Even at the Japanese domestic level the division frustrated us in 2014. The most notable part of that frustration came when Hidenori Otake injured a rib prior to a scheduled title defence. Soon afterwards Otake vacated title and, subsequently, got himself a world title shot at WBA “regular” champion Scott Quigg. Whilst the injury “benefited” Otake in some ways it did leave one man out in the cold, Gakuya Furuhashi (17-5, 7).
It was Furuhashi who was supposed to be get the shot at Otake prior to Otake's injury but unfortunately he was forced to wait for a shot.
Whilst Furuhashi was waiting the JBC did put up the vacant title for a fight last December. The understanding was that Furuhashi would get the first shot at the winner.
The fight in December saw Yukinori Oguni (14-1, 4) claim the title with a very, very close decision over Yasutaka Ishimoto in a very good match up. As a result of that win Oguni knew he would be fighting Furuhashi in what looks likely to be another very good fight involving Oguni.
Of the two men involved it's Oguni who is the most well known. Not only is he the defending champion here but he is also a former OPBF champion, who lost that title to Wake in his only loss to date. In the ring Oguni is a very talented boxer mover who has lovely fast hands, nice movement and a lot of ability. He does however lack power and still seems to have the strength of a boy and not a man. To his credit however he does hold notable wins over the likes of Roli Gasca-twice, Hiromasa Ohashi, Masaaki Serie and Ishimoto and they all been due to his skills as opposed to his power.
What Oguni does so well is use his speed, both with his feet and his hands. His combinations are sharp, even if they lack power, his movement is intelligent and it takes a very good fighter to beat him.
As for Furuhashi, who really has waited for his shot, this will be his first title fight and the challenger really has had some mixed fortunes. In 2008 he was the All-Japan Bantamweight Rookie of the year but followed that up by losing his first bout in 2009, dropping a split decision to Masayoshi Tachiki. Losses to Ryuichi Funai and Coach Hiroto aren't too damning however they've been joined by losses to Yuji Ota and Hajime Nagai, both of which are disappointing defeats.
Whilst Furuhashi does have a number of losses he also has a couple of stand out wins. The first of those was an opening round blow out over Nobuhisa Coronita Doi in 2011 whilst more recently a 7th round TKO against Toru Suzuki. The win over Suzuki has been followed by a trio of lesser level wins, including one over a Thai debut as he's continued to prepare for his shot at a title bout.
Whilst getting footage of Oguni is no problem it has been difficult to get “real” footage of Furuhasi with the most notable film of him coming from a public sparring session with Akihiko Katagiri last year. Of course sparring isn't a real fight but it did show that Furuhashi had nice speed, a sharp jab and could find holes against a talented and naturally bigger fighter. The spar also showed that he was a talented boxer-puncher with a lot of skill.
Given what we know about the two men we expect that this will be a very interesting bout and could be hard to score. With neither man having a big punch it will almost certainly go the distance and will inevitably go down to the judges. From the footage Oguni is the better boxer and the fast fighter. Furuhashi however does look like the type of fighter who will begin to time Oguni and land counter right hands frequently. The question is whether he will land enough enough the notably taller Oguni who think will have a significant reach advantage. If Furuhashi can't time him then Oguni should be able to do enough to take a comfortable win, if Furuhashi can however slip the leads of the champion and fire back then this could be one that goes down to the wire.
(Image courtesy of http://www.kadoebi.com)