Boxing can give us some weird shocks and surprises. Usually they came from the under-dog either stopping their man or out boxing them. Usually at least. Today we bring you the shock that saw the favourite injuring himself and being unable to continue, in what is a bit of a weird that is often nor forgotten, despite the fact it happened less than 20 years ago, and was for a major world title.
December 18th 2004
Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan
Eagle Den Junlaphan (13-0, 5) Vs Isaac Bustos (23-6-3, 12)
By December 2004 Japanese based Thai "Eagle" Den Junlaphan, who had gone through a few different names due to sponsors and was Eagle Kyowa at the time, had started to look like one of the best Minimumweights on the planet. Despite only having 13 fights to his name he had scored notable wins over the likes of Nico Thomas, Noel Tuancao and Jose Antonio Aguirre. The win over Aguirre, in January of 2004, had seen the Thai claim the WBC Minimumweight title, ending Aguirre's reign after 7 successful defenses.
In his first defense of the title Junlaphan defeated Satoshi Kogumazaka with a clear decision win and he looked like a star in the making. He appeared to have all the tools for a long reign.
In his second defense Junlaphan took on Mexican challenger Isaac Bustos, a decent fighter but not someone who screamed "future world champion". Bustos' record was misleading, as he had gone 7-6-1 (2) in his first 14 bouts before going 16-0-2 in his following 18, but there was little on it to suggest he'd be a real challenge for Junlaphan.
The bout started as many would have expected. Junlaphan was using his speed, movement and ring craft well through the first round, landing pretty much all the clean shots on the tough and rugged Mexican challenger. Bustos wasn't there to fall over but he looked pretty much over-matched and out of his depth through the first round.
Bustos was again caught regularly through round 2, with the crowd appreciating the local favourite and the skills he was showing as he was able to pretty much do what he wanted and when. It seemed the champion was going to score the win sooner or later. It seemed inevitable after just 2 rounds that Bustos had nothing to challenger Junlaphan with.
Junlaphan came out firing again in round 3. It seemed like he was beginning to feel like he could beat up the Mexican challenger and was landing some gorgeous shots. Until 55 seconds into the round when it appeared that he badly injured his right shoulder. For the rest of the round he fought one handed whilst Bustos came after him. To his credit Junlaphan fought well with one arm, but it was a huge problem. He couldn't punch with it, he couldn't get his hand up to protect his chin and even stopping it from dangling seemed to leave him in agonising pain. To his credit he managed to survive round 3 but was in total agony.
Junlaphan was sent out for round 4 but after just 35 seconds of the round enough was enough and he called a halt on the contest rather than letting the injury get worse.
It was a horrible ending to his reign, especially given his brilliant he had looked in the first 2 rounds, and a genuinely big shock in the division, with many regarding Junlaphan as one of the very best in the division at the time.
Bustos' reign was a short one. He lost the belt just 4 months later, to Katsunari Takayama, who himself lost, in his first defense against Junlaphan who recaptured the belt just 8 months after his bout with Bustos.
Upsets arre a weird thing to talk about. Sometimes people call them, sometimes they don't. For us a key indicator as to whether a bout is an upset or not is the betting odds before a fight takes place. With that in mind, we bring you one of the biggest betting upsets since we starting this site, in our latest "What a Shock" article. And it's one that genuinely did result in our jaws dropping at the time. It ended one manes career and boosted another fighter, who went on to have a true FOTY contender only a few fights later.
July 28th 2017
Shanghai Oriental Sports Center, Shanghai, China
Zou Shiming (9-1, 2) vs Sho Kimura (14-1-2, 7)
In the summer of 2017 we saw Zou Shiming, the then WBO Flyweight champion, essentially taking control of his own career and frustrating Bob Arum and Top Rank. This resulted in Shiming setting up a title defense of his own in Shanghai against little known Japanese challenger Sho Kimura. Shiming took responsibility for the show, with his wife Ran Ying Yin, and he was looking to make his first defense of the WBO Flyweight title.
Shiming had won the WBO title the previous November but had had to wait more than 8 months to defend it. When he did return to the ring he selected the then unknown Sho Kimura as his opponent.
Prior to turning professional Shiming was an amateur standout and was tipped for success as a professional. He never really adapted to the pros in the way Top Rank had hoped, but he was still a capable boxer, with good speed, movement and boxing IQ. He had struggled but was expected to make an easy defense here.
In the ring Shiming was a quick, sharp fighter, who lacked power but used his tools and amateur experience well. He had been a professional for a few years but was still a fighter with a very amateur style. It was effective, but not very fan friendly or interesting.
As for Kimura he really was unknown. Of course now we all know who Kimura is, but back in 2017 his only win of note had been a narrow decision win over Masahiro Sakamoto for the WBO Asia Pacific title. He had no other wins of any note other than that one. In fact going deeper on his record he had lost inside a round on his debut. Not only had he done little in his boxing career, but he was also working as a delivery man outside of the ring, and was an unknown, even in Japan.
Stylistically Kimura was an aggressive pressure fighter, but a rather basic one, relying more on his strength and stamina than technical ability. He had proven he could go 12 rounds, when he beat Sakamoto, but didn't look like a special boxer during that fight.
It's worth noting that not only did Kimura have only a single win of note, Shiming was promoting the event but also no Japanese fighter had ever won a world title on Chinese soil before. It seemed an easy first defense for the champion and the bookies though as much, making Shiming a favourite, with odds between 1/12 and 1/40 whilst Kimura was a 9/1 under-dog.
From the off this was a pretty fun fight. Kimura immediately brought the pressure and Shiming was forced to let his hands go to try and create space. Although the two styles was massively different it made for a great dynamic between boxer and pressure fighter.
As the rounds went on Shiming was starting to out work Kimura, but never managed to demoralise the challenger, who was getting out landed, but landing the better shots, and never looked like he was tiring. This allowed Shiming to establish an early lead but he had been forced to work hard every round.
As we entered the later rounds the pressure from Kimura kept coming, and the wheels were beginning to come undone on Shiming. He was was slowing drastically, his hands were coming down and Kimura was getting the last word in on the exchanges. Kimura was cut, but determined, whilst Shiming was fighting on fumes, and looking under real pressure.
The pressure just didn't stop and the early lead of Shiming's was seemingly worn away as we entered round 10, however with the bout being in China however it was always going to be hard to trust the scoring. In round 11 Kimura took the the bout of the judges hands as he continued to pressure and eventually forced an exhausted Shiming to the canvas. Shiming beat the count but was done and the referee waved off the bout.
The loss essentially ended Shiming's career, with the Chinese fighter suffering eye issues that forced him to get emergency medical attention and he came close to losing sight in one eye. As for Kimura the bout launched his career massively, and he would go on to defend the belt twice before losing in the 2018 FOTY contender against Kosei Tanaka.
Although it's easy to down play what a shock this was, we need to remember Kimura was 9/1 to win! This was a serious upset and a massive shock, even if now, knowing what we do about Kimura, we would all back the Japanese fighter to beat Shiming.
Shocks in boxing can be strange things when we look back on them. Today we look at a bout that, at the time, was a monstrous upset but now, more than a decade on, the newer fans to the sport may not even realise this bout was an upset. In fact many new fans will look back on this and think it little more than a coming out performance, when the reality is that it was a massive upset that helped put a previously rather unknown fighter on the map. Big time. This bout, from 2007, was a huge upset, but on reflection that can be easily forgotten.
July 7th 2007
Harbour Yard Arena, Bridgeport, Connecticut, USA
Nonito Donaire (17-1, 10) Vs Vic Darchinyan (28-0, 22)
In one corner was the "Raging Bull" Vic Darchinyan, an unbeaten Australian based Armenian fighter who had been ripping up the Flyweight division. The Darchinyan wasn't just 28-0 but had been destroying his competition. He had claimed the IBF title in 2004, when he stopped the then 30-0 Irene Pacheco and had made 6 defenses of the title. From those 6 defenses 5 were by stoppage with the one decision being a technical decision over Donaire's brother Glenn Donaire. The 31 year old was aggressive, strong, tough and in great form with some even ranking him in the pound for pound rankings.
Not only was Darchinyan destructive but he was lout, brash, arrogant and getting the Flyweight division a lot of attention outside of the usual markets for the little men, Asia and Latin America.
Whilst Darchinyan was seen as a star of the lower weights not too much was known about the 24 year old Nonito Donaire. He had mostly been fighting as a Super Flyweight but dropped the extra 3lbs to face off with Darchinyan and had lost once, early in his career. Although Donaire was a Filipino he had fought most of his career in the US, but had done so against some relatively weak opposition. In his first 18 bouts the most noteworthy opponent he had faced was probably Ilido Julio, a one time fringe contender, or Kaichon Sor Vorapin, who had fought for a world title in 2005. Neither of whom were particularly notable.
Donaire was seen as the next victim for Darchinyan. The next man for him to chew up and spit out as he continued to steamroll his way into the bigger money fights. Despite that being the view going in no one had managed to convince Donaire that he was there to lose.
From the opening round it was clear Donaire was full of confidence, starting fairly fast and letting his shots go early. It was an unexpected tactic from Donaire, but one that seemed to make a statement of intent. Darchinyan might be the man with the reputation as the danger man but Donaire was going to try to bully the bully. Dachinyan had moments in the first round, but it was a much better round for Donaire than the unbeaten champion.
Despite the good opening round from Donaire we saw Darchinyan start to work his way into the bout. Donaire continued to punish Darchinyan in the second round, though it was a competitive bout as Darchinyan started to find something of a groove. Round 3 however was a very comfortable one from Donaire who was landing big counters when Darchinyan rushed in and controlled the tempo at range without taking the risks he had in the early rounds. The most notable thing about round 3 however was that we saw Darchinyan rocked, hard, by a left hook.
Sporting a cut from round 3 Darchinyan was in a hole as we entered round 4, and unfortunately for the champion he was being timed and countered over and over. Worryingly for Darchinyan his much relied upon left hand was landing but having no effect at all on Donaire, who was taking things with no issue at all.
Darchinyan continued to struggle in round 5, being picked off by some very solid shots. Despite them landing clean Darchinyan was taking them well. And then he didn't.
Midway through round 5 Darchinyan rushed in and was caught by an absolute beauty of a left hook. He hit the canvas hard but managed to get back to his feet just as the referee counted 7, stumbling head first into the ropes as he did so. Moments later Darchinyan was flat back on his back. Although he had got to his feet he hadn't been able to remain on them. Soon afterwards he had his team around him whilst Donaire and his team celebrated.
Amazing since this bout both men have done great things. Donaire is still a relevant fighter today, reaching the WBSS Bantamweight more than 12 years after this win. By the time he had that WBSS final had won world titles up to Featherweight and almost certainly booked a place in the Hall of Fame.
As for Darchinyan he went on to unify the 3 major titles at Super Flyweight, and was a notable contender at Bantamweight. His last fight came in 2017, when he was 41 and although perhaps not a popular choice, he certainly deserves to find his name on the ballot, in the future, for the Hall of Fame.
Not all upsets happen at the highest level, and not all get a lot of attention. Today we look a rather obscure upset from 2018, but that was truly shocking a a man regarded as a true Thai prospect wasn't just beaten, but was completely taken out by someone who was, for all intents, little more than a Filipino journeyman. Saying that however the journeyman in question is one of the best journeyman in the sport.
January 19th 2018
Pathum Thani, Thailand
Saenganan Sithsaithong (19-0, 7) vs Edison Berwela (15-37-8, 4)
At the start of 2018 Thai teenager Saenganan Sithsaithong, also known as Thiranan Matsali, looked to be on his way to big things. Despite only being 18 years old he had amassed a 19-0 record, claimed a number of minor titles and had looked like he was heading in the direction of something big. Of course at 18 that "something big" was still some way away, but he was seen as a real hopeful for Thai boxing. Several years earlier their was talk about Saenganan viewing the Thai record for the youngest world champion. They held off on pushing the Thai like that but the fact their was even talk showed that he was seen as someone worth getting behind.
In the opposite corner to Saenganan was Filipino journeyman Edison Berwela. The 34 year old had lost 37 of his 62 bouts at this point. He was rarely stopped but had little in terms of stopping power, with just 5 stoppage wins. Coming in to this he had won just 2 of his previous 12 bouts and had gained a reputation as the type of fighter who will put in an effort but ultimately lose.
Notably in 9 previous bouts outside of the Philippines Berwela had failed to score a single win. He was regularly travelling to lose bouts, and the same was expected again here.
The bout started slowly with Berwela looking like he was going to fight in sparring partner made. Oddly Saenganan was himself fighting with very little intensity and he seemed to almost look lazy himself. He did nothing to get Berwela's respect and did nothing with any intensity.
In round 2 it seemed that Berwela's confidence had grown and he moved from sparring partner mentality to that of a fighter who began to look like he felt he could win. He had gotten his belief, and Saenganan was doing nothing to take it away. Although Berwela was a journeyman he was, and still is, a capable fighter. That was shown when he dropped the Thai in round 3. He then began looking for the stoppage.
Realising Berwela was better than his record suggested Saenganan began to fight scared, moving away from the Filipino and hold every time he needed to.
Sadly for the supposed future off Thai boxing Saenganan couldn't keep Berwela away for ever, and in round 6 he was put down a second time, from a hard, sweeping left hand landing clean on his jaw. This time Saenganan failed to get as Berwela took the biggest win of his career, and scored a major shock.
The only negative for Berwela is that he failed to make weight for the bout, and as a result missed out on the WBC Asian Boxing Council Bantamweight title.
Interestingly both men are stilled active fighters. Since this win Berwela has gone 2-7 whilst Saenganan has gone 7-0 and rebuild his career following this shocking loss.
When we talk about big upsets one of our absolute favourites came in early 2014 when our attention was focused on Monaco, for a Gennady Golovkin lead show in Monte Carlo. It wasn't Golovkin in the upset, but in many ways the upset is much more memorable than the bout that did feature the Kazakh star the show.
Rey Loreto (17-13, 9) Vs Nkosinathi Joyi (24-2-0-1, 17) I
In one corner was little known Filipino Rey Loreto, who was a complete unknown outside of the Philippines. With losses in 13 of his 30 bouts he wasn't seen as being a particularly testing opponent for Joyi and with only 9 stoppages in 30 bouts few would suggest he was a puncher. Like many Filipino fighters however Loreto's record only tells a fraction of the real story, and he was very much an improving youngster at this point. Even with 30 bouts to his name he was only 23 years old and was very much a different fighter who lost his first 4 bouts, or the 20 year old who was once 8-11 (4). Those improvements had been shown just a few months earlier when he battered former world champion Pornsawan Porpramook into retirement.
Whilst Loreto was an unknown Filipino youngster Joyi was someone hardcore fans had known about for quite some time. He had been the IBF Minmumweight champion for more than 3 years, holding the belt from June 2009 to September 2012, and had scored notable wins over the likes of Florante Condes, Raul Garcia and Katsunari Takayama. When he finally lost his title, to Mario Rodriguez in Mexico, some of the blame was put down to the conditions and a loss to Hekkie Budler in 2013 seemed to signal that it was time for Joyi to move up in weight.
On paper at least this looked like being an easy win for Joyi at Light Flyweight as he began the hunt for a second divisional world title. What happened was very different to what was expected.
The fight started with both men looking to get their distance and it wasn't the most incredible of starts, but was a fun way to kick the bout off. It seemed Joyi was the more polished fighter though Loreto wasn't intimidated by the reputation of the South African who pressed forward for the most part. Loreto did land a few solid shots of his own but for the most part they seemed wild shots, whilst there was more technical work from Joyi. The South African probably did enough to take the opening round, but it was close.
In round 2 the South African seemed to settle more and began to keep Loreto at range more effectively. The Filipino still looked like he was there to win, but it was Joyi who seemed to get his rhythm and got behind a busy, long jab. It was clear he and his team were aware that throwing down with Loreto wasn't necessary and should be avoided where possible. Towards the end of the round however the good work of Joyi's came to an end with Loreto unloading on the South African in the corner, making the round a tricky one to score.
Through the first two rounds we had seen enough of Loreto to know he was dangerous, but few would have anticipated what we saw to begin round 3. Loreto really just went after Joyi, forcing a fire fight on the South Africa and after 25 seconds he landed a monstrous left hand onto the jaw of Joyi. The shot shook the South African who avoided an immediate follow up but couldn't avoid them all, and one landed like peach dropping Joyi flat on his back, and there was no getting up from it.
The upset was massive, one of the biggest of 2014, and really put Loreto on the map, building on his win over Pornsawan in Thailand. Loreto would then prove it was no fluke when he stopped inside a round in a rematch in 2015. Since then Joyi has gone 5-1-1 and is still an active fighter, a real surprise given what we saw 6 years ago! As for Loreto he is also active and ended up getting a world title fight in 2017, losing a decision to Knockout CP Freshmart. More recently Loreto fought in Japan losing to rising young stud Ginjiro Shigeoka.
Shocks and surprised are simply part of boxing. They happen and there is no way to expect them, or anticipate them. Sure there might be signs, sometimes, of what is to come but they rarely show their face at the time and when we see the signs we often have the advantage of 20-20 hindsight vision. We look at one such bout today as we take you all the way back to 1977.
July 19th 1977
Yokohama, Kanagawa, Japan
Shuzo Yoshida (23-10-2, 12) vs Dong Kyun Yum (50-4-6, 21) II
We suspect that some of the of these semi-regular features will have some pretty recognisable names, this one doesn't. In fact from the two fighters the name of Dong Kyum Yum is the more rrecognisable, and we suspect only hardcore fans will even recognise that.
The Korean was a notable fighter in the 1970's, winning the Korea, OPBF and WBC Super Bantamweight titles during a long and successful career. Whilst there had certainly been some controversy along the way he had managed to score very notable wins over the likes of Royal Kobayashi, Spider Nemoto and Jose Cervantes. His world title reign only last 6 months but his OPBF title reign consisted of 5 defenses and spanned close to 2 years.
Shuzo Yoshida on the other hand wasn't much of a success and is certainly not someone we suspect many fans will be familiar with. In fact outside of Japanese boxing circles the number of fans who will recognise his name is tiny. His most notable win was a decision over Flipper Uehara, for the Japanese Featherweight title, but he lost in a rematch just 2 months later. That was the highlight of Yoshida's otherwise unremarkable career up to 1977.
With 9 losses from his first 34 bouts Yoshida wasn't expected to test Yum when the two men clashed the first time, in April 1977 in Korea. Yoshida however put in a good enough effort against the then WBC Super Bantamweight champion, in a non-title bout, to get a rematch with the Korean in Yokohama just 3 months later. In between the bouts Yoshida was rested, spending 3 months completely out of the ring, whilst Yum had lost his title to Wilfredo Gomez and lost a decision to Soo Hwan Hong.
We're not sure what the idea was for Yum to fight 4 times in just over 3 months but it was clear he couldn't possible be in the best of shape here. Despite that he was still expected to win against the Japanese fighter.
The first round of the bout saw Yoshida looking to create space and room, boxing at range. Yum had no issue with that and looked comfortable, he didn't throw much, not a surprise given the level of activity he had had in recent months, but he didn't look in any problems in a slow and pedestrian opening round. Yum applied pressure but didn't do much with the pressure before heading on to the back foot himself and looking to use his educated footwork.
If we're being honest round 1 was completely unremarkable.
Round 2 was much of the same early on, nothing much to talk about. Both men sticking to mostly their jabs, and happy to fight at range in a slow tempo affair. It was almost like a public spar, with neither man showing any sort of intensity. With just seconds in the round left however Yoshida caught Yum with a peach of a lefthook-straight right hand combination, dropping the Korean as the round ended. Yum went to his corner, didn't look interested as the referee counted 10 and just left the ring.
Whilst the "KO" wasn't a clean one, Yoshida had shocked the former world champion, and scored a massive upset win.
Surprisingly this was only Yum's second stoppage loss, and would turn out to be his final defeat. He bounced back with 4 wins before ending his career in 1980 with a draw against Soo Hwan Hong. As for Yoshida, he went 4-4 (4) afterwards before he retired, losing in his final bout in 1980.
This is a real oddity of a result, and finish, but on hindsight, Yum's team were likely pushing him too much too soon and it took it's toll on him.
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.
Larry Merchant once dubbed boxing the "Theater of the Unexpected" and over the years we've seen that phrase prove true on a fairly infrequent, but yet notable, basis. We might not see a "lot" of upsets, but when we see them some are just incredibly big shocks. Today we look at one which is still a result that confounds all understanding of the sport, despite having happened 29 years ago. It featured a man who regularly features in the top 10 listing of his division and a man who ended up losing 25 of his 70 career bouts. This was among the most unexpected shocks we have seen in recent years.
December 19th 1990
Great Western Forum, Inglewood, California, USA
Rolando Pascua (24-5, 8) Vs Humberto Gonzalez (30-0, 24)
Ask anyone to name their Light Flyweight top 10 of all time and Humberto "Chiquita" Gonzalez will be on their list somewhere. Likely in the top 5. Cliff Rold, of Boxing Scene, listed him at #5 in 2009, Scott Levinson for Proboxing-Fans put him at #3 and numerous others have listed him in a similar place. In 1990 he was in his pomp, he had travelled to Korea and beaten Yulk Woo Lee for the WBC title, defended it against Jung Koo Chang and picked up 4 more defenses. He had shown vicious power, great skills and was unbeaten. At the time he was widely regarded as a man who could attract a fan base to the little guys, and was beginning to fight pretty regularly in the US, with this being his third bout at the Great Western Forum in 1990.
Rolando Pascua, known as "Jojo" on the other hand wouldn't make it on to anyone's top 10 list of all time Light Flyweights. In fact he may even struggle to make it into a Filipino top 5, never mind an all time great list. It wouldn't be a disservice to rank him outside of the top 30 for Asian fighters at the weight. Going into his bout with Gonzalez he had scored 2 straight wins, but less than 11 months removed from a loss to Napa Kiatwanchai. He had never won a bout outside of the Philippines and was 10-5 in his previous 15 bouts, after a solid 14-0 start. He had given good performances on the road but was certainly not regarded as a legitimate test for the unbeaten, and destructive, Gonzalez.
What we ended up getting was one of the true shocks of 1990! A year that had more than it's share of big surprises.
Gonzalez seemed to come in confidently, and was landing some solid shots from the early moments, but to his credit Pascua did well in controlling range and used his reach and speed well. Pascua was able to frustrate Gonzalez through out the first round and even when he was tagged he still remained composed and stuck with his gameplan.
The pressure from Gonzalez ramped up in round 2 but Pascua continued to do well and continued to dictate the range whilst chipping away at Gonzalez.
The little Mexican was left cut in round 4, when he tried to up the top and go to war with Pascua. Although the shots from Gonzalez were the better ones, he was busted up by an accidental head clash. The cut was a major problem for a man who had already been struggling with the reach and range, and was now struggling with a nasty cut. Everything was simply getting tougher and tougher for the defending champion, despite the fact he was starting to land with growing frequency.
In round 6 we again saw the two men unloading shots, wildly trading in some thrilling sequences. The back and forth action was the beginning of the end, and the start of one of the year's biggest upsets!
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.
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).