Coming into the bout Nonaka is really riding the crest of wave. Aged 37 he is on an 8 fight winning run dating back more than 5 years and includes wins over Dmytro Nikulin, Lee Oti, Ryo Okayama, Kengo Nagashima and Charlie Ota. We won't say he's looked sensational in all of those wins, with the Ota fight in particular being close, but he has shown glimpses of being a wonderfully talented boxer. He has shown a lovely variety of punches, sharp and accurate shots, and impressive speed though at for the most part is a very basic but polished boxer.
The "one hole" in Nonaka's game is his lack of power which has been an issue in finishing opponents off. That lack of power however hasn't stopped him from having success and it's clear that his skills and sharpness are a level above many Asian rivals in the division.
In the ring Nonaka likes to box off his southpaw jab, uses straight punches wonderful and has found ways to neutralise a number of opponents with those sharp straight shots and his movement. Those skills neutralised the aggressive Charlie Ota, who had success of his own but not enough to break down Nonaka over the 10 round distance. Watching him we tend to notice that he is basic, but that is the beauty of Nonaka, he's got fundamentals down to a tee.
Unbeaten since suffering a narrow decision loss to Akio Shibata in November 2009 it takes a genuinely good fighter to beat Nonaka. These have included Shibata, Kazuhiko Hidaka, Nobuhiro Ishida and Taisei Marumoto.
At 30 years old Hosokawa is the significantly younger man coming into this bout and is in solid form himself with 4 straight wins, including victories over Patomsuk Pathompothong and Tadashi Yuba, which he have helped him claim the Japanese and IBF Asia titles at Light Middleweight. In turn those titles have helped him move into the world rankings and focus on getting a world title shot, somewhere down the line.
In the ring Hosokawa is a flawed fighter but is riding high on confidence and stacking up notable wins which have helped to to more success. In fact with 8 wins in his last 9 bouts he has genuinely turned his career around following a 2011 stoppage loss to Makoto Fuchigami in a Japanese Middleweight title bout. Those wins have seen him develop more belief in his ability and power and also make a permanent move to Light Middleweight which really does suit him a lot more than 160lbs.
As with Nonaka we've seen Hosokawa come up short against many of his most notable opponents. That has seen him suffer losses to the likes of Akinori Watanabe, Charlie Ota, Tadashi Yuba, Fuchigami and, most recently, Shibata in a Japanese title fight and he was also fortunate to over-come Patomsuk. He is however a much improved fighter to the one who was blasted out in the second round by Watanabe back in 2005 in fact he's nothing like the fighter who began his career 11-6-3.
Coming into this bout it's a real must win for both men. Neither can afford a loss at this moment in time. The pressure to perform couldn't be much higher. Of the two however it's Nonaka who has shown a more complete ability to perform under-pressure, as seen in his bout with Ota. Nonaka may be 37 but he's a fighter who has matured and is arguably at his best now. For Hosokawa it's hard to say how good he really is under-pressure, the win over Patomsuk was close, likewise the win over a very faded Yuba and his 2012 win over Randy Suico was razor thin to say the least. The challenger hasn't had that stand out performance despite taking a number of solid scalps.
With that said we need to favour Nonaka who appears to be a much better, more rounded and more intelligent fighter. His boxing, which is genuinely eye pleasing, is basic but very effective and we suspect that he'll use that to over-come Hosokawa. The southpaw jab, the simple movement and technical proficiency will be his keys to victory.
Unfortunately for the winner, which we suspect will be Nonaka, they are several levels from a real world champion. They do however have a chance at picking up a paper strap, if they are lucky.
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)