Part of the reason why the division is so over-looked in Japan is the fact that very few fighters in the country are Heavyweights. Typically the Japanese fighters have made their names in the lower weights with only a handful of champions above Lightweight. The big international Heavyweights get attention but domestically there is little time for Japanese fighters in the weight class which have typically been few and far between.
On April 30th however there will be a Heavyweight bout in Japan that has the potential to attract a lot of attention, both domestically and internationally. That bout, will see Japanese Heavyweight champion Kyotaro Fujimoto (11-1, 6) defending his title against former WBA interim Light Middleweight champion Nobuhiro Ishida (27-10-2, 11), a man best known for his huge upset victory over James Kirkland.
Ishida's international reputation, not just from the Kirkland bout but also contests with Gennady Golovkin, Paul Williams and Dmitry Pirog, will of course grab the attention of fans in the west. That attention was seen last year when Ishida began a remarkable journey to the Heavyweight division which saw him losing a close decision to Fujimoto in a surprisingly competitive 8 round bout. That bout was Ishida's Heavyweight debut and showed that he could compete in the division, at least domestically. Now a year on we've seen Ishida given time to really adapt to the division, get used to the weight and win two subsequent bouts in the division. Not only has he gotten used to the weight but he has seemingly gotten better after every fight.
Of course it takes two to tango and Fujimoto has also been a fighter showing signs of improvement since the first bout with Ishida. The was seen when Fujimoto stopped Kotatsu Takehara in what was their second meeting. In that bout Fujimoto looks brilliant. He was fast, sharp and landed almost at will. It wasn't the somewhat clumsy Fujimoto we had seen early in his career instead it was whole different fighter and one who was exciting to watch.
For those who didn't see their first bout it was an intriguing contest to say the least. Ishida seemed the more skilled and the one with the know how however his stamina lacked, his power wasn't there and he certainly slowed the longer the bout went on. He was probably fortunate that the contest was only an 8 rounder as it seemed he was beginning to struggle with the pace. The bout showed flaws for both men. Fujimoto showed a relative lack of skills and seemed unable to really make his weight advantage count until late whilst Ishida's lack of stamina stopped him from taking the later rounds that he needed for the win.
This time around we're expecting to see both men to have worked on their flaws. We know Fujimoto isn't going to suddenly become Wladimir Klitschko and be able to jab and move whilst remaining light on his feet. Likewise we know that Ishida isn't going to become a 100-punch per round swarming fighter. Though both will have improved since their first meeting and we're expecting a better fight over-all than their first contest.
Whilst we would love to see an Ishida win we do feel he's probably going to come up short. We suspect he surprised Fujimoto in their first meeting but this time around Fujimoto will know what to expect and will have trained for Ishida. Unfortunately if that's the case then we suspect Fujimoto will take a hard fought win over the challenger. Fujimoto will need to put on his best performance to win, but that's what we're expecting to see against Ishida here.
(Image courtesy of http://www.kadoebi.com)