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Sena Irie Duplicates Takao Sakurai Feat In Tokyo Olympic Boxing in 1964


PhilBoxing.com



Irie (L) in action against Petecio Tuesday, Aug. 3, 2021.

Takao Sakura won for Japan its first Olympic gold medal in boxing by winning the bantamweight finals in the 1964 Summer Games held in Tokyo by stopping Chung Chin Cho of South Korea in the second round at the then newly opened Korakuen Boxing Hall.

Nearly 60 years later, Sena Irie duplicated the feat by becoming the first Japanese woman to win an Olympic gold in women's boxing by outpointing her Filipina rival, Nesthy Petecio 5-0 in the featherweight finals of the 2021 Tokyo Olympics women's boxing competitions at the Kokugikan Arena in Tokyo.

Petecio herself made history in her country by being the first Filipina Olympic boxing medalist and only the third to win silver in the event to include Anthony Villanueva who won his also in 1964 Tokyo and Mansueto Velasco from 1996 Atlanta. Petecio is likewise the second Filipina to bring home a silver medal after Hidilyn Diaz from 2016 Rio who recently won the Philippines first Olympic gold by winning her class in 2021 Tokyo Olympics weightlifting.

In the first all Asian finals in Olympic women's boxing and only the fourth overall in the history of Olympic boxing competitions, Irie once again outsmarted her Filipina rival to gain the nod of the neutral judges in a fight marked by excessive clinching.

In 1964, Sakurai was decisive in his gold medal win, flooring his South Korean finals rival twice in the second round prompting the referee to stop the contest and declare him the winner.

Sakurai who earlier hid his boxing from his parents while in high school, advanced to the finals by defeating Brian Packer of Great Britain 4-1, Cassius Aryee of Ghana, 5-0, Nicolae Pulu of Romania, 5-0 and Washington Rodriguez of Uruguay, 5-0 in the earlier rounds before stopping Chung for the gold medal.

Sakurai's feat in the Olympics heightened hopes for his professional career, and he made his professional debut from Misako Boxing Gym in March, 1965.

He won 22 straight fights, but was unable to make a full transition from his cautious, amateur boxing style to a more aggressive, professional style as he could win only 4 fights by knockout out of his 32 professional fights.

Even so, Sakurai was seen as heir apparent to his more illustrious countryman, Masahiko "Fighting" Harada who was then the reigning world bantamweight champion and regarded as among the best fighters in the world.

Harada however was defrocked by Australia's Lionel Rose in February 1968 and decided to move up to the featherweight prompting demands from Japanese fans for Sakurai to step up.

Sakurai challenged Rose for the world title on July 2, 1968. He got a knockdown in the 2nd round, but ended up losing by decision in 15 rounds.

He suffered the first knockout loss of his career against new champion Ruben Olivares of Mexico in May, 1969 in a non-title match. Later that year, he won the OPBF bantamweight title, which he defended twice before announcing his retirement in 1970.

His professional record was 30-2-0 (4KOs) including a points win over Ushikawaru Harada, Fighting Harada's younger brother, and he was the top-ranked world bantamweight contender when he retired.


Click here to view a list of other articles written by Teodoro Medina Reynoso.


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