On November 20th fight fans in Tokyo get a very interesting female clash, as form world champions Ayaka Miyao (22-7-1, 6) and Nao Ikeyama (18-4-3, 5) battle for the WBA "Interim" Atomweight title. This will be the third bout between the two women, and one of the very few "interim" world title fights the JBC will actually allow to be held on their soil. In fact the bout was put together at late notice after Miyao's original opponent, Monseratt Alcarron (11-4-2) was injured in the build up. Whilst it's a shame Alcarron suffered an injury we have, in many ways, actually had an upgrade given the fact that Miyao and Ikeyama has some unfinished business.
These two fought first fought in 2006, with Ikeyama stopping a novice Miyao, and then fought in 2016, when Ikeyama was the WBO Atomweight champion and Miyao was challenging her. Sadly Miyao would suffer a genuinely gruesome knee injury, that she tried to fight on with before the bout was stopped and she was stretchered out of the ring in agony. For Miyao this bout gives her a chance to avenge that loss, show what she can do when she's not injured. For Ikeyama this is a chance to prove she's the better fighter, and become a 2-time world champion at the age of 49! Interestingly Ikeyama did suggest she would be retiring, though this bout has certainly dragged her back into action, and we can't blame her given the stakes and the back story.
Miyao is a former WBA Atomweight champion, who had a notable reign from 2012, when she beat Mari Ando for the title, to 2015 when she lost in WBA/WBC unification bout with Momo Koseki. During that reign she would make 6 successful defenses and beat the likes of Masae Akitaya, Mari Ando, Gretchen Abaniel and Satomi Nishimura. Sadly the loss to Koseki seemed to slow her career before suffering the nasty injury against Ikeyama as she attempted to become a 2-weight champion.
At her best Miyao is a fleet footed swarmer. She's never really shown much in terms of power, but has worn opponents down through sheer determinedness and she does have under-rated skills with a fantastic work rate. It also needs noting that the stoppage loss to Ikeyama in 2016 is the only time Miyao has been stopped in the last 10 years, and is one of only 3 stoppage losses on her record.
Ikeyama made her debut in 2003, and came up short in the first world title bout of her career, fighting to a draw in a WBC Minimumweight title fight in 2015. She would come up short again in 2009 when she lost to Momo Koseki in a WBA Atomweight title fight. After a mixed 2010, in which she scored two domestic wins but lost on the road in Korea, she seemed to walk away from the sport. That was until returning 3 years later, at the age of 44. She then began the best run of her career, claiming the WBO Atomweight title in just the second bout of her comeback. Ikeyama would go on to record several defenses of the title, retaining the title against the likes of Masae Akitaya, Jujeath Nagaowa, Saemi Hanagata and Ayaka Miyao, before losing a split decision earlier this year to Mika Iwakawa. That was supposed to end her career, but she's seemingly back for one more fight here.
Despite her age Ikeyama is a hard working and quick fighter. She's got an amazing engine for someone in her 40's, but we do wonder what her body has left given how long and hard her career has been. She's kept herself in great shape, but there's only so long anyone can fight off father time.
We're expecting to see revenge here for Miyao, who we think will pull off the upset win and become a 2-time champion. This is likely to be an action packed and highly skilled brawl, but one where we have to favour the younger woman to just have too much in her, and too much drive to avenge her two losses to the older fighter.
Earlier this year Japanese fighter Yunoka Furukawa (8-1-2, 6) announced herself on the Oriental scene, claiming the OPBF female Flyweight title with a 7th round stoppage against Christine Latube, and then announced herself on the world scene, claiming the WBA Atomweight title with a 3rd round TKO against Satomi Nishimura. The drop down in weight, of 10lbs, was an impressive feat by it's self but to see how destructive she was at the new weight was a scary thought for the division.
This coming Tuesday Furukawa returns to the ring to make her first defense of her Atomweight title, as she takes on OPBF Female Light Flyweight champion Mika Iwakawa (6-4-1, 2), who drops to Atomweight for her first world title bout.
On paper the bout looks like a mismatch, but in reality it should be a lot more interesting than the records suggest.
Furukawa is a destructive wrecking ball. She's not the smoothest or most skilled boxer but she is a a natural puncher who has stopped her last 4, fighting as high as Flyweight, with notable wins against the likes of Nishimura and Aiko Yamagishi. She's also been in great form, going 7-0 (5) following a 1-1-2 start to her professional career. The early career set backs have all been put behind her and at 22 she looks to be a force for both the present and the future.
Before Furukawa faces some of the more notable fighters at 102lbs, like Momo Koseki, it's clear she needs some more experience and defenses against the likes of Iwakawa will her her develop that experience and build towards the divisional super fights.
The 33 year old Iwakawa has been a professional for around 5 years and although he record is less than stellar she has mixed with some really notable names. That has seen her go 1-0-1 with world chanmpion Kumiko Seeser Ikehara, lose to future champion Mako Yamada and push current champion Nao Ikeyama all the way. She has also lost to brilliant Mexican Brisa Hernandez. Last time out she beat Nonggig Sithjaanart, to claim the OPBF female Light Flyweight title and is looking to build on that win.
Through her career so far Iwakawa has never been stopped, despite facing decent competition, but her lack of power has been an issue and will prove to be on here against Furukawa. She's probably the better “fighter” in terms of skills but the huge disparity in physicality and power is likely to be a real issue for her here.
Whilst Iwakawa is certainly better than her record suggests it's hard to imagine her being able to hang with Furukawa who we suspect will, eventually, stop the challenger, likely in the middle rounds of the bout.
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.
One of the biggest issues with professional boxing is that we don't often get the chance to see unification bouts, especially not between long reigning champions who are regarded as the top 2 in their relevant division.
Although they are rare we are getting one such bout later this month as WBC Atomweight champion Momo Koseki (20-2-1, 7), who has recorded an amazing 15 title defenses, takes on WBA champion Ayaka Miyao (20-5-1, 4), who has recorded 5 defenses of her title. They are two of only 3 champions in the 102 weight division, with the other being WBO champion Nao Ikeyama who was widely beaten by Koseki a number of years ago.
Of the two fighters it is Koseki who is better known. She has essentially dominated the lowest weight in boxing for the past few years, in fact since winning the title back in August 2008 she has often looked unbeatable. We'll not say she's faced the best out there, but she does hold notable wins against the likes of Nao Ikeyama, as mentioned the current WBO champion, Teeraporn Pannimit, Saemi Hanagata, and Eun Young Huh.
In the ring Koseki is a handful, she's a rough and tough fighter who knows the old pro's tricks, including liberally using her head on the inside, and it aggressive enough to put fighters into their shells. Some will question her competition but much of that has to do with the divisions dearth of talent rather than her “ducking” anyone.
Although less well known Miyao is herself a more than capable fighter. She's a busy, fast fighter who really made her name with wins against against Masae Akitaya and Mari Ando, both of whom she beaten twice in just over 16 months. Her WBA reign may not be as long as that of Koseki but she is one of the genuinely elite fighters in the division.
Although known as a light puncher Miyao has developed her spiteful side recently and has 3 stoppages in her last 4 bouts. It's hard to know if that power is due to confidence in her own punch or the level of competition but either way it may be worth noting that she does seem to hit harder than the numbers suggest.
Coming in to this one we're expecting Miyao to take the role of the boxer whilst Koseki will be the brawler. This should see Koseki coming forward and Miyao trying to move and keep her off. The two should combine for some great action though we suspect that the toughness and aggression of Koseki will see her taking the narrow and very competitive win.
(Image courtesy of Ohashi Gym)
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)
Although WBC Atomweight champion Momo Koseki is the most dominant fighter in the history of the 102lb division she isn't the only world champion there. She is joined by WBA champion, and fellow Japanese fighter, Ayaka Miyao (16-5-1, 1) a fighter who has arguably faced better competition than Koseki in recent contests.
Miyao, who fought in Japan several times before the JBC recognised female boxing, has had an outstanding career after a wobbly start between. She debuted way back in 2004 and although she lost 4 of her first 9 contests she has since become one of the real forces in Japanese female boxing, especially in the last 3 or 4 years.
Over the last 6 and a half years Miyao has gone 12-1 (1) and generated some real name value for herself under the guidance of Hideyuki Ohashi and the Ohashi gym. It's been under the Ohashi banner than she has claimed the WBA Atomweight title, defeating the rugged Mari Ando and defended it 3 times.
In her defenses Miyao has over come a trio of accomplished and talented fighters. They have included Ando, for the second time, Masae Akitaya and most recently Filipino Gretchen Abaniel. This trio is probably better than what Koseki has been beating in recent defenses.
On March 3rd we get to see Koseki and Miyao on the same card together. Although not fighting each other we do know that comparisons will be made. Koseki, defending her title for the 13th time, will be fighting against the unbeaten Angor Onesongchaigym whilst Miyao will be taking on Angor's stable mate Buangern OnesongchaiGym (10-4-1, 1) in what we think is the more competitive match up.
Miyao is a busy fighter. She lacks power, as do most Atomweights, but her work rate is incredible and when she gets going she is really like a whirlwind inside the ring. As well her work rate she is tough, experienced and having been in the Ohashi gym she is well schooled and knows how to fight. That's not to say she's perfect, far from it, but she is very hard to beat and may well prove, one day, to be the best 102lb fighter on the planet.
In Buangern we have a fighter who is just 20 years old and so young and hungry. Sadly however Buangern is also limited and came unstuck in 5 rounds against Su-Yun Hong in her only previous world title fight. Whilst that bout was a Minimumweight and this is at Atomweight we don't think the slight size difference will really help the Thai challenger.
What we expect to happen here is that Buangern will start with confidence though she will quickly be swamped in the work of Miyao which will see the Japanese champion retaining via a clear decision. It'll be competitive for a few rounds but by rounds 4 or 5 the action will have swung almost entirely in the direction of Miyao.
Whilst we thing Miyao v Buangern is more competitive than Koseki v Angor that's more down to the fact so little is known about Angor and it's always impossible to favour a complete unknown fighting against a dominant champion like Koseki.
This bout will be part of "G Legends 6" a show on "Doll's Day" which features only female fighters.
Having seen Momo Koseki recently defend her WBC Atomweight title against Nora Cardoza it now seems we have just one stumbling block before a possible all-Japanese WBA-WBC Atomweight title unification.
That stumbling block is Filipino Gretchen Abaniel (13-4, 4) who challenges Japan's WBA champion Ayaka Miyao (15-5-1, 1) for the WBA title on November 28th.
Abaniel, who comes in to this bout highly regarded and with the reputation of hitting harder than her record indicates, is a real banana skin for someone like Miyao.
Aged 28 and stood at 5'1" the Filipino challenger is younger, taller and rangier than the champion. As well as those physical advantages she has proven to be a credible world level fighter having previously shared a ring with Cho-Rong Son, Samson Tor Buamas, Katia Gutierrez and Teeraporn Pannimit.
Whilst Abaniel is 0-3 is world title fights recognised by "the big four" she has previously won a secondary title, the WIBA Minimumweight title, suggesting she has the ability to be a world champion in the future and in all honesty "on her day" she could possibly beat anyone at 102lbs.
Japan's Ayaka Miyao is, at 30 years old, probably coming into the later years of her prime physically. Whilst some female fighters have managed to find success in their later years, such as Naoko Fujioka who is almost 40 yet looks to still be improving, it's fair to say most are beginning to slow by their 30's, especially in in the smaller divisions.
Although not a big puncher Miyao has proven to be tough, talented and a fighter who has improved massively since she began her career. Saying that it is worth noting that Miyao began her career 4-4-1 before going 11-1 in her following 12 as she went from talented but inexperienced fighter to world champion.
Those 12 fights that Miyao has fought in since her poor start have included 8 straight victories. These have seen her claiming the WBA Atomweight title and subsequently defending it twice and she's become another notable member of the Ohashi stable which also over-sees the careers of Naoya Inoue and Akira Yaegashi.
For us this bout comes down to two things. Can Miyao get the respect of Abaniel with her light punching? If she can't, does she have the skills to out boxing Abaniel?
We feel that Miyao won't be able to get Abaniel's respect but will have the skills to win enough rounds to win a decision. It won't be decisive and dominant but the right woman will win for use. Thankfully for Abaniel we don't think this will be her last chance.
Of course no matter who wins we would love to see the winner fighting Koseki in a major unification bout. It would, of course, be bigger if it was an All-Japanese bout though even if it wasn't it would still be a major bout and the most important in the Atomweight division's history.
Note-This bout is the headline contest from Ohashi gym's "47th Battle Phoenix" which also features a contest between Kayoko Ebata and Nancy Franco.
Here we preview the key female title bouts involving an Asian fighter.