Earlier today ESPN reporter Salvador Rodriguez reported that WBC Light Flyweight champion Ganigan Lopez (28-6, 17) was set to return to Japan, the country that saw hom win his world title, to defend his belt in May.
Although Rodriguez didn't know the name Lope's opponent there is a number of interesting possibilites, in a division that is genuinely a hot bed of talent in Japan.
One fighter who has been linked to the bout is Japanese and OPBF Light Flyweight champion Ken Shiro (9-0, 5) [拳 四朗]. On paper he looks unlikely to be the opponent, despite being the only WBC ranked Japanese fighter in the division, as he is pencilled in to defend the Japanese title in April against Tetsuya Hisada (27-9-2, 17) [久田 哲也]. Nothing is stopping the unbeaten youngster from vacating but it does seem unlikely at this point in time.
Having mentioned Ryoichi Taguchi's (25-2-2, 11) [田口良一] it's fair to say the WBA champion may also be interested in a bout with Lopez, and could see it as the sort of bout he'd need to raise his game, after a disappointing showing on December 31st. Like Tanaka he has spoken about uinification bouts and may need to go the WBC route to unify this year.
Although the bout could be a unification bout we can clearly rule out a bout with IBF champion Akira Yaegashi (25-5, 13) [八重樫 東], who we know is booked for a mandatory title defense against IBF interim champion Milan Melindo (35-2, 12). That bout should take place in May and rule Yaegashi out of a bout with Lopez here.
Of course with boxing rankings being what they are we always have to think outside of the box, and whilst the bout could see Lopez face a non-Japanese fighter, with the bout on neutral soil, it could also see a random fighter suddenly appear in the WBC rankings or moving up in weight. If it is a fighter moving up in weight it could well be Ryuya Yamanaka (13-2, 3) [山中 竜也], who recently vacated the OPBF Minimumweight title in pursuit of a world title.
At the moment it's unclear who, or even if, Lopez is going to Japan to defend his title, but he will have fond memories of the country as it was where he beat Yu Kimura last year to win the title. For those who haven't seen that bout we've included it belowl.