Boxing in Japan has become an international thing in recent years, and when a top Japanese fighter is in action the entire boxing world takes note, as we saw with the WBSS Bantamweight final a year ago. Back in an era of imperial Japan however things were very, very different. The one massive star of the era was Tsuneo Horiguchi, also known as Piston Horiguchi.
Whilst we don't expect many fans to be too aware of "Piston Horiguchi" he's a really interesting fighter, one that we won't really be able to do full credit to in this series. Despite that we'll try to teach you something new about Horiguchi with the latest in this series, with 10 facts you probably didn't know about... Piston Horiguchi
1-Horiguchi was the son of a police chief
2-Horiguchi was managed by Yujiro Watanabe, the man who is dubbed the "father of boxing" in Japan. Although Watanabe isn't too well known by fight fans now a days his influence in Japan early on is huge, and he set up the first Japanese boxing, the Nippon Kento Club in 1921.
3-Horiguchi wasn't just managed by a legend, in Watanabe, but he was also trained by a Japanese boxing legend, in the form of Fuji Okamoto, who would later become the president of the Japanese Professional Boxing Association. Although Okamoto's full record isn't known he is regarded as one of the early Japanese champions, and his career pre-dates the Japanese boxing commission.
4-In 1935 Horiguchi played himself in a Japanese movie called "King of the Ring",
5-Horiguchi is reported to be a former Japanese and Oriental Featherweight champion and former Japanese Middleweight champion. It should be noted that these titles pre-date the JBC and OPBF.
6-The May 28th 1941 bout between Horiguchi and Takeshi Sasazaki was dubbed "Fight of the Century" in Japan. Althoygh the venue isn't listed on boxrec we have been informed that it was at the Ryogoku Kokugikan.
7-With over 170 bouts to his name, including at least 138 wins and 82 KO's Horiguchi holds a number of Japanese national records that are not likely to ever be beaten. It's worth noting that there are differing reports on his career record, but the minimum numbers are 176 bouts, 138 wins and 82 KO's, with others reporting he had 183 bouts, 142 wins and 87 KO's. It's worth noting that his official record, as per the gym he set up, is 138-24-14 (82), different to the Boxrec record.
8-Horiguchi passed away in October 1950 at the age of just 36. He died after being hit by a train close to Chigasaki. There are mixed reports as to what he was doing on the train line, though the two main lines of thought are that he was either drunk or suicidal.
9-On Horiguchi's grave, in Chigasaki City, there is an inscription that translates as "Fighting is my Life"
10-The gym that was set up by Horiguchi, the P-Horiguchi Gym, is now run by Horiguchi's grandson. Prior to it's current chairman it had been run by Piston's son, meaning it is now been in the family for 3 generations.
Extra Fact 1 - Horiguchi met Babe Ruth, and the two had their picture taken together, which we've included.
Extra Fact 2 - Horiguchi's career really was intense. He fit his whole 170+ fight caerer into 17 years, which included 0 fights in 1945 and just 2 bouts in 1944. Amazingly he in 1946 he fought 20 bouts, a Japanese record!
(Image courtesy of p-horiguchi.co.jp)
One thing we've discovered from our time on the internet is that everyone likes a good list, so here's one looking at some unique and interesting facts from Japanese boxing. For this list we've tried to stay away from the ultra-obvious for the most part. So with that said, hopefully something on this list will be something you've not heard or read before!
1- Tsuneo "Piston" Horiguchi has the record for the most fights and most wins in Japanese boxing history. His career, which began in 1933 and ended in 1950, just 6 months before his death, saw him rack up an incredible 142 wins from 183 fights!
To put his activity into some perspective, it would have be almost 11 fights a year had those years been normal years. Of course, they weren't normal years, with World War 2 coming right in middle of his career, leading to him fight just twice in 1944 and not at all in 1945. Meaning on average, he fought way more than 11 times a year, with his busiest year being 1946, where he fought 20 times...with the first of those fights coming on May 1st of that year!*
If you're interested in learning more about Horiguchi we did actually stumble on a documentary on him, in Japanese, which can be seen here The story of Piston Horiguchi
2-Jiro Sawada is thought to be the youngest Japanese fighter to score a professional victory, in Japan. The youngster was assumed to be 15 years, 10 months and 5 days old when he beat Jiro Kumagai in May 1954. There is some dispute over this, due to his birth records being lost in the war, though his reported date of birth is July 23rd 1938.
Although this record appears to stand for Japanese fighters on Japanese soil, it's actually been broken by fighters fighting outside of Japan. For example, Ryuto Maekawa was 15 years, 3 months and 19 days old when he won his debut in Thailand in 2011. Given how many fighters fight outside of Japan it's hard to really be sure of the youngest age for those who score a win away from home, though it's hard to believe many have done so younger than Maekawa.
If Sawada's birth date is right, he is also the youngest Japanese fighter to win an OPBF title, winning the Lightweight title before his 18th birthday.
3-The shortest recorded bout in Japanese boxing history was an all debutant affair that saw Daiki Saito take out Yasuyuki Hoshino in just 8 seconds back in 2005. This goes down as one of the shortest ever fights in boxing history, never mind Japanese boxing history, and can be seen in full underneath this article.
Bizarrely Saito would fight just once more, 4 months later when he fought to a draw, whilst Yoshino would compile a 5-5-1 (4) record, before ending his career in 2013.
4-Kazunori Tenryu, also known as Kazunori Denju, is reported to be the shortest Japanese male boxer, standing at 4'9", or just 145cm. He is a man of a few interesting historical footnotes, including being the first ever Japanese Light Flyweight champion, winning the belt in 1975 and essentially monopolising the title from 1975 to 1980, before losing to future world champion Tadashi Tomori.
Whilst Tenryu would dominate the domestic scene he sadly came up short in world and OPBF title fights, and would really only leave a mark on the Japanese scene during an 8 year career that saw him run up a 29-7-3 record. That doesn't look great though his losses were mostly to world class fighters, including Tomori, Shigeo Nakajima, Jaime Rios, and Sung Jun Kim.
5-Eijiro Kuruma really loved the Japanese Featherweight title! We often seen fighters jumping through the weight classes to claim a second or third title, for Eijiro Kuruma however there was seemingly only one title he ever wanted. The Japanese Featherweight title. He is the only man in Japanese boxing history to win the same national title 4 times. Yes he is a 4-time National Featherweight champion!
Kuruma would win the belt for the first time in January 1983, would start his second reign in March 1984, his third reign in August 1985 and his final reign in August 1986. His only bout for any other title came in a loss to OPBF Featherweight champion Sung Yun Kim in November 1986, in what was Kuruma's final bout.
Please let us know if these types of articles are something you're interested in as we're happy to provide more of this time of thing in the future and shine a little light on more small fact of boxing history!
*There is some dispute about Horiguchi's record, and the official Japanese records suggest that the most fights in a year record is held by Iwao Hakamada at 19. Hakamada's record should be noted as the JBC record though, with Horiguchi's record pre-dating the JBC which was created in 1952.
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).