Fight #45: Fighting Harada vs. Eder Jofre 1, May 18, 1965, Nagoya, Japan
I'd guess that many of you have never seen either of those names before, but both are in the International Boxing Hall of Fame, and you can make a solid argument that Harada is the greatest fighter in Japanese history and Jofre is the greatest fighter in Brazilian history. Fought at the 118 pound bantamweight limit, this 15-round war made Harada's reputation, but Jofre had already established himself as an all-time great before he faced Harada. Going into this fight, Jofre was unbeaten in 50 fights, had held the world bantamweight championship for five years, and had knocked out each of his previous 17 opponents. But that win streak probably left him a bit underprepared for Harada.
It's not hard to figure out why Harada has the nickname he does. Watching this fight, the only videos I could find were in Japanese, so I didn't get any of the commentary. But it was obvious to see that Harada was a blinding whirlwind of activity, overwhelming Jofre at times with power punches especially. At the beginning of each round, Harada came sprinting out of his corner, meeting Jofre before the Brazilian had taken more than three steps from his corner. Harada is not a knockout artist, but early in this fight he made a concerted effort to attack Jofre's body, which clearly slowed his opponent down. In the fourth round, Harada had Jofre hurt and against the ropes. I'd have to go back and watch again, but I think Harada threw 40-50 unanswered punches. There's a good chance the fight would have been stopped right there today. But Jofre managed to stay on his feet, and made a quick adjustment in the fifth round, using fewer jabs and throwing more overhand rights, which throughout the fight seemed to get closer and closer to the target.
But throughout the middle rounds, Harada just doesn't stop moving, jumping and dancing all around Jofre and peppering him with shots from just about every angle. It was clear to see that Jofre became frustrated, as he starting trying to load up on massive uppercuts that mostly missed their target by a wide margin. For the first half of the fight, Jofre stood in his corner in between rounds (something George Foreman used to do). By the second half of the fight, he needed the stool.
Harada finally started to tire in the 13th round. More and more, you see him punctuating his combinations by grabbing Jofre and catching a breath. In the 14th round, Harada was caught cold with an overhand right that nearly floored him. For about a second it looked like Harada was out on his feet. He stumbled into the ropes, but Jofre, after so many rounds and so many body shots absorbed, just didn't have the power left to finish him. Harada survived the last two rounds to win a split decision. It was a close fight, with several close rounds, but I gave it to Harada. Scoring on the 10-point system (not the one they used back then), I had Harada winning 9 out of the 15 rounds, but there were 3 rounds or so that I gave to Harada that you could have given to Jofre. I know the decision is controversial among some boxing fans, but I think Harada deserved the W.
These two would fight again one year later, and Harada would win again, this time by unanimous decision. Harada would hold onto the bantamweight championship for another two years. Between the two of them, Jofre and Harada had the division on ice for most of the 1960s.
A couple other notes:
Both Jofre and Harada are still alive. Jofre is now 84 years old, and Harada is 77.
For most of boxing history, casual sports fans seem to mostly know the heavyweights but not the other divisions. (These days I imagine a lot of sports fans don't even know the heavyweights, and understandably so.) It's a shame because in my experience the heavyweight division is actually one of the least interesting, especially today. The lower weight classes feature a lot of incredible speed and athleticism and are really fun to watch.
Thinking about boxing history as a whole, boxing has to be one of the most international sports in the entire world. There are all-time great fighters from everywhere, except maybe the Middle East and South Asia. But all the other continents and regions have at least one or two truly great fighters to their credit, and usually many more than that. There are very few sports in the world that you can say that about.
Here is the video of the fight: