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Japanese fighter Nishioka looking to extend his popularity to the U.S.

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Steve Marcus

WBC super bantamweight champion Toshiaki Nishioka of Japan attends a news conference at the MGM Grand Thursday, September 29, 2011. Nishioka will defend his title against former champion Rafael Marquez of Mexico at the MGM’s Marquee Ballroom Saturday.

Nishioka vs Marquez weigh-in

Former champion Rafael Marquez, left, of Mexico and WBC super bantamweight champion Toshiaki Nishioka of Japan face off during an official weigh-in at the MGM Grand Friday, September 30, 2011. Nishioka will defend his title against Marquez at the MGM's Marquee Ballroom Saturday. Launch slideshow »

Nishioka at Top Rank Gym

WBC super bantamweight champion Toshiaki Nishioka of Japan is shown during an interview at Top Rank Gym Wednesday, September 28, 2011. Nishioka will defend his title against former champion Rafael Marquez of Mexico at the MGM Grand's Marquee Ballroom Saturday. Launch slideshow »

Nishioka vs Marquez News Conference

WBC super bantamweight champion Toshiaki Nishioka, left, of Japan and former champion Rafael Marquez of Mexico pose during a news conference at the MGM Grand Thursday, September 29, 2011. Nishioka will defend his title against Marquez at the MGM's Marquee Ballroom Saturday. Launch slideshow »

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Those in boxing circles have long heard stories about the successes of Japanese fighter Toshiaki Nishioka.

The WBC super bantamweight champion is widely considered his country’s top boxer and proudly takes on the responsibility of being the face of Japanese boxing to the rest of the world. Come Saturday night, Las Vegas will get a look at Nishioka.

Nishioka, who has six times successfully defended his title, will take on former champion Rafael Marquez of Mexico inside the Marquee Ballroom at the MGM Grand.

“For us in America, we hear about guys that are in different countries that are just explosive, dynamic,” said Todd du Boef, President of Top Rank, which is promoting the fight. “They have power. They can fight. We don’t necessarily get to see it all the time, but Saturday night, we’ll get to see it.”

The 16-year veteran Nishioka (38-4, 24 KOs) has won his last 15 matches dating back to 2004, including the signature victory of his career in 2009 against Jhnonny Gonzalez in a mandatory defense of his title.

Fighting Gonzalez in his native Mexico and with a crowd of 12,000 seemingly all rooting against Nishioka, he appeared in danger after being knocked down just 30 seconds into the fight. But in the third round, Nishioka landed a straight left hand that surprised Gonzalez and sent him to the canvas.

The fight was called and Nishioka survived without losing his belt in a pure display of punching power. Nishioka, who is humble when discussing his career and fighting style, showed that night in Mexico he belongs mentioned among elite fighters. It was that impressive of a punch.

“If you want to put it in one word, I have enough power to put him out in one punch,” Nishioka said through a translator Thursday during a press conference at the MGM.

Nishioka knows his success fighting the United States could help provide better opportunities for other Japanese fighters. There are two other Japanese boxers on Saturday’s seven-fight card.

“I hold this as an important fight. I want to put on a good performance for the future boxers out of Japan the come to the United States,” he said.

Akihiko Honda, Nishioka’s manager with Teiken Promotions, calls Nishioka the most popular fighter in Japan. And it has to do with more than his performances in the ring.

“He doesn’t like to talk big,” Honda said. “He respects his opponent and the (sport). But he still has confidence.”

Nishioka is 9-0 all-time against fighters from Mexico. But the two-time world champion Marquez (40-6, 36 KOs) might be the most accomplished boxer from his country to fight Nishioka.

Additionally, two Las Vegas fighters are on the undercard.

Prospect Jesse Magdaleno, 19, is undefeated in five career fights and will take on Isaac Hidalgo (8-7) of Tucson, Ariz., in a six-round super bantamweight bout. Also, Las Vegas’ Anthony Lenk (12-1, 6 KOs) will challenge Winston Mathis (7-4) in a six-round super lightweight fight.

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