We've been informed that over the weekend Japanese IBF Minimumweight champion Katsunari Takayama (27-6-0-1, 10) has signed a contract to face WBO Minimumweight champion Francisco Rodriguez Jr (14-2, 10) in a brilliant unification bout between two of the best small men in the sport.
The bout, scheduled for August 9th in the Mexican city of Monterrey, will see Takayama attempting to become just the second ever Japanese man to win a WBO world title, following Tomoki Kameda, and the first to have claimed every major title. The "Lightning Kid", as he is known, has previously held the WBC title and the WBA "interim" title and has very openly spoken of his ambition of claiming all major world 4 titles.
For Takayama we've got to say this is a tough fight. Rodriguez claimed his title earlier this year when he man-handled Filipino Merlito Sabillo and it was clear from that fight that the Mexican, who will have home advantage here, was a strong, powerful Minimumweight. Although Takayama has never been a "rag doll" in the ring he's not the strongest guy at 105lbs and will have to make sure he doesn't end up in a fire fight with the more powerful Mexican. Though of course we'd feel confident in saying that Takayama has the edge in speed, skill and experience even if he lacks the power of the younger and naturally bigger Rodriguez.
We were expecting this fight to be made much later in the year though it appears that both men are happy to get it on in August, and we can't fault them for putting on possibly the most meaningful bout the Minimumweight division has had since Ricardo Lopez fought Rosendo Alvarez back in 1998.
From what we understand it seems that if Takayama gets the win he could end facing WBA champion Hekkie Budler on October 24th in a bout that is very tentatively scheduled. A lot can go on between then and now but that seems to be the plan, at least at the moment in what could be a year to remember for Takayama.
(Image courtesy of Hochi Shimbun)
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