Early tomorrow morning by U.S. time, two major titles will be contested in Tokyo, and Bad Left Hook will do our best to bring you live, round-by-round coverage starting at 6am eastern.
WBA Junior Lightweight Title: Juan Carlos Salgado v. Takashi Uchiyama
Salgado (21-0-1, 15 KO) won the title with his stunning first round stoppage of the much-hyped Jorge Linares in October. Linares was a huge favorite and that fight, but Salgado put it on him fast and finished him in just 73 seconds.
It was a world stage arrival for the 25-year-old Salgado, a fighter I'd only seen once before. That was back in 2006, when he fought veteran Marcos Licona as a swing fight on the Pacquiao-Morales III pay-per-view. Salgado won a six-round decision that evening, and didn't appear particularly impressive, either.
He then fought just once in 2007, beating another veteran, Ivan Valle. He missed all of 2008, and came back in 2009 with two more climb-the-ladder wins before getting a shot against Linares in Japan. To say the least, he made the most of it.
Now, he's the defending titlist. Uchiyama (13-0, 10 KO) is 30 years old and has a fairly spotty record, though he has won the lightly-regarded OPBF title at 130 pounds and defended it five times since 2008. He won the Japanese amateur championship four times and fought at the world championships in Bangkok, where he won a couple of bouts.
Graham Houston's preview gives an impression of Uchiyama, and Graham is probably the best previewer in the game:
From what I’ve seen of Uchiyama he looks to be a somewhat slow but strong and steady fighter, what I would call a deliberate puncher — he doesn’t have a great deal of hand speed but he looks to place his punches hard, and he goes to the body well, especially with the right hand.
There wasn't a whole lot to learn about Salgado from the Linares fight, other than the fact that he has a punch. Will his speed be good enough? Does he have the discipline to beat a guy like Uchiyama, who has a lot of amateur experience and will also have home field advantage?
Don't expect Salgado to put this guy away in one, but then that probably goes without saying. From the very limited YouTube footage I've seen of Uchiyama, I'd say he's more than "somewhat" slow, and that Salgado will have a pretty good speed advantage. Combined with his power, I think that gives him the edge. I'm hazarding a guess more than anything here, but I'm going with the titleholder to retain. Both fighters have been a full 12 rounds just once, and stamina could become a visible factor. Uchiyama's amateur pedigree would give the early feeling he should be fine. Salgado I'm not so sure about, but I've got this one going the distance. Salgado UD-12
WBA Junior Featherweight Title: Poonsawat Kratingdaenggym v. Satoshi Hosono
Poonsawat won this title in a three-round battle against the brave Bernard Dunne back in September, an exciting if short fight that saw Dunne's iffy chin become his downfall.
Most striking about that fight was just how short the Thai titleholder is. He's listed at 5'4 1/2", but that might be an exaggeration. If it's not, and if Hosono's listed 5'7" is right, he'll again be the much shorter man in the ring. But their reaches are listed as just one inch apart (Hosono at 65 1/2").
I have seen Hosono, nicknamed "Bazooka," just once, his January 2009 win over Masaki Sawanaga (TKO-4). Hosono (16-0, 12 KO) is 26 years old, an orthodox fighter, and has some real power. If his chin and form hold up, he'll be a much tougher fight for Poonsawat than was the reckless Dunne.
Poonsawat (39-1, 28 KO) is in much the same boat that Salgado is. He's the foreigner, defending his title in Tokyo against an unbeaten, somewhat unproven Japanese fighter. And his last fight made him a minor hot topic among boxing's diehards. His active style, taking the fight right to Dunne, made him look quite exciting. It was also easily the best win of his career, as like almost all the top Thai fighters, his record is built up heavily on tomato cans and scrubs. But at 29, he's in the prime of his career, and he looked like a tough cookie against Dunne for sure. It's a promising fight on paper.
Like the Salgado-Uchiyama bout, I'm more hazarding a guess here than anything, but I think I like Poonsawat in a potential war. I don't see this one going the distance, but I think this could be the sleeper fight of the month. Poonsawat TKO-9
Again, we're going to do our best to have live coverage at 6am eastern. It's no guarantee at all, but we'll try. If you're an extreme night owl, somewhere where my 6am isn't a ridiculous hour for you, or just bored, we hope to see you then.
And tonight at 3am eastern in Australia, there's another notable fight.
Middleweights: Anthony Mundine v. Robert Medley
Mundine had designs on making 154 pounds for this fight, but couldn't, and blamed it on a beef with the IBO. The former super middleweight titlist will now face former welterweight title challenger Medley (who twice fought Isaac Hlatshwayo) at 160 pounds for some useless regional trinket. Medley isn't a bad fighter, but if Mundine is in shape, he's going to be too much for Medley. Mundine might be annoying, but he's not a bad fighter at all. This shouldn't be much of a challenge for the Aussie star. Mundine UD-12