Mexican veteran Gamaliel Diaz will arrive at Tokyo International Forum this evening for his first title shot since 2009 when the 31 year old takes on WBC super feather champion Takahiro Ao.
Diaz, 36-9-2 (17), comes into the bout on the strength of 13 consecutive wins, eight of which where WBC Cabofe title defenses, and hasn't lost since failing to defeat Zolani Marali for the vacant IBO strap in 2009.
The man from Nezahualcoyotl is best known from his split decision upset of current WBC Interim welterweight titlist Robert Guerrero when the two clashed for the NABF featherweight belt in 2005.
Guerrero avenged the defeat six months later with a KO but Diaz got right back on the horse to post another split decision victory, this time over future WBC feather champion Elio Rojas during a WBC title eliminator.
Diaz was unable to leverage his title opportunity into green belt gold as he was KO'd by champ Jorge Linares in eight rounds in 2007.
Defeats to Humberto Soto for the Interim WBC super feather crown in 2008 and Marali for the IBO in 2009 seemed to seal off Diaz's world title hopes, initiating three years of domestic fights, until now.
Across the ring in Tokyo tonight, Diaz will be looking squarely at 28 year old local icon, Takahiro Ao, 23-2-1 (10), a former WBC featherweight belt holder who successfully made the transition to 130 pounds in 2010.
That was when Ao, a southpaw originally from Ichihara, tore the WBC super feather bauble from reigning titlist Vitali Tajbert by 12 round decision.
Ao continued his reign in 2011, belting out Mexico's former WBC Interim super feather boss Humberto Mauro Gutierrez in four prior to going wall to wall with previously undefeated Italian Devis Boschiero, the current European champion, who was only defeated by split decision.
Thai southpaw Terdsak Kokietgym was the most recent challenger to come to Japan, failing in April to unseat Ao, who prevailed by unanimous decision.
Diaz will be Ao's most experienced opponent to date and the seasoned campaigner represents a credible threat to the Tokyo man's two year title reign.
Also, both of Ao's losses have come at the hands of Mexican fighters, Oscar Larios and Elio Rojas in WBC feather title bouts, and it can be expected that Diaz will be putting all the pressure and left hooks to the body that he can muster.
That might not be enough, however, to negate Ao's advantage in speed and boxing ability, particularly as the champion will be performing in front of a heavily partisan hometown crowd.
Another Mexican fighter is on the undercard, as David De La Mora, 24-2 (17), coming off a failed bid to knock off Super WBA bantam king Anselmo Moreno, takes on Japanese bantam champ Ryosuke Iwasa, 12-1 (9).
De La Mora is no stranger to the Land of the Rising Sun as he visited Tokyo last year to push WBA bantam titlist Koki Kameda hard, only to lose by close unanimous decision.
Southpaw Isawa will have a colossal height and reach advantage but will be taking a very big risk in stepping up to fight De La Mora.