Going into the bout the champion is Thailand's unbeaten Jomthong Chuwatana (8-0, 4) a Muay Thai fighter who is also considered on of Thailand's best boxers. He is powerful, skilled, intelligent in the ring, tough and appears to be very aware of what is happening every moment he is in the ring. We won't pretend he is a KO artist or the fastest man in the division but he is a very complete fighter at both close range and at distance.
Whilst the champion is talented and strong so to is the challenger, Daiki Kaneko (21-3-3, 14), himself a former world title challenger and a former Japanese champion. Like the champion Kaneko isn't the fastest nor is the heaviest handed fighter in the division but he's built like a rock, brings action and pressure and is very highly skilled.
What we're expecting here is a battle between Jomthong's powerful boxing and his intelligent movement and the pressure and strength of Kaneko. Though even that is really simplifying what is likely to be a bout that has it's twists, turns and moments of magic.
Jomthong first won the title way back in May 2012 when he stopped South Korea's teak tough Dong-Hyuk Kim, who had a grotesquely swollen face. Since then he has defended it 3 times with decision wins over Ranel Suco, Ronald Pontills and Koseki Nakama. Although he hasn't scored a stoppage since he won the title has continued to show his impressive boxing which has seen scarcely losing a round, in fact the one clear round he lost came against Nakama, when the Thai was dropped.
Trying to box with Jomthong is typically a mistake. He's defensively very good, sharp with his punches and his jab is exceptional, in fact his jab is the key to a lot of his offense and allows him to both box and move or come inside and use his physical strength as well as crisp work on the inside.
Kaneko, like Jomthong, likes to work off the jab though often appears happier up close than at distance and has blistering shots up close even if he does look little bit slow when he tries to set some of his attacks up. The scary thing about Kaneko isn't his “boxing” ability however, instead it's his physicality and despite fighting at Super Featherweight he looks like a monster. It's that physicality that allowed him to give Takashi Uchiyama a really tough bout at the end of 2013 and it's the same trait that would give anyone in the division time.
Defensively Kaneko isn't as intelligent as Jomthong though he's every bit as talented, as strong as hurtful with his blows.
In many ways we suspect these two will look like a mirror image of each other. They will both be trying to use their jabs to open up the other man, they will both be looking to come inside following their sharp jabs and they will both be willing to let shots go on the inside. The only real differences between the two are minor. Jomthong is better defensively whilst Kaneko is more physical, Jomthong appears to be slightly quicker whilst Kaneko appears the more powerful. With that in mind we suspect this one will be a very close bout and wouldn't be surprised by a razor thin decision either way.
Although we can't pick a winner in this fantastic match we do suspect that whoever comes out on top will fight for a world title later this year. Amazingly we do give both fighters a real chance at world level and wouldn't be hugely surprised to see both men winning world titles in the future.
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)