There is no denying that Philippine pro boxing is currently in a state of calamity, what with our marquee fighters (Manny Pacquiao and Nonito Donaire Jr.) in hibernation following disappointing performances and our top prospects (Milan Melindo, AJ Banal) getting fried in their bids to bring home the bacon.
Don’t look now, but while our fighters are licking their wounds, Japanese boxers are riding on the wave of an unprecedented fistic resurgence. As of the last count, Japan has a total of 9 reigning world boxing champions, the most recent being Tomoki Kameda, who collared the World Boxing Organization (WBO) bantamweight title (118 lbs.) with a 12-round unanimous decision over Paulus Ambunda in Cebu City on August 1. The remaining 8 incumbent champions are: “Ryo Miyazaki” Ryo Miyazaki; “WBA” WBA minimumweight; 105 lbs.), “http://boxrec.com/media/index.php/Katsunari_Takayama”, “Katsunari Takayama” Katsunari Takayama (IBF minimumweight; 105 lbs.), “Kazuto Ioka” Kazuto Ioka (WBA light flyweight; 108 lbs.),“Akira Yaegashi” Akira Yaegashi (WBC flyweight; 112 lbs.),“Koki Kameda” Koki Kameda (WBA bantamweight; 118 lbs.), “Shinsuke Yamanaka” Shinsuke Yamanaka (WBC bantamweight; 118 lbs.), “Takashi Uchiyama” Takashi Uchiyama (WBA super featherweight; 130 lbs.), and Takashi Miura (WBC super featherweight; 130 lbs.)
The rise of Japanese boxing did not happen overnight; it came as a result of a solid boxing program which Philippine pro boxing unfortunately lacks. It starts with a clear preference to legitimate world titles. Note that all the incumbent champions of Japan hold world titles that came from the four generally-recognized bodies in boxing, to wit: World Boxing Association (WBA), World Boxing Council (WBC), International Boxing Federation (IBF) and WBO. All the belts are also regular world titles and are not mere “interim” versions. The Japanese Boxing Commission (JBC) is very strict in not allowing bouts for “interim” belts to be staged in Japan because it does not want to confuse Japanese fight fans and tolerate the proliferation of bogus champions. When former WBA super flyweight champ Nobuo Nashiro sought permission from the JBC to figure in a fight with Thai Denkaosen Kaovichit for the WBA’s interim super flyweight title on August 23, the JBC allowed him on the condition that the fight takes place outside Japan. The holder of an interim belt is not a regular world champion and is looked upon as a mere caretaker; one who temporary holds the belt while the real champion is injured or inactive. If a Japanese boxer elects to pursue a copycat belt, he can do so but without the blessings of the JBC.
The JBC, Japan’s governing body in boxing, was established in the 1950s to help prepare Yoshio Shirai in his bid to become Japan’s first world boxing champion. Shirai delivered the goods, beating Filipino Dado Marino in May 1952 for the world flyweight title. You better believe it, the JBC has been around even before Japan crowned its first world champion. In stark contrast, Pancho Villa became the first Filipino world champion in 1923 and to this day the establishment of the Philippine Boxing Commission remains a figment of the imagination.
In addition to strictly supervising the contracts and the fights of Japanese prize-fighters, the JBC also coordinates with the Professional Boxing Association, the accredited group of club/gym owners in the Land of the Rising Sun. In Japan, a pro boxer is required to belong to a boxing gym/club which has exclusive management rights over him. A boxer cannot just transfer to another club/gym without observing the strict rules of the JBC which includes the payment of the corresponding transfer fees. Here in our backyard, it is old news to see a manager “pirating” an up-and-coming prospect from another manager.
The Philippines is credited for producing Asia’s first world boxing champion in Villa. Sadly, pro boxing in the country is being run by headless chickens. It is not clear who is really in charge and as a result our boxers continue to be treated like sacrificial lambs in bouts overseas. Pacquiao put the country in the international map, but he did it on his own and without any help from a non-existent pro boxing program.
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For comments, the writer can be reached at atty_eduardo@ yahoo.com.