When we think of Japanese boxing success stories in Europe we struggle to find any, in fact Toshiaki Nishioka's 2005 win over Mustapha Abahraouhi in France is one of the few that Spring to mind. There is however the curios case of Switzerland based Japanese fighter Aniya Seki (34-3-2, 5), who has spent her entire 39 fight career in Europe.
The Tokyo born fighter is one of the forgotten fighters from Japan but on October 27th she may end up doing something no Japanese man has ever done, winning a world title fight in Europe.
The 39 year old Seki will be challenging Mexican foe Maribel Ramirez (12-9-2, 3) in a bout for the WBA female Super Flyweight. It's the biggest fight of Seki's 10 year career whilst Ramirez will be making her first defense, following a surprise title win in Peru in May against Linda Laura Lecca.
At the age of 39 Seki is no spring chicken and although she's not slow as such she was never amazingly fast, sharp or powerful. She does have decent boxing skills, which she has shown in her homeland of Switzerland as well as Italy and Germany. Sadly though her record says more about her competition than her ability, and she has padded her record with bouts against the likes of Claudia Ferenczi, who she has beaten 3 times.
During her long career she has notched some notable wins, over the likes of Liliana Martinez, Alexandra Vlajk and Caroline Schroeder. Sadly however her record is mostly padded and she has fallen short in her biggest bouts, against the likes of Marilyn Hernandez and Judith Rodriguez. Those loses have shown her limitations and it's clear that a win here would be the best of her career, by far.
The 32 year old Ramirez made her debut in 2009 and really has had mixed success. She began her career promisingly, with a 7 fight unbeaten run. Unfortunately however she would go from 6-0-1 to 9-9-2 with notable losses against the likes of Mariana Juarez, Esmeralda Moreno, Zulina Munoz, Naoko Fujioka and Linda Laura Lecca. Recently however she has turned things around, with 3 straight wins including a victory in a rematch against Lecca for the WBA title.
In the ring Ramirez is a gritty fighter, coming to the ring to let her hands go and force a brawl. Technically she's flawed but with a good engine, a high work rate, and a serious determination she's a hard fighter to discourage. She can be stopped and she can be out boxed but if a fighter lacks big power or great boxing skills they will seriously struggle with Ramirez.
We're expecting to see Ramirez travel to Switzerland with a burning hunger, the same hunger that she had against Lecca, and simply out work the older Seki to retain the title and make her first defense. Sadly we suspect a loss here will end Seki's career, given she is 40 in May. It's a shame that one of the few Japanese boxers to base themselves in Europe will fail to reach the top, but it does show there is a route for them. Hopefully her career shows that there is a chance for Japanese fighters to make a mark on the European scene.
This coming Saturday fight fans in Argentina will see local favourite Debora Anahi Dionicius (26-0, 6) defending her IBF female Super Flyweight title against Japanese challenger Terumi Nuki (9-2, 4). For the champion the bout will be her 11th defense whilst the Japanese fighter will be hoping to claim a world title in her second title challenger, and score a rare Japanese win in Latin America.
The unbeaten champion is regarded as one of the elite female fighters at 115lbs. Not only does she have one of the longest unbeaten records of any active female out there right now but also one of the longest reigns. She won the title way back in November 2012 and has been busy as a champion, fighting both frequent defenses and non-title bouts and staying very busy. Whilst her activity has been very impressive she hasn't often faced notable challengers, with her best wins coming against the likes of Simona Galassi, Neisi Torres and Olga Julio.
Footage of the champion shows a busy fighter, who uses uses her jab well, has good timing on her power shots and can set the pace early on thanks to her sharp and accurate jab. She might not have much in terms of power but she great stamina and seems to come on stronger the later fights go. Sge often pushes fighters back in the later stages as they feel the pace and the accumulation of jabs and body shots. The way she connects with combination is also very impressive and she seems to feed really well off the fans, who really do get behind their fighters in Argentina.
Whilst Dionicius is a long reigning champion Nuki is a fighter taking part in her second world title bout. Prior to her first shot at world level she had claimed the OPBF female Super Flyweight title, though that win aside there was nothing of any real note on her record. In her sole world title fight she was widely beaten by WBC female Bantamweight champion Mariana Juarez, but did give Juarez some questions and took a couple of rounds from the Mexican. Not only did she take some rounds off Juarez but proved to be tough, and have a good work rate.
Sadly for Nuki she is very limited. She's slow of foot, defensively open and although she has an impressive will to win she isn't skilled enough to really compete in a boxing contest at world level. In a fight, a true brawl, she could potentially holder her own but in a boxing contest she lacks the nuances to hold her own at the top level.
We expect Nuki to have her moments here, but the reality is that Dionicius will out box her and take a clear and wide decision win over the Japanese challenger. The champion will be too busy, too skilled and too quick for the challenger here.
Whilst boxing, at it's heart, might be a combat sport where participants get hit in the face some fighters do do well outside of the sport based on their looks. It's shallow and ignores their skills but it's certainly something a lot of fighters, especially female ones, have made a part of their careers in recent years.
One of the fighters who has certainly attracted a lot of attention is Japanese fighter Tomomi Takano (8-1, 5) who moves up in class this coming Wednesday to take part in her first world title bout. The gorgeous Japanese fighter will be up against the more proved and much more experienced Argentinian world champion Daniela Romina Bermudez (17-3-2, 5), the current WBO female Super Flyweight world champion.
The 28 year old Japanese fighter took up boxing late in life and although she's not rounded off her skills there is a lot to appreciate about her. Physically she has the build to be an excellent boxer. She's tall, long, rangy and in fantastic condition. If she had taken to boxing at a young age she could have rounded off her skills to develop and excellent jab and move gameplan that could have taken her far.
As it is Takano's not a terrible fighter. She's not the accomplished fighter that she could have been but she's improving all the time and is a fighter who scarcely resembles what she once was. She's not the most powerful but she now knows her way around the ring, she knows how to box and she knows how to use her physical traits to her advantage, though she's perhaps not able to do it against good competition.
As for the champion she's a real fighter who has been a professional for more than 5 years and mixed with some excellent opposition, including Edith Soledad Matthysse, Yesica Yolanda Bopp, Mayerlin Rivas, Linda Laura Lecca and Venesa Lorena Taborda. Whilst it's fair to note that she has lost to Bopp, twice, and Matthysse she has been mixing with success against very good competition.
In the ring Bermudez is a fighter. She can box but she's a gritty fighter who is likely to find the test of facing Takano and interesting one. She's the much small fighter but is one who will likely apply pressure from the off and look to get inside where she can go to work, if she can do that she'll be letting her hands go and breaking down the challenger.
Before we get on to our prediction we do need to note one more thing. Takano's weight. Stood at close to 5'10, and having fought as high as Super Bantamweight, we know she'll struggle to make 115lbs for this bout.
Given what we know about Takano, he struggles to make weight and her loss, a stoppage to Kei Johnson, we have to favour Bermudez to simply wear her down. The champion may not be a puncher but she will, simply, be too good for Takano.
We know many fight fans, especially those in the west, don't think highly of female boxing. Fans, for whatever reason, tend to feel that female boxers lack the fundamental skills of their male counterparts and that sport is certainly a man's only world.
Despite that thought being prevalent in the UK and the US we tend to disagree fully and in fact we recommend every fan who thinks female boxers are limited to watch Naoko Fujioka (11-0, 6), a fighter whose skillset is similar to that of some top male fighters and her domination is nothing short of impressive.
Fujioka, the current WBA female Super Flyweight champion, impressed us all last year when she ditched the WBC female Minimumweight title in search of a challenging opponent. Fuijioka's search lead her to Naoko Yamaguchi, a bigger fighter with a reputation as being a monstrous puncher. Despite being the smaller fighter jumping up the weights Fujioka dominated Yamaguchi, dropping her once on route to a very clear decision victory.
On July 7th Fujioka will be attempting to make the first defence of her Super Flyweight title as she takes on the younger, taller, naturally bigger and fresher Tomoko Kawanishi (9-1, 4) in a bout that is very interesting looking despite our very genuine admiration of Fujioka and her skills.
Fujioka, at 38, is a fighter who is likely to begin showing signs of declining in the ring. She looked sharp, fast, powerful and excellent last time out but we know fighters do become worse with age and we're unsure how long Fujioka will remain the fighter that we love watching.
At just 27 Kawinishi is not just younger than the champion but she is more than a decade younger than Fujioka. She also boasts a staggering 5" of height advantage and began her career fighting at Bantamweight, some 13lbs heavier than where Fujioka made her name. That sort of natural size and youth will certainly do Kawanishi the world of good as long as she can use those advantages, keep her jab busy and effectively force Fujioka to break inside of her reach.
One thing was cannot say about Kawanishi is that she is experienced or proven. He most telling bout was her sole loss, a decision loss to the hard hitting Riyo Togo. She proved her toughness in that bout and gave Togo a very tough fight but, in fairness, Togo is a crude slugger whilst Fujioka is a skilled boxer-puncher and the two cannot really be compared together.
Whilst we know plenty about Fujioka who combines excellent pure boxing with speed and power we don't know nearly as much about Kawanishi. From what we have seen of her though she's a fighter who uses her reach well, fires off a busy jab and has sharp hooks, however her defence looks limited and she doesn't look anywhere near as rounded as Fujioka. There is talent there but it lacks the polish that she likely needs to reach make her advantages count against a fighter with Fuijioka's skills.
In our eyes this will be a fight that starts competitively with Fujioka learning to cope with the size disadvantage for the first round or two. As soon as the champion figures out the size of the challenger she will begin to dominate and quite probably break down the challenger inside the distance in a very interesting bout that shows just how good Fujioka is. Kawanishi will almost certainly bounce back from a loss to such an accomplished fighter as Fujioka, and will likely win a title down the line, but this isn't her time, she lacks the experience at the highest level and the polish to over-come a fighter as exceptional as the champion here.
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
Whilst many boxing fans will be turning their attention to the FujisanMesse to watch Ryuji Hara's OPBF Minimumweight bout with Donny Mabao their is also an OPBF female title bout in the IMP Hall in Osaka. This bout, an over looked one for the OPBF Super Flyweight title, will see the once beaten Tomoko Kawanishi (8-1, 4) fighting against Thailand's Jubjang Lookmakarmwan (3-6).
Kawanishi is the defending champion and will be making the second defense of her title having won it last year by stopping
Although relatively unknown by boxing fans at large Kawanishi is a talented and brave fighter who has already shared the ring with some very credible fighters, including Riyo Togo, the only woman to have beaten her, and the then unbeaten Tamao Ozawa who was stopped inside a round.
With very credible power, good skills and real determination Kawanishi is going to be hard to beat and in fact only Naoko Fujioka would be clearly favoured over her in regards to Asian fighters in and and around the 115lb division.
In Jubjang we have a fighter whose hopes really can be written off before the first bell. The 25 year old Thai has lost her last 6 bouts and is currently without a win since August 2008. This would suggest that Jubjang isn't really suitable for an OPBF title fight, especially not with someone as talented as Kawanishi.
Although we're sure the Thai will put up a good fight we can't help but view this as an easy "gimme" defense for the Japanese fighter who is likely to move into world class in the next year or two.
Here we preview the key female title bouts involving an Asian fighter.