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Best I Faced: Yoko Gushiken

Gushiken (right) floors Tito Abella in October 1979. Photo courtesy of Shirai Gushiken Gym
18
Oct

Yoko Gushiken was a main stay in the junior flyweight division in the late 1970s-early 80s. All told he reigned for four years and five months and successfully defended his WBA title on 13 occasions. At the time, both were division records.

Gushiken was born in Ishigaki, a small city in the south west of Japan, on the Island of Okinawa, on June 26, 1955. His parents had four children.

Growing up in such exotic surroundings helped mold him in his early years.

“My family was not rich,” Gushiken told RingTV.com through Tomoyuki Kataoka. “I loved athletics and ran around the fields. I loved diving into the sea in order to get fish and shellfish.”

Gushiken was first introduced to boxing by a friend whilst in high school.

He won an Inter-High school championship in 1973 before leaving the unpaid ranks with a record of 62-3.

At the age of 18 years old, Gushiken debuted in May 1974 and progressed quickly. He won eight fights inside two-and-a-half years before his team were able to lure WBA flyweight titleholder Juan Antonio Guzman to Japan.

“I was able to get self-confidence through winning my seventh fight (Cesar Gomez-Kee) by KO,” said Gushiken of his quick progression. “I had always trained hard to obtain stamina and strong mind.”

Gushiken, known as “Kanmuriwashi” (Fierce Eagle), knocked out Guzman in the seventh round to begin his reign. Not surprisingly, he considers that to be his proudest moment in boxing.

During the first half of 1977, Gushiken edged talented former titleholder Jaime Rios and Rigoberto Marcano, both via 15-round split decision. However, the Japanese star stopped both men in rematches.

He would establish himself as the premier 108-pounder in the world over the next two years, defeating former, future and world champions and perennial contenders: Alfonso Lopez (KO 7), Rafael Pedroza (UD 15), Martin Vargas (KO 8) and Pedro Flores (UD 15).

Gushiken lost his unbeaten record, and title, to Flores in their March 1981 rematch. Surprisingly, at just 25 years old, he decided to retire for several reasons.

“I had a severe damage in my eye,” he explained. “But more than that, I had a feeling of satisfaction that I had done everything in boxing.”

Although he made 13 titles defences, Gushiken had hoped to make more. “I should have been able to achieve, at the least, 15 consecutive defenses,” he said.

To his credit, Gushiken never returned, exiting the sport with a record of (23-1, 15 knockouts).

In 1995,  he opened the “Shirai-Gushiken Gym” in Tokyo with the first Japanese born-world champion, Yoshio Shirai. After Shirai’s death is 2003, Gushiken managed it.

The gym spawned its first world champion earlier this year, when Daigo Higa won the WBC flyweight title. Higa, who is rated No. 3 by THE RING at 112 pounds, will make his first defense against Thomas Masson on Sunday in Kokugikan.

“I am very happy to have met Higa,” said Gushiken of his prized pupil. “He is mentally and physically very strong. The strongest I have met. I think it would be difficult to find such a strong boxer as Higa. I am looking forward to having Higa grow more and more.”

Gushiken (right) with Daigo Higa. Photo courtesy of Shirai Gushiken Gym

Despite his relatively short career, Gushiken achieved a lot and received due recognition in 2015 when he was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame.

Gushiken, now 62, lives in Tokyo. He is married and has two children. The former champion regularly appears on TV as a variety show entertainer for “Cream Quiz Miracle 9” which airs on TV Asahi. He has also appeared in several other shows and commentates on boxing for Fuji.

He graciously took time to speak to RingTV.com about the best he fought in 10 key categories:

BEST JAB
JAIME RIOS:
His jabs had high speed. He had a good sense of rhythm. He could land good jabs against me. It was difficult for me to counter him properly.

BEST DEFENSE
RIGOBERTO MARCANO:
I could not find any weakness in him in our first fight. During every round, he would keep his guard up. He kept the wonderful style of defense during the bout.

FASTEST HANDS
RIOS:
His punches were not only fast but also had some unique angles. Therefore, I could not forecast from where his punches would come.

BEST FOOTWORK
RIOS:
He had a unique sense of rhythm. He had his great flexibility in his lower body (and also upper body) and made unpredictable moves during the bout. I think many boxers from Panama have had this kind of flexibility.

BEST CHIN
RAFAEL PEDROZA:
His chin was study and his body was hard and strong and therefore my punches did not have any effect to him.

SMARTEST
MARCANO:
His opponent could not land any punches on him. His body had great core strength and therefore his moves were well balanced without wasted motion.

STRONGEST
JUAN ANTONIO GUZMAN:
He had a strong body and also powerful punches.

BEST PUNCHER
ALFONSO LOPEZ:
He hurt me. He was an ex-world champion in flyweight class and therefore his body was slightly larger than mine. My damage was bigger than ever. He was able to land good body blows and effective combination punches.

BOXING SKILLS
PEDRO FLORES:
I could not get close to him by landing jabs and straight punches because he had good skills to make me fail.

BEST OVERALL
RIOS:
He had wonderful speed, footwork and speed of punches.

Tomoyuki Kataoka helped co-ordinate and translate this feature. RingTV.com. appreciates his assistance.

 

Questions and/or comments can be sent to Anson at [email protected] and you can follow him at www.twitter.com/AnsonWainwright

 

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  • Oc

    I have always had huge respect for Gushiken-san. Such heart and spirit, he had such a tight and technically proficient game that when I was boxing (as a converted southpaw at the time) I used his style as a blue print for my own and later when was training young fighters (southpaws in particular) I would have them watch Gushiken-san’s near perfect form and try to copy it (adding: later to develop their own personal touch) as their base.

    It sure helps, when teaching wayward teens (read (jokingly): unhinged monsters), that he was always a gentleman and respectful to his opponents and carried himself with great dignity in the ring. Like I said huge respect.

    • Giuseppe

      Glad to see, in the more recent picture, the fro is in tact.

      • Oc

        Timelessly hip.

  • Bar Kokhba

    Wow, a blast from the past! Slightly before my time, but his name was still appearing frequently in boxing mags when I first took notice. Thanks for this!