Kal Yafai to make mandatory defense against Sho Ishida

Junior bantamweight world titleholder Kal Yafai will make his mandatory defense against Sho Ishida on the undercard of unified heavyweight titleholder Anthony Joshua's defense against Kubrat Pulev on Oct. 28, at Principality Stadium, in Cardiff, Wales, Matchroom Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn announced on Wednesday.

England's Yafai impressively won a vacant belt by lopsided unanimous decision against Panama's Luis Concepcion, who had been stripped of the 115-pound title the day before for failing to make weight in December. Yafai followed with another one-sided decision win in his first defense against Japan's Suguru Muranaka on May 13.

Now Yafai (22-0, 14 KOs), 28, will make title defense No. 2 against Ishida (24-0, 13 KOs), 25, who is the reigning Japanese champion.

"It should be a great fight," Yafai said. "We're both undefeated, and it looks an interesting one, but it's a fight I'm 100 percent fully expecting to win and win in style. We started camp about four weeks ago, but I've been ticking over before that. We've been building up slowly, but now we're stepping up the intensity.

"I've found some good videos of him, and I've watched a couple of his fights already, but over the next eight weeks, I'll be studying them in more detail with my team."

Yafai, the first fighter from Birmingham, England, to win a world title in 110 years, will face a four-inch height disadvantage against the 5-foot-8 Ishida, though Ishida has never faced a top opponent and will be boxing in his first scheduled 12-round fight.

"He looks pretty tall. I think that's his biggest attribute going for him," Yafai said. "He's busy with his jab, and he seems comfortable on the back foot. We'll see on Oct. 28 if he does anything else, but if he plans on using just his height and jab, it won't be enough to beat someone like me.

"It will be the biggest crowd he's boxed in front of, [he will be fighting] outside of Japan for the first time and in his first 12-rounder, as well. But traveling away affects fighters in different ways. Just look at my last opponent. It was his first time outside of Japan, and he loved it. He didn't stop smiling."

A crowd of some 75,000 is expected for the fight, as Joshua, coming off his epic 11th-round knockout of former longtime world champion Wladimir Klitschko on April 29, is one of the United Kingdom's biggest sports stars. The April fight drew a sold-out crowd of 90,000 to Wembley Stadium in London.

Yafai aims to retain the title and improve on his last performance in front of a big crowd.

"The win over Muranaka was good at times. There were things in the fight I didn't do too well, which we've been working on," Yafai said. "But that aside, we got the rounds in at a very high pace. The guy was tough; he took everything and fired back himself."

With a win, Yafai said he would like to unify world titles, and he'll be paying attention to the tripleheader in his weight class that takes place on Saturday night at StubHub Center in Carson, California. On that card, titleholder Srisaket Sor Rungvisai faces former champion Roman Gonzalez in a rematch, Naoya Inoue defends his version of the title against Antonio Nieves and former titleholder Carlos Cuadras and former unified flyweight titleholder Juan Estrada meet in a title elimination fight.

"I'm looking to box off my mandatory and then get in that mix," Yafai said. "If we can bring one of those guys over to the U.K., it would be great. I'm sure they see how boxing is booming over here. It's a thriving division. I've got Gonzalez winning on points. I thought he nicked the first fight by a round or two, but I think it'll be quite convincing this time. Inoue will win inside six rounds against Nieves. I don't think that's much of a test for him, in all honesty. The Estrada vs. Cuadras fight is very interesting. I think Estrada might just edge that."

Said Hearn: "Ishida is highly rated and looking to follow his countryman Inoue to the world title. It's an incredible time for the division, and these little men are becoming real stars of the sport. A win in Cardiff for Kal, and it's unification time in 2018."