Hiroshige Osawa [36(21)-5(2)-4] is being lined up as Michael Conlan’s [13(7)-0] St Patrick’s Day opponent.
Having progressed his way up the rankings since turning over the last two year and laying the ghost of Rio completely to rest with victory over Vladimir Nikitin in December, it’s operation world title for Conlan now.
It has been suggested that the Belfast featherweight could be just one good win away from a world tilt.
The plan appears to secure a win over the kind of opponent that would cement the World Championship gold medal winner’s world title challenging credentials.
That would mean a big step up and test on Conlan’s annual St Patrick’s Day fight night in New York before a massive Feile hosted world title fight in August.
Names like Iasac Dogboe and recent sparring partner Kiko Martinez have been muted potential step up foes in recent times, but the Irish News and rumour has Osawa in Paddy’s Day pole.
The Japanese is currently #1 in the WBA rankings, a governing body that boasts Leo Santa Cruz as super champion despite the fact he has moved to super feather and has Can Xu as their regular belt holder.
The 34-year-old has worked with Top Rank before when he challenged Oscar Valdez for the WBO world title in late 2016.
The Osaka native has won numerous Asian titles and boasts a solid record with 21 stoppage wins to his name.
He has won six out of seven since his defeat to Valdez and worked his way back up the ladder. The Japanese fighter certainly would represent a step up in experience and quality for Conlan, but it’s the kind of step up he has been calling for.
Conlan is currently ranked #1 with the WBO at 126lbs. The reigning champion is fellow Top Rank fighter and fellow 2016 Olympian Shakur Stevenson. The American looks odds on to fight Josh Warrington in and around May and is rumoured to be considering a move up in weight after that bout.
If that is the case and Stevenson beats the Leeds native a vacant title could be up for grabs in Belfast in August. If Warrington wins that is certainly a world titel fight that could be made.