The Lightweight division has been a peculiar division in recent years. It's a competitive one, especially now that Terrence Crawford has left it, but it's one that lacks star value and there are very few “known” names in it, with the vulnerable Jorge Linares being perhaps the division's most well established fighter.
Despite the lack of “names” the division does throw up some interesting bouts and one of those is the 2016 Champion Carnival bout between reigning Japanese champion Kota Tokunaga (17-2, 11) [徳永 幸大] and former champion Nihito Arakawa (26-6-1, 16) [荒川 仁人], which is set for April 16th at the Shimazu Arena in Kyoto.
For the 26 year old Tokunaga the bout will be his third defense of the title he won at last year's Champion Carnival, when he stopped Yuya Sugizaki in 8 rounds. Following that win Tokunaga has beaten Yuhei Suzuki, pulling a victory from the jaws of defeat with a 10th round TKO win, and Kazuhiro Nishitani, claiming a narrow decision win over Nishitani. Those wins have been his best though he also holds wins over Yuki Miyoshi, avenging his first loss, and Ryo Nakajima and his only unavenged loss cam, more than 3 years ago against Ronald Pontillas.
Although viewed as chinny, given that he has twice been stopped inside a round, Tokunaga has improved since his stoppage losses and looks like he has learned to fight in a manner that protects his chin. He's more defensively aware than he was earlier in his career and, given his huge frame for a Lightweight, he's managed to develop an excellent jab that allows him to fight from range relatively risk free.
Whilst we could describe Tokunaga as “chinny” that description could never be applied to 34 year old challenge Arakawa, who is regarded as one of the toughest fighters on the sport today. The southpaw from Tokyo showed that toughness on the international stage back in 2013, when he took a 12 round shellacking from Omar Figueroa, and refused to back down. That bout, a clear contender for the 2013 FOTY, saw Arakawa endearing himself to American fans who were won over by his insane will to win.
Although Arakawa did endear himself to American fans back in 2013 he only returned there once, suffering a wide decision loss to Jorge Linares in 2013. Since then he has gone 2-2, scoring wins over Akihiro Kondo and Yuya Sugizaki, and suffering losses to Yoshitaka Kato and Rikki Naito, both in competitive bouts. What makes it so difficult to beat Arakawa is his will to win and his toughness, he has an incredible amount of energy and always comes to fight, making him a real night mare.
At the moment the under-card for this bout hasn't been decided but this should prove to be an excellent main event and will see a determined challenger face a talented and improving champion. This really could be the stand out bout from the coming Champion Carnival bouts.
For those who haven't seen, or in the case of Arakawa those who have forgotten him, we have included of both below.
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