Boxing in Japan

Japan Boxing

Japanese Boxing

Jason Coskrey

Boxing in Japan is usually of the lower weight-class variety, but that hasn't stopped Japan from producing a number of top-flight fighters.

One of the greatest was current Japanese Boxing Commission president Masahiko "Fighting" Harada.

Harada is one of the top fighters in Japanese history, winning five world championships in the flyweight and bantamweight divisions during his career. He's also the first Japanese to be inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame.

Harada began fighting in 1960, knocking out Isami Masui in his first professional bout. He would win next 23 fights before being beaten on points by Edmundo Esparza in 10 rounds in 1962.

He won the WBA flyweight title for the first time in October 10 of the same year, knocking out Pone Kingpetch in the first round. He later lost the title to Kingpetch in the rematch on January 12 of 1963.

Boxing in Japan.

Fighting Harada was a champion again by the spring of 1965, defeating Eder Jofre by decision to win the unified WBA and WBC bantamweight title.

He had successful results over the rest of his career but would not regain the title again. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1996, joining Kingpetch and Jofre as Hall of Famers. He became the president of the Japanese Boxing Commission in 2002. He is also the owner of the Fighting Harada Boxing Gym in Yokohama.

Harada is perhaps the most famous boxer in Japanese history and many would argue that he's also the best. Puerto Rican great Wilfredo Gomez was even said to once remark that Harada was his idol as a child.

Joichiro Tatsuyoshi was another great Japanese fighter, capturing the bantamweight title three times from 1991-1998.

Tatsuyoshi was introduced to boxing at an early age and was even named after the title character from boxing anime Ashita no Jo.

Joichiro Tatsuyoshi won the Japanese amateur bantamweight title at age 17 and finished his amateur record 18-1-0.

Joichiro Tatsuyoshi was a champion four fights into his professional career after capturing the Japanese bantamweight title and won the WBC bantamweight title four fights later in 1991.

Joichiro Tatsuyoshi was sidelined with an eye injury prior to his first title defense which led to Victor Rabanales becoming the interim champion in Tatsuyoshi's absence.

Tatsuyoshi challenged Rabanales upon his return but lost by TKO in the ninth round. He fought Rabanales again in 1993, this time prevailing in a 12-round decision to capture the title.

Tatsuyoshi nearly retired after another eye injury forced him to again give up the title. But he made another comeback and had the title returned after a triumphant return in a bout in Hawaii.

Tatsuyoshi lost the title to Yasuei Yakushiji in 1994 and didn't get it back until 1997 when he defeated undefeated champion Sirimongkol Singwancha.

Tatsuyoshi lost the title to Veerapol Sahaprom in 1998 then lost the rematch. He was inactive until 2002 when he made a winning return to the ring. Another injury, this time to his left knee, sidelined him again and the former champion has not fought since September 2003.

Among active boxers, Daisuke Naito is one of Japan's most popular figures.

Born in 1974, Naito made his professional debut in 1996. He lost his first bout in 2001 when he challenged Japanese flyweight title-holder Takefumi Sakata.

There was more disappointment in his first world title shot in 2002. Naito was knocked out 34 seconds into his bout against WBC Flyweight champion Pongsaklek Wonjongkam, which set the record for the quickest knockout in a world flyweight title match.

After capturing the Japanese flyweight title in 2004, Naito suffered another defeat to Wonjongkam in 2005, losing the bout by decision after a seventh-round stoppage.

Daisuke Naito finally defeated the Thai champion on July 18, 2007, winning a 12-round decision to capture the WBC title and ending Wonjongkam's streak of 17 successful title defenses.

Naito won again later in the year, defeating Daiki Kameda by unanimous decision in his first defense of the title. The fight was marred by several unsportsmanlike tactics by the challenger and his corner.

The bout led to a year-long ban for Kameda and a three month suspension for his brother Koki, who was in his younger brother's corner and instructed him to elbow Naito in the eyes.

Naito and Wonjongkam clashed for a fourth time in March of 2008 with Naito retaining the title after the bout ended in a draw. Daisuke Naito then defended against Tomonobu Shimizu in July of that year and was surprised by Koki Kameda, who appeared ringside to offer his congratulations.

Naito made two more successful title defenses before facing Koki Kameda late in 2009. Kameda won that bout in a 12-round decision to take the title from Naito.

Kameda is one of the country's most popular fighters in his own right. Though his career has been marred by controversy and criticism, Kameda is 22-0 as a professional.

Kameda is usually derided by many as too cocky and flamboyant but none of that slowed his rise through the ranks to set up his dethroning of the popular Naito.

Some other Japanese greats include Masa Ohba, who was 35-2-1 with 16 KOs in his career and is a former WBA flyweight champion, Hiroyuki Ebihara, another WBA flyweight champion, who was 65-5-1 with 36 KOs.

Southpaw Hozumi Hasagawa is a former WBC bantamweight champ with a record of 26-2 with 10 KO while Kuniaki Shibata won the WBC featherweight title, and WBA and WBC super featherweight belts during his career (47-6-3, 25 KOs).

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