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Boxing in Japan
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Boxing in Japan

The history of boxing in Japan began in 1854 when Matthew Perry landed at Shimoda, Shizuoka soon after the Convention of Kanagawa. At that time, American sailors often engaged in sparring matches on board their ships, with their fists wrapped in thin leather. It was the first example of boxing conveyed to Japan. In addition, an zeki-ranked sumo wrestler named was summoned by the Shogunate, and ordered to fight a boxer and a wrestler from the United States. The three fought matches, using different martial arts' styles, before Perry and other spectators. Koyanagi reportedly won.[1][2]

Y jir Watanabe as known as Father of Japanese Boxing (born 1889 or 1890).[3]



The first exhibition match named was held in Tsukiji, Tokyo in 1887, and the first boxing gym was established in Ishikawach , Yokohama, Kanagawa by and in 1896. After the first tutorial book was issued in 1900, the other boxing gym was opened in Mikage, Kobe by in 1909. However those were not genuine. After learning boxing in San Francisco, California since 1906 as a professional boxer who was nicknamed Four-Round King, established in Shimomeguro, Meguro, Tokyo, on December 25, 1921.[4][3][5] from Rikkyo University began boxing under Watanabe's management. Ogino in the junior featherweight) and in the featherweight were recognized as the first Japanese champions by Nippon Kent Club in 1922.[3] In the first Japanese title matches for professional boxers held in April 1924, Fuji Okamoto in the flyweight division and Kintar Usuda in the lightweight division became titleholders. There was no clear distinction between amateur and professional around that time.

Simultaneously with whose president was Y jir Watanabe, the was established in July 1926. The first Japanese championships for amateur boxers was held by in 1927.[4] Fuji Okamoto in the bantamweight division and Kintar Usuda in the welterweight division participated in the 1928 Summer Olympics. founded in February 1931 in order to perform the establishment of championships and the development of professional boxers, repeated division and dissolution to become the current Japan Pro Boxing Associations (JPBA).[6][7] from Waseda University[8] played an active part in those days. Although Japan's boxing was interrupted by the Pacific War, the first Japanese championships after the war was held in 1947.[4] Then the Japan Boxing Commission (JBC), a virtually only governing body of Japan's professional boxing was founded in order to prepare Yoshio Shirai's world title match. Its establishment was presented at the Tokyo Kaikan on April 21, 1952. from Waseda University who was the founding president of Teiken Boxing Gym and the president of the Korakuen Stadium, was elected as its first commissioner.[7] Shirai defeated the champion Dado Marino via a unanimous decision in the flyweight division on May 19 of that year, while being watched by 45,000 spectators at the Korakuen Stadium, to become the Japan's first world champion. The JBC has joined the NBA (the current WBA) since January 7, 1954, and the WBC since the rematch of Johnny Famechon vs. Fighting Harada in January 1970.[9] In June 1956, Boxing Magazine, the Japan's oldest surviving boxing journal, was launched by the Baseball Magazine Sha. Currently there is only one more monthly boxing journal in Japan. It is Boxing Beat which has been renamed twice from World Boxing since 1968.[10]

Traditionally, the different bodies of amateur and professional boxers had had no exchanges. However they decided in 2011 to cooperate with each other, biginning with joint training.[11][12] From 2011 through 2012, the middleweight boxers had record-breaking performances both in amateur and professional boxing. Nobuhiro Ishida knocked out previously undefeated James Kirkland at the MGM Grand Las Vegas to be awarded The Ring Upset of the Year. Ry ta Murata secured the silver medal in the World Amateur Boxing Championships in Baku, Azerbaijan to qualify for the 2012 Summer Olympics. Tadashi Yuba won his fourth Japanese title in different weight divisions to be a quadruple champion. All those are the first record for Japan.

Professional boxing

In Japan, every professional boxer must contract with a manager under the JBC rules,[13] and is required to belong to a boxing gym which has exclusive management rights for boxers as a member of each regional subsidiary body of Japan Pro Boxing Associations under the Japan's conventional gym system.[14] Two professional boxers belonging to the same gym have not been allowed to fight against each other unless one of them transfers to other gym, because it might disrupt the gym system.[15] However, it is often quite difficult for boxers to transfer between the gyms due to the matters on transfer fees, match fees and so on.[16]

The JBC set up the Japanese heavyweight title once in 1957, but that division did not last long because there were few heavyweight boxers in Japan at that time. Therefore they have recognized the titles and ratings only in thirteen weight divisions from minimumweight to middleweight for over fifty years. Although they added four weight divisions i.e. super middleweight, light heavyweight, cruiserweight and heavyweight, from September 2009,[17] so far the ratings of those divisions are not settled yet.

Currently Japan has two major annual tournaments. One is the Tournament which came to be known by the popular anime/manga series Hajime no Ippo, and the other is the Japanese Title Elimination Tournament nicknamed which is competed by class A boxers who have acquired a class A license to fight in eight or more round bouts, and whose winners would be recognized as the next mandatory challengers against each divisional Japanese champion in the annual mandatory bout series Champion Carnival.[18] In addition to those, there are several other tournaments such as Raging Battle (former B:Tight!).[19] Most of Japanese professional boxers have staked their survival on those tournaments in the country.

As of March 2012, Japan produced seventy male world champions and twelve female world champions. When Y ta Sat won the world title to be the twelfth world champion managed by Kyoei Boxing Gym in March 2012, Japan had had nine world champions at the same time including an emeritus champion and a champion in recess.[20] Nevertheless his Kyoei Boxing Gym announced to sell their own building simultaneously with Sat 's first title defense.[21] Although the eight world champions except the females i.e. Shozo Saijo (in the United States in 1968), Kuniaki Shibata (in Mexico in 1970, and in the United States in 1973), Shoji Oguma (in South Korea in 1980), Yasutsune Uehara (in the United States in 1980), Tadashi Mihara (in the United States in 1981), Akinobu Hiranaka (in Mexico in 1992), Orzubek Nazarov (in South Africa in 1993) and Jorge Linares (in the United States in 2007, and in Panama in 2008) were crowned across the sea,[22] it is in contrast to the status of boxing in the Philippines where twenty-five of twenty-eight world champions won the title abroad as of September 2007. Japan's male world champions rarely risk their titles outside of their country. Apart from non-Japanese nationals, the only ten champions did it, and the only three among them successfully defended their titles[23] (Jiro Watanabe in South Korea in 1985, a Korean expatriate Masamori Tokuyama in South Korea in 2001, Toshiaki Nishioka in Mexico in 2009, and also Nishioka in the United States in 2011). That is because Japan's professional boxing has given priority to holding the fights in their own country to get paid television broadcast rights fees.[24] Consequently, Japan's champions still remain internationally unrecognized.[23] The broadcast rights fees have decreased under the economic downturn.[24]

Japanese boxers have very low recognition in the United States as cable networks are generally unconcerned with the lower weight classes to which most of the Japanese boxers belong.[25] The Rings Doug Fischer outlined the following three basic conditions that are required for Japan's boxing in order to earn international recognition:

  1. "The Japanese commission needs to recognize the WBO and the IBF."
  2. "Japan's top promoters need to bring in more world-class fighters from outside of Asia to challenge their fighters."
  3. "The Japanese titleholders need to fight each other."[25]

WBC's Kazuto Ioka vs. WBA's Akira Yaegashi in June 2012 would be the first-ever world title unification match for Japan's world champions. The president of Japan Pro Boxing Associations Hideyuki Ohashi mentioned that it could be a healthy sign for the future of Japan's boxing.[26] Prior to that, there have been two attempts to unify the world titles. However, in the fight between WBA's Jir Watanabe and WBC's Payao Poontarat, Watanabe was stripped of his WBA title before the fight since he participated in that bout under the WBC rules without being sanctioned by the WBA. The chairman of the WBA's championship committee Elias Cordova had warned on the day of the fight stating that "The minute he steps into the ring Watanabe will be stripped of his title."[27][28][29] In the fight between WBC's Hozumi Hasegawa and WBO's Fernando Montiel, Montiel's WBO title was not at stake[30] because the JBC had recognized only the WBA, WBC and OPBF as legitimate governing organizations sanctioning championship bouts and had not allowed their boxers to fight for the other organizations' titles.[31] Since February 28, 2011, the JBC have permitted them only when a Japan's reigning world titleholder of the WBA or WBC is going to fight in a title unification match against a world champion of the IBF or WBO. However, if a Japan's champion wins, he must vacate the newer IBF or WBO title after a fixed period, and a defense match for the newer title will not be authorized.[32]




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