This year's Champion Carnival again sees Masuda in the Bantamweight title bout against an unbeaten fight, this time Yushi Tanaka (16-0-3, 10), with the men trading shots for the title that was vacated last year by Omori.
Although Masuda, now 33, was blown out by Omori he's actually a very good fighter, with under-rated skills, genuine heart, a real will to win and criminally under-rated power. His record might not be flattering but like a good wine he has improved with age and has become a much better fighter than he used to be.
Early in his career Masuda looked limited and started 1-3, and was in fact 3-3 after just over 2 years in the professional ranks. Since 2010 however Masuda has gone 16-3 with his 3 losses coming to notable opponents in the former of Hidenori Otake, Ryosuke Iwasa and Omori. On the other hand he has scored notable wins against the likes of Yosuke Fujihara, Yu Kawaguchi, Konosuke Tomiyama, Tatsuya Takahashi and, most recently, Hideo Sakamato.
Although not a monstrously hard hitting Masuda has stopped the likes of Tomiyama, who was stopped in 3 rounds, and Sakamoto, who was stopped in 7 rounds, whilst fans and the press were amazed that Takahashi managed to see the final bell against Masuda. In fact Masuda suggested that Takahashi was like a “zombie” following the bout.
Aged 24 Tanaka is the man stepping up in class, considerably, for this bout. He is however an unbeaten fighter with a lot of confidence and at 24 he is a fighter coming into his prime.
Although relatively untested Tanaka does hold some notable wins, including a 2012 stoppage victory over former world champion Wandee Singwancha, albeit a 32 year old Wandee who had lost 2 of his previous 3 and was well above his best fighting weight. Other notable wins on Tanaka's record include decisions victories over Vergel Nebran and Mako Matsuyama.
Although Tanaka has a better than 50% KO rate it should be noted that he doesn't seem to stop too many notable fighters. His best stoppage is over Wandee, a former Minimumweight champion, whilst whilst many of his other stoppages have come against very limited Thai's and Indonesians that have essentially boosted his KO rating. Incidentally he is 4-0-1 (3) in title fights, though all 5 of those bouts took place for the WBC Youth Bantamweight title.
Sadly footage of Tanaka has been hard to come by though from what we have seen of him he he is pretty well schooled with a nice jab and a quick, sharp, hook. He looks rather quick but not exceptionally saw and defensively he seems to be rather open, keeping his hands worryingly low. There is little that he has shown that is really exciting but given that he is in the Hatanaka gym it's clear he does get some high quality training and he has actually been sparring with Hinata Maruta ahead of this fight.
Given what is available of both men, it's hard to see Tanaka winning the bout, barring a career best performance. In fact from what we've seen we've got to strongly favour Masuda to actually stop Tanaka in the later stages, taking advantage of Tanaka's relative lack of top quality experience. Tanaka does have the edge in speed and natural size, but we don't think that will be enough to over-come the experienced and determined Masuda, who we suspect will reclaim the Japanese title.