One thing that is pretty interesting about boxing is just how much of an impact an unexpected shock can give the sport. Not every upset leads the fighters to greatness, but today's "What a shock" looks at an upset so big it ended up leaving the winner on the radar of fans around the globe right through the end of his career. It also ended up destroying the aura of invincibility the other fighter had.
April 9th 2011
MGM Grand, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA
Nobuhiro Ishida (22-6-2, 7) Vs James Kirkland (27-0, 24)
Coming in to this bout James Kirkland was the "Mandingo Warrior", a huge punching bad boy. He was a wrecking ball and was looking to make up for lost time. He had been an emerging contender in 2008 before out of the ring issues slowed his climb to a world title fight. After ending 2008 with a 24-0 (21) record he would go on to stop Joel Julio in early 2009 before being out of the ring for almost 2 years due to issues with the law. After returning in 2011 Kirkland had notched two blow out wins in the space of 13 days to get some more traction in his career before meeting with little known Japanese fighter Nobuhiro Ishida a few weeks later. This was supposed to be another easy win for Kirkland against a little known Japanese fighter who was expected to get blitzed and allow Kirkland to shake some more ring rust and look good in the process.
Available as a 35/2 under-dog Nobuhiro Ishida was supposed to be the next fall guy for Kirkland. He was supposed to be there to make Kirkland look good on a card headlined by Marcos Maidana facing Erik Morales. With just 7 stoppage wins in 28 bouts the 6'1" Japanese fighter was given no chance. He had only fought outside of Japan once before, losing to Saul Alvarez's brother Rigoberto Alvarez in Mexico 6 months prior to facing Kirkland, and his best wins up to this point were two decisions against Venezuelan puncher Marco Antonio Avendano. Coming into the bout he hadn't beaten a single fighter that American fans would recognise at the time and hadn't scored a stoppage in over 3 years and was now 35 years old.
The commentary made it known what was expected here. They explained it was a "stay busy fight for Kirkland", "build Kirkland back up to the top" and a "showcase fight". Their was no buttering this up from Max Kellerman and the folks at HBO who were clear. This will be easy for Kirkland.
Despite coming in as a man being given almost no chance by anyone Ishida shocked everyone by putting Kirkland down with a left hand after around 20 seconds, incorrectly called by Jim Lampley as a counter right. Ishida would keep the pressure on Kirkland and drop his man again after just 70 seconds. Kirkland got back to his feet but Ishida continued to land counters as Kirkland tried to fight back. In less than 2 minutes Kirkland was dropped for a third time. This resulted in Joe Cortez stopping the bout, giving Ishida a monstrous upset win, and his first ever opening round T/KO victory.
The post fight showed just how over-looked Ishida was with HBO having no translator on hand to help interview Ishida before speaking to Kirkland. Things were then made worse with Kirkland suggesting it was a poor stoppage, drawing loud boos from the crowd.
After this bout Ishida would go on to have an interesting run of fights which saw him facing off with Paul Williams, Dmitry Pirog and Gennady Golovkin all in the space of 2 years. He would later challenge for the Japanese Heavyweight title, losing to Kyotaro Fujimoto, before retiring and setting up his own gym in Japan.
Kirkland on the other hand fought at recently as last year, and since losing to Ishida he has gone 7-1 (6), with his only loss since Ishida coming to Saul "Canelo" Alvarez.
More than a month since we last looked at a major upset we return to our "What a Shock!" series and cover the final upset of 2013, which saw a former world champion lose to a then unheralded Thai youngster.
December 31st 2013
Bodymaker Colosseum, Osaka, Osaka, Japan
Ryo Miyazaki (20-0-3, 11) Vs Fahlan Sakkreerin Jr (24-2, 16)
Japan's Ryo Miyazaki will never be remembered as one the greats but at one point he was seen as a future multi-weight world champion and a key fighter for the Ioka gym, along side Kazuto Ioka. He had won the OPBF Light Flyweight title before dropping down in weight to win the WBA Minimumweight title. In 2013 Miyazaki made the decision to move back up in weight, allowing his body to fill out as he looked to begin his pursuit of a title at 108lbs. Coming into this bout he had scored 10 straight wins, with 6 coming by stoppage and was expected to fight for a second world title in Spring 2014. He just had to get past Fahlan Sakkreerin Jr first.
The 20 year old Thai was, at the time, an unknown outside of Thailand.At the time Fahlan had had 26 bouts, compiling a good looking record, but there was nothing of any note on it. All 26 of hos bouts, up to this point, were in Thailand, against a mix of limited Thai's and terrible foreign imports. Worryingly for him he had even lost to some of those, including a 2012 defeat to Yodpichai Sithsaithong. The one thing he seemed to have was his name, and his father had been a former world champion back in the early 1990's. Of course this was him in the ring and not his father, and he was expected to be little more than a tune up for Miyazaki. Despite his competition Fahlan was an attractive opponent for Miyazaki and was ranked #6 by the IBF, giving Miyazaki a clear reward for his expected win.
What few had anticipated, given that Miyazaki was moving up in weight, was that he would totally mess up on the scales. What was expected to be an easy move up in weight resulted with him essentially passing out on the scales, with fighter showing symptoms of dehydration. This should have seen the bout cancelled, and he really was unfit to fight.
From the first round it was clear that Miyazaki was a shell of the fighter who had been the WBA Minimumweight champion just months earlier. The intensity wasn't there, he looked unsure of himself, and was slow, sluggish and almost seemed gun shy. The Thai, who was stepping up massively, used his jab, focused on keeping distance and had an easy task through the first round.
Fahlan continued to make things look easy in round 2 as Miyazaki began to struggle even more. He wasn't being hurt, but he wasn't doing anything to make things competitive. It was only the fact Fahlan was being cautious that we weren't seeing Miyazaki put in any trouble. Thant changed in round 3.
Just after the midway point of round 3 Fahlan landed a left hook, then a combination that ended with a push to the back of the head. It sent Miyzaki to the canvas, and whilst correctly ruled a push it seemed to give Fahlan the instant confidence that his man was done. A follow up attack, not long after the bout resumed, sent Miyazaki down. He got to his feet, wobbling around and left the referee with no option but to step in.
Interestingly just 4 months after this win, the biggest of his career, Fahlan would face a then 1-0 Takuma Inoue, and lose. Fahlan's career would continue on until earlier this year, when he announced he was retiring, at the age of 26, due to the economic situation of the sport. When he hung them up he had a record of 39-7-1 (21) and had mixed with the likes of Katsunari Takayama, Milan Melindo and Felix Alvarado. Although he failed to win a title he certainly fought a who's who and got out with his health intact.
As for Miyzaki his career never really rebounded. He scored 4 wins over the following 2 years to get a second world title bout, losing to Ryoichi Taguchi in 2016, before retiring. What had been a promising career before this whimpered out afterwards.
The second in our "What a Shock" series looks at another of the Ring Magazine Upset of the Year fights, and comes from almost 40 years ago. It was a genuinely notable result at the time, and a real surprise, though one that is now sadly ill remembered.
August 2nd 1980
Joe Louis Arena, Detroit, Michigan, USA
Samuel Serrano (42-4-1, 14) Vs Yasutsune Uehara (25-4, 20)
Puerto Rican fighter Samuel Serrano is one of the many forgotten Puerto Rican's from yesterday. His career began way back in 1969 and ended in 1997, when he was 44. Whilst he didn't fight consistently in the tail of his career he was certainly a man who had a very long and successful career, being a 2-time WBA Super Featherweight champion, and a very skilled fighter who went up against a number of top names.
After losing 4 of his first 24 bouts Serrano had rebuilt with a 23 fight unbeaten run, including 22 wins. That win over seen him win the WBA title in his second show and make 10 defenses, travelling to Ecuador, Venezuela, Japan and South Africa, as well as defending at home before running into the little known Yasutsune Uehara.
Although not a big name outside of Japan Uehara had turned professional with a lot of expectations on his shoulders following an excellent 117-8 (87) amateur record. He signed with Kyoei and took one of the largest signing fees in Japanese boxing history, with those in Japan tipping him for big things. By 1980 however and with 4 losses in his first 29 bouts few gave Uehara much of a chance of doing anything at the top level. He come up short in a previous world title fight, against Ben Villaflor, and had also suffered set backs against Masa Ito and Joe Lim. Despite the poor looking record he had won 10 in a row before getting a shot at Serrano.
This was expected to be Serrano's 11th straight defense, and his first win in the US.
The talented Puerto Rican did what was expected early on. He out boxed the Japanese fighter, using his skills, timing and jab to remain on the outside, landing at range and racking up the points in the early going. Through the first 5 rounds it was a shut out in favour of the champion who looked so much better than the challenger. Uehara never stopped trying, but never seemed to get going and struggled to even close to Serrano at times. When he did get close that's when Serrano clinched and forced the referee to split them.
For almost 6 complete rounds things went as Serrano and his team would have wished. That was until late in round 6, when Uehara's right hand finally landed clean and gave Serrano a warning shot. It was something Serrano take heed of and he was tagged with another only a few seconds later. Then a third. This one was clean, sending the incredibly skilled Serrano down, hard. He couldn't beat the count, and was instead counted out as Uehara took the 6th round KO win at a time of 2:59 seconds.
Although this was a short lived success for Uehara, who lost a rematch only 8 months later, it was still a massive upset and one of the very few big wins for Uehara, who had beaten Ricardo Arredondo very early in his career. It was also only the 5th time a Japanese fighter had won a world title outside of Japan.
Our new "What a Shock!" feature is where we look at major upsets that have some connection to Asia.
As a result these will be full of spoilers, so please be warned that we will be making it very obvious who won and lost these bouts. Thankfully we won't be using any recent (last 6 months) bouts in this section so there is clearly some lee-way for fans catching up on recent contests.
We also won't reveal the names of the fighters in the title of any of these articles, but they certainly won't be hard to find, if you do open them.
With that said, lets get on to our first "What a shock!"
October 10th 2009
Yoyogi #2 Gymnasium, Tokyo, Japan
Jorge Linares (27-0, 18) Vs Juan Carlos Salgado (20-0-1, 14)
In 2009 Jorge Linares was seen as the rising star of Venezuela and one of the big faces of the future for Japanese promotional power house Teiken. He had also recently inked a co-promotional deal with Golden Boy Promotions and this was supposed to be one of, if not the, final fight in Japan before he launched a full scale attack on the American market. He was a wonderfully talented fighter, one of the best natural talents in the sport, and a fighter who looked like he was going to be a genuine star and was already a 2-weight world champion. The only problem was his chin, and he had been dropped a few times as he rose through the ranks, including being put down by Chawan So Vorapin in 2003 and by Jean Javier Sotelo in 2005. Despite the question marks over his chin the view was that a win here would open the door to a unification bout.
Relatively little was known about Salgado who was 24 but without a win of real note on his record. He was unbeaten but untested and all of his bouts had taken place in either Mexico or the US, except for a single fight in Costa Rica that ended with a draw. He had stopped just 1 of his previous 4 opponents coming in to this and although perhaps seen as a danger man on the Mexican scene he was just supposed to be another easy win for Linares. Even those who were fans of Salgado viewed him as a prospect, and one with issues in terms of activity, going up against one of the most talented fighters out there.
What no one expected to see was for Salgado to put Linares on his backside after just 46 seconds with pretty much the first meaningful punch he landed. Linares got to his feet but, as we've seen from Linares in recent years, he never recovered and Salgado was all over him as soon as the bout continued. Salgado's follow up forced the referee to step in and completely silence the venue.
Fan had come to see Linares show what he could do, and instead their hero had been taken out in just 73 seconds!
This is short, but also a real, real shock!
Sure, what we know now about Linares makes this win look less impressive than it was at the time, but back in 2009 this was a massive surprise and one of the biggest upsets of the year.
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).