Even if not the unification bout for which he’d previously hoped, Ken Shiro remains on course for a year-end title defense.

A replacement foe has been secured for the unbeaten junior flyweight titlist, who will now face Philippines’ Randy Petalcorin on Dec. 23 in Yokohama, Japan. The bout was confirmed by event handlers as well as the press office of Japan’s Fuji TV, which will air the title fight tripleheader topped by local hero Ryota Murata (15-2, 12KOs) in a secondary middleweight title defense versus Canada’s Steven Butler (28-1-1, 24KOs).

Shiro’s place on the card was in jeopardy after watching his targeted title unification bout versus Nicaragua’s Felix Alvarado (35-2, 30KOs) fall through the cracks earlier this week. Alvarado was forced to withdraw after failing to fully recover from a previous bout with bronchitis, which affected his training camp to where he was medically advised to withdraw from the bout.

Talks are in place to revisit plans for the title unification fight during the first half of 2020.

Meanwhile, Shiro (16-0, 9KOs) will proceed with the seventh defense of the title he nabbed in a May 2017 points win over Ganigan Lopez. His most recent defense came this past July, scoring a 4th round knockout of Philippines’ Jonathan Taconing on the undercard of countryman Murata’s title-reclaiming knockout win over Rob Brant.

Petalcorin (31-3-1, 23KOs) enters his second career title fight. Interestingly, his previous attempt came versus Alvarado, suffering a 7th round stoppage defeat last October in Pasay City, Philippines. Two wins have followed, both of the confidence-restoring variety as he travels to Japan for the first time in his career.

The balance of the card remains intact, with South Africa’s Moruti Mhtalane (38-2, 25KOs) defending his flyweight title versus former three-division champ and all-action cult favorite Akira Yaegashi (28-6, 16KOs) to round out the tripleheader.

Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox