This coming Sunday we see a new fighter being crowned as the national champion, as unbeaten youngsters collide for a title previously held by Fukuhara. In one corner will be Masataka Taniguchi (6-0, 4) whilst in the other will be Reiya Konishi (12-0, 5). Both men are 23 years old, unbeaten fighters and fighters who are not only fighting for the Japanese title, but also looking to take a huge step towards a world title fight.
Having been a professional for just over a year Taniguchi has been a fast riser. He was touted as a top prospect when he turned professional and raced away to a 4-0 (4) record between April and June last year. His KO run came to an end in October when he scored a statement making win over Dexter Alimento, taking a razor thin 8 round split decision over the then 11-0 Filipino prospect. In his most recent bout Taniguchi defeated Vincent Bautista, claiming a 6 round decision.
At the start of his career Taniguchi looked like a wrecking ball, much like stable mate Kyoguchi. He showed free flowing combinations and an aggressive in ring style. In more recent bouts however his power hasn't carried up, and instead he has been relying more on his boxing ability. That's not to say he doesn't have solid power, as he showed when he dropped Alimento, just not the vicious power that Kyoguchi seems to have.
Taniguchi may only have 22 rounds to his name as a professional but he has had top sparring at the Watanabe gym, which has been fire this year, and was a former amateur stand out running up a 55-19 (16) record in the unpaid ranks. He is more experienced than his record suggests and as a southpaw he is also naturally a tricky proposition than an orthodox fight. The one flaw her perhaps has is that he's never been beyond 8 rounds, and this is likely to be his second toughest bout to date.
Hailing from the Shinsei gym Konishi is the far more experienced fighter as a professional. He debuted back in mid 2013 but really came to the attention of fans in 2014, when he claimed the All Japan Rookie of the Year crown. That marked Konishi was one to watch going forward, but sadly his career has since been a bit of a slow burner. He picked up 3 wins in 2015 against domestic foes, and two more wins last year against limited opposition. Although many of his opponents have been limited, with his 2011 win over Jun Takigawa being arguably his best, he has been racking up ring time with 55 professional rounds under his belt, and 4 complete 8 rounders.
Unlike Taniguchi there isn't much information available on Konishi's amateur credentials, but given he competed in the Rookie of the Year it's safe to say he didn't have much of an amateur pedigree. Despite that he looks to have learned his trade on the job and does look like a solid fighter who uses a lot of upper body movement and physical strength. He might not be a big puncher but he is a strong fighter who uses a lot of pressure. Sadly whilst he is strong he is flawed, his defense is lacking and he's not particularly quick compared to other fighters in the division.
Coming in to this bout there are a lot of questions to be asked about both men. Can they both go12 rounds? What happens when Taniguchi is under pressure? Can Konishi take the combinations of Taniguchi?
Sadly for Konishi we think that he'll come up short here. He'll certainly have moments, and will likely be the naturally stronger fighter, but in the end the more complete skills, power and speed of Taniguchi will be the difference with the Watanabe man taking a clear, yet competitive, decision win.