A “Young Lion vs. Old Lion” battle will take place on August 24, as Riku Kano challenges Shin Ono for the Japanese Minimumweight Championship.
One of the most promising Japanese up and comers, Riku Kano (13-3 / 7 KOs) began his professional career in 2013, when he was just 16 years old ! During his first years, he mostly faced debuting fighters and journeymen, in order to gain experience, knocking out many of them and even earning the WBA Asia title, only one year after his debut.
His first big test came when he fought former WBC Asia champion and 2-time world title contender Wicha Phulaikhao (58-8*) on December of 2015. With only 9 fights under his belt, the rookie fought a technical match, controlling the pace and landing good shots, scoring one of the most significant victories of his young career.
Kano proved his worth once more when he went toe to toe for 12 rounds with former WBO World Champion Merlito Sabillo (25-2*) for the interim OPBF title. The Japanese fighter pulled off the big upset again to the surprise of everyone, winning the prestigious belt in the process.
On August 20 of 2016, Kano gained his first ever world title opportunity, as he faced arguably one of the best Japanese boxers of our generation, Katsunari Takayama (30-8*) for the vacant WBO World Championship. This bout was also a milestone for Takayama, who had already held the WBA/WBC/WBO/IBF world minimumweight titles in the past, since that was his last fight as a pro (Takayama retired so he could focus on competing at the 2020 Olympics). The miraculous kid was running roughshod over the legend in every single round. Takayama offered almost no resistant as he kept on taking a beating from the younger fighter. The fans could feel that a change of the guard was imminent. However, bad luck struck Kano as he suffered a bad cut in his left eye, which led to the referee putting an end to this fight, thus depriving him of the chance to become a world champion at 18 years of age.
Kano’s “jinx” continued after he got stopped by Jerry Tomogdan (22-8*), while attempting to claim the vacant WBO Asia Pacific belt. After 2 rebound wins against Naoya Haruguchi and Kittisak Khamlong, he receives another title shot against yet again a formidable foe.
Shin Ono (22-9 / 5 KOs) is a veteran of the sport, already boxing for 17 years, with no indications of slowing down. Through out his entire career, he has boxed with some of the top talent in the world. Whether it’s a win over future world champions like Yu Kimura and Chaozhong Xiong or a loss to Katsunari Takayama and Thammanoon Niyomtrong, in his 2 world title challenges, it’s safe to say that Ono has been battle tested. Right now, he sits at the top of the Japanese Minimumweight division, claiming the crown back in April.
Both men, even though they may compete for Japanese gold, they clearly have bigger plans in their minds. Kano is looking to finally win what was rightfully his in the first place and become one of the youngest world champions, where Ono, at 35, aims to be one of the eldest. Much like Kuga vs. Wake, it isn’t easy to pick a winner here. What I can say is that it will definitely be an intriguing match-up and the winner will be closer to one more world title opportunity.
*Fighter’s record prior to the fight