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.
We continue this series looking at little stories from the Eastern boxing scene by bringing you a really famous one which took place in Osaka between a former champion and a future world champion, which took place way back in 2000. At the time the future world champion was just a teenager, but would later go on to become on of the most controversial fighters in Japan. The other man involved was only 34, but he had retired following a loss in 1998, which made him decide his career had gone on long enough.
Unlike most stories this one isn't shrouded in mystery or myth. In fact this was caught on camera, and it certainly seems like their was some more to it than a staged event, despite being part of a documentary. In fact it very much looked like a teenager getting the better of a former world champion and beating him up a bit, whilst making the most of an opportunity to make a name for himself.
The youngster in question was Koki Kameda, who at the time was 14 or 15 when TBS's cameras were following him and his father, and Koki's brothers Daiki and Tomoki. The TBS cameras were recording a documentary and part of that saw Kameda having an exhibition with former WBC Minimumweight and WBA Light Flyweight world champion Hiroki Ioka.
Although Ioka was only 34 at this point he had had a long career and had retired following a stoppage loss to Masamori Tokuyama, the 5th stoppage loss of Ioka's career. He had fought 42 times as a professional from 1986, when he was just 17, to 1998, and had fought in 13 world title bouts. Ioka had himself been a young prodigy, and still holds the record for the youngest Japanese world champion, a record that has stood for over 30 years!
The exhibition, fought in front of a live crowd, saw Kameda starting aggressively and being all over Ioka, who looked very much like a man who had seen better days, and not someone who was expecting to have the youngster all over him. Early on Ioka looked tired and Kameda was going as far as to taunting the former champion.
With a live crowd in attendance Kameda, who had spent the first round with headgear on, removed the headgear and continued to look too aggressive, too good and too quick for Ioka, who looked clumsy and old. Even when Ioka did have moments he seemed to struggle with the footwork of Kameda who showed a lot of defensive ability and a smart boxing brain.
For those that haven't seen this before we have include the full documentary below, with the exhibition starting around 16 minutes into the video.
Given what Kameda would go on to do, this was a great glimpse at his ability, and with it being shown on TBS this was a huge opportunity for the youngster to shine. He took that chance and made the very most of it!
A bit of a longer one here for the Tales from the East series, and something a little bit different.
One of the many things we don't really talk about much on this site, though we realise we should, is the pre-war fighters. Those who made a name for themselves before World War 2. Admittedly there isn't many fighters who are noteworthy enough to really spend time talking about in detail, but there are certainly some who deserve a lot more attention than they get. Today we look at one such fighter in the form of Yoichiro Hanada (93-37-28-1, 1)*.
Who? You may ask. Well Hanada was one of the most notable pre-war, and even post-war, Japanese fighters having a career that stretched almost 20 years, featured 160 bouts, and saw him record possibly the lowest known KO rather for someone with over 50 wins. He was also a massive player in the Japanese scene of the time.
Born in 1915 Hanada would be one of the standout Japanese amateurs of his time. He had reported won the All Japan Japanese Amateur Flyweight title in 1932 before turning professional in late 1933 with the then fledgling Teiken. His amateur skills were clear, he was quick, had good footwork but a lack of power, something we'll talk about a little later.
As a professional Hanada would win his debut, but lose his second pro bout, just weeks later, and his early record was blotchy to say the least. After 15 bouts he was 6-4-5, with those 15 bouts coming in a 12 month period. Not only was he inconsistent in terms of results, but he was busy and that busy schedule allowed him to develop his skills and tools. Towards the end of 1934 he fought against Isamu Ito for the vacant Japanese Flyweight, and won a 10 round decision.
Before we go any further we just need to make something clear. This wasn't the Japanese title we know now. In fact this title win pre-dated the Japan Boxing Commission by around 20 years, but it was still a major win for Hanada and began what may well be the longest reign, of any title, by any fighter.
After winning the Japanese title in 1934 Hanada began to find his groove in the ring, and won all 3 of his bouts in 1935. He made his first defense of the belt In 1936, against ISamu Ito, the man he beat for the belt originally. That same year he also fought outside of Japan for the first time, losing to future world champion Little Dado in the Philippines, where he also fought Speedy Cabanela, and beat "Little Thunderstorm" in China. In fact in 1936 he had 12 recorded bouts, including his only 4 bouts outside of Japan, remaining at him for the rest of his career. Interestingly the bout with Dado is listed by some Japanese sources is as being for the original Oriental title, a belt which predates the current OPBF title.
Hanada made his second Japanese title defence in 1937, defeating the Hajime Sakamoto. In total he fought 8 times during the year, with his sole loss from the year coming to Filipino fighter Young Dumaguilas.
Through the late 1930's Hanada had a high level of activity, though struggled to maintain along winning streak, going into 1940 with a record of 31-12-13. That same sort of inconsistency ran through 1940. Sadly for Hanada his form completely fell apart in 1941 and 1942, going 1-7-2 at one point in his career.
As 1942 came to an end it appeared that Hanada's career was also at an end. He was now 30 years old, had had 82 fights and boasted a record of 45-22-15. The war had left Japan a mess and it seemed almost certain that Hanada was done.
Hanada would be out of the ring from July 1942 to April 1946, close to 4 years, before returning. Despite being out of the ring for a lengthy amount of time Hanada would make up for lost time with 20 bouts in 1946. Amazingly Hanada went unbeaten the entire year, with 15 wins, 4 draws and a No Contest. That form ran into 1947 where he scored arguably the biggest win of his career, defeating Yoshio Shirai in July. That was the same Yoshio Shirai who would later become the first Japanese world champion in 1952.
In August 1947, the month after Shirai, Hanada fought in a Japanese title eliminator for the belt which had become vacant due to him not defending it in since before the war. He would then reclaim the belt in September, when he beat Hideo Nagahara
In 1949 Hanada would become a 2-weight champion as he defeated Hiroshi Horiguchi for the Japanese Bantamweight title. Horiguchi, the brother of the hugely popular Piston Horiguchi, had began his career in 1943, won the Bantamweight title in 1947 and would remain one of the top Japanese fighters at the weight through to the end of his career.
Just a month after Hanada beat Horiguchi he recorded his sole stoppage win, defeating Shohei Yamaguchi by TKO in the 4th round. This was after more than 100 bouts for Hanada, and more than 70 wins. Rather oddly the only other stoppage loss on Yamaguchi's record was a stoppage to Horiguchi.
Sadly for Hanada his reign as the Japanese Bantamweight champion was short lived and he would lose the belt back to Horiguchi just 3 months later. The two would actually clash in a rubber match, in a non-title bout, at the end of the year with that bout ending in a draw.
In January 1949 Hanada would return to Flyweight and attempt to defend his Flyweight title against Yoshio Shirai in a rematch of their 1947 bout. This time Shirai would prove too good for his countryman, taking him down with a left uppercut to the body. Hanada failed to beat the count. This was a particularly notable bout and seemed to be the passing of the torch in many ways for Japanese boxing. One of their big pre-war stars losing to the man who would fly the flag for Japanese boxing through the 1950's.
The loss to Shirai helped Shirai and his trainer Alvin Robert Cahn begin the ground work on taking Shirai to a world title in 1952, with Cahn's scientific boxing training proving vital to how Japan began to develop the sport. It also ended any claim the Hanada had to being the Japanese Flyweight champion, more than a decade after first winning the title.
Despite losing the Japanese title to Shirai that wasn't the end of the Hanada story as he continued fighter, running up close to another 20 wins, before his career fell apart in 1951. Hanada, like many greats, simply went on too long and suffered 6 straight losses, 3 by stoppage, to end his career on a low. A low that wasn't helped by his out of the ring antics, and it was known that he enjoyed drinking, with reports being that he had been drinking the day before his rematch with Shirai. It may not have made any difference against the future world champion, but it certainly didn't help his cause.
Although not listed on boxrec Japanese sources list Hanada's final bout as having come on February 7th 1953 to Sumio Katsumata
Having mentioned that Hanada only scored a single stoppage there's thought to be two difference reasons for this. First his style was very much based the reason he was dubbed "Ima Ushiwakamaru", which essentially a nickname used to explain his agility. Essentially he didn't sit on on his punches so they had little power. It's also worth noting that he apparently lacked the middle finger on his right hand, further limiting his power.
One other thing that was quite notable about Hanada, albeit limited to his Flyweight reign. In 1943 Toshimitsu Kushihashi was regarded as being the national Flyweight champion, though the term was never used. It's worth nothing that Hanada did beat him in 1946 before officially reclaiming the title in 1947. With this in mind some regard his reign of 14 years, from December 1934 to January 1949, as the longest in Japanese boxing history. Whilst the reign was broken, due to his need to reclaim the title, the reign is still regarded by some as the longest by any Japanese fighter.
Sadly Hanada passed away in 1966, though details regarding his death are unclear. It's not reported as to how he died, or on what date.
Whilst not the star Piston Horiguchi was Hanada is still a very significant figure in Japanese boxing history. His lengthy reign as the Japanese Flyweight champion, winning the Flyweight and Bantamweight titles, fighting Small Dado and then, eventually, passing the torch to Shirai are all key parts of his legacy.
*There is some dispute over Hanada's record. All sources agree he had around 160 fights, around 93 wins, either 37 or 38 losses, 27 draws and then 1 No Decision and 4 exhibitions, which are recorded in some sources. The notable different is the 1953 loss to Katsumata, which is noted on several Japanese sources, but not Boxrec. Given how pre-war record keeping was done there is a chance that Hanada had more bouts than is on his official record.
Earlier this year we began doing some short historical pieces about individuals from the sport. We intend to continue them later in the year, but for now we have decided to spin that idea off slightly and focus less on an individuals and more on the stories we see from the East. Today we look at an incident from Spring 1987 that featured a then 16 year old youngster and a man preparing to challenge for a world title. The story isn't too well known in the west, but was a hot topic in Japanese boxing circles around the time, and helped increase the aura around one of Japanese boxing's future stars.
Lets begin by taking you all back to early 1987. Bernardo Pinago had vacated the WBA Bantamweight title, to move up in weight, and to fill the vacancy, just weeks later Takuya Muguruma was going to face Panama's Azael Moran.
Muguruma was a fighter from the Osaka Teiken gym, along with a promising young amateur fighter by the name of Joichiro Tatsuyoshi.
At the time Tatsuyoshi was a promising 16 year old amateur with an 11-0 (11) record in the unpaid ranks.
To help prepare for the bout with Muguruma an agreement was made for Moran to spar a Japanese amateur provided by the gym. We tend to see these types of things quite often a few days before a fight.
The amateur the gym sent for Moran to spar with, as we assume you can guess, was Tatsuyoshi.
The plan had been for Moran to use the session to show what he could do for the media in attendance. The two we scheduled to spar for 3 rounds, and it was assumed that Moran, who was highly ranked by the WBA, would have a rather easy time with the Japanese teenage, shake some rust and move on to the bout with Muguruma with no issues.
As it turned out no one told Tatsuyoshi to take it lightly on Moran. Presumeably no one thought they had to, he was inexperienced and still a kid. They would, surely, have assumed Moran, who had close to 20 pro bouts by this point and was about to fight for a world title, wasn't wanting a teenager to hold back in a spar.
What was supposed to be a 3 round spar was cancelled after just a round. Moran was left with a bloodied nose, serious embarrassment and his team were furious. They felt they had been double crossed, though it turned out their man had legitimately been embarrassed by a young, inexperienced amateur.
For Moran the who situation must have been mentally crippling. If he had been beaten up to the point of cancelling a spar with a youngster from the Osaka Teiken gym, what was Muguruma going to be able to do to him in an actual fight?
As it turned out Muguruma would stop Moran in the 5th round of their clash.
As for Tatsuyoshi the whole incident boosted his career massively. He had a huge boost to his reputation, the story of Tatsuyoshi beating up Moran went across Japan like wild fire and he was being dubbed a future world champion. Of course we all know what Tatsuyoshi would later go on to achieve, becoming a star during the 1990's. This however showed his potential very early!
*Note - There are some minor inconsistencies between different paper reports from the time, though they all agree that the two sparred, for a single round in Spring 1987, with Moran cancelling the final 2 rounds of the session due to Tatsuyoshi overwhelming him.
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).