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Takeshi Fuji


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The last undisputed junior welterweight world champion in 33 years, Takeshi Fuji scored a sensational ko victory to capture the WBC and WBA titles (back then the only ones recognized as world titles) from Sandro Lopopolo, in 1967. After making one successful defense, he was stripped of the WBC title for unknown reasons, sometime in 1968. Fuji was a heavy hitter, but struggled badly against the defensive genius of Nicolino Locche, to whom he lost his remaining WBA title. His career didn't last long after that disappointment and he retired in 1970, with a record of 34 wins with 29 ko's, 3 losses and 1 draw. He was a crowd pleaser with his very aggressive and hard-hitting style.

 

Born Paul Takeshi Fuji on 6 July 1940 in Honolulu. Hawaii, Fuji was a third-generation Japanese-Hawaiian. He was raised there, but then went to Japan where he joined a professional boxing gym led by the former professional wrestler Rikidozan. Despite boxing out of Japan, he could not speak Japanese. His trainer Eddie Townsend was also a half-Japanese American. He stood 5'6 or 168 cm tall and had a reach of 66 inches or 169 cm. He made his pro debut in April 1964 and won by a KO2. He went 13-0 before losing to Johnny Santos on points after 10 rounds, 16 November 1965. After winning three more fights, he was knocked out for the first and only time against Fel Pedranza; fighting in Osaka, on 5 June 1966, he lost by a KO6 to the Filipino. His natural power carried him through however and in February 1967, he knocked out Carl Penalosa, father of Dodie Boy and Gerry, in only 2 rounds, thereby winning the OPBF title at 140. He then got a crack at the world titles against the new champion, Sandro Lopopolo of Italy, who had surprisingly dethroned Carlos "Morocho" Hernandez and was making his second defense. The fight happened 30 April '67 in Kokugikan, Tokyo and Fuji the underdog surprised the boxing establishment by stopping Lopopolo in only 2 rounds, after first dropping him with a combination and then taking him out on the ropes with a barrage of lefts and rights. After such a stunning victory over a rated opponent, Fuji suddenly became famous, out of the blue. He made his first defense against the German contender Willy Quatuor, on 16 November that same year, and won by a KO4 against the experienced Quatuor, again in Kokugikan. After that fight, as mentioned above, he gave up or was stripped of the WBC title. Probably due to not fighting a mandatory.

 

Instead, he chose to make the second defense as the WBA champ against Nicolino Locche, one of the hottest names in the division. Locche was and is one of the greatest defensive fighters ever and already had 105 fights as a pro when they fought. The fight happened on 12 December 1968 in Kokugikan, over a year after Fuji's last title fight, but he had had 3 non-title fights in between and won them all by KO in 2 rounds. This proved to be a terrible night for Fuji, whose offensive style was offset perfectly by Locche's brilliant defense and he was in the end pounded into submission, and even though Fuji wanted to continue after the ninth round, the fight was called off by the referee after five seconds of the tenth. He had a bad swelling around both eyes and in the last round he had taken some merciless pounding. That was the end of Takeshi Fuji as a serious force and he only had four more fights against subpar opponents, drawing one and winning the other three by knockout. He was 30 when he retired. His downfall was simply due choosing the wrong opponent and he never should have fought someone like Locche, obviously. I am not sure wether Locche was chosen or was a mandatory, but that was a really HORRENDOUS match for Fuji. Fuji now works as a trainer at a boxing gym in Mito, Ibaraki, Japan. After he lost the WBC title, it would go 33 years until Kostya Tszyu finally united all the major titles, now three, and became the undisputed light welter champ. Thank you.

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