The bout in question is the Bantamweight title bout which will pit the massively under-rated champion Kentaro Masuda (21-6, 11) against fast rising prospect Shohei Omori (13-0, 8). Unless you actively follow the Japanese scene the odds are you won't know much about either man, if you follow the scene however you will know just how good these two are what a brilliant match up this is.
On first glance international fans will write off Masuda. They'll state the obvious, “he's got 6 losses in 27 fights”. What they won't realise is how many of those losses are some what misleading. He was 3-3 (2) after his first 6 bouts, with 2 of those losses being razor thin decisions and the third being very competitive. Since that start Masuda has gone 18-3 (9) with his two of his losses coming to highly established fighters in the form of Hidenori Otake and Ryosuke Iwasa.
Whilst it'd be wrong to write off Masuda for his record it'd also be neigh on criminal to over-look his current form which has been sensational since his 7th round TKO loss to Iwasa back in July 2012. What we've seen is a 7-0 run from Masuda which has included his title winning bout, a 10th round technical decision win over Yu Kawaguchi last April, a sensational first defence which saw him destroy Konosuke Tomiyama in the 3rd round of their bout, and an enthralling 10 round war with “Zombie” Tatsuya Takahashi.
Aged 32 now Masuda knows another loss will derail any hopes he has of getting his hands on OPBF title or even getting a world title fight. In fact a world title fight, as amazing as it might seem, really isn't out of the question considering Masuda is #14 with the WBC and #12 with the IBF.
In the ring the champion is an aggressive fighter who hits significantly harder than his record suggests, can fight well behind his jab and is really tough. In regards to his footwork it is smarter than it looks and he can get in and out relatively well though it's not sensational and later in fights he can become very basic in his movements. Technically there is still some places to polish, especially when he's throwing his right hand, and he's short for the weight at just 5'5”, though he does appear to be able to use his feet to negate that relatively well. Also he does manage to use his lack of size well and has a tight guard that protects his head whilst his body is typically out of reach behind his elbows as he makes himself appear smaller than he is.
One thing that is a little bit questionable is Masuda's stamina. It's looked really good at times though he did seem to be running on fumes at times against Takahashi. That wasn't particularly shocking, given that Takahashi took more clean shots than a fighter is expected to take, though it could be an issue in future bouts.
Now on to the challenger. Omori is a fighter we are huge fans of and we see a very, very bright future for, either at Bantamweight or at Super Bantamweight. Like the premier Bantamweight on the planet, Shinsuke Yamanaka, the youngster is a Southpaw though he looks a lot more polished than “The God of Left”. In fact Omori looks incredibly polished and looks a much more rounded fighter than Yamanaka, despite the fact he's only 22 and has only fought in 13 bouts, consisting of just 42 rounds.
Omori came to the attention of many in Japan back in 2012 when he was crowned the All Japan Rookie of the Year at Bantamweight. The following year he scored notable wins over Kiron Omura and Albert Alcoy, both opening round KO's, and then built further on his reputation with a punch perfect performance against Christian Esquivel last year. It was really the fight against Esquivel that put him on the radar of some fans and it really was a sensational performance that saw the youngster using his speed, accuracy, power, timing, movement and boxing brain to beat the experienced Mexican. It was that win that put Omori in to the world rankings and it's because of that win that he is currently the WBC #13 ranked fighter.
Watching Omori is like watching a very, very good prospect who is only a few fights away from being world class. There is still improvements he can make, there are still tweaks that need to be done, there are still little things he can do a bit better than he already does. For a fighter with so little experience however those faults will of course still be there. That brings us to the big question marks however, what is Omori's stamina like? What is his heart like? Is he experienced enough? At the moment we've never seen Omori go beyond 8 rounds, though he did score a clear 8 round decision victory over Yubon Kaneyama last year. We also know that he has been in with Esquivel and he's sparred with Iwasa, among others, suggesting he's got a good level of experience even if the quantity is lacking.
We're expecting to see a lot of answers about Omori and how good he actually is. We're expecting to see him being given a “chin check” for the first time. If Omori can take the right hand bombs of Masuda then we're expecting to see Omori given a gut check. If he can pass both of those checks and come out with flying colours then he should end the bout as the new champion and as the biggest revelation of the year, so far.
If Omori can't take the power of the champion and can't cope with Masuda's pressure than Masuda will retain and will do so by stoppage. Our suspicion however is that Omori will take this opportunity and shine with an outstanding performance and gets a win that will help him get bigger fights later in the year.
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)