WBN recalls the tale of Nobuhiro Ishida, a Japanese former world middleweight title contender who shocked the world by moving straight up to HEAVYWEIGHT.
Now retired and 44 years old, Ishida was once a super-welterweight contender who forced his way to the sport’s pinnacle.
Ishida, as low as 152lbs when campaigning on home soil, suffered five losses and carding two draws in his first five years as a pro.
A lengthy unbeaten run then led Ishida to facing Canelo Alvarez’s brother Rigoberto in 2010. A good showing in a split loss pushed Ishida into the mind of Golden Boy promoter Oscar De La Hoya.
Signed by De La Hoya, Ishida was pitted against James Kirkland six month’s later in early 2011. On a fateful night, his career would change forever.
Fighting on a card topped by the exceptional battle between Robert Guerrero and Michael Katsidis at the MGM Grand, and featuring co-stars in the ilk of Marcos Maidana vs Erik Morales, Paulie Malignaggi and Danny Garcia, Ishida almost stole the show.
If Guerrero vs Katsidis wasn’t such an unbeleivable battle, he certainly would have.
Expected to give the then 27-0 Kirkland a few rounds before being taken out, Ishida stunned the boxing world. Ishida dropped Kirkland three times before securing a massive first round triumph.
In the process, Ishida immediate became a feared puncher at 154. The win also claimed Upset of the Year.
A lower key warm-up a few months on set Ishida up for a world-class run of losses. Pitted against Paul Williams at 155lbs, Dmitry Pirog at 157 and eventually Gennadiy Golovkin at 158, it was clear Ishida was on borrowed time.
Approaching his 38th birthday, Ishida made the decision to step away from the highest level.
It would have been reasonable to believe Ishida would walk away happy. But the veteran was having none of it.
In 2014, and after one final bout at middleweight, Ishida blindsided all by revealing his desire to move up forty pounds plus to enter the top division.
Piling on the pounds to barely make it past the cruiserweight limit of 200lbs, Ishida fought a now familiar name in Kyotaro Fujimoto.
Fujimoto recently lost to Daniel Dubois in two rounds. The pink-haired extrovert was 8-1 at the time and it was a bold move by Ishida.
To his considerable credit, only a narrow points loss followed on his big boy debut. Although the defeat saw Ishida lower his ambitions considerably.
The drop down in class brought instant success.
Victories over David Radeff and Takehara, both of whom possessed losing records, saw 2014 out on a winning note.
Ambitions of domestic honours, which was his only goal at the start of the run, were finally given a chance to be fulfilled in April 2015.
At the time, there are only three heavyweights registered in Japan at professional level. This fact was a contributing reason for targeting such an eye-opening weight class jump.
The former world middleweight title challenger now had a chance to become a national champion. Quite unfathomable from where he was two years prior.
To do so, Ishida would have to exact revenge over Fujimoto. His old foe had previously defeated the only other heavyweight around, Kotatsu Takehara, to pick up the belt.
Having only been contested once in 1957, the Japanese strap only came back into circulation in 2013 after 56 years in the wilderness.
Once again, it was a close fight. Ishida proved his class. He was unfazed by an obvious gulf in bulk. Over a stone heavier, Fujimoto eeked his way to a split decision. In the process halting an historic feat.
The loss proved to be Ishida last outing. He finally bowed out a hero just shy of his 40th birthday.
To this day, Ishida continues to mentor young Japanese fighters. He must have some stories to tell.