Recently we saw Japanese fighter Kazuto Ioka being wrongly proclaimed by many as the first Japanese 4-weight world champion. Whilst he was the first man to achieve that feat, he was the second fighter to achieve it, following in the foot steps of Japanese boxing queen Naoko Fujioka (18-2, 7), who subsequently went on become Japan's first 5 weight world champion as well.
This coming Friday Fujioka returns to the ring to defend her WBA female Flyweight title, as she takes on 2-weight world champion Tenkai Tsunami (26-12, 15), in what is a really highly anticipated female show down between two of the best female fighters Japan has given us.
Whilst their is certainly a new wave of Japanese female fighters, such as Kasumi Saeki and Eri Matsuda, both Fujioka and Tsunami are part of the last generation and have lead the way for the younger fighters to make their mark on the sport. As a result this has the feeling of a real meeting of two significant fighters from the last generation, even if both are perhaps coming to the end of their great careers.
Fujioka really has been a legend of female boxing. Yes she lacks the high profile of Claressa Shields and Katie Taylor, but her career has seen her win world titles from Minimumweight to Bantamweight, moving up and down the scales, and defeat the likes of Naoko Shibata, Anabel Ortiz, Naoko Yamamguchi, Mariana Juarez, Shindo Go and Irma Sanchez. She has chased legacy fights, and both of her losses with were very competitive decisions on the road to local heroes, with a loss to Jessica Chavez being a rather dubious one to say the least.
In the ring Fujioka can box or brawl. She did hit quite hard early in her career, at Minimumweight, but at the higher weights her power has lost something. Saying that she's still a solid puncher, but no longer has real stopping power with just 2 stoppages in her last 9 wins. Instead relying on her skills, intensity and accuracy, rather than her power to pick up wins.
Whilst Fujioka is a real legend of female boxing, it's fair to say that Tsunami deserves a similar description, despite her less than stellar record. The 34 year old made her debut way back in 2005, before the Japanese Boxing Commission even recognised female boxing. She would become one of the real stars of the early days of female boxing in Japan, winning the JWBC Flyweight title and winning an IFBA title before winning the more significant WBA female Super Flyweight title in 2009. Since then she has fought a real who's who of female boxing, often travelling for some of her biggest bouts. Her competition has included, but isn't limited to, Kayoko Ebata, Naoko Yamaguchi, Janteh Perez, Mariana Juarez, Zulina Munoz, Jessica Chavez, Carolina Rodriguez, Arely Mucino and Gretchen Abaniel.
The problem for Tsunami is she's often come up short on her travels, losing in South Korea, Mexico and Chile, with losses in her last 8 road bouts. Despite those losses she has proven, where ever she fights, that she is tough, is full of energy and always looks to have a fight. Sadly though she has shown a lack of speed, poor footwork and can be out boxed, out thought and out sped, which have all been issues through her career. She's aggressive but clumsy, exciting, but flawed.
Whilst we rate both fighters very highly we believe that Fujioka's more rounded skill-set, her ability to move and use her speed and feet is going to be the difference here. We're expecting an intelligent display from the champion, who will be forced to trade at times, but will control the distance and tempo en route to adding another notable win to her legendary career.
Prediction UD10 - Fujioka
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.
Japanese fighters are often accused of “failing to perform” when they fight away from home. Recent examples have shown some truth to that with notable losses for Ryosuke Iwasa and Tomoki Kameda. If you looked at the record of Tenkai Tsunami (21-10, 10) you probably accuse her of under-performing on the road, where she has gone 4-8. The truth however is that she's lost some very tight ones, to some of the very best female fighters on the planet.
On August 22nd we see Tsunami again take to a foreign land as she makes her Chilean debut, and takes on current IBF female Bantamweight champion Carolina Rodriguez (14-0, 1), the first ever Chilean to claim a “world title” in boxing.
Although her record doesn't suggest it Tsunami is a world class fighter. Over her 31 fight career, dating back to 2005, she has shared the ring with a who's who of female boxing. She's scored notable wins over the likes of Ayaka Miyao, Zhang Xi Yan and Kayoko Ebata, whilst suffering losses to the likes of Naoko Yamaguchi, Janeth Perez, Mariana Juarez, Zulina Munoz, Jessica Chavez and Arely Mucino.
Some of those losses have been clear defeats, such as the one to Juarez, others however have been unfortunate, such as the ones last year to Jessica Chavez and Arely Mucino, both of which could easily have gone Tsunami's way.
In the ring Tsunami is an aggressively minded fighter who comes forward relentlessly, she's not an out-and-out pressure fight but she's an intelligent aggressive fighter who comes to fight every time she's in the ring. She can be out boxed, and she can be out fought but very fighters will ever get in the ring with her and have an easy time with her. Sadly where she is flawed is that she lacks killer power, she's not the quickest and she isn't the most accurate, however given that she's got a great engine, and aggressive mentality few will enjoy sharing a ring with her.
Whilst Tsunami fights like her name suggests, always coming forward, the Chilean champion is a very different type of fighter. She has a forward gear but also a backwards gear and whilst she can come out swinging she often seems to prefer to box and move, using her legs, great timing and counter shows. She's very slick and has solid ring IQ even if she does, completely, lack power.
Sadly for Tsunami we can't see any way in which the judges will give her a decision in Rodriguez homeland. She may give the Chilean fight a real nightmare in the ring but the only way the Japanese fighter will win is with a knockout. Given the ability and style of Rodriguez we can't see than ever coming close to happening. As a result we suspect that Rodriguez will retain her title with a decision win, albeit one she has to work very hard to get.
So far this year boxing has been relatively disappointing. Sure we've had a few highlights but on the whole it has been pretty poor with very little in terms of notable matches. Thankfully this changes, in a big way, in March as fights start to come thick and fast at every level.
One of the many interesting looking female bouts takes place on March 7th as the hard hitting youngster Honey Mae Bermoy (6-2, 6), AKA Honey Katsumata, attempts to claim the vacant OPBF female Bantamweight title. Unfortunately for Bermoy she'll not be handed the title and will instead have to go through former world champion Tenkai Tsunami (19-9, 8) in a bout that is likely to give Bermoy the toughest test of her career so far.
Bermoy, aged 20, has proven so far to have venom in her hands. Despite turning professional at just 17 years old she managed to record back-to-back stoppages to begin her career in her native Philippines.
In less than 3 months Bermoy had moved her record to 3-1 (3) and had shown a natural fighting mindset even though she lacked boxing knowledge. The lack of boxing fundamentals saw her falling to 3-2 when her power failed to stop the naturally bigger Leslie Domingo at the start of 2013.
Thankfully for Bermoy her style, power and heart caught the eye of Japanese outfit Katsumata gym who have helped her train in recent bouts and helped her turn her 3-2 (3) record into a 6-2 (6) record which has included a very notable stoppage over Saki Yamada, the older sister of current WBO Minimumweight champion Mako Yamada.
Although Saki was inexperienced as a boxer she was a well schooled former kick boxer and Bermoy was supposed to be the next stepping stone in the development of the young Japanese fighter. Bermoy hadn't read the script and managed to score the upset.
Whilst Bermoy is really just a novice with 8 bouts and 25 professional rounds, none of which have been fought in a title fight, Tsunami is a genuine veteran of the ring. She has been in 28 bouts, she has fought in 8 "world" title fights, a total of 196 professional rouds and is a former WBA Super Flyweight champion.
Tsunami made her debut almost a decade ago and fought her way up the rankings before the JBC even recognised female boxing. By the time she had her first bout sanctioned by the JBC, in 2008, she had participated in 15 contests, winning 12 of them.
Since the JBC has recognised female boxing Tsunami has fought a further 13 times with several of those bouts taking place on enemy turf. Unfortunately it's been Tsunami's willingness to fight on the road and to only fight the best which has seen her drop from 12-3 to 19-9. On paper losing 6 of your last 13 bouts is awful but she had been in with a veritable who's who of female boxing and battles Naoko Yamguchi, Janeth Perez, Mariana Juaurez, Zulina Munoz, Jessica Chavez and Arely Mucino losing to all 6 women who have proven themselves as world class.
Although she has 9 losses on her record Tsunami's last 6 losses have come to genuinely elite level fighters. We don't think that Bermoy is anywhere near that level at the moment. The young Filipino may develop into a top level fighter somewhere down the line with the right experience building fights and developmental work in the ring and in the gym, though we don't imagine that's going to happen any time soon. In fact if anything her lack of experience is going to prove to be her major undoing here against Tsunami who will look to establish herself as the boss early before taking Bermoy into deep water and drowning her.
We do think Bermoy has the potential to win a title in the future, but at this moment in time she's jumping up from domestic level to fringe world level and we think she'll find that that jump is far too difficult for her at this particular moment.
Will Honey Mae survive a Tsunami? Our guess, no chance.
(Picture courtesy of http://www.kadoebi.com/, Tsunami and Bermoy feature
Here we preview the key female title bouts involving an Asian fighter.