This coming Sunday we get the chance to see a huge show in Japan with two world title bouts, one at Minimumweight and one at Light Flyweight. In the chief supporting to those to world title fights we'll see Japanese Super Flyweight champion Ryuichi Funai (27-7,19) look to make his first defense as he takes on Takayuki Okumoto (18-7-3, 8), in yet another really interesting bout at 115lbs.
Funai won the title earlier this year, when he beat old friend Kenta Nakagawa with a 7th round KO. That win has been the defining one of his career, which had seen him come up short in previous title bouts to Sho Ishida and Rolly Lunas, as well in a notable bout against Shinsuke Yamanaka. An early career dogged by set backs, with Funai being 2-2 and later 8-4, could have spelled the end but he has gritted it out, been determined and forged a notable career whilst scoring wins over Hiroki Shiino, Gakiya Furuhashi, Ryuta Otsuka and course Nakagawa.
Aged 31 Funai is a real ring veteran, having debuted back in 2005, despite that he is still a quick fighter and combines ring experience with natural ability, a gritty determination and under-rated toughness, with his only stoppages in the last decade coming at Bantamweight. In fact his loss in his last 11 bouts has been a razor thin one to Sho Ishida in a Japanese title fight back in 2016.
Funai isn't going to be looking to mix with Inoue, Gonzalez and the truly top fighter at the pinnacle of the division, but he's got the ability to be a challenger of a world title in the future, and has a team who can push for that opportunity in the future. He's a good all rounder, but has nothing that stand out as being truly world class, at the moment, about him.
Aged 25 Okumoto is the much younger fighter here, yet is himself a bit of a veteran having debuted back in 2007 as a 15 year old in Thailand. He had mixed success, going 1-1, before maturing out of the ring for a bit and resurfacing in 2009 in Japan. Like Funai we saw Okumoto struggle early in his career, going 1-2 in his first 3 and 3-2-1 in his first 6 bouts. Despite those early struggles he kept going, and started to show clear signs of improvement, running his record up to 8-2-1 (4) before coming up just short against Myung Ho Lee in late 2011.
Okumoto's good run was then following by a bad one, and from 8-2-1 he slipped to 10-6-2 (5) and it seemed like his career was coming to a screaming halt. Amazingly though he has turned things around, scoring notable domestic wins over Yuki Yonaha, Shota Kawaguchi, Yuta Saito and Sonin Nihei, as well as a good win over Filipino Romel Oliveros. He hasn't been perfect in his recent run, but he has looked like a young fighter finding his groove, with his only loss being a split decision to Eaktwan BTU Ruaviking and his only other set back being a technical draw with Eranio Semillano.
Okumoto has under-rated power and is tougher than you'd expect, given he has a couple of stoppage losses but hasn't shown that he belongs in the same company as the likes of Funai. With that in mind we do see him losing this one, but in the long term another loss won't be a big problem for the youngster, who will be able to take positives from another defeat and develop further.
We see a close start here, before Funai takes over and stops the challenger in the later rounds, following a good effort from Okumoto, who is stepping up too much too fast here.