Boxing fans are in for a rare Thursday threat when Keita Kurihara puts his OPBF Bantamweight title on the line against Takuma Inoue in Tokyo.
Kurihara has successfully defended his championship twice since capturing it in 2018 but is the
10/3 underdog to retain again as he comes up against a man destined for bigger things.
The status of Japanese boxing continues to rise and Inoue is bidding to become the latest man from the land o the rising sun to win world honours.
The 25-year-old made a flying start to his professional career, winning his first 13 fights, three of them inside the distance.
After claiming the interim WBC world bantamweight title, Inoue tried to step up and win his first world title, only to lose in November 2019 to Nordine Oubaali.
That was no disgrace though, and after a long layoff, he is ready to return and prove he still has what it takes at the top level.
2/11, he is the overwhelming favourite to have his hand raised on Thursday when he returns to the famous Korakuen Hall in Tokyo, but Kurihara shouldn’t be underestimated.
Does Kurihara have what it takes to keep Inoue at bay?
Kurihara has moved him closer to world honours after six straight wins. His record shows he carries serious power, with 13 of his 15 wins coming inside the scheduled distance.
Although he will have more than a punchers chance, the five defeats already on his record raise doubts about his quality at the very top level. In his defence, four of them came inside his first ten bouts, but in Inoue, he faces a man that has already faced higher calibre opponents.
Back in 2015, Inoue had the world at his feet and was on course to follow in the footsteps of his famous brother Naoya.
Naoya, a multiple-weight world champion, has laid the platform for his sibling and 2021 could be a huge year for both of them.
After a 434-day absence, Inoue seems happy to work his way back up the domestic ranks. After breaking his hand in 2016, he was forced to do the same thing, but a big performance should put him in the frame for world honours, and even a rematch with Oubaali.
Inoue has world-title pedigree
In 2015 he was named the Prospect of the Year by Ring Magazine, one of the highest accolades a fighter can receive.
Since the creation of that award, only three fighters who were given that title have failed to lift a world belt.
While Kurihara commands respect, Inoue could easily blow him away inside the early rounds after months of preparation with some of the best boxers in Japan.
*All odds correct at time of writing