This coming Saturday fans in Tokyo will see two talented fighters in the division battle for the WBC title, in what could be a a technically brilliant and thrilling battle.
In one corner will be WBC champion Ganigan Lopez (28-6, 17), a Mexican southpaw a talented fighter with a real gritty determination that comes with being a grizzled veteran. In the opposite corner will be Japanese youngster Ken Shiro (9-0, 5), a talented boxer-mover who is looking to continue his rise through the ranks.
Of the two Lopez is the more well known, and that's understandable given he's a 35 year old professional with 34 bouts under his belt and has been a professional since 2003. During his long career he has had plenty of ups and down. The lows have included losses to the likes of Juan Palacios, Adrian Hernandez, Jose Alfredo Zuniga, Denver Cuello and Pedro Guevara whilst the highs have included his last two wins, over Yu Kimura and Jonathan Taconing to win and defend the WBC title.
At his best Lopez is a brilliant boxer. He's not the quickest, most powerful, strongest or toughest but he is a fighter with an incredibly good boxing brain, who controls the range and tempo of the bout, boxes at his pace and dictates the fight with timing and accuracy. He can be hurt, he has been stopped, but it takes a special fighter to put him in any trouble and he's learned a lot from his narrow decision losses. Despite his boxing brain he is 35 years old and at Light Flyweight that really is ancient. He's look great in his last two bouts but a fighter at his age can get old over night, especially following a 10 month break from the ring due to issues securing a bout, with talks for a rematch against Guevara faltering.
Aged just 25 Ken Shiro is still a youngster, and looks even younger with a genuine baby face. Despite being a youngster he's an accomplished boxer who first made a name for himself in the amateur ranks before making his professional debut in August 2014. On debut he made a statement by defeating veteran Heri Amol and continued to make waves, beating Katsunori Nagamine in his third bout, claiming the WBC Youth Light Flyweight title in his 5th bout, the Japanese title a fight later and the OPBF title in his 8th professional bout. Whilst winning titles quickly appears to be the done thing in Japan not many are triple crown winners that quickly.
Although Ken Shiro is a talented boxer we have seen a bit of everything from him. We have seen him box, brawl, counter punch and adapt on the fly. His chameleon like ability has been really impressive at times, but has seen him being caught between styles, and it has also seen him being dropped, with Rolly Sumalpong dropping him in the Youth title fight. If he can stick to fighting with one style at a time the youngster could be a real talent, and although it sounds silly in telling him to stick to one style it would likely help him when it comes to actually being in the ring. One game plan that's consistent, with another as a back up, can be much better than trying to be a jack of all trades.
If Ken Shiro, and his team, come up with the right game plan here they have a really good change at over-coming Lopez and claiming a world title. It is however a huge ask for for the youngster against someone with so much experience against world class fighters. Ken Shiro has the ability, but we do wonder whether he has the power, or experience, that he might need here. Ken Shiro will almost certainly have his moments, but we think that Lopez will have more of them, and take a very competitive decision to narrowly retain his title, and confirm his standing as one of the top Light Flyweights on the plant.
If Ken Shiro can pull it off the future almost certainly leads to an all-Japanese unification bout in the very near future, especially given the fact other Japanese fighters hold titles at the weight. It would however by an upset for him to win here