story from Japan of Shirai suffering a cut in sparring before a title defense. Rather than worrying about his champion's cut Cahn got some hemostatic cream, and used that on his man, convincing Shirai it would work by using it on a cut he caused on his own arm.
Shirai's reign as a world champion saw him defending the belt 4 times, with Cahn training him right through to the end of his career, which came in 1955. Although Shirai had lost the world title in 1954 to Pascual Perez, and lost a rematch to Perez in 1955, the relationship between the two men remained close. The mutual respect and adoration remained. Shirai thanked Cahn for his guidance and helping him with his career, with Cahn responding that he should be the one who was thankful as Shirai had given his life a purpose. Cahn had stayed in Japan long after the GHQ, that he was working at, had closed
After Shirai retired he and Cahn remained close friends, in fact some they were as close as family. The American continued to live in Japan until his death on January 24th 1971. By then he was 78 and had been in ill health, suffering from dementia and had a blood clot in the brain. He had been in a coma prior to his death, though reportedly woke when Shirai visited him a day before died, grabbing Shirai's hand before falling back into a coma.
Although Alvin Robert Cahn may have only trained a single world champion in his life, his impact on Japanese boxing was massive. He showed a scientific approach to the sport could be a success. He proved fighters needed to be healthy, and work on hitting without being hit. He developed a true star for Japan, a hero to get behind, and helped force the development of the Japan Boxing Commission.
Even after Cahn's death Shirai continued to follow his advice and stayed out of the boxing business, which Cahn had described as being a monkey business. It wasn't until 1995, when Shirai was brought into Yoko Gushiken's "Shirai Gushiken Sports Gym" as an honorary chairman, that Shirai would be involved in the sport. His involvement at the gym, was minimal.
It was reported that after Cahn's death it was reported that he gave all his property over to Shirai, as he had no family of his own and had been essentially part of Shirai's family.
Few will argue against Eddie Townsend being the most important trainer in Japanese boxing history, but Cahn's impact in the sport is huge and his relationship with Shirai was massive. "Dr Cahn" was the first trainer to bring science in Japanese boxing and paved the way for the rise in Japanese boxing.
As for Shirai he would live until he was 80 years old, dying in 2003 from pneumonia, having secured his place as a true legend of Japanese sport.
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).