The Japanese Middleweight picture has been an interesting one in some ways over the last few years. It's been fair to say that Ryoto Murata is the single shining star of the division domestically, and in all frank honesty no one else in Japan comes close to matching him in terms of ability or attention. Below him however we've had some interesting fighters mix it up in some really good fights.
On May 1st two of those fighters face off as we see the Japanese title and Japanese interim title getting unified in what could be a real classic for Japanese fight fans. We're not saying that to try and build up the bout, but more because we're excited about the styles of the two men involved. In one corner is Japanese “regular” champion Hikaru Nishida (15-8-1, 7), a rough and tough in your face pressure fighter, whilst the other corner has interim champion Tomohiro Ebisu (17-4, 17), a glass cannon who has never been beyond 8 rounds.
Going in to the bout we should explain why there are two Japanese champions at the moment. The situation has come about following an injury that Nishida suffered out of the ring last year. He was supposed to defend his title against Makoto Fuchigami, before fell down some stairs just days before the fight, forcing it to be cancelled with Nishida needing to receive medical attention for a head injury. As a result Fuchigami fought Ebisu last December in a late contender for Japanese FOTY, with Ebisu stopping Fuchigami in the 8th round of a real thriller.
Since Ebisu won the title Nishida has been given clearance to fight, with this being his comeback bout, ending a 10 month break from the ring, with his last bout being a loss to Dwight Ritchie in a bout for the OPBF title. We now need to go back more than a year to find Nishida's last win, a 3rd round TKO victory over Akio Shibata for the then unified Japanese and OPBF titles.
As mentioned Nishida is a pressure fighter. At 5'9” he's tiny for a Middleweight but he's built like a freak and is as strong as an ox. He uses that physical strength to bull more technically sound fighters around, before breaking them down. He's done to great effect in the last 5 years, turning around a 4-5-1 (1) record to his current 15-8-1 (7) record. On paper that might not seem amazing but he has scored notable wins over the likes of Yasuyuki Akiyama, Fukutaro Ujiie, Kazuhiko Hidaka, Makoto Fuchigami and the aforementioned Shibata. He has shown real grit and toughness and under-rated skills, whilst making the most of what he's been blessed with.
Ebisu has been inactive since his win over Fuchigami, a good thing given how damaging it was for both men, and is now seeking to become a 2-time Japanese champion. Having said that it's worth noting that Ebisu's first reign was a short one. He the title in February 2013, stopping Sanosuke Sasaki in 6 rounds, and lost it less than 6 months later to Daisuke Nakagawa in 7 rounds. That was Ebisu's 3rd stoppage loss and saw his record fall to 11-3 (11), it wasn't long for him to be 12-3 (12) with a loss and a draw in 2014.
In the ring Ebisu is a monster puncher, a real spiteful banger, but unfortunately he can't take a great deal in return and has either scored a stoppage or been stopped in every bout of his 21 fight career. The combination of power and suspect chin has made him great fun to watch over the years, not knowing what will happen at any moment. In recent times he has started to show more savvy in his boxing but at heart he's still a puncher, and brutish one at that.
One of the big questions coming into this bout is whether Nishida will have any knock on effects following his injury. If he's the fighter he was before his fall this bout has the potential to be something very special, as he looks to walk through Ebisu's rocket fire in an attempt to drag him into a war and break him down. If Nishida has lost some of his punch resistance as a result of a very nasty fall then he could well find himself being broken down by the power of Ebisu, and quickly as his shots are thunderous.
We think Ebisu has to be favoured here, given the possible issues with Nishida and the fact he's been inactive recently, but we're hoping that this bout delivers on action and that Nishida is fighting fit for it.
The Middleweight scene in Japan hasn't been the most exciting in recent years, but we have had some under-rated excitement with the rise of Hikaru Nishida and his aggressive pressure fighting. Sadly Nishida suffered an injury out of the ring earlier this year, when he fell down some stairs at a gym, and due to that injury the JBC has set an interim title bout which will take place on December 24th at the Korakuen Hall. That will see former champions facing off in what could a very exciting pre-Christmas treat.
The bout in question will see the huge punching Tomohiro Ebisu (16-4, 16) battle against former world title challenger Makoto Fuchigami (23-11, 14) in a bout we're genuinely looking forward to, a lot.
Ebisu, for those unaware, is a glass cannon. He has never been the distance in his 20 fight career and has stopped his foes or been stopped himself. Often those results have come quickly with his 20 fight career consisting of just 69 combined rounds and he has only been beyond 5 times 4 times in his career, winning 3 of those bouts and losing one. Despite being such a glass cannon he has proven himself with wins over the likes of Go Nakahori, Sanosuke Sasaki and Hidenori Tajima and has been the Japanese champion and the 2009 Rookie of the Year.
Ebisu is a fast starter, he has stopped 6 of his opponents in the first 3 rounds, he is also a man who has sought new challenges by fighting as high at Light Heavyweight, in a bout he lost to Frenchman Kevin Thomas Cojean in 2 rounds. Despite trying the higher weights he is certainly more suited to Middleweight, though has suffered stoppage losses at the weight to Fukutaro Ujiie, Tadashi Yuba and Daisuke Nakagawa. Whilst those stoppages at Middleweight have come to punchers he has shown real cracks in other bouts and there is a worry that he really can't take a solid shot.
At 33 years Fuchigami is a true veteran with more than a decade of experience behind him and more than 30 fights, consisting of over 200 rounds. Those fights have come at every level from 4 rounders, early in his career, to facing Gennady Golovkin in a world title fight. He has also struggled at every level before finding his groove. He lost 3 of his first 5 before having a run of success and getting a Japanese title fight in his 12th bout, back in 2007. Another run of success saw Fuchigami earn a second title fight and came up just short against Tetsuya Suzuki, though a rematch with Suzuki in 2010 saw Fuchigami claim the Japanese title. After several defenses Fuchigami added the OPBF title to his collection winning an amazing unification war with Koji Sato, in what was really one of 2011's best bouts.
Sadly since unifying the titles in 2011, and going on a 9-0 (8) run, Fuchigami's career has repeatedly faltered and he has gone 4-5 in recent bouts. Whilst one of those losses, to Golovkin, can be excused he has suffered two losses to both Akio Shibata and Nishida, whilst also struggling past Brandon Lockhart Shane.
At his best Fuchigami was a resilient, tricky and rangy southpaw who used his size well, had under-rated power and speed and although never going to be a threat on the world stage was actually rather dangerous on the regional level. In recent years how ever his resiliency has shown signs of fading, his toughness is showing cracks and the speed is slowing, along with his reactions. Saying that however he could still prove to be a tough assignment for someone as wild as Ebisu.
Whilst we're unsure on who to favour as the winner we don't expect this to go the distance and wouldn't be surprised at all if this was a thrilling 4 round war with both men hitting the canvas at some point.
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.