When people think of this weekend's boxing a lot of the focus is, rightfully, on Macau and the UK. Both of those places have huge cards on Saturday, genuinely those two shows could very easily over-shadow almost any other she we're getting this year and will certainly over-shadow the action we're getting over the rest of the weekend.
Despite being over-shadowed however we do have some pretty decent action on Sunday in Russia with two world title fights, including a very, very interesting Female Light Welterweight title fight that will see Unbeaten Russian bombshell Svetlana Kulakova (9-0, 1) attempting to unify her WBA interim title with the WBA regular title held by Ana Laura Esteche (10-3-1, 2).
Although technically the "challenger" Kulakova will be strongly favoured for this fight considering she is fighting at home in Russia, is unbeaten and, from what we understand, the taller and rangier fighter as well as the more traditionally skilled fighter. Despite her advantages she is also the fighter stepping up, notably, in class and is fighting an opponent who is a nightmare for someone with her style.
At her best Kulakova is a technically strong boxer. It may sound over the top by stylistically she bears a resemblance to Wladimir Klitschko with her rangy attacks, good work at distance and frustrating ability to neutralise an opponent. It may not be exciting but it's a winning formula which has helped her claim and interim world title and a 9 fight winning run to begin her professional career.
The one big difference between the Russian and Klitschko is power. Whilst Wladimir Klitschko has thunder like power in his right hand Kulakova is a relatively light puncher. She doesn't put her weight, which admittedly is no more than 140lbs, behind a shot like Klitschko does with his 250lb frame though she does seem to be able to get respect of her opponents more often than not.
In Esteche we have a fighter who is like a terrier in the ring. Technically she's crude, she's basic and fundamentally flawed though she makes up for that in her refusal to back down attitude. It was this attitude that saw her defeating Argentinian compatriot Monica Silvina Acosta back in January, going into that bout Acosta was an unbeaten fighter who had been a long reigning champion prior to fighting Esteche.
Esteche's aggressiveness, toughness and determination makes her a genuinely tough opponent for anyone. She's always been happy to take a shot to get inside and inside she's a really tough foe who is going to unload shots in an attempt to break down an opponent. Her power, as with Kulakova, is lacking but her work rate is much higher than that of the Russian and it's that work rate, as well as her Latin spirit, that could swing the fight in her favour.
With Esteche's style we're expecting her to Kulakova her toughest test to date though we've got to favour the Russian's style, size and strength to help her take home a very well earned and hard fought decision in a bout that could well put Kulakova in the running for a fight with Norwegian boxing queen Cecilia Braekhus in a fight that could well be one of the biggest ever female fights out there right now.
(Image courtesy of VK.com)
This coming weekend is one of the craziest we've known since we first started this site last year. There are so many big fights, so many big shows and so much action that it's easy to forget at least 1 or 2 fights, it's inevitable that when you get too many fights one slips through the net.
One fight that almost slipped through was this weekend's WBA female Flyweight title fight between Korea's Dan Bi Kim (9-2-1, 2) and the defending champion Susi Kentikian (32-2-0-1, 16), AKA "The Killer Queen", one of the truly sensational female fighters and one of the most popular in Europe.
It's surprising that Kim could ever slip through the net due to her memorable 2009 contest with Nongmuay Kokietgym for the WBC interim female Light Flyweight title. That bout was everything detractors of female boxing point to when trying to make their point. Kim, who looked little more than a street fighter, had 5 points deducted for fouls that included biting her opponent in a contest that was less "boxing" and more a no holds barred fight.
In that fight Kim rushed with her head, wrestled, used head locks and every dirty trick in the book. In fact Kim could well have taught the likes of Bernard Hopkins a few new tricks which aren't in the book.
Since the first fight between Kim and Nongmuay the two women did fight again, this time in a more orthodox contest which saw an improved Kim giving a decent account of herself, especially compared to her first fight with her first fight against the Thai. Unfortunately though there is nothing to suggest that Kim has become world class, despite the fact she did win the very lightly regarded IFBA Minimumweight title earlier this year with a decisive decision win over Dorkmaipah Kiatpompetch, herself a total novice in the ring.
Kim's best opponent so far is Nongmuay, the woman who holds both defeats on Kim's record. To call Nongmuay world class however is really stretching the definition of "world class" and she's not much better than the Korean.
Unfortunately for Kim she is going from fighting the likes of Nongmuay and Dorkmaipah to fighting the truly world class Kentikian, a fighter who is on the fringes of being one of the elite female pound-for-pound fighters.
Although not a big puncher Kentikian has all the other tools a fighter could wish for. She is fast, intelligent in the ring, has great stamina, fantastic movement, always has a plan B and can box either going forward or going backwards. She's not flawless but she is very, very talented as shown by her very impressive record which includes wins over a notable who's who of female boxing such as Simona Galassi, Carina Moreno, Teeraporn Pannimit, Nadia Raoui and Ana Arrazola.
Whilst Kim's style is a nightmare for anyone due to her unpredictability and flat out roughness she's unlikely to be able to intimidate Kentikian who will likely use her accurate punches and movement to great effect as Kim rushes in only to get tagged repeatedly.
We'd love to see Kim with a good trainer as she has the toughness to match the likes of Momo Koseki though at this point in her career a good trainer likely doesn't want her and another loss here could see no one in boxing wanting her. She's a real handful for all the wrong reasons and will likely give Kentikian a headache despite losing clearly.
(Picture, of Kim, courtesy of http://www.koreaboxing.co.kr/)
When we talk about the best female boxers in Japan 2 or 3 fighters stand out. One of those is Naoka Fujioka, arguably the most complete female boxer on the planet and another is Momo Koseki the rough and tough WBC Atomweight champion.
Outside of the genuine elite we then get to very good but not elite fights, fighters like Tenkai Tsunami, a proven world class fighter, and Shindo Go (13-2 8) the current WBC female Flyweight champion.
Go will be hoping to make the second defence of her title this coming Sunday as she takes on Thailand's baby faced Kledpetch Lookmuangkan (6-2, 1), a fighter fighting in her first "real" world title fight.
It's the champion we'll start with and it's the champion who will be strongly favoured here. She is, after all, a proven world class fighter with victories over the likes of Kanittha Kokietgym, Jujeath Nagaowa and Renata Szebeledi as well as a razor thin and highly debateable loss to Mexican goldn girl Mariana Juarez.
Although not the most skilled, and certainly not the same level of technical ability as Fujioka, Go is tough, heavy handed, aggressive and a vicious fighter in the ring. She's the sort of fighter who hurts her opponents when she connects cleanly, as shown by her 8 stoppages from 13 wins, and although she's been taken the distance in her 4 most recent fights they were against fights with a combined 3 stoppage losses, at the time, from around 80 bouts!
In Kledpetch we have a much less well known fighter and with good reason, her competition hasn't been good enough to really make her famous.
From Kledpetch's 8 bouts her most notable opponents have been Hee-Jung Yuh, who stopped the Thai in 8 rounds, and Kanittha Kokietgym, who Kledpetch out pointed. Unfortunately for Kledpetch the win over Kanittha isn't really worth a lot considering Kanittha had lost to every notable name she had fought previously, such as Go, Fujioka, Irma Sanchez and Jessica Chavez.
From what we've read about Kledpetch she's a gutsy fighter with nice handspeed but her lack of power is a real issue and one that will be capitalised on by Go who we think will try and force the Thai youngster into a fight. Kledpetch does have skills to make life tough for Go for a round or two but we thing, after 3 or 4 rounds the Japanese fighter will have found her range and will start to gradually break down the Thai who will be lucky to see out the 10 round distance, something she has never accomplished before.
(Image courtesy of http://www.kuratokigym.jp/
When we talk about history we can split it in to two things. Those things that are remembered and spoken about as something great or memorable, and those things that only a hardcore fan has any interest in. We imagine this Saturdays WBO Atomweight title fight will belong in that second column, despite being the first ever WBO Atomweight title fight.
The WBO, following in the footsteps of the WBA and the WBC, have now started to recognise the 102lb Atomweight division. It's a division which has given us champions like Momo Koseki, Ayaka Miyao and Mari Ando and this weekend we see Jessebelle Pagaduan (6-0, 4) and Nao Ikeyama (13-3-1, 4) attempting to become the latest Atomweight world title holder.
The unbeaten Pagaduan,from the Philippines is an ambitious 29 year old looking to win a world title in just her 7th professional bout. Sure that's not a record for female boxing it's still ambitious and a sign that she knows she has to make up for lost time, especially considering that she's not the most active of fighters with just 6 bouts in 2 years from her debut.
Fighting from the southpaw stance Pagaduan is naturally heavy handed. Sure her competition, so far, has been poor but she's far from a poor fighter and in fact he biggest problem so far has been with the with the 102lb weight division as opposed to any of her opponents thus far.
Whilst the Filipino is unbeaten and in her physical prime the same cannot possibly be said of Ikeyama who 44 years old, has fought just once in the last 3 years and last scored a win of note 4 years ago when she defeated Masae Akitaya. Sure she has the more proven record and the more notable victories but she's certainly a fighter a long way removed from any of those big wins.
At her best Ikeyama was world class and her opponents read like a who's who of the Atomweight division. Momo Koseki, Ayaka Miyao, Akitaya, Ji Hyun Park. Unfortunately we can't possibly think she's even a shadow of the fighter she once was. In fact if anything she's probably "even older" in terms of boxing years than her 44 actual years, especially considering she has to make 102lbs, an incredibly low weight for this fight.
Ikeyama has always been tough, and she'll need to be tough again here to see out the distance though unfortunately for her we don't see her legs holding out for 10 rounds against a younger, bigger more energetic fighter in the form of Pagaduan who we think will either take a wide decision or a very late stoppage with father time being too much for Ikeyama.
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
Numerous fighters have misleading records. We often see it with Filipino men, like Rey Loreto and Rey Megrino, though we also see it with some Japanese women, such as Tenkai Tsunami (20-10, 9). This misleading records can arise for various reasons, for example a fighter being matched incredibly hard at some point in their career or having a few controversial decisions go against them.
This coming Saturday we see two fighters with misleading records facing off in a WBC female Minimumweight title fight that really could end up being an absolute barn burner.
On of those women is the defending champion Mari Ando (11-6, 5), a tough as nails fighter who has been fighting at the world level for almost 3 years. She is a former WBA Atomweight champion and has fought the likes Ayaka Miyao and Su Yun Hong, both world of whom are world class fighters
The other woman is the under-rated Yuko Kuroki (10-4-1, 6) who has shared a ring with the excellent Etsuko Tada and the talented Saemi Hanagata. She may never have won a world title but she is a talented and accomplished fighter who, at just 23, is improving drastically between fights.
The two women have a lot in common. Both lost some early, and close, fights which marked up their records in bouts some people felt they deserved to win. Both scored notable wins over Thailand's Amara Kokietgym and both are young fighters who have a lot more to give the sport. It's fair to say neither is close to their prime and neither is likely to be close to their prime for another few years. And, finally, both fighters have a similar amount of fights, wins and losses.
An initial look at the two fighters would see many favouring Ando. She has been in with Miyao twice, giving her hell in both bouts, and has been in Hong, again giving the world class fighter a tough time. Kuroki may have been in the ring with Tada but wasn't competitive. That however doesn't tell us how far along Kuroki has come in recent bouts as she's gone from a young lady to a now mature fighter. Kuroki is still young but a drastically different fighter to the one who fought Tada.
Ando is an aggressive, mentally tough fighter who comes for a fight. She applies pressure, she tries to turn fights into a tear up and makes them action packed. She may not be the most technically skilled but she's always exciting and she's always looking for a fight in the ring. Less of a boxer and more of a born fighter.
Whilst Ando is a pure fighter Kuroki is more of a boxer-puncher who uses intelligent footwork to line up he straight land hands. She may not be the most technically correct fighter but she is more of a boxer than Ando. She's good speed, like Ando she's proven to be tough and, as with most southpaws, she looks like tricky fighter to beat.
Going in to this fight we really view it as a 50-50 type of fight, though lean, ever so slightly, towards Ando who is the more experienced fighter, especially over 10 rounds, and is the home town fighter, though we wouldn't even dream of betting on this contest which is really, really hard to call.
(Picture, of Mari Ando, courtesy of http://www.zukunft.co.jp)
Earlier this year we saw former amateur boxing star Vasyl Lomachenko fight for a world title, the WBO Featherweight title, in just his second professional contest. Now, several months on, we see another fighter fighting for a world title in their second bout, this time however it's little known Thai Thongmanit Siriwan (0-1) not a former big name amateur and not a fighter who scored a big and notable win in their only previous bout. In fact, as you can see, Thongmanit didn't even win her debut.
Thongmanit will be challenging current WBA female Super Featherweight champion Hyun mi Choi (8-0-1, 2), a fighter we have the up most respect for and a fighter who we feel has had a life made for the big screen. Incidentally Choi actually won the WBA female Featherweight in her debut.
For us Choi's story is one of the best in boxing. She, and her family, came from Pyongyang and fought to escape the sadistic regime there before ending up in the neighbouring South Korea. In South Korea Choi has been able to live a somewhat normal life, she has been able to make her name as a boxer and she has been able to have the freedoms that would never have been given to her had she stayed in the North.
Whilst Choi's fight from North Korea to South Korea is a fairytale in it's own right, she has been sensational as a fighter and, as mentioned earlier, did win a world title in her debut. She has since become a 2-weight world champion and one of the very few shining lights in Korean boxing, at least as a professional. Her career might not be high profile outside of her homeland but she's a genuine inspiration in the boxing world and the type of fighter who should be looked at as proof of what boxing can help someone do.
Although we are massive fans of Choi and her story we can't really be a fan of this fight. Choi is talented, rangy boxer with solid skills, good speed, good technical know-how in the ring and more importantly a winners attitude. She has won her freedom and has now won 8 of her 9 fights as a professional fighter. In Thongmanit we have someone who hasn't fought a professional bout since 2012, who hasn't won a fight and has only fought 6 professional rounds.
Effectively what we have is a top level fighter in Choi, who is ranked #2 by Boxrec.com in the 130lb division facing off against a not very good, inactive novice in what is being dressed up as a world title fight. Trust us this is not a bout between world class talents. It's one world class talent against someone not fit enough to be her sparring partner.
(Image, of Choi, courtesy of koreatimes.co.kr)
Here we preview the key female title bouts involving an Asian fighter.