Usually when we look at upsets in this series we focus on upsets where the Asian fighter walked away with the win. Today however we are going to look at a bout where the Asian fighter was on the wrong end of a notable, and often forgotten, upset. The bout is a brutal and one sided one, that saw history being set, and deserves to be more than just a footnote in boxing annals, though is sadly very much a forgotten bout.
Hideki Todaka (17-2-1, 8) Vs Leo Gamez (32-7-1, 24) I
In one corner was WBA Super Flyweight champion Hideki Todaka. Aged 27 he was supposed in his prime and was in great form. Despite having 2 losses against his name he had avoided defeat in his last 14 bouts, going unbeaten for more than 5 years, after a 4-2 start to his pro career. During his unbeaten run he had claimed the Japanese Light Flyweight title, in 1996, and gone on to fill out his frame and take the WBA Super Flyweight title in 1999.
Although not amazingly well remembered now a days Todaka was regarded as one of the faces of Japanese boxing at this time and a notable star in Nagoya, where he was based. After winning the WBA Super Flyweight title, beating Jesus Rojas in their second bout, following a technical draw, he had made successful defenses against Akihiko Nago and Yokthai Sithoar whilst proving his ability and building his profile.
At the start of the year 2000 Todaka was ranked #3 by Ring Magazine and just months into the year he solidified his ranking with a win over Yokthai, who had began the year ranked #6. He was legitimately regarded as one of the very best in the division behind only In Joo Cho and Mark Johnson. In October 2000 he returned to the ring for his third defense.
In the opposite corner to Todaka was 37 year old Venezuelan veteran Leo Gamez. Although Gamez was a solid name at this point he was seen as being well past his best and it seemed like he had been brought over to Japan to be an easy defense for Todaka. "Torito", as he was known, hadn't fought in over a year, with his previous bout being a KO loss to Sornpichai Kratingdaenggym 13 months earlier. Not only had he been inactive but he had lost 3 of his previous 6 and had gone 5-4 since 1995.
Despite being regarded as a faded force Gamez had been a major player in his prime. He had been very closely associated with the WBA and had won the WBA Minimumweight title in 1988, before adding the WBA Light Flyweight and Flyweight titles to his collection. Despite his haul of world titles Gamez had been quite smart in how he had gone about his title bouts. He had been the first WBA Minimumweight champion, he had won the vacant WBA Light Flyweight title and had won the WBA Flyweight title from the rather limited Hugo Rafael Soto, who was making his first defense. Notably none of his reigns had lasted long, and he had never really been the best in any division.
Given his age, inactivity and form few gave Gamez any chance against Todaka in Nagoya.
In the early moments Todaka looked bigger, younger, stronger and more powerful than Gamez. The challenger was forced backwards pretty much every time Todaka landed and it looked like the pre-fight perceptions were right, Gamez was over-matched. Despite that Gamez was finding some very clean, accurate shots, boxing well off his jab and using the ring well whilst making Todaka land on the arms and fall short.
Sadly for Todaka his successes in round 1 were quickly forgotten, with round 2 being a nightmare for him as he struggled to defend against anything Gamez threw his way. Time and time again Gamez would land clean shots and make Todaka miss. It was a testament to Todaka's spirit that he shrugged off some of the shots that Games was starting to landing, such as the big right hands Gamez began landing at will mid way through the round. Todaka was trying to come forward but was eating a lot of leather.
The punishment from Gamez intensified in round 3, as he continued hammering Todaka with huge shots, likely realising that Todaka was having some sort of problems, which we'll get on to a little later. The punishment added up by the end of round 4 Todaka was bleeding from the mouth, a tell tale sign of a broken jaw. Given the shots he was taking it was little wonder, and Games could certainly smell blood.
Todaka came out for round 5 busy, active, throwing a lot of jabs and trying to turn the bout around. He was hungry and brave, and putting in a great effort, despite being clearly a damaged fighter. This was his best round since the opening stanza, and he gave everything, likely knowing his title was slipping away. Gamez took it, defended himself well when he needed to and continued to target Todaka's head with hooks and uppercuts on the inside and big right hands at range. Towards the end of the round it seemed clear that Gamez had seen out the worst of the storm from Todaka.
Gamez resumed control in round 6, landing big shots with both hands. Todaka continued to grit his teeth and fight hard, but repeatedly missed, and walked into huge shots. Round after round he was taking massive uppercuts, being countered and having his already damaged jaw tagged clear, over and over. Every time Todaka built some momentum Gamez took the play away with head shots and punished Todaka, with interest.
In round 7 Gamez put his foot on the gas and hurt Todaka who stumbled. Todaka responded by yelling at Gamez, who followed up by hammering Todaka with sustained head shots until Todaka hit the canvas.
Todaka was done and he knew it, staying down a broken, beaten man.
With the win Gamez became the first fighter to win world titles at 105, 108, 112 and 115lbs. That's a feat that even now, more than 20 years on, has only been done by 3 other fighters.
It was a massive shock, not just that Gamez had won but how bad Todaka had looked. The rising star of Japan had looked like a brave but out classed fighter by someone most assumed was on the slide, big time. It was later revealed that Todaka had gone into the bout suffering from Ophthalmoplegia, an issue that caused him to see 2, or even 3, Gamez's. It was why he struggled to defend against Gamez's shots and why he struggled to land his own.
Sadly for Gamez his reign was a short one, losing in his first defense to Celes Kobayashi. He would then lose 4 of his 6 subsequent bouts, including a rematch with Todaka in 2003 for the WBA "interim" Bantamweight title. He would retire after a 2005 loss to Poonsawat Kratingdaenggym, whilst the wrong side of 40.
After this loss Todaka took close to 17 months away from the ring. That gave him time to heal his jaw and rest his body, which was in desperate need of a break. He picked up 3 low level wins in 2002 before beating Gamez in a rematch, then losing to Julio Zarate in 2004 and retired at the age of 30.
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).