Fierce Eagle

Courtesy of Roy Bennett of Vintage Boxing Archives 

Yoko Gushiken, active 1974-1981, (23-1, 15 KO).

When a great fighter retires near the pinnacle of his career, he can be rightfully praised. However, it also leaves a big question: What if he had fought on? Could Rocky Marciano, Carlos Monzon or even Marvelous Marvin Hagler have continued to beat the best?

Yoko “Fierce Eagle” Gushiken was 26 years old when he retired. Surely he could have continued at the highest level after some rest? Unfortunately, we will never know.

Even by Asian standards, Gushiken was a small adolescent and often got into fights to prove himself because of his size. Gushiken’s workouts were punishing doing nearly 10 miles of roadwork in the mornings before a full day of work. After a 10-hour work day, his evenings were spent shadowboxing and hitting a sandbag, tirelessly testing new combinations for hours.


He trained under Masaki Kanehira, known as the maker of Japanese champions, who called Gushiken, “a genius who appears once every 100 years.” As a pro, Gushiken used those incredible reserves of energy to pressure opponents into mistakes, which he took full advantage of from his southpaw stance. Despite considerable boxing skills and instinctive counter-punching ability, Gushiken preferred to move forward and swarm confused foes. He relentlessly threw combination punches with his straight left particularly penetrating and punishing.

The rate at which Gushiken matured in the ring was incredible, winning the WBA junior flyweight crown in only his ninth professional fight. Thirteen title defenses later, nine via kayo, and you have a record that should put him in most people’s top five all time at junior flyweight.

– Marty Mulcahey

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