On May 6th we get to see a bout between two of the division's top unbeaten fighters who both combine a high level of skill with heavy hands, spiteful straight punches and are technically very impressive. Neither man is a brawler but rarely is either involved in a dull bout, and given the power and skills of both they are both must watch fighters.
One of those unbeaten men is WBA “super” champion Takashi Uchiyama (22-0-1, 18). For those unaware he's a 35 year old fighter who has been at the top of the division for more than 5 years. He's already recorded an excellent reign of terror including 9 world title defenses with wins over the likes of Takashi Miura, Jorge Solis, Bryan Vasquez and Daiki Kaneko as well as his excellent title winning effort against Juan Carlos Salgado. What those wins have shown is that Uchiyama has an educated understanding of the ring, a thunderous right hand and a nasty, hurtful jab.
At his best Uchiyama is the consummate boxer-puncher. He's powerful, tough, strong and skilled with very few chinks in his armour. It's fair to say he's not the quickest but his timing makes up for that more often than not. The one thing that does stand out about Uchiyama, at least in recent times, is inactivity and by the time he steps in the ring for his upcoming defense he'll have fought just 21 rounds in 2 years, with those rounds coming in just 2 fights. Whilst some of that activity is due to issues with opponents, several of which turned him down last year, another part is injuries to one of his hands. Given his age the inactivity and injuries certainly leave a lot of questions regarding how long Uchiyama can continue at the top level.
The other man is Thailand's brilliant Jomthong Chuwatana (9-0, 4). On paper Jomthong is “inexperienced” but in reality the Thai is more experienced than many would imagine with a legendary Muay Thai career that has been the founding of his success as a boxer. Not only is Jomthong a true “fighter” but he's a brilliant technical fighter with a razor like southpaw jab and a spiteful straight that many fighters don't see coming. More impressively when it comes to Jomthong is his ability to control distance with incredibly smart movement.
Aged 25 Jomthong is a relative youngster in the division. With more than 200 Muay Thai fights under his belt Jomthong “should” have copious amounts of wear and tear however given his defense nous, movement and toughness he's certainly not been showing much of that damage and instead the Thai looks as tough as ever. Like Uchiyama he's a boxer puncher though he's not got the inactivity or age to really worry about and he's a faster fighter than the defending champion, with both his hands and feet. He's also the bigger fighter, about 1½″ taller and naturally bigger at the weight, with a lot of draining done to make 130lbs. One of the few points where he is behind Uchiyama is his competition, but for a 9 fight “novice” that competition has already included wins over Dong-Hyuk Kim, Ronald Pontillas and, most recently Daiki Kaneko, a trio of very good wins.
In the ring we suspect this will be incredibly high level boxing between two very similar fighters. Uchiyama is the hard puncher and the man who will have the crowd behind him however he'll also learn that Jomthong's counters are quick and sharp. The speed difference between the two is genuinely noticeable and with Uchiyama getting older he's also getting slower, possibly leading to his timing being slightly off. Jomthong also won't be intimidated either by the crowd or by Uchiyama's reputation.
Although the fight will be high level boxing we suspect that it will warm up and move from top tier boxing into an educated and highly skilled fight with Uchiyama needing to adapt to the speed, skills and movement of Jomthong. This won't be an all out brawl but will feature a lot of pressure from Uchiyama and Jomthong answering back in short sequences that will have the crowd on their feet and the commentators going wild. When we get to those sequences we'll really find out about both men and how much they want to win.
Whilst the both men are exceptional fighters we see them as being parts of different generations. The 10 year age gap between them is what we view as the biggest difference and Uchiyama is certainly coming to the end of his career whilst Jomthong is just beginning his, at least at world level. That, to us, is the deciding part of this fight and why Jomthong will shake up the division in a huge way and claim a career defining victory. The speed, and youth will see Jomthong through to the win, despite some struggles with the more experienced champion.
Note-Fight fans wanting to watch this can see it in Japan on TV Tokyo or in Thailand, on Channel 3SD.
(Image courtesy of http://www.watanabegym.com)