Whilst Ioka and Hasegawa have both got their fights lined up another Japanese fighter, Kohei Oba (35-2-1, 14) hasn't yet managed to get his. Instead Oba will be fighting for the right to fight for the IBF Bantamweight title on April 4th as he battles in an IBF eliminator in the first big first in April.
Oba, a former 2-time Japanese Bantamweight champion and former 2-time OPBF title challenger, will be in his highest profile bout as he battles unbeaten Nicaraguan-American Randy Caballero (20-0, 12), a former US amateur champion.
For Oba this clearly the biggest fight of his career though the same too could be said for Caballero who despite showing a lot of early promise hasn't yet taken that next step, the step he'll be taking here in his first bout outside of the US.
For those who don't know much about Oba he's a 29 year old who has been a professional since 2002 and his three set backs have all come at the OPBF level. These have included a draw and a decision loss to Malcolm Tunacao and a stoppage loss to Rolly Matsushita/Rolly Lunas.
Although dubbed the "Nagoya Mayweather" Oba doesn't really look all that much like Mayweather in the ring. He's talented and skilled but posses none of those exceptional traits that Mayweather has, such as his lightning speed, cat like reflexes or once in a generation boxing brain. Instead he's just a very good counter puncher who likes to load up on his right uppercuts up top and his left hooks to the body. Unfortunately though Oba puts a lot into his work and he doesn't appear to be a big puncher. As a result his style is pretty draining and he could find himself drag into a battle of attrition at times especially when he's forced to lead.
In Caballero we have a 23 year old who was, early in his career, ear marked as a potential Golden Boy Promotions star in the making. Unfortunately for the youngster he's not risen as expected and now, 4 years on from his debut, he's being sent over to Japan rather than having Golden Boy's financial backing to bring the fight to the US. As we all know home advantage can be a big factor in fights and a fight like this could see home field playing a major role in the outcome.
Caballero is a lot Oba. Both have a good high guard when they need to use it, both look to dig to the body though Caballero is probably the quicker man with slightly more crispness on his shots though he is unproven near the level that Oba has been fighting. Sure Oba has come away with out a win in his 3 biggest contests but he does have the better wins, such as a decision over Nobuto Ikehara.
What we're expecting is a tactical encounter early on with both men looking to prove their speed and power over the other. On speed it'll be Caballero who marginally comes out on top but on poser we're expecting it to be pretty even, despite the relative KO % of the two men, and this will likely see neither man having the single punch power to bother the other. As a result we're expecting to see both men happy to take a risk or two and a really fun fight to break out with both throwing plenty.
With Caballero being the away fighter we expect him to know that he needs to fight at a higher gear than usual. This will likely bring out the best in Oba, who is a huge fan favourite in Kobe, and could see both men putting it on the line in a very close and competitive affair. With the home advantage though we do need to favour Oba who we think will just come out on top with the decision and should, in theory, get a world title fight with Stuart Hall later this year. Hall is clearly the weakest of the Bantamweight champions and we'd favour the winner of this bout to beat Hall.
Of course when the other champions at Bantamweight are Shinsuke Yamanaka, Anselmo Moreno and Tomoki Kameda it does make a lot of sense to target Hall. Whether you like the 4 title system or not you can't really blame the fighters for looking for an easy route to a belt, especially when you look at the champions in a division like the Bantamweight division where two of the top fighters are arguably on the fringes of the top 10 pound-for-pound fighters on the planet.
(Image courtesy of Boxmob.jp)