Former Japanese Middleweight Yuichiro Watanabe isn't a name we expect many readers to be familiar with. He was active as a fighter in the 1970's, and despite fighting the likes of Masashi Kudo, twice, and Jae Doo Yuh his career never really saw him achieve much of note. He ran up an 11-7 (6) record and in terms of boxing his real win of note was in February 1975, when he was crowned All Japan Middleweight Rookie of the year.
Whilst Watanabe's boxing career failed to reach the heady heights of Yuh and Kudo, who both won world titles he did become a major new story more than 30 years after his final professional bout. Sadly it wasn't a positive story. Instead it was a criminal one, and will result in Watanabe spending the rest of his life behind bars.
On November 11th 2008, more than 30 years after his final bout, Watanabe had entered a house and robbed an 84 year old man of around ¥124,000. Watanabe had beaten the man, injuring the gentleman's face and abdomen, and used the money to gamble.
Just 2 days later Watanabe forced his way into another home. This time it was of an elderly couple, the 82 year old Eichi Sawada and his 79 year old wife.
At the time Watanabe was unemployed, and had no fixed address, and he was there for one reason. To rob the Sawada's of money.The 56 year old former fighter, had targeted the house due to it being big, and presumably expecting to find significant amounts of cash there, as he had at the previous house.
The robbery went on, but not without the occupants being in property, leading to Watanabe again attacking the occupants, Eichi and his wife, before getting away with around ¥40,000. Not a huge sum by any stretch of the imagination.
Whilst the wife only suffered some minor facial injuries Eichi would die just 4 days on from the robbery from a brain injury suffered at the hands of Watanabe.
Watanabe was arrested on January 5th 2009 and charged with homicide and robbery. He went on to admit what he'd done, explained he needed money, why he'd targeted the Sawada's house...then explained he'd spent the money gambling, at a Pachinko parlour.
Watanabe would be tried for both robberies, as well as the injuries and death of Eichi Sawada in 2009. The case began on April 21st and there was little the defense could have done for Watanabe, who had contracted an infection and attended the court case in a wheel chair.
Although Watanabe accepted guilt for what he'd done the defense pushed for leniency on the sentencing. They request he only get 20 years, or less, and stated that the assault was only light. As opposed to a brutal beating by a former professional fighter. The court didn't buy it. Judge Kazunori Yamada summer it up as "a ruthless and cruel crime that involves relentless assault with the skills he acquired as a professional boxer. There is no room for excuses." [Translated] He then added that the motivation was "You have committed a crime for money to feed your desire to gamble" [Translated].
The judgement, on June 16th 2009, saw Judge Yamada sentence Watanabe to life imprisonment.
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).