For the latest in our "Reliving the Finish" series we're looking at a relatively obscure 1990 bout for the Japanese Featherweight title. Whilst the bout isn't too well known in the west it is one of the biggest upsets ever on the Japanese domestic scene, and is true proof that a fighter's record really doesn't tell how good they can be or how dangerous they can be. In fact going in the man scoring the finish had just 1 KO in 9 professional bouts, but ended with on of the most surprising KO's of the year.
Toshikazu Sono (5-4, 1) vs Seiji Asakawa (16-1-1, 12)
Going into the bout the Japanese Featherweight champion was Seiji Asakawa, a man who looked like he was heading on to bigger and better things. He had recorded 5 title defenses, and looked like a man with serious power, a lot of potential and a very bright future. He was returning to Kobe, where he was from, to defend the title in what was supposed to be a tune up for a potential world title fight in 1991.
Toshikazu Sono on the other hand was a fighter going no where. He had lost his last bout, less than 2 months earlier, and was 1-3 in his last 4. He was getting his first title fight, but was expected to be easy for Asakawa to deal with.
After 3 fairly competitive rounds, that Asakawa was winning but was being forced to work in, it seemed the champion had managed to loosen up and was going to start going through the gears and would eventually break down Sono.
With more than 2 minutes gone in round 4 Asakawa found himself backed onto the ropes, and Sono threw a big looping right, then a monstrous left hook that landed hard on Asakawa's jaw. The left hand dropped the champion, hard. To his credit Asakawa got to his knees but had no idea where he was when the referee counted 10.
The knockout saw the title change hands, but wasn't the birth of a new star, as Sono retired following the win, retiring with a bizarre 6-4 (2) record. Asakawa on the other hand would later fight in 2 world title bouts, but would suffer stoppage losses in both of those bouts.
Not all shocking results take place on a global scale and today we look a real hidden upset, but still a massive one that took place in 1990 in Japan for the Japanese Featherweight title. The bout is one of the biggest upsets of the year, and just looking at the records of the men involved it was one we doubt anyone would have expected going into the bout.
November 16th 1990
Kobe, Hyogo, Japan
Seiji Asakawa (16-1-1, 12) vs Toshikazu Sono (5-4, 1)
In early 1989 Seiji Asakawa won the Japanese Featherweight title, beating Kazuya Kano. His first defense was a shoot out with the popular Kngo Fukuda, which saw both men being dropped, and by November 1990 he had scored 5 defenses of the belt. He looked well on his way to getting a world title fight, with this supposed to be a tune up, and was proving to be a popular fighter, in fun fights, with big power and a real will to win. At just 22 he ticked a lot of boxes for a future star, and even after his eventual retirement he remained a popular figure among Japanese boxing fans for his likeable personality and boyish good looks. Here he was defending the title for the 6th time and doing it in his home of Kobe.
On the other hand Toshikazu Sono was an unknown. He had won just 5 of his 9 bouts and had scored just a single stoppage. Just 2 months earlier he had been beaten by Yoshikazu Tamasaki, which was his 3rd loss in 4 bouts, and had done absolutely nothing to get a Japanese title fight. The only real thing of note on his record was winning the West Japan Rookie of the Year in October 1987, before losing the All Japan final inside a round against Hideki Uchikoshi.
When we said the bout was supposed to be a tune up for Asakawa before a future world title fight, we were being serious. Asakawa was not supposed to be tested here. He was supposed to sharpen his tools, keep busy and, in 1991, potentially get a world title bout. No one told Sono he was there to lose, and no one told him he couldn't punch. As it turned out, he could bang when he needed to, and he was tougher than expected.
From opening round Sono, who was in white shorts for those interested, was proving himself very capable and was holding his own with the much fancied Asakawa. He wasn't hurting the champion, but was certainly not being blown away or overwhelmed. He held his own in exchanges, and moved around the ring like a man who was a lot more talented than his record suggested. It seemed like Asakawa was doing enough to win the opening round, but it was close and really competitive.
Asakawa opened up more towards the end of round 2 and seemed like he was close to closing the show as the bell rang. He was all smiles in the corner and Sono actually began walking away from his corner before realising where he was when the bell went.
Round 3 was another competitive one, though again it seemed like Asakawa was in control. Sono wasn't looking in awe of the champion, but Asakawa was just doing every thing a little bit better than Sono, and moved through the gears in spurts, as he looked to prove a point, but also get rounds under his belt. He was however forced to take a warning shot of sorts in the final few seconds of the round.
Asakawa should have taken the warning to heart. He didn't.
After a relatively competitive first 2 minutes of round 4 Asakawa began to open up and again seemed to be showing the class of being able to take a round with a good final minute. This time around Sono responded and with with 30 seconds of the round left a left hook from Sono dropped Asakawa face first. Asakawa wasn't out cold, but failed to beat the 10 count.
The new champion was mobbed my his family and friends, whilst the rest of the arena fell silent. They were in shock. The local star had just had everything, his title, his expected world title fight and his aura, destroyed from a single punch.
Surprisingly Sono never actually fought again after this, instead going into the family business. Asakawa on the other hand would rebuild, reclaim the Japanese title, fights for world titles, twice, and claim the OPBF title.
The bout, at the time, was regarded as one of the biggest upsets in Japanese boxing, and even now, 30 years on, it's hard to think of too many bigger surprises in the country.
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).