Muranaka, who beat Takuya Kogawa for the title late last year, may not be a big name on the world stage but he is a proven quality fighter and his win over Kogawa did prove that, even though it is his only real win of note. Interestingly that victory was Muranaka's 13th victory ina 14 fight unbeaten run and you now need to go back to 2006 to find his last loss, a majority decision to Tomoya Kaneshiro.
Notably both of Muranaka's losses have come in close contests. His loss to Kaneshiro was a majority decision whilst his only other loss, to Shigeo Saito, was a split decision back in 2005.
The first challenger to Muranaka's throne is former world title challenger and former Japanese Light Flyweight champion Masayuki Kuroda (21-4-3, 13).
Kuroda, who was used as the sparring partner in Naoya Inoue's test bout, has of course been out of form recently. He is without a win since November 2011 though has lost just 1 of his last 4 bouts. That's because Kuroda, who lost to the talented Juan Carlos Reveco, has had a trio of draws with Ryoichi Taguchi, Toshimasa Ouchi and, most recently, Hyobu Nakagama.
In terms of experience, both in fights and quality, Kuroda has a big advantage here. Fights with Taguchi, Reveco and Yuki Sano have all been valuable bouts in his development. Sure he's failed to beat Taguchi and Reveco but both of those men are good fighters and, at worst, are on par with the best win on Muranaka's record.
As well as the experience Kuroda also has the edge in power. Neither man is a big puncher but with 13 stoppages in 28 bouts Kuroda is certainly a hard hitting than Muranaka who has just 5 stoppages in 22 bouts.
Of course Kuroda has those two edges Muranaka himself has his advantages. Firstly he's a natural Flyweight. Kuroda, for his achievements at Light Flyweight, has never done anything as a Light Flyweight. In terms of results he is 1-1-1 above a contracted 110lbs and could well have been 0-3. Add that to his awful record in recent bouts and it's hard to favour the challenger.
In terms of the two men stylewise Muranaka is a hard worker. He lacks real pop though Kogawa he throws a lot and depends an awful lot on his stamina and engine. This can make for great fights but he tends to need to go the distance and has stopped just 1 of is last 7 inside the distance. He's unlikely to stop Kuroda and will know that he needs to out work the challenger to retain his title the hard way.
Kuroda on the other hand is a strong guy. His work isn't technically great but he tends to be happy to be involved in an inside battle and goes to the body pretty. With that in mind he'll likely view his best chance at winning coming from grinding down Muranaka in an action packed bout with his body attack being the key.
What we're expecting is a busy fight. There will be lots of leather thrown and we actually envision this as being tough for the judges. Muranaka doesn't have the power to keep Kuroda away though on the other hand Kuroda doesn't have the skills to really dictate the action. This will see both men have spells of control and spells where they struggle, though we think overall Muranaka will do just enough in enough rounds to take a competitive but hard fought decision over the scheduled 10 rounds.
(Poster courtesy of Boxmob.jp)