One of the most unique things about Japanese boxing is the sheer number of tournaments the country holds. They aren't always the most amazing of tournaments, but tournament boxing is well and truly alive in Japan. Be it the Rookie of the Year, the B Class Dangan tournaments, tournaments to crown Youth Champions and more recently the God's Left, Knock Out Dynamite and Hajime No Ippo 30th anniversary tournaments the Japanese scene has been packed with them.
Today we take a look at a rarely remembered 4 man tournament from 1997, called the "Rising Sun Cup" which was a 4 man Heavyweight tournament held in Tokyo featuring 4 international Heavyweights. Not one of the fighters was a particularly big name, and the tournament is hard to get concrete detail on.
Despite how hard it is to find details about the thought process behind the tournament all 3 bouts were aired on Japan TV.
The tournament kicked off on July 14th with the semi-finals.
One of those semi-final bouts saw 6'7" American giant Anthony Green (6-1) take on inexperienced American foe Derrick Johnson (1-0). If the aim was to shore the Japanese fans about how skilled Heavyweights could be, this wasn't the bout to do that job. Although Green looked an odd site with his dyed hair, his skill level, poor to say the least. Johnson however was even worse rarely throwing a punch before being stopped in the dying seconds of the opening round. This win saw Green progress to the final.
The other semi final saw the tragic Calvin Lampkin (8-2, 6) take on South African foe Anton Nel (6-3-2, 3), in a more even looking bout on paper. Lampkin, known as "Cowboy" was seen as genuine talent and his record coming into this bout had only seen him losing the talented Ike Ibeabuchi. Nel on the other hand wasn't regarded very well, and when he retired in 2016 his career record stood at 20-13-3. Although limited Nel could could punch, and 80% of his career wins were by stoppage. Sadly for Nell Lampkin could could also punch, and the South African was stopped after being dropped twice in just over a minute.
Less than two months after their semi final bouts the winners clashed, with Anthony Green (7-1, 1) taking on Calvin Lampkin (9-2, 7) in the final of the tournament on September 8th. With both men blowing out their semi-final opponents the expectations wouldn't have been for the final to be a slow, trudging affair, with Lampkin looking slower than he had in his first bout, and Green effectively using his size. Sadly this final ended up being a bit of a stinker, as fans got a very slow bout from two men who really didn't manage to put their foot on the gas for more than a few seconds at a time.
Although the final was a dull bout it was still notable for ending what was a very peculiar tournament, even for Japanese boxing.
After the tournament none of the 4 men really had great success.
Johnson ended his career in 2003 with a 2-6-1 record and as mentioned Nel ended his career 20-13-3 (16), though did notch a win over Danie Venter, and shared the ring with Henry Akinwande, Sebastiaan Rothmann and Danny Williams.
Green fought on until 1999, compiling a 10-6 (2) record, and scored notable wins over Bert cooper and Carl Williams, before suffering 4 straight stoppages to end his career, including a defeat to Joe Mesi in what was Green's final bout
As for Lampkin, the most talented of the 4 fighters by some distance, his career was interesting to say the least. He was forced to retire in 2000 due to hepatitis, with a record of 19-3 (11), losing his final bout in 1999 to Olympic silver medal winner Paea Wolfgramm. Sadly Lampkin died of complications from cancer in 2001.
This odd tournament from Japanese boxing wasn't a great success, sadly, and it was seemingly never replicated. It was an interesting idea, but with the final being as enjoyable as a colonoscopy we can understand why these 4 man Heavyweight tournaments never really caught on with the Japanese audiences.
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).