For some fighters 2014 has been amazing. Fighters like Kosei Tanaka and Shohei Omori have had tremendous years with both men breaking out and making a name for themselves. Others however have had disappointing years, with Takashi Uchiyama (21-0-1, 17) probably having the most disappointing year of any active world champion. Yes Uchiyama is still the unbeaten WBA Super Featherweight king but he's a man who has lost a year of his career due to the fact opponents haven't wanted to fight him.
What should have been a year of greats fights for Uchiyama has instead been plagued with inactivity, opponents avoiding him and various other problems.
Thankfully the year won't be a total write off for the popular “KO Dynamite” and Uchiyama will fight this year, on December 31st. The bout comes exactly a year after his Uchiyama's last defense, a hard fought decision win over Daiki Kaneko, and sadly it sees the Japanese knockout artist fighting a relatively obscure opponent, Israel Hector Enrique Perez (27-2-1, 16).
We consider ourselves hardcore fans outside of just the Asian scene, though Perez is a fighter that, when the bout was announced, we genuinely knew next to nothing about. What we knew was that he was a 35 year old Argentinian who had scored only a single win of note, a stoppage over veteran Francisco Lorenzo.
Having known so little about Perez we have made an effort to get a read on him by watching footage of him in action. Unsurprisingly the footage doesn't impress us, in the slightest. He looks basic and predictable, there is little that actually stands out about him and although he seems to have power it's far from world class and seems more grinding than destructive. Possibly his best quality is his punch variety, though nothing appears to be particularly stunning.
A notable issue of Perez's is activity. He has fought just once in the last 12 months, just twice in the last 24 months and, amazingly, just 4 times in the last 4 years. At 35 years old that simply isn't active enough and it's certainly not the activity that should be rewarded with a world title fight. Interestingly however he is 28-0-1 in his last 29 fights date back more than 4 years. His level of competition has helped that unbeaten run though it's still impressive, at least on paper.
It's going to sound incredibly harsh but we're not sure that Perez would be able to crack the top 5 in Japan. He's certainly going to be an under-dog against both Uchiyama and Takashi Miura, it's hard to see him really testing Daiki Kaneko, Rikki Naito, Masayuki Ito or Shingo Eto. Interestingly, at the time of writing, Boxrec.com woulr rate Perez at #15 in Japan, if he were Japanese of course.
Whilst Perez is unknown we cannot say the same about Uchiyama who is one of the sports biggest punchers, most exciting fighters and most destructive.
At his best Uchiyama is probably the best Super Featherweight on the planet. He combines incredibly heavy hands with great technical ability, intelligent defence, surprising handspeed and freakish natural strength. Through his 22 career bouts only one man has been able to stand up physically to Uchiyama and that was compatriot Daiki Kaneko, who is one amazing physical specimen.
Aged 35 and coming in off a long lay off Uchiyama does leave us with some questions. What will his timing be like? Will he be sharp? And most importantly how much has he slid? He didn't look great against Kaneko and a year on we're unsure he would actually beat Kaneko if they were to have a rematch. We're also unsure if we'd pick Uchiyama in a rematch with Miura, who he beat back in 2011. What we're trying to say is Miura isn't in his prime any more. When he was in his pomp we'd have made him a clear favourite over anyone in the division now however we have apprehensions about him against two of his compatriots, and former victims.
If Uchiyama can recapture his form he likely stops Perez very early in this bout. If, however, Uchiyama isn't what he once was we suspect he'll win but not look impressive doing so, possibly stopping Perez in the later rounds. The only thing we can't see happening is Perez winning. The Argentinian has nothing that will make Uchiyama worried and if anything this is the perfect bout to see what Uchiyama has left and to let him vent his frustrations at the year he has had.
Sadly we suspect that if Uchiyama is less than impressive then he may actually retire from the sport. It'd be a shame but he deserves to go out unbeaten rather than suffer a late career defeat well after his prime, like he probably would if he's slipped further from how we last saw him.
(Image courtesy of Watanabe)
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