From April 2005 to April 2010 Hozumi Hasegawa (35-5, 15) was the star of Japanese boxing. He was the WBC Bantamweight champion, a pound-for-pound fighter and a man who oozed style and charisma. He wasn't quite the sensation that predecessor Joichiro Tatsuyoshi was, but he was still the star and the face of Japanese boxing. Since 2010 however things have been tough for the Hyogo man who has suffered 3 stoppage losses and has long looked like a fighter holding on to past glories.
This coming Friday we see Hasegawa back in the ring and looking to become a 3-weight world champion as he challenges WBC Super Bantamweight champion Hugo Ruiz (36-3, 32), a huge punching, aggressively minded fighter with a point to prove. He's defending his title for the first time, travelling to a country where he suffered a controversial loss and looking to add a huge name to his record, albeit a faded name.
At his best Hasegawa was a truly brilliant fighter. His record might not show it but he had venom in hands, as Veeraphol Sahaprom found out in their second bout, blistering hand speed and a lighting quick boxing brain. Hasegawa would do what so few can and draw a lead from an opponent, avoid it then counter with a flurry of hard shots.
Fight fans and opponents both seemed to think that Hasegawa was feather fisted but stoppages against the likes of Sahaprom and Vusi Malinga, who he stopped inside a round, showed that Hasegawa had power as well as speed. Sadly though as he got older he got slower and the split second timing that he had in his prime started to fade. As that timing faded his defense began to show cracks and he would go on to suffer stoppages to Fernando Montiel, Jhonny Gonzalez and Kiko Martinez. The loses to Montiel and Gonzalez weren't too painful but he was given a real battering by Martinez in what should really have been his final bout.
Aged 35 and with just 2 wins in the last 3 years ud wonder how Hasegawa has gotten a world title fight but it's clear he knows this will be his final chance.
Ruiz is much less distinguished than Hasegawa but at 29 he's in his prime, at 5'9” he's a huge Bantamweight and with an 82% KO rate he's a really dangerous fighter. It's fair to say he lacks in terms of notable wins, with his best victories coming against Julio Ceja, Yonfrez Parejo and Francisco Arce,but that is one of the very few criticisms that you can make of Ruiz.
The champion won his title back in February when he stopped Ceja in 51 seconds, avenging a 2015 defeat to his fellow Mexican. The defeat Ceja is one of only two losses that Ruiz has suffered in the last 8 years, with the other boxing a split decision in Japan to Koki Kameda, a decision that has left Ruiz wanting to prove a point on his return to Japan. Despite the loss to Kameda the visitor doesn't seem to be worried about the conditions in Japan and seemed to suggest that he wanted to return to defend his title in the country.
Although Ruiz is flawed, particularly in his defense, he is a very devastating and powerful fighter. He's the type of guy who hurts anyone when he lands cleanly and can't be taken lightly, as Ceja found out. He's heavy handed in both hands. Powerful, physically strong and well schooled. He's a little loopy with his shots but they have so much venom that fighters don't seem willing, or capable of, taking advantage.
Ruiz against a prime Hasegawa would have been a brilliant match up that we'd have looked forward too knowing that it could go either way. Against this Hasegawa however we can't see anything but a win for the Mexican who we suspect will be too big, too strong, too fresh,too heavy handed and too powerful for the Japanese veteran. Hasegawa might have his moments but we can't imagine him hearing the final bell here.
When we talk about modern day Japanese greats few really rival the legendary Hozumi Hasegawa (33-4, 15) a former WBC Bantamweight and Featherweight champion. This coming Wednesday sees Hasegawa, named the "Ace of Japan", trying to become just the second ever 3-weight world champion from Japan as he moves down to the Super Bantamweight division and challenger Spain's Kiko Martinez (30-4, 22), the current IBF champion.
For many fans, especially those who have seen Hasegawa's loss to Fernando Montiel and Jhonny Gonzalez, this is a suicide mission for the Japanese fighter. Martinez is vicious, hard hitting aggressive and the sort of opponent that no one really wants to fight, especially not if your durability is questioned like Hasegawa's is.
Martinez, known as La Sensación, is the sort of fighter who loves a small ring and loves feeling the like the top dog in in a fight. He's all about pressure, determined aggression, heavy hands and has no fear of travelling to get the bigger fights. This has been shown in his numerous fights outside of his native Spain, included his title winning effort against Jhonatan Romero.
At his best Martinez is truly a beast. Unfortunately for him he's an awful one dimensional beast. He has one mentality and that is to be the boss. He has no real counter boxing ability, doesn't really know how to fight on the back foot and can, as Carl Frampton showed, be out boxed and walk into shots with his basic flaws there to take advantage of. Unfortunately for Martinez's opponents he's basic but he's strong, durable, mentally tough and very destructive. Trying to out boxing him can look easy but it's mentally and physically draining and soon or later the pressure tends to take it's toll.
Whilst fans might be thinking this is a bout Hasegawa simply cannot win, the Japanese fighter is confident he can win, he's been a long and intense training camp, he's been sparring hard, spending time in camp with Shinsuke Yamanaka and doing all he can to prepare for the challenge of Martinez. It's been like Hasegawa knows this is his last chance to become a world champion again and this is his only chance toe become a 3-weight world champion. At 33 years old this really could actually be his final bout, not just his final world title bout.
As we all know Hasegawa made his name as an outstanding Bantamweight and held the WBC title at 118lbs between 2005 and 2010. He began the reign by beating Veeraphol Sahaprom who had himself beaten the insanely popular Joichiro Tatsuyoshi and it was hoped that Hasegawa would be the next "Joe", the next mega star of Japanese boxing. Unfortunately that failed to happen but he has still been a star and has still been in some great fights to watch as he's combined free flowing offence, fantastic speed, great combinations and very under-rated power. It's that power and speed that will always make Hasegawa dangerous and although he was viewed by many in the west as a "feather fisted" fighter he is still the only man to stop the teak tough Vusi Malinga, we he did inside a round!
Hasegawa in his pomp was sensational and a genuine joy to watch. Unfortunately for him he has slowed and his foot movement isn't what it once was. Fortunately for fans this has made his more aggressive, more willing to set his feet and happier to exchange. It's a dangerous tactic against a fighter with heavy hands like Kiko Martinez but will certainly lead to some fan friendly action, for as long as it lasts.
We're expecting Martinez to start fast and try to rough up Hasegawa. Within a round we expect to know whether or not Hasegawa can take the power of Martinez or whether the bout is going to finish earlier. We'd be shocked didn't start off aggressively though with Hasegawa's more refined boxing skills the challenger could very easily connect a bomb on to the chin of Martinez.
Going in many are under-rating Hasegawa's power though he could very easily land a counter to send Martinez to the canvas. For us that's Hasegawa's big chance because he won't survive the ferocious onslaught of the champion and instead will need to fight fire with fire.
Sadly for Hasegawa we're leaning towards Martinez to win with a mid-round stoppage, though we'd be shocked if this was anything less than explosive and exciting for as long as it lasts.
(Image courtesy of boxmob)
World Title Previews
The biggest fights get broken down as we try to predict who will come out on top in the up coming world title bouts.