A few days ago we reported a rumour about a stacked Watanabe card for December 31st. At the time the details were sketchy but based on what seemed like solid information. Today it was announced that the rumour was true, that Watanabe will be holding a New Year's Eve super show, and a stacked one with the 3 men originally linked to the show all in action!
The biggest of the three names is WBA Super Featherweight champion Takashi Uchiyama (21-0-1, 17). Uchiyama, one of the most popular fighters in Japan, has been inactive since last New Year's Eve with fans regularly asking who and when he was fighting next. Sadly the year has been a frustrating one for Uchiyama, us and fans in regards to his career. Thankfully it was announced that he would be fighting on this show, though sadly his opponent has been announced as a less than interesting on in the form of Israel Hector Enrique Perez (27-2-1, 16), the #9 ranked WBA Super Featherweight.
Last year Uchiyama defended his title against Daiki Kaneko in a very tough All-Japanese title fight, we had hoped that this year would have seen him in another All-Japanese bout with fellow champion Takashi Miura, with the men unifying in a rematch of a previous contest between the two heavy handed sluggers. Sadly a bout with Perez seems a huge let down given that Perez himself is unknown outside of the WBA ranking committee and the Argentinian domestic circuit. In all honesty you need to go back to a 2007 win over Rene Gonzalez to find a win of real note on his record. Given the lay off for Uchiyama this is an ideal in some ways but also a complete let down in others. For what it's worth this will be Uchiyama's 9th defense since he won the title by stopping Juan Carlos Salgado way back in January 2010.
The second biggest name on the show will be Kohei Kono (30-8, 13). Kono, the WBA Super Flyweight champion, has had a frustrating year that began with his win over Denkaosan Kaovichit to win the title but has been mired with complications regarding a mandatory title fight with Koki Kameda. Given the nature of the year for Kono we weren't suspect a big name for him and we've not been shocked with Kono's opponent being announced as Noberto Jimenez (20-8-3, 10).
Jimenez, of the Dominican Republic, is the #5 ranked WBA Super Flyweight challenger though, like Perez, he is relatively unknown outside of the WBA ranking committee and local fans and that's for a good reason, he's never beaten anyone of note, with his most known opponents being Juan Carlos Payano, who stopped him in 2 rounds back in 2010, and Luis Hinojosa, who beat him by decision the following year. What the WBA see in Jimenez is a mystery though with a likely Kameda bout taking place next year we can undestand Watanabe matching Kono up with a highly ranked but "safe" opponent.
Whilst the two title defenses by Japanese fighters are both relatively straight forward, at least on paper, there is real interest in the third bout as former Japanese Light Flyweight champion Ryoichi Taguchi (20-2-1, 8) battles against Peru's Alberto Rossell (32-8-0-1, 13), the current WBA Light Flyweight champion.
Rossell comes into this bout as the first, and only, male world champion from Peru though ha slong been seen as a weak champion at 108lbs. In many ways he's been a belt carrier waiting for the opportunity to cash out whilst scoring a handful of low level defenses against the likes of Walter Tello. Aged 36 it seems he's been offered a deal to cash out with good money to fight Taguchi, a very under-rated fighter. Those who have followed the career of the sensational Naoya Inoue should remember Taguchi as the man that Inoue beat for the Japanese title in what was Inoue's toughest bout to date. With the problems Taguchi gave Inoue we suspect he'll manage to take care of business and defeat Rossell relatively easily.
Although Rossell does strike us as a very weak champion however he is on an 8 fight winning streak over the last 4 years and will come into this bout with a lot of confidence.
From what we understand these 3 bouts will be aired on Tokyo TV at the end of the year and we'd not be that surprised by one or two recognisable names on the undercard. The Watanabe show last year strangely had both Kono and Taguchi on it's undercard as well as Carlos Cuadras and Tomomi Takano so we're awaiting to hear on news of that at the moment.
(Image courtesy of boxingnews.jp)
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