The New Year’s Eve holidays traditionally involve major fighting events as part of the festivities, and this year’s holiday season is filled with boxing in the Land of the Rising Sun. Friday, December 30th sees the Ariake Colosseum host undefeated WBO world super flyweight champion Naoya Inoue (11-0) as he defends his title against veteran Kohei Kono (32-9-1). Inoue is the 23 year old darling of Japanese boxing, and the young star has already captured world titles in two different weight classes. Here, Inoue is facing a 36 year old warhorse in Kono. Kono was thought to be nearing the end of his career when he went to the United States to fight Koki Kameda (33-1) and he came home with the WBA world title. Kameda was a heavy favorite entering that match, but Kameda and his family had moved to the United States and Kono’s unlikely win catapulted him to a kind of “cult hero” status in Japan. Kono successfully defended his world title once before losing it to rugged Luis Concepcion. Concepcion is short and Inoue is taller but both hit hard, and Kono unfortunately does not. Kono had trouble keeping Concepcion off of him, and the young Inoue is a fighter with an aggressive bullying style. The most likely results here are that Kono will be going out on his shield and talk will begin around whether Inoue will step up and fight some of the other top guns in the super flyweight division, including the likes of Carlos cuadras and Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez. Earlier this week Inoue was about a -1600 favorite, but as of early the 28th that has increased to -2000, so very few are giving Kono a chance at slaying the dragon. Kono is returning at +1250 from the underdog spot. A second world title fight is on the card as IBF world light flyweight champion Akira Yaegashi (24-5) defends his title against Thai veteran Wittawas Basepean (31-5). Yaegashi is a hard working veteran who has bounced back from a 2014 that saw him go 0-2 in world title fights. Since then, he is 4-0 and he broke through and won the IBF belt on December 29th of last year. He defended the belt against Martin Tecuapetla of Mexico in May, so this match marks his second world title defense. He is a -990 favorite over Basapean, who is returning at +530. In an interesting twist, Inoue won his first world title at light flyweight, and in September of 2014, he fought and beat Basapean via 11th round stoppage in what was the Thai fighters’ first world title bid. Basapean has gone an impressive 14-0 since, fighting 6 times in 2015 and this will be his ninth fight of 2016. At 32 years old and at 5’1, he is pretty evenly matched with the 5’3, 33 year old Yaegashi. Neither is a big puncher as both have less than fifty percent KO rates across their careers.
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