By Joe Koizumi
Ex-Japanese middleweight champ Yoshiaki Akasaka, 66, passed away because of kidney disease on Monday afternoon in Sapporo city, Japan. Formerly a professional sumo wrester for three years, Akasaka made a debut in 1963 and went on to win the national 160-pound belt by upsetting formidable veteran Fumio Kaizu in May 1967, though he was dethroned by Kaizu just 49 days later. It was only once that the stout-built aggressive puncher could defeat Kaizu in their four encounters. After Kaizu’s relinquishment, in November that year, Akasaka regained the Japanese belt by finishing Akimine Takeda in three rounds.
Ambitious and aggressive Akasaka accepted an offer to face unified world middle kingpin Nino Benvenuti, just after his give-and-take trilogy with Emile Griffith, only to be dispatched in two quick rounds of a non-title bout in Rome, Italy, in 1968. The 20-year-old companion to Akasaka there was currently influential promoter and Hall of Famer Akihiko Honda through Dewey Fragetta’s matchmaking. Akasaka, a game fighter, attempted to win the national belt for the third time, but failed with an eighth-round knockout by Cassius Naito in 1970. It was his final ring appearance with a 20-18-1, 9 KOs mark.
After saying a farewell to the squared circle, he established Akasaka Boxing Club in Sapporo, where he cultivated once world-rated national 108-pound champ Masato Hatakeyama and others. Having been struggling with his disease for fifteen years, his gym has been succeeded by his daughter Yumiko and the retired Hatakeyama. At his prime as local promoter in Sapporo, Akasaka often staged such world title bouts of Hiroyuki Ebihara, Shozo Saijo, Yoko Gushiken and Yuri Arbachakov in association with Masaki Kanehira’s Kyoei Promotions. May his soul rest in peace.