On August 20th fight fans will be filling up the Komagatani Gym in Hyogo to watch an all-Japanese WBO Minimumweight title bout between teenager Riku Kano and veteran Katsunari Takayama. That bout is a really interesting one, and one we've been looking forward to since it was first announce. That however isn't the only world title bout on the show with a WBO female Light Flyweight title bout also taking place as the unbeaten Kei Takenaka (11-0, 3) battles against against fellow unbeaten Louisa Hawton (6-0, 3).
Hawton was first brought to our attention by her team more than a year ago, with her then targeting the WBC Atomweight champion Momo Koseki. She then turned her focus towards the WBO Light Flyweight title and was seemingly set to fight Korean Eun Hye Lee, but that bout fell through several times. As a result of Lee's issues the title became vacant and Hawton finally got a shot arranged, though she would have to face Takenaka instead of the Korean.
From the footage available of Hawton she's a genuine pocket rocket. She is aggressive, exciting and comes to fight. The sort of fighter that fight fans love to see in action. Unfortunately as a Light Flyweight she is tiny and has typically been fighting as an Atomweight, at 102lbs. And even there she has looked small.
Despite being a novice Hawton does hold some genuinely notable wins. She has already stopped Angor OnesongchaiGym, who fought Momo Koseki for the WBC title in 2014, and out pointed Filipino veteran Jujeath Nagaowa last year. Sadly she hasn't fought in close to a year, following the multiple issues with getting Lee in the ring, but she has been busy with training camps and should be sharp, though could well be over-trained.
Whilst Hawton is moving up in weight Takenaka is a definitive Light Flyweight. Her career weights have been between 106¾lbs and 110¼lbs and has claimed her only title at the weight, the OPBF female title which claimed in 2014 and made two defenses of. Unfortunately whilst she is a naturally bigger fighter than Hawton her record completely lacks in terms of solid wins, with her best victories coming against very poor Thai's.
In the ring Takenaka can certainly fight, she's part of the Takesago gym and has received a lot of help in her development, with training and exhibitions in Mexico but she has yet to show the effects of that development against good opposition. Hopefully for her however sharing the ring with people like Anabel Ortiz has rubbed off and helped her develop her tools.
Given the style of Hawton we're expecting to see Takenaka pushed all the way and in fact pushed harder than she's ever been pushed. Saying that however we do think natural size difference will play a big part and Takenaka will likely come through with a very close win, a win that may well be partially thanks to fighting at home.
On August 13th Japanese fans get two title bouts, with the more over-looked one being a WBA Atomweight title bout, for the now vacant title belt. The bout will be between 22 year Yunoka Furukawa (7-1-2, 5) and the 33 year old Satomi Nishimura (9-2, 1), and will see the winner picking up a title vacated recently by the brilliant Momo Koseki.
On paper it looks like Furukawa should be the favourite. The younger fighter turned professional in 2012 and fought to a in April that year with Misato Kawaguchi, she then suffered a decision loss to Kei Takenaka but has since gone unbeaten, going 7-0-1. Sadly however when you look through her record there is very little depth to is. Her best win came in February 2015, when she defeated Aiko Yamagishi, with a 4th round TKO. She has also claimed a notable win this year over Christine Latube, however that win is more notable for the fact it was a bout for the OPBF title rather than much about Latube.
Furukawa has won her last 3 by stoppage, though it's really only the win over Yamagishi that actually deserves any attention.
Whilst Furukawa had her record messed up to begin with the same cannot be said of Nishimura who began in 2008 and advanced to 6-0 (1) before taking on her first notable opponent. That opponent was Saemi Hanagata, who stopped Nishimura in the 5th round to claim the OPBF Minimumweight title. Just 7 months later Nishimura would lose again, being stopped by the then WBA Atomweight champion Ayaka Miyao. Since the loss to Miyao she has scored a couple of wins, over-coming Mika Iwakawa and claiming the PABA belt in Thailand against then unbeaten Namphaya Sakpracha.
Although she lacks a big win Nishimura a hasn't embarrassed herself against good opponents, like Hanagata and Miyao, and in fairness to her those losses have proven more than her wins so far.
The bout should be competitive, however we think Nishimura's extra level of competition will help over the finishing line here. Furukawa will likely develop into a better fighter but for now we think Nishimura will simply be that bit too good and that bit too experienced.
Last November fans at the Korakuen Hall saw female IBF Light Flyweight champion Naoko Shibata (15-3-1, 5) [柴田 直子] retain her title with her 4th defence, a very hotly disputed draw against Mexican based American Maria Salinas (11-4-3, 4). This coming Saturday the two women go at it again in a really interesting rematch being held in Saitama.
Since their first bout the 27 year challenger hasn't fought. She has been out of the ring for 9 months exactly and has only actually fought 20 rounds in the last 24 months, suggesting their could be some serious ring rust. At her best however she's a very capable fighter. She came close to over-coming Shibata last year, she also fought to a draw with the talented Arely Valente in 2014 and managed to be competitive with the likes of Etsuko Tada and Esmeralda Moreno.
Not blessed with big power Salinas is a busy but talented boxer who knows how to look after herself in the ring and often does enough to be competitive. Sadly she sometimes fails to go that extra bit to be more than just competitive, and has come up short in close decisions numerous times during her career.
Aged 35 Shibata is a veteran of the ring and has fought with some of the best in the world during her career. She holds notable early career wins over Yuko Kuroki and Ayaka Miyao whilst more recently she has claimed the IBF title and made 4 defenses, including an impressive stoppage of Ana Arrazola. She's not a puncher but she is a busy fighter who has shown her experience in recent bouts.
Although experienced Shibata does look like a fighter coming to the end of her career and her last two defenses were both razor thin wins. She started slowly against Saemi Hanagata in February 2015 before just doing enough for the decision whilst her first bout with Salinas saw her holding on to the title with a draw. There are some question marks about her stamina, given her age, he speed and her strategy with the fighter perhaps getting her gameplans wrong in recent fights. She has however been retaining the title and showing that she won't just roll over and take the belt from her.
Here we have a battle of a ring rusty against a possibly aged fighter. Sadly for Shibata however her performance have regressed since scoring her defining stoppage against Arrazola and we think that regression will continue here with Salinas taking a very close points decision over the 10 rounds.
Here we preview the key female title bouts involving an Asian fighter.