Of the two men Fukuhara is the more distinguished. He's the current Japanese champion and has made 2 defenses since winning the title last November, over-coming Hiroya Yamamoto for the then vacant title. Those defenses have seen him take a win over the previously unbeaten Takumi Sakae and fight to a technical draw with former world title challenger Shin Ono, with that Ono bout coming in mid-September.
Whilst his 3 fights at Japanese title level have brought Fukuhara some fame he has got other notable bouts on his record. Those include a win over the then 5-0 Koki Ono, losses to Takuma Inoue and Yu Kimura as well as a draw with Fahlan Sakkreerin Jr.
Tough with intelligent movement, a solid toughness, a southpaw stance, a good engine, and sharp punching Fukuhara is a bit of a nightmare to get into a fight with. He can be out boxed, and probably out fought, but not many will win beat him at a domestic level, and he's a very capable boxer, despite lacking real power. Not only is he tricky to beat but he's also generated a big following in Kumamoto and will be fighting at the Foodpal Kumamoto, which has become a boxing home for him with 8 previous bouts there including his last 3 contests.
Whilst Fukuhara is well established on the domestic scene it's fair to say that the guy who has gotten the more attention coming into this bout is actually the unbeaten challenger, with Hanai being tipped as a potential star from the off. In fact since his debut in March 2014 many have tipped him to follow the likes of Kosei Tanaka and Ken Shiro and be fast tracked into title bouts. That expectation was obviously something his team believed in 2014 when he beat Crison Omayao in just his third bout.
Sadly after the win over Omayao we saw a huge change in Hanai's trajectory, which went from “mega fast rise” to “develop him a bit”, and since then he's had 4 bouts, including a surprisingly competitive one with Il Che earlier this year. Those 4 bouts have lasted just a combined 15 round, with the last of those bouts being a 32 second blow out against hapless Thai Poomsak Saknarong at the start of October.
In the ring Hanai has shown some variation. At time he's been an aggressive pressure fighter, bringing calculated and intelligent pressure into the ring. At other times however he looks more like a boxer, looking to use his skills to control and opponent. Sadly whilst he is touted there are numerous question marks still over his head, including how he'll manage to box over 10 rounds, how he'll fair in an opponents back yard and how he'll look against a capable southpaw.
On paper we think Hanai will win, he is after all the fast rising prospect ear marked for success and with an unbeaten record, in reality however this is a huge step up for him against a guy who looks to have improved significantly in recent years, and will have home advantage. If Hanai is as good as we first thought then he should claim the title, come through a really serious test and prove he is a diamond in the rough. If however Hanai's isn't quite what we thought then Fukuhara will retain the gold, and could well see his career move towards world title fights in 2017.