As has become something of a tradition, Japan is closing out the year with a flurry of fights on December 30th and 31st. The Japanese are famous for putting on a spectacular end-of-year show in combat sports and 2016 will be no different as three championship belts will be on the line: Naoya Inoue’s WBO junior bantamweight title, Jezreel Corrales’ WBA junior flyweight title, and the vacant WBO junior flyweight title.
Before you welcome in the New Year, make sure you take the time to see Japan’s finest take on each other and the rest of the world.
Here are the upcoming fights!
Naoya Inoue (-1400) v Kohei Kono (+1250), Draw (+2800)
WBO junior bantamweight champion Naoya Inoue (11-0, 9 KO) will defend his title against fellow Japanese fighter Kohei Kono (32-9, 13 KO) in Tokyo on December 30. The 23-year-old Inoue has been groomed for success since he turned pro and is the favorite over the 36-year-old Kono, who is at the tail-end of a pretty average career.
Inoue has become a spectacle to see, packing a punch that does not belong in a 5’4” frame. His camp will be using the event to boost his name overseas and give him the exposure he needs to advance to bigger things in his career. This fight is naught but a stepping stone.
Pick: Naoya Inoue (-1400)
Moises Fuentes (+162) vs Kosei Tanaka (-137), Draw (+2500)
Mexican Moisés Fuentes (24-2, 13 KO) will take on the young and diminutive Kosei Tanaka (7-0, 4 KO) for the vacant WBO junior flyweight title on New Year’s Eve in Gifu.
Fuentes is the former WBO minimumweight and interim WBO light flyweight champion. Though he’s a fairly decorated fighter, he’s gone through his career fighting mostly little-known Mexican fighters and has failed to make a splash outside of his homeland. He’s looking to finally change that on New Year’s Eve.
Tanaka is also a former WBO minimumweight world champion, winning the title in only his fifth professional fight. The 21-year-old fought on New Year’s Eve last year against Vic Saludar, defending his now-vacated WBO mini-flyweight title. He’s a future star in the sport but, at only 5’4”, he is at a four-inch height disadvantage against Fuentes.
Pick: Moises Fuentes (+162)
Jezreel Corrales (+144) vs Takashi Uchiyama (-162), Draw (+2500)
The rematch between Jezreel Corrales (20-1, 8 KO) and Takashi Uchiyama (24-1, 20 KO) for the WBA junior flyweight title will take place on New Year’s Eve in Tokyo. The two faced off for the first time in April of this year, when Corrales stripped Uchiyama of his title, knocking him out in the second round. It was Uchiyama’s first career defeat and the 37-year-old is back to reclaim his title.
But the young Corrales is only getting better. His fight against Uchiyama was his first outside of his home of Panama, and he’s looking forward to international success. There’s great value on the younger champ as the underdog. Uchiyama will obviously have the crowd behind him, but he did last time, too, with the first fight also taking place in Tokyo.
Pick: Jezreel Corrales (+144)
Photo credit: “Junior Moar and Billy Bailey” by Martial Arts Nomad CC BY-SA 2.0 [http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0], via Flickr.