By Joe Koizumi
It was in 1963 that Kenji Yonekura, two-time world challenger, Orient bantamweight champ and former Olympian in the Melbourne games in 1956, established Yonekura Gym after his retirement. Since then, the Gym produced five world champions, nine OPBF/OBF titlists and thirty-one national titleholders to its credit to be called “champion-maker.”
The 83-year-old Yonekura, an outstanding speedster who failed to win the world belt from Pascual Perez and Jose Becerra, made up his mind to close his Gym in the end of this month because he cannot cultivate youngsters any longer due to his physical condition.
The world titleholders from the Gym were as follows: three-time champ Kuniaki Shibata (who dethroned Vicente Saldivar in Mexico, Ben Villaflor in Hawaii and Ricardo Arredondo in Japan), Guts Ishimatsu (who captured the WBC lightweight belt from Rodolfo Gonzalez and kept it against Ken Buchanan), Shigeo Nakajima (who won the WBC 108-pound belt from Sung-Jun Kim in 1980), Hideyuki Ohashi (who acquired the WBC and WBA 105-pound belts on a couple of occasions) and Hiroshi Kawashima (who kept his WBC 115-pound belt six times).
It was a featherweight Tsuyoshi Tameda that fought yesterday (Tuesday) as the very last boxer out of the Yonekura Gym, and many ex-champions of the gym gathered to encourage and hail the junior at the Korakuen Hall. He was victorious in the final of the Japanese Youth tourney. Hideyuki Ohashi, two-time world champ now handling Naoya “Monster” Inoue and ex-champ Akira Yaegashi, said, “We’ll follow the ever-progressing spirit of the Yonekura Gym and contribute to the boxing world with our efforts.” Mr. Yonekura, in sanatorium in Tochigi Prefecture, didn’t appear the show, but left a great legacy in our fistic fraternity.