A Japanese Flyweight and Mexican Feather

By Ted Sares on October 29, 2011
A Japanese Flyweight and Mexican Feather
Flyweight champion Masao Ohba seemed destined for greatness, but it was not to be

It was rare for a Japanese fighter, even someone as distinguished as Masao Ohba, to do battle in any country other than Japan…

“Masao Ohba should be in the IBHOF and the WBHOF and it is almost criminal that he has been overlooked…”—Ken “KSTAT” Pollitt

Masao Ohba was born in Tokyo, Japan in 1949 and became a professional boxer in 1966 knocking out one Kazuyoshi Watanabe in the first round. He would go on to compile a 35-2-1 record, and in the process win the WBA flyweight title with a dramatic 13th round icing of Berkrerk Chartvanchai (25-1-3) in 1970 at the Nihon University Auditorium in Tokyo. In so doing, he became the eighth Japanese boxer to capture a world title. He was 25-2-1 at the time and would never lose another fight.

His first title defense came in 1971 when he beat the very capable Betulio Gonzalez, 25-2 coming in. Two months later, he stopped limited Constancio Garcia in, of all places, San Antonio, Texas—a strange place for a Japanese champion to fight. It was rare for a Japanese fighter to do battle in any country other than Japan.

After two successful defenses against Fernando Cabanella and future world champion Susumu Hanagata, he was positioned to fight Panamanian Orlando Amores and future world champion Chartchai Chionoi, the legendary brawler from Thailand. His fights with Amores and Chionoi would cement his cult status among boxing aficionados.

Ohba vs. Amores (June 20, 1972)

Masao Ohba possessed a great left jab combined with a warrior’s proclivity. Clearly, he was a top pound –for-pound fighter when he fought Panama’s Orlando Amores. The tough and stylish Panamanian had a 25-1 (18) record but was given little chance against the young and skilled Japanese champion.

Orlando surprised Ohba in the first, exposing a pattern of Ohba’s vulnerability in the early rounds, and suddenly landed a savage left hook that sent him to the canvas. Ohba was hurt and Amores quickly launched punishing combinations as Masao, now in survival mode, hung on until the bell saved him from the surprise onslaught.

Amores again came out winging in the second round, but this time Ohba held off the Panamanian with his great left jabs. Finally, a straight right following a jackhammer jab floored Amores. Ohba poured it on with his patented two-punch combos until the bell rang.

After round three (which both fighters appeared to take off), Amores resumed the sudden attack that proved successful for him in the first stanza, Ohba was backed up by the Panamanian’s all-out attack. As the bell rang ending the fourth, he looked worried as he returned to his corner.

The fight was quickly taking on the aura of a classic as both fighters engaged in furious give and take. In the fifth and final round, Amores was not able to sustain the success he had in round four, as he was banged continuously with brutal and damaging straight lefts. Finally, he was backed up and trapped on the ropes where Ohba stunned him with a ripping right. Sensing that his prey was now ready for the kill, Ohba launched a volley of two-dozen unanswered punches which rendered Amores helpless. Before the fight could be halted, Ohba went for the kill with two vicious rights that left the challenger in a heap. Taking the full count was simply a formality on the part of Amores, as the Champion raised his hands in triumph and the crowd roared “Obha, Obha, Obha

Ohba vs. Chionoi (January 2, 1973)

Ohba faced Chionoi (57-14-3) for his fifth defense and, affirming his pattern of early vulnerability, was knocked down hard with a right hook in the first round. He injured his right ankle while falling to the canvas, but managed to get up. Receiving ice for his ankle in between rounds, he limped out and began savage exchanges with Chionoi. He took control in the middle rounds, and finally decked the fearsome Thai challenger in the 12th stanza. Chionoi staggered into the ropes, as Ohba initiated a vicious volley that decked him. Getting up too fast, it was clear he was hurt, but the fight was allowed to continue, and the champion seized the opportunity launching another more even more savage assault that caused the Thai to drop in a corner. Somehow, the brawler got to his feet, but for all practical purposes, the fight was over. Ohba finished matters with a final multi-punch assault that rendered Chionoi helpless. Even with a badly injured ankle, Ohba had scored a dramatic KO for his fifth and most dramatic title defense.
It was a great ending for a great warrior.

Ohba made five defenses of his world title. Three of his victims would go on to become champions. With his prime years still to come, one can only wonder how he would have fared had he fought the great Miguel Canto. Still, he conquered rugged fighters like Bernabe Villacampo, Susumu Hanagata, Betulio Gonzales (who probably belongs in the Hall of Fame), Fritz Chevert (54-9-2), and Fernando Cabanella—all world-class boxers.

January 24, 1973

Ohba, like the legendary Mexican fighter Salvador Sanchez, seemed destined for greatness and was on a 19-fight winning streak but it was not to be. Twenty-two days after his last title defense against Chionoi, he died tragically in a car accident involving his new Corvette. Like Sanchez, he was just entering the prime of his career bringing a sad end to the reign of a most exciting flyweight, one who could well have become one of the greatest in boxing history.

Still, based on the accomplishments of his abbreviated career, a strong case could be made for his induction into The International Boxing Hall of Fame.

August 12, 1982

Sanchez died in a car crash just a few weeks after his 10th and final title defense against future Hall of Famer Azumah Nelson. He crashed on the early morning while driving his brand new Porsche sports car, dying instantly. He too was just 23 years old.

But unlike Ohba, Sánchez was posthumously inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1991. Perhaps it is time to put together the last piece of symmetry to this remarkable story and induct Masao Ohba.

In a weird twist of fate, Panama’s Orlando Amores would beat Mexican Antonio Becerra in 1976 by third round KO in Culiacan, Mexico. Becerra would go on to beat Sanchez by SD in 1977 giving “Chava” his only career defeat.

Be on the lookout for the author’s next book titled Shattered due out soon.

 

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  1. mikecasey 10:20am, 11/01/2011

    Understood, mate - he’s shrouded by grey clouds! Thanks champ.

  2. The Thresher 10:09am, 11/01/2011

    Mike, don’t know enough about him to comment.

  3. mikecasey 09:58am, 11/01/2011

    Ted, how do you rate Horacio Accavallo? He was a master by all accounts, yet one of the great ‘invisible’ men back in the day. Another of our favourite Argentinian mystery men! Difficult, I know, as there is so little film of him - but his record is exemplary.

  4. The Thresher 05:15am, 10/30/2011

    PUG, It has not yet been priced by the publisher. As soon as it is, email me at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) and I will take care of the rest.

  5. "Old Yank" Schneider 04:17am, 10/30/2011

    Video footage of Ohba certainly supports this article.  He is likely but one of many Asian fighters overlooked.

  6. pugknows 08:55pm, 10/29/2011

    How can I order your new book?

  7. The Thresher 02:54pm, 10/29/2011

    Ruff I’ll continue to write for Boxing.com but I am slowly easing off ESB.

  8. RUFFKNIGHT 02:36pm, 10/29/2011

    Amores beating Sanchez was a twist of fate, you’re right, good research. I saw Nelson fight a guy in Bakersfield a while before he fought Sanchez and thought he was a future and maybe unbeatable champ. Sal fought him on short notice and must have really been surprised. Actually I was surprised that Sanchez beat him. No more writing about boxing? What about on esb? Haven’t seen you there lately. Wish I had been the one who thought up “ROCKY”.

  9. TEX HASSLER 02:01pm, 10/29/2011

    Thanks Mr. Sares for bring to our attention the lighter weight fighters. So often they do not get the notice they richly deserve. Ohba is one of them and S. Sanchez was also a great fighter destined for great things but like Ohba he met an untimely end. Well I got to go now and feed my horse, or was he supposed to come and take me out to dinner? Maybe I took too many punches!

  10. The Thresher 01:14pm, 10/29/2011

    We are getting ready for a snowstorm. 5-10”. I haven’t even finished mowing. Well, we have salt, beef jerky, batteries, candles, rope, and water.

  11. The Thresher 01:09pm, 10/29/2011

    JC, thanks for the video. For some reason I can’t find mine. But I did have some. This guy was a classic stand up come forward fighter in the mold of Monzon, Great jab. Great closer. Bad starter.

    I have a suspicion he just might make it into the Hall. I sure hope so.

  12. JC45 12:44pm, 10/29/2011

    As a fan of anyone with a great jab I reckon I’d have liked Ohba , Ted. He looked like a nice stand up boxer with a great one - two combo. I managed to find this video of him. It’s in japanese but it shows some great highlights. Cheers mate. http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x3njvi_masao-ohba_sport

  13. pugknows 09:53am, 10/29/2011

    I watched some of his footage and he was a superb fighter. I’d vote him into the Hall without a second thought.

  14. The Thresher 09:00am, 10/29/2011

    No. It’s a collection of true crime and urban noir essays, My days of writing boxing books are over.


    Shall I put you down for an order?

  15. dollar bond 08:40am, 10/29/2011

    Ted,
    Is your new book about boxing?

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