The month of June has been a relative quiet one for fights in Asia, especially when compared to the incredible action we had in May and the busy schedule set for July. It does however end with a really interesting bout in Korea, as unbeaten local star Hyun Mi Choi (15-0-1, 4) defends her WBA female Super Featherweight title against Japanese challenger Wakako Fujiwara (7-2-2, 2). For the unbeaten queen this will be her 7th defense and her 15th WBA "world title" bout, whilst the challenger will be fighting in her first world title bout, having previously held OPBF and Japanese female titles.
The champion is a really interesting fighter. She was born in North Korea but escaped the regime with her family and has spent her entire professional career in South Korea, where she has been a real success story as a refugee fighter. Her career began, amazingly, with a world title fight in 2008, when she beat Chunyan Xu for the WBA female Featherweight title, to create a notable footnote in boxing history. Since then all but two of her fights have been for some form of a WBA title. She made 7 defenses of the Featherweight title, won the Interim Super Featherweight title, got up graded and has defended the Super Featherweight regular title 6 times already.
Whilst Choi hasn't become a major name in female boxing world wide she has had a few really solid wins in her career. These have included wins over Claudia Andrea Lopez, Sandy Tsagouris, Shannon O'Connell, Fujin Raika, Diana Ayala and Mayra Alejandra Gome, all world class fighters in their own right.
Choi's success has come down to her pure boxing skills. She's a basic fighter, but one who follows the text book well. She's light on her feet, has good hand speed, and fights to her strengths, keeping the bout at range with her jab, footwork and straight. There is is more to her than he straight punching, but that is certainly her strength and the key to her success so far.
The 38 year old Fujiwara is 10 years older than the champion and notably didn't even debut until she was. Her career got off to a nightmare start, losing by KO in her debut, then fighting to a draw in her second bout. In fact Fujiwara was 1-2-1 after 4 contests and her career didn't seem like it was going anywhere. Amazingly however she has battled back and gone 7-0-1, winning the Japanese female Featherweight title in March 2018 then added the OPBF title less than 4 months later to unify the titles. Whilst her run has been good on paper it is worth noting her biggest wins have come against the likes of Asami Jinnari and Kimika Miyoshi.
Fujiwara isn't the most technically sound boxer, her shots wide to say the least, but she comes forward, fights bouts at her pace and believes in her chin enough to she can take one to land one. Given her age there is clearly a case of father time being on her back, though we do wonder how long she can have left, especially with a style that depends so much on volume and work rate.
Given the huge difference in technical ability, and world level experience, it's hard to see anything but a win for Choi. The bigger question is the method of victory, and we're going with Choi to actually stop Fujiwara late on to, through accumulation of clean shots.
Prediction - Choi TKO9
This coming Sunday the attention of boxing fans will be on Malaysia where Manny Pacquiao takes on Lucas Matthysse to headline a quadruple header. The same day there's also a notable show in Korea, headlined by WBA female Super Featherweight champion Hyun Mi Choi (15-0-1, 4), who defends her title against Argentinian challenger Mayra Gomez (18-7, 4).
The 27 year old Choi has long been a fighter that we have spoken highly about. The North Korean born fighter has been one of the few shining lights of Korean boxing over the last decade. She won her first world title, the WBA female Featherweight title, on her debut in 2008 and since then has fought most of her career at world level, with only a few bouts that haven't featured a WBA world title being affiliated with them. Although she has fought at world level through her career she hasn't got the public attention that other female fighters have had in recent years. It's a shame that the boxing world hasn't given her some of the attention it's given the likes of Katie Taylor, Claressa Shields and Christina Hammer, but she certainly belongs in and around the conversation as one of the most significant female boxers in the sport tonight.
In the ring Choi is a joy to watch. She's a pure boxer who likes to fight at distance, using her long arms and height to keep opponents at the end of her jab, and choose when to trade on the inside. Unlike some fighters she's a very good athlete, as well as a good boxer, and she has a genuine boxing brain. On the inside Choi can be given trouble, and we have seen that a few times, but getting inside on Choi is a tough task in it's self as she's smart, quick and rangy.
The Argentinian challenger is much less established than the Korean, despite being the older fighter at 30 years old. She has mostly fought in Argentina, where there is a strong female boxing scene, but has travelled to both Mexico and Finland for fights, losing in world title fights to Jackie Nava and Eva Wahlstrom on the road. Given the fact that Gomez has fought fighters like Nava and Wahlstrom she won't be intimidated by Choi, but but she will clearly be the under-dog and actually comes into this bout with 4 losses in her last 2, including a very worrying defeat to Lilian Dolores Silva last time out.
Footage of Gomez shows her to be a rather slow and wide looking fighter. She looks happy to move around the ring and try to box but she doesn't look great and she also looks very small for a female Super Featherweight, probably due to the fact she has fought much of her career way down at Bantamweight and Super Bantamweight. She's proven to be tough, with her only only stoppage coming to Nava, but that's not going to help her win here against Choi.
We're expecting Choi to box on the move, use her reach and keep the shorter, clumsier, slower Gomez at the end of her straight punch, en route to a clear and wide decision win for the champion. Choi really shouldn't struggle at all here to make an easy defense.
This coming Saturday we'll get another female world title fight featuring a Japanese fighter, the third in just a few days. This time it's the turn of Tamao Ozawa (13-4, 5) who battles Raja Amasheh (20-1-1-1, 4) for the vacant WBO female Super Flyweight title, in Karlsruhe Germany.
For the 32 year old Japanese fighter this will be a second world title shot, following her 2017 bout against Su Yun Hong for the WBO female Light Flyweight title whilst Amasheh will be fighting for her first “big 4” world title, though is a former 2-weight WBF world champion, having claim the Flyweight and Super Flyweight titles.
Against Hong we saw Ozawa fight pretty well, but she was always just a step or two behind the talented Korean. That was arguably the second most notable bout of Ozawa's career, behind a 2016 bout with Mexican icon Mariana Juarez, who took a wide 10 round decision over the Japanese fighter. What those losses showed was that Ozawa has toughened up since her early career. In fact she was stopped twice in her first 8 bouts, an opening round TKO to the Tomoko Kawanishi and a 2nd round stoppage to Kai Johnson. Since then she has improved a loss, avenging the loss to Johnson and claiming the OPBF Super Flyweight title, as well as being competitive with Hong and going 10 rounds with Juarez.
Technically Ozawa is a pretty decent boxer but that's about as polite as you can be. She's slow, a little clumsy, her footwork isn't too sharp and defensively she has holes. She went the distance with Hong but her face took a toll, and her left eye was badly swollen from the consistent shots the Korean was landing, and although gutsy her defensive flaws could be an issue going forward.
Aged 35 Amasheh is possibly getting her only shot at a major world. The German based fighter, originally from Jordan, drew on her debut before going on an impressive run from 2009 to late 2016, going 19-0-0-1, with the only black mark being a split decision loss-turned-No Contest against Amira Hamzaoui. In 2016 we finally saw that unbeaten run come to an end, as Amasheh was defeated by the under-rated Ana Arrazola. She did bounce back from that loss by winning the WBC Silver Super Flyweight title last March, beating the limited Kleopatra Tolnai. Since then however Amasheh has been away from the ring, for almost a year.
From footage of Amasheh she is an aggressive fighter who rushes forward behind a tight guard and looks to fight behind combinations, thrown in flurries. She's defensively open when letting her shots go but seems to fight like she sees her best defense as her offense. When she's not on the front foot she is defensively tight, but looks like she can't transition from one to the other. She's defensive, or offensive.
Whilst we expect to see a bit of ring rust from Amasheh we also expect her to be more aggressive, more crisp and bustier than Ozawa. Ozawa will take a lot to be stopped, but that's not out of the question, especially not late on. We don't imagine Ozawa has the power or speed to be competitive, but she should be able to put up a decent and entertaining effort en route to a clear loss.
Korean boxing used to be something special, with fighters like Jung Koo Chang, Myung Woo Yuh and Sung Kil Moon being stars of yesteryear. Now a days however the scene is a bit of a shambles, mired in political wrangling and a relative lack of money. There is however one shining beacon in the country for boxing, and that is female star Hyun Mi Choi (14-0-1, 4), a North Korean refugee who has carved out a remarkable career and deserves to, one day, have her life documented on film. This weekend Choi looks to continue her amazing career as she seeks the next defense of her WBA female Super Featherweight title, in a bout against Mexican challenger Jessica Gonzalez (7-3-2-3, 1).
Choi's career began when she was a little girl, being scouted in North Korea ahead of the 2008 Olympics in China. The plan from the North Korean government was to have her, as a teenager, compete in the Games and look to put their country in the limelight. Those plans were thwarted when female boxing missed out on Beijing and not long afterwards Choi and her family would defect, and end up in Seoul.
In Seoul Choi would have to battle with the prejudices of being from Pyongyang, though did so whilst continuing to box, making her mark on the Korean amateur scene before debuting in 2008, aged 17! Not only did Choi debut at the 17 but, remarkably, she also won a world title on her debut, defeating Chunyan Xu for the WBA Featherweight title, creating history with the win. She would hold that title until until 2013, when she decided to move up in weight and quickly win the "interim" WBA Super Featherweight title. She would later be upgraded to full champion, and has subsequently defended the title a number times so far.
In the ring Choi is a well schooled boxer, with some lovely movement, a lot of very nice straight punches and a good boxing brain. She can fight on the inside, though it's clearly the weakest part of her game and she does prefer to hold rather than have an up and close battle of attrition. From range she's really fantastic but a fighter who can get in her face can give her problems, and she has shown some issues with stamina late in bouts. She also doesn't have fight ending power, which has caused a number of her bouts to go the distance, despite being very 1-sided.
Mexican fighter Gonzalez is much less well established than the Korean, but has had an interesting career. She has competed in a reality TV show, which took place way back in 2011 and did score back-to-back wins over Irma Garcia and Yazmin Rivas, to claim the "interim" WBC female Bantamweight title, which she defended once. Sadly since beating Rivas Gonzalez has gone 2-2-2, suffering losses to Liliana Palmera and a rematch with Yazmin Rivas. She has also fought to Estrella Valverde and Melissa St Vil. She has also moved up from Bantamweight to Super Featherweight in recent times.
In the ring Gonzalez can certainly fight. Her technical skills are limited, and her punches are wide slaps, but she seems happy to have a brawl. Often she fights off the back foot, but can be dragged into a slugfest. In many ways it's the slugging it out that could give Choi problems, but it should be noted that Gonzalez really lacks power, with just a single stoppage win so far. She looks tough, and rugged, but lacks power, speed and sharpness, which she would need to compete against Choi.
What we're expecting to see here is Choi boxing at range, using her natural size advantages and her speed to out box Gonzalez, out manoeuvrer the challenger and and take a wide decision without too many issues. Stylistically Gonzalez looks made to order, with her wide offense and her relative lack of power, and although Choi won't be expected to blast her out, it would be a surprise to see the Korean losing more than a round or two.
In recent months we've seen female boxing rise in profile, with Olympics like Katie Taylor, Nicola Adams, Claressa Shields and Marlen Esparza all making waves in the West. It's certainly a good time if you want to become interested in female boxing, and it seems like we're at the start of a new era in term of the professionalism of women's boxing. Despite that none of the top former amateur stars managed to make a debut quite like Hyun Mi Choi (13-0-1, 4), who claimed a world title on her debut back in 2008. This coming week Choi looks to continue her second world title reign and defend the WBA female Super Featherweight title. In the opposite corner to Choi will be Japanese challenger Kimika Miyoshi (13-9-1, 5).
As mentioned Choi won a world title on debut, though that's only a small part of her battle which has seen her escape the North Korean regime, win a world title as a teenager, become a 2-weight world champion and evidence that refugees aren't a bad thing, even when they are escaping your biggest national threat. The talented Choi claimed the WBA female Featherweight title on debut in 2008 and then moved on to become the WBA female Super Featherweight champion when she out grew the smaller weight class.
Although not a major international star Choi has recorded numerous notable wins. They include victories over Tenku Tsubasa, Claudi Andrea Lopez, Sandy Tsagouris, Shannon O'Connell, Fujin Raika and Chika Mizutani. She not only has an impressive record but also solid skills, with an out-side fighter mentality, and the frame to fight to that mind set. She's got under-rated speed, nice combinations and hits hard enough to keep very solid fighters honest, whilst also having proven world class stamina. Also at the age of 26 she's still maturing and still improving, and is likely several years from really reaching her prime.
Aged 33 Miyoshi has been around the block, and although she debuted only 5 months before Choi she has had a much rougher and tougher career. She has suffered a number of losses, including stoppages to Riyo Togo and Tomoko Kawanishi, but after a 3-5-1 start she has found her groove going 10-4 in her last 14 bouts. Those 10 wins include notable victories over Tenku Tsubasa, Riyo Togo, Chika Mizutani, and Kai Johnson. They have seen her become a 3-weight OPBF female champion and dip her toes at world level, with losses to Yazmin Rivas and Shannon O'Connell.
In the ring Miyoshi is the type of fighter who comes to fight. She's not the most skilled, or the most naturally gifted in terms of size, strength or speed, but she is a fighter with a pressure style, a lot of aggression and a real will to win. She can be out boxed, she can be hurt and she can be stopped, but she'll never just turn up and lie down. As a result she'll be coming in to this bout with the attitude of forcing her fight on to Choi and could be a real handful, though a win here would be the biggest and best of her career by some margin.
With Miyoshi being a pressure fighter and Choi being a boxer it's fair to say that Miyoshi will be backing up Choi, a lot, but the Korean is used to that and will look to use her more technically sound boxing skills to good use. What we expect to see is for Miyoshi to come forward, and Choi to out box her on the back foot with her more rounded and natural skills. There will be moments when Miyoshi gets inside and roughs up the champion, but they will be few and far between with Choi taking a clear decision after 10 rounds
Not many fighters win world titles on debut, in fact as far as we're aware only one has, North Korean Hyun Mi Choi (12-0-1, 4) [최현미]. This weekend Choi returns to the ring to defend her WBA female Super Featherweight title as she takes on South African challenger Unathi Myekeni (10-2-1, 4), in a bout that will see the winner also claim the WBF title.
Choi, for those unaware, took part in a massive battle as a teenager, well before she turned professional. That battle was the battle to escape North Korea and since then she has been a South Korean based fighter. Despite battling to have some freedom in her life Choi seemed happy to continue to fight and has made her name as one of the sports most talented female fighters, winning a title on debut and becoming a 2-weight champion in her early 20's.
In the ring Choi is a tall and rangy fighter who uses good technical boxing, a high level of energy and a lot of drive to to out boxing and out work opponents. So far she has come through pretty much every bout with ease, barring a draw in her second professional bout when her team failed to help her even get to the fight on time. She perhaps lacks power but is physically strong, fast and very well schooled.
Whilst we have seen plenty of, and been impressed by, Choi the same cannot be said of Myekeni. The challenger has got some footage out there, albeit much less than there is of Choi, and does look like she could be a handful at the lower weights. Notably however she has typically been fighting at 122lbs, not 130, and has never fought outside of South Africa before.
Whilst the challenger has never fought outside of South Africa she has faced some notable opponents during her 13 fight career. They include Hungarian Renata Szebeledi, who Mykeni beat, and Gabisile Tshabalala, who narrowly beat Myekeni.
From what we have seen of Mykeni she looks “made to order” for Choi. She's a tough and strong fighter but a rather basic one and one that should be easily out boxed by the talented Korean, who we think will be too good, too big and too fast.
Korean boxing is really struggling for traction, and has been for a while. Despite that the country does have some notable fighters and some with really interesting stories. No story matches that of the “Defector Girl Boxer” Hyun Mi Choi (11-0-1, 4) [최현미], the star of the KBA and the current WBA female Super Featherweight champion. In fact Choi's story is one of the best is boxing as a whole and is one of triumphant against adversity as well as the battle for freedom away from an evil dictator. It's a story that perhaps resonates with Cuban fighters but Choi takes it to a new level as she was just a teenager when she, and her family, defected from Pyongyang.
Choi's remarkable story features not only her defection but also her success as a fighter, which includes the amazing achievement of winning a world title on her debut. She's currently a 2-weight world champion, with a 10-0-1 (3) record in world title fights, and will be looking to extend her current reign on March 27th when she faces Colombian puncher Diana Ayala (19-11-4, 13).
The 25 year old Korean is a really talented boxer with a good work rate who likes to keep the fight at range. She's tall, 5'7”, and long for the weight and uses those to her advantage, whilst using using impressive speed. She's technically very solid and although not a big puncher her shots do take a toll on her opponents, who often end up bruised and looking like they have been in a fight.
Whilst Choi does lack massive wins she does have a number of good wins. They include decisions over Tenku Tsubasa, Claudia Andrea Lopez, Shannon O'Connell, Fujin Raika and Chika Mizutani as well as a stoppage over Sandy Tsagouris. Given her lack of experience those wins are very impressive and show the quality of the Korean, who doesn't seem to shirk challenges.
Whilst the champion is unbeaten the challenger has racked up losses, though has been a fighter who has fought on the road before and has acquitted herself well, despite being relatively crude. Like many Colombian's she has a reputation for being a puncher and like many she has racked up wins at home whilst failing to win bouts outside of her homeland. In fact Ayala is 0-10 outside of her homeland.
Although win-less outside of Colombia Ayala has fought the likes of Ogleidis Suarez, Monica Silvina Acosta, Fernanda Soledad Alegre, Jackie Nava, Alejandra Marina Oliveros, Claudia Andrea Lopez and Maria Elena Maderna on her travels. Whilst she has been competitive in some of those bouts it needs to be noted that her 19-1-4 record in Colombia is relatively padded with her last 6 wins, dating back more than 3 years, coming against win-less opposition, and she is now more than 5 years removed from her most notable result, a draw with Liliana Palmera.
Give the crudeness of Ayala there is the probability that she could give Choi some problems, though we suspect that Choi's skills will see her over-come the Colombian en route to a straight forward, and clear, decision. Ayala may have success early but when Choi begins to read her challenger the bout will become very one sided in favour of the champion.
When it comes to the best stories in boxing we can't help but love the story of Hyun Mi Choi (9-0-1, 3) a young female fighter who was born in Pyongyang before defecting, with her family, and setting up life in Seoul. Not only has Choi set up life in the South Korean capital but she has really made a success of herself, and is a 2-weight world champion. Bizarrely she claimed her first title on debut, winning the WBA female Featherweight title in her first professional bout, and has since become the WBA female Super Featherweight champion.
On May 23rd she'll be defending that Super Featherweight title as she takes on a veteran of the Japanese sense, Chika Mizutani (14-4, 7), who looks to become a world champion at the third time of asking. For Mizutani it's almost certainly "last chance saloon" though it's also a way to show that she can still compete after having been out of the ring for almost 2 years.
For those who haven't seen Choi she's a scrappy fighter when she needs to be, showing traits of her family's struggle to readjust to life in South Korea, how ever at her best she's an educated boxer who enjoy's using her size and youth. At range she's really talented and shows off the hard schooled teachings she had of North Korean boxing, something she had ahead of the 2008 Olympics, whilst also showing the traits that she's developed from having been a professional for more than 6 years, albeit and inactive professional.
Mizutani on the other hand is a warrior first and foremost. At 33 she's seen better days but she's a heavy handed puncher who has mixed in fantastic company, losing bouts to the likes of Erica Anabella Farias and Fujin Raika. Notably she has also lost twice in Korea, losing decisions to both Ji Hye Woo and Hyo Min Kim.
In her prime Mizutani would have been a real handful for Choi. Now however we can only see one winner, Choi, who is younger, fresher and much more "lively" given a 9 year age advantage. We do however hope that this bout can kick start the winner's career, with neither having been particularly active in recent times, in fact neither has fought in more than a year.
(Image courtesy of Hyun Mi Choi's facebook)
Here we preview the key female title bouts involving an Asian fighter.