July 13 signals the return of Japanese fan favorite Ryo Akaho, after his sudden retirement back in January of this year.
Ryo Akaho (31-2-2 / 20 KOs) began fighting as a professional 13 years ago in 2005 at the age of 18. He went undefeated for 4 years, with a record of 13-0-1 (7 KOs) when he challenged world title contender Daigo Nakahiro (21-2*) for the Japanese Super Flyweight championship. Despite being the less experienced of the 2, he managed to take the champion to the limit, in a pretty close encounter, which ended in a draw. Akaho may not have won the strap that day, but he certainly proved himself to be a worthy challenger.
In 2011, after 2 more KO wins, another big opportunity arrived as he was set to take on 2 division champion Fred Mundraby (12-0*) for the vacant OPBF Super Flyweight title. Ryo’s skills and power were too much for the Australian as his corner was forced to stop the fight, declaring the Japanese prodigy the new OPBF champion. Akaho defended his belt thrice against Toyoto Shiraishi (21-5*), Yoshihito Ishizaki (6-3*) and Yohei Tobe (4-0*), putting himself at the top of the division.
On December of 2012, he received his first word title shot against the charismatic WBC World Super Flyweight champion Yota Sato (25-2*). Those 2 had one of the most entertaining title fights of the year. A clash of styles: the calm and collected Akaho on one hand, the cocky and flamboyant Sato on the other. The champion was fooling around the first two rounds, messing with the challenger’s mind. Ryo’s temper got the better of him, charging Yota in the end of both rounds. Sato took advantage of it, hitting Akaho with some good jabs. And then, the exciting part of the fight began as things really got heat up in the 5th round where both men were exchanging bombs, rocking each other hard, with Akaho almost dropping the champ on the 6th and 9th round. It was a back and forth affair that left the crowd at the edge of their seats. In the end, Sato may have gotten the decision but both men got the loud approval from the fans. On that day, Akaho was established as a main event player.
It was then that he decided to move up a weight class and try his luck at Bantamweight. Akano piled up 7 consecutive victories, 6 of them via knock out, including wins over former Japanese Super Bantamweight title holder Masaaki Serie (25-6*), Mexican prospect Antonio Tostado Garcia (14-3*), as well as African champion Prosper Ankrah (24-4*), securing the WBA International championship in the process and another World title fight, this time for Bantamweight gold. His bout with Panya Uthok (50-3*) took place on August of 2015, at the champion’s “backyard” in Thailand. Akaho was looking strong in the opening round, delivering a few nice shots, but he was repeatedly got hit with illegal blows to the back of the head on numerous occasions. Dazed by Uthok’s dirty tactics, he was knocked out early in the next round, the first time he got stopped in his entire career. Ryo returned to action 9 months later and since then, he has been unstoppable in his last 5 bouts, even becoming the Japanese Bantamweight champion on March of 2017.
At the beginning of 2018, it was announced that due to sudden illness, Akaho was forced to retire from active competition, relinquishing the Japanese title too. However, this May, the 2 time world title contender appeared at Korakuen Hall, the arena in which he made his name, and officially stated that he is coming back for good. His opponent will be Robert Udtohan (25-3 / 15 KOs), who’s mostly known for his loss to WBA International champion Xiaojun Qiu. This fight is clearly booked to give the returning champion, a hero’s welcome, as the Philippino is nowhere near his level. The most dangerous rival of Akaho here, is his health status and if or how it will affect his performance in the ring. Hopefully he has made a complete recovery and will soon start competing against top contenders again, on his quest to finally win the big one.
(*denotes record of fighter pre-fight)