April is a great month for Japanese fight fans with a host of notable shows through the month. One of the most notable come on April 14th where we see a number of bouts with notable fighters.
One of those bouts is a Japanese Light Flyweight title bout between unbeaten champion Ken Shiro (6-0, 3), who looks to make his first defense, and mandatory challenger Atsushi Kakutani (17-4-1, 10). The youngster won the title late last year, when he over-came Kenichi Horikawa in a brilliant bout, and will be looking to notch a win over a world title challenger. For Kakutani however this is a long over-due shot and one that could make or break his career.
Another title bout on this card will see OPBF Featherweight champion Ryo Takenaka (13-3-1, 7) defending his title against Akira Shono (9-7-2, 5). This match up is somewhat hard to get excited about, with Shono seemingly stepping up in a huge way, though it does need to be noted that Takenaka has been in active since August, when he won the title courtesy of a 5th round TKO win over Vinvin Rufino. On paper this is an easy first defence for the champion, but one that he will be hoping he'll be expected to shine.
In a very notable non-title bout fans will see Keita Obara (15-1-1, 14) in a stay busy bout against Petchdam Tor Buamas (0-1). Although a huge mismatch the aim of the bout is for Obara to shake some ring rust as he looks to build towards an IBF Light Welterweight world title fight with unbeaten Russian Eduard Troyanovsky. This will be Obara's first bout since his controversial draw against Walter Castillo and it should be a very easy show case for the heavy handed Japanese fighter.
In another under-card bout fans will see Japanese Rookie of the Year Tsubasa Koura (6-0, 3) kick off his 2016 by facing Thailand's Yai Phuket Topteam (0-0). The 21 year old Koura impressed last year with 5 wins, and won the All Japanese Rookie of the year. He'll be hoping to continue to build on his promising career this year, though should be up against better tests than Yai before the year is over.
Although the new month has had a slow start it does appear that things are going to get going on the month's first Saturday, and what a day it looks to be with a genuinely mouth watering domestic Japanese card.
The Japanese card comes from the Korakuen Hall and features a bit of everything.
The main event is a Japanese Light Welterweight interim title fight between the once beaten Masanobu Nakazawa (17-1-1, 7) and former challenger Masayoshi Kotake (9-9-2, 5). Originally Kotake was supposed to fight reigning champion Hiroki Okada though a serious injury to Okada's right thumb saw him need to cancel the bout which has lead to this fight. On paper it's hard to see anything but a win for Nakazawa though the truth is that his record is very padded and this is a huge step up against the much more proven, though limited, Kotake.
A really mouth watering match up will see former Japanese Light Welterweight champion Shinya Iwabuchi (25-5, 21) battle against former OPBF champion Romeo Jakosalem (16-10-1, 8). Iwabuchi is rarely in a bad fight and the heavy handed southpaw is known to want another OPBF title fight, having fallen short twice in the past. Jakosalem isn't the fighter he once was, but is still a dangerous foe if given full preparation time, which he has been here, and as a result we're expecting a very special war here.
Another former champion in action is the always entertaining Rikiya Fukuhara (30-8-1, 22) who will look for win #31 as he takes on Yusuke Nakagawa (8-3-1, 4). Although not the best fighter on the planet Fukuhara is a real handful for many and he's only been beaten by one man in the last 4 years, the world ranked Satoshi Hosono. It's hard to see Nakagawa giving Fukuhara too many problems here though we'd be shocked if the bout wasn't entertaining all the same.
One man who will be hoping to move from contender to champion in the near future is Ryuta Otsuka (14-8-2, 4) who will be risking his JBC ranking against Takaaki Ishikawa (11-6, 6). Otsuka is ranked at Super Flyweight though will be testing the waters at Bantamweight here. Ishikawa, who has lost 2 of his last 3, may see this as a huge opportunity to get himself a domestic ranking and as a result we'd not be shocked for this one to be very exciting.
Another really meaningful bout will see Japanese ranked fighters facing off against each other as Hiroya Yamamoto (8-3, 3) takes on Takumi Suda (12-10-2, 3). Both of these men are seen as possible title challengers for the Japanese title in the near future and we'd not be shocked at this bout being incredibly competitive. We've got to admit neither guy has been incredible in recent times though both have mixed with good company. Yamamoto's last two losses have come to Xiong Zhao Zhong and Go Odaira whilst Suda has suffered losses to the likes of Akira Yaegashi, Warlito Parrenas and Shin Ono and both are better than their records indicate.
A second Japanese show comes form Osaka and really pales in significance to the Tokyo card.
The most interesting of two notable bouts will see Akira Shono (8-7-2, 4) face a Thai foe in an 8 round bout. We've not got the name of the Thai though we do know that Shono is ranked by both the OPBF and the JBC, so those rankings could be at risk.
The other bout of note will see Takuya Uehara (6-0, 3) facing another Thai foe. It's hard to predict where Uehara is going in his career but this will be his first 8 round bout and there should be some excitement around him even if his opponent is an unknown Thai
As well as the two bouts we've mentioned there will be 7 other bouts on this card.
Yangju, South Korea
In South Korea the KBC put on their next rookie card. On the whole this show is less than inspiring and features mainly 4 rounders.
The one bout which isn't for just 4 rounds will see unbeaten teenager Gun Woo Gang (1-0-1, 1) face the more experienced Dong Suk Han (1-6) in a bout scheduled for 6 rounds at Welterweight.
Staying with Korean fighter's we actually get a Korean novice in action in the US as Tae Woong Jung (3-2-2, 3) battles against the unbeaten Antonio Nieves (12-0-1, 6) in an 8 rounder. This is a considerable step up for Jung, who hasn't fought out of Korea before. Sadly for Jung he is 0-2-2 in his last 4 and won't be expected to end that win-less run here.
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)