It seems that with Fujimoto now the champion every fighter in Japan, who feels like they can make Heavyweights, ants a piece of the pie, or more precisely the Heavyweight title. The queue of the contenders might not be huge but it has seen Nobuhiro Ishida for one jump up through the weight to try and claim the title.
Another man after the belt is 36 year old Kotatsu Takehara (10-9-3, 4), who has already had one shot at the title and managed to give Fujimoto hell despite losing a narrow decision last November. He gets another shot on September 10th at a show dubbed "Kamikaze 4".
In the first meeting between the two men, which can be seen here, Fujimoto started brilliantly and used his speed to great effect in the early running. By the mid rounds however he was slowing notably and as the bout went on Fujimoto became more tired with his shots looking like slaps and his his general work becoming laboured. In those rounds Takehara really made an exhausted Fujimoto work not to win them but to actually survive.
At the end of the first bout the judges all felt Fujimoto had won with scores of 97-93, 97-94 and 96-94 though neither man looked much like a winner. Fujimoto looked too tired to celebrate whilst Takehara looked disappointed in himself, as if to suggest he felt he could have won.
This time around we're expecting more from both men. Their advantage will still be what they were. Fujimoto will still be the faster man and the younger man, he'll still be able to rattle off combinations but he'll still struggle to hurt Takehara who is tougher than his record indicates. Likewise Takehara will struggle to catch Fujimoto early on but will come on strong in the middle rounds when Fujimoto's footspeed begins to slow. It really is a case of who can adjust most from their first bout.
For the defending champion he needs to have been working on his stamina. If he tires in the middle then he may not be so lucky this time around. He needs to make sure that his footspeed doesn't slow and he really should fire off singles as opposed to combos. If he fights conservatively rather than trying to stop Takehara we do feel he will take another decision victory, this time without the worries that he had last time around.
As for Takehara he is the naturally stronger fighter and for him to win he'll need to use not juts his strength but also his weight and experience. From the opening round he needs grab, hold and wrestle with Fujimoto. He needs to burn up Fujimoto's gas tank quicker than last time and if he can lean his weight on the younger man he could easily tire him out and leave him open for shots later on.
For us the bout is a tough one to call though one we think Fujimoto should win there is no certainty. He's certainly not a great champion and he is beatable. Whether it's Takehara that beats him here or not is the question, though we really don't imagine Fujimoto holding the title for long even if he over-comes Takehara.
An interesting side note to this bout is that the winner is likely to face Nobuhiro Ishida on December 31st. That bout would be the biggest in Japanese Heavyweight history.
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)