Recently Ken Shiro vacated the Japanese title, just weeks before a scheduled defense, as a result he scheduled opponent Tetsuya Hisada (27-9-2, 17) had his proposed shot at the belt changed. Instead of facing Ken Shiro in early April it was decided that he would take on veteran, and former champion, Kenichi Horikawa (32-14-1, 7). The bout will finish off a trilogy between the two veterans and decide the new champion, and should be a genuine treat between two men who are well matched and both have a lot to gain from a win here.
Hisada began the year as the mandatory challenger for the title and when it seemed like that shot would come against Ken Shiro it seemed very hard to believe he would have any chance of winning the title. There appears to be a gulf between the two men, with Ken Shiro being not only the Japanese champion but also the Oriental champion and like a man who was ready to fight for a world title.
Although a talented fighter Hisada's limitations really are domestic level. He's never fought for a title before and has had mixed success at Japanese level. He's currently on a 7-2-1 (7) run, showing real belief in his power, but in the past his power has been questionable and even now he's got a sub 50% KO rate. Saying that however he has often fought above Light Flyweight and his power is more telling than his records suggests. Like wise he's also a tough fighter, with his only loss coming to Hiroyuki Hisataka, a former multi-time world title challenger.
Aged 32 Hisada is getting on in his career and this could be his one and only shot at a title. That could be the drive he needs to put in a career defining performance or it could well be that the shot is too late in to his career for him to make the most of it. After all if he's not managed to impose himself at the top of the division in Japan so far, will he ever be able to?
Whilst Hisada might be a late bloomer it's worth noting that Horikawa didn't actually record his career defining win until he was 35 and he claimed the Japanese title, with a stoppage against Shin Ono. He may not have held the title long, but it was a career defining victory, and his first title success, and he has since added the WBO Asia Pacific title to his career achievements. His career has been a long and remarkable one, with fights against a real who's who of the Asian scene, like the aforementioned Yaegashi as well as Florante Condes, Edgar Sosa, and Yu Kimura.
Horikawa's long career has had it's ups and downs but he's been a great servant and been a persistent figure on the Japanese title scene. He had his first title bout in 2009, against Yaegashi and would have numerous title fights before finally winning his first title. Although he came up short a number of times he was almost always competitive. Although he has 14 losses, he has only been stopped 3 times and has had a number of very close bouts that could have gone his way.
Both fighters like to throw punches, both are veterans and both are under-rated, in terms of skills, power, work rate and toughness. Also worth noting that these two have faced off twice before and both times it was Horikawa coming out on top. Potentially that's another reason for Hisada to be particularly fired up here, looking for not only the title but also revenge for two of his losses.
At their best Horikawa wins this, close but clear, but given he's now 37 and he's fighting for something he's won before, whilst Hisada is trying to claim a title in what may be his only chance we are favouring Hisada to just, narrowly, come out on top here.