The champion won the title late last year, when he narrowly beat Hiroya Yamamoto. That was Fukuhara's first “big” win though he had mixed with good company in the past losing to the likes of Yu Kimura, Takuma Inoue and Takuya Mitamura and drawing with Fahlan Sakkreerin Jr, in Thailand.
Although Fukuhara doesn't have the best record he is going through a rich vein of form with a 6 fight unbeaten run, including 4 wins and 2 draws. The competition during that run may not be exceptional but they did include the win over Yamamoto and the draw with Fahlan the best results on Fukuhara's record.
In the ring Fukuhara is a gutsy fighter who has his limitations but has a great engine, a fantastic work rate and a fantastic will to win. He can certainly be out boxed, and isn't the most powerful or quickest, but he is a fighter who has the engine to really push people on the domestic scene. In fact he has taken a round from both Kimura and Inoue and must have taken 4 from Fahlan to earn the draw in their bout.
The unbeaten challenger is tipped by some as “one to watch” and is highly ranked by the world title bodies, with the WBO having him particularly high.
Sakae first made his mark on the sport in 2013, when he won the Rookie of the Year and advanced his record to a promising 7-0 (4). At the point he was 20 years old and had shown real promise beating the likes of Kenta Shimizu and Yoshinori Wakahara. Sadly since then his career has been mostly spent against limited opponents with a trio of poor Thai's and a pair of limited Indonesian's padding out his record. In fact the best wins since he won the Rookie of the Year have been decision victories over Boy Tanto and Japan's Munehito Kijima.
Watching Sakae it's clear he has a lot of potential and the 22 year old does appear to have respectable power, nice skills and a fun style. He has however been down, dropped in his last fight, and hasn't been able to really show how good he is. There is more promise here than perhaps proven ability. His team though do seem confident in their man and have already taken him on the road, for a bout last
On paper this is a huge step up for Sakae whilst Fukuhara is just going in again. Whilst that doesn't always tell the full story we suspect it will tell us a lot here with Sakae's youth and inexperience being both and advantage and a problem. We suspect that Sakae will start fast before Fukuhara comes back, with the big question being just how much of a lead Sakae builds up before the fight turns around.