In late March we see Ohashi putting on their first show of 2017, and although it's not a huge show, like the FES cards, it is a solid Phoenix Battle card with a host of notable names in action.
In the main event we see the highly talented Ryo Matsumoto (18-1, 16) take on domestic rival Hideo Sakamoto (17-3-3, 5) in a really good match up. Matsumoto, who under-went serious surgery last year to solve a long term medical issue, will be looking to make a huge mark in 2017 but will have to over-come Sakamoto first. If the youngster wins then all signs point towards Matsumoto getting a world title fight before the end of 2017. Sakamoto might not be a big name but he is a very under-rated fighter with notable wins over Kazuyoshi Niki, Hiroki Shiino and Ryotaro Kawabata, but has suffered recent losses to Seio Kono and Kentaro Masuda in recent years.
In a major supporting bout we'll see the unbeaten Koki Inoue (6-0, 5) battle against Japanese ranked Mitsuyoshi Fujita (10-2, 3) in what should be a good test for Inoue. The unbeaten 24 year old only debuted in December 2015 but is one of the fastest rising fighters on the Japanese domestic scene and made a statement last year when he scored 5 wins, including a very impressive stoppage against Futoshi Usami. Fujita has suffered 2 losses, but has won 8 in a row since those back to back losses in 2013-2014. Although not as proven as Inoue he is experienced and has earned a Japanese ranking with wins against the likes of Yusuke Yamanouchi and Genki Maeda.
Another notable Ohashi gym fighter in action here is former world title challenger Ryuji Hara (21-2, 12), who faces domestic opponent Akiyoshi Kanazawa (14-6-4, 7). Hara scored two wins last year and looks to be rebuilding his career step by step following stoppage losses in 2014, to Kosei Tanaka, and in 2015, to Katsunari Takayama. This is a decent match up for for Hara, given he is rebuilding, but it's fair to say he needs to step up a bit later this year. Kanazawa has gone 3-4-1 in his last 8 though has been matched hard, and almost scored an upset last year over Kenichi Horikawa. Although limited Kanazawa will serve as a good test here.
A really interesting bout sees the unbeaten Andy Hiraoka (8-0, 5) finally battle with Shogo Yamaguchi (10-2-1, 5). Originally this bout was supposed to take place in December 2014, as the Rookie of the Year Lightweight final, but Hiraoka suffered an illness forcing him out of the bout. Since then Yamaguchi has gone 4-2, though has been matched hard with losses to Akihiro Kondo and Genki Maeda, whilst Hiraoka spent notable time training in the US and signed with Ohashi late last year.
Another interesting match up will see Quaye Peter (9-8-2, 5) take on recent Japanese title challenger Valentine Hosokawa (20-6-3, 9) in a very fan friendly match up. Both guys have lost their last two, and will be coming to impress here, but neither has performed badly in all honestly Hosokawa was very unlucky last time out against Hiroki Okada. Given the styles of both men and their need to score a win we suspect this will be a really exciting contest with both men knowing a win could net them a title shot later in the year.
Also on the card is former Japanese champion Seiichi Okada (19-6-1, 11), who battles against the limited but tough Kentaro Yamada (8-7-1, 6). Yamada has lost his last 6, but he has been in with a real who's who including Rikki Naito, Masayuki Ito and Yuki Ogata, and will certainly be looking at this bout as a chance to end that losing run.