By Joe Koizumi
In accordance with statistics of the Japan Boxing Commission (JBC), there happened 260 promotions here in Japan in the previous year. The number decreased in comparison with 276 in 2008, but we still saw some five shows a week on average somewhere (Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya, Fukuoka, etc.) in Japan. The total bouts of last year amounted to 2,082, which also decreased from 2,245 in 2008. But it may be a good number in a single country. Out of the 260 promotions, we saw 149 shows in Tokyo district, 129 of which took place at the Korakuen Hall, the Mecca of boxing here. Strange enough, despite the general decrease, the promotions at the Hall were three more than 126 in 2008. We witnessed 1,215 games at the Hall, including preliminary bouts, throughout the year, 148 bouts more than 1,067 there in 2008. Licensed by the JBC were 2,670 professional boxers, which were almost same as 2,669 in 2008. Out of them, 2,503 fighters belonged to Japanese boxing gyms, while 167 were foreign visitors fighting here.
Why can Japan present so many promotions still under recession? It may be chiefly because our promoters pay purses in the form of tickets to domestic boxers (not to foreigners) with boxers and their managers having to endeavor to distribute tickets in order to exchange them into money. This reporter once criticized this traditional way of ticket-distribution under the club system where the managers can be the promoters of their own star boxers. Under the worldwide recession, however, it might be a way for the boxing world to survive.
Not only the promoters but also all the boxers/managers, along with ticket agencies, make the best efforts to sell tickets, which certainly help fill boxing arenas with the boxers’ own sponsors, friends, families, relatives, etc. It means all participants (promoters, boxers and managers) actually serve as ticket-sellers. Funny enough, those aficionados are usually satisfied to watch their own favorites fighting, so they leave the arena without watching other games or the main event. Sometimes, when the main event started, the crowd became half as adherents of undercard boxers already left after their bouts.
We have some one hundred licensed promoters, who staged no less than 260 shows a year in order to cultivate their own prospects in 2009. Some of the impresarios sacrificed their investments into the promotions even in red ink for the sake of having future world champs more experienced against “opponents.”
Television coverage of boxing has been decreasing, as TVs only show interests in broadcasting some specified boxers (Kameda, Naito, Hasegawa, Nishioka, Linares, Aoh, et al) rather than presenting monthly boxing programs, some of which came to an end in the previous year. Instead, hardcore fans make it a rule to watch WOWOW (a leading cable television here) that regularly shows two or three latest world title bouts on a delayed basis for two hours on Monday, or telecast some superfights live from Las Vegas on Sunday (because of the time difference). Therefore, Pacquiao, Mayweather, Cotto, Klitschkos, Haye, Mosley, Hopkins, Donaire, Darchinyan, etc. have become household names among them.
In general, the Japanese boxing fraternity seems still economically healthy, though the scale of promotions became comparatively smaller than that in the 1990s. It might be an international tendency. We now have five male and four female world champs such as Hozumi Hasegawa, Toshiaki Nishioka, Nobuo Nashiro, Koki Kameda and Nobuhiro Ishida; and Etsuko Tada, Tsunami Tenkai, Naomi Togashi and Momo Koseki. Some of them are very attractive and popular champs, others not. But we still have some bright hopefuls who may acquire world belts in the near future.
Fight scribes and JBC staff here are most hard-working people to continuously cover great many promotions. They must love boxing very much. Without the love to it, they won’t usually devote Saturdays or Sundays to seeing or supervising the games. Of course, there are not a few mismatches or tedious bouts, as in other countries, but we can enthusiastically witness dramatic demolitions of Hasegawa or Nishioka as well as steady growth of future stars. Boxing in Japan will survive, as boxing people do so, hopefully.