By Jake Donovan
Takashi Miura is set to make the fourth defense of his junior lightweighe belt, while Billy Dib guns for the upset on the road and his second title reign in as many weight classes. In chief support, former two-division champ Akira Yaegashi climbs up the scales after an ill-advised move in the opposite direction nearly ended his days as a relevant fighter at the title level.
It's clear that the May 1 bill in Tokyo is loaded with plenty of recognizable names—including 2012 Olympic Gold medalist and aspiring middleweight prospect Ryota Murata. All fighters made weight for the show, with its principle attractions airing live on Fuji TV in Japan.
Miura and Dib both came in at the divisional limit of 130 lbs. for their main event battle.
Yaegashi and his overmatched opponent, Thailand's Songsaenglek Phosuwangym both checked in at 115 lbs. for their scheduled eight-round co-feature.
Miura (28-2-2, 21KOs) is riding an eight-fight win streak heading into the bout, with his last loss coming versus countryman and de facto junior lightweight king Takashi Uchiyama in Jan. '11, his first bid at a major title.
His two-year reign (and counting) extends to his title winning effort over Gamaliel Diaz in Apr. '13. Each of his past four fights have come versus opposition from Mexico, including a trip overseas for his first title defense versus Sergio 'Yeyo' Thompson in Aug. '13.
The showdown with Dib marks his first title fight among his current reign against a fighter not of Mexican descent, as his previous streak has prompted boxing observers to dub him as the "Mexican killer" of the 130 lb. division.
(39-3, 23KOs) has managed three consecutive wins following confirmation that he was done in the featherweight division. The 29-year old from Australia rose to prominence during his early years as a prospect to watch, though losing some of the luster after a dull performance in a losing effort versus Steven Luevano in Oct. '08.
Included among an 18-fight unbeaten streak that followed was his vacant title winning effort over streaking Jorge Lacierva in July '11. Two successful defenses followed before running into unbeaten Evgeny Gradovich in March '13, dropping a competitive decision in a title losing effort. Their rematch was far more damaging, as Dib was battered into submission in the 9th round of a one-sided rout in their Nov. '13 clash in Macau.
The bout was his last in the featherweight division, having won three in a row since moving up in weight.
Yaegashi (20-5, 10KOs) attempted to beat countryman and rival Kazuto Ioka in a race to become just the second fighter ever from Japan to win major titles in three weight classes. Ioka's first bid at such honors resulted in a 12-round loss to the excellent Amnat Ruenroeng last May, giving Yaegashi a fighting chance to claim such honors.
However, an ill-advised move down in weight following a knockout loss to Róman Gonzalez last September resulted in his second consecutive loss. Efforts to win a vacant belt at 108 lbs. were thwarted when Mexico's Pedro Guevara turned an even fight into the biggest win of his career, stopping Yaegashi in the 7th round of their pre-New Year's Eve bash in Japan.
Ioka has since obtained a flyweight belt, outpointing Juan Carlos Reveco earlier in April for his third major title. The once-beaten boxer has previously reigned at strawweight and junior flyweight, with his title win over Juan Carlos Reveco allowing him to join Koki Kameda as Japan's only triple-division champions.
Time isn't necessarily on Yaegashi's side to become the third, although the fearless slugger appeared to sufficiently fill the uniform in the 115 lb. division. The goal with a win—never a sure thing, but a relative safe bet versus Phosuwangym whose 1-11 record includes 6 losses coming by knockout, all within four rounds or less—is a run at either unbeaten Carlos Cuadras or countryman Kohei Kono, both of whom currently possess junior bantamweight titles.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox