One such bout comes this Sunday as Japanese Featherweight champion Shota Hayashi (29-5-1, 17) defends his title against mandatory challenger Kosuke Saka (15-3, 12), and without trying to sound to hyperbolic this could be one of the best domestic bouts in 2017.
Hayashi won the title last year, when he out worked Noriyuki Ueno for the belt that had been vacated by Satoshi Hosono. The title win was a clear victory for Hayashi and one that saw him notch his most notable result to date, whilst attracting more attention to the Hatanaka Gym. In his first defense, back on New Year's Eve, Hayashi over-came Akifumi Shimoda with a narrow and hard fought decision win, which was streamed world wide courtesy of CBC, who were showing Kosei Tanaka's bout as well.
Aged 29 Hayashi has found his groove in recent years and gone on a 15 fight unbeaten run since a loss in July 2011. That run has seen him go 14-0-1, with the wins over Ueno and Shimoda being joined by other notable domestic level wins over Koji Umetsu and Ryosei Arai.
In the ring Hayashi is a bit crude, a bit open, but he has a great engine, refuses to stop and has under-rated power, having dropped Shimoda on route to a unanimous decision last time out. He's not a KO artist but he really lets his hands fly and comes to fight every time he's in the ring.
For Saka this will be his first title fight and see him looking to announce himself as more than just a rising contender on the way up through the ranks. For some Saka is one of the most exciting and promising punchers in Japan, and that's been shown during his current 7-0 (7) run, which has included wins over Ryuto Kyoguchi, Burning Ishii and Takafumi Nakajima.
In the ring Saka is a bit of a monster who comes to fight, and comes to take his opponents head clean off their shoulders. That hasn't always worked, but he has improved a lot from early career defeats. It's worth noting that the lost of those losses, 3 years ago, came to Hiroshige Osawa, whilst others have come to Jun Hamana, at 130lbs, and Masayuki Ito, a world class fighter in his own right.
Whilst Saka has never been beyond 9 rounds he has shown that his power carries in to the later stages, with stoppages in rounds 7 and 8 so far. He is however a real danger man early, with his stoppage against Nakajima coming in 88 seconds and the win over Kyoguchi coming in 3 rounds. He is however a man who has a lot of question marks, still to answer, but looks like a monster rising through the ranks.
With Hayashi's high work rate and Saka's solid power this looks likely to be a barn burner from the opening bell to the end, when ever that comes. If Hayashi can take Saka's power, and there is a good he can, then this will likely be a second successful defense for the champion. Like wise if Hayashi can back up Saka then the challenger will struggle to land his bombs. However, if Saka can land his power shots on Hayashi and use his physicality he could wear Hayashi down, as he has done in the past. It's also worth noting that Hayashi has faced adversity in the past and had to pull himself off the canvas to beat Kyoguchi, showing that he can bounce up to win fights.
We're going to go out on a limb and pick Saka for the upset, but no result should be a real surprise with the bout set to be something very exciting!