Japanese boxing ended 2015 on a real high with a number of notable wins by Japanese fighters in world title bouts. Sadly the momentum of 2015 hasn't really carried over into early 2016, which has been a disappointingly quiet period for Japanese boxing.
The period has been so quiet that local fans in Japan don't get to see a world title fight on Japanese soil until May 4th, when they do get two world title bouts.
The first of those will see WBC Light Flyweight champion Yu Kimura (18-2-1, 3) defending his title for the first time. The 32 year old Teiken fighter, who upset Pedro Guevara last November, will not be having the typical “easy” first defense but will instead be up against top contender Ganigan Lopez (26-6, 17).
The talented, and gutsy, Kimura was touted as a potential world champion very early in his career but it took more than 9 years for him to reach the pinnacle of the sport. On his route there the talented, speedy and under-rated, fighter claimed the Japanese title and recorded 3 defenses of the title.
Although lacking many big name wins Kimura has beaten Guevara, obviously, as well as current Japanese champion Tatsuya Fukuhara and former champion Kenichi Horikawa as well as a credible win over Yuki Chinen. When it comes to his losses they have been to current world champion Ryoichi Taguchi and former world title challenger Shin Ono.
Kimura showed his gutsiness against Guevara, rebuilding from a poor start to take a narrow win over the talented Mexican and proved a lot. We knew he was talented, gutsy and fast but in that bout he proved he really could turn fights around, he proved he could bite down on his gum shield go to war and score a world class win over 12 rounds.
When it comes to Lopez the challenger is a tested fighter who has mixed with numerous world class fighters. That has seen him suffer losses to the likes of Juan Palacios, Adrian Hernandez, Denver Cuello and Pedro Guevara whilst scoring wins over the likes of Mario Rodriguez and Luis Ceja. During his 32 fight career he has suffered just a single stoppage loss, to Cuello, and his last notable fight was a narrow loss to Guevara.
In the ring Lopez is a heavy handed southpaw with an aggressive mentality and whilst not the most skilled he is a real handful for most of the fighters at 108lbs. He comes solid, though unspectacular skills, with a genuine toughness and spiteful power. All that comes with the awkward southpaw stance and a 34 he'll know that this could well be his final chance at the top level.
In many ways this fight is being widely over-looked yet could, potentially, be a fire cracker of the fight with both possibly choosing to go to war and having a fire-fight in the centre of the ring. On paper that seems a bad idea for Kimura, but he'll know that smothering Lopez's work would be in his favour. For Lopez the idea of fighting in close quarters does give him the advantage of possibly scoring a stoppage, something he may feel he needs. This really could be a very special bout.
On paper we have to favour Kimura, who is the clear betting favourite, however Lopez is a very under-dog.
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.