by Joe Koizumi

Mar. 29, 1998
TOKYO--Ryogoku Sumo Arena--Unbeaten prospects squared off before some 8,000 spectators. Fast-moving and slick-punching TAKANORI HATAKEYAMA, 130, proved too ringwise, shifty and positive for defending champ KOJI ARISAWA, 130, and finally caught him with effective combinations to drop him en route to a fine TKO win at 1:44 of the 9th round in a scheduled 10. The newly crowned Hatakeyama, 22, ranked #3 by the WBA, boosted his ledger to 21-0-1, 17 KOs. Arisawa, 26, tasted his first defeat and dropped to 18-1, 15 KOs.

Everything was unusual. We have never used Ryogoku Sumo Arena for just a national title bout, except for a world title go, as the capacity is 11,000 for the Sumo tournaments and 9,000 for the boxing event. It is incredible that a national title bout drew no less than 8,000 aficionados in this gigantic arena. It was simply because of the popularirty and credentials of both ringmen.

The challenger Hatakeyama once held the OPBF jr. light throne by stopping Korean Joungchil Choi in 2 easy frames in Mar., 1996. Having kept his regional title on 3 occasions, the Japanese prospect had a crack at the WBA 130-pound title against Korean Yongsoo Choi only fight to a split draw in Tokyo last Oct. Hatakeyama was apparently leading on points, but showed his fatigue and allowed Choi to show his last surge in the last 3 sessions. He previously scored 11 KO wins in a row.

Arisawa, on the contrary, has improved steadily. Born as twin brothers along with Kazu Arisawa in the family that managed a boxing gym named Soka Arisaw Gym, Koji entered the paid ranks without any amateur career, while his elder brother Kazu was a All-Japan high school champ. Koji won 18 pro bouts straight with 15 within the distance. Plus, he iced last 12 opponents. Koji kept his Japanese national title 5 times, stopping Yutaka Nishida in 3, Masuaki Takeda in 9, Yutaka Nishida again in 1, Kenji Fukunaga in 5 and Yoshinori Takenaka in 7. His handsome face has also fascinated gal fans.

Hatakeyama, coached by ex-Korean champ Hwaryong Yuh (who had never gained the Oriental title, though some people call him ex-Orient champ), came out fighting from the start, utilizing lots of stinging lefts and sharp left hooks in the first two rounds. The defending champ Arisawa covered himself up with a tight guard, and occasionally threw his lethal left-right combination with which he had produced many KO victims. Arisawa attempted to land solid right hooks to the side of the belly, while Hatakeyama kept peppering the champ's face. The 5th might be a turning point, as Hatakeyama began to penetrate the champ's guard with stinging jabs. Whenever Arisawa attempted to retaliate with one-two combinations, Hatakeyama jumped out and moved side-to-side to avert the champ's revenging rallies.

The 7th saw Arisawa come all out for a kill, as he turned loose with vaunted left-right combinations. Though Hatakeyama mixed up with him, this round went to the champ. Arisawa, encouraged by his chief second and father Shigenori, fought hard in the 8th to make it a hot affair. They put on a very good competition.

Hatakeyama, in the 9th, pinned him to the ropes, and exploded a well-timed right to the face after he landed a wicked left uppercut to the belly. Down went Koji. The champ barely regained his feet, but he looked dejected and tired. Hatakeyama forced him to the ropes again and landed a barrage of punches. Referee Uchida declared a well-received halt. Scored after the 8th--Asao and Morita both 79-75, and Abe 79-76, all for Hatakeyama.

Mr. Seunghoon Lee, ex-IBF jr. feather champ and currently president of Kukdong Promotion that handles the WBA jr. light boss Yongsoo Choi, and his wife, Ms. Angie Chun Lee, were in attendance. They appreciated Hatakeyama's improvement and strength as well.

Except a couple of Japanese world champs, Joichiro Tatsuyoshi and Satoshi Iida, Hatakeyama must be one of the most talented prospects here in Japan--along with the also newly crowned national junior bantam champ Akihiko Nago.

This was an epoch-maing event here. People in the boxing fraternity have realized that a very competitive bout between Japanese boys can draw such a big crowd--a la Henry Maske vs. Graciano Rocchigiani in Germany. This Hatakeyama vs. Arisawa reminded our old fans (including this reporter) of Fighting Harada vs. Katsutoshi Aoki and Hiroshi Kobayashi vs. Shozo Saijo bouts. Anyway, it was a very hard-fought battle that won the great applause of the crowd.

It was an unfortunate day for the Arisawa family. Koji's twin brother Kazu Arisawa, 127, suffered a bad stoppage at the hand of Toshiharu Saotome, 127, at 0:43 of the 7th session in a scheduled 8. Arisawa absorbed plenty of overhand rights by Saotome, who finally landed it to drop him in the fatal round. Saotome is 15-5-2, 6 KOs. Kazu fell to 13-2, 10 KOs.
Co-promoters: Soka Arisawa and Yokohama Hirari Promotions.

Joe Koizumi
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