This coming Saturday fight fans in Mexico will get the chance to see WBC female Light Flyweight champion Yesenia Gomez (14-5-3-1, 6) defending her title against Japanese challenger Erika Hanawa (10-3, 4). For Gomez this will be her first defense, following her title win last September, whilst Hanawa will be competing in her second world title fight, following a loss to Kayoko Ebata in a WBO female Minimumweight title bout back in May 2017.
Gomez won the belt last year, at the age of 22, by defeating veteran Esmeralda Moreno in what was the second bout between the two ladies who had fought to a draw the previous May. The win was Gomez's first victory in over 2 years, though she had actually gone 0-1-3-1 in her previous 5 bouts fighting two a draw not only with Moreno but also two draws with Jacky Calvo and a no contest with Lourdes Juarez.
Early in her career Gomez struggled to get her career going, losing 2 of her first 3, to go to and 4 of her first 10. Since that 6-4 start she has gone 8-1-3-1 and really developed into a solid fighter. She has learned to use what she has to build her career and gain her success. Notably that success is built on her speed, her jab, her movement and her work rate. She's a smart fighter, who boxes well off the back foot and although she lacks power she is accurate and lands clean shots. They aren't damaging shots, but they are typically clean and consistent.
The 28 year old Hanawa has been a fighter who typically fallen short in her biggest bouts, but did show what she can do last time out, when he stopped Jujeath Nagaowa to claim the OPBF female Minimumweight title. Going into that bout Hanawa had started that she was fighting for her career, and it showed in her performance and her emotion after Nagaowa retired in the corner after 4 rounds. For, arguably, the first time Hanawa put it all together and did what she needed to win a big one. Prior to this she had come up short in bouts for the OPBF, WBO Asia Pacific and WBO world titles. Those losses came to good fighters, with Kayoko Ebata in the WBO world title fight, Saemi Hanagata in the OPBF title fight and Shione Oagata in the WBO Asia Pacific title fight, but still came every time she stepped up in class.
Interestingly whilst Hanawa is known for losing big fights, she is actually 3-0 in fighters outside of Japan, and with this bout taking place in Mexico that may be a good sign. She may well believe the judges will be against her if it's close, and will instead have to set the pace, and fight with a high work rate. It's unclear if she can do that for 10 rounds, but that will surely be in her mind when the bell goes to begin the fight.
Whilst Gomez has struggled to get over the line in recent fights we see her taking the win here, with the title boosting her confidence and helping her to put on a complete performance. Hanawa won't travel to lose, in fact she'll be there hungrier than ever and full of confidence on the back of her win over Nagaowa, but we expect her to come up short and lose a clear, yet hard fought, decision here.
December 1st is set to be a hectic day for fight fans in Japan with 7 different title bouts taking place across 3 shows and 2 venues. Those 7 title bouts include a female world title bout, as WBO female Minimumweight champion Kayoko Ebata (12-7, 6) defends her title against former WBA champion Etsuko Tada (17-3-2, 5) at the EDION Arena Osaka. The bout pits two real veterans against each other in what could out to be a real thriller for fans at the venue.
The champion, who is 42, is one of the oldest female fighters in Japan and is also a fighter with one of the most remarkable careers. Ebata debuted at the advanced age of 31 and would fight for a world title in her second professional bout, losing a razor thin decision in Camboia against Samson Tor Buamas for the WBC female Light Flyweight title. Despite the loss it was clear she was an excellent fighter, and she was good enough to get 3 more title fights in his following 5 bouts, though sadly lost all 3 of those bouts, including a WBA female Super Flyweight title bout to Tenkai Tsunami. Despite being a fantastic fight she found herself quickly falling to 3-4 (2). She then managed to rack up wins at the lower level, but came up short in 3 world title fights, losing to Nancy Franco in 2013 and Kumiko Seeser Ikehara in 2015 and 2016. With a record of 0-5 in world title fights she was essentially given one final chance in 2017, against Erika Hanawa for the vacant WBO female Minimumweight title, and she took that opportunity by defeating the then 7-0 Hanawa for the belt. A belt she has defended once, narrowly, since winning. It's fair to say that if Ebata loses the belt her career is likely over, though she has accomplished a dream of being a world champion.
At 37 years old the challenger also can't really afford a loss, though Tada has had a distinguished career. She would win the WBA female Minimumweight title in her 5th bout, defeating ChoRong Son for the belt in 2009. She would make 9 defenses of the title before losing it to Anabel Ortiz in 2013. Prior to losing the belt she had twice fought in unification bouts, drawing both, and had notched up notable wins over the likes of IBeth Zamora Silva, Maria Salinas, Naoko Shibata and Yuko Kuroki. Following he loss to Ortiz we saw Tada become a 2-time champion, as she beat Kareli Lopez for the IBF title in 2015, though lose in her first defense in 2017 to Cai Zong Ju. Her only bout since that loss was a WBO Asia Pacific title win against Naoko Shibata, in November 2017. Sadly in her most recent bouts she has lacked the tenacity, hunger and fire that she once had. She's still a hungry fighter, but one that fights like a tamer version of her once fearsome self.
At their best these two were great fighters, but now they are shadows of their former selves. Neither is bad by any stretch, but they aren't what they once were. Here we favour the challenger. She's younger, looked better last time out and despite not fighting in over a year is likely to be the sharper fighter. Ebata struggled to retain her title in her first defense, and we can't see her getting much luck against Tada, especially given that Tada is the fighter managed by the promoter of the show.
We suspect Tada will take the decision, and we expect a real action bout. It's just a shame these two didn't fight earlier in their career's.
On November 20th fight fans in Tokyo get a very interesting female clash, as form world champions Ayaka Miyao (22-7-1, 6) and Nao Ikeyama (18-4-3, 5) battle for the WBA "Interim" Atomweight title. This will be the third bout between the two women, and one of the very few "interim" world title fights the JBC will actually allow to be held on their soil. In fact the bout was put together at late notice after Miyao's original opponent, Monseratt Alcarron (11-4-2) was injured in the build up. Whilst it's a shame Alcarron suffered an injury we have, in many ways, actually had an upgrade given the fact that Miyao and Ikeyama has some unfinished business.
These two fought first fought in 2006, with Ikeyama stopping a novice Miyao, and then fought in 2016, when Ikeyama was the WBO Atomweight champion and Miyao was challenging her. Sadly Miyao would suffer a genuinely gruesome knee injury, that she tried to fight on with before the bout was stopped and she was stretchered out of the ring in agony. For Miyao this bout gives her a chance to avenge that loss, show what she can do when she's not injured. For Ikeyama this is a chance to prove she's the better fighter, and become a 2-time world champion at the age of 49! Interestingly Ikeyama did suggest she would be retiring, though this bout has certainly dragged her back into action, and we can't blame her given the stakes and the back story.
Miyao is a former WBA Atomweight champion, who had a notable reign from 2012, when she beat Mari Ando for the title, to 2015 when she lost in WBA/WBC unification bout with Momo Koseki. During that reign she would make 6 successful defenses and beat the likes of Masae Akitaya, Mari Ando, Gretchen Abaniel and Satomi Nishimura. Sadly the loss to Koseki seemed to slow her career before suffering the nasty injury against Ikeyama as she attempted to become a 2-weight champion.
At her best Miyao is a fleet footed swarmer. She's never really shown much in terms of power, but has worn opponents down through sheer determinedness and she does have under-rated skills with a fantastic work rate. It also needs noting that the stoppage loss to Ikeyama in 2016 is the only time Miyao has been stopped in the last 10 years, and is one of only 3 stoppage losses on her record.
Ikeyama made her debut in 2003, and came up short in the first world title bout of her career, fighting to a draw in a WBC Minimumweight title fight in 2015. She would come up short again in 2009 when she lost to Momo Koseki in a WBA Atomweight title fight. After a mixed 2010, in which she scored two domestic wins but lost on the road in Korea, she seemed to walk away from the sport. That was until returning 3 years later, at the age of 44. She then began the best run of her career, claiming the WBO Atomweight title in just the second bout of her comeback. Ikeyama would go on to record several defenses of the title, retaining the title against the likes of Masae Akitaya, Jujeath Nagaowa, Saemi Hanagata and Ayaka Miyao, before losing a split decision earlier this year to Mika Iwakawa. That was supposed to end her career, but she's seemingly back for one more fight here.
Despite her age Ikeyama is a hard working and quick fighter. She's got an amazing engine for someone in her 40's, but we do wonder what her body has left given how long and hard her career has been. She's kept herself in great shape, but there's only so long anyone can fight off father time.
We're expecting to see revenge here for Miyao, who we think will pull off the upset win and become a 2-time champion. This is likely to be an action packed and highly skilled brawl, but one where we have to favour the younger woman to just have too much in her, and too much drive to avenge her two losses to the older fighter.
The Japanese scene has been full of ambitious former amateur standouts, especially in recent years with the likes of Naoya Inoue and Kosei Tanaka. Another ambitious fighter is former female amateur standout Chaoz Minowa (6-1, 5), who stated that she wanted to win world titles in a ridiculous 9 weight classes. That ambition was seen earlier this year when she faced Tenkai Tsunami for the WBO female Light Flyweight title, and despite coming up short few can doubt her desire to leave a mark on the sport.
We'll see Minowa get her second shot at a world title on November 17th when she challenges Mexican fighter Ibeth Zamora Silva (29-6, 12), the current WBC Female Flyweight champion. For Silva the bout will be her first defense of the title, that she won earlier this year, whilst Minowa will be getting he second shot to become a world champion.
The challenger was a top amateur, with notable international experience, who turned professional in 2016 with a fair bit of fanfare having inked a deal with Watanabe Gym. Her career started promisingly, and after just 3 fights she had claimed her first title, the OPBF female Flyweight title, and fought on foreign soil, stopping Chan Mi Lim in Korea. Sadly though there was flaws in what she was doing, and those flaws were exposed when she faced the tough and highly experienced Tsunami back in March. Tsunami basically let Minowa punch herself out, whilst tagging her with sharp, accurate shots and breaking her down.
In the ring Minowa is very much a fighter, not a boxer. She can box, and is well schooled due to her long amateur career, but is someone who seems to be taken over by emotion and looks to make every bout into a war. She sets off at a high tempo and looks to use her power, aggression and physicality to beat opponents down. Against lower level opponents that's fine, but against better fighters that's an issue for her, with those better fighters about to defend themselves better, counter better and pick holes in her leaky defense.
As mentioned earlier this will be Zamora's first defense, though she has long been a world class fighter. She really made a name for herself fighting at Light Flyweight, winning the WBC title in 2013 when she defeated Naoko Shibata in Tokyo. She would make 8 defenses of that title, beating the likes of Ava Knight, JEssica Chavez, Esmeralda Morema and Mari Ando before losing the title in early 2017, losing to the aforementioned Moreno. She then moved up in weight and beat Isabel Millan in a world title eliminator before beating Melissa McMorrow for the WBC female Flyweight title earlier this year.
Zamora, dubbed "Roca", is an aggressive and hard working fighter who comes forward, throws in combinations and backs up opponents. Despite being a busy fighter she is pretty solid, with a sharp jab and good, solid hooks, which she uses well on the inside. Notably she is a smaller fighter, but she has used her lack of stature well to get on the inside where she works best. She's not the crispest, but her work rate and intensity is great and her energy is fantastic.
Sadly Minowa's lack of proven world class stamina and energy, and the fact she's on the road for this bout, will not serve her well against Zamora, who is a really a little bundle of energy. Minowa will have moments but will come up short, likely making it over the finish line but looking exhausted and well beaten after 10 rounds. We would love to see Minowa fulfil her promise, but suspect she will come up short again here.
When we think of Japanese boxing success stories in Europe we struggle to find any, in fact Toshiaki Nishioka's 2005 win over Mustapha Abahraouhi in France is one of the few that Spring to mind. There is however the curios case of Switzerland based Japanese fighter Aniya Seki (34-3-2, 5), who has spent her entire 39 fight career in Europe.
The Tokyo born fighter is one of the forgotten fighters from Japan but on October 27th she may end up doing something no Japanese man has ever done, winning a world title fight in Europe.
The 39 year old Seki will be challenging Mexican foe Maribel Ramirez (12-9-2, 3) in a bout for the WBA female Super Flyweight. It's the biggest fight of Seki's 10 year career whilst Ramirez will be making her first defense, following a surprise title win in Peru in May against Linda Laura Lecca.
At the age of 39 Seki is no spring chicken and although she's not slow as such she was never amazingly fast, sharp or powerful. She does have decent boxing skills, which she has shown in her homeland of Switzerland as well as Italy and Germany. Sadly though her record says more about her competition than her ability, and she has padded her record with bouts against the likes of Claudia Ferenczi, who she has beaten 3 times.
During her long career she has notched some notable wins, over the likes of Liliana Martinez, Alexandra Vlajk and Caroline Schroeder. Sadly however her record is mostly padded and she has fallen short in her biggest bouts, against the likes of Marilyn Hernandez and Judith Rodriguez. Those loses have shown her limitations and it's clear that a win here would be the best of her career, by far.
The 32 year old Ramirez made her debut in 2009 and really has had mixed success. She began her career promisingly, with a 7 fight unbeaten run. Unfortunately however she would go from 6-0-1 to 9-9-2 with notable losses against the likes of Mariana Juarez, Esmeralda Moreno, Zulina Munoz, Naoko Fujioka and Linda Laura Lecca. Recently however she has turned things around, with 3 straight wins including a victory in a rematch against Lecca for the WBA title.
In the ring Ramirez is a gritty fighter, coming to the ring to let her hands go and force a brawl. Technically she's flawed but with a good engine, a high work rate, and a serious determination she's a hard fighter to discourage. She can be stopped and she can be out boxed but if a fighter lacks big power or great boxing skills they will seriously struggle with Ramirez.
We're expecting to see Ramirez travel to Switzerland with a burning hunger, the same hunger that she had against Lecca, and simply out work the older Seki to retain the title and make her first defense. Sadly we suspect a loss here will end Seki's career, given she is 40 in May. It's a shame that one of the few Japanese boxers to base themselves in Europe will fail to reach the top, but it does show there is a route for them. Hopefully her career shows that there is a chance for Japanese fighters to make a mark on the European scene.
This coming Friday fight fans in Spain will Thai visitor Samson Tor Buamas (40-4, 22) face off with local champion Joana Pastrana (13-1, 4), for Pastrana's IBF female Minimumweight title. The Spanish fighter will be making her first defense, following her title win in June against Oezlem Sahin, whillst Samson will be looking to claim a “big 4” world title for the second time in her career, more than a decade after she last won bout for a big title.
The 27 year old Pastrana debuted in 2016, and began her career with 3 stoppage wins, all within the first 2 rounds. She then followed up with 4 decisions against novices before losing in her first step up in class, losing to Tina Rupprecht in 2016, when she actually suffered a broken hand. Since then she has racked up 6 wins, claiming the European female Minimumweight title, which she defended once, and now the IBF title.
The footage of Pastrana shows her to be a strong but clumsy fighter. Her foot work looks slow and calculated, rather than natural and fluid, her upper body movement is much better but still isn't genuinely world class. She does however look strong and powerful. She might have only scored 1 stoppage in her last 10 wins but she looks like she gets the respect of her opponents quite easily. Sadly for her though she's not very sharp, accurate or quick. Everything she does looks a bit awkward, almost as if she's converted to boxing from another combat sport.
At 35 Samson is past her best. At her very best she was a top female fighter, who literally fought her way out of prison to become a boxing world champion. Less than 2 years after her debut she defeated Ayaka Miyao to claim the WBC female Light Flyweight title, which she would defend 3 times include a very notable win over Momo Koseki and another against Kayoko Ebata. Since then however she has really failed to capture the attention of the boxing world. She's shown good skills,scoring only a single win of ant note when she beat Gretchen Abaniel. For the most part however she has faced limited novices, with the only exceptions being in losses to Nadia Raoui and Cai Zongju.
At her best Samson would have given fits to almost any female fighter in the lower weights. Now however she is well past her best. Her recent competition won't have done much harm physically, but will have failed to keep her sharp enough to really be competitive at the world level. Added to the low level of competitive is her inactivity, with just 2 bouts in the last 2 years, and we expected her to look slow, clumsy and out of sorts.
Despite the issues that Samson has with age, competition and activity we feel she has a chance to show how flawed Pastrana is. Sadly though we don't see her doing it often enough to take the win. Instead we suspect that the home fighter will take the decision, but not shine like a champion would want to in her fist defense.
Over the last few weeks we've seen a lot of talk about a potential third bout between Gennady Golovkin and Saul “Canelo” Alvarez, after the two men competed in two razor thin bouts. Those two bouts have seen Canelo take a 1-0-1 lead over the Kazakh but the reality that neither man really out did the other during their two fights. This coming Saturday we get to see the end of a very similar trilogy, between two fighters who have had two razor thin bouts, with one resulting in a draw and one being a really narrow win.
The trilogy in question is a trilogy between Yuko Kuroki (18-5-1, 8) and Saemi Hanagata (14-7-4, 7), who fight for the IBF Atomweight title. Their first bout took place in June 2013, with Hanagata taking a hotly contested unanimous decision before the two fought to a draw just 6 months later, with the two women fighting for the OPBF female Minimumweight title.
Since their bouts both fighters have established themselves as genuine class fighters. Kuroki has gone to win the WBC Female Minimumweight title, which she won in 2014 and defended 5 times until losing it to Momo Koseki in late 2017. Hanagata on the other hand has had 3 world title challenges, losing the first by majority decision before twice fighting to split decision draws. Both are world class fighters, both have history with each other and both will be looking to score a win when they face off this coming weekend. The big question however, is what are we expecting?
Of the two it's Kuroki who arguably has more to prove. She's going in having failed to win either of the previous bouts between these two fighters and having been a world champion already. She's the younger woman, the more established fighter and the one who is moving down in weight.
In the ring Kuroki is a pretty technical but busy fighter. She's quick, busy and applies pressure at a tempo of her choosing. She's not the most accurate but is happy to throw a number of shots to land one, whilst handcuffing her opponent. She has good movement, nice quick hands work and very intelligent foot work. Her lack of power is a glaring flaw, but she is technically a good very sharp and sharp shots will get the respect of her opponents, even if she does struggle to score stoppages. Where she perhaps struggles the most is when an opponent can cut the ring off and go to work on the inside, and that will be something she'll look to avoid here against the aggressive Hanagata.
At 33 years old, and in her 5th career world title bout, Hanagata will probably know it's now or never, however she will know that could have had a world title with just a small bit of luck. She was very unlucky against Naoko Shibata in 2015 and against Naok Ikeyama, in 2016 and 2017. She is a world class fighter and an absolute nightmare to fight. Sadly though she is a fighter who has had next to no fortune.
In the ring Hanagata is a fearsome fighter, who fights with a pressure fighter style, getting in her opponents face and really going to work with heavy, hard shots thrown in volume. Despite only having 7 stoppages in 25 bouts she hits hard enough to get the respect of everyone she fights. Her biggest issue is her technical ability, and despite being a busy pressure fighter she's not the most accurate and instead can be made to look wasteful, ineffective and crude. She cuts the ring off well, but can be made to miss up close.
Where expecting to see Hanagata get on the front foot and Kuroki to box and move. It's a fight that is stylistically perfect, with pressure against movement. Over 10 rounds Hanagata's pressure does tend to get to fighters, but Kuroki is a real talent the 27 year old has a great engine. We're expecting some fantastic exchange between the two. We however tip the younger, faster, more technically capable fighter here. We suspect she will be pushed all the way, but will come out on top with a razor decision, the equal the series 1-1-1.
This weekend is a huge one for boxing but it actually starts a little early, and there's a very notable female world title bout this coming Friday, as Japan's first ever 5 weight world champion Naoko Fujioka (17-2, 7) defends the WBA female Flyweight title against interim champion Irma Sanchez (30-7-1, 8).
Aged 43 Fujioka is the queen of Asian boxing. She debuted in 2009 and despite only having 19 career bouts she has managed to win world titles at Minimumweight, Light Flyweight, Flyweight, Super Flyweight and Bantamweight. Not only has she collected titles but also names, scoring notable victories over Naoko Shibata, Anabel Ortiz, Naoko Yamaguchi, Mariana Juarez and Shindo Go. Even her losses actually enhance reputation with one being a competitive decision loss in Germany to Susi Kentikian whilst the other was a controversial decision defeat to Jessica Chavez in Mexico.
At her best Fujioka is a bit of a brawler but is also a very capable boxer-puncher. She's a little slow on her feet at times, and defensively a little open at times, but takes a shot well, closes distance brilliantly and tends to simple grind opponents down with a high work rate. At 43 and having not fought since last December there are question marks about her age and ring rust, but she looked fantastic against Yokasta Valle last time out, and has had relatively long breaks in the past with no ill effects. In fact it could be argued that the breaks between fights actually helps her with longevity and could explain how, at the age of 43, she's in such good shape and able to move between weights with such ease.
Mexican challenger Sanchez is 30 years old, but is already a 12 year veteran having debuted in 2006. Her 38 fight career, twice as long as Fujioka's, has been spent entirely in Mexico though she has regularly mixed with world class fighters, including Mariana Juarez, Katia Guterrez, Jessica Chavez, Ibeth Zamora Silva, and Carina Moreno. Whilst she has lost most of her biggest bouts she did win the WBA “interim” female Flyweight title last time out, setting up this bout, and is certainly a very accomplished, experienced and talented fighter.
Watching Sanchez is looks a little wider, a little slower and clumsier than the Japanese fighter. She is younger, but looks more rough around the edges than Fujioka, who seems to have the edge in size, skills, power and speed. Despite the disadvantages that Sanchez has going against her she hasn't been stopped in almost 11 years and will feel that with her youth and hunger she will be able to walk through Fujioka's shots and win a war of attrition, as she's had to do in the past.
Given the style that Sanchez uses we suspect she's going to have a war with Fujioka, but unfortunately for the Mexican we don't see that paying off well for her, and in fact we suspect that the power and accuracy of Fujioka will be too much for the challenger to survive with, with Sanchez being stopped late in to the contest. We know Sanchez can fight, be here she's up against someone who think is better in every way. There is a risk that Fujioka gets old, but we don't see that happening, and instead we see her simply grinding down Sanchez to either a very wide decision win or a late stoppage, in a fan friendly but one sided contest.
In July 2017 we saw Terumi Nuki (10-3, 7) travel to Mexico to challenge WBC female Bantamweight champion Mariana Juarez (49-9-4, 18), in what was Nuki's first world title bout and first bout outside of Japan. Nuki came up short that night, losing 98-92 on all 3 score cards, but showed enough to remain in the world title mix, getting a shot at the IBF Super Flyweight title just 7 months later, again losing a decision.
This coming Saturday Nuki returns to Mexico to have a rematch with Juarez, hoping the experienced of her two world title defeats will help her avenge her loss to Juarez and become a world champion at the third time of asking. Juarez however will be looking to prove she is still the better fighter, still the better boxer and at the age of 38 is still a sensational fighter.
Juarez, although past her best, is seeking her 5th defense of the title that she won in April 2017 and is currently enjoying a 6 fight winning run with victories over the likes of Irma Garcia, Alesia Graf and Gabriela Bouvier. They aren't the best wins of her career, as she holds wins over Tenkai Tsunami Arely Mucino and Shindo Go, but they are solid wins on the record of any female fighter. As a professional Juarez is one of the most distinguished and iconic female fighters of her generation and has been one of the faces of female boxing in Latin America for the better part of a decade.
In the ring Juarez is a clever boxer-mover. She doesn't have much power, with only 18 stoppages in 62 fights, but she's got a fantastic engine, great movement, good skills and knows how to control the ring and her opponents. She's not unstoppable, and has been stopped 3 times during her career, but she is tough, she knows how to survive when she needs to. The big question however is how much longer can she keep delivering. She's been a professional since 1998, been in more than 60 fights and over 450 rounds, and sooner or later that type of career will catch up with her.
At 29 years old and with less than 5 and a half years of professional experience under her belt and with just 60 rounds of professional fight experience Nuki is a total novice compared to Juarez. She is however a puncher with her last 5 wins all coming by stoppage, and someone who is building her experience the hard way, by fighting world class fighters on the road. Sadly though her best wins to date have been over the likes of Kai Johnson and Nongbua Lookpraiaree, hardly fighters to prepare someone for world title fights.
With Nuki's power and physicality she can be a nightmare at this level if fights stand and fight her fight. Sadly though she hasn't yet developed the skills to force her fight onto her opponents, and when they box and move she's left chasing shadows. If she's managed to learn how to cut the distance and trap opponents she can give Juarez real problems here, though that's a huge if.
We suspect that Juarez's legs might not be quite what they were a year ago, that could help Nuki get her in range and and unload. We do however feel like Juarez will have to have aged a lot to make this close and instead we suspect that whilst Nuki will have more success than she did in the first meeting, she will still come up short here.
The Atomweight division, 102lbs, is the lowest weight in professional boxing and is a weight unique to female boxing. It's not had the greatest of reputations, with the lack of depth being a major issues, but it has given us some notable fighters, like the great Momo Koseki and the often fun to watch Ayaka Miyao. It's also responsible for Japan's oldest ever champion, current WBO Atomweight champion Nao Ikeyama (18-3-3, 5) who holds her title at the age of 48. In fact not only is Ikeyama an old champion but she was 44 when she actually won the belt.
This coming Sunday Ikeyama looks to stretch her reign to 7 defenses and make sure she continues to be recognised as a world champion beyond her 49th birthday. Trying to prevent her form that is former foe Mika Iwakawa (7-5-1, 3), herself a 35 year old fighting in her second world title shot.
These two women fought first back in 2013, when they clashed in a 6 rounder. That bout saw Ikeyama end a 3 year break from the ring to face off with Iwakawa, and with the win Ikeyama moved onto a world title bout for the then newly created WBO Atomweight title, defeating Jessebelle Pagaduan for the title. Sadly for Iwakawa the loss, by majority decision, seem to cause her career to stall, with Iwakawa spending well over a year away from the ring. Since returning Iwakawa had since gone 4-2 and despite claiming the OPBF female Light Flyweight title has never really managed to generate much career moment.
Despite being almost 50 Ikeyama is well known for her incredible stamina. She has gone 10 rounds in 6 of her last 7 bouts and has done so at a fantastic tempo. Not only that but she's been able to raise the tempo in the second half of fights when she's had to, against much younger fighters. As a champion she has defended the title against some weak challengers, like Norj Guro for example, but also twice against Saemi Hanagata and once against the aforementioned Miyao. She's not a puncher, but she's such an energetic fighter that few will hang with her, especially in the later rounds.
As for Iwakawa her only previous world title bout was arguably her best performance, a losing effort to the heavy handed Yunoka Furukawa in December 2016. Like Ikeyama it's fair to saw that Iwakawa is also a fighter who relies on her work rate and stamina as opposed to her power or defensive work. Given that she likes to let her hands go we're expecting he to go toe-to-toe with Ikeyama in what should make for an all action bout.
This bout will end up being a back and forth slugfest. With neither fighter having much in terms of power we can't see an early finish, but we can see a potential female fight of the year contender with intense action, getting better round by round. We do however favour the veteran to come out on top, with her added experience, especially over the 10 round distance. It'll be frantic and close, but we suspect Ikeyama will be the winner and extend her title reign a little longer.
Here we preview the key female title bouts involving an Asian fighter.