American Boxers Fighting Out of Japan Back to 1961!
By: Ken Hissner
Japan is a hot bed for boxers with quite a bit of activity on the small island. In the past such boxers as America’s Steve “Flasher Ishibashi” Smith was one of those boxers to win Japan‘s National Title.
Japan produced 209 boxing events in 2016. Already in 2017 they have had 46 events with 20 scheduled into June. Some prominent boxers have come from Venezuela but not in the numbers of American’s who primarily were serving in the US Military in Japan when turning professional.
Having turned professional in April of 1971 Smith was 8-2 while fighting out of Japan including two bouts in Australia and South Korea while living in Japan. In his eleventh bout he won the Japanese middleweight title knocking out champion Cassius Naito, 24-3-2 in February of 1973.
In Smith’s next bout after becoming Japan’s champion he was knocked out by Billy “Dynamite” Douglas, 26-6-1, who was brought in from the USA. He would go onto win five of his next six fights in Japan including re-winning the vacant Japanese middleweight title in April of 1974. This would be when Smith decided to return to the city he was born in Philadelphia, PA.
In October of 1974 Smith would make his USA debut on the undercard of the Emile Griffith and “Bad” Bennie Briscoe undercard. He defeated out Nick Peoples, 6-17-1, at the Spectrum. He would soon meet up with the tough competition of future world champion Eddie Mustafa Muhammad, 10-1, in January of 1975 at the Spectrum and Philly’s Stanley “Kitten” Hayward, 30-10-4, at the legendary Blue Horizon in April losing both by stoppage. In October he would travel to Paris and was stopped by Jean Mateo, 26-3-1. He would return to Philadelphia scoring three consecutive wins including over Bobby Payton, 10-0, and Willie Warren, 41-26-1. He would then run out his career in four bouts on the road including a stop in Johannesburg, South Africa. He lived in Tokyo, Japan.
The first to this writer’s knowledge was George Carter, 20-11 (10), of Lakeland, GA. He would debut in Japan on May of 1961 defeating Japanese veteran Hachiro Tatsumi, 77-24-6, over ten rounds. He would fight out of Japan with occasional bouts in the USA until the end of his career in July of 1972.
After Carter won two of his first ten round bouts in Japan he went to Philadelphia in January of 1962 and was defeated by one of their best future boxers in Dick Turner, 10-0-1, at the legendary Blue Horizon. After winning one of two bouts in Massachusetts Carter would return to Japan losing two bouts including one to South Korean Olympian and future world champion Ki-Soo Kim, 9-0-1, in January of 1964.
Carter wouldn’t fight again until the end of 1966 losing in Japan then going to Korea in a rematch with Kim who was then 25-0-2. After being inactive for almost a year he would go onto win seven of his next eight bouts in Japan. In February of 1970 he won the Japanese super welterweight title defeating future WBC & WBA super welterweight world champion Koichi Wajima, 13-1, only to lose the Japanese title two months later to Wajima by split decision.
Carter would go onto win four out of five all knockout wins earning an April 1971 Japanese middleweight title bout with champion Turtle Okabe, 16-8-4, winning the title over ten rounds. He would go onto win his next four bouts including two title defenses before going to Australia and losing to world contender Tony Mundine in February of 1972. Some five months later back in Japan Carter would lose what would be his career final bout in July of 1972. He lived in Kawasaki, Kanagawa, Japan.
Kevin Palmer, 24-1-1 (15), out of New York City debuted in Japan in February of 1993 living in Yoksuka, Kanagawa, Japan, until his final bout in August of 2001. He would go 8-0-1, then winning the vacant Japanese middleweight title stopping Naotaka Hozumi, 6-0, in the tenth and final round.
In Palmer’s second defense he defeated Yoshinori Nishizawa, 10-8-4, whom he had drawn with previously. In September of 1996 he won the OPBF middleweight title defeating Jung-Mo Kim, 17-1-1, over twelve rounds. He would go onto win his next ten bouts including five title defenses before losing his first and last bout in a rematch to Naotaka Hozumi, 17-2-1 in August of 2001.
Another American boxer who found success in Japan was Frederick Roberts, 38-7-2 (20), from the Bronx, NY, fighting as Rick Yoshimura. He would lose his first two bouts in New York starting in 1983 before moving to Akishima, Japan, in November of 1987 going 15-3 winning the Japanese super lightweight title and dropping back to lightweight taking that title. He would make twenty-two defenses including a draw. In February of 2001 he would fight to a draw for the WBA lightweight title to Japan’s Takanori Hatakeyam, 24-1-2, over twelve rounds. He would not get a rematch and went onto losing his last two bouts with the final one in October 2003.
Carlos Elliott, 26-3 (22), out of Huntsville, AL, debuted in Japan in 1983 until 1991 winning the Japanese super welterweight title in 1985 and the OPBF title in 1987. In his fourth bout he knocked out Chung-Jae Hwang, 26-2, in South Korea. He would lose in an attempt to win the Japanese welterweight title and another loss in Indonesia. He was 25-1 in Japanese rings. In his final bout he February of 1991 he would lose to Gilbert Dele, 26-0-1, for the vacant WBA super welterweight title in Guadeloupe. He lived in Hachinohe, Aomori, Japan.
Charles Bellamy, 26-3-2 (17), from New York City, fighting as Charlie Ota debuted in Japan in 2006 going onto with both the Japanese and OPBF super welterweight titles in 2010. While living in Hachioji, Tokyo, Japan, he had two fights in New York. In March of 2012 he defeated Gundrick King, 16-7, at MSG, and in November of 2013 defeated Mike Ruiz, 17-7, in Brooklyn.
Following the Ruiz fight in May of 2014 Bellamy lost to future and current WBC super welterweight champion Jermell Charlo, 23-0, in Montreal, CAN, over twelve rounds. In his next fight in December he would lose by split decision to Yuki Nonaka, 26-8-2, in an attempt to regain his Japanese super welterweight title in December. He would go onto win one bout in 2015 and one in 2016 before fighting to a draw in his last bout in January of 2017 to Yuki Beppu, 14-0.
Paul “Takeshi” Fuji, 34-3-1 (29), of Honolulu, Hawaii, would debut in Japan April of 1964 winning five bouts before returning to Hawaii winning another five bouts. Upon his return to Japan he won the vacant Japanese super lightweight title in June of 1965.
In November of 1965 Fuji would return to Hawaii gaining a win before losing to Johnny Santos, 27-2, over a two week span. In September of 1966 he won the OPBF super lightweight title. In April of 1967 he won the WBC and WBA super lightweight titles knocking out Italy’s Sandro Lopopolo, 39-4-5, in Tokyo, where he was residing. He made a defense in November of 1967 knocking out Germany’s Willie Quatuor, 57-6-5. In November of 1968 he lost his WBA title to Argentina’s Nicolino Locche, 89-2-14, in Tokyo. He would go 3-0-1 before retiring in May of 1970 in his final bout.