One of many notable bouts this coming Sunday will see Japan's Tenkai Tsunami (25-12, 14) defending her WBO female Light Flyweight title against Filipino challenger Gretchen Abaniel (18-9, 6). For the champion the bout will be her first defense, following her title win in March against Chaoz Minowa, whilst Abaniel will be looking to finally win a big one and become a world champion, after having come up short in a number of title challenges.
The Japanese fighter is a true veteran, having made her debut back in 2005, and since then she has faced a real who's who whilst becoming a 2-weight champion. Her first reign, as the WBA female Super Flyweight champion, began in 2009 and saw he hold the title until 2012. She would then attempt to become a 2-time champion but failed in title bouts against the likes of Janeth Perez, Mariana Juarez, Zulina Munoz and Jessica Chavez. Given that level of competition there is little wonder why Tsunami began to collect losses but she always put up a good effort, fighting hard for the 10 rounds. Although she was gritty and determined she just kept coming up short to elite level opponents.
In March it seemed like Tsunami was getting her last shot as she took on Minowa for the WBO female Light Flyweight title. At the age of 30, and having had a hard career, it was unclear what Tsunami had left until she out worked and broke down the former amateur standout in 8 rounds, with Minowa being saved by her corner whilst looking completely exhausted by the time they saved her.
The 32 year old Abaniel has been a true servant to Filipino boxing since making her debut back in 2006. Since then she has regularly competed with world champions, fighting the likes of Cho Rong Son, Samson Tor Buamas, Katia Gutierrez, Teeraporn Pannimit, Ayaka Miyao, Kumiko Seeser Ikehara and Cai Zong Ju. Like Tsunami she has often come up short against the best opponents she's faced, but has regularly given good value as a valiant loser.
Abaniel is technically capable, though lacks power and physicality especially given that she's someone who has fought much of her career at Atomweight and Minimumweight. For this bout she's going up to be up at Light Flyweight, against someone who has been a world champion at Super Flyweight. Whilst she's technically very good we see the strength and power difference here being huge and we suspect it will be too much for Abaniel.
We're expecting to see Abaniel start quick, and have moments in the early rounds, but be worn down by the pressure and aggression of Tsunami, who we believe will stop the challenger in the second half of he bout.
This coming Thursday is a big day for women's boxing in Japan, with a show featuring 6 title bouts, including 2 world title bouts. On paper the better of those bouts is a WBO Light Flyweight title bout, as the unbeaten Chaoz Minowa (5-0, 4) takes on veteran Tenkai Tsunami (24-12, 13), with the two fighting for the currently vacant title. On paper the bout might not look anything special, but given the styles of the two women and their experiences, both amateur and professional, we're expecting to see something very special.
Of the two fighters it's Tsunami who is the more proven and experienced, which should be no real surprise given she has 7 times more fighters under her belt. In fact not only that but she also has more world title fights than Minowa has total professional bouts. She might also have more losses, but when you get a fighter like Tsunami the losses only tell a fraction of the real story, and don't have context. The real context to those losses is that she has fought a real who's who of the female boxing world and suffered losses to world class fighters like Naoko Yamaguchi, Janeth Perez, Mariana Juarez, Jessica Chavez, Zunila Munoz, Arely Mucino and Carolina Rodriguez. She could have padded her record, but instead fought a who's who, often above her natural weight.
Whilst it's easy to focus on the losses of Tsunami we can't ignore the fact she's a formerworld champion, having held the WBA female Super Flyweight title from February 2009 to July 2012. During her reign she made 5 defenses, beating the likes of Kayoko Ebata and Rie Fujimoto ahd she showed her world class ability.
In the ring Tsunami is an all action fighter. She is technically limit, but has a great engine, a fantastic work rate, a gritty determinedness, a solid toughness and always makes for good action bouts. She lacks the speed or skills to really test the very best, hence her double digit losses, but is a hard night for pretty much anyone, and could easily have had a better looking record with just a tiny bit of good luck.
Whilst Tsunami has fought almost everyone of note the same clearly can't be said of Minowa, who has only been a professional for about 18 months. So far she has faced very limited opponents from across Thailand, Korea and the Philippines and really not been tested that much. The one test she had came from Carleans Rivas, who Tsunami stopped in 2, and even then she took a clear 8 round decision over the Filipino. In the ring Minowa is an ultra-aggressive fighter who looks to stop every opponent as quickly as possible. So far it has seen her stop 4 of her first 5 opponents and she has racked up only 18 rounds in her first 5 bouts, but she has looked very aggressive and very exciting so far.
Minowa has impressed, but also left us with a lot of questions. We don't know what she's like in the later rounds, how her stamina holds up, what she's like under pressure, how copes with a step up in class and a lot of other questions. From what we've seen, and from what we know of her amateur background, we expect that she'll be able to step up and rise to the challenge, but this is a huge step up in class.
The bout really comes down to whether Minowa can fight at a high pace for 10 rounds, whether she can avoid the heavy shots from Tsunami and whether she has the skills to out box someone of Tsunami's ability and experience. The step up is what makes this so interesting and such a hard to call bout. We edge towards Minowa having the movement and amateur background to out manoeuvre, though can certainly imagine Tsunami's pressure getting to Minowa and the veteran taking a notable win over her younger foe.
One of the top, if not the top, female fighter in Japan has long been the sensationally talented Naoko Fujioka (16-2, 7), who became Japan's first ever 4 weight champion earlier this year. The 42 year old Japanese veteran has claimed titles at Minimumweight, Super Flyweight, Bantamweight and Flyweight. To end 2017 Fujioka drops down to Light Flyweight, to face Yokasta Valle (13-0, 5) in a bout for the WBO female Light Flyweight title. Interestingly Fujioka is dropping down from Flyweight for this bout, whilst Valle is a former IBF Atomweight champion, having claimed that title last year.
Fujioka has had a genuinely remarkable career and is regarded by some as one of the top 10 female fighters, pound-for-pound, in the sport. She debuted at the age of 34 and after just a year in the sport claimed the OPBF Minimumweight title. The following year she claimed the WBC title, stopping Anabel Ortiz. In 2013 Fujioka claimed the WBA Super Flyweight title, she added the WBO Bantamweight title in 2015 and then the WBA Flyweight title earlier this year. Whilst Fujioka has obviously been collecting titles she has also been facing stiff competition, with bouts against the likes of Naoko Shibata, Anabel Ortiz, Victoria Argueta, Naoko Yamaguchi, Susi Kentikian, Mariana Juarez, Shindo Go and Jessica Chavez.
In the ring Fujioka can fight, box or brawl. She's the type of fight who can adapt, and when she needs to make things rough she can, as she did in the final stages against Mariana Juarez. Although she has two defeats against her name both were close and controversial, and more importantly on the road with the loss against Chavez being one of the most questionable decisions of recent years. At 42 there is some question marks about how many more top performances she has in the tank, but she's not yet showing signs of slipping.
Aged 25 Valle is one of the stars of Costa Rican boxing, and has ben a professional since mid 2014. Much of her career has been spent at home, in Costa Rica, though she did venture to El Salvador for a bout last year. It was at home last year that she defeated Ana Victoria Polo to claim the IBF title at 102lbs, though since then she has moved up to 105lbs, where she beat journey woman Yadita Perez. Sadly the key thing to note about Valle is her level of competition, and it has been dire, with none of her opponents having any name value, and very few having any sort of a record.
Although Valle's best win has been down at 102lbs she is actually a big fighter for the lower weights and shouldn't have any issues making 108lbs and being a fully fledged fighter at the weight, in fact she may be stronger than she has been whilst draining herself down. The problem for her however is that she's not really shown herself to be world class. There is some ability there, and it's clear that a really top level trainer could take her quite far, but the fact she's so untested and stepping up in such a huge way that it's hard to see he she can win here.
We don't think Fujioka is a huge puncher,but she certainly holds solid power in both hands, and we suspect that power will have telling effects late on, with a stoppage for the Japanese in the later rounds.
On May 14th fans in Kyoto get the chance to see two female fighters trading blows as they battle for the WBO female Light Flyweight title. In one corner will be local hopeful Tamao Ozawa (12-3, 4) whilst the other corner will have Korean visitor Su Yun Hong (14-1-1, 7), who looks to become a 2-weight world champion.
Of the two fighters the 30 year old Hong is the more well known. She debuted back in 2010 and become one of the more notable Korean's of recent years. She's a talented southpaw based in Hwaseong City and has been known on the world stage for around 5 years. Her first title was the WIBA Light Flyweight title but she really made her mark by winning the WBO female Minimumweight title in June 2012, when she beat Teeraporn Pannimit in Macau.
As the WBO female Minimumweight champion Hong was one of the faces of Korean boxing and made 2 defenses of the belt, including a split decision win over Mari Ando, before losing the belt to teenager Mako Yamada in 2014. Following the loss to Yamada Hong moved up in weight, and reclaimed the WIBA title which she has held since October 2014, defending it 4 times.
Although not well known by Western fight fans Hong does hold some decent wins, but her loss to Yamada showed her limitations, with Yamada ripping the title from the Korean. Also needs to be noted that her opponents since the Yamada bout haven't been great and she hasn't fought in over a year, since beating Filipino veteran Jujeath Nagaowa.
Aged 31 Ozawa is the slightly older fighter, and the one with the less impressive looking record. Despite that she probably starts the bout as a fighter full of hunger and as someone who will see this as their chance to win a world title, adding it to an OPBF title. Talking about that OPBF title that belt was up at Super Flyweight, where she beat Terumi Nuki for the belt, and it's worth noting that Ozawa has fought much of her career at 115lbs, where she has suffered all 3 of her losses.
Although Ozawa has been stopped 2 times during her career, including a blow out to Tomoko Kawanishi and a 2nd round loss to Kai Johnson, she did recently prove her toughness by going 10 rounds with Mariana Juarez in Mexico last May.
Ozawa hasn't proven herself at world class, yet, but moving down in weight to Light Flyweight might well help her do so, and her last two bouts where at Flyweight where she does look like a more imposing fighter than she had at Super Flyweight. If she can make Light Flyweight comfortably she could end up being a very imposing fighter at the weight class.
On paper Hong should be favoured, she has the better record and is the more proven fighter, but we suspect that the move down in weight by Ozawa will really help her here and we're predicting a win for the Japanese fighter, who will be strongly supported by the fans in Kyoto. Hong may be the more naturally talented fighter, but we're expecting to see the local take home the decision here.
On March 4th we have a hectic day with a Japanese title fight in Tokyo and then a world title fight, featuring a Japanese fighter, in action in Jalisco. For Japanese fight fans it's going to be a long 24 hours, but will it be worth staying up for, and will their fighter manage to come out on top in the world title bout?
The world title bout in question will see IBF female Light Flyweight champion Naoko Shibata (16-3-1, 5) travelling to Mexico to take on Alondra Garcia (16-3-1, 1), the woman she originally beat for the title back in November 2013. In their first bout it was a then unbeaten Garcia getting on a plan to face Shibata for the vacant title, in what many though was going to be Shibata's final world title shot. This time around however the Japanese champion will be on the road whilst seeking her 6th defense of the title whilst Garcia will be fighting to get her career back on track after a number of recent set backs.
At her best Shibata is a real nightmare to fight. She's tough, hard working, well experienced and seems to get better as fight go on. She's certainly not the most skilled fighter in the sport but with her stamina and determination she has become of the toughest fighters to actually beat. In fact it's around 4 years since her last loss, to Ibeth Zamora Silva, and her only other losses have come to world class fighters in the form of Etsuko Tada and Naoko Fujioka. Whilst it's true that Shibata has been run close in recent bouts, narrowly over-coming Saemi Hanagata and Maria Salinas, as well as fighting to a draw with Salina, she has managed to grit her teeth and continue to retain her title.
Although a veteran with an 8 year career, 20 bouts and 7 contests at world level, this will actually be Shibata's first contest outside of Japan. More tellingly she has only fought 4 times outside of Tokyo, with this being her 5th contest outside of the Japanese capital. The travel to a new country here could well be a major problem for the 35 year old, who is showing signs of coming to the end of her career at the top.
As mentioned Garcia was unbeaten ahead of her first bout with Shibata, which was a clear loss on the cards. Since that defeat the Mexican has gone 7-2-1, losing to Victoria Argueta in a title bout at Minimumweight and Sabrina Maribel Perez in a Bantamweight title bout. More notable than those two defeats is a draw to the then debuting Eloisa Martinez. In the ring Garcia lacks power, and hasn't scored a stoppage since her second bout, when she scored a 2nd round TKO win over Norma Ojeda, despite that she is quick and comes to fight.
With the crowd behind her, we know that Garcia will get cheers every time she does anything. With that in mind we suspect we'll see Garcia pick moments to strike, and with the crowd cheering her work she'll get into the mind of the judges, who we don't imagine will make life easy for Shibata. Whilst we're not expecting a robbery, or a bout that leaves a nasty after taste like last year's Chavez Vs Fujioka bout, we do think Garcia will get the nod thanks on the score cards.
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.
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.
On paper Japan's Mari Ando (12-8, 5) has the record of a journey woman but the reality is that she's a bona-fide world level contender who has a “win some-lose some” record at the top level. In fact coming into this weekend she is 3-4 in world title bouts, a 2-weight world champion and a fighter who has been really unlucky to actually have a 12-8 record.
This weekend Ando attempts to become a 3-weight champion as she travels to Mexico to battle Ibeth Zamora Silva (24-5, 9), the current WBC female Light Flyweight champion and one of the best female fighters on the planet.
Ando is a true warrior. She has limitations but the 28 year old is a real battler who has regularly made up for her limitations with a high work rate, insane toughness and incredible will to win. That will to win has her over-come the likes of Amara Kokietgym, Maria del Refugio Jimenez Cruz and Jasseth Noriega whilst managing push fighters like Ayaka Miyao, Yuko Kuroki, Su Yun Hong and Cai Zong Ju all the way.
A big question when it comes to Ando is how she will cope at Light Flyweight. Interestingly she is 2-0 (1) above 105lbs, though this match up is a huge step up in class from her other two at the weight.
When it comes to Zamora the 27 year old really is one of the sports best female fighters. Her record is incredible, not just the numbers but also the quality of her wins which have come against the likes of Esmeralda Moreno, twice, Jessica Chavez, twice, Anabel Ortiz, Naoko Shibata and Ava Knight. Not only has she been beating top names but she's also been a 3 year reign as a world champion and has already recorded 7 defenses of her title.
In the ring Zamora can almost everything, in fact the one thing she's missing is “power” though she more than makes up for that with her ability to box, or brawl. When it comes to being adaptable she certainly has plan A, B, C and D in her locker and with a large crowd behind her and her confidence sky high it's going to take a very special fighter to beat her.
Whilst we rate Ando as being much better than her record, we can't see over-coming Zamora, especially not in Mexico
A new is upon us and title fights are back on January 10th when we get the first world title bout of the year. The bout in question sees Korean world champion Eun Hye Lee (8-0, 3) defending her WBO Female Light Flyweight title for the first time and battling against Touted Australian destroyer Louisa Hawton (6-0, 3). For Lee the bout will be her first since last September's title win over Ploynapa Sakrungrueng whilst Hawton, who had previously chased Momo Koseki, will be in her first world title bout and see her return to the ring for the first time since last August.
The 33 year old Korean has come through the local scene claiming a national title in her third professional bout, back in 2012, and a regional title two years later before finally taking a world title last year. Whilst she has progressed the typical way she does lack wins of real quality with Ploynapa being her best win so far, not an outstanding win. In total she has beaten just two fighters with winning records and has failed to show her ability is genuinely top tier. Despite that she has rarely lost more than a couple of rounds in a fight and appears to fight to her strengths.
Australian fighter Hawton debuted less than 2 years ago and has raced up her record. Through 2015 she faced 3 fighters with winning records, including former world title challenger Angor Onesongchaigym and Jujeath Nagaowa, with Nagaowa being the only fighter to last more than 4 rounds with Hawton. In the ring Hawton is a confident, fast and powerful fighter. There are some technical chinks in her defense but watching her attack is worrying given her ability and explosiveness. Getting into a fight with her isn't a smart idea, but from watching her she does seem able to force her style on to fights. Of course there is a question regarding her stamina though it's fair to say that she's never had to prove it given her style and dominance so far.
Coming into this one it's fair to say both fighters are facing their stiffest opponent so far. Neither fighter is amazingly proven and although both are unbeaten neither has faced anyone of real quality. Saying that however we have been more impressed by what we've seen of Hawton and suspect her explosive aggression will be the difference between the two here.
It's seemingly ladies week in Japanese boxing with 3 female world title fights in just 3 days, the final of which is an IBF female Light Flyweight title defense by Japanese veteran Naoko Shibata (14-3, 4), who faces Mexican southpaw Maria Salinas (11-4-2, 4). The bout will be Shibata's 4th defense whilst Salinas is challenging for a world title for the second time, incidentally her first world title bout was also in Japan where she was out pointed by Etsuko Tada.
Aged 34 Shibata is one of the “elder-stateswomen” of Japanese boxing. Like a fine wine however Shibata has gotten better with age and has turned a faltering 9-3 record into her current 14-3 record, winning a world title in her third attempt, out pointing Alondra Garcia in November 2013, and keeping that title one way or another.
It's fair to say that Shibata hasn't been a sensational fighter, though wins over Garcia, Guadalupe Martinez, Ana Arrazola and Saemi Hanagata are certainly wins that deserve respect. Those wins have shown Shibata to be a fighter who has improved with the title around her waist. She has shown her heart and determination, her improving skills and her will to win, gutting out some real problems, especially against Hanagata, to retain her title.
Although not the best, or hardest hitting, or most skilful fighter out there Shibata is a good, solid all rounder who, as mentioned, has that real will to win. In fact it sometimes seems that she would be willing to go through anything to retain her title and continue being a world champion.
In Salinas we have a hungry young challenger. She's 26 and has been mixing with top tier competitive for the last 4 years. That run has seen her going 4-3-1 though has featured bouts with the likes of Esmeralda Moreno, Etsuko Tada, Jessica Nery Plata and Arely Valente. Although she's mostly lost to those top names she will have improved just by being in that type of company and she'll have improved so much from being the fighter that she once was,
In the ring Salinas isn't a puncher but is a good solid southpaw who has shown bravery on the road, especially in the loss to Tada. Sadly though she hasn't shown world class ability and her best achievement so far is becoming a 2-weight WBC Youth champion, claiming the title at 105lbs and 115lbs. Notably she has fought across all the lower weights, apart from Atomweight, and although she's growing it does seem like she could make anything from 105lbs to115lbs with no real issue.
Whilst Salinas has been up against some very capable fighters it does need to be said that sh has usually lost to the better ones. We suspect that will be the case again here with Shibata who we suspect will just refuse to lose in a bout that will be full of action but see the champion just out hustling the challenger over the scheduled 10 rounds.
Here we preview the key female title bouts involving an Asian fighter.