This coming Saturday fight fans in China will be able to see IBF female Minimumweight champion Zong Ju Cai (9-1, 1) defending her title against Filipino foe Gretchen Abaniel (17-8, 6). The bout will be Cai's first as a champion whilst Abaniel will be looking to claim a major world title in her 5th, following reigns as a minor champion with WIBA level titles. The bout might not be anything massive to fans in the West, but to fight fans in China this is potentially a massive showdown and a chance for Cai to prove herself as a world class female.
In the ring Cai is a really skilled boxer-mover. She's not heavy handed and doesn't ever try to fight like a fighter with power. Instead she fights with energy, uses the ring and tries to always stay in control of the pace and action of the fight. Unlike many smaller fighters she doesn't fight like type of fighter who wants a high octane brawl, instead she wants to use her skill, potentially hiding a questionable energy tank.
With the Chinese crowd cheering her on it's going to be hard to beat Cai, but she isn't unbeatable. At times in her title win, which came back in January against Etsuko Tada, she seemed to flag late on and looked like she was running out of steam. If a fighter can force the pressure on her quickly then she could struggle later in the bout. If Cai can dictate the pace and tempo however, she will be very tricky to beat, and not many will have the skills to beat a comfortable Cai.
Aged 31 Abaniel is a true veteran, and one who has fought almost everywhere. She made her debut in China and has fought not only in the Philippines but also South Korea, Thailand, Mexico, Japan, Australia and Germany. Whilst she has had mixed success in the ring she has proven to be a world class fighter with only a single stoppage against her, back in 2011 to Katia Gutierrez, and competitive losses to a number of world class fighters like Ayaka Miyao. She's talented, experienced and tough, and a real handful for those on the verges of world class.
Although a talented fighter we can't help but think that Abaniel lacks the style to really compete with Cai. The two fought back in 2015 and Cai won with ease and we suspect that will happen again here. Abaniel will try, she always try, but we can't see her coming out on top here against the Chinese fighter, who is continually improving and is just coming into her prime.
Although Macau once looked like being the Asian hub of boxing, with Top Rank putting on a number of high profile cards. Sadly the local economy took a downturn and the idea of Macau being a focal point of Asian boxing looks like a distant dream, unlikely to really happen.
Despite not living up to it's early promise Macau hasn't faded away from boxing altogether and this coming weekend it hosts two world title fights, including an IBF female Minimumweight title fight, as Etsuko Tada (16-2-2, 5) looks to defend her title against China's Cai Zong Ju (8-1, 1). For Tada the bout sees her defending the title for the first time, despite winning the belt more than a year ago, whilst Ju will be looking to claim her first world title.
Tada first made her name as an amateur, winning 46 of her 50 bouts in the unpaid ranks, before turning professional in 2008. In just her 5th bout she claimed the WBA fmelae Minimumweight title, and defended it from 2009 until 2013. During her reign she recorded 9 defended and fought in two unification bouts, drawing in both. Whilst her reign didn't set the boxing world on fire she did score notable results with draws against Naomi Togashi and Ria Ramnarine as well as wins over Ibeth Zamora Silva, Maria Salinas, Naoko Shibata and Yuko Kuroki.
Tada's reign finally came to an end in 2013, when she lost a narrow decision to Anabel Ortiz and the following year Tada would again come up short to Ortiz. In 2015 however Tada would become a 2-time champion as she claimed the IBF title. Sadly since winning that belt in December 2015 she hasn't been the most active of fighters, fighting in just a single stay busy bout since December 2015.
At her best Tada is a nightmare for fighters. She's tough, rough, skilled and full of energy. She's not a big puncher but is an energetic fighter who fights at a high pace and is very well established as a top fighter. Sadly at the age of 35 she is likely to be on the way down and may not have quite the energy at the top level as she had a few years ago.
Cai turned professional in 2014, just weeks before her 23rd birthday,. She won her debut but came up short just weeks later when she took on teenager Nampetch Kwanjaisrikod in Laos. Since that loss however Cai has gone from strength to strength and run her last 7. That winning run has seen her over-come the likes of Gretchen Abaniel, Mari Ando and Samson Tor Buamas, legitimising her as a genuine contender.
At her best Cai is a talented outside boxer. She lacks power but can fight when she needs to, though seems happier using her speed and boxing skills. Although under-rated Cai will see this as her opportunity to move from being a regional champion, who has held a variety of secondary titles, to a world champion and will have trained her heart out for this one.
Although Cai is on a good run, significantly younger than the champion and will have home advantage this bout really is a huge step up for her and it's hard to favour her against such an accomplished fighter as Tada. There is a chance, that at 35 Tada's engine will falter, but the reality is that Tada should have too much in the locker at this point in time for Cai. Cai may have the skills to see out the distance but we suspect she'll struggle to be competitive with the Shinsei managed champion.
Here we preview the key female title bouts involving an Asian fighter.