As is tradition in Japan, the year will end with a flurry of title fights. Three of their most promising, undefeated world champions will be laying their titles on the line this weekend. All three fights are heavily skewed in favor of the hometown fighters, which is to be expected. After all, the new year is a time for celebration.
But as any boxing fan knows, things don’t always go as expected. While an upset would dampen the festivities, it could also benefit some savvy bettors. Bet365 has placed the challengers at long odds, so let’s see if there are some underdogs worth picking.
Naoya Inoue (-10000) vs Yoan Boyeaux (+1600)
Date: December 30th
Location: Yokohama, Japan
Naoya Inoue (14-0, 12 KOs) is undoubtedly the hottest prospect fighting out of Japan right now and is quickly becoming the posterboy of the lighter weight classes. The 24-year-old prodigy, aptly nicknamed The Monster, packs some unbelievable power for someone standing just 5’4”.
The junior-bantamweight division is bustling with talent at the moment, and fight fans are eager to see how Inoue holds up against the likes of Rungvisai, Juan Francisco Estrada, and Chocolatito. We’ll have to wait a little longer, though. His next opponent will be Yoan Boyeaux (41-4, 26 KOs), an average fighter with considerable speed and power.
Many see this as a chance for Inoue to showcase his own speed and power against a lesser opponent, and believe this fight is nothing more than an exhibition, a forum for Inoue to put his full regalia of skills on display. That’s a little unfair to Boyeaux. While the 29-year-old Frenchman hasn’t fought anyone of Inoue’s calibre, he is still the bigger and more experienced fighter. Let’s not forget that Inoue hasn’t really been tested yet. He’s defended his WBO title six times, but has yet to face a noteworthy opponent.
No fighter should be placed at -10000 odds, especially a young, relatively unproven fighter. With a line this skewed, there’s absolutely no value in picking Inoue. Don’t bet the farm, but take a chance on Yoan Boyeaux.
Pick: Yoan Boyeaux (+1600)
Ken Shiro (-1600) vs Gilberto Pedroza (+700)
Date: December 30th
Location: Yokohama, Japan
After two grueling fights in 2017, Ken Shiro (11-0, 5 KOs) ends the year with a second title-defense against the little-known Gilberto Pedroza (18-3, 8 KOs). Shiro claimed the WBC light flyweight title from Ganigan López with a majority-decision ruling and successfully defended the belt against Pedro Guevara with another majority-decision victory.
Defeating two top-ranked light flyweights within the span of a year, albeit very narrowly, is an enormous achievement for the 25-year-old. He now faces a relatively easy challenge in Pedroza, a Panamanian fighter who has only fought outside of his home nation twice.
This is a fight that will likely be decided by the judges. Shiro is an extremely cautious counter-puncher, and Pedroza stands just 5”0’ and packs very little power. Shiro is by far the more polished and technically adept boxer. Especially in front of a Japanese crowd, it’s hard to imagine him losing to Gilberto Pedroza.
Pick: Ken Shiro (-1600)
Hiroto Kyoguchi (-800) vs Carlos Buitrago (+450)
Date: December 31st
Location: Tokyo, Japan
On New Year’s Eve, Hiroto Kyoguchi (8-0, 6 KOs) defends his IBF minimum-weight title against Carlos Buitrago (30-2-1, 17 KOs) in Tokyo.
Kyoguchi is a promising but incomplete fighter. He packs knockout power, a rare trait in the minimum-weight division, but can also be quite sloppy at times. During his title fight against Jose Argumedo earlier this year, he managed to knock down the champ but also needlessly dropped quite a few rounds. At just 24 years old, he still has a lot to learn.
Buitrago isn’t much older at the age of 26, but he’s a far more experienced fighter. With 34 fights to his name, he’s already a veteran in the minimum-weight division. Both of his losses came at the hands of Knockout CP Freshmart (who’s sponsored by a Thai convenience store chain), both times for the WBA interim minimum-weight title. He narrowly missed out on the WBO title back in 2013, drawing against Merlito Sabillo.
Hiroto Kyoguchi may have a promising future ahead of him, but he still has a long way to go before we can consider him an elite-level fighter. Buitrago has already proven himself against some of the best in the division and could shock the Japanese crowd as they prepare to welcome in the New Year.
Pick: Carlos Buitrago (+450)