Rather than lament the division's recent downfall it's nice to look at the changes at the top, and appreciate the success of fighters like Sho Kimura and Cristofer Rosales, who have both rebuilt from early career defeats. They will be an inspiration for other fighters, such as current Japanese Flyweight champion Masayuki Kuroda (29-7-3, 16) who will look to continue his journey towards a second world title fight on July 23rd, when he defends his national title against Akinori Hoshino (14-7-2, 9).
Kuroda is perhaps best known for his first world title fight, a loss in 2013 to Juan Carlos Reveco. Since then he has had mixed success in the ring, going 8-3-1 (3). Despite his form being mixed he is currently riding a 5 fight unbeaten run which has seen him claim the Japanese interim Flyweight title, the regular Japanese Flyweight title and make 2 defenses of the regular title. He's avenged one of his career defeats, by defeating Takuya Kogawa in rematch between the two men, and scored a notable win last time out against Katsunori Nagamine.
In the ring Kuroda doesn't do anything that special, he's not a monstrous puncher, he's not particularly slick or lightning quick. He is however an aggressive, tough fighter with a huge will to win. He's a battler, who will let his hands go and have a fight. He's very much a fighter who is in an opponents face, applies pressure and tries to apply strong and consistent pressure with a lot of leather being thrown. He can be out boxed, and he can be out fought, but at Japanese level not many will out fight him or out box him.
Hoshino on the other hand is a more crafty and frustrating fighter. He looks to box behind a long jab, leans just outside of range and uses rather awkward movement to his boxing. He doesn't have a very busy style, more of a cautious counter punching one, but it's one that works for him and has frustrated the likes of Nagamine, who he held to a draw, and helped him pick up notable wins over Kenya Yamashita and Shun Kosaka.
On paper this does look like a bit of a mismatch, but Hoshino really is better than his record suggests. The challenger was 4-3-1 (2) after 8 bouts but since then he has gone 10-4-1 and scored notable wins over Mako Matsuyama, Kenichi Watanabe, Kenya Yamashita and Shun Kosaka. Not has he scored those notable wins but he has also run the likes of Tatsuya Takahashi and Ryuichi Funai close whilst fighting well above his weight. At 11l2bs he's not giving away natural size as he has in losses to Funai, Gakuya Furuhashi and Yusuke Suzuki. Instead he'll be a big and strong fighter at Flyweight, able to use his strength to push back on Kuroda when he needs to.
Although we think Hoshino will be a very tricky opponent, we think Kuroda's experience, especially over the 10 round distance, will be his key advantage here as he takes a hard fought and narrow decision to move a step closer to a second world title fight. Hoshino will be a nightmare, but not one that Kuroda can't over-come.