Hozumi Hasegawa : biography
Born as the second of five children in Nishiwaki, Hyōgo, Hasegawa made his professional debut in 1999. Despite losing two four-round fights by decision early in his career, he defeated Jesse Maca by 12-round decision in 2003 to win the OPBF bantamweight title, which he defended three times before returning the belt on December 20, 2004.
Hasegawa fought long-time champion Veeraphol Sahaprom on April 16, 2005 at Nippon Budokan. Sahaprom had defended the WBC bantamweight title fifteen times over six years, and had not been defeated for almost a decade. Hasegawa fought effectively, leading the first four rounds, before Sahaprom fought back to win the middle rounds. Sahaprom tired in the later rounds, allowing Hasegawa to become more aggressive, shaking Sahaprom in Round 10. The fight went to a decision, and the judges gave Hasegawa a 3-0 victory, ending Sahaprom’s long reign over the bantamweight division.
Hasegawa made his first title defense on September 25, 2005 at Yokohama Arena. Hasegawa was originally scheduled to fight WBC top-ranked contender Diego Morales. However, Morales backed out of the fight due to an injury, and the eighth-ranked contender, Geraldo Martinez, was hastily called up as a substitute. Hasegawa had been sparring with southpaws in preparation to fight Morales, who was a southpaw, but the change to Martinez meant he would now be fighting an orthodox style fighter. Hasegawa took an early lead in the fight, knocking Martinez down twice in the 2nd round (ruled as slips by the referee), and once in the 3rd round. Hasegawa put Martinez down again early in the 7th with a dazzling left straight, and the fight erupted into a massive slugfest between the two fighters. Hasegawa knocked Martinez down two more times in the same round, prompting the referee to stop the fight. Hasegawa marked his first title defense with a TKO victory. This was also the day of his wedding anniversary.
On March 25, 2006, Hasegawa returned to fight in his hometown, Kobe, for the first time after becoming world champion. Hasegawa’s opponent for his second title defense was again Veeraphol Sahaprom, who had compiled five consecutive wins to become the top-ranked WBC contender after losing his title to Hasegawa a year ago. It was rumored that Sahaprom had not been in top condition when he lost to Hasegawa, and many speculated that Sahaprom had not fought to the best of his ability in the previous fight. Both fighters started off slowly, but Hasegawa’s shots gradually began to land on Sahaprom, and almost knocked out Sahaprom with a powerful left uppercut in the 6th. Sahaprom fought back in the 7th and 8th rounds, landing body shots, but Hasegawa landed a stunning right hook only ten seconds into the 9th round to knock out Sahaprom. Since Hasegawa suffered a left sternal fracture in June 2006, the scheduled defense on July 15 was postponed.
The third title defense took place on November 13, 2006, at Nippon Budokan, where Hasegawa first won the title. The challenger was Mexican fighter Genaro Garcia, ranked 1st in the WBC. Hasegawa knocked Garcia down with a left uppercut in the 4th round, but Garcia showed surprising resilience, landing powerful body shots in the middle rounds. Hasegawa suffered a light cut in the 7th round, which was worsened by a head-butt from Garcia in the 8th. Hasegawa managed to knock down Garcia again in the 8th, though his own face was covered with blood, and his eye was practically sealed shut from the cut. Hasegawa showed able defensive skills to ride out the 12th round, and won with a unanimous 3-0 decision. After the fight, Hasegawa was visited by WBC Super Flyweight Champion Masamori Tokuyama, who gave Hasegawa a hand-written letter challenging him for his bantamweight title. If the fight with Tokuyama had taken place, it would have been a huge match-up between two Japan-based world champions, but Hasegawa declined the offer, wanting to fight non-Japanese challengers instead. Tokuyama retired shortly afterwards.
Hasegawa fought undefeated challenger Simpiwe Vetyeka of South Africa on May 3, 2007, for the fourth defense of his title. Very little was known about the challenger, Vetyeka, except that he had an undefeated record (16-0-0), and had defended the South African bantamweight title five times, winning four of those fights by knockout. He was also said to have compiled an exceptional career in the amateur ring. The fight itself was rather anticlimactic, as there had been huge excitement about the May 3 card, which featured two other world title matchups. Both Hasegawa and Vetyeka wanted to land counter punches, leading to a great deal of inactivity from both sides. Neither fighter seemed willing to expose themselves, and few hard punches were thrown in the early rounds of the fight. The open scoring system was used in the fight, and Hasegawa was leading in the judges’ scorecards going into the later rounds, but Vetyeka continued to lay back and wait for Hasegawa to attack. Hasegawa finally stepped up to decisively win the final two rounds, and won his fourth defense with a unanimous decision. There was some frustration after the fight, because both Hasegawa and Vetyeka complained that one of the advertisements in the middle of the ring was causing their feet to slip. This was the first world title defense where Hasegawa was unable to knock down his opponent in the fight.