TOKYO - The World Boxing Council Sunday awarded an honorary championship belt to a former Japanese boxer who was freed from death row last month after 48 years in prison following a murder conviction.
WBC president Mauricio Sulaiman handed the belt to an elder sister of Iwao Hakamada, 78, who has been receiving hospital treatment since his release from a Tokyo prison on March 27.
A portrait of Hakamada was sewn into the green belt.
Hakamada was at one time ranked sixth in the national featherweight division.
But while preparing to return to professional boxing in 1966, he was accused of robbing and stabbing to death his boss and the man's wife and their two children.
Hakamada initially admitted the crime but said later he had been forced to confess because of a brutal police interrogation.
He was given a death sentence in 1968, which was upheld by a high court in 1976 and by the Supreme Court in 1980.
But a district court ordered a retrial, saying investigators could have planted evidence to convict Hakamada as they sought to solve a crime which had shocked the country.
The WBC has supported Hakamada in helping him win a retrial.
"We have fought for 48 years to be finally granted a retrial. We owe it to your support," Hakamada's sister Hideko, 81, said after receiving the belt from Sulaiman in a ceremony in the ring at the Ota gymnasium.
The presentation was held before WBC flyweight and light flyweight title bouts.
"I want to show the belt to him (Hakamada) as soon as possible. I want to come and watch boxing matches with him after his condition improves," Hideko said.