By Joe Koizumi
Photo by Boxing Beat
In Western countries, the number of thirteen might be ominous, but it’s a fortunate number for the Japanese boxing fraternity. Newly crowned WBO flyweight champ Sho Kimura is our thirteenth current world titleholder, who made a triumphal return on Saturday from Shanghai where he dethroned defending champ and two-time Olympic gold medalist Zou Shiming by an eleventh round stoppage. It’s a come-from-behind TKO for Kimura, a prefight underdog, turned loose with a flurry of punches to floor the champ Zou and halt him thereafter. He had been trailing on points after the tenth—97-93, 96-94 for Zou, and 94-96 for Kimura. Handled by his manager/trainer Masayuki Ariyoshi (who also cultivated WBC female 102-pound champ Momo Koseki to seventeen defenses straight) , Kimura jubilantly said, “I suffered a cut in the third round, and couldn’t see well with the right eye thereafter, but kept fighting on. It was my strenuous training thanks to Kaicho (club owner in Japanese) that made me throw so many combinations in the eleventh.”
Now we, in Japan, have three world flyweight champions—WBC’s Daigo Higa, WBA’s Kazuto Ioka and WBO’s Kimura. Kimura wishes to face WBA titlist Ioka, but will be obliged to meet the mandatory challenger and compatriot Toshiyuki Igarashi in his initial defense. Not only in the 112-pound category but in the 108-pound division, we see three champs—WBA’s Ryoichi Taguchi, WBO’s Kosei Tanaka and IBF’s Hiroto Kyoguchi. Thirteen world champs at the same time is the new mark in the Japanese fistic history. The number of 14, therefore, may be our lucky one next time, if really possible.