The female scene in Japan is going through a big transition right now as the older generation appear to be ending their careers whilst a new wave of fighters are breaking through the ranks. The likes of Eri Matsuda and Kasumi Saeki are leading the new charge with Eruka Hiromoto not far behind. Another "novice" professional looking to get themselves a title in just a handful of bouts is former kick boxer Kanako Taniyama (2-0, 1) who returns to the ring this coming Monday to take on 36 year old Tomoko Okuda (5-2-1, 1), in a bout for the Japanese female Bantamweight title.
At 32 Taniyama is no young kid rising through the ranks, but is still a professional novice looking to rise quickly through the ranks. She turned to professional boxing after a leg injury limited her ability in kick boxing and she debuted as a boxer in December 2018, on a stacked female only card from Shinsei Gym. In her debut she beat experienced Thai Sumalee Tongpootorn in 2 rounds before following up with a decision over the limited but tough Phannaluk Kongsang this past March.
As we often see with kick boxers who turn to pro boxing later in life Taniyama hasn't got the greatest of footwork, but she's aggressive, appears to have solid power on her shots and despite being a little bit on the crude side, compared to Matsuda and Saemi, she does look like she understands how to put her weight behind shots. There's limitations, but there's enough to be excited about at this early stage in her career.
Okuda on the other hand is a southpaw who turned professional more than 4 years ago, but hasn't really accomplished much since beginning her career, just weeks before her 32nd birthday. Her best wins are a couple of competitive decision wins over the crude but hard hitting Miki Mitsuda in 2016 whilst her most notable results being her losses, a debut stoppage loss to Wakako Fujiwara and a narrow loss to Yoshie Wakasa last year.
Okuda isn't "bad" as such, but she's not particularly good either, and a bout a bout at this level, despite her experience compared to Taniyama's, is a step up in class. It's a step up that we don't feel she'll be successful with, her lack of power and rather basic fundamentals limiting her against the natural fighting spirit of Taniyama.
Okuda will try, she will always try, but Taniyama will simply be too good in the ring, too experienced as a fighter, and too heavy handed. We don't feel Okuda has the skills to make Taniyama pay for her clumsy footwork or her still rough around the edges style, and instead Taniyama will rack up the points and take a clear win.
Prediction- UD8 Taniyama
The Japanese female scene is one that looks set to really build in 2019, with a number of rising hopefuls looking to be fast tracked through the ranks. The creation of the Japanese female titles has been a really great addition and given female fighters something to aim for on their way up the ranks.
On March 13th we see the Japanese female scene take center stage with Victoriva Vol 4, which will feature only female fighters. One of the main bouts on that card will see OPBF and JBC female Bantamweight champion Miyo Yoshida (11-1) defending her national title against JBC #1 ranked contender Yoshie Wakasa (6-0, 2).
The 30 year old Yoshida has been one of the big revelations of the Japanese female scene in the last few years. She began her career in 2014 and despite some struggles to really get going, wining her first two bouts by close decision and losing her 5th bout, she has really shined, winning her last 7 in a row. That current run of wins has seen her avenge her only loss, beating Yuki Koseki just 6 months after losing to her, as well as winning the Japanese female title, defeating Tomomi Takano, and the OPBF female title, defeating Gretel de Paz. Not only has Yoshida won both titles but she has also defended both belts.
Yoshida isn't a big Bantamweight, she's not a quick fighter or much of a puncher. What she does well however is apply intelligent pressure, bringing the fight to her opponent and landing clean shots. Her jab seemed to land more often than that of Tanako when the two fought, despite Takano having a clear reach and height advantage, and her timing when she throws her straight right is very impressive. There is, at times, a messiness to her work, but that tends to lend it's self well to her using his physical strength on opponents, and despite being a small fighter she really is a physically strong one, often able to push opponents around.
The unbeaten Wakasa, also 30, also began her career in 2014 though has not been as active as Yoshida, or accomplished as much, in part that was due to real inactivity in the ring in 2016 and 2017. Despite the lack of experience she is the JBC #1 ranked contender and is an unbeaten fighter with notable domestic wins over Asami Jinnari, who later challenged for the Japense female Featherweight title, and Tomoko Okuda. In just 6 fights she has already taken 2 unbeaten records, and has shown steady improvement through her career.
Watching Wakasa we see a fighter with good timing, a sharp jab, and the ability to cut the distance pretty well. She has managed to beat quicker, more naturally gifted fighters, and moves smartly, using intelligent footwork. She sets an educated work rate, and does appear happy to throw eye catching shots, even if they aren't the crispest. If we're being honest we thought she was lucky against Okuda, but she did land the more eye catching shots, even if she was out landed.
Given the styles of the two fighters we tend to feel that Yoshida will bring the pressure and force Wakasa to fight at her pace. The lack of power, from both, would suggest this is going the distance, but the 6 round distance is something Yoshida has more experience with, as Wakasa has only gone 6 rounds once, and could end up helping the champion further stamp her authority on the bout.
We're expecting a clear but competitive decision win for Yoshida here, who may well move into world title bouts before the end of the 2019.
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.
This coming weekend we get the chance to see female boxing come to the fore for Asian fight fans as Japan's Terumi Nuki (9-1, 6) takes on legendary Mexican Mariana Juarez (45-9-4, 17), in a bout for Jaurez's WBC female Bantamweight title. For Nuki it's the biggest bout of her career, and a chance to define her career, whilst Juarez looks to further enhance her legacy as one of the modern greats of female boxing.
Although it can be hard to call any female fighter a legend the phrase certainly does apply to Juarez, who draws a huge audience and a lot of attention in Mexico and has done for years. She has managed to cross over, beyond boxing, thanks in part to her sexy looks, which has seen her feature in Playboy, but has also continued to have huge success in the ring.
Debuting back in 1998, as an 18 year old, Juarez struggled early in her career losing 2 of her first 3. In fact after 22 bouts she was still struggling to really make a name for herself, with a 14-5-3 (8) record. From then however she has gone 31-4-1 defining herself as a boxing legend in Mexico. Not only are the numbers impressive but so to are the opponents with Juarez notching up wins against Esmeralda Moreno, Simona Galassi, Gabriela Bouvier, Arely Mucino, Shindo, Tenkai Tsunami and Irma Garcia whilst claiming world titles at Flyweight and Bantamweight.
At her best Juarez is a talented boxer who can box brawl, she has a great engine and can do pretty much everything other than really bang. At 37 however and with a 5-2-1 record in her last 8 there is signs that she is coming to the end of her long career and that she could get old over-night, as we recently saw with Manny Pacquiao.
The 28 year old Nuki is a real boxing baby with just 37 rounds since making her debut just over 4 years ago. To date she has fought just two title bouts, both at Oriental level, and has gone 1-1 (1) in those bouts. To date her best win has been at Oriental level, with that being a 3rd round stoppage over Thai foe Nongbua Lookpraiaree, and she has never scored a win of note at Bantamweight.
Although a fighter with plenty of promise this is a massive step up for Nuki, who has never shown the ability to really impress at world level. There is potential for her to develop into a world class fighter, but she has never shown enough of that potential to think that she is ready for a world title bout, and in fact she would probably have been best served with a few Oriental title defenses first. She hasn't had to cope with a true all-rounder like Juarez, and she has never been beyond 8 rounds, giving her a lot of firsts here.
Juarez could get old, as mentioned above, but the reality is that she still looks fresh enough and hungry enough in recent bouts to easily over-come someone like Nuki, who is simply stepping up too much too fast. We think Nuki will have moments, and will be able to survive the 10 rounds, but will come up short against the Mexican fighting icon.
Every so often female boxing gives us a bout that looks like a genuine treat. One such bout is set to take place this coming week when WBO female Bantamweight champion Naoko Fujioka (14-1,6) battles against heavy handed compatriot Shindo Go (16-3, 11), in what could potentially be a female FOTY contender.
Aged 40 Fujioka is a true veteran but also a top pound-for-pound fighter who can box, brawl and simply have a fight. Her abilities have seen her claim world titles in 3 divisions, from Minimumweight to Bantamweight, and whilst she is small for a female fighter at 118lbs she is a dangerous and highly skilled fighter.
Whilst Fujioka has only fought 15 times as a professional she has been in an incredible 7 world title bouts and holds notable wins over the likes of Naoko Shibata, Anabel Ortiz, Victoria Argueta, Naoko Yamaguchi and Mariana Juarez, whilst her only loss has been in Germany to the great Susi Kentikian. That type of resume is outstanding to say the least and sees Fujioka holding one of the most impressive records of any active female fighter in the sport.
For the challenger the bout is an incredibly important and likely emotional one, with Go announcing that it would be her final bout before she under-goes sexual realignment surgery, and will become a man. Potentially the bout could see Go become a 2-time world champion, having previously been the WBC female Flyweight champion and end life as a woman as a world champion.
Like Fujioka Go is an incredible warrior. The fighter has had to battle sexual identification issues throughout life and is looking to make a major move in life after this bout. In the ring that battling spirit has often been a key with Go always battling back from setbacks, including a debut defeat to Masae Akitaya back in 2008. Those set back shave however made the hard hitting Go a better fighter, a very hungry fighter.
When the two fighters get in the ring next week both will be looking for a career defining victory. For Fujioka the win would cement her legacy, whilst for Go the bout could serve as the perfect ending to life as a woman.
Our prediction on the fight is that Fujioka comes out on top, as she is the more skilled fighter. However given that Go is significantly younger, and is incredibly hungry to prove a point, the bout will be a very gruelling one for both fighters, with Fujioka needing one of her best performances to retain her title.
Female boxing in Asia has been interesting over the past few years. In Korea it's been female boxing which has essentially kept the sport alive over the past few years, with the likes of Hyun Mi Choi and Su Yun Hong whilst in Japan the females have remained a constant an entertaining niche in the sport.
Arguably the best of those females is 40 year old star Naoko Fujuioka (13-1, 6) who has claimed titles at both 105lbs and 115lbs and now looks to become a 3-weight world world champion as she attempts to claim the WBO female Bantamweight title. In the opposite corner to Fujioka will be Korean Hee Jung Yuh (15-2, 6), who is herself married to Young Kil Bae who fights for a world title himself later this year.
Fujioka really is one of the most talented fighters in the sport and in the course of her 6 year career she has proven she can do it all. She box, she can punch and she can fight. She has also proven she can do it on the roa, running Susi Kentikian close in Germany and defeating Mariana Juarez in Mexico. The one question she has left is just “how high can she go?” With this upcoming bout being her first as a Bantamweight.
At her best Fujioka is a boxer-fighter and her resume really does stack up well against her contemporaries. She may not have the longest of careers but she already holds wins over Naoko Shibata, Anabel Ortiz, Kannitth Kokietgym, Victoria Argueta, Naoko Yamaguchi and of course Juarez Those wins have seen her go from the boxer, as she was against Yamaguchi, to a the fight, as she was in the final 5 rounds against Juarez.
Yuh on the other hand is a bit of an unknown on the world stage. Coming in to this bout she's on a 14 fight winning streak but it's hard to fight genuinely notable names on her record, in fact the most notable are Norj Guro and Kledpetch KKP, hardly top tier opposition.
Aged 35 the Korean does have some things going for her here. She's the younger fighter, by 5 years, she's also the naturally bigger fighters, having fought as a Bantamweight several times in the past. It's also worth noting that she is 3-0 on the road, though all those wins came in Thailand against very poor opposition.
Whilst we know that Fujioka can do it all less is known about Hee though the footage of her, including a fight against Keanpetch Superchamps, makes it seem that she is a fighter who feels she is defensively strong and can apply pressure. Her power seems lacking but she has a solid output though questions need to be asked about her accuracy, consistency and of course the level of the opponent, who genuinely looked terrible.
Whilst it can be hard predict fights between “known” and “unknown” quantities it's sometimes very hard to pick against a fighter as proven as Fujioka. With that said it'll come as no surprise that we're expecting a win for Fujioka who we suspect will become the third 3-weight world champion form Japan, following Koki Kameda and Kazuto Ioka. She will also become the first Japanese female to achieve the feat.
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
Japanese fighters are often accused of “failing to perform” when they fight away from home. Recent examples have shown some truth to that with notable losses for Ryosuke Iwasa and Tomoki Kameda. If you looked at the record of Tenkai Tsunami (21-10, 10) you probably accuse her of under-performing on the road, where she has gone 4-8. The truth however is that she's lost some very tight ones, to some of the very best female fighters on the planet.
On August 22nd we see Tsunami again take to a foreign land as she makes her Chilean debut, and takes on current IBF female Bantamweight champion Carolina Rodriguez (14-0, 1), the first ever Chilean to claim a “world title” in boxing.
Although her record doesn't suggest it Tsunami is a world class fighter. Over her 31 fight career, dating back to 2005, she has shared the ring with a who's who of female boxing. She's scored notable wins over the likes of Ayaka Miyao, Zhang Xi Yan and Kayoko Ebata, whilst suffering losses to the likes of Naoko Yamaguchi, Janeth Perez, Mariana Juarez, Zulina Munoz, Jessica Chavez and Arely Mucino.
Some of those losses have been clear defeats, such as the one to Juarez, others however have been unfortunate, such as the ones last year to Jessica Chavez and Arely Mucino, both of which could easily have gone Tsunami's way.
In the ring Tsunami is an aggressively minded fighter who comes forward relentlessly, she's not an out-and-out pressure fight but she's an intelligent aggressive fighter who comes to fight every time she's in the ring. She can be out boxed, and she can be out fought but very fighters will ever get in the ring with her and have an easy time with her. Sadly where she is flawed is that she lacks killer power, she's not the quickest and she isn't the most accurate, however given that she's got a great engine, and aggressive mentality few will enjoy sharing a ring with her.
Whilst Tsunami fights like her name suggests, always coming forward, the Chilean champion is a very different type of fighter. She has a forward gear but also a backwards gear and whilst she can come out swinging she often seems to prefer to box and move, using her legs, great timing and counter shows. She's very slick and has solid ring IQ even if she does, completely, lack power.
Sadly for Tsunami we can't see any way in which the judges will give her a decision in Rodriguez homeland. She may give the Chilean fight a real nightmare in the ring but the only way the Japanese fighter will win is with a knockout. Given the ability and style of Rodriguez we can't see than ever coming close to happening. As a result we suspect that Rodriguez will retain her title with a decision win, albeit one she has to work very hard to get.
So far this year boxing has been relatively disappointing. Sure we've had a few highlights but on the whole it has been pretty poor with very little in terms of notable matches. Thankfully this changes, in a big way, in March as fights start to come thick and fast at every level.
One of the many interesting looking female bouts takes place on March 7th as the hard hitting youngster Honey Mae Bermoy (6-2, 6), AKA Honey Katsumata, attempts to claim the vacant OPBF female Bantamweight title. Unfortunately for Bermoy she'll not be handed the title and will instead have to go through former world champion Tenkai Tsunami (19-9, 8) in a bout that is likely to give Bermoy the toughest test of her career so far.
Bermoy, aged 20, has proven so far to have venom in her hands. Despite turning professional at just 17 years old she managed to record back-to-back stoppages to begin her career in her native Philippines.
In less than 3 months Bermoy had moved her record to 3-1 (3) and had shown a natural fighting mindset even though she lacked boxing knowledge. The lack of boxing fundamentals saw her falling to 3-2 when her power failed to stop the naturally bigger Leslie Domingo at the start of 2013.
Thankfully for Bermoy her style, power and heart caught the eye of Japanese outfit Katsumata gym who have helped her train in recent bouts and helped her turn her 3-2 (3) record into a 6-2 (6) record which has included a very notable stoppage over Saki Yamada, the older sister of current WBO Minimumweight champion Mako Yamada.
Although Saki was inexperienced as a boxer she was a well schooled former kick boxer and Bermoy was supposed to be the next stepping stone in the development of the young Japanese fighter. Bermoy hadn't read the script and managed to score the upset.
Whilst Bermoy is really just a novice with 8 bouts and 25 professional rounds, none of which have been fought in a title fight, Tsunami is a genuine veteran of the ring. She has been in 28 bouts, she has fought in 8 "world" title fights, a total of 196 professional rouds and is a former WBA Super Flyweight champion.
Tsunami made her debut almost a decade ago and fought her way up the rankings before the JBC even recognised female boxing. By the time she had her first bout sanctioned by the JBC, in 2008, she had participated in 15 contests, winning 12 of them.
Since the JBC has recognised female boxing Tsunami has fought a further 13 times with several of those bouts taking place on enemy turf. Unfortunately it's been Tsunami's willingness to fight on the road and to only fight the best which has seen her drop from 12-3 to 19-9. On paper losing 6 of your last 13 bouts is awful but she had been in with a veritable who's who of female boxing and battles Naoko Yamguchi, Janeth Perez, Mariana Juaurez, Zulina Munoz, Jessica Chavez and Arely Mucino losing to all 6 women who have proven themselves as world class.
Although she has 9 losses on her record Tsunami's last 6 losses have come to genuinely elite level fighters. We don't think that Bermoy is anywhere near that level at the moment. The young Filipino may develop into a top level fighter somewhere down the line with the right experience building fights and developmental work in the ring and in the gym, though we don't imagine that's going to happen any time soon. In fact if anything her lack of experience is going to prove to be her major undoing here against Tsunami who will look to establish herself as the boss early before taking Bermoy into deep water and drowning her.
We do think Bermoy has the potential to win a title in the future, but at this moment in time she's jumping up from domestic level to fringe world level and we think she'll find that that jump is far too difficult for her at this particular moment.
Will Honey Mae survive a Tsunami? Our guess, no chance.
(Picture courtesy of http://www.kadoebi.com/, Tsunami and Bermoy feature
Here we preview the key female title bouts involving an Asian fighter.