Among those rising fighters is heavy handed Japanese champion Yusaku Kuga (14-2-1, 10) who looks to make his first defense of the title this coming Saturday, as he takes on the under-rated Ryoichi Tamura (8-2-1, 5). On paper the bout is “just” a Japanese title defense for Kuga, but an impressive win could see him jumping into the fringes of the world rankings, whilst Tamura will be looking to score a career best win and get his career rolling with a big win.
Earlier this year Kuga won the Japanese title stopping the popular Yasutaka Ishimoto in 2 rounds, announcing himself as a real dangerman. Prior to that he had been on the radar for a while. For most that was due to a loss to Ishimoto in 2015, though for others it was back in 2013 that he started to capture the imagination with a good win over former amateur standout Yusuke Suzuki and an unfortunate draw against Naoto Uebayashi. Those bouts began a run of solid performances that lead to Kuga getting his first bout with Ishimoto, which he lost narrowly.
The rematch with Ishimoto came after an impressive stoppage win over Jonathan Baat in 2016 and saw a more mature and more aggressive Kuga fight with the intention of taking Ishimoto out early, and he did drop him very quickly. With that aggression and power Kuga is a handful for many, and although he's flawed, with rough edges, he's a really dangerous fighter and not someone to have a war with.
Tamura made his debut back in May 2013 and lost to Wataru Miyasaka in a very competitive debut bout. That loss could have been it but instead Tamura's team showed their belief in him and kept putting him in hard fights. That resulted in a few early set backs, with Tamura being 3-2-1 (1) after 6 bouts, but developing massively into a solid professional during those early set backs. The tough love and hard development paid off and in 2015 Tamura beat Yusuke Suzuki, before following it up with stoppages against domestic foes like Yuki Matsuda, Ryoji Okahata, and Renji Ichimura. Those wins saw Tamura shoot up the rankings, and earn a shot at the title.
Although not the smoothest fighter Tamura is a strong and powerful fighter, with a very heavy right hand which he constantly looks to set up. Like Kuga he's more on the “crude” side of the spectrum, more so than Kuga in fact, and he can certainly be out boxed, but he does have some nice boxing skills and knows how to use his jab well, even if he under utilises it. Although he can jab and move he does seem to prefer fighting at close to mid range, and often looks like a fighter looking for a war.
With both fighters being crude, heavy handed sluggers this really could be a fire fight, and we'll admit that's what we're hoping for. If it is a fire fight we do suspect that Kuga will come out on top, making the most of his edge in speed and better accuracy and timing, , but with Tamura's power there is danger there that Kuga himself will be hurt. We don't see anyway this one can go the scheduled 10 rounds, but we also have no idea how this one can be anything but explosive given the two men involved.