The next bout of note comes this coming Monday as the heavy handed Shuhei Tsuchiya (21-4, 17) faces off off with the under-rated, but in form, Masashi Noguchi (12-5-1, 6) for the currently vacant Japanese Lightweight title, a title that was recently vacated by Arakawa.
Of the two men it's certainly Tsuchiya who is more well known and in fact he has been on the radar of fight fans since way back in 2010, when he won the Lightweight Rookie of the Year and moved his record to a very impressive looking 8-0 (8). Not only had he won the Rookie of the year, but he had beaten 7 unbeaten fighters in his first 8 bouts and needed just 12 rounds to rack up those wins, including a win over future Japanese interim Light Welterweight champion Masanobu Nakazawa. Tsuchiya's KO run would end up moving to 12-0 (12) before he was taken 8 rounds by Heri Andriyanto and then 10 rounds by Stevie Ongen Ferdinandus, with some of his momentum being lost, but others seeing the positive from those wins.
Sadly since being 14-0 (12) things have been a struggle for Tsuchiya who has since gone 7-4 (3) suffering stoppage defeats to Shoji Kawase, Masayoshi Nakatani and Leonardo Zappavigna as well as a decision loss to Ricky Sismundo. Whilst none of those losses are embarrassing there is certainly a lack of a major win recent bouts, with wins over Kazuya Soma and Kazuki Matsuyama being the most noteworthy wins in the last 4 years for Tsuchiya. Despite the less than great form Tsuchiya is regarded as a very decent fighter with nice skills, nasty power and a developing skill set that has been helped by experience.
Whilst Tsuchiya is relatively well known the same cannot be said of Noguchi, however Noguchi cannot be over-looked coming into this bout. The 27 year old lost 3 of his first 4 and was 2-4 after 6 bouts but has buit his career amazingly well over the last 5 years and built a 4-5 (3) record into a 12-5-1 (6) one. That has seen him going 9 fights unbeaten and generate some real confidence and momentum. That's included going 2-0-1 with Masaki Saito, scoring a decent win over Kazuya Soma and a notable victory over Tomoya Yamada.
Whilst Noguchi is in good form we'll be honest and admit that his competition hasn't been the most testing and that this is a huge step up for him. It is however one he will come into with the knowledge that he might not get another shot at a belt if this one doesn't go his way. He'll also be aware that he's not the fighter who struggled to get going early in his career, those losses aren't a negative but instead part of his development.
Although it's clear that Noguchi is an improved fighter we don't think he will have the power to keep Tsuchiya honest and as a result we suspect he'll be broken down in the second half of the fight with Tsuchiya coming out on top courtesy of his more developed skills and his more destructive power