Icons of Asia: Chris John

Arguably the greatest boxer from Indonesia, Chris John held the WBA (Super) featherweight title for a decade, the second-longest reign in the division after the legendary Johnny Kilbane.

Additionally, his 18 successful title defenses was the second most in the featherweight division, just short of the 19 times Eusebio Pedroza defended the WBA title in the 1980s.

After catching the attention of boxing trainer Sutan Rambing, John made his professional career in 1997.

Originally known as ‘Thin Man’, he was soon dubbed ‘The Dragon’ after rising up the ranks in his home country.

By his sixth professional fight, John was already known as one of the best fighters in the division domestically, and after beating national champion Muhammad Afaridzi and veteran Dae-Kyun Park, John was crowned the PABA featherweight champion and the number one contender for the WBA belt.

John was the clear underdog ahead of the 2003 title fight for the WBA featherweight title against hard-hitting Oscar León, with the Colombian having a significant height and reach advantage.

Despite his apparent disadvantage, John won by split decision in a 12-round fight to be crowned the WBA featherweight champion.


After making short work of Osamu Sato in his first title defense, his next title defense against Jose Rojas proved to be the first fight of his career in which John didn’t leave the ring victorious. The fight was concluded as a technical draw following an accidental head clash which left both fighters with head injuries.

Following a split with trainer Sutan Rambing, John joined Harry’s Gym in Perth and teamed up with Craig Christian, which brought unheralded success to the John camp.

Title defenses against Derrick Gainer, Tommy Browne, Juan Manuel Marquez, Renan Acosta, Jose Rojas, Zaiki Takemoto, Roinet Caballero, and Hiroyuki Enoki followed, before his first fight on American soil – against Rocky Juarez in 2009 – finished in a draw.


Over the next four years, seven more successful title defenses followed, including a draw against Satoshi Hosono in 2013. However after losing his title to Simpiwe Vetyeka by virtue of a sixth round TKO.

Following his first professional defeat, John decided to retire from boxing.

Since then, he has appeared in various TV commercials, as well as serving as a pundit and motivator for aspiring boxers.

Boxing record

Total fights: 52
Wins: 48
Wins by KO: 22
Losses: 1
Draws: 3