What Lindsay Thurber exchange student Hiro Tsuji wanted more than anything before he returned to Japan in January was a victory in the boxing ring.
Tsuji had his first amateur bout in November in the Alberta Sub-Novice (two fights or less) championships. The Red Deer Boxing Club fighter fought well, but lost by decision to Edmonton amateur Pelraul Michent.
“I didn’t like my first fight,” said Tsuji. “I really hate losing, and I really, really, wanted to win.”
The setback, however, only motivated Tsuji to train harder, and all of that hard work paid off Saturday night as Tsuji posted his first win in the squared-circle.
The road to the first win was not easy, however, as Tsuji, 17, had to move up one age group, to face 20-year-old Albert Falgui, in Falgui’s home ring in Edmonton.
Tsuji opened quickly in the first round, dominating his shorter opponent with jabs and quick combinations to the point that he appeared on his way to a blow out, when he a committed a rookie error — moving in with his chin up, not throwing leather — and got caught with a huge left hook to the jaw. Tsuji recovered quickly but afterwards the two fighters exchanged equally with Falgui, 1-2, landing the harder shots.
“The first round was tough, I had my chin up and my hands down, (the left hook) still hurts,” joked Tsuji. “At the end of the round my coaches told me I needed to have my hands up and chin down.”
In the second round Tsuji came out with improved defence, making his opponent miss and then countering with quick combinations.
“I used quick feet — moved in and out — and my speed in the second round,” said the exchange student.
It all came down to the third and final round of the fight as both boxers opened cautiously.
Halfway through the round Tsuji became the aggressor, landing quick combinations, backing his opponent up and then rocking Falgui with a straight right to the chin that buckled the Edmonton fighter’s knees and backed him into the ropes. The final burst of energy was enough to give the Red Deer Boxing Club athlete the split-decision victory.
“I wanted to keep my hands tight, chin down, speed, and jab, jab, jab, double-jab, triple-jab,” said the junior-welterweight. “His jab was slow, so I thought the straight (right) to the head would work.”
At the end of the fight, with his hand raised, Tsuji got the victory he had been wanting so much.
“It was amazing, awesome,” he said. “When the announcer said the winner is blue corner, it was the happiest feeling I ever had in sports. Boxing has been an amazing memory for me. I will never forget it.”