KOBE - Three-division belt winner Hozumi Hasegawa announced his retirement on Friday, bringing his decorated 17-year boxing career to an end with a 36-5 record, including 16 knockouts.
The fleet-footed 35-year-old retires as WBC super bantamweight champion after he defeated Mexican Hugo Ruiz by technical knockout in September, becoming the fourth Japanese boxer to sweep three weight classes. Hasegawa’s three titles came over a span of five-and-a-half years.
“I’ve decided to retire with the Sept. 16 bout being my last, when I conquered my third division,” Hasegawa told a news conference. “It was a boxing career that had more (success) than I expected.
“I’ve always imagined hanging up my gloves as the world champion. It’s like with eating, you have to stop when you are not quite full.”
Masato Yamashita, the head of Hasegawa’s Shinsei Gym, said, “I’m happy it didn’t end with him balling his eyes out, he can leave as the world champion. I’ve been telling him to decide however he likes. I’m half-sad, half-relieved (at his decision).”
Hasegawa won his first world title in April 2005, beating Thailand’s Veeraphol Sahaprom to capture the WBC bantamweight belt. He defended the title 10 times before losing the crown on a TKO to Mexican Fernando Montiel in April 2010.
“Every bout left its mark on me and there’s none that I’ve forgotten,” Hasegawa said. “The match I became world champion for the first time was really a high point as it was when the dream came true.”
Current bantamweight champ Shinsuke Yamanaka, a 34-year-old who defended the title for the 11th time in a world title doubleheader with Hasegawa in September, thanked his retiring compatriot.
“I became strong thanks to Hasegawa,” he said. “I can continue being champion as he is the one who had this belt before, and because he kept fighting even when he was having a tough time. Hugging him in the ring after his final bout is my best memory.”
Hasegawa jumped two divisions to featherweight where he took the vacant WBC title in November 2011, beating Mexican Juan Carlos Burgos by a unanimous decision in his first fight, but lost his first title defense to Jhonny Gonzalez of Mexico by a technical knockout in April 2011.
In his first shot at a title in three classes, Hasegawa took on Spanish IBF super bantamweight champion Kiko Martinez in April 2014 but fell on a technical knockout. He did not let another chance slip at the same weight, however, beating Ruiz in nine rounds to claim his final title.
Former WBA super featherweight champion Takashi Uchiyama, who saw his run of title defenses come to an end at 11 in October, lauded the way in which Hasegawa bowed out.
“Fighting one final time in a way that moves people is a cool way to draw the curtain,” said the 37-year-old. “I’m older than him but I respected him as my senior world champion and would like to send my appreciation.”
Reflecting on his decision to retire, Hasegawa said, “I’ve got no reason to fight on. I made the decision thinking this might be the best time to do so. I can still get up physically (to fight), but mentally it’s been getting difficult.
“I’m proud. I’ve had a career that couldn’t have been any better,” he concluded. “Now, I’d like to find a new stage on which I can fight.”