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.
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).