Takashi Uchiyama walks to a neutral corner after icing Jorge Solis in the 11th round of their WBA 130-pound title fight last December. THE RING’s No. 1-rated junior lightweight will defend his WBA belt against fellow unbeaten standout Bryan Vasquez on Dec. 31.
While most Americans are preparing to spend their first New Years Eve without Dick Clark in 40 years, boxing fans in Japan are being treated to two of their biggest boxing events of the year. Two separate boxing cards from Tokyo and Osaka will feature world title fights with seven fighters rated by THE RING in action.
The Tokyo card, which will be promoted by Watanabe Promotions, pits WBA junior lightweight titleholder Takashi Uchiyama (18-0-1, 15 knockouts), of Tokyo, against Bryan Vasquez (29-0, 15 KOs), of San Jose, Costa Rica, in the main event.
The 33-year-old Uchiyama is making the sixth defense of the title he won with a 12th-round knockout of Juan Carlos Salgado in 2010. Uchiyama is rated No. 1 by THE RING at 130 pounds and is coming off a technical draw against Michael Farenas in July. Vasquez, 25, is rated No. 10 by THE RING at his weight, and earned this shot by becoming the WBA’s interim titleholder.
Also on the card, WBC junior bantamweight titleholder Yota Sato (25-2-1, 12 KOs), of Tokyo, will face Ryo Akaho (19-0-2, 12 KOs), of Yokohoma, while WBA junior bantamweight titleholder Tepparith Kokietgym (21-2, 13 KOs), of Bangkok, Thailand, defends against Kohei Kono (27-7, 10 KOs), of Tokyo.
Sato, Akaho and Kokietgym are rated Nos. 3, 7 and 2 respectively at 115 pounds, while Kono is unrated. The venue will be the Ota-City General Gymnasium.
Meanwhile, 300 miles away in Osaka, Ioka Promotions will host an event at the Bodymaker Colosseum, which will be headlined by unified strawweight titleholder Kazuto Ioka (10-0, 6 KOs), of Osaka, stepping up to junior flyweight to face Mazatlan, Mexico’s Jose Alfredo Rodriguez (28-1, 17 KOs).
Ioka, who is rated No. 1 by THE RING, is coming off a sensational, Fight of the Year candidate win over Akira Yaegashi in June. Rodriguez is coming off his lone career defeat, a unanimous decision loss to Alberto Rossel in April.
Also, THE RING’s No. 7-rated junior flyweight contender Ryo Miyazaki (17-0-3, 10 KOs), of Osaka, will be stepping down in weight to 105 pounds to face former WBA strawweight titleholder Pornsawan Porpramook (27-4-1, 17 KOs), of Sa Kaeo, Thailand.
For those who haven’t figured a way to stream Nippon TV from the U.S., boxing action returns to American airwaves next Friday, as unbeaten super featherweights Rances Barthelemy and Arash Usmanee headline the season premiere of ESPN2’s Friday Night Fights.
Photo / Kazuhiro Nogi-AFP
Ryan Songalia is a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA) and contributes to GMA News. He is also a member of The Ring ratings panel and can be reached at [email protected]. An archive of his work can be found at www.ryansongalia.com. Follow him on Twitter: @RyanSongalia.