When it comes to popular Japanese fighters with an international fan base based more on their style than their records no one matches the all-action Akira Yaegashi (24-5, 12), who could put on a FOTY contender with a broom. Though his memorable career he has has thrillers with the likes of Kenichi Horikawa, Pornasawn Porpramook, Kazuto Ioka, Toshiyuki Igarashi, Roman Gonzalez, Javier Mendoza and Martin Tecuapetla. It's hard to think of many bad fights with Yaegashi and we're expecting another really fun one this coming Friday when he takes on Samartlek Kokietgym (33-5, 12)*, who will be taking part in his second world title fight.
Yaegashi, the current IBF Light Flyweight champion, isn't just one of Japan's most exciting fighters but is one of the sports most exciting fighters. He combines an incredible will to win, which has been a downfall in the past, with an aggressive action based style, and an incredible work rate and desire. That desire saw him break down Pornsawan in a FOTY contender, and see out some torrid rounds against Tecuapetla as well as put on a FOTY candidate with Mendoza.
Yaegashi is one of the few Japanese fighters to be a genuine 3-weight champion. He has won titles at 105lbs, 112lbs and 108lbs and it's that 108lb weight class that he seems most suited to. Sadly however he is closing in on his 34th birthday and his time at the top looks unlikely to last long, especially given how long and hard his career has been. He already has 222 rounds under his belt and although he's only fought 29 bouts he has had 17 at title level, and 11 at world title level, with those bouts often being draining wars.
Although a warrior, through and through, Yaegashi can box and has shown that through his career, sadly though his warrior mentality has kicked in more often than not, meaning that even the most simple of bouts have been wars. That has sadly left him suffering multiple injuries, from bad facial damage to a broken Temporomandibular Joint and a serious shoulder injury, that has kept him out of the ring most of this year. Those injuries, and damage, have accumulated and will almost certainly affect him going forward.
Although relatively unknown Samartlek is a fighter on a role, and a fighter who has proven his toughness in the past, along with proving he can travel and can fight, a bit. He's best known for lasting 11 rounds in 2014 with Yaegashi's stablemate Naoya Inoue but has been a success in Thailand where he has been racking up a long string of wins since losing the “The Monster”.
The 32 year old challenger was originally a Muay Thai kick boxer before turning to boxing back in 2010. In a little over 6 years he has racked up either a 31-5 (12) record or a 33-5 record, depending on the source. That record has included losses to Inthanon Sithchamuang, Denver Cuello, Yuki Chinen, Randy Petalcorin and Inoue along with wins against the likes of Inthanon and Muhammad Rachman,
At his best Samartlek has proven to be a tough and gutsy fighter, he pushed Chinen close, bounced off the canvas multiple times against Petalcorin and lasted until round 11 with Inoue. He has also shown signs of improvement and has won his last 14 bouts, 14 fought since losing to Inoue a little more than 2 years ago. The improvement is thought to be more than he has shown with work alongside Kompayak Porpramook said to have improved his body work and made him a more rounded fighter.
Wither neither man having huge amounts of power, and both being aggressively minded guys who let leather go we're expecting something a bit special here with both letting their shots go. We have to favour Yaegashi, who has the experience and proven class, but we're expecting a very special action bout here with both men standing and trading blows. Yaegashi will likely look swollen and damaged but we genuinely expect him to be the clear winner on the cards.
World Title Previews
The biggest fights get broken down as we try to predict who will come out on top in the up coming world title bouts.