Since claiming the title Sato, 29, has been a genuine fighting champion having already recorded 2 genuinely solid victories over Sylvester Lopez and Ryo Akaho. He now looks for his 3rd defense as he travels to Si Sa Ket in Thaialnd to face the hard hitting Srisaket Sor Ringvisai (18-3-1, 17) in what promises to be an intriguing contest with a lot more than just a belt at stake.
For the Rungvisai stable this is a big chance to avenge the loss of Suriyan who was in Japan when he was out pointed by Sato in a genuinely enthralling bout. On the other hand a victory for Sato would be the first ever successful defense by a native Japanese fighter in Thailand (following in the foot-steps of Russian born but Japanese based Yuri Arbachakov a little over 20 years ago).
The Japanese champion (pictured above) is the better known fighter. Internationally he may have only popped on to the world scene when he defeated Suriyan though he had been a Japanese champion for around 2 years (including 4 months as an "interim" champion). As well as holding the national title he had claimed victories over Daigo Nakahiro and Kohei Kono (both had challenged for world titles and Kono has since gone on to claim the WBA Super Flyweight title) as well as the then unbeaten Kenji Oba. All 3 of those were genuinely quality wins.
The 26 year old Srisaket however is much less well known. He's part of the same stable that looks after Suriyan Sor Rungvisai and his younger brother Nawaphon Por Chokchai and so there is quality in the stable and when talking about him Srisaket is a pure puncher, his record has seen him never winning a distance fight (his only decision victory was a 4 round technical decision). At the moment it's fair to say that Srisaket is on a genuine hot streak having won his last 17 straight, after losing 3 of his first 5 (including a debut loss to current WBC Flyweight champion Akira Yaegashi and former Sato opponent Kenji Oba).
In terms of his style Sato is a quick fighter who can brawl (as he had to against Suriyan) and he can box. Sure he's not a huge puncher but he did twice drop Suriyan and when he connect clean he can hurt fighters with his crisp shots. His movement is very good and technically he is very solid. There isn't that much to pick up with him though the fact he can get dragged in to a brawl could be a problem.
On the opposite side of the fence Srisaket is, as mentioned above a puncher who would love a tear up with Sato. He's not the most technical, his footwork leaves plenty to be desired and his punches at times look wild and sloppy, though everyone of them is thrown with bad intentions. Worryingly for Srisaket is the fact he's only ever been beyond 5 rounds twice in his career (he's 0-1-1 in those two fights) and his stamina is relatively untested a real issue when you consider his style.
One of the big issues for Sato, is as mentioned above, no native Japanese fighter has ever defended a world title in in Thailand. The conditions in Thailand for fighters really does work in the favour of the Thai's who are used to not only the heat and humidity but also the peculiar way that the fights are fought outdoors in the middle of the day. This, combined with the crowds often see the Thai's claiming victories over more respected international fighters. Whilst Sato has said he wants to make history it'll be a tough ask.
In a neutral venue it's hard to go against Sato, he's more proven, more skilled, more experienced and a genuine champion. In Thailand however it really toughens the decision and to say it's 50-50 wouldn't be far off. If forced to make a decision one way or another, it'd be with Sato who is likely to see out the first 6 rounds then take Srisaket in to deep water.
In preparation for this promising title bout it made sense to include a short clip from Sato's title winning performance against Suriyan Sor Rungvisai from March 2012 (courtesy of CarlosBoxful). If Sato v Srisaket ends up being half as good then we are in for one fantastic bout.