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Chris John-Indonesian Dragon


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In Indonesia’s boxing history, two names will always stand out-first one is Ellyas Pical and the second, much more recent one: Chris John. This superb featherweight technician had one of the best and longest world championship reigns in recent history of boxing, holding the WBA belt from 2004 to 2013 and making 17 successful defenses and beating names like Juan Manuel Marquez, Derrick Gainer, Rocky Juarez, Oscar Leon, Ratanachai Sor Vorapin, Daud Cino Yordan and Chonlatarn Piryapinyo. Never a puncher, John could however stop most guys down the stretch if he landed enough punches over longer time. He won 48 fights, only losing 1, and drawing 3. 

Yohannes Christian John was born on 14 September 1979, in Banjarnegara, the second son of four of Johan Tjahjadi, who is of Chinese descent, and Maria Wersini. In contrast with the majority of Indonesian population, which is Muslim, Chris was raised as a Christian. He started training boxing at 5 years old, trained by his father, once an amateur boxer. His younger brother Adrian did the same. He also trained Wushu, the Chinese martial art, often representing Indonesia in some multi-event competitions. He was the 1997 gold medalist at the South East Asian Games at Wushu and also won the Indonesian multi-events games at it in 1996. He then started focusing on boxing and in 1998 turned pro, trained by renowned Sutan Rambing. He stands 169 cm tall, just under 5’7, and has a reach of 69 inches or 175 cm. Little did anyone know that he would embark on a 15-year unbeaten run and championship glory. His first significant fight came in 2001, when he fought his main national rival, Soleh Sundava, and defeated him by a corner retirement in 6 rounds to win the PABA title. In November 2002, he also scored a decision victory over former world bantamweight champion Ratanachai Sor Vorapin of Thailand.

On 26 September 2003, he faced the Colombian Oscar  Leon, a top contender, for the interim WBA title. John won by an uneven split decision. On 4 June next year, he became only the fourth Indonesian world champion when he beat Osamu Sato by UD in Tokyo, to lift the full WBA featherweight belt. After a first defense against Jose Rojas ended in a technical draw, in his second defense John took on the former WBA champion, Derrick “Smoke” Gainer, a tall featherweight at 5’9 and a boxer with power. John was down in round one but won pretty much every round after that and was victorious with a lopsided decision. After stopping the Australian Tommy Browne by TKO10 in Australia, he fought his greatest opponent yet in his most controversial fight ever. Juan Manuel Marquez was 44-2-1 when he came to Indonesia to fight, 4 March 2006. It was a competitive fight but Chris seemed to do enough to earn the decision while Marquez seemed to struggle with his style. He was also deducted points in rounds 10 and 11 for repeated low blows. In the end, John was proclaimed the winner by the scores of 116-110, 116-112 and 117-111. Marquez and his team complained and claimed the decision was unfair, however the fight was close and John did do well enough to be given the decision, in my own eyes. 

In 2007, he had a rematch with Jose Rojas and this time won by UD after putting Rojas down twice. In 2008, he beat the 27-0 Hiroyuki Enoki by a clear UD in Tokyo. On 28 February 2009, he fought for the first time in USA against Rocky Juarez, in his hometown Houston, Texas. In a case of terrible and biased home judging, all three judges scored the fight 114-114 although in reality John won clearly, probably by as much as 4 points. Because of the controversy, there was a rematch on 19 September that year, this time at MGM Grand and this time there was no controversy, as John justly was awarded unanimous victory. His next fight and defense happened after more than a year, on 5 December 2010 in Jakarta, Indonesian capital, where he defeated Argentinian technician Fernando David Saucedo by the scores of 120-108 and 119-109 twice. Next year on 17 April, he had a big domestic showdown against Daud Cino Yordan, who was also a different type fighter, a brawler with power. However, John was able to neutralize that power and outboxed him to win with scores of 117-111 and 116-112 twice. 

After ending the career of contender Shoji Kimura in May 2012 by another UD, in November he faced the 43-0 Chonlatarn Piryapinyo in Singapore, and once again won clearly on all scorecards. His invincibility finally started to wear down when he faced the very solid Satoshi Hosono on 14 April 2013 and after two rounds, a headbutt ended the fight in the third, as John got badly cut on the forehead. Two judges had it even at the time while the third scored both rounds for John. It would turn out John’s final successful defense, his 17th. His nine year reign would finally be ended by the unlikely man: Simpiwe Vetyeka, a long in the running contender who earlier that year had also stopped Daud Yordan in 12. They fought on 6 December ‘13 in Northbridge, Western Australia, and John looked far from his usual self, being soundly dominated for six rounds and down twice in the fifth and once in the sixth before retiring on his stool. It was a sad farewell to such a career and boxer. 

Chris John was 34 when he retired, with a record of 48-3-1, scoring 22 knockouts. Immediately after hanging up the gloves, he became a promoter. He is also a motivational speaker now and runs some businesses with his wife, also appearing on Indonesian television sometimes. He is definitely the greatest boxer and altogether sports star to come out of Indonesia yet. His world title reign is only surpassed in the number of defenses by Eusebio Pedroza (19) and in length by Johnny Kilbane (11 years). From 2005 to 2013, he was trained by Craig Christian. As a boxer, he was known under the aliases of “Dragon” and “Indonesian Thin Man”. This was the thread on the fabulous CHRIS JOHN! 


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