Japan isn’t a nation that we traditionally think has a huge following when it comes to boxing. That is highlighted by the fact that it wasn’t even named in the top 10 most popular sports at Japanbets. However, the sport is gaining in terms of popularity in recent years, with a number of huge showdowns in the ring taking place in the Asian country. But, it still has a long way to go in order to compete with some of the most popular sports in Japan such as famous pastimes such as sumo and wrestling. But, how popular is the sport in Japan nowadays and who are the most successful Japanese in history?
Boxing Popularity In Japan
Boxing doesn’t rank among the most popular sports in Japan, with the majority of combat fans preferring to watch sumo wrestling and wrestling events instead. However, it could be argued that the popularity of the sport in the nation is now at somewhat of a crossroads, as more and more huge events are being staged in the country in order to enhance audience attention. That is a sentiment that was echoed by Hiroto Kyoguchi in the build-up to his fight against Esteban Bermudez, as he revealed that he believes that the sport was growing in popularity in his home country.
Ahead of that fight, he also revealed that he was looking to meet Naoya Inoue in the near future in a mega fight to be staged in Spain. The boxer revealed that more new fans are coming to the sport, and a huge event between two home boxers in Japan could be the next step required to take popularity levels to the next level.
There are few brighter boxers from Japan on the planet than Hiroto Kyoguchi. Kyoguchi is one of the fastest-growing stars in the world of Asian boxing, having won 17 of his 18 professional bouts. The 29-year-old is a two-weight world champion, having held the WBF mini flyweight gold from 2017 to 2018, and the WBA light flyweight title between 2018 and 2022.
Kyoguchi is regarded as the second-best active flyweight in the world by ESPN. Kyoguchi lost the title in November 2022, as he was defeated by Kenshiro Teraji at Saitama Super Arena in Japan. But, he returned to his winning ways earlier this year against Roland Jay Biendima, and a rematch against his old rival could be on the cards in 2023.
The brightest boxing star from Japan in this modern era is Naoya Inoue. The 30-year-old is the only Japanese boxer to have ever been ranked as the pound-for-pound best in the world by The Ring. Inoue has stepped into the ring on 25 occasions as a professional, and he is yet to suffer defeat. Overall, 22 of his victories have been recorded by knockout, and he is currently ranked as the second-best active pound-for-pound boxer on the planet. Inoue boasts a knockout rate of 88%, and he is a four-division world champion.
Currently, he is the unified super bantamweight champion, having won the WBC and WBO titles with a stunning victory over Stephen Fulton by TKO in the eighth round at Ariake Arena in Tokyo on July 25, 2023. That was his sixth straight victory by stoppage, and he has made a name for himself as one of the best Japanese boxers in history.
Japan attracted one of the biggest boxing stars on the planet to compete in Asia a few years ago, as Ryota Murata collided with Gennady Golovkin at Super Area Saitama. Murata went into that huge bout as the defending WBA middleweight champion, but his bid to record a shock win was ended via ninth-round stoppage. However, the Japanese boxer will still go down as one of the best modern-day Japanese boxers.
The middleweight won the silver medal at the 2011 World Championships, before landing Olympic gold glory at the London 2012 Games. After turning professional, he won the WBA middleweight title on two occasions and was the WBA (Super) middleweight champion between 2021 and 2022. Overall, he won 16 of his 19 professional fights, with his only loss by stoppage coming against Golovkin. Following that defeat, Murata announced his retirement from the sport, as he revealed that the Golovkin fight was the bout that he always dreamed of, and he had nothing left to prove in the sport.
The popularity of boxing in Japan is increasing steadily, and there is an expectation that it will someday be able to hold its place in the top ten most followed sports in the nation.