One of the great Japanese fighters in history, Fighting Harada was world flyweight champion and world bantamweight champion in his 10-year career. Jim Amato looks back at the legend who now serves as president of the Japanese boxing commission.
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He just may be the most popular Japanese fighter of all time. In a career that lasted a little over a decade he squeezed in 63 pro contests. He was the winner of 55 of those. He won world championships in two weight divisions and he came very close to becoming a three weight class titleholder. Please remember this was back in the day when there were only eight weight classes and one champion per division. He is the only man to beat the legendary Eder Jofre and he turned the trick twice. His name was Masahiko but in boxing circles his nickname was "Fighting." That should tell you something about his aggressive whirlwind style. He was "Fighting" Harada.
Harada started his career in 1960 and in less then three years he reeled off 25 straight wins, ten by knockout. He had established himself as a top ranking flyweight contender. Edmundo Esparza upset Harada by decision in June of 1962 to end his win streak but two fights later on October 10th he was in a Tokyo ring facing world flyweight champion Pone Kingpetch. The champion was unable to keep the swarming Harada off of him and he finally lost his title in the eleventh round.
Kingpetch lured Harada to his home country of Thailand and on January 12th, 1963 in Bangkok, Pone regained his title by decision.Harada bounced back to win three straight and the he was surprisingly stopped by the talented Mexican Jose Medel in Tokyo.Undaunted Harada went on a six fight win steak that carried him to the end of 1964.
In 1965 Harada entered the bantamweight class and on May 17th he met the unbeaten and highly respected champion Eder Jofre. In a classic between two great boxers, Harada out slugged Jofre to capture his second world title. By the years end he would add a successful defense against Britain's highly-touted Alan Rudkin.
Harada and Jofre would hook up again on June 1st, 1966 and the verdict again went to the busier Harada. On January 3rd, 1967 Harada avenged his knockout loss to Medel while retaining his title via the decision route. On July 4th Harada turned back the challenge of tough Bernardo Caraballo and it looked like he would reign for quite some time.
On February 27th, 1968 Australian Lionel Rose came to Tokyo to challenge Harada. In an impressive display of ring generalship the classy Rose outboxed Harada to lift the crown. Harada would come right back in June to decision a fine fighter in Dwight Hawkins.
On April 2nd, 1969 Harada was upset on points by Alton Colter. Nevertheless he was invited to Sydney, Australia on July 28th to challenge Johnny Famechon for the world featherweight championship. It was a rock-em-sock-em affair that in the end was called a draw by guest referee Willie Pep. After re-checking Pep's scorecard a mistake was found and Famechon was awarded the decision. Many felt that Harada had done more than enough to earn the verdict and the title. There was a high demand for a rematch.
Famechon and Harada would hook up again on January 6th, 1970 in Tokyo. This time there would be no controversial decision. Famechon saw to that. Harada seemed to age overnight. Famechon blasted Harada out in the fourteenth round to end any doubt who the better man was. Harada realized he was no longer the fighting machine he had been and the next day he announced his retirement. The end of the line had come for one of the most exciting fighters of his era.