About 3 years ago Kentaro Masuda (now 20-6, 11) was beaten by Hidenori Otake, it was a loss that saw Masuda's record falling to 13-5(8) and it seemed that his career was never going to progress beyond being a ranked contender on the Japanese domestic scene. Just 2 fights later things didn't look any better for Masuda who had then been beaten, in 7 rounds, by the excellent Ryosuke Iwasa in a Japanese Bantamweight title fight.
Aged 29 when he lost to Iwasa it seemed like Masuda was going to be a fighter who mixed with domestic level fighters looking to get a second title fight one day. What no one expected was that his career would really begin at at 30, though that's exactly what has happened and he has completely turned things around with 6 straight wins. Those wins have seen Masuda move into the IBF world rankings and claim the Japanese Bantamweight title, courtesy of an excellent technical decision win over Yu Kawaguchi, and defend it once, with a very impressive destruction of former world title challenger Konosuke Tomiyama, who lasted less than 3 rounds.
The late career revival of Masuda has been very impressive and he'll be hoping to keep his current run of form going when he returns to the ring on December 8th to defend his Japanese title against the heavy handed Tatsuya Takahashi (18-5-3, 12), the #13 ranked Japanese Bantamweight.
In regards to current form this should be a mismatch. Masuda enters the bout 6-0 (3) since losing to the world class Iwasa more than 2 years ago and has gone 8-2 (4) in his last 10. On the other hand Takahashi has gone 3-1-2 (3) in his last 6 and 5-3-2 (4) in has last 10 bouts, including a stoppage loss to Filipino fighter Rey Vargas. That is however ignoring the fact that Takahashi is a hungry 25 year old looking for his own break out win, something Masuda scored himself, earlier this year.
If you've not seen Masuda in action you may now know what to expect. He's a tough fighter, with solid work rate, real grit, and skills that have developed massively in recent years. Those skills might not be world class but they are solid as is his power. In many ways he is very much an all-rounder though when he steps on the gas he can be a very good finisher, as he showed against Tomiyama who never got the chance to recover after being hurt. As well as his developing skills he has also developed a lot of confidence in the ring and he knows that a win here takes a step closer to getting a rematch with Iwasa, something he has said he wants. If things go well for both Iwasa and Masuda over the next 12 months he may get that rematch with an IBF world title being up for grabs.
Whilst we have managed to get footage of Masuda we unfortunately haven't been able to do the same with Takahashi. What we do know about him is that he managed to go the better part of 10 rounds with Rey Perez in his most notable bout to date. That's actually a telling result given that Perez isn't a puncher and that Perez was dominating the bout anyway prior to the stoppage. We also know that Takahashi lacks a notable win, with his last 3 victories being quick stoppages over limited foes. Given his competition so far it's very hard to know really how good he is, or rather how bad he is as some of his losses have been to very limited opposition.
With what we know about the two men, their opposition and their form this really only looks like it's going to go one way, Masuda's way. The champion may not be world class but he's certainly on the fringes of it and we suspect we'll see the gulf in class between the two men here and Masuda will almost certainly be the better fighter from start to end.
(Image courtesy of danganboxing.com)
Having canned the old "Full Schedule" of Asianboxing we have instead decided to concentrate more on the major bouts. This section, the "Preview" section will look at major bouts involving OPBF and national titles. Hopefully leading to a more informative style for, you the reader.