Some of the least well known names in the sport have the most amazing or tragic stories in the whole of sport. Here we are going to look at the little known Japanese fighter Iwao Hakamada (16-10-2, 1) who fought professionally form 1959 to 1961 but yet has had most of his life stolen from him along with his dignity and his mind. In fact Iwao has been all but forgotten by the boxing community despite being a fighter that genuinely needs the support of all of us.

Hakamada, born in 1937 made his professional debut in November 1959 and scored a decision win over Yutaka Kawaguchi. Swiftly however his record started to falter and by the middle of February 1960 he had fallen to 4-4-1 as a professional. Hakamada would bounce back well as he went on an 11 fight unbeaten streak and advanced his record to 14-4-2 sadly he would then lose 6 of his following 8 bouts before hanging up the glove.

It's not Hakamada's boxing career however that we are wanting to look at, instead it's his life since the mid 1960's which we are going to concentrating on.

In 1966 Hakamada was arrested for the murder of 4 people just 2 years later he was sentenced to death by the Shizuoka District Court. Although he appealed the decision the Japanese Supreme Court upheld the original decision in 1980 and sadly Hakamada has remained on death row since then. Despite the rulings of both the District Court and the Supreme Court there has been a lot of doubt cast on the guilty verdicts held against Hakamada and as a result no death warrant has been signed. Sadly this hasn't stopped Hakamada being kept in solitary confinement for over 40 year, thought to be the longest of any Death Row inmate. Hakamada's family have been trying to fight his case but sadly they've had little success so far.

Despite not being well known by boxing fans Hakamada has seen his case getting some international coverage by the media thanks to Amnesty International (who have a campaign running for Hakamada to have justice, this campaign can be found here). There has also been a Japanese Movie released on his story called "Box: Hakamada Case" that looks at the case.
Picture thanks to Wikimedia Commons
FBI picture of Vicent Gigante
Despite the shady nature of professional boxing not many former fighters have reached the weird heights of being a Mafia leader though that's exactly what former Light Heavyweight Vincent Gigante (21-4,1) manages to do prior his death in 2005, aged 77. In fact the entire story of Vicent “Chin” Gigante is nothing less than a story made for a Hollywood screen writer.

Aged 16 the young Vicent started on his short lived dream of being a professional boxer, although his career started with a loss he soon get into the swing of things and managed to amount a respectable 21-3 record before facing Jimmy Slade. Slade would stop Gigante in the 7th round as a result of cuts and spell the end of Gigante's professional boxing career. Aged just 19 Gigante waved good bye to boxing and became ever more involved in the Genovese crime family.

In the 1950's Gigante's involvement with the Genovese family became more and more sinister. What started off as a bit of illegal gambling and Auto-Theft soon became attempted murder as Gigante was ordered to shoot Frank Costello. Thankfully for Gigante Costello refused to identify him and he was acquitted for the attempted murder the following year.

Gigante's involvement would continue to get more and more serious and by the early 1980's he had become the boss of the Genovese family. As the boss Gigante would often be found wondering around in his pyjama's in the park which saw him dubbed “The Oddfather” as he tried to give off the impression that he was mentally ill. This act as well as his “paranoid” allowed Gigante to run the families business with out too many issues until 1990, when he was finally arrested for racketeering and murder. During his reign at the top Gigant would rarely leave the house empty and rarely make phone calls instead using a messenger to give his orders out.

Despite being arrested in 1990 it took years before they could eventually try Gigante who's act of being mentally ill continued despite his arrest. This was helped further with witnesses testifying that Gigante was in no fit state to be tried with his own family coming forward and claiming he had an IQ in the high 60's and wouldn't know how to run a Mafia family. In fact so good was Gigante's acting that psychiatrists had claimed he had been insane since the the 1960's, it wasn't until a trial in 2003 that Gigante actually admitted that he had been feigning his mental illness. Soon after coming clean about his mental health Gigante's psychical health started to decline and in 2005, aged 77 Gigante passed away.

Whilst his boxing career was short and somewhat underwhelming, it's hard not view Vincent Gigante as one of the most weird and wonderful stories that boxing has had it's hand in. A whirlwind 3 year boxing career followed by a climb to the top of one of the biggest Mafia Families.

Picture courtesy of the FBI.