The reason this fight is so highly regarded by boxrec.com is due to Hidenori Otake (21-1-3, 9) the defending Japanese Super Bantamweight champion who is seen by some hardcore fans as one of the fringe elite level fighters in his division.
It's not just the fans and the JBC who have been taking note of Otake but also the world title bodies, two of which have Otake ranked inside the top 15. One of those is the WBO who have him at #12 (at the time of writing) the other is the IBF who have given him a very lofty #3 ranking and will almost certainly view him as one of their top contenders.
The reason Otake is ranked so highly isn't due to a big stand out win but his impressive 15 fight winning streak that dates back more than 6 years and has included 3 Japanese title defenses in less than 18 months.
Otake's 4th title defence comes against Takafumi Nakajima (22-6-1, 9) a man he has already beaten, albeit in a very narrow and hard fought contest that could easily have gone the opposite way, back in August 2012. In effect this bout not only features a world ranked fighter, a Japanese national title but also a continuation of their back story together. Three separate but very significant features that all add up to making this a hugely notable clash.
When the men first met it was Nakajima on a great run of results. He was entering on a 6 fight winning streak which included victories over Kinshiro Usui, Coach Hiroto and Shingo Wake. It may have been a shorter run than Otake's, which saw him winning his previous 9, but it was a better run in terms of who he had beaten.
The better results going in to the first fight however didn't help Nakajima beat Otake for the then vacant title. It was a close fight but two of the judges saw it as a clear but competitive victory for Otake, both scoring it 97-94, whilst the third judge felt Nakajima had just nicked it with a 96-95 card.
Since their first fight Nakajima has been relatively inactive fighting just twice. Whilst one of those wins did come against Mikihito Seto, a former Japanese interim champion, neither were great considering Nakajima's relatively merits in the first Otake meeting. As for Otake he has, as previously mentioned, defended the belt 3 times though didn't look great in beating either Seto or Nobuhisa Coronita Doi.
If we look at the world rankings and their previous bout against each other you'd probably think that Otake has this in the bag. Instead however this is one of those true 50-50 fights. In fact using boxrec's rankings Nakajima, ranked #10 by Boxrec, should be the favoured fighter over the Otake, #13.
One thing that perhaps could swing it is age. Otake is 32 going on 33 and whilst he's not had a long career he has had a hard one with his lack of power causing him to have 148 rounds in his 25 fights to date, an average of almost 6 rounds a fight. As well as the total of 148 rounds his last 5 bouts have gone a combined 48 rounds and each of those rounds was very tough for Otake who often had to go to the well to secure wins. At 32 Otake isn't young for a Super Bantamweight and with hard rounds piling up he's probably "older" in terms of boxing years than many other fighters at a similar point in their career.
At 29 years old Nakajima is notably the younger man in terms of "real years". He may have had marginally more rounds at 163 though that's only just over 5 rounds a fight and his last 4 bouts went just a combined 28 rounds, including the 10 rounds he spent with Otake in their first fight together. Many of the other rounds were easier than rounds that Otake has been in with only Wake really giving Nakajima a good tough fight, other than Otake obviously.
The one thing that is clear is that neither man is a puncher and this is likely to go the distance. This will likely leave us with a lot of close and competitive rounds which will again be split very little. It really is a toss up and a draw wouldn't be out of the question.
If you put a gun to our heads we'd favour Nakajima with his youth but it really is too close to call. An excellent match up and the sort that national titles were designed to create. Two of the best Super Bantamweights in Japan colliding in a major domestic scrap great stuff.
The one hope we do have for this bout is that the winner will fight Shingo Wake in an OPBF/Japanese title unification later this year. That bout is better than this one though only just and it would pretty much serve as world eliminator between two of the top fighters in the division.
(Poster courtesy of Boxmob. Otake is the man with a belt on the right whilst Nakajima is inset nest to him)