Two boxers who made Japan’s headlines talk about the big blind spots in boxing | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Two boxers who made Japan’s headlines talk about the big blind spots in boxing

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At first glance, they appear to be opposites, but they have been in touch for more than 20 years. They call each other “Hiroshi-chan” and “Dai-chan.

Two people with a sense of crisis…

A former bully and a former yakuza.

Hironari Oshima (47), the original tattooed boxer who also appeared on “Gachinko Fight Club V”, and Daisuke Naito (47), the five-time WBC world champion. At first glance, the two men seem to have different backgrounds, but they continue to have a deep relationship with each other as they are both new champion boxers.

One thing they have in common is that they both have gained outstanding name recognition beyond the boundaries of the boxing world. The two men, who suggest that there is a deep-rooted reason for the stagnation of boxing’s popularity, talked about their time in the sport, the future of boxing, and problems in the sport at Izakaya Ikiya, which Oshima runs.

If I fight Naoya Inoue…

Daisuke Naito (Naito): I still remember clearly when I was the new champion in 1998. Hiroshi was already very famous and I was jealous of him, and he was above the clouds. He was already very famous, and I envied him. At that time, I was only at the level where I managed to get the Rookie of the Year award, but I went up to him and asked him to take a picture with me. He said, “Oh, sure! He said. I was happy, but I also wondered how he could be so impudent and imposing for someone his age (laughs).

Hironari Oshima: At that time, I was very popular due to the media effect. The venue was always packed, and even though it was a Japanese title match, there were duffers. It was a time when I was on a roll, and I was misunderstood. However, as a boxer, I ended up falling behind Dai-chan. When I saw Dai-chan’s later success, I realized that there is a big wall between boxers who become world champions and those who don’t.

Naito: Hiroshi didn’t like to practice (laughs). (laughs) But I feel that times have changed. In the past, many people could name all the world champions, but nowadays, if you are not a boxing fan, the only ones you know are Naoya Inoue, Kazusho Ioka, and Ryota Murata.

Oshima when he was an active fighter. He was the complete opposite of Naito, and was said to be “above the clouds.

Oshima: I heard that the number of boxers who are registered as professionals is actually decreasing every year. If you were to fight Inoue, how would you fight him?

Naito: In boxing, when you become a champion, there are times when people take you for granted that you will win, and such fights are sometimes the most difficult. I think Inoue’s fight last month was also difficult in that respect. In my case, too, it was more difficult in the fights that people took for granted that I would win. On the other hand, when I was fighting strong opponents such as Pongsakurek (Woojongkam), I was able to be more relaxed. So if I were to fight Inoue, it would be easier because people would think that it’s natural for Naito to lose (laughs). (laughs) If I were still active, I’d like to have a fist fight at least once.

Oshima: He’s definitely the strongest Japanese fighter of all time, and I think he’s an example of how one person’s outstanding talent has raised the level of competition. By the way, I definitely don’t want to fight him (laughs).

(laughs) Naito: However, if I fought properly, I would never win, so I guess my strategy would be to fight without guards. I’m actually a boxing geek, and I’ve watched so many boxing videos of the great champions of the past that I’ve worn out my video camera. I also love the boxing of Najeem Hamed (former featherweight champion of three organizations) and Roy Jones Jr. Their way of doing things is similar to my own style. When I was active, I had a long reach and was confident in my athleticism, so people called me “moving like a bug.

So far, no one has fought Naoya Inoue with no guards, so I think he is not used to such a strategy. So the only way to fight him is to use no guards as a foundation and start using small amounts of techniques from the first round. Boxers are always confused when they are fighting a new style of opponent, so I’m going to work on that.

Another important thing is to avoid eye contact. I think it’s also important to avoid eye contact, and by looking away, you can prevent the opponent from figuring out your aim and timing.

Oshima: I think that if you don’t guard yourself, you’ll just end up getting knocked down faster (laughs).

(laughs) “Why has boxing lost its popularity?

Naito: It’s because it’s natural to lose in the first place, so you can come up with strange ideas (laughs). By the way, Hiroshi, are there any Japanese boxers that you’ve been paying attention to lately?

Oshima: To be honest, I don’t think there are any recently. Unlike in our days, boxing techniques have improved a lot, and the sport has become more sophisticated, and there are more “personality” boxers with excellent comments. However, when it comes to whether I want to go to the venue or not, I don’t want to pay money to watch anything other than Naoya Inoue’s fights. I think the last time I thought he was cool was with Joichiro Tatsuyoshi.

Naito: It’s true that the number of boxers that I would be willing to pay to see has decreased. I’ve always admired Katsuya Onizuka’s entrance scene. He was so popular that even non-boxers imitated the way he wore a black gown over his head and walked to the ring with a sharp look in his eyes.

He was handsome, had a unique atmosphere, and was very popular with women. At the root of a boxer’s motivation is the desire to be strong, but on top of that, there is the desire to be popular, famous, and rich. Well, I wasn’t popular at all until I became world champion (laughs).

Oshima: To be honest, I was pretty popular (laughs). In the end, boxing is an entertainment and a popularity business. So how you act as a professional and how many people know about you is a big factor. However, because of the old structure, the commission has a tendency not to take it well.

In that sense, I think the commission is not making enough of an effort compared to martial arts organizations such as RIZIN and K-1, where the Asakura brothers are based. Even if you look at individual fighters, the way they market themselves is weak. Dai-chan may not like it when people say that, but I think the fight against Daiki Kameda was a big factor in his rise to fame. The composition of the villain and the hero was established, and it was easy for the general public to understand.

Naito said he was not popular at all, while Oshima said he was popular. The gap between these two is also interesting.
In front of Ikiya, an izakaya owned by Oshima. Oshima is very energetic and hopes to run a gym in the future.

Naito: It’s often misunderstood, but I think the Kameda family has an interesting side to them. They give extreme performances and use the media to get people excited, which I think is something we should learn from them as professionals. There were a lot of people who were not interested in boxing who said that the Kameda family was the reason they started watching boxing.

In that sense, they had a high level of professionalism, and I think that’s what makes them different from today’s boxers. For boxing to be popular, it is necessary to have boxers like the Kameda brothers who have a strong character, and I worked harder than anyone else in terms of self-production, how I should act as a professional.

Oshima: I think there are several reasons for the decline in popularity of boxing. The vagueness of the refereeing system, the overabundance of champions due to the large number of organizations even though the number of competitors is decreasing, the fight money for fighters that is still unchanged, and the gym system that says “the president is absolute” …… are just a few of the reasons (laughs).

Naito: It can’t be helped that there have been a series of accidents in the ring, but I personally worry that referees are stopping fights faster than in the past. Even in cases where the fight is still possible, the referee stops the fight too early, so there are fewer dramatic reversals and less interesting fights. It’s difficult to find a balance with safety.

Oshima: Most of the current champions come from amateur boxing backgrounds, and their level has improved dramatically. There are more and more elite type boxers who have good technique and are polite. In other words, the sport is becoming more sophisticated and athletic. Of course, this is a good thing, but from the perspective of the fun of the game, some people feel it’s not enough.

Only boxing is special.

Naito: I think there’s no doubt that the technical aspects of boxing have improved relatively. People from the amateur ranks have a good foundation. It’s a little off topic, but when I was still active, I sparred with Shinsuke Yamanaka (former 12-time WBC bantamweight world champion), and I thought he was pushing me all the way, but then he hit me with that left hand from the top of his full face, and crushed my nose with my headgear.

I thought, “Oh, so that’s the left of God.” Yamanaka had a solid foundation, as evidenced by the fact that he was able to defend himself so well with only a one-two. I feel that this is the absolute difference between a fighter who has been through the amateur ranks and one who has not. I think I’m probably the last world champion who didn’t go through the amateur ranks.

Oshima: As the sport has become more elite and techniques have improved, the sense of “the end if you lose” has diminished. It seems that there are less and less fighters who are desperate to express themselves in the ring. Nowadays, there are more organizations that Japanese fighters can challenge, so even if you lose once or twice, there is still a chance to challenge for the world championship. Back then, it was difficult to get back up after a loss, and I thought it was the end, so I felt like I was in a battlefield where it was life or death. I also feel that a lot of drama was created because the players’ way of life was reflected in their fists.

Naito: Globally, it is rare to find a sport where the number of competitors is decreasing but the number of rankers is increasing. I think this is an issue that should be considered by the entire boxing world. There are children like Hiroshi who have been able to rehabilitate themselves through boxing in every era, and boxing has been a place for people with such a backbone. In fact, if I hadn’t encountered boxing, I would have ended up as a bullied kid in Hokkaido. It’s a little sad that the number of boxers like that has decreased.

Oshima: I went to a reformatory and became a yakuza (gangster). …… If it weren’t for boxing, I would probably be dead in the street right now. After I retired, I became a TV personality and actor, and even opened my own restaurant. But the time I spent boxing was very special to me. I’ve been on hiatus for a while now, but I’m planning to start running a gym again this year. I would like to introduce more and more unique boxers to the world.

Naito: I also want to start my own gym in the near future. In the end, it is the best for the sport to have boxers with strong characters, and I would like to nurture such boxers and share my experiences with them. I want to nurture such fighters and pass on my experience to them. It’s precisely because they don’t come from elite backgrounds like mine and Hiroshi’s that they are able to pass on what they have learned to the fighters, and I think that’s important in this day and age.

In a night full of talk about the current state of the martial arts industry
  • Interview and text by Fumiaki Kurioka

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