In one corner is “regular” champion Toshio Arikawa (14-4, 12), a huge puncher who claimed the title in April 2016 when he stopped Nobuyuki Shindo. He has recorded just one defence of the title, stopping Yasuhiro Okawa last November, though has sadly seen his reign put on ice this year with a nasty injury. That injury actually forced him to pull out of a Champion Carnival bout, which would have seen him face off with Daisuke Sakamoto (14-8-3, 8). Due to the injury to Arikawa fans saw Sakamoto battle against Makoto Kawasaki for the interim title, with Sakamoto claiming a decision win for the interim crown.
Now, almost 7 months after the original date for the bout we'll see the two fighters finally facing off, and just like the first time around there is a lot of back stories running though this bout. These include the unification status of the bout, the delaying of the bout and the fact that this is a rematch are all interesting threads to the contest.
We've already explained the delay and unification, of the interim and regular titles here, but it's worth mentioning the first fight between these two men before looking at either man in much detail. These two fought back in April 2014, and surprisingly Sakamoto blew away Arikawa in just 69 seconds. Since then however both men have been unbeaten, with Sakamoto going 7-0-2 (5) and Arikawa going 6-0 (5), and both showing real improvements from their first contest.
Of the two men it's Arikawa who enters in the more impressive form. His last 6 bouts have included stoppage wins over Akinori Watanabe, Shindo and Okawa as well as a technical decision win over the pretty decent, though now forgotten Yoshihisa Tonimura. He has really turned his career around after an 8-4 (7) start, which included 3 stoppage losses, and has not only kept his power but improved his overall boxing ability. The naturally heavy hands of Arikawa are sledgehammer like and every shot he lands looks damaging, especially at this level.
Whilst Arikawa has turned his career around brilliantly it should be noted that Sakamoto has done something similar himself. He was 7-8-1 (3) prior to beating Arikawa, having lost 4 of his previous 5, but has genuinely turned his career around and was a well deserving winner over Kawasaki for the interim title. Sadly aside from the win over Arikawa little really stands out for him in terms of quality wins, and it did sort of seem like he shook Arikawa and never let him off the hook until the referee had to stop the bout.
Given the result of their first bout it's obvious that Sakamoto will be full of confidence, and certainly has activity in his favour, having fought as recently as June. We however feel a determined and focused Arikawa will be too much for Sakamoto, and will break down Sakamoto late, though may need to pull himself off the canvas to score a victory here.