Whilst it is our favourite division there are still some disappointments in it. One such disappointment came earlier this year when the aforementioned Muranaka failed to make weight for a scheduled defence against Tesuma Hayashi. Muranaka's failure to over-come the scales saw him being stripped of the belt, though Hayashi failed to make the most of his opportunity losing a very competitive decision to the former champion.
The vacant title will be up for grabs again on July 17th as another of the division's really exciting fighters takes on an under-rated foe in what looks, on paper, like a mismatch, though in reality we're expecting a really good match up.
The exciting fighter, and clear favourite going in to the bout, is former champion Takuya Kogawa (23-4, 13) who has been one of the sports most over-looked action fighters over the last few years. He's been a former world title challenger, a former OPBF Super Flyweight champion and a former Japanese Flyweight champion. Over the last 5 years or so he has shared the ring with Pongsaklek Wonjongkam, Shigetaka Ikehara, Tesuma Hayashi, Suguru Muranaka, Yodmongkol Vor Saengthep and Hiroyuki Hisataka.
Whilst Kogawa has been matched hard he has more than held his own, and been involved in some hard and exciting bouts. His loss to Muranaka was a late contender to be the 2013 Asian FOTY whilst his 2014 loss to Yodmongkol was massively controversial, with Kogawa very unlucky not to claim the win. Those exciting fights have shown Kogawa's toughness, bravery and his incredible stamina which sees him throwing hundreds of punches, even in the later rounds.
Kogawa is battle hardened, experienced, hard working and a fantastic fighter in, and around, the domestic scene. His lack of power is an issue but his toughness and energy make him a handful for everyone in the division, except for the truly elite.
The other fighter involved in this bout is the lesser known Hiroki Saito (9-4, 5) who's record suggests he will be dominated here, but in reality he's a criminally under-rated fighter, especially on the Japanese domestic scene.
On paper Saito has won just over 66% of his bouts. Notably however his opposition to date has been tough and has seen him never face a fighter with a losing record. In fact his 13 opponents to date have had a combined record of 130-34-11. Not only has his opposition had good records but they have included good fighters as well, including Muranaka, Tetsuma Hayashi, Yuki Fukumoto, and the promising Jo Tanoka.
Footage of Saito isn't too easy to find though against Muranaka he looked very strong and tough as he came forward time and time again trying to impose his will and strength. Technically he's not the most proficient, or the fastest or the hardest working but he has the toughness and desire to really be a problem for more skilled fighters, as he showed at times against Muranaka.
Whilst the records suggest “mismatch” we do actually expect this to be very compelling and incredibly exciting. We do however suspect that Kogawa will know too much and out work Saito in what will go down and another instant classic in the Flyweight division. Saito's toughness and “in your face” style will compliment Kogawa's swarming assault and as a result we're expecting to see something very special.
Although a loss for Saito would look bad on his record it's fair to say his style will help him get more opportunities and at 28 he still has time on his hands. A loss for Kogawa however would be rather bad news given his long career already and the fact he's now 30, not an old man in terms of time but an old man in terms of ring years and another loss in a hard fight with Saito would certainly add to those ring years.
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)