The 32 year old Funai is one of a number of fighters looking for a shot at a big bout at 115lbs. Despite his record he is a very credible fighter and well deserving of the world rankings he has, but at 32 time is running out on the Watanabe man, who only won the Japanese title earlier this year after more than 12 years as a professional. Funai began his career in February 2005, and lost 2 of his first 4. He managed to find some form, and even fought future world champion Shinsuke Yamanaka way back in 2009, suffering a 7th round TKO loss.
Early stumbles were put behind Funai who has gone 15-2 in recent years, losing only to Rolly Lunas and Sho Ishida, both in title fights. That 17 fight run has seen Funai really show his worth and score notable wins over talented fighters, like Gakuya Furuhashi, Akinori Hoshino, Ryuta Otsuka, Ryan Bito and most notably Kenta Nakagawa, who he stopped in 7 rounds for the Japanese title back in March.
In the ring Funai is a pretty solid boxer puncher. He's not got any “outstanding” attributes, but he's a solid all rounder, with much better skills than his record suggests, a steely determinedness, good stamina and under-rated power, which has seen him score stoppages in 9 of his last 15 wins. He's a front foot fighter, though one who is best at mid-range, who believes in his toughness and isn't scared of taking a shot if he feels he's going to land one of his own. It's also worth noting that when he has his man hurt, he doesn't mind taking a gamble to try and finish them off.
Kawaguchi is some way outside of the world rankings, though is aware a win here could push him into them, but has actually mixed with a number of notable names. Sadly during his 11 year career we've seen Kawaguchi suffer defeats to the likes of Sonny Boy Jaro and Rene Dacquel, and his best win are over the likes of Yodgoen Tor Chalermchai, Jonathan Francisco and Rakniran Muadransarakam.
Kawaguchi is a respectable domestic level, and possibly even continental level, fighter at best, but with a questionable chin and less than great power he really is dependent on his skills and a bit of luck, and luck doesn't tend to strike your career when you're 33 and are 4-4 in your last 8. In all honest it's that sort of form which is damning to Kawaguchi's hopes. He's not a bad fighter, but can be bullied, can be out boxed, out fought and hurt and he's yet to really prove that he much for Funai to be afraid of.
We think Kawaguchi will actually start quite well, as the champion takes a couple of rounds to work his way into the bout. As soon as he does he will likely take over, and we're expecting Funai to stop his man in the middle to late rounds, and secure his second defense. He could then begin trying to lure a world champion into the ring for a fight, but the reality is that he's really going to have to earn a shot, and that's unlikely to be easy given his age, and the depth in the division. Instead we suspect he'll hang around at domestic level and try and rack up a few more defenses before being dethroned by a younger, fresher and hungrier man.