Over the last couple of years we've been incredibly frustrated by the Super Bantamweight division which has had the potential to be a very special division but has, generally, failed to give us the fights that we want. The one typical exception that frustration has been the Japanese domestic scene which has been giving us some great and very competitive bouts in recent years.
One of those fighters who has been in a number of solid bouts recently is Yasutaka Ishimoto (27-8, 7) [石本 康隆] who has fought Yukinori Oguni, Gakuya Furuhashi and Yusaku Kuga in 3 of his last 4 bouts. The most recent of those, the bout with Kuga, saw Ishimoto finally claim the Japanese title, at the third time of trying.
Ishimoto looks to continue his run of good, solid, competitive bouts on April 2nd when he steps in the ring with mandatory challenger Yosuke Fujihara (16-3, 4) [藤原 陽介] in an interesting bout at the Korakuen Hall.
For Ishimoto this will be his first defense and it's a solid first defense as he continues to face top competition on a regular basis. At 34 years old however the Teiken fighter can't really afford to waste much time continuing with domestic level fights. That means this this could, potentially, be his one and only defense of the title.
In the ring Ishimoto is a technical fighter who enjoys making the most of his shots at range but can bite down on the gum shield and fight on the inside. He's proven to be tough, only suffering a single stoppage loss, gutsy and very under-rated, as seen with his notable win over Wilfredo Vazquez Jr back in 2013. He lacks real power but does everything else right and really is a hard fighter to look good against.
As for Fujihara this will be his first title fight, however he has been in other notable bouts. In 2008 he claimed the Rookie of the Year, in 2011 he came up short, in a very competitive bout, against Kentaro Masuda and since then he has faced a string of solid, but unspectacular opponents like Yuta Nakagawa and Ryuta Otsuka, both of whom beat Fujihara, and Kenji Kubo and Yukinori Hisanaga, both of whom he beat.
Coming in to this 3-3 in his last 6 Fujihara will be the under-dog, but at 29 and being given a huge opportunity this may be time for him to shine, and he is certainly more suited to the Super Bantamweight division than the Bantamweight one, where he has fought much of his career.
We'll admit we're not massive fans of this bout, given that Fujihara hasn't been in great form, however the division in Japan is rather a peculiar one right now. We already know that both Shingo Wake and Yukinori Oguni have thrown their hats into world title bouts, Shun Kubo is the current OPBF champion and fighters like Hikaru Marugame, Kazuki Tanaka Sho Nakazawa and Hinata Maruta aren't yet looking to get title fighters. Saying that however we suspect the winner of this one to have one of those youngsters snapping at their heels later this year.
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