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.
At one point earlier this year Ohashi Gym had 3 world champions. They had Akira Yaegashi, who at the time held the WBC Flyweight title, Naoya Inoue, the WBC Light Flyweight champion, and Ayaka Miyao, the WBA Atomweight champion. On paper they could end the year with out a single world title. We already know Yaegashi has lost his belt to Roman Gonzalez in a thrilling contest earlier this year and we also know that Naoya Inoue is set to vacate his world title. That means the world title hopes of the gym now lie, at least for now, on the tiny shoulders of Miyao.
Miyao (18-5-1, 3) will be defending her title for the 5th time this coming Saturday as she takes on fellow Japanese fighter Satomi Nishimura (7-1, 1), a fighter who will be challenging for a title for the second time in her career having previously fallen short in an OPBF title fight earlier this year. The story of the bout however is that this will be Miyao's first title bout in Nagano, the city in which she was born.
The challenger, as mentioned, has fought in 1 prior title bout. In that bout she fought against the recently usurped Saemi Hanagata for the vacant OPBF female Minimumweight title and was stopped in 5 rounds. That bout however was fought at Minimumweight, 105lbs, whilst this coming bout will be at Atomweight, or 102lbs. It might not seem like a lot but to the fighters at these weights that can be a big difference between winning and losing.
Prior to the loss to Hanagata the challenger had won 6 straight, though against limited foes whilst since the loss she has score a single win, again at a very low level.
Whilst the challenger is lacking wins of any note the champion is a well established top tier fighter at 102lbs. In her brilliant career the 31 year old has beaten the likes of Masae Akitaya, Mari Ando and Gretchen Abaniel whilst coming up short against the likes of Nao Ikeyama, Samson Tor Buamas, Tenkai Tsunami and Naoko Shibata all world champions and very, very good fighters.
For those who haven't seen Miyao she's a whirlwind of energy in the ring throwing relentlessly in a manner similar to stable Yaegashi. Although diminutive in stature she has a huge engine that powers he insane work rate. She may not have the power to go with that work rate but she does grind opponents mentally and physically, whether she stops them or not is beside the point.
We suspect the class and work rate of Miyao will be the telling factor here with the experienced champion having a bit too much of everything for the challenger. That's not to say Nishimura wasn't put up a fight but we don't think she'll put up enough of one to make the bout competitive, especially not with Miyao looking to impress fans in her return to Nagano. The challenger will try but this is a domestic contender fighting a world champion and the levels of the fighters will be apparent in the ring.
(Image courtesy of Ohashi Gym)
The Minimumweight division in female boxing seems to be widely dominated by Asian fighters. We recently saw Mako Yamada announce herself on the world stage by winning the WBO female world title, we also saw Mari Ando win the WBC title late last year and in the past fighters like Naoko Fujioka and Etsuka Tada have dominated the division.
With that in mind the division is an important one to Asian fighters, especially those form Japan who appear to have a genuine desire to become the best female fighters at 105lbs.
With that in mind we feel that there is more to the upcoming contest between Saemi Hanagata (8-4-2, 3) and Satomi Nishimura (6-0, 1) than just the OPBF Minimumweight title that both women will be trying to claim. We feel that this bout is more about the winner planting themselves as a top contender in the division and making a claim for being a future world title contender.
Of the two fighters it's Hanagata who probably has more to lose. She has the more damaged record already and will know that one more set back could well send her well back down the rankings and she would likely lose her #5 WBC ranking with a loss, whilst a win would certainly boost her place from #13 with the WBA.
The reason Hanagata has got a somewhat muddied record is down to the fact she has faced several good fighters. These have included former world title challengers such as Jujeath Nagaowa, Masae Akitaya and Yuko Kuroki as well as current world champion Momo Koseki. Those fighters, between them, would mess up anyone's record in the lowest weight divisions.
Whilst Hanagata has lost to the likes of Koseki and drawn with Kuroki and Akitaya she has also experienced what it's like to fight some top fighters. Those fights will have done more good in terms of her development and helping her improve than 14 fights against complete novices who lined up to lose. They will also have instilled a real grit and confidence in her that she will, one day, become a champion herself despite failing in previous title fights.
With an unbeaten record Nishimura looks better on paper than Hanagata though unfortunately when you look beneath the surface of Nishimura's record you see how deceiving it is. Her 6 bouts so far haven't come against anyone of note and in fact 4 of her 6 opponents have been debutants. Between all 6 their combined record has been 11-10-1 with Thai journey woman Nongbua Lookprai-aree accounting for 8 of the wins and 9 of the losses.
Unfortunately for Nishimura she hasn't been given any sort of experience building fights. Instead she's been given record padding fights. That's all well and good when you're young but at 33 years old that lack of development tends to come back and bite you.
With the difference in experience levels it's hard to pick against Hanagata who may have won just 1 of her last 5 but she has been very competitive in those she didn't win, including the Koseki fight, one of Koseki's toughest. Nishimura will likely start well but Hanagata's experience will see her figure out Nishimura early on and beat her down the stretch with Nishimura wondering why Hanagata is hitting her back unlike her previous 6 opponents.
The winner will likely only be a win or two away from a world title fight so we'd keep a serious eye on the result of this one.
Here we preview the key female title bouts involving an Asian fighter.