Takayama's record bares the scars of his attitude to boxing. If you fight the best often enough you will lose fights and that's what he's done to the likes of Eagle Den Junlaphan, Yutaka Niida, Roman Gonzalez and Nkosinathi Joyi. At the time of fighting those men 3 of them were regarded as the best fighter in the Minimumweight division.
It's the attitude of Takayama that has made us fans. He's shown a willingness to fight the best, he's called for unification fights repeatedly, he's chased the IBF title, that he now holds, around the globe and he seems intent on claiming the WBO belt to become the first Japanese fighter to have held all 4 world titles. It's a fresh attitude, it's brave and it's great. If more fighters had the same mentality we'd have a much better sport.
It's not just the mentality of Takayama out of the ring that is so good but also inside the ring. At his best he's a buzzsaw with movement, toughness, bravery and work rate. He may not have the power of Pacquiao but stylistically there are a lot of similarities with what made Pacquiao so popular.
On May 7th Takayama attempts to defend his IBF title for the second time as he battles challenger Shin Ono (17-5-2, 2) in what we view as a bit of a stay busy defence against his countryman and whilst that sounds harsh it's not supposed to be, we just think Takayama is in a league of 2 with South African Hekkie Budler as his only real rival.
Ono is a good fighter. He is a former OPBF Light Flyweight champion and he holds notable wins over both Yu Kimura and Xiong Zhao Zhong as well as an unbeaten record dating back to 2011.
In a perfect world Zhong wouldn't have lost his WBC world title to Oswoldo Novoa earlier this year. That would have left a much anticipated unification between Takayama and Zhong. Instead Takayama is fighting the man who last beat Zhong before the Chinese fighter became a world champion. It's not ideal but it does make a little bit of sense.
In regards to how the fight is expected to go. Ono is a decent enough fighter to make Takayama work to defend his title, but isn't good enough to really trouble him. The challenger lacks the traits needed to beat Takayama, the timing, skills, power and speed. Ono is good enough to be world ranked, with the IBF #10 ranking making a lot more sense than the WBO #6 ranking he also holds, but the southpaw has never been in with someone as complete as the champion who we expect will take a clear, though hard fought, decision to retain his title.
We're hoping that if things go as expected we'll see Takayama meet Budler later this year in an IBF/WBA unification bout in either Japan, South Africa or Monaco.
(Image courtesy of Watanabe Gym)