By Joe Koizumi
Photo: Boxing Beat
Why haven’t we seen heavyweight boxers in Japan? Japanese people, generally speaking, aren’t so big as to fight over two hundred pounds, though we see many excellent boys in smaller categories. Good, big and young athletes usually enter such fields as baseball, sumo wrestling and amateur sports of basketball, volleyball, etc. Fifty-six years passed since we once had a Japanese heavyweight national champ, and we saw the Japanese commission’s restoration of the heavyweight division and a new champion thereof.
Ex-MMA fighter Kyotaro Fujimoto (7-1, 5 KOs), 224, impressively acquired the vacant Japanese national heavyweight belt as he displayed a beautiful stoppage of former world challenger Peter Okello (21-6, 19 KOs), 243, a Japan-based Ugandan, at 2:59 of the sixth round in a scheduled ten rounder on Thursday in Tokyo, Japan. The six-foot Japanese, 27, kept circling and adopted a stick-and-move strategy to the 41-year-old veteran Ugandan, who once had an ambitious shot at the then WBC ruler Oleg Maskaev, losing a unanimous decision in Russia in 2006. Peter looked patient and ponderous without positively throwing punches but stalking the fast footworker.
Fujimoto’s hit-and-run steadily piled up points with his effective but unwelcomed fight plan by the crowd. The fight suddenly moved in round six. Fujimoto, four inches shorter and some twenty pounds lighter, jumped in and swarmed over the 6’4” ageing Ugandan. His combination to the button was so effective that Peter lost his equilibrium and fell backward. Though beating the count, the badly fading Peter apparently looked out on his feet. Fujimoto’s vicious right exploded at the chin and Peter collapsed again. His damage was such that he couldn’t pull himself up for some minutes. It was an eye-catching stoppage.
Fujimoto, ex-MMA fighter who became an international-style boxer since 2011, cried for joy, saying, “I’m very happy to win this belt thanks to people’s supports.” Kenichi Hagimori, who had scouted him from the K-1 competitions, also looked delighted to see his boy acquire the new national belt.
It was in 1957 that Noboru Kataoka and Yutaka Nakagoshi battled for the very first national heavyweight championship with Kataoka emerging victorious. They fought four times as there were only two heavyweight boxers at that time, but the newly crowned Kataoka retired after his acquisition of the national belt. The JBC then scrapped the heaviest category the following year as there were no more competitions. Since then, the heavyweight category hasn’t been registered by the JBC. Fujimoto opened a new chapter in Japanese fistic history.
Fujimoto, in his fifth pro bout, upset then world-rated Chauncy Welliver of the US here last September, but failed to win the vacant OPBF heavyweight throne as he was badly stopped by Australian Solomon Haumono in five disappointing rounds on the last day of the previous year. He recently defeated Frenchman Fabrice Aurieng by a seventh round TKO to score a tough but well-received victory on his comeback trail this April. Fujimoto is hoped to avenge his sole defeat against Haumono in the near future.
In an eliminator to decide the next challenger to the new heavyweight champ, Kotatsu Takehara (8-8-3, 3 KOs), 242, won the right to fight Fujimoto for the national belt as he kept aggressively punching and stalking Rio Hidaka (10-2, 8 KOs), 220.5, winning a unanimous nod (77-76, 78-75 and 78-74) over eight. Takehara overwhelmed and overpowered the physically smaller Hidaka, who occasionally countered him with left hooks, but was forced to retreat and absorb good punishment. Takehara, in his previous bout, lasted only 68 seconds of the first round against Lucas Browne in Australia, but he may stay longer if against Fujimoto in a quest for the national belt.
JBC#6 lightweight Shuhei Tsuchiya (14-2, 12 KOs), 135, was a prefight favorite, but was miserably knocked out by less known but hard-punching Masayoshi Nakatani (6-0, 5 KOs), 135, from Osaka, at 1:58 of the third round in a scheduled eight. The 5’11” victor, whose amateur mark was 45-15, 30 stoppages, may be worth watching in the future. Nakatani belongs to Ioka Gym in Osaka along with world champs of Kazuto Ioka and Ryo Miyazaki.
Promoter: Kadoebi Jewel Promotions.