Now we get to see Japanese domestic champion Suguru Muranaka (20-2-1, 6) defend his belt for the second time as he himself looks to make a mark on the world scene and work his way towards bigger and better fighters. Hoping to end Muranaka's reign will be 2011 Rookie of the Year Yusuke Sakashita (12-4-2, 7), a man looking to take a major step up and prove himself as yet another Flyweight to keep an eye on.
Of the two fighters it's certainly Sakashita with the most to gain and least to lose. After all going in to this fight he is ranked relatively low down the JBC rankings, he's risking nothing and most notably he has no one expecting him to win. In many ways this is a no-lose situation for the challenger who at just 23 has a lot of time to bounce back if he loses, and if he wins he announces himself as a seriously promising young man in boxing's most stacked division.
Sadly for Sakashita whilst there is little to lose there is also little chance of him upsetting the champion. So far in his career his crowning achievement is winning the Rookie of the Year back in 2011 with wins over the likes of Shigeki Oka and Isao Aoyama, neither of whom have really made a mark on the sport. since their losses to Sakashita. Against his more notable opponents he has lost with defeats coming to Kenichi Horikawa and Shohei Kikuzato among others.
Although far from a top tier fighter Sakashita will come into this bout with confidence, after all he has won his last 4 bouts. Those 4 wins have seen him gain some career momentum but have come at a moderately low level, especially compared to fighters like Muranaka.
Whilst Sakashita has little to lose Muranaka is risking a lot. Firstly, and most obviously, he has his title up for grabs though he will also be risking his hard earned world rankings. Although unknown outside of Japan Muranaka is ranked by all 4 of the major organisations and a route to a world title fight is clearly open for him when he feels ready. Considering what is on the line it's little wonder he is facing a weak foe here.
Going in to this bout Muranaka will be looking for his second defense of a title he won last year when he defeated Takuya Kogawa by split decision. His first defense came earlier this year, when he stopped Masayuki Kuroda, and it's fair to say that those two title bouts have proven that Muranaka is, at very worst, fringe world class. It's also worth noting that he is unbeaten in almost 8 years, and his two losses have both been split decisions.
Although not a puncher Muranaka has enough traits to make up for his lack of dynamite. He is as determined as they come, he throws a lot, he's tough, resilient, elusive when he needs to be and happy to take one to land one. It may not always be pretty to watch him but he is not an easy opponent for anyone bar the truly elite, in fact in many ways he is a stylistic nightmare for many fighters out there due to his sheer grittiness and determination as well as his fantastic work rate.
On what we've seen of both men this is a total mismatch. Sakashita is ranked outside of the top 10 by the JBC for the simple fact that he's nothing special. He's not a terrible fighter but he's also not a particularly good one and although he has a record that suggests he's a power puncher he is fortunate not to have faced many decent fighters. In this fight Sakashita will find out about "levels" and will realise, relatively quickly, that he's not on Muranaka's level. The champion may not have power but he has the skills and work rate to make lesser fighters feel the pace and that's what we imagine will happen here with Sakashita struggling through the middle rounds and probably suffering a stoppage towards the end of the bout after a gallant effort against a man in a different league to himself.
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)