The lack of real quality in and around the 147lb division has seen some pretty poor national champions in the past come out of Japan. Fighters like Takejiro Kato, Minoru Horiuchi (who was admittedly only and interim champion) and Dynamite Matsuo weren't really "national champion" level fighters.
At the moment however Japan does have a Welterweight champion to be proud of in the form of Suyon Takayama (19-1, 7) who may not be a world beater but is a credible champion and a world ranked fighter, holding a WBA #14 ranking. As well as his status on the world stage Takayama is a man who has already recorded two title defenses.
Of the two defenses already made by Takayama it's fair to say that one was a respectable one, taking a narrow decision over Moon Hyun Yun whilst the other, a decision over Cobra Suwa, summed up the weakness in the division.
Unfortunately for Takayama his next defense is another that suggests just how weak the Japanese domestic scene is as he takes on #1 ranked challenger Tetsuya Suzuki (29-11, 17).
On paper it's actually a great defense with Suuki being a 2-time Japanese Middleweight champion and a former OPBF Middleweight champion. In reality however Tetsuya was lucky that the Middleweight division at the time was weak. This was shown in the fact that Tetsuya's first reign began with a narrow decision over Keiji Eguchi, who was was stopped in his previous bout and his next bout, whilst his second came against Norifumi Suzuki, who had an impressive though thoroughly padded record.
As for the OPBF title that Tetsuya won, that came against Pil-Seung Oh who had last 5 of his previous 8 and would go on to lose his following 3. IT was another example of a fighter winning a title against a very weak foe.
Whilst it's unfair to say Tetsuya's a bum, he really isn't, he's also not the sort of fighter who should really be winning national titles. He's the sort of fighter who we think in another era wouldn't have made much of a mark on the domestic scene and in all honesty is a million miles from being fringe world class. This is shown perfectly in the fact he has lost 3 of his last 7 and of the wins he scored recently some have very poor. One of those wins came in a narrow decision against Thai veteran Prawet Singwancha whilst two of the other's were over winless Thai "body-donors" Udomsin Nonpitayakom and Petchmongkol Na Nonthachai.
We think that Takayama will clearly win this. It's been so long since Suzuki scored a notable win that we're unsure what he has in the tank and Takayama being younger, fresher, more suited to the weight and growing in confidence we can only see one winner and it could well be his most impressive so far.
As far as Japanese Welterweights go the only fight Takayama should be thinking about after this is a contest is a bout with OPBF champion Yoshihiro Kamegai. That bout would decide the best in Japan, unify the titles and see the winner take a big step towards a world title fight. That's three things worth fighting for!
(Photo Courtesy of Boxmob)