Fight #39: Jung Koo Chang vs. Katsuo Tokashiki
Fight #39: Jung Koo Chang vs. Katsuo Tokashiki, August 18, 1984, Pohang, South Korea
This scheduled 12-round bout was for the light flyweight championship of the world. The weight limit for light flyweight is 108 pounds, which makes this the lightest fight on this list. For the general public, these weight classes are often overlooked, although that is less the case in Asia where many of the greatest boxers are in the flyweight, bantamweight, and featherweight divisions. In recent years, however, the lighter divisions have grown in popularity. The primary reason for this is economic: for a 108 or 115-pounder, in order to get any notice he needs to fight the very best in his weight class. At the heavier weight classes, the top fighters can often get away with hyping up mismatches and getting big paydays without risking their records and reputations. But if you weigh 108 pounds, you'd better fight the best if you want anyone to notice.
I've always greatly enjoyed fights in these lower divisions because you tend to see tremendous hand speed and footwork, and very often fights in these classes feature a lot of action and a lot of knockdowns. A great flyweight often puts a lot of their limited size into their punch power and output, and simply put, it is easier to knock down a man who weighs 108 pounds than one who weighs 175.
This fight between Hall of Famer Jung Koo Chang and Katsuo Tokashiki was for the light flyweight championship of the world. Tokashiki had been the WBA belt holder from December 1981 to July 1983, and was now looking to take the WBC belt from Chang, who had held it since March 1983 following a victory over (now Hall of Famer) Hilario Zapata. The fight took place before a raucous South Korean crowd cheering on their local champion against the Japanese challenger.
This fight was an all-out war. I think it now surpasses Eubank-Benn as the best fight I have so far watched in this series. From the opening bell, Tokashiki was on the offensive, looking to drive Chang into the ropes and blast away with furious combinations of punches. Right from the opening bell, Tokashiki was successful with this strategy, as he used an array of body and head shots to force Chang into a war. The problem was, as we learned very early in the fight, Chang could be very successful fighting on the ropes, blocking and ducking some of the fire incoming from Tokashiki and then countering with jarring left hooks. It was a counter-left hook, thrown with Chang's back against the ropes, that sent Tokashiki down in the first round. This was not a minor or flash knockdown. Tokashiki was seriously hurt by this shot.
The second round also went to Chang, but this time the fighters stayed in the center of the ring, furiously trading blows and both landing hard shots repeatedly. Throughout this fight, Chang's shots seemed to have a bit more of an effect on Tokashiki than vice versa, and honestly that was probably the difference in the fight, as both men landed hundreds of shots.
The moments in the fight where Tokashiki seemed to do better was when Chang tired from the constant punching. This happened in Round 3, as the war of the first two rounds gassed Chang momentarily and allowed Tokashiki to dictate the pace of the fight. Tokashiki carried that momentum into the fourth round, and clearly hurt Chang with a right hand that caused the South Korean to stagger back to the ropes. Yet, once again, Chang came alive when he was under the most pressure, fighting back with stiff counters that moved the bout back to the center of the ring, where Chang had the advantage. By the end of the fourth round, Tokashiki, who looked like he was in position to knock Chang out at the beginning of the round, was himself staggered and spent. I gave this round to Chang. It was maybe the best round I've seen so far in all the fights I've watched as part of this series to date.
Chang and Tokashiki traded rounds in the fifth and sixth, and then in the seventh it looked like Chang was ready to end the fight when he drove Tokashiki to the ropes early in the round. This time, however, Chang got a taste of his own medicine and Tokashiki fought back brilliantly. By the end of the seventh, it looked like Chang was in serious trouble as he was battered against the ropes and barely able to stand as the bell rang.
The eighth round was another back-and-forth affair, with both fighters unloading everything they have on each other, and both fighters hurt repeatedly. By the end of this round, however, Tokashiki looked exhausted for the first time in the fight. Sure enough, in the ninth round, Tokashiki gets battered by a clean right hand that forces him to back off. Chang, seeing his opening, goes on the offensive and clocks Tokashiki with four or five clean shots to the head in a row, which sends Tokashiki across the ring and into the ropes. With the Japanese fighter too exhausted to defend himself, the referee wisely steps in to stop the fight. Chang defends his title, punctuating his victory by collapsing to the canvas in an obvious display of relief, joy, and exhaustion. These are 108-pounders. You just knew that the fight had to be something special for them to make this list.
After this fight, Tokashiki never fought again, finishing his career with a record of 19-4-2. This fight marked both the first and last time he was ever knocked out in the ring. Since his retirement, he has become a successful actor in Japan, and even played the role of Fighting Harada (the winner of fight #45 on this list) in 1990. For his part, Chang continued to fight for another 7 years, successfully defending his title 11 times. Retiring in 1988, he was forced out of retirement by financial problems caused by a divorce. He went 1-3 in these fights, but actually came close to winning a flyweight title at 112 pounds, losing by narrow margins on the judges' scorecards in his last two fights. He finished his career with a record of 38-4, and in 2010 became the first South Korean ever inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame.
Here is my current ranking for the five best fights in this series so far:
1. Chang vs. Tokashiki 2. Eubank vs. Benn 3. Harada vs. Jofre 4. Gomez vs. Pintor 5. Toney vs. Jirov
And here is the video of the fight: