Earlier today saw the Champion Carnival match ups for 2016 being announced.
The bouts, which see the Japanese champions taking on their mandatory challengers, will take place in 13 weigh classes between March 11th and April 28th with a huge bonus awarded to the MVP of event.
At Minimumweight the match up will see defending champion Tatsuya Fukuhara (16-4-5, 6) [福原 辰弥] defending his belt, for the first time, against world ranked foe Takumi Sakae (13-0, 8) [榮 拓海]. That match up a brilliant one, despite the contrasting records, and really should tell us a lot about both men going forward.
At Light Flyweight the fast rising Ken Shiro (6-0, 3) [拳 四朗] will face off against former world title challenger Atsuhsi Kakutani (17-4-1, 10) [角谷 淳志]. This is one of the tru stand out bouts and is likely to be another tough test for the 24 year old champion, who seems unlikely to ever have another easy one, whilst Kakutani has been awaiting a title fight for over a year now.
At Flyweight we expected fireworks as as former world title challengers collide in what should be a genuine war. The champion going in is the all action Takuya Kogawa (25-4, 13) [粉川 拓也] whilst his mandatory challenger is the gutsy Masayuki Kuroda (24-6-3, 14) [黒田 雅之].
The Super Flyweight bout will see unbeaten champion Sho Ishida (21-0, 11) [石田 匠] defending his belt against former OPBF title challenger Ryuichi Funai (24-6, 16) [船井 龍一]. For Ishida this will be his 5th defense of the title whilst Funai will have to make the Super Flyweight limit for the first time in more than 8 years.
In the Bantamweight division we see a vacant title up for grabs as former champion Kentaro Masuda (23-7, 12) [益田 健太郎] battles the unbeaten Yushi Tanaka (16-0-3, 10) [田中 裕士]. The title was vacated in late 2015 by Shohei Omori, ahead of Omori's WBO world title eliminator against Marlon Tapales, and we've managed to end up with a genuinely excellent match up between a veteran and a rising hopeful.
The Super Bantamweight bout appears to be one of the least interesting as Yasutaka Ishimoto (27-8, 7) [石本 康隆] defends his title against the little known Yosuke Fujihara (16-3, 4) [藤原 陽介]. Sadly this bout says more about the state of the division domestically than much else with Shingo Wake and Yukinori Oguni both progressing beyond the Japanese domestic scene and Ishimoto has recently scored wins over both Gakuya Furuhashi and Yusaku Kuga. Whilst Shun Kubo has won the OPBF title and Sho Nakazawa and Hinata Maruta are too low down the domestic rankings. It's a great division in Japan but this isn't a mouth watering match up.
The Featherweight bout will see old adversaries collide as Satoshi Hosono (30-2-1, 20) [細野 悟] battles Rikiya Fukuhara (31-8-1, 23) [福原 力也] for the third time in less than 4 years. In their first meeting Hosono stopped Fukuhara, back in 2012, whilst last year Hosono took a well earned, but relatively unimpressive, decision over his rival. We're expecting Hosono to go 3-0 against Fukuhara but the bout certainly won't lack excitement given the styles of the two men involved.
The super Featherweight bout will see heavy handed champion Kenichi Ogawa (17-1, 14) [尾川 堅一] defending his title against Satoru Sugita (11-2-1, 7) [杉田 聖]. This will be Ogawa's first defense of the title and it's hard to see him losing to Sugita, despite the fact Sugita is enjoying a rich vein of form with 5 straight wins coming into this one.
On paper one of the best bouts is he Lightweight contest between current champion Kota Tokunaga (17-2, 11) [徳永 幸大] and former champion Nihito Arakawa (26-6-1, 16) [荒川 仁人] in what could, potentially, be Arakawa's last shot at a title. Both will give their all here and this could end up being a bit of a war given the challenger's toughness and the champion's advantage in size.
In the Light Welterweight/Super Lightweight division we get another rematch as the unbeaten Hiroki Okada (11-0, 9) [岡田 博喜] defends his title against former foe Koichi Aso (20-6-1, 13) [麻生 興一]. Their first bout was a lot of fun and we're expecting this one to be just as fun, though it does need to be said that Okada has developed notably in recent fights and will still be fancied over the exciting Aso.
At Welterweight we'll see newly crowned champion Nobuyuki Shindo (17-3-1, 6) [新藤 寛之] defending his title against the heavy handed Toshio Arikawa (12-4, 10) [有川 稔男]. This bout was one we knew about before it was announced and really does look like a potentially exciting contest, with Arikawa having genuine fight ending power.
The Light Middleweight bout will see veteran Yuki Nonaka (28-8-3, 9) [野中 悠樹] defending his title against the really under-rated Yuto Shimizu (11-2-2, 4) [清水 優人], who has won his last 8 including victories over Hikaru Nishida, Toru Chiba, Takehrio Shimokawara and Yosuke Kirima. This could be a very tough test for the defending champion.
And finally, the Middleweight bout, which has already been announced and is another rematch, will see Akio Shibata (27-8-1, 13) [柴田 明雄] defending his title against the "better than his record suggests" Hikaru Nishida (14-7-1, 6) [西田 光], in a bout now set for March 11th.
With all 26 fighters being at the announcements earlier today it does seem likely that all 13 bouts will go ahead as planned, however the champions may decide to vacate their belts if a world title opportunity rears it's head.
(Image courtesy of boxingnews.jp)
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