That card also featured the debut of 17 year old super prospect Takuma Inoue, who took a clear win over Tatsuya Fukuhara (now 18-4-6, 7). The loss for Fukuhara could have been a career ending humiliation, being out pointed by a debuting teen. Instead that bout was a catalyst for Fukuhara to turn his career career around and since that loss he has gone 6-0-3 (3), claimed the Japanese Minimumweight title and, arguably, been the most improved fighter in Japan.
That improvement for Fukuhara has seen him open the door for a major bout on February 26th as he takes on Mexican foe Moises Calleros (25-6-1, 14) in a bout for the interim WBO Minimumweight title. A win for Fukuhara would see him extend his post Inoue run to a 10 fights without a loss, and would see him opening the door to a potential domestic showdown with WBO “regular” champion Katsunari Takayama later in the year.
In the ring Fukuhara took time to find his feet and despite winning his first 4 bouts there was some fortune in his early results. He did however get things going and in 2009 he fought in the All Japan Rookie of the Year final, losing a decision to Takuya Mitamura, who later went on to claim the Japanese title and challenge for a WBA interim title himself. Following that loss Fukuhara experimented with different weight classes, though suffered set backs at Light Flyweight and Flyweight. Those set backs saw Fukuhara head back to 105lbs and he got his career back under-way with an upset win over Koki Ono. A short winning run was ended by back-to-back losses to Yu Kimura and the aforementioned loss to Inoue.
At the time Fukuhara was 12-4-3 (3) and no one would have bet on the success he was to have. Less than a year later however had proven his ability by fighting to a draw in Thailand with Faglan Sakkreerin Jr. In late 2015, less than 2 years after the loss to Inoue, Fukuhara claimed the Japanese Minimumweight title by out pointing Hiroya Yamamoto and built on that win with defenses of the title against the unbeaten pairing of Takumi Sake and Genki Hanai as well as a technical draw against Shin Ono.
In the ring Fukuhara is a hard working southpaw with under-rated skills, a genuine toughness and a great engine. He might not scream world class in any department but with his continual improvement and very over-looked abilities he is a real talent with the potential to win genuine world titles in the years to come. He has proven he can box on the front foot or the back foot, he's accurate and the bout with Fahlan proved he has no fear of facing top quality opponents, even in their back yard.
Whilst Fukuhara is one of the most improved fighters over the last few years he is a relative unknown outside of his homeland. The same too can be said for Calleros, who debuted in 2008 and didn't face anyone of nay note until March 2012. That bout saw Calleros suffer a split decision to Julian Yedras, and resulted in Calleros' record falling to 17-4-1 (13). Since then he has faced fighters of more notoriety, losing a decision in 2013 to Francisco Rodriguez Jr, and scoring a win last year over Mario Rodriguez.
In the footage of Calleros he looks like a genuine trier, who comes to fight and will always look to walk down his opponents. His bout with Francisco Rodriguez Jr was a toe-to-toe war fought in a phone booth at times. Whilst it was fun to watch it did show that Calleros isn't the big puncher that his record suggests, and also suggested that his attacks were wide, wild and relatively predictable. Despite the flaws he never looked scared of taking one to land one and looked like the sort of fighter who would make for a FOTY contender with a warrior like Takayama. He did however look more polished in the bout against Mario Rodriguez, with an inexhaustible energy reserve and a style that saw him holding a high tempo through out and forcing Rodriguez on to the back foot through the later stages.
Although Calleros has an incredible engine and a fun style it does seem like he has has only fought as a Minimumweight once in the last 6 years and has never fought outside of Mexico, two things that could cost him here.
With Calleros' pressure style and Fukuhara's adaptability we're expecting this to be a sensational fight. Calleros will be on the Kumamoto man from the off, and how Fukuhara deals with that pressure will be the key to the fight. We suspect, with the crowd behind him, Fukuhara will do just enough to eek out a narrow decision here, and secure himself a showdown with Takayama in the summer. If however Calleros wins we'll be incredibly excited about a Takayama Vs Calleros bout.
Although it's unfair in some ways we are disappointed to learn that the bout is likely to only be available to fans in Kumamoto. With our expectations of the bout being a war it's a shame that only such a small number of fight fans will be able to watch the contest.