Report/Photos: David Finger
For Japanese boxing fans, the biggest event of the week will not be taking place at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. Instead, Japanese fight fans will be looking south as WBO mini-flyweight champion Tatsuya Fukuhara (19-4-6, 7 KOs) defends his world title against the #1 ranked contender: countryman Ryuya Yamanaka (14-2, 4 KOs) of Kobe.
Although neither fighter has the flashiest record, this fight has already excited boxing fans as it looks to be the perfect clash of styles with the Gatti-esque Fukuhara looking to pin down the fleet footed boxer in Yamanaka.
Both fighters met again Friday (August 25, 2017) at the Shiroyama Sky Dome in Kumamoto for the final press conference and signing ceremony. And ultimately there was little controversy as both fighters remained respectful during the press conference. Yamanaka’s trainer pointed out that his fighter was in tremendous shape, his team having brought in two fighters from the Philippines and having sparred 160 rounds with them in preparation for this championship fight. But Yamanaka was caution not to promise a knockout.
“Am I promising a knockout? No. I’m not making any knockout pledge.”
Fukuhara was also firm but respectful, although he didn’t rule out the knockout either.
“If during the flow of the fight I see the opportunity for the knockout, I’ll take it. But I’ve prepared for 12 rounds.”
Both fighters also had high praise for their opponents.
“He has a high level of technical skill,” the champion said when asked to assess his opponent.
Yamanaka also gave high marks when asked to evaluate Fukuhara.
“Fukuhara is very tough and has a great heart,” the challenger said. “But he also is a skillful boxer.”
The topic of Fukuhara’s tremendous heart was one that came up several times during the press conference, with the Japanese Boxing Commission representative discussing Fukuhara’s display of heart in his last fight: the all-action brawl against Mexico’s Moises Calleros to win the vacant WBO interim title.
“When he (Fukuhara) got hit in the chin in the second round by Calleros he, through his willpower and heart, wouldn’t go down.” Tsuyoshi Yasukochi, Japan Boxing Commission Executive Secretary, said of the Fukuhara’s title winning effort. “And that made a big impression on everyone. He showed a lot of heart.”
Yasukochi also discussed the interesting contrast in styles between the champion and challenger.
“Yamanaka has a reputation for having great speed. Having this kind of contest between great speed and a tremendous heart should make for an exciting fight.”