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.