Closet Classic: Shinji Takkehara vs. Sung-Chun Yi

By Ted Sares - On September 12, 1995, Japanese Champion Shinji Takkehara took on South Korean Sung-Chun Yi for the OPBF Middleweight Title in Tokyo. Takehara was a world-class fighter. He was the heaviest boxing champion to come from Japan. When he fought a prime William Joppy, Joppy said that no one hit him as hard. He would have been even greater had he not suffered a detached retina which cut his career short..

Sung Chun Lee came into this title fight with an inexplicable 1-2-1 record while Takkehara was at 22-0. The stocky Lee was only 5’3.’’ Shinji was much taller and his great power (KO% of 72) came off the end of his long punches in the style of the legendary Masha Oba

The fight

Most of the first seven rounds featured exchanges of brutal left hooks, some landing almost simultaneously. Then in the eighth round, they did land simultaneously and both went down hard. It was reminiscent of Lee Roy Murphy vs. Chisanda Mutti in 1985) and the more recent Cornelius Bundrage-Sechew Powell one-rounder.

When they got up, Shinji, hanging onto the ropes, was clearly hurt the most and the muscular Korean went on the attack. For a moment, it appeared the menacing Yi might pull off the upset of the century. But it was not to be as Takkehara somehow did a gut chech and came back to savage the game Yi for the remainder of the round. The Japanese crowd was up and roaring at the full-tilt action.

The last stanza featured some of the most grueling punishment I have ever witnessed as Takkehara poured it on with poleaxing rights and rattling left hooks one of which finally staggered and floored the brave Sung-Chun Yi, who was barley able to get up and hold on until the final bell. Takkehara was totally spent from meting out the punishment and draped himself over the ropes exhausted at the end. This was a thoroughly compelling fight, particularly for those partial to the more violent side of the sport.

In his next fight in 1995, Takehara would beat Jorge Castro, 98-4-2 coming in, but then would lose his WBA middleweight title to Joppy in Yokohama six months later.

Takkehara’s legacy

Takehara is now known more for his success after retiring from boxing. However, his relatively short career (24 (KO 18)-1 (KO 1) has left an important legacy on Japanese boxing; namely winning a world middleweight title that previously had been regarded as impossible for any Japanese boxer in a division that featured some of the sports best champions, including Leonard, Hagler, Duran, and Hearns.

Watch for the author’s new book due out in November

Article posted on 13.09.2008

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