On December 29th we're expecting another war as IBF champion Javier Mendoza (24-2-1, 19) travels to Tokyo to battle the always fun to watch Akira Yaegashi (22-5, 12) in what looks like a potential FOTY candidate, albeit a very late contender.
Mendoza is the sort of fighter that fight fans tend to enjoy watching. His first thought always seems to be aggression, and his style is based on aggressive pressure. He can look predictable, and defensively awkward, but he is certainly a handful on the front foot where he likes to enforce his fight. It was that aggression that saw Mendoza claim the title last year, when he defeat Ramon Garcia Hirales in a brilliant 12 round war.
Since claiming the title Mendoza has defended his title once, claiming a technical decision Milan Melindo. That defense was somewhat controversial, with the referee seemingly bowing to the local fighter and calling a premature halt to proceedings, but it did get the mandatory out of the way for Mendoza who now looks to add another notable win to his record.
The Mexican has had an interesting career. Early on he was really just a brawler and that did get him some early success, however he was 13-2-1 (10) before going on his current 11 fight winning run. Notably the second of those losses, against the unknown Jorge Guerrero, saw him being stopped in 2 rounds in what is perhaps the most alarming result on his record. He has however improved significantly since those early losses and wins over Garcia Hirales and Melindo really do show how much he has improved and matured as a fighter, and at 24 he;s he's young, hungry and still developing.
Whilst Mendoza is just starting to make a name for himself it's fair to say that Yaegashi is one of the more popular names among the lower weight classes. He's become a hardcore fan favourite due to his heart, ability and willingness to go to war. In fact for many his 2011 war with Ponrsawan Porpramook was the FOTY and his 2012 bout with Kazuto Ioka was another thriller. Whilst he is known for wars he has also scored notable wins, including the victory over Pornsawan to claim the WBA Minimumweight title, a victory over Toshiyuki Igarashi, to claim the WBC Flyweight title, and a win over Edgar Sosa.
Sadly for Yaegashi his career has been a tough one and last year he suffered back to back stoppages against Roman Gonzalez and Pedro Guevara. Whilst there is not shame in losing to those two it did seem like he took a lot of punishment. It's also worth noting that he dropped to 108lbs for the Guevara bout, where's going to be again for this one. Dropping down a weight can often be much more difficult than climbing a weight and that may well be an issue for Yaegashi again here.
At his best Yaegashiu is speedy fighter who is light on his feet, has lovely hand speed and throws some brilliant combinations. He may lack power but he's rarely in a poor fight and has pulled out some brilliant KO's in recent years. Whilst he is a fast fighter he's not a defensively responsible one and seems much happier to engage in a brawl than to use his defense. Saying that however he did show very intelligent defensive moves against Sosa, where he moved and stopped Sosa from ever getting off.
Whilst Yaegashi was brilliant at his best he's not longer near his best. As mentioned he's going down in weight, often an issue, he's edging towards 33 and with 198 rounds under his belt he is an old fighter with a lot of hard rounds. Unfortunately we suspect those rounds will have taken their toll on him.
We'd love to see Yaegashi win here, but unfortunately we suspect he comes up short late in a thrilling bout. Mendoza will simply be too strong and too youthful in the second half for the ageing Japanese warrior.