By Joe Koizumi
Former WBA minimumweight champion Keitaro Hoshino (23-10, 6 KOs), 52, passed away on Saturday (October 9) in Okinawa, Japan. It was shocking that he died so young and sadly closed his life alone in Naha city in Okinawa. Keitaro reportedly had been struggling with his unidentified perennial sickness and finally yielded to it abruptly.
Hoshino, a short skillful speedster standing just 5”2.5”, was born in Yokohama in 1969, and experienced amateur boxing in Buso high school. Turning professional under the tutelage of ex-world flyweight ruler Susumu Hanagata in 1988, he was a very mediocre second-rater whose mark in his first six years until 1993 as a pro was just 6-5 with two KO wins and three KO losses.
No one then imagined he would become a world champ in the future.
Hoshino, however, became a different boxer since 1994, kept winning and seized the Japanese national 105-pound belt by defeating Ernesto Rubillar on points in 1997. Having defended his belt on four occasions, Keitaro entered the world top ten. It was in December 2000 that he, then 31, dethroned WBA minimum champ Joma Gamboa by an upset decision in his native Yokohama. Keitaro, however, forfeited his WBA throne to Thai veteran Chana Porpaoin via split verdict in his initial defense in April 2001. The WBA belt busily changed hands as Porpaoin yielded it to Japan’s Yutaka Niida, who inexplicably retired after his upset coronation. The vacant belt was disputed by grudge rivals of Hoshino and Gamboa, and Keitaro defeated the Filipino to become the WBA titlist again.
Hoshino’s reign didn’t last long as he again lost his belt in his first defense with Venezuelan Noel Arambulet by a majority decision in December 2002. He attempted to win the WBC 105-pound diadem for the third time, this time, against Mexican Jose Antonio Aguirre only to be halted in the twelfth and final session in his native Yokohama in June 2003. It was his final appearance when he was thirty-three.
He wasn’t a crowd-pleaser but a skillful boxer-fighter dependent on his tight defense and counterpunching to offset his lack of convincing power.
After he hung up gloves for good, he became a club representative of Koban Hoshino gym in Gifu city in 2003. It was in 2017 that he banged his wife’s face as he went into a red-hot rage over her love affair with another person and was arrested by the police. He was, therefore, forced to close his gym, and divorced himself from her to be separated from his children. He once returned to his native Yokohama to open a restaurant with his second wife, and then moved to Okinawa.
Reportedly estranged from her, the ex-champ lived alone in an apartment in Naha city. When some friend tried to contact him time and again, he had neither reply nor communication. So, he finally asked for the police’s help to look for Hoshino, who was eventually found dead in his locked room. It was October 9, and there might be a possibility that he had left this world earlier. Sad story.
In Japan, most former world champions usually stay in the fistic world as promoters, managers, trainers, or commentators etc. by utilizing their good reputations. Hoshino once acquired such a status of “kaicho” (boxing club owner or representative), but his hard luck, as well as his impatience, forfeited his occupation. Though he was a good professional cook, his restaurant business failed to meet with success.
His former manager and ex-champ Susumu Hanagata (currently the president of Japan Pro Boxing Association, the union of club owners), 74, recalled his pupil, saying, “Hoshino was a hard worker when active. Lately I’ve had no communication with him for some five years. Still young, he might be able to do anything more. I sympathize with his early passing.”
May his soul rest in peace.