By Joe Koizumi
Photo: Boxing Beat
WBC super-bantam champ Toshiaki Nishioka was named Japan’s Boxer of the Year by Tokyo Sports Writers Association along with the Japan Boxing Commission (JBC) thanks to his invaluable victory over Rafael Marquez with his belt on the line in Las Vegas last October. The annual commendation ceremony took place at the Tokyo Dome Hotel, gathering great many boxing and media people in attendance on Wednesday. We now have no less than eight male world champs and six female titlists, all of whom are excellent or good champions. It might be hard to categorize who better than who, but it should be none other than Nishioka that was unanimously elected the one since the 35-year-old southpaw made the very first successful defense of the world throne in the US, which had been located in the ominous direction to Japan. No Japanese world champs had previously made any defenses there and returned with their belts. Also, his admirable effort against Rafael Marquez was named Fight of the Year.
The Technique and Knockout awards were both rendered Takashi Uchiyama, unbeaten WBA super-feather champ who brilliantly scored an eleventh-round stoppage of Jorge Solis in a unification bout and registered five consecutive KO wins since dethroning Juan Carlos Salgado in 2010. Uchiyama, 32, is still technically improving in each appearance despite his repeated hand injury. Our aficionados are highly anticipating a unification bout between WBA ruler Uchiyama and WBC kingpin Takahiro Aoh in the near future.
The Valuable Victory award was given Kazuto Ioka, unbeaten WBC 105-pound ruler who captured the diadem by a stunning demolition of previously unbeaten defending titlist Oleydong Sithsamerchai with a single body shot in February and impressively scored a couple of defenses over Juan Hernandez (W12) and Yodgoen Tor Chalermchai (TKO1). The vastly-talented Ioka is eagerly gunning for a unification of the belts with WBA counterpart Akira Yaegashi since the 22-year-old baby-faced assassin, still physically developing, has had a weight problem and wishes to outgrow the 105-pound category soon or later.
The award of valor went to Akira Yaegashi, WBA 105-pound champ, whose gallant and grueling title-winning triumph over Pornwawan Porpramook (TKO10) was already named International Fight of the Year by ESPN Sports. Should Yaegashi really encounter Ioka here, Dan Rafael would fly to Japan and cover this unification bout, hopefully.
The award of Efforts was presented to three champs—WBA flyweight champ in recess Tomonobu Shimizu, WBC super-feather ruler Takahiro Aoh and WBA bantam titlist Koki Kameda.
Newly crowned WBC bantam champ Shinsuke Yamanaka received the Rookie award in the light of his impressive coronation by acquiring the vacant belt with an eleventh-round halt of Christian Esquivel last November. The unbeaten southpaw, 15-0-2, 11 KOs, lately improved so remarkably that he registered nine wins in a row within the distance. His manager/promoter Akihiko Honda is preparing a coming-soon announcement of his initial defense against a surprisingly formidable challenger whose initials are VD.
Don’t forget our female champions. WBC light-flyweight campeona Naomi Togashi, a 36-year-old maternity nurse, and newly crowned WBC strawweight champ Naoko Fujioka, also 36, were both given Boxer of the Year. Having boxed long in the amateur ring, Fujioka (7-0, 5 KOs) recently turned professional but is a good puncher, whose title-winning bout with Anabel Ortiz (TKO8) was also named Fight of the Year.
Watching the deluxe ceremony, this reporter reviewed old days of our fistic world that our great many challengers repeatedly and miserably failed to win world championships despite their strenuous efforts. It is unbelievable that such a small country as Japan has had no less than fourteen world champs. We respect our current champs, all of whom are our prides. However, it may be true that they suffer a dog-eat-dog competition as their promoters are really struggling to distribute tickets and some champs unexpectedly receive cold treatment by TV companies.
In the boxing industry, we cannot necessarily say “the more the better.” Too many champions here may actually forfeit the rarity value of the world championship. In order to make our market healthy we have to watch the quality of matchups in world title bouts. It is not the day that we were simply delighted to see our champ win, regardless of the quality of the contestant. Now the general public don’t correctly know who our world champs are.
In this regard we whole-heartedly welcome a plan of unifying the belts of the same category: WBC 105-pound kingpin Kazuto Ioka versus WBA titleholder Akira Yaegashi; WBA 130-pound champ Takashi Uchiyama versus WBC ruler Takahiro Aoh. If the champion should mean the strongest, it seems contradictory to the public that we have plural champs in the same division. Our people hate the proliferation, asking “Who’s the champion?” The year of 2011 was undoubtedly prosperous for Japan, and may 2012 be as successful as the previous year from the sound point of view.