The first world title fight in Japan this year came earlier today as former world champions Ayaka Miyao (23-8-2, 6) [宮尾 綾香] and Etsuko Tada (19-3-3, 6) [多田悦子] clashed for the vacant WBO female Minimumweight title.
On paper this looked like an excellent match up between two world class veterans. Whilst both were coming to the end of their careers both are still world class and we were expecting an ultra competitive bout between fighters who have been fighting at the top of the sport for years. When it came to the in ring action proved to be just as competitive than we expected.
Coming in we had anticipated the speed and volume of Miyao to be one of two major differences. The other with the power and strength of Tada. And this really proved to be the case with neither fighter ever doing enough to really dominate the action.
Early on Miyao used single shots, though lack of power, something that has been obvious through her career, meant they never bothered Tada. Whilst they were landing clean they did little whereas Tada's shots were having a clear visible impact, and kept Miyao at range. Whilst the volume seemed to be from Miyao the heavier blows were certainly from Tada.
As we went through the rounds Miyao's work rate grew and grew. The single shots were becoming less common and instead it was short raids and flurries from the Watanabe Gym fighter. She was coming in and letting 2 and 3 punch combinations go, firing off with both hands. This caused the action to get a touch messy, though both certainly had their moments in what were some hard to score rounds.
Tada started to look more and more like she was tiring in the later rounds of the fight whilst the quicker, sharper Miyao, really turned it on late, easily out landing Tada in the final rounds, as she tried to swing things her way. It was this late effort from Miyao that could made all the difference had it come just a few rounds earlier.
In the end the bout was a hard one to score. Both fighters had clearly taken a number of rounds each, but the others were debatable either way, and that showed on the score cards.
The first card favoured the 38 year old Tada, 96-94, the second card went with the 36 year old Miyao, 96-94, with the third being an even score of 95-95.
The result, a draw, leaves the title vacant.
A rematch would be interesting to see, though we do wonder what Tada has left in the tank. She looked old and slow in the later stages and a faster start by Miyao could have easily taken her the victory here. Though we wouldn't be surprised to see the two women go in different directions after was a gruelling, yet ultra competitive, contest.
The rise in interest of female boxing has certainly been seen with the media interest in the West, where fighters like Claressa Shields and Katie Taylor have been put at the forefront of of rising scene.
It's not just the West that have seen talented new female fighters however and Asia also have some of their own, including youngster Kasumi Saeki (4-0, 3) [佐伯霞], who announced herself today as she took the WBO female Minmumweight title, in just her 4th professional bout.
The talented Japanese fighter was facing off with Mexican foe Elizabeth Lopez (6-2-4, 1) in a bout for a title that had been vacated earlier this year by Etsuko Tada. On paper this looked like a step up for Saeki, but in reality she made it look easy.
Saeki felt her way into the bout with her jab to begin with, then opened up more from round 2, landing hooks and straights as she started to test the resilience of Lopez. Lopez didn't offer much in terms of offensive work, and in round 3 Saeki really did begin to settle, using her speed and movement to prevent Lopez from doing much of note. The one thing Lopez did try was to rough up Saeki, but even that back fired as Saki's speed and timing neutralised Lopez's rough and crude attempts at attacking the Japanese fighter.
In round 5 Saeki would drop Lopez with a left hand, for the first time. Lopez's fighting spirit saw her get up, but a second knockdown the following round saw the referee wave off Lopez and give Saeki her biggest win to date.
At the time of the finish Saeki was leading 50-44, on all 3 cards, and there was no argument at all, about Lopez deserving a round.
WBO female Minimumweight champion Kumiko Seeser Ikehara (7-1-2, 3) made the second successful defense of her title earlier today as she took a split technical decision against veteran Kayoko Ebata (8-6, 4). Sadly, much like Ikehara's first defense, this bout ended with the champion having a nasty cut and bringing an early conclusion to what was an exciting looking contest.
From the opening round this bout was engaging with both fighters giving their all and being competitive with each other from the opening bell. Ikehara seemed to have the edge in power whilst Ebata seemed the speedier, but there was little to distinguish the two who were really putting on a show early on.
It seemed that every time one fighter had some success the other would fire back and have some of their own. It was competitive and exciting.
Then, suddenly and unfortunately, the bout came to an end with both fighters being cut badly from a headclash. Although both were cut Ikehara certainly ended up with the worst of it and it was her cut that caused the early conclusion to the action.
The competitiveness of the contest made the arena tense as we awaited for the cards which read 67-66, 67-66 and 66-67 giving Ikehara the narrowest of narrow decision wins.
Teenage world champions don't come around often but today saw one crowned as Japanese 19 year old Mako Yamada (7-0, 2) travelled to South Korea and dethroned the previously unbeaten Su-Yun Hong (9-1, 5) of the WBO female Minimumweight title.
Yamada may have come in to the ring as a novice boxer but she had had serious experience in both kick boxing, where she was a stand out, and in sparring, which she had been doing with the sensational Momo Koseki. Despite that experience we had still expected her to come up short, away from home, to Hong. Instead of coming up short Yamada came of age in a performance that could only be described as inspired.
The challenger, fighting in her first championship bout, hardly looked like a novice and she hardly looked like a fighter in unfamiliar surroundings. She seemed to know that she had to show off her skills if she was to pick up the title and despite the crowd being against her she didn't look like a fighter intimidated as she showed off what talent she had.
Hong, to her credit, seemed to know she was in a real fight and tried to control the bout with her southpaw jab and over-all size advantage. Unfortunately for the defending champion she was fighting someone who was quicker than her, more aggressive than her and who was unwilling to go home with out the title.
Yamada's speed, both hand and feet, made life very hard for Hong who seemed unable to time the challenger. Although highly impressive Yamada, like every fighter when they fight away from home was clearly worried about the scorecards. She looked like she knew she deserved the victory but it was until the referee raised her hand that she knew she was the champion.
The worry about the judging was right to be on the mind of Yamada, especially after the decision was read as a split with scores of 97-93, 96-94 and a very odd 96-97 (yes 3 rounds scored 10-10). Thankfully though 2 of the judges did manage to get the right winner and helped crowned the new champion.
An emotional Yamada celebrated her victory whilst Hong, who seemed to know she had been beaten, looked happy that the fight as over.
Now with the title around her waist it could be a very long time until Yamada is beaten. We had thought this fight was coming too soon for her, though with the way she coped with the 10 round distance would suggest that she is a sensational little fighter who is only going to get better.
As an after note Yamada became the first ever Japanese female teenager to win a world title, showing just how promising she really is.
On this same card we also saw the previously win-less Bo-Ra Kim (1-2, 1) stopping the debuting Da-Eun Hong (0-1) in 3 rounds. This victory for Kim has come after back-to-back losses to Eun-Sun Lee, the second of which was rather controversial.
Courtesy of http://www.koreaboxing.co.kr
Not every female title bout is memorable but this past weekend's WBO female Minimumweight title fight between unbeaten Korean Su-Yun Hong (9-0, 5) and Japanese challenger Mari Ando (10-6, 5) was one of the ones that really was special.
Hong, a talented boxer-puncher, got off to an excellent start racking up the early rounds with her sharp punching and fantastic movement. It appeared at times too easy for the Korean who just seemed to much more skilled than Ando.
The Japanese challenger, herself a former WBA Atomweight champion, seemed to know that she had to change something and through the middle rounds she began to fight back. Although she still seemed to be losing rounds she was beginning to make them competitive and starting to tag the champion her own solid shots, shots that would begin to mark up the face of the champion.
Although Hong had seemingly taken a clear lead in the early rounds Ando began to crawl her way back into the fight in the latter stages clearly winning 2 of the late rounds as she attempted to take Hong out and take the the title to Japan. Unfortunately for the Japanese fighter Hong had the ability to see out the distance and force the judges to make a decision.
Despite many, ourselves included, seeing the bout as a clear victory for Hong, made competitive by Ando's late charge, the judges were split. Korean Judge Kyung-Han Lee favoured the Korean fighter scoring the bout 99-91 Hong, Japanese judge Katsuhiko Nakamura scored the bout as a close contest though favoured Ando 96-94 whilst the deciding judge Bruce McTavish, of the Philippines though originally from New Zealand, favoured Hong by a score of 98-92 to help the Korean to her second title defense.
With both of her eyes swollen up Hong will know she was in a fight. The split decision, at least to us, was rather misleading and unrepresentative of the actual bout though we wouldn't imagine Hong would be in a rush to face Ando again.
For the Japanese fighter it's fair to say she will be a handful against anyone. She might win another world title fight but she will give fighters hell in each and every major fight she gets.