For a second day running we get title action at the Korakuen Hall, with a relatively strong domestic undercard, featuring former world, Japanese and Japanese Youth title challengers.
The title bout headlining this show will see Japanese Super Bantamweight champion Yusaku Kuga (15-2-1, 10) defending his title against mandatory challenger Ryo Kosaka (16-3-1, 8). For the champion the bout will service as his second defense, following his title win last February against Yasutaka Ishimoto, and is expected to be easier than his 10 round war last time out. Kosaka has gotten this shot by being the top ranked contender at the start of the year, following Ishimoto's retirement, but his best wins don't suggest he's ready for someone as hard hitting or as aggressive as Kuga. Whilst Kosaka does have wins against Morihisa Iju, Dado Cabintoy and Satoshi Niwa this is likely to be too much a step up for the challenger, at this point in his career.
The chief support bout will see former world title challenger Shohei Omori (18-2, 13) make his ring return, after 11 months away from the ring. The talented and popular Omori needed serious facial surgery following his second loss to Marlon Tapales last year and will be moving up in weight for his return. Unlike many fighters Omori isn't having an easy bout, instead he will be facing off with Coach Hiroto (13-2-2, 4), an accomplished domestic level fighter who fought to a draw with Shingo Wake back in 2011 and Ryo Hino this past January. This is a tough test for Omori to return to, and for Hiroto the bout is a very good opportunity to make a name for himself. Interestingly the winner of this bout may find themselves in the mix to face the winner of the main event, in what would be another very interesting match up, and a bout that could see the winners move towards a world title shot.
Another supporting bout will see recent Japanese title challenger Ryoichi Tamura (9-3-1, 5), who gave the aforementioned Kuga fits last July, battle against Yutaka Kamioka (10-5-2, 6). We've been really impressed by the 30 year old Tamura, who is a brutish puncher and much better than his record suggests, and could be a handful at domestic level for the next few years, despite some technical limitations. Kamioka has lost 2 of his last 3, both by decision, and this is a big step up in class for him. Kamioka has scored some decent domestic wins, beating Gaku Aikawa and Naoya Okamoto, but we suspect he will look out of his depth here.
Arguably the most interesting under-card match on this card will see the under-rated 22 year old Ryota Ishida (9-2, 6) battle against the unbeaten Daichi Kawabuchi (4-0-2, 3). Coming into this bout Ishida will be full of confidence following a career best win over Yuki Ozawa last time out, and running Takuya Mizuno razor close in a Japanese Youth Super Bantamweight title last August. The unbeaten Kawabuchi has drawn 2 of his last 3, though he does seem to be a dangerous puncher with 3 early stoppages and is the naturally bigger man. This could be very interesting.
The calm to begin the year ends this coming Saturday as we get the first Dangan card of 2017, and it is a brilliantly intriguing card with two OPBF title bouts, and two very good looking support bouts.
The main event of the card will see former Japanese Super Featherweight champion Rikki Naito (18-2, 6) take on Filipino foe Jeffrey Arienza (16-6-1, 10) in a bout for the vacant OPBF Light Welterweight title. The talented Naito will be looking for one of the most significant wins of his career, and whilst he will be favoured here he should be expecting to have a fight against Arienza. The Filipino visitor is far from a world beater but will likely know that one more loss is the end of him at this level, and he really cannot afford another set back if he's to remain relevant.
In a more 50-50 bout we'll see Filipino fighter Carlo Magali (22-9-3, 11) defending the OPBF Super Featherweight title against Japan's Masatoshi Kotani (22-2, 15). On paper this is a very interesting match up and will potentially see the winner move into a very intriguing position as fighters look towards getting a shot at the OPBF title. Magali and a limited but aggressive fighter and will take the fight to Kotani whilst the challenger will look to use his slightly better boxing skills to take the title from the champion. A really even match up.
Another mouth watering match up will see touted Teiken fighter Shuya Masaki (9-0, 5) take on Watanabe gym's Hironori Mishiro (4-0, 2) in what could be the surprise bout of the month. Masaki is ranked #3 by the JBC and will be looking towards getting a title fight later in the year, if he wins, but a win here is certainly no forgone conclusion. Mishiro has only been a professional for 10 months but has shone, and his October win over Shuma Nakazato was absolute incredible. This is set to be a war and should be something very special for fans watching.
Another very strong looking supporting bout will see Coach Hiroto (13-2-1, 4) take on the once beaten Ryo Hino (11-1-1, 6). The talented Hiroto took almost 5 years out of the ring until returning last June, and since then he has scored 2 wins. He will however be up against it here with Hino riding a 6 fight winning streak, including a huge win last time out against Sho Nakazawa. Coming in to this the 27 year Hino looks to be the man in form, and the man going places, but at 26 years old Hiroto shouldn't be over-looked in what appears to be a very competitive looking match up on paper.
In Illinois fight fans will be able to see American based Uzbek hopeful Rustam Tulaganov (1-0) take on the once beaten Martez McGregor (4-1, 4) in a 6 rounder. The 26 year old Uzbek was a former amateur standout, having claimed an Olympic Bronze medal and an Asian Championship's Silver medal and will be favoured here. The heavy handed McGregor has never been beyond 2 rounds and is likely to come out swinging here, win or lose.