So we've all had a bit of a break for Christmas but this coming Thursday sees title action return to Japan as Light Middleweight champion Yuki Nonaka (30-8-3, 9) defend his title against veteran challenger Yosuke Kirima (23-6-2, 16). For the champion this will be a 6th defense of the title he won around 30 months ago whilst Kirima will be hoping it's third time lucky having come up short in two previous title bouts, back in 2012 and 2013.
The world ranked Nonaka is a lovely boxer to watch, who uses skills at mid-range to get his shots off, block shots thrown in his direction and get away when he needs to. He's not the fighter he once was, but at 39 he's a very capable fighter. During his career he has twice been the Japanese champion and has scored notable wins over the likes of Kazuhiko Hidaka, Dmytro Nikulin, Charles Bellamy, Koshinmaru Saito, Yuto Shimizu and Ryosuke Maruki. Despite those wins he has shown his years recent and was fortunate against both Saito and Maruki, with both having legitimate claims to feel aggrieved.
At his best Nonaka was a really solid fighter but given age, and a career that goes back 17 years as a professional, he is slowing, his out put has lessened and his reactions aren't what they were. His career, although not over, seems to be getting progressively tougher and it's clear that he hasn't got long left in the sport.
Whilst Nonaka is a 2-time champion Kirima's career has been one of failure at title level. He has twice challenged for the Japanese title, being stopped in both of those bouts, and has also come up short in a regional title fight losing in an IBF Pan Pacific Middleweight title fight to Michael Zerafa earlier this year. Whilst he has come up short in his major bouts he has bounced around the rankings and had consistent wins to keep him in the domestic mix. Unfortunately whilst he has done enough to remain in the title picture through his career has shown durability issues and been stopped by Daisuke Nakagawa and Tadashi Yuba as well being dropped hard by Arnel Tinampay in a 2012 loss.
At 32 years old the challenger is pretty much in last chance saloon with 2 losses in his last 4 bouts. He's still a capable fighter on the lower end of the Japanese domestic scene but he's certainly not someone who can turn any domestic success into something international. In fact it's probably fair to say that he's one loss away from having his career written off.
We think Nonaka has slowed down, a lot, from his prime, but it's still hard to see the limited and fragile Kirima being too much for him. Father time might have taken the best from Nonaka, but unless Nonaka has slipped a lot he should still be too good for Kirima.