This coming Thursday Ito returns to the ring for his first bout of the year as he defends his OPBF title against Filipino fighter Ernie Sanchez (15-7-1, 6). The bout will be Ito's Second defense of the title and see him return to the ring for the first time since his impressive win against Shingo Eto last December. On the other hand it will be Sanchez's first bout since he was stopped by Oscar Valdez, also last December.
At his best Ito is an out-side fighter using great straight punches, movement and speed to out box opponents and occasionally break them down, as seen in recent wins against Dai Iwai, Jeffrey Arienza and Kazuya Nakano. Although he is showing an increase in power, after scoring just 3 stoppages in his first 12 bouts, he is still a pure boxer at heart and an incredibly talented one at that.
Ito may not be as recognisable as some of the other divisional prospects, like Valdez, Mario Barrios or Liam Walsh but he does hold notable wins over the likes of Arienza, Iwai, Eto and most notably Masao Nakamura. He does have a loss, unlike some of the other prospects in the division, but it was an incredibly close and controversial one to the then unbeaten Japanese champion Rikki Naito, with many feeling Naito got rather lucky on the score cards.
When it comes to Sanchez his record isn't particularly impressive. In fact he's gone 1-4-1 in his last 6. However he has mixed with a very high level of competition losing to the likes of Oscar Valdez, Sergey Lipinets, Rey Vargas and Andres Gutierrez, and has amazingly only been stopped by Valdez and Lipinets. Although limited he's tough and came and will feel like a win over Ito could help him kick start his career after 3 years of floundering against international hopefuls.
In his most recent bout Sanchez, dubbed the Rock, was cracked doubly quickly by Valdez who found his range quickly and seemed to have too much of everything for the Filipino who looked like a fighter that was too slow to really test the unbeaten man. Prior to that bout Sanchez had looked like a defensively tough fighter but it seems the tough fights have taken their toll on him. That's not to say he was especially talented but he was usually good value for rounds. Sadly his loss in 3 just made him look clumsy before by stopped by a monstrous left hook.
In this upcoming bout we're expecting to see the ultra-talented Ito take control quickly with his speed and movement before looking for a stoppage down the stretch. Given that Sanchez has been tough to crack in the past he may see out the distance but given the damage that his recent bouts have inflicted on him there is a genuine chance that Ito may well stop him in the final third of the bout through accumulation.
Sanchez might the distance, but if he does he's going to be losing a wide decision. We really don't see any way at all in which he over-comes the Japanese fighter