By Cliff Rold
Three-time World Champion.
What fighter would not want the description affixed to their career at its close? Most would be happy with one stint, one moment where they could point to being the very best in the world. Rare is the fighter who can lay claim to the highest honors and remain there for years, defending and turning back the challenges of the best his division has to offer.
Japan’s Nobuo Nashiro (14-2-1, 9 KO) has not been of that rare, enduring breed. However, this Saturday night in Osaka, he’ll make a play for a hat trick of belts. Win and, at least to those within earshot of him, he’ll be called a three time ‘world champion’ after only 18 professional fights.
It won’t be true in any meaningful sense.
Looking beneath the number, it comes across as a product of an incredible silliness in this era as bad as at any point in boxing history. Consider the following, and do try to follow along:
• Nashiro won his first title at 115 lbs., a WBA belt, with a 10th round cut stoppage of 31-fight veteran Martin Castillo in July 2006;
• Nashiro lost the belt in May 2007, or two fights later, to 31-fight veteran and former WBA titlist Alexander Munoz;
• Munoz lost the belt in a unification match with Cristian Mijares and, because of a WBA rule that allows for a “Super” champion and regular champion…
• …Nashiro won a second, vacant WBA belt with a decision over Kohei Kono in September 2008;
• Following two defenses, Nashiro lost his second WBA belt (the one he captured without regaining the one he lost)in May 2010 to former lineal Jr. Flyweight king Hugo Cazares (whom he had held to a draw in his previous fight);
• Vic Darchinyan (who beat Mijares, who beat Munoz, who beat Nashiro) has vacated his Super belt, making the regular WBA title the primary title for now;
• Cazares has not lost that belt; and,
• Nashiro will aim this weekend to be a three-time champion without regaining the title he lost for the second time, this time with an entirely different sanctioning body belt in play.
So, yeah, not true in any meaningful sense.
It’s fair to say that, if winning belts even in this jumbled mess were easy, more fighters would do it.
It’s more fair to respond and say, “Dear God almighty, how many more could there possibly be?”
And yet, still, after all that, it is still possible to be impressed with the short run of Nashiro.
There’s certainly no reason (outside of his being in the most meaningful fight of an otherwise slow weekend) to single him out for the offense of being part of an intellectually offensive title picture. Nashiro isn’t benefiting from the opportunity to become a multi-time ‘champion’ any more than, for example, ‘two-time Heavyweight champ’ Tim Witherspoon or than ‘four-division’ champ Leo Gamez did before him.
To their credit, Witherspoon and Gamez were damn good fighters.
So is Nashiro, and the Japanese battler won his first title doing something neither of those men did.
In knocking off Castillo in 2006, Nashiro’s first title came in defeating a Castillo who had at least some claim to the designation of ‘best in class.’ The lineal title at Jr. Bantamweight in 2006 might have belonged to Masamori Tokuyama but Castillo, with two wins over Munoz and a dominating thumping of Eric Morel under his belt, looked like he might be the man.
Nashiro was making only his eighth pro start. The loss to Munoz two fights later was decisive, but that marked only his tenth fight. That level of foe, so early, is hard to come by on most ledgers. Nashiro has fought a fairly consistent level of real competition since a decision over a 26-3 former World title challenger, Hidenobu Honda, in his fifth outing.
Nashiro has never been kept from challenges.
When he challenges for the WBC belt this weekend against veteran Tomas Rojas (34-12-1, 23 KO), it will mark what appears on paper to be a step down in competition from the Castillo’s, Munoz’s, and Cazares’s of the world.
For most fighters still grinding towards their twentieth pro start, a cagey been-‘round-the-block Rojas type would be a step up. It’s just not the case here.
As noted, hollow titles and numbers aside, there is plenty to be impressed with in the career of Nobuo Nashiro. There is also entertainment.
Anyone who saw the fights with the bigger names, particularly the brawls with Cazares, knows Nashiro will give the people their money’s and time’s worth with Rojas this weekend. Their styles should clash nicely.
Nashiro should win.
And, if a unification contest with Cazares, if Hugo Cazares-Nobuo Nashiro III, does not follow, it will be far more outrageous than Nashiro being called a three-time champion.
After all, belts, among the sports many (often absurd) idiosyncrasies are always good for conversation. They earn the shaking heads and embarrassed, tortured, explanations boxing fans are forced to give when conversing with fans of more rationally conducted athletics.
It is the fights though, the exchanging of leather between four tightened fists, that keeps eyeballs on the game.
Nashiro makes good fights. That’s meaningful, truth, in every sense.
But wait, there’s more…
Kissed by an Arreola: http://www.boxingscene.com/chris-arreola-kisses-lopez-kisses-dallas-0-goodbye--35306
Bradley Needs Khan: http://www.boxingscene.com/bradley-one-khan-from-peak-review-ratings--35471
Picks of the Week: http://www.boxingscene.com/boxingscenecoms-television-picks-week--35086
More fun with straps: Jose Sulaiman says the Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. he saw last weekend won’t be a champion. If all he has to do is beat Sebastian Zbik, Sulaiman is right. The only real Middleweight champion is Sergio Martinez. Paying sanctioning fees to someone who says otherwise doesn’t change that…The team of Vic Darchinyan is showing savvy is positioning themselves for a rematch with Abner Mares should the young Mexican get past Joseph Agbeko in the Spring. If Darchinyan can get past Yonnhy Perez and Agebko is still standing, would Darchinyan want an Agbeko rematch as badly? Or might he pursue the winner of Fernando Montiel-Nonito Donaire? Regardless, the little bomber isn’t getting any younger and should be appreciated for however much longer the sport has him…Vitali Klitschko’s trainer says Odlanier Solis will be dangerous for one round? If Solis can get below 260 lbs. for the first time in five fights, that has to be worth a round two…There’s been too much complaining about Timothy Bradley’s lethal forehead. He knows how to mix in a quick belt line shot too. Credit where it’s due. Love it or hate it, Bradley is all fighter.
Cliff Rold is a member of the Ring Magazine Ratings Advisory Panel, the Yahoo Pound for Pound voting panel, and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]