Later this week we'll see Mexican based Japanese fighter Shoki Sakai (29-3-2, 13) take on unbeaten prospect Alexis Rocha (12-0, 8) as part of a Golden Boy promotions card in Indio, California. Interestingly this bout has been picked up by UK's bookies who are offering odds on the contest.
The only market that's available is the "To Win" market, and all of the bookies have Rocha as the clear favourite.
The unbeaten Rocha, who will be defending his WBC Continental Americas Welterweight title, has been priced between 2/9 and 1/8 depending on the bookies. Rocha is a very highly regarded prospect, following notable amateur success including reaching the last 8 of the 2013 World Junior Championships. On paper he is stepping up here, but does, understandably, deserve to be the favourite. Though the odds are rather short on him given that he's stepping up quite significantly.
Sakai on the other hand is available as high as 5/1, though some have got him as short as 3/1. Although the under-dog Sakai is a talented fighter, and in 2017 he upset Englishman Ashley Theophane, though has failed to win any of his last 3, losing a clear decision last time out to Eddie Gomez.
For those who are curios about the draw that's available at 22/1
It's very rare for Japanese born fighters to make a name for themselves away from home. In fact in recent years the only real exception to that rule was Tomoki Kameda, who famously began boxing in Mexico where he fought more often than he fought in Japan, with 16 bouts in Mexico to 12 his his native Japan.
Although Tomoki has made a name for himself he isn't actually alone in being a Japanese boxing carving out a career in the west, and this past weekend American fans got their first chance to see Shoki Sakai (21-5, 13). With Sakai winning his US debut with an 8 round win over Carlos Villa (11-3-1, 6) in Texas on Saturday.
Whilst Sakai made his US debut this past Saturday it was actually his 26th bout in the West, with 24 bouts already on his record from Mexico and one from Argentina.
Although not known as well as Tomoki Kameda Sakai has been a fixture on Mexican cards for about 6 years now and has acquitted himself well, win or lose. That has included a win over the then 10-0 Omar Barajas, a very competitive loss to Nery Saguilan and a recent win over Javier Mercado.
Although not a big name Sakai has started to attract a growing buzz and 25 has time on his side, and is a former WBC Youth champion at 140lbs. His win over Villa may help him create a buzz in the states, and if so we'd not be shocked to see him on some bigger US cards in the future.
Yesterday saw the weigh in for Saturday night's WBC United States Silver Lightweight title fight between Mexican based Japanese fighter Shoki Sakai (17-4, 11) and the charismatic Mexican Nery Saguilan (30-4-1, 11).
Sakai weighed in at 132.25lbs which we believe is the lightest of his career and is almost 7lbs lighter than he was in his May bout with Omar Barajas, a bout that ended in a shock win for Sakai. Sadly for the Japanese fighter that was almost 3lbs lighter than Saguilan who was a ready 135lb for the fight.
The bout will be Saguilan's first defense of the title that he won earlier this year when he stopped Seiichi Okada in 8 rounds, sadly though that was a shadow of the fighter Okada once was and we're unsure how good Saguilan is considering his real struggle with Adones Aguelo back in January.
Despite being the lighter man on on the scales Sakai was the naturally taller man and it's hard to believe that there is only 2" between the two men who looked like they were in very different divisions.
(Image courtesy of the brilliant Pepe Rodriguez)
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