An Open Letter to the Boxing Writers Association of America
By Ted Sares - It is my understanding that membership in your fine organization entitles members to the privilege of casting ballots for inductees into the International Boxing Hall of Fame. In my view, this privilege should also carry with it a responsibility to ensure that fighters from all regions of the globe are represented, particularly since the word “International“ is set forth in the Hall‘s name.
Article posted on 16.12.2008
Clearly, this year’s selections are excellent ones. Three-time heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis along with American bantamweight champion Orlando Canizales and South African junior lightweight champion Brian Mitchell are rock solid choices, and so are the posthumous honorees; namely middleweight champion William "Gorilla" Jones, welterweight champion "Mysterious" Billy Smith and middleweight champion Billy Soose..
But I question whether the selections went far enough? What about Asian fighters who seem to be ignored every year? And each year a potential inductee is passed over, it becomes that much easier to neglect him again.
Yes, Pancho Villa, Flash Elorde, Khaosai Galaxy, and Masahiko "Fighting" Harrada are in, but to have no South Korean inductees is astonishing (at least to me it is). Perhaps the following overly inclusive list can jog some memories, and/or trigger some research, and provide a universe from which some selections can be made next year. However, if even one voter or historian has to ask "who is this guy," the problem goes much, much deeper. .
In-Chul Baek - 1980-1990
Jung-Koo "The Korean Hawk" Chang -1980-1991
In-Jin Chi -1991-2006
Soo-Hwan Hong - 1969-1980
Ki-Soo Kim- 1961-1969
Myung-Woo "Sonagi" Yuh - 1983-1992
Yuri Arbachakov -1990-1997
Hiroyuki Ebihara- 1959-1969
Yoko "Fierce Eagle" Gushiken- 1974-1981
Hiroshi Kobayashi - 1962-1971
Masao "The Eternal Champion" Ohba - 1966-1973
Masamori Tokuyama -1994-2006 (North Korean born but fought out of Japan)
Jiro Watanabe- 1979-1986
Sot Chitalada - 1983-1992
Chartchai Chionoi- 1960-1975
Pone Kingpetch - 1954-1966
Muangchai "J-Okay" Kittikasem- 1988-1999
Samart Payakaroon-1982-1994 (Also a legend of Muay Thai boxing)
Rolando "Bad Boy from Dadiangas" Navarrete- 1973-1991
Ben Villaflor - 1966-1976
Ceferino "Pedro" Garcia -1923-1945
Surely, at least one or more of he following could be selected in 2010:
Myung-Woo Yuh-38-1 He made seventeen successful title defenses during his first reign-the record for the 108 pound division. This former two-time WBA Light Flyweight Champion manifestly belongs in the Hall. His only defeat came at the hands of Hiroki Ioka in Osaka, Japan in December 1991 by SD. Less than a year later, he avenged this loss again fighting in Osaka. Myung-Woo Yuh fought one more time before retiring as the most storied 108 pound fighter ever. On July 25, 1993, He beat Yuichi Hosono, 16-2-1, over 12 rounds to retain his title and retire with his crown intact.
Masao Ohba - 35-2-1 is frequently referred to as Japan’s Salvador Sanchez, not only for his great record and boxing skills, but for the manner in which he died at a young age in an auto accident.
His first title defense came in 1971 when he beat the very capable Betulio Gonzalez, 25-2 coming in. Two months later, he stopped Constancio Garcia in, of all places, San Antonio, Texas--a strange place for a Japanese champion to fight. Indeed, it was rare for a Japanese fighter to do battle in any country other than South Korea, Thailand or Japan.
After two successful defenses against Fernando Cabanella and future world champion Susumu Hanagata, he was positioned to fight Panamanian Orlando Amores and future world champion Chartchai Chionoi, the legendary brawler from Thailand. His incredible fights with Amores and Chionoi would cement his cult status among boxing aficionados.
Salvador Sanchez died in a car crash just a few weeks after his tenth and final title defense against future Hall of Famer Azumah Nelson. Ohba crashed while driving his brand new Porsche sports car, dying instantly. He too was just 23 years old.
But unlike Ohba, Sánchez was posthumously inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1991. I submit it is time to insert the last piece of symmetry to this remarkable comparison. Ohba was one of the finest fighters ever produced by Japan.
Jung Koo Chang - 38-4
Known as “The Korean Hawk,” he avenged a loss to the very tough Hilario Zapata and became WBC Light Flyweight World Champion by knocking out Zapata in the third round. He established a then world record for the most defenses as World Light Flyweight champion, defending the title successfully 16 times between 1983 and 1988.The record would fall to the aforementioned Myung-Woo Yuh.
Chang’s lest fight was a classic against Thai great Muangchai “J-Okay” Kittikasem who was decked three times but caught and iced the Hawk as he swooped in for the kill in the last round. It was a dramatic ending to an incredible fight and occurred with less than 25 seconds to go. Had Chang not come back out of retirement, his final slate would have been 37-1, but like many others, financial pressures forced him back, After losing to future Hall inductee Humberto Gonzalez in South Korea, he lost a heartbreaking MD to the great Sot Chitalada by scores of 113-114,114-114, and114-115.
Yuri “Yuri Ebihara” Arbachakov - 23-1 was born in Russia and was a great amateur fighter (he won Gold Medals in the 1989 Soviet, European, and World championships and finished with a record of 165-21). He emigrated to Japan where he became the first Russian professional boxing champion. For that matter, he was one of the first Russian professional fighters ever.
He trained with at the Kyoei boxing gym and fought almost all of his fights in Japan. His strengths included great foot movement and balance, uncommon technical skills, and explosive one punch KO power. In 1992, he knocked out Muangchai Kittikasem to win the WBC flyweight title which he would go on to defend nine times over five years.
After knocking out Takato Tokuchi in 1996, Arbachakov suffered a bad injury to his right hand. After a year, he fought Chatchai Saakul (whom he had beat in 1995) and lost by UD after which he announced his retirement.
Among those he beat were Saakul (in a prior bout), Hugo Rafael Soto, Yun Un Chin, Ysaias Zamudio, Muangchai Kittikasem (twice), Nam Hoon Cha, Raul Jaurez, Tokuchi and Rolando Bohol, Kittikasem held two stoppages over the great Sot Chitalada and one over “The Korean Hawk,” Jung-Koo Chang.
Yoko Gushiken - 23-1
Known as Fierce Eagle, he held the WBA Junior Flyweight crown from 1976-1981. Because of his great stamina, he was sometimes called the Okinawan Eagle and was a fearsome presence in the ring.
After a great amateur career (62-3 (52 KOs), he went for the WBA flyweight crown after just nine professional fights and defeated Juan Guzman by resounding knockout in the seventh round. Guzman was floored four times. He also won the Tokyo Writers Club award for fighter of the year in 1976 in a unanimous vote. Masaki Kanehira, Japan’s most renowned trainer and known as the maker of Japanese champions, called him “A genius who appears once every 100 years.”
The rate at which he matured ring-wise was incredible. Thirteen title defenses later, against rock-solid challengers, his resume was stellar. He also drew sell-out crowds wherever he fought, defending his title in more Japanese cities than any other Japanese champion. The curly haired champion with incredible energy and a mean streak as well won fan support throughout Japan. He held the championship for over four years. In thirteen defenses, he won eight by knockout.
He was a pressure fighter always in-coming and using his great stamina
and southpaw stance to wear down and punish his opponents and force them into mistakes. He also threw punches in bunches and was an instinctive counter-puncher. Like Bobby Chacon and Roberto Duran, he threw his punches with a ferocity that overwhelmed opponents, and sent them into a retreat from the get-go. “British boxing historian Bob Mee said, of Gushiken, “An exciting southpaw pressure fighter who could box behind an accurate right jab, but loved nothing better than wading forward and letting his punches go in bursts.”
In 1980, Gushiken was again named Japan’s boxer of the year, and took part in Japan’s fight of the year against Pedro Flores in his 13th defense. The fight was described by The Ring as, “A gory war” with Gushiken “Fighting back strongly with body punches and won a split, but popular, 15-round decision,” but his skills had diminished somewhat. He had previously defeated the top contender Martin Vargas, 60-5-3, with 38 kayos. Gushiken dropped Vargas three times and won every round. After the fight, Joe Koizumi, Japan’s leading boxing reporter and historian, wrote that Gushiken “Has clearly established his supremacy as the greatest Japanese fighter in history.”
Yoko granted the tough Mexican challenger a rematch in 1981 and the well-
prepared Mexican counterpunched Gushiken to a 12th-round knockout loss in what was a stunning upset. One of Gushiken’s weaknesses was that he threw wide and looping punches. Flores was able to step inside with sharp and well-placed counter punches that floored The Eagle in rounds eight and twelve. In the tradition of the Samurai Warrior, Gushiken would not surrender and his corner had no alternative but to call a halt to the fight.
After losing to Flores, Gushiken announced his retirement five months later. Like Hall inductee Fighting Harada, Yoko remains a popular figure in Japan training boxers and running one of Japan’s most impressive gyms. He may have achieved even greater acclaim had he moved up in weight and fought Miguel Canto or Betulio Gonzalez, but that will remain another big “what if,” and “what ifs” are not uncommon in boxing.
Marvelous Marvin Hagler, Rocky Marciano, Jiro Wanatanabe, Brian Mitchell and Lennox Lewis, among others, were able to walk away. So did Yoko “Fierce Eagle” Gushiken. They all did it on their own terms, not an easy thing to do in this sport. As a 26-year-old, he retired after losing only once in 24 fights. Surely, he could have continued at the highest level, but he would never put the gloves on again except as a trainer.
Chartchai Chionoi- 61-18-3
In 1972, he and Masao Ohba fought a classic in which the Thai almost won in the early going but was stopped in the fifth in Tokyo ( Ohba would die in an auto accident 22 days after this fight).
During his long and active career, he won the WBC Flyweight World Championship, the WBA Flyweight Championship of the World, and the Flyweight Championship of the Orient. Among his victims were such capable opponents as Kazuyoshi Amada, Haruo Sakamoto, Seisaku Saito, Mimoun Ben Ali, Arturo "Baby" Lorona, Mitsunori Seki, Kyo Noguchi, and Salvatore Burruni, Walter McGowan, Efren "Alacran" Torres, Susumu Hanagata, Ernesto Miranda, Fritz Chervet, Berkrerk Chartvanchai, and Kenji Endo,
He was the second World Champion from Thailand, and was unique for a fighter from Thailand in that he fought in many different countries and fought as many fights as he did (82) and for such a long time (1960-1975). As well, he avenged many of his losses.
As a testament to his great popularity, he beat Efren Torres in 1970 before 40,000 screaming fans at the National Stadium Gymnasium in Bangkok
Ceferino "Pedro" Garcia -1923-1945
He was the first Filipino-American World Middleweight Boxing Champion inducted into the World Boxing Hall of Fame (in 1989). With an impressive slate of 102-28-12, he was inducted into the Ring Boxing Hall of Fame in 1977. Another “first” was that he was the first well known user of the bolo punch. During his career in which he scored 67 KOs, he won the Middleweight Championship of the World (as recognized by New York State), the Welterweight Championship of the Philippines and the Welterweight Championship of California. The level of his opposition was indeed high and included some warriors as list of his opponents includes as .Fred Apostoli, Lloyd Marshall, Jackie Burke, Kid Azteca, "Baby" Joe Gans, "Oakland" Jimmy Duffy, and many more top flight fighters. He beat Lloyd Marshall twice, the same Marshall who once decked the great Ezzard Charles eight times before stopping him in a 1943 fight,
He should be considered for either the Old Timer section where he would join Pancho Villa, or the Modern section where he could share space with the great Flash Elorde.
Look, this is not about criticizing you or trying to determine who participates in the selections, or how they voted, or what criteria they used in making their selections. It’s simply a request that in 2010, you take a hard look at some of those fighters mentioned above who did most of their fine work throughout Asia.
Thank you for your consideration,
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