One of those top contenders is Japanese national champion Sho Ishida (19-0, 10) who will be making the third defense of his title on September 27th when he takes on the experienced Hayato Kimura (23-7, 15) in what looks like a really solid contest on paper.
Ishida really is a world level contender. Boxrec.com list him as the #10 ranked fighter in the division and is also ranked by all 4 major world bodies and is in the top 15 of the IWBR*. Not only is highly across the board but he's also a very capable, high skilled and well trained fighter, who has learned his craft in the successful Ioka gym, along side Kazuto Ioka, Ryo Miyazaki, Takahiro Yamamoto and Masayoshi Nakatani.
In the ring Ishida is a wonderful boxer-puncher. His record might not show it but he's a solid punching fighter who really does show the traits of a world champion in the making. He's a fast, fights to his strengths and at 5'8” is very tall for a Super Flyweight. On the outside he has an excellent jab, intelligent movement and a solid right hand, with intelligent shot selection. On the inside he can hold his own when he needs to, though would be well advised to avoid an up close war when he can.
Whilst we have been impressed by Ishida he's certainly a fighter who is still some way from being the finished article. At 23 he lacks his man strength and he also lacks experience with only 90 professional rounds, including just two complete 10 rounders. The second of those 10 rounders was the bout that has left lingering doubts, with Ishida running out of gas late on against Taiki Eto, who pushed him to the brink last time out. It's clear that Ishida needs to work on his stamina or energy management before being moved towards his first 12 rounders.
When it comes to Ishida the talent is there, the experience isn't, yet.
With 30 bouts to his name Kimura, who has also fought as Jin-In Yoo and Big Yoo, cannot be described as an inexperienced fighter. Amazingly he has been a professional for more than 10 years and has fought in Thailand, South Korea and the Philippines as he's gone on to compile a solid, though unspectacular, record.
Kimura's career was filled with early promise. After less than 3 years as a professional he was 13-0 (8) and won both the South Korean and the WBO interim Asia Pacific Super Flyweight titles. He was making a name for himself in Korea and. Sadly though that early promise failed to really be built into on going success and he quickly fell to 16-4 (11), suffering a couple of stoppage defeats along the way.
Since suffering 4 losses in 7 bouts he has since gone 7-3 (4) losing to every notable fighter he has faced during those 10 bouts, including Oleydong Sithsamerchai, Marlon Tapales and Michael Dasmarinas. Losing to those 3 isn't shameful but it does show his level and suggests that he's a very long way from being world class.
Early in his career Kimura fought mostly by using his size, strength and aggression. That tactic worked early on when he was typically fighting low level opposition though hasn't worked as he's stepped up through the levels and faced better and stronger fighters. Not only have those better fighters been able to take his power and aggression but they have also been able to out box him, as shown when Dasmarinas outboxed him, just over a year ago.
Incidentally it seems like it's fair to use that Dasmarinas fight as the key to this bout. In that fight Kimura was unable to close the distance, he was tagged repeatedly at range by Dasmarinas and was given a bit of a boxing lessen by the Filipino. Given how Dasmarinas beat Kimura we expect a similar result from Ishida who has the ability and style to do a very similar job on his experieced foe. Whilst we know that Dasmarinas is a southpaw the style of boxing, moving and picking his spots should still take Ishida to a clear decision win, if not a stoppage in the middle rounds.
On paper Kimura could take some confidence from the way Ishida struggled late on with Eto. The truth however is that Eto is a much better fighter than Kimura and Ishida's early performance in that bout would likely have seen off Kimura.
*All stats accurate at the time of writing and publishing
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)