For the champion the bout will see him seeking his 8th defense, and look to continue a title reign that began back in November 2014 when he stopped Mexican Oswaldo Novoa. Since winning the title Wanheng has won 12 bouts in a row, including victories over Jeffrey Galero, Young Gil Bae, Go Odaira, Saul Juarez and Melvin Jerusalem. In the ring Wanheng is a defensively intelligent pressure fighter, who applied constant pressure and looks to out work and grind down opponents. His lack of power is notable, but he certainly his a lot hard than his record suggests and in his 9 world title fights he has scored 4 stoppages.
With Wanheng closing in on the 50-0 record of Floyd Mayweather Jr this is a really credible test for the champion. At 32 he is getting on for a Minimumweight and with 382 rounds under his belt he has certainly got miles on the clock. He has negated damage in many of his fights, due to his solid defense, but was cut a couple of fights ago by the head of Omari Kimweri, and it could be that his body is maybe starting to feel it's age, something that also seemed to be the case in January's win over Melvin Jerusalem.
The Japanese challenger has had a strange career. After winning his first 4 bouts he quickly slipped to 5-1-2 and really saw his momentum slow, despite reaching the 2009 Rookie of the Year final. Another winning run followed before a surprise stoppage loss to Hiroyuki Otsuka, and a draw with Koji Itagaki. In 2013 Fukuhara again saw his career falter with losses to Yu Kimura and Takuma Inoue, and by the start of 2015 Fukuhara had fallen to 13-4-5 (4) with his career seemingly going no where. Since then however he has gone an impressive 6-1-1 with with notable wins over Hiroya Yamamoto, Takumi Sakai, Genki Hanai and Moises Calleros, and a draw with Fahlan Sakrreerin Jr. The win over Yamamoto saw Fukuhara claim the Japanese title and the one over Calleros saw him become the WBO champion.
The problem for Fukuhara is that whilst he has had an impressive few years, he's not actually shown himself to be that talented. He's gotten far on toughness, energy and desire rather than skills, power and slickness. He's a handful for many, given that he has a never say die attitude and always looks to have have a fight, but against truly world class fighters it's hard to see what he has to offer. This was clear when he was widely beaten by a then debuting Takuma Inoue and is likely to be seen again here against the very talented Wanheng.
Whilst Fukuhara is travelling with hunger, and the chance to become the first Japanese fighter to claim a world title on Thai soil, it's hard to see him really testing Wanheng. Fukuhara will come to fight but we believe the sharper, smoother and tighter boxing of Wanheng will be too much for the challenger, who we think will start will be take a methodical beating in the later rounds, and potentially be stopped in the championship rounds.