Azn Badger's Blog

What About the Lysine Contingency…?

I Believe In Toshiaki Nishioka

Pictured: Toshiaki Nishioka posing with Rafael Marquez.

Well folks, it’s that time again.

Tomorrow night, a Japanese boxer will once again challenge fate and attempt to defend their world title on American soil.

Said boxer is Toshiaki Nishioka, a hard-punching and tenacious veteran who will be defending his Super Bantamweight title against the equally powerful, but slighty shopworn Rafael Marquez.

It might not sound like a big deal to us here in the states, but to date, no Japanese fighter has ever succeeded in defending a legit world title on American soil.

The last champion to step up to the challenge, was former Jr. Featherweight champion Akifumi Shimoda, who if you’ll recall was knocked senseless in the 7th round via a left hook to the jaw from the challenger, and now champion; Rico Ramos.

Pictured: Shimoda, laid out after a monster left hook from Ramos.

Though it hurt to watch Shimoda lose in such dramatic fashion, but in my heart I knew it was to be expected.

I keep tabs on quite a few Japanese fighters, and in that sense I feel the fact that Shimoda was never one of them should speak to his abilities/promise as a fighter.

Besides, the man he won the title from, Ryo Li Lee; was perhaps the biggest underdog champs in recent memory, so in many ways it’s surprising that Teiken was willing to take the gamble in sending Shimoda to the states without a few more tune-up fights under his belt.

That being said, unlike Shimoda, I truly believe Toshiaki Nishioka is the real deal:

Hozumi Hasegawa was, and forever will be, “my guy” in Japanese boxing, but deep down I’ve always known he was little more than a upper-middle tier fighter.

He was never as good as I hoped he would be, but I “picked” him, and wasn’t about to lose faith in him just because of a few losses.

A few REALLY BAD losses...

That’s just who I am.

While Nishioka may not be “my guy,” the fact of the matter is, he’s likely one of the best Japanese world champion boxers of his generation.

2 names always pop up in discussions involving the current state of Japanese boxing, namely that of Koki Kameda, and Toshiaki Nishioka.

While Kameda is easily the more popular fighter, especially among Japanese fans, in my mind I view the older and more accomplished Nishioka as the better and more complete fighter.

Kameda has immense potential, but I don’t see his no-jab, counter heavy-style sustaining him on the world stage for very long.

Plus, HE LOOKS LIKE A MONKEY. And he smells funny.

Like many Japanese boxers, Nishioka took a few losses early in his career, though this in no way prevented his career from being a consistent march upward in terms of quality of opposition.

Left-handed and atypically powerful and gutsy for a Japanese fighter, Nishioka’s only real sore spot in his career was in the early 2000’s when he fought the immensely prolific and longstanding Bantamweight champ, Veeraphol Sahaprom a mind-boggling 4 times in as many years.

During this series of fights, Nishioka lost to, and drew with Sahaprom 2 times, with each fight going the distance and being closely contested on the scorecards.

Fun fact:

Despite Nishioka’s 4 attempts to dethrone Sahaprom, it was my boy Hozumi Hasegawa who ultimately succeeded in 2004 via unanimous decision.

Not only that, Hasegawa KO’d Sahaprom in the rematch the following year, thereby cementing his reputation as a true Bantamweight champion.

Nishioka got a badass clip, so I figure it’s only fair I give one to my boy Hasegawa as well:

In fighting Sahaprom, I feel Nishioka came up short due to a clash of styles.

Nishioka isn’t the most elusive of fighters, making him easy prey for Sahaprom’s cagey tactics and seasoned boxing.

In this way, Hasegawa’s superior handspeed and constant lateral movement were likely responsible for his victories over Sahaprom.

Nishioka may not have Hasegawa’s speed or elusiveness, but he does have a solid chin, power in both hands, and the tenacity of a pit bull.

That counts for a lot when you’re a world class Southpaw with soild fundamentals.

At 35 years old, may not have many fights left in him, nor does his “on paper” reputation paint him as the best of fighters, but as of writing this, I truly believe him to be the best active boxer in Japan, and potentially in his weight class.

Despite his age, Nishioka hasn’t lost since 2004, and in the days since then, his career has blossomed in a renaissance of sorts, rewarding him with sound victories and highlight reel knockouts against solid competition.

He may not have been “my guy” in Hasegawa’s heyday, but now, when I’m forced to pick between him and the impetuous Koki Kameda, I think I’m finally ready to call Nishioka “my guy” in Japanese boxing.

Again, HE LOOKS LIKE A MONKEY.

I believed in him all those times he came this close to edging a victory against Sahaprom.

I believed in him when he finally won the title from Genaro Garcia.

I believed in him when he knocked the piss out of Jhonny Gonzalez.

And tomorrow night, when he faces another cagey veteran in the form of Rafael Marquez, I will believe in Toshiaki Nishioka all the same.

Do it for history!  Do it for Japan!

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Hozumi Hasegawa Got Flattened… Again.

Jesus fuck man… I sure know how to pick ’em, right?

Less than 2 months ago, I pounded out a heartfelt article about Hozumi Hasegawa, a Kobe based Japanese boxer; and my unusual attachment to him.

Totally not gay, I swear.

Anyway, I’d never make it my business to say Hasegawa is an atypically skillful fighter, or even the best Japanese boxer; but fate led to me “choosing” him as a guy I’d keep my eye on, for better or for worse.

That being said, the past year or so has definitely been the worst year Hasegawa’s had in… well, his entire career.

Put it this way, up until April of last year; the guy hadn’t lost since 2001, had set a new Japanese record for consecutive title defenses, and was on a decent KO streak despite not having much of a punch.

He was on top of the world, only to have his reputation and legacy thrown in the shitter via a humiliating TKO loss to Fernando Montiel inside of 4 rounds.

Protip: Blocking with your face is not a sound tactic.

Given that I’ve already talked at great length about that whole fiasco, I think it’s best we move on; lest I lose my temper and start breakin’ shit.

Anyway, following the loss to Montiel, Hasegawa stepped up 2 weight classes to campaign at Featherweight against Juan Carlos Burgos.

Despite the added weight, Hasegawa looked good at 126; retaining most of his quickness and punch accuracy while pounding out a unanimous decision over a very game Burgos.

Which brings us to last night’s fight against Jhonny Gonzalez.

Jhonny Gonzalez is a very good, and more importantly; very tough fighter.

I suppose it’s also worth mentioning that Mr. Gonzalez is also quite heavy handed.

"Bubba beats, Bubba beats, Bubba beats, PEOPLE UP."

That being said, in a big night for Japanese champions, Hasegawa was the only one (Takahiro Ao and Toshiaki Nishioka also fought that night) that was unable to score a win.

While I have yet to sit down to watch the actual fights, from what I’ve read; it sounds like Hasegawa got put on queer street much in the same fashion that he did during his fight with Fernando Montiel.

That is to say, he did well in the opening rounds/minutes of the fight, only to guess wrong on a counter opportunity; and take exactly the wrong punch on the wrong part of his skull.

As I mentioned earlier, Hasegawa’s my boy; I’ll watch and read about his fights for as long as he has them, but even so, it’s no fun seeing your hero get flattened in such humiliating fashion.

Probably the worst part of Hasegawa’s 2 losses over the past year, is the fact that both came as a result of very sudden and highly variable circumstances.

Like I said, to my knowledge the guy was very much in the fight up until the moment he got KO’d, making it a case where it’s hard to say whether he lost as a result of being the lesser or fighter, or just ’cause he got caught by one good punch.

What really grinds my gears about this most recent loss though, is that I remember watching Toshiaki Nishioka beat the ever-loving fuck outta’ Jhonny Gonzalez just 2 years ago.

Does that mean Nishioka is just that much better than Hasegawa, that Gonzalez improved that much since then, or that Hasegawa might be on the downward spiral?

I don’t know, but it’s questions like that always make it hard to have heroes in the sport of boxing.

Trust me, I “chose” Miguel Cotto back when he first appeared on HBO; and look at all the drama he’s spawned over the past few years alone…

Ugh, hopefully I'll never have to see this again...

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Donaire vs. Montiel: Vengeance By Proxy

A funny thing happened way back in 2005.

You see, I’ve been a fan of boxing ever since the first time I watched Rocky with my old man; but up until 2005, there were no active Asian, or more specifically; Japanese fighters that caught my interest as being noteworthy in the sport.

Sure, Toshiaki Nishioka and Daisuke Naito were, and are pretty good fighters; but nothing about them ever seemed competitive on the world stage I.E. the elite level of the sport.

The simple fact of the matter is that boxing simply isn’t all that popular in Japan, nor do I believe the Japanese physiology is all that well-suited for the sport in the first place.

We’re short, we’ve got stubby limbs, we’ve got a reputation for being pillow-fisted, and we have a tendency to grope/fondle others in public.

Pictured: How we say "hello."

Bullshit aside, a major factor in the stunted progress of Japanese boxing, is the simple fact that the country is an island nation.

Combine the insane travel arrangements required to put fights together on Japanese soil between a foreigner and a national, with the public’s general lack of interest in the sport; and you have an equation that results in Japanese fighters rarely having the opportunity to test their mettle against the world’s best, nor having the in-house competition available to them to prepare them for said contests.

Needless to say, most of what I read (I never got to see an Asian boxer on TV until Manny Pacquiao’s HBO debut) about Japanese fighters consisted of Ring Magazine articles about them getting flattened by Mexicans, or worse yet, beaten by their countrymen in boring 12 round jab-fests.

For most of my life, hall of famers like Khaosai Galaxy, Gabriel Elorde, Pancho Villa, and Masahiko “Fighting” Harada would serve as my only “Azn Boxing Heroes.”

That all changed for me when I discovered the Kobe based bantamweight, Hozumi Hasegawa.

Not a handsome man by any standard, but a good fighter nonetheless...

Hasegawa first caught my attention when he dethroned long-reigning bantamweight champion, Veeraphol Sahaprom.

To put things in perspective, Sahaprom had held the bantamweight title since 1998, not to mention had fought Toshiaki Nishioka 4 times prior to this, drawing and decisioning Nishioka on every occasion.

While the man had the kind of bloated record that only Thai fighters can produce in this day and age, few could argue that Sahaprom was a stiff challenge to any bantamweight of the time.

Seriously though, only a Thai could be so audacious as to defend his world title against debuting fighters, or worse yet, 0-1 fighters; on multiple occasions no less.

Hasegawa’s victory over Sahaprom would serve as the first of many happy moments I would be proud to witness as a half-Japanese boxing fan.

Pictured: The face of a half-Japanese boxing fan. That's right, we do exist!

For the first time in my life, I had found a contemporary Japanese fighter that was not only winning consistently, but seemingly growing and improving with every bout.

The funny part was, aside from being left-handed, Hasegawa never really seemed all that different or special compared to other Japanese fighters.

For most of his career he was a defensive minded out-boxer with with quick yet economical hands, sharp straight punches, and a good eye for counter-punching.

He wasn’t a powerhouse, he wasn’t a physical specimen, he was just a good Japanese fighter that, for whatever reason; was on a helluva’ winning streak.

Following his victory over Sahaprom, Hasegawa would go on to win their rematch by TKO, as well as defend the bantamweight title more than any other Japanese fighter in history, all while amassing 7 KO’s, more than he had accrued in his entire career up until 2005.

Despite all of my apparent dick-sucking of Hasegawa, I feel it’s worth mentioning that there’s another little element to my hero worship of the man.

You see, way back when, my brother actually went to live in Kobe for a year.

While he was there, he joined a boxing gym headed by trainer Senrima Keitoku, the man who would one day go on to train Hozumi Hasegawa.

While it’s a loose connection at best, for whatever reason, it means something to me to know that the same goofy old Korean-Japanese that my brother told me used to cane fat kids in his gym, just happens to be same one that trained one of my personal sports heroes to world champion status.

Pictured: A pennant my brother back with him from Kobe.

Like I said, it’s hardly a connection, but to me it means something special.

Anyway, before I let things totally veer off into weird touchy/feely bullshit, I think it’s time we actually got down to addressing the subject heading of this post:

This evening, Filipino bantamweight superstar Nonito Donaire challenged stalwart Mexican champion Fernando Montiel.

This is called a "filler" image. It bears no purpose other than breaking up the text in an eye-pleasing fashion.

Coming into the bout, the 2 men represented the top-tier of the division.

While a bantamweight tournament is currently being hosted by Showtime, a tournament which both Donaire and Montiel were invited to participate in; both opted out in favor of fighting each other due to the general belief being that they were “above” the majority of the other participants in the first place.

It was one helluva’ big deal, and a bout that I was very much anticipating.

On paper, both fighters were quick-fisted and fleet of foot, with Donaire having a slight edge in both categories, while Montiel held the more intangible advantages of caginess, fundamentals, and; arguably, tenacity.

Perhaps the most attractive aspect of the bout however, was the fact that both fighters were known to possess extraordinarily heavy hands for their weights.

Maybe not Carlos Zarate “heavy,” but heavy nonetheless.

Goofy 'stache or not, this man wrecked so many people's shit it wasn't even funny...

Despite all this, my interest in this bout came not as a result of their skill sets or attributes, but rather as a consequence of their previous in-ring achievements.

While Donaire had indeed caught my eye with with his revenge KO of his brother Glenn over Vic Darchinyan back in 2007, Montiel was the one that really got me invested in this match-up.

You see, Fernando Montiel actually fought Hozumi Hasegawa this past April.

While Hasegawa looked to be on the way to a comfortable points victory in the early goings, Montiel caught him on the point of the chin with a savage left hook.

Thoroughly knocked onto Queer Street, or rather; 2 blocks down the road onto the even queerer street that is “Queer Manor,” Hasegawa got hung up on the ropes and was brutalized for several seconds longer before the match was stopped, his titles were stripped from him, and his winning streak and reputation were sent down the shitter.

Despite how much I hate to watch it, here’s a clip:

Regardless of what Hasegawa’s gone on to accomplish, coming back to win a bout 2 weight classes North at featherweight and generally staying out of trouble; my heart sunk the day I saw the man utterly destroyed at the hands of Montiel.

While I would go on record saying I bore nothing but respect for Montiel, after all not that many Mexicans are willing to fly all the way out to Japan just to claim an alphabet title, I would be lying if I said I came into the Donaire/Montiel bout not hoping to see the man knocked silly.

Seriously, I wanted to see Montiel knocked the fuck out almost as much as I wanted to see Ricky Hatton get Pacquiao-ed in every fight he ever had.

Fortunately, tonight I had Nonito Donaire AKA “The Other Filipino” to sub in for tonight’s Pacquiao-ing of Montiel.

From the opening moments of the fight, it was quite clear that there was a palpable disparity in overall speed between Donaire and Montiel.

Both guys looked a little pensive, an expected consequence given both fighter’s punching power; however Montiel seemed almost too relaxed, holding his arms outstretched as if expecting to deflect the majority of the incoming punches.

Not exactly a sound tactic when the other guy is clearly the faster fighter.

Despite this, only about 2 punches of note were landed in the first round, a counter left hook to the chin, and a heavy body shot, both of which were landed, quite authoritatively I might add; by Donaire.

In 2nd (and final) round of the contest, Montiel rushed out the gate, landing a few decent shots here and there, and generally looking to set the pace of the fight.

Then, as if answering my prayers; Donaire flattened Montiel as I have seldom seem a fighter flattened.

Charging in and pressing the action, Montiel let loose with quick straight right hand, unaware of the monster left hook that Donaire had begun the process of uncorking just a millisecond earlier.

In short, Montiel landed his shot, and fairly cleanly at that; however in the process of doing so he overextended himself and quite literally ran chin-first into the sock full of quarters that is Nonito Donaire’s left fist.

Splayed out on the mat, eyes unseeing, and brain thoroughly checked at the front desk, Montiel rolled about like a turtle on it’s back, a very drunk and/or “special” turtle; for half of the referee’s count.

Like this, but on his back. And y'know, almost half-conscious.

Why the ref even bothered to count, or allowed Montiel to continue, even if it was only for a few seconds; is beyond me.

Despite my feelings leading up to the bout consisting of wanting to see Montiel punished, and my hero avenged; I couldn’t help but feel sorry for Fernando Montiel…

For about 2 minutes.

Seriously though, he’s a terrific fighter, that sadly doesn’t (and probably won’t) receive the press or fanfare that he likely deserves, but tonight, Nonito “The Master of the Revenge KO” Donaire was by far the better man.

Anyway, thus was the tale of the Azn Badger’s boxing hero, Hozumi Hasegawa; and his vengeance by proxy via the fists of Nonito Donaire.

Thanks for reading, I know it was long; but hopefully it was worth the trouble!

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