By Joe Koizumi
Some foreign fight scribe once asked this reporter, “Are all Japanese boxers southpaws?” No way, but his question might partly make sense, watching our current world champions. Out of eight current titlists five are southpaws. WBC bantam ruler Shinsuke Yamanaka and WBC fly kingpin Toshiyuki Igarashi, both of whom are slated to defend their belts against Tomas Rojas and Nestor Narvaes respectively on November 3, are both lefthanders. Also southpaw is WBC super-feather champ Takahiro Ao, who will put his throne on the line against Mexican Gamaliel Diaz on October 27. WBC super-bantam champ emeritus Toshiaki Nishioka, who had kept his belt on seven occasions to his credit, is also a southpaw who will square off against IBF/WBO champ Nonito Donaire in Las Vegas on October 13. WBA bantam ruler in recess is Koki Kameda, who is also a southpaw speedster. Orthodox titleholders are only three: WBA 130-pound champ Takashi Uchiyama, WBA 105-pound titlist Kazuto Ioka and the most newly crowned WBA 115-pound leader Yota Sato.
Watching great many preliminary bouts, this observer doesn’t think there are more southpaws than orthodox boxers here in Japan. Approximately seventy-five percent of our boxers are orthodox, while only twenty-five percent of them are southpaws. In fact, southpaws are the minority even if there are more lefthanders here in Japan than in other countries, except in the Philippines where instructors often convert natural orthodox boys to southpaws to follow the great footstep of Manny Pacquiao.
When we review ring history, we realize that we had such excellent southpaw ringmen as world flyweight champ Hiroyuki Ebihara, Orient feather titlist Mitsunori Seki, Orient lightweight ruler Masaji Akiyama (who kept his regional belt on nineteen occasions), WBA junior fly champ Yoko Gushiken (who defended his belt thirteen times), WBA/WBC junior bantam kingpin Jiro Watanabe, etc. As we have produced so many “southpaw” champs, our trainers or instructors seem to have mastered some know-how to cultivate southpaw youngsters. But your prejudice that all Japanese are southpaws is definitely wrong. Our first world champ in the flyweight category Yoshio Shirai, world fly and bantam champ (of course, then undisputed and unified champ) Fighting Harada, latest Olympic gold medalist Ryota Murata, et al are all orthodox. A large majority of our people usually eat with chopsticks in the right hand.
You say, “Isn’t Ichiro Suzuki of New York Yankees a southpaw batter?” Let’s talk just on boxing, not baseball on which this reporter has no sufficient data.