Induct Fierce Eagle into the Hall

By Ted Sares on November 29, 2011
Induct Fierce Eagle into the Hall
Yoko Gushiken was sometimes called the “Okinawan Eagle” and was fearsome in the ring

Masaki Kanehira, Japan’s most renowned trainer and known as the maker of Japanese champions, called him “A genius who appears once every 100 years…”

Fall seven times, stand up eight
                        —Japanese proverb

Whenever I think of Japanese boxers, three names quickly come to the fore. One, Masahiko “Fighting” Harada, was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1996. The great Jiro Watanabe, 26-2 with 18 KOs, was a long-reigning king of the super flyweight division and another Japanese titleholder. Watanabe’s successor for the WBA title would be the legendary Thai Khaosai Galaxy who would win the vacant title and also go on to become a junior bantamweight and reel off 19 straight title defenses. Watanabe, who has been in and out of trouble with the law after his boxing career, was never inducted into the Hall. The third fighter is Yoko Gushiken.

Gushiken (1974-1981)

Known as the “Fierce Eagle,” Gushiken finished with a 23-1 record and held the WBA junior flyweight crown from 1976-1981. He was sometimes called the “Okinawan Eagle” and was a fearsome presence in the ring.

After a great amateur career 62-3 (52 KOs), he fought for the WBA flyweight crown after just nine professional fights and defeated Juan Guzman by resounding knockout in the seventh round. Guzman had been pounded to the canvas four times. He also won the Tokyo Writers Club award for Fighter of the Year in 1976 by unanimous vote. Masaki Kanehira, Japan’s most renowned trainer and known as the maker of Japanese champions, called him “A genius who appears once every 100 years.”

The rate at which he matured ring-wise was astounding. With 13 title defenses against rock-solid challengers, his resume was stellar. He also drew sell-out crowds wherever he fought, defending his title in more Japanese cities than any other Japanese champion. The curly haired champion with incredible stamina, energy, and a mean streak to boot won fan support throughout Japan. He held the championship for over four years. In 13 defenses, he won eight by knockout.

Gushiken was a pressure fighter always in-coming and using his great stamina and southpaw stance to wear down and punish his opponents. By employing constant pressure, he forced opponents into mistakes. He also threw punches in bunches and was an instinctive counterpuncher. Like Bobby Chacon and Roberto Duran, he threw his punches with a ferocity that overwhelmed opponents, and sent them into a retreat from the get-go. British boxing historian Bob Mee said, of Gushiken, “An exciting southpaw pressure fighter who could box behind an accurate right jab, but loved nothing better than wading forward and letting his punches go in bursts.”

In 1980, Gushiken was again named Japan’s boxer of the year, and took part in Japan’s Fight of the Year against Pedro Flores in his 13th defense. The fight was described by The Ring as, “A gory war” with Gushiken “Fighting back strongly with body punches and pounding out a split but popular 15-round decision.” But his skills had diminished somewhat. He had previously defeated the top contender Martin Vargas, 60-5-3 with 38 kayos.

Gushiken dropped Vargas three times and won every round. After the fight, Joe Koizumi, Japan’s leading boxing reporter and historian, wrote that Gushiken “Has clearly established his supremacy as the greatest Japanese fighter in history.”

Yoko granted the tough Mexican challenger a rematch in 1981 and the well-prepared Mexican counterpunched Gushiken to a 12th round knockout loss in what was a stunning upset. One of Gushiken’s weaknesses had been that he threw wide and looping punches. Flores was able to take advantage by stepping inside with sharp and well-placed counterpunches that floored The Eagle in rounds eight and 12. In the tradition of the Samurai Warrior, Gushiken would not surrender and his corner had no alternative but to call a halt to the fight.

Gushiken announced his retirement five months after losing to Flores. Like Fighting Harada, Yoko Gushiken remains a popular figure in Japan, training boxers and running one of Japan’s most impressive gyms. He may have achieved even greater acclaim had he moved up in weight and fought Miguel Canto or Betulio Gonzalez but it was not to be.

Hagler, Marciano, Watanabe, Harrada, Calzaghe, and Lennox Lewis were able to walk away. So did Yoko “Fierce Eagle” Gushiken. They all did it on their own terms, not an easy thing to do in boxing. As a 26-year-old, Yoko retired after losing only once in 24 fights. Surely, he could have continued at the highest level, but he would never put the gloves on again except as a trainer.

Inexplicably, he has not been inducted into the International Hall of Fame. Let’s rectify that this year.

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  1. mahjong solitaire gratuit 11:04pm, 03/18/2012

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  3. the thresher 03:32pm, 11/29/2011

    Cocoa Kid won 176 (KO 48) + lost 56 (KO 7) + drawn 10 = 244

  4. the thresher 03:30pm, 11/29/2011

    Tiger Jack Fox won 148 (KO 94) + lost 23 (KO 9) + drawn 12 = 188

  5. the thresher 03:22pm, 11/29/2011

    here are some good Asian possibilities, Tex:

    South Korean
    In-Chul Baek – 1980-1990
    In-Jin Chi – 1991-2006
    Soo-Hwan Hong –1969-1980
    Ki-Soo Kim – 1961-1969
    Myung-Woo “Sonagi” Yuh – 1983-1992
    Yoshio Shirai – 1943-1955
    Yuri Arbachakov – 1990-1997
    Hiroyuki Ebihara – 1959-1969
    Yoko “Fierce Eagle” Gushiken – 1974-1981
    Hiroshi Kobayashi – 1962-1971
    Masao “The Eternal Champion” Ohba – 1966-1973
    Masamori Tokuyama – 1994-2006 (North Korean born but fought out of Japan)
    Jiro Watanabe – 1979-1986
    Sot Chitalada – 1983-1992
    Chartchai Chionoi – 1960-1975
    Pone Kingpetch – 1954-1966
    Muangchai “J-Okay” Kittikasem – 1988-1999
    Samart Payakaroon – 1982-1994 (Also a legend of Muay Thai boxing)

  6. the thresher 03:17pm, 11/29/2011

    Ken Overlin should be in there for sure

  7. the thresher 03:08pm, 11/29/2011

    I have a number of different goals with this stuff but one is definitly education as Yank points out. Once the article is done, it’s there for any historian to read—not to mention voters from the BWAA


  8. jofre 01:21pm, 11/29/2011

    My 3 choices are Tommy Hearns and too long overlooked Ken Overlin and Cocoa Kid. If there was a 4th choice it would go to Tiger Jack Fox.

  9. mikecasey 12:58pm, 11/29/2011

    Now here’s a fella who SHOULD get in! Nice call, Ted.

  10. "Old Yank" Schneider 12:12pm, 11/29/2011

    Ted—I absolutely love this historical stuff—it is of HUGE educational value to fans and experts alike!  There is great contemporaneous relevance to this piece.  Nicely done!

  11. TEX HASSER 12:02pm, 11/29/2011

    It would be good to see some folks like this in the Hall of Fame, from other countries. Most of the guys like Gushiken are unknown to most American fans but they need to be known and appreciated.

  12. the thresher 10:18am, 11/29/2011

    I think those who impact a fight directly should be the only ones picked. This would include Referees.

  13. the thresher 10:03am, 11/29/2011

    Mike, I feel you and would not dare disagree. BTW, say more about Mike Heath. Is he an Aussie?

  14. b 10:00am, 11/29/2011

    As long as there is some revenue to be had from the induction, consider it done.

    The hall is a business and in the end it’s just business.

  15. mike schmidt 09:54am, 11/29/2011

    You may not perhaps be that group that likes the non participant group but they are part of the Hall. In that context, and keeping in consideration past refs that have been inducted, then I give you big man without a doubt DOUBLE SS STEVE SMOGER- GO TO BOXREC AND SEE HIS LONG BODY OF WORK AND CONSIDER HOW GOOD HE HAS BEEN OVER SUCH A LONG PERIOD AND CONSIDER SOME OF THE HOW BADS WE HAVE HAD RECENTLY. GO TO HIS JOB THE NIGHT OF TRINIDAD VS HOPKINS- A THING OF BEAUTY- I GIVE YOU SMOGER YES INDEED- NEXT YEAR MR ED BROPHY AND COMPANY- CAN YOU FEEL ME TED!!!!!!

  16. the thresher 09:41am, 11/29/2011

    The reason I am doing so many of these Hall articles is that I want to beat the December 7 deadline when they announce the Inductees. I will be very interested in seeing how many of these guys get in.

    Hearns, of course, is a given.

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