The Japanese invasion: Fit to be Thai’d
There are many sporting rivalries the world over. They exist for a multitude of reasons. Some are deep-fueled hatred and resentment; others are healthy and good-natured. Sometimes both entities are from the same area; others, it’s because they’re in direct competition with each other to succeed. Religion even plays a part on occasion.
You only need think of the intensity between the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox (baseball), Liverpool vs. Manchester United, Real Madrid vs. Barcelona, Brazil vs. Argentina (soccer), India vs. Pakistan (cricket), Bjorn Borg vs. John McEnroe, or more recently Roger Federer-Rafael Nadal (tennis) or America vs. Europe in golf’s Ryder Cup, the list is endless.
In boxing, there are also – and obviously – many rivalries: Muhammad Ali-Joe Frazier, Arturo Gatti-Micky Ward, Marco Antonio Barrera-Erik Morales. Latin machismo is up for grabs every time a Mexican meets a Puerto Rican.
However, on the other side of the planet in Asia, a lesser-known but just as impassioned a rivalry exists between Thailand and Japan. Interestingly, while Thai boxers occasionally win in Japan, incredibly, the opposite has never happened in 20 world title bouts that have taken place in Thailand, arguably the harshest of environs in the world for a visiting fighter to succeed in.
Here’s a run-through of each bout. (We’re only counting THE RING, IBF, WBA, WBC and WBO titles; interim titles aren’t included. Koki Eto did beat Kompayak Porpramook in a WBA interim 105-pound contest in 2013)
Jan. 12, 1963, Pone Kingpetch MD 15 Fighting Harada – Kingpetch regained his flyweight title, having lost it in Japan three months earlier.
Jan. 23, 1964, Pone Kingpetch SD 15 Hiroyuki Ebihara – Kingpetch was stunningly stopped in a single round in Japan. He returned four months later with home advantage and exacted a measure of revenge, eking out a razor-thin split decision.
Oct. 27, 1973, Chartchai Chionoi UD 15 Susumu Hanagata – Chionoi successfully turned back the challenge of teak-tough Hanagata, though he lost the rematch in Japan.
June 30, 1990, Khaosai Galaxy TKO 8 Shunichi Nakajima – Arguably the greatest Thai boxer ever dispatched Nakajima in eight rounds.
Nov. 12, 1995, Saman Sorjaturong KO 4 Yuichi Hosono – Sorjaturong was far too strong and powerful, bludgeoning his challenger.
Aug. 10, 1996, Saman Sorjaturong TKO 9 Shiro Yahiro – Sorjaturong turned back the valiant attempt of Yahiro.
Feb. 25, 2000, Medgoen Singsurat UD 12 Masaki Kawabata – Singsurat won a comfortable decision on the scorecards against the future Japanese 115-pound titlist.
April 19, 2002, Pongsaklek Wonjongkam KO 1 Daisuke Naito – The legendary Pongsaklek scored the quickest knockout in flyweight world title history, in the first of a series of bouts with Naito.
May 1, 2006, Pongsaklek Wonjongkam UD 12 Daigo Nakahiro – Pongsaklek widely outpointed his opponent.
April 6, 2007, Pongsaklek Wonjongkam RTD 7 Tomonobu Shimizu – Pongsaklek easily had his way with the future WBA 115-pound beltholder, breaking his nose and dropping him before forcing the Japanese fighter to retire at the conclusion of the seventh round.
June 18, 2008, Oleydong Sithsamerchai KO 9 Junichi Ebisuoka – Oleydong easily dominated and scored a rare knockout.
May 26, 2009, Denkaosan Kaovichit SD 12 Hiroyuki Hisataka – Kaovichit edged Hisataka by split decision to keep his WBA flyweight strap.
May 20, 2010, Poonsawat Kratingdaenggym KO 4 Shoji Kimura – Poonsawat blitzed his Japanese foe to retain his WBA 122-pound belt.
July 1, 2011, Pongsaklek Wonjongkam UD 12 Takuya Kogawa – Pongsaklek continued to be the scourge of Japanese flyweights, turning another back.
Nov. 4, 2011, Suriyan Sor Rungvisai UD 12 Nobuo Nashiro – The fresher Suriyan retained his WBC junior bantamweight title in an action packed bout.
Dec. 23, 2011, Pongsaklek Wonjongkam TD 1 Hirofumi Mukai – The fight was curtailed in the opening round because of a clash of heads that rendered the fight void.
May 3, 2013, Srisaket Sor Rungvisai TKO 8 Yota Sato – Srisaket upset well-regarded Sato to grab the WBC 115-pound laurels.
Nov. 15, 2013, Srisaket Sor Rungvisai TKO 9 Hirofumi Mukai – Srisaket retained his title for the first time against solid opposition.
Aug. 7, 2015, Pungluang Sor Singyu KO 2 Ryo Akaho – Pungluang won the vacant WBO bantamweight title in surprisingly dominant fashion, taking out Akaho in the second round to begin his second championship tenure.
Mar. 3, 2016, Wanheng Menayothin TKO 5 Go Odaira – Wanheng made the fourth defense of his strawweight title with relative ease.
Dec. 14, 2016, Knockout CP Freshmart vs. Shin Ono – ?
Sources: BoxRec.com and Wikipedia.
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