Fifty-five years after a world title bout claimed to be “the biggest victory in the Japanese boxing world,” a plan is in the works to reunite two legendary champions.
Masahiko Harada, known as “Fighting Harada” and a hero of Japan’s golden age of boxing, and Eder Jofre, a Brazilian former champion in two weight classes, dubbed the “Golden Bantam,” have a friendship that has transcended time and distance.
“Jofre is a wonderful human being. I will never forget that bout. That’s why I really want to see him again,” said Harada, adding that he hopes to once again meet his “fist friend” who resides in Brazil.
Harada, 77, and Jofre, 84, first met in the ring on May 18, 1965, at their world bantamweight title fight at the Aichi Prefectural Gymnasium in Nagoya.
Facing tough odds against a heralded fighter with an undefeated record over 50 bouts, Harada won his second world title after 15 rounds by a split decision, resulting in Jofre’s first defeat.
Floor cushions rained down in the hall and the image of Jofre hoisting up the new champion and congratulating him touched the hearts of those who witnessed the historic moment.
They fought a rematch a year later at Tokyo’s Nippon Budokan, with Harada coming out on top again. Those two defeats were the only ones Jofre suffered in his career.
Harada was Japan’s first champion in two weight classes and finished his career in 1970 with a record of 55 wins, including 22 by knockout, and seven losses. In 1995, he became the first Japanese fighter inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame.
Jofre also held world titles in two weight classes before hanging up his gloves for good in 1976. He had 72 wins with 50 KOs, two losses and four draws over 78 fights.
The two men met again in Brazil in 1989, and though they didn’t stay in touch after that, they never forgot their fierce battles in the ring.
This year, a close friend of Harada’s, Akihide Ishii, created a video message and sent it to Jofre via email. Harada and Jofre have since been exchanging emails through Ishii.
In a video response, Jofre struck a fighting pose and looked back fondly on the past, saying “We both fought with all our power. That brought us true friendship.”
Harada received a commemorative T-shirt bearing his name and a message requesting a reunion, and the gift brought tears to his eyes.
Those in U.S. boxing circles have also shown interest in the videos, with plans under way to invite both men to an event in the United States next spring.
Despite the additional obstacle presented by the coronavirus pandemic, Harada said he is looking forward to meeting his long-time friend.
“This is my last chance,” Harada said.
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