Ito to Defend WBO Junior Lightweight Title Against Chuprakov

Masayuki Ito to Defend WBO Junior Lightweight Title Against Evgeny Chuprakov

WBO junior lightweight titleholder Masayuki Ito will defend his belt against undefeated Russian challenger Evgeny Chuprakov this weekend in Tokyo.

Updated: Dec. 28, 2018 • 6:31 PM ET

Tokyo will host this weekend's junior lightweight title fight.

The WBO junior lightweight title will be on the line this Sunday in Tokyo, as newly crowned champion and Tokyo native Masayuki Ito will defend his belt against dangerous and undefeated challenger Evgeny Chuprakov.

Ito (24-1-1, 12 KOs) will enter the fight with eight straight victories and defend the title for the first time after winning it in July by unanimous decision over Christopher Diaz. His lone loss came to Rikki Naito by majority decision in 2015.

The fight against Diaz was a victory on multiple levels for Ito, as it was the first time he traveled and fought outside of Tokyo. Ito traveled to Kissimmee, Florida to win the title, which can only be a confidence booster for the 27-year-old. Ito won the fight by out-working the heavily favored Diaz, even dropping him in the fourth round. The decision ended Ito’s three-fight TKO streak, during which he picked up key victories over Vergil Puton, Glenn Enterina and Lorenzo Villanueva.

Still, Ito will have the roar of the home crowd on his side this Sunday and believes he’s in the best shape of his life.

"Of course," Ito said via ESPN. "Little by little, my confidence is much more than before because of the hard training."

Chuprakov (20-0, 10 KOs), coming off a unanimous decision victory over Ernie Sanchez in July, will fight for his first major title this weekend. Like Ito, the 28-year-old has fought mostly in his native Russia, so he’ll have to overcome the pressure of fighting in hostile territory if he wants to win his first major title.

Chuprakov has key victories over Eden Sonsona, Jeremiah Nakathila, Sebastian Tlatlik and former IBF champion Dmitry Kirillov. He has gone 10 or more rounds in four of his last six fights, so taking the fight into the later rounds could be his game plan on Sunday. Chuprakov, often called “Happy Gilmore”, has proven that he’s more than comfortable trying to grind out victories against his opponents.

Fans in Ota City General Gymnasium won’t be disappointed on Sunday, as the card will also feature two other title fights. Ken Shiro will defend his WBC junior flyweight title against Saul “Baby” Jaurez and Takuma Inoue will battle undefeated Petch Sor Chitpattana for the vacant WBC interim bantamweight title.

Shiro (14-0, 8 KOs) made his professional debut four years ago after putting together a 58-16 amateur record. He’ll defend his title in his native Japan for the fifth time since winning the belt over Ganigan Lopez in May 2017. The 26-year-old last defeated Milan Melindo by seventh-round TKO in October and has finished three straight fights. Shiro, though, has only fought professionally in Japan, picking up key victories over Lopez (twice), Melindo, Gilberto Pedroza and Pedro Guevara.

Jaurez is 1-4-1 in his last six fights and coming off a draw against Mario Andrade in July. He TKO’d Gilberto Parra in the ninth round in March, putting an end to a four-fight losing skid that all came by decision. The 28-year-old Mexican (24-8-2, 13 KOs) hasn’t been finished since his corner called a stop to his fight against Martin Tecuapetla in 2011, and he’ll fight for his first major title on Sunday.

For the vacant WBC interim bantamweight title, Inoue (12-0, 3 KOs) will once again fight on his home turf in Japan, where all 12 of his fights have occurred. He’s coming off a unanimous decision victory over Mark John Yap in September, and the 23-year-old is looking to earn his first major title this weekend.

Chitpattana, otherwise known as Tasana Salapat and Petch CP Freshmart, has put together an incredible record at just 25 years old. He’s 48-0 with 33 knockouts and like Inoue, Chitpattana is looking for his first major title. The Thai fighter last defeated Chatri Charoensin by first-round TKO in September, but Sunday’s fight will represent the biggest test of his career and a definite step up in competition. Chitpattana’s last six opponents had a combined 56-82 record, and the two fights prior were against fighters making their professional debut.


• The fights can be seen on ESPN+ at 5 a.m. this Sunday.

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