Over the years we have had some legendary Japanese female fighters but it's fair to say that none quite compare to current WBA female Flyweight champion Naoko Fujioka (18-2-1, 7) who has become the bar by which all other Japanese female fighters are compared. The talented Fujioka is the only Japanese fighter, male of female, to have won world titles in 5 weight classes, she has chased her legacy around the globe and won world titles from Minimumweight to Bantamweight. Not only has she done great things in terms of winning titles but she has also beaten a who's who along the way, with wins against Naoko Shibata, Anabel Ortiz, Naoko Yamguchi, Mariana Juarez, Shindo Go, Yokasta Valle and Irma Sanchez. In just 21 professional bouts she has done almost everything she could ever have dreamed of doing in the sport.
The one thing missing from Fujioka's resume is scoring a win in the US, something she gets the chance to do this weekend when she takes on the once beaten Sulem Urbina (12-1-0-1, 2) in Los Angeles. A win for Fujioka would add another cherry on to one of the best careers of a female fighter in the sport, whilst a loss would be a farewell to the 45 year old boxing legend, who must know retirement is looming around the corner.
For those who haven't followed Fujioka's career, and we genuinely can't blame you given how low profile female boxing was until very recently, she was a former amateur standout before turning professional in 2009 aged 34. An ancient age for a fighter, especially a lower weight fighter. She quickly raced through the ranks, winning an OPBF title just over a year after making her debut and stopping Anabel Ortiz for the WBA Minimumweight title within 2 years of her debut. She then pursued greatness, jumping from Minimumweight to Super Flyweight and dethroning Naoko Yamaguchi before bouncing up and down the weights picking up titles at Bantamweight, Flyweight and Light Flyweight whilst etching her name in the Japanese boxing history books.
In the ring a prime Fujioka could do it all. She could box, she could fight, she could brawl, she had a good work rate, solid engine, a real will to win, and a desire to be the best. She was technically not the most perfect. There was a clumsiness to her style, but one that she generally got away with due to her strength and physicality. At times it could look like she was being dirty, sneaky even, but on the whole it was aggressive clumsiness, something often seen in female boxing, especially when fights are close and hotly contested. She was a born fighter, who became a good boxer, but was still a fighter at heart. Sadly however at the age of 45 she's also now a true veteran and she's not been seen in the ring since a draw with Tenkai Tsunami back in July 2019, around 2 years ago! She has also only fought twice since the start of 2018, leaving us with questions as to what is really left in the tank.
The challenger on the other hand is a 30 year old Mexican born American based fighter who really hasn't done a great deal as a professional, since debuting in 2016. As an amateur Urbina competed at a high level, with some very mixed success, before beginning her professional career in Mexico in 2016. She began her professional career with a string of wins against some very low level competition, and was tested in some of those bouts, before making her US debut last year with a win over Noemi Bosques. To be honest her wins, so far, have come against very, very weak opposition, with her most notable victory coming against the limited Judith Rodriguez. Her competition isn't fitting of a world title challenger, despite her pretty looking record.
The only real stand out name on Urbina's record is Marlen Esparza, who beat Urbina in October 2020, with a very clear decision. Sadly that was her most recent bout.
Despite her competition being limited Urbina is genuine a very solid fighter. She gets in the ring and comes to fight, she lets good body shots go, she looks to set a high pace, puts forward a lot of pressure and comes to let shots go straight away. Her shots are thrown with bad intentions, she keeps pressing, and she has very, very busy hands. Although not the most polished, or smooth boxer, she makes for good TV friendly fights and at the end of the day the sport needs more fighters like that!
Give the styles of the two women we expect to see them both get close early on, and really unleashing shots in high volume at close range. Fujioka could make this easy by boxing and moving, but we're not sure the 45 year old legs of Fujioka would be able to stay on the move 10 rounds, like Esparza did against Urbina, and instead we expect to see her holding her ground and really beign happy to have a war with Urbina.
It's a real shame we're not seeing the prime version of Fujioka here. There's a chance that Urbina will be in the right place at the right time to take advantage of a faced legend. But in reality that should be considered an upset. Even with this version of Fujioka. Instead we suspect the clean punching, and the heavier shots of Fujioka will be the difference maker and will be enough for her to take home the victory here.
Prediction - UD10 Fujioka
It's fair to say that July 9th is not one of the biggest boxing days of 2021 but it is a day that will allow female boxing to shine with two female title fights taking place on a Golden Boy promoted card in Los Angeles. Of the two bouts, the more interesting will see WBO female Light Flyweight champion Tenkai Tsunami (28-12-1, 16) clash with WBA female Minimumweight champion Seneisa Estrada (20-0, 8), in what is a bout that promises to be something very special.
On paper it's easy to over-look this bout, and generally it's easy to over-look female bouts in general, after all Tsunami has 12 losses and a draw to her name in just 41 contests. However she's a real veteran who has been consistently competing at the world level over the last decade, has shown no fear of opponents, and is going through one of the best runs in her time as a boxer.
Estrada may well be the best female fighter in the sport, and the potential face of female boxing, but this bout promises to be among her toughest, and she's in there with someone who embodies the samurai spirit of Japanese boxing. When you combine the explosive skills and power of Estrada, with the work rate and determination of a fighter like Tsunami you tend to get something incredibly fun to watch. The sort of bout female boxing needs more of.
For those who haven't followed female boxing until recently the exploits of Tsunami are really worth talking about. The 36 year old has been a professional since 2005, boxing before the Japan Boxing Commission even recognised female boxing. She quickly climbed through the ranks, despite some early setbacks, and won the WBA female Super Flyweight title in 2009. She managed to make 4 defenses of that title before losing to the huge punching Naoko Yamaguchi in 2012. That loss saw her fall to 18-4 (7) and began a downfall in her career that resulted in her losing 5 of her following 6 bouts, with the losses coming to a who's who of female boxing stars like Janeth Perez, Mariana Juarez, Zulina Munoz, Yessica Chavez and Arely Mucino. After that string of results it appeared she had become a journey woman with a 19-9 (8) record. Since then however she has rebuilt her career, and is 7-1-1 (6) since 2016, with a move down to Light Flyweight really helping her re-establish herself as a world class fighter. Not only has she captured the WBO female Light Flyweight title since moving down in weight, stopping former amateur standout Chaoz Minowa, but she has also defended the title 3 times.
In the ring Tsunami lives up to her name. She simply keeps coming. She's tough, she has a really good work rate, she comes forward and she likes a fight. For a 36 year old she has a great engine, and real toughness. The fact she was a world champion at 115lbs before re-emerging at 108lbs shows her physical toughness and strength. Sadly she isn't the most technical fighter out there. She can be out boxed, she is slow of foot, and she she's not great when chasing an opponent, as we saw in her 2015 loss to Carolina Rodriguez, but in a toe to toe war there are few better than Tsunami.
Whilst Tsunami is part of the old wave of female boxing Estrada is certainly part of the newer wave, despite making her debut all the way back in 2011. In fact her career really struggled to get going as she fought twice in 2011, fought her third bout in 2014 and then took over a year away before her 4th bout. Thankfully however since 2015 she has been in action regularly and has really built a reputation as one of the best female fighters in the sport. That has really been on show in recent years with wins over notable opponents like Anahi Torres, Debora Rengifo, Gretchen Abaniel, Marlen Esparza and most recently Anabel Ortiz. She hasn't just been beating fighters however, she has been dominating them and rarely losing a round. In fact not only has she been out boxing and out fighting decent opponents but she has also been scoring some really blistering stoppages as well, most notably her blow out over Miranda Adkins. She really does look like one of the few female boxers who can do it all, and given her in ring style, her personality and her looks she really does seem poised to become the star of female boxing, and at 29 "Super Bad" could very easily be exactly what female boxing needs to build on.
In the ring Estrada is aggressive, she sometimes takes a risk or two that she doesn't need to as a result, but she's quick, sharp, technically very solid, heavy handed, can box, move, fight, brawl and punch and she really does tick every box. Not only is she capable of doing everything in the ring, but she's doing it against some top opponents, making Anabel Ortiz, one of the longest reigning champions in boxing history, look like a second rate fighter. Estrada is special. She's the type of fighter than can change perceptions about female boxing, if she gets the right opponents, and genuinely we think she has the perfect opponent to show what she can do here.
As mentioned in a fire fight Tsunami is going to be very, very hard to beat. Estrada might well try to have a fire fight, but we don't think she'll try that, or at least not for long. Tsunami's slow feet will instead allow Estrada to bounce in and out, to unload shots, and to use Tsunami as target practice. Tsunami's toughness, will to win and aggression will mean she'll refuse to back down, and she'll keep coming and coming.
We suspect Estrada's skills will neutralise Tsunami for the most part, with the Japanese fighter having just enough moments to make the fight exciting, but nowhere near enough to make it competitive. After 10 rounds there won't be any confusion over who deserves the win, but Tsunami's heart will recieve a lot of praise, as will Estrada's boxing, aggression,and skills.
Prediction - UD10 Estrada
Back in December we saw the previously unheralded Tomoko Okuda (7-2-2, 1) announce herself as a world class fighter as she defeated Miyo Yoshida (14-2) and took the WBO female Super Flyweight with a technical decision over the well liked Yoshida. This coming Tuesday the women face off again with Okuda looking to repeat her career best win, and Yoshida looking to avenge her title loss and become a two time champion.
Going in to their first bout Yoshida was the big favourite. She had won 10 in a row, unified the Japanese and OPBF titles at Bantamweight titles and then moved down in weight to win the WBO title, a title she had defended once before facing Okuda. Okuda on the other hand went into the bout as a 37 year old who's most notable results were a win and a draw against former kick boxer Kanako Taniyama, with the win seeing her win the Japanese and OPBF Bantamweight titles. That win aside there was nothing of value on her record went she dropped 3lbs and challenged Yoshida, and then beat Yoshida.
The key for Okuda in the first bout was her aggression, strength and size. Although both fighters had made their mark at Bantamweight, winning domestic and regional honours, Yoshida was the naturally smaller fighter, and the much less powerful fighter. Coming in she had never scored a stoppage in 15 bouts and was very much a fighter who relied on landing shots at range, and out working opponents up close, rather than trying to hurt them. Okuda on the other hand was a strong fighter. She lacked power, but was a naturally bigger, stronger, fighter. Okuda dropped Yoshida in round 1 and really put her under pressure throughout, not caring too much about what the champion threw back. That was vital to Okuda taking home the win, and the title.
In this rematch we're expect to see more aggression from Yoshida. Her jab has long been one of her main weapons, but Okuda walked through it and the challenger this time around can't look to rely on her long punches. She instead needs to let her hands fly, break down and wear out the champion and look to make the most of being the smaller fighter. Don't fight at range, but get in and swarm Okuda.
As for Okuda she'll look to do what she did in the first fight. She'll pressure and press, and look to avoid being cut, as she was in the first bout. If she can avoid clashing heads with the shorter fighter, and avoid the cuts, we suspect she'll weather some storms, but end up taking a clear, wide decision win here after 10 rounds.
If the bouts ends early, like their first, it will be due to head clashes. Neither fighter is a puncher, neither has question marks about their chin, but head clashes are very possible again here. Sadly, as the slightly taller fighter, Okuda will end up taking the worse of those head clashes but even with that in mind we suspect her more physical style will again bee too much for Yoshida.
Prediction - UD10 Okuda.
On June 7th we're set for a notable, albeit short, card from Watanabe Gym with three title bouts, which were originally scheduled for May but needed to be delayed due to the State of Emergency in Japan. One of those bouts is rather uneven looking Japanese Female Bantamweight title fight, with Kanako Taniyama (3-1-1, 1) facing Yuko Henzan (8-10-4, 2) for the vacant title. Although the least significant of the three bouts, it's an interesting one, and one that both fighters will likely see as a must win bout. At least if either of them wants to potentially land a world title fight before retirement.
On paper the match looks like it's two fighters in very, very different places. Tamiyama, with just 5 bouts to her name, looks like a woman at the start of her career, whilst Henzan, with a 22 fight record, looks like a journey woman, going nowhere. In reality however both women are 34, neither can afford another set back and another loss, for either, would push them a very long way from a title fight, of any kind. They are also very similar in size, and their desire to claim a title will be huge here.
Of the two fighters Taniyama is the more notable. She was a stand out kick boxer before turning to professional boxing in late 2018, with a lot of hype and expectation on her shoulders. After scoring two quick wins she got her first title fight and fought to an 8 round draw with Tomoko Okuda for the JBC and OPBF female Bantamweight titles. The bout was hotly contested and resulted in a rematch around 4 months later, which was another hotly contested bout, with Okuda taking a 7th round technical decision, giving Tamiyama her first loss. Since then Okuda has gone on to win the WBO female Super Flyweight title, whilst Taniyama herself has gone on to bounce back with a win over Mitsuda.
In the ring Taniyama is a fighter who presses forward, comes with aggressive intent and is very much a kick boxer turned boxer. She's crude, she's rough around the edges, but is very much an aggressive, fun to watch fighter who tries to impose her will on the bout. She's not the quickest, in fact she has had issues with her legs in the past from her days as a kick boxer, but cuts the ring off well and comes to fighter, every time she's in the ring.
Henzan on the other hand has been a professional since 2010, and has fought a genuine who's who. Due to that willingness to fight pretty much anyone she has picked up a lost of losses, including defeats to Miyo Yoshida, Fan Yin, Li Ping Shi and Wakako Fujiwara. During her career she has fought for OPBF and WBO honours, and actually did pick up the OPBF Bantamweight title in 2018, though her reign lead to nothing of note. In the ring she's technically very limited, very light hitting, and relatively open. However she's not an easy fighter to beat or look good against because she's tough, she's tiny and comes forward looking for a fight. She lets her hands go on the inside and really does seem to enjoy a fight. She's a limited boxer but a genuine fighter who will go toe to toe when she needs to and lets body shots go on mass. Sadly however she is under-sized, she lacks physicality and is very flat footed.
Because both are slow of foot, both like to fight and both like to let shots go up close we're expecting this one ton be a genuinely exciting bout. Not the most highly skilled, or intelligent fight, from either, but an exciting, "TV Friendly" fight, with the two women engaging often and trading blows. Sadly for Henzan we suspect her lack of real phsycality will be an issue and she'll come off second best when the two do trade. She'll be the one backing up, the one being pushed around and the one taking the heavier blows. She'll certainly always fight back, but we have the feeling she'll also come up very, very short.
This will be fun, a genuine tear up, but we supect it'll also be a clear win for Taniyama who just has that extra class and extra physical strength.
Prediction - UD6 Taniyama
One of the big complaints about women's boxing is the lacks of depth. Everyone seems to either be very limited, or too advanced and too developed as a fighter for the top prospects. This means we either see prospects thrown in to world title fights very early, after a short development process, or we see them battering very limited opponents, or see champions facing C tier challengers. One thing we want to see more often is prospects taking on former champions, and taking risks, whilst preparing themselves for a world title fight.
This coming Monday we see one perfect of a prospect doing just that, as Mizuki Chimoto (2-0, 1) takes a huge leap up in class and battles former world champion Yuko Kuroki (18-6-2, 8) in a bout for the OPBF female Minimumweight title. A title both fighters will be wanting as they look to take a leap into the direction of major fight later in the year.
Of the two fighters it's Kuroki who is the more well known, the more established and the more proven fighter. She turned professional way back in 2008 and had some early trouble, losing on her debut and losing in her third professional bout. Despite that she gritted it out, and ended up getting her first world title fight in 2013, losing to Etsuko Tada when she was 21. Despite losing that fight, and struggling to get going afterwards, she finally bounced back in 2014 and went on a brilliant 8 fight winning run which saw her claim the WBC female Minimumweight title and defeat the likes of Mari Ando, Katia Gutierrez and Nancy Franco before losing to Momo Koseki in 2017. Sadly since the loss to Koseki we've not seen Kuroki at her best, and instead she has gone 1-1-1 since that defeat, and hasn't fought in over 2 years.
At her best Kuroki is a legitimate world class fighter. She's gritty, sets a good work rate, and fights hard, every round. She's quick, she's got respectable power, good stamina and a hunger to win. Sadly though she is lacking in terms of polish, and her career has been one based around learning on the job. She's also been so inconsistent through her career. At her best she's one of the best female fighters at 105lbs, at her worst she looks unfocused and struggles to find a groove. She to be someone who lacks full belief in her skills, and this shows in some of her performances. Given her recent results and lack of activity, we do wonder about that confidence leading into this bout.
Aged 27 Chimito is a is a bit of professional novice, but don't let that lead you into thinking she is a boxing novice. That simply isn't true and she was a former amateur standout in Japan, running up an excellent 45-12 amateur record whilst competing in major national tournaments and being guided by her older brother. She has been moved aggressively in the professional ranks due to her amateur experience and that really is the key to her getting this OPBF title fight so early in her career. As well her amateur career she has already answered plenty of questions about her ability as a professional, having already won her first title, the Japanese female Minimumweight title in just her second professional bout. So far she's looked really good, but it's clear she is a work in progress as far as the professional ranks go. Sadly she, like Kuroki, has been out of the ring for quite some time, with a planned bouts in December 2019 and December 2020 both being cancelled, leaving her out of the ring since June 2019.
As with many of the advanced Japanese female amateurs who turn professional, there is a clear level of schooling there with Chimoto, who has a nice sharp jab, good movement, and an understanding of range and distance. She likes to her jab, stay busy, and control the range with it, setting up her arsenal behind the shot. She also picks a really nice uppercut. She was however running on fumes late in her final bout, and certainly seemed to tire under the pressure of Chie Higano, at least rounds 5 and 6. That could prove to be a real issue here, over the 8 round distance against someone who has shown an ability to fight 10 rounds.
On paper Kuroki is the easy pick. She's experience, proven and has shown an ability to do 10 rounds. She's also been active more recently than Chimoto. On the other hand Chimoto is the more skilled and the more intelligent boxer and she's the fighter with a point to prove after pulling out of two previously scheduled bouts. A loss here, after 18 months of inactivity, would be a massive hit to her career.
We go into this knowing Kuroki should be the favourite, but we're picking the under-dog. We think Chimoto will have a lot of hunger to prove a point, and will get into the ring fully focused. Will pick her spots, control the tempo behind her jab, and despite some wobbles late on will do enough to take hom a decision win, and the OPBF female Minimumweight title.
Prediction - Chimoto UD10
Fans of female boxing are set for a big day this coming Sunday with two notable shows featuring female boxing. The first of those is an all female show, headlined by a Japanese domestic title fight. The second card is headlined by a much higher profile bout as WBO female Light Flyweight champion Tenkai Tsunami (27-12-1, 16) defends her title, for the third time, and faces Shione Ogata (11-6-1, 3) in a solid looking match up.
Although not a huge profile bout it's certainly an interesting one, and one that should give us some great action, in fact every Tsunami bout gives us great action.
The 36 year old Tsunami is a true veteran of the female boxing scene. She has been a professional since 2005 and has faced a genuine who's who of who of female boxing during her long, 40 bout, career. Among the many fighters that she has faced are the likes of Ayaka Miyao, Kayoko Ebata, Janeth Perez, Mariana Juarez, Jessica Chavez, Carolina Rodriguez and Naoko Fujioka. Through out her career she has always been a wonderfully fun fighter to watch with an aggressive, exciting, style. She's proven to be tough, durable, and with a great engine.
Despite being 36 Tsunami doesn't seem to be coming to the end of her career. In fact she has had a real Indian summer in recent years. She became the WBO female Light Flyweight champion in 2018, more than 5 years after losing the WBA female Super Flyweight champion, and has recorded 2 defenses of the title as well as fighting to a thrilling draw with Naoko Fujioka in a Flyweight world title fight.
The talented Tsunami lives up to the "Tsunami" moniker. She throws a lot of leather, comes forward a lot and despite fighting at Light Flyweight she's a physically strong fighter, likely explaining why she had success at Super Flyweight in the past. She's one of the most fun female fighters to watch but she's also a flawed fighter, and she can be out boxed at range, and isn't particularly quick on her feet or the sharpest puncher out there. She's a nightmare to fight, but a good game plan can neutralise her aggression.
At 32 years old Ogata is no spring chicken herself and she's has been a professional since 2012. In that time she has had 18 bouts with some very mixed results. Early on she struggled to get her career going, and lost 5 of her first 6 bouts. Since then however she has gone 10-1-1 (3) and has really found her form. Not only has she been on a good run of form but she has also been tasting success and winning belts. In fact she has managed to win the WBA Asia, WBO Asia Pacific and OPBF female Light Flyweight titles. Not only that but she has also scored a massive win over Saemi Hanagata, who later won the WBO Atomweight title.
In the ring Ogata is a more technical boxer than Tsunami, looking to box off her jab, use her footwork, and box, rather than fight. She's crisp, light on her feet, has nice movement and really does seem to be a well schooled fighter. Sadly though she does lack power and struggles to get the respect of opponents, who do try to walk her down. Despite her record she is much better than the numbers suggest and is a fighter who has really developed so much in recent years under the guidance of Nobuhiro Ishida. This is, however, a big step up in class for her, and the first time she has faced a world class Light Flyweight.
Coming in to this we're happy to say that Tsunami is the better fighter. The much, much better fighter. She's also the more aggressive, stronger and more powerful fighter, but also the slower fighter. However Ogata is the better boxer, the smarter fighter and the more well rounded professional.
Style wise this is going to be an interesting one. It will have Tsunami's pressure and aggression taking on the movement and speed of Ogata. This should make for a compelling battle of skills and wills. Sadly for Ogata however the bigger problem for her will be the gulf in experience. She's the better boxer, but she is taking on the biggest, strongest and most proven opponent of her career and we suspect that will play a major role here.
Ogata will box, move, and look to use her skills, but as the fight goes on we see Tsunami beginning to out work, out battle, out muscle and break down Ogata. In the end we suspect a gutsy Ogata will come up short on the cards of a thrilling 10 rounder.
Prediction - UD10 Tsunami
This coming Sunday is a pretty big one for female boxing in Japan with two shows at the with two shows at the Sangyo Shinko Center, in Sakai. The second of those shows is headlined by a female world title bout whilst the other is an all female show, headlined by a Japanese Atomweight title fight between defending champion Kaori Nagai (5-2-3, 2) and unheralded challenger Natsuki Tarui (4-6-2).
Nagai, who is now 31, made her debut in December 2015, and did so in disappointing fashion, losing her first 2 bouts. In fact after 6 bouts she was 1-2-3, and few would have given her any chance to make a mark on the sport. Since then however she has turned her career around, reeling off 4 wins including her title win. Not only has she been picking up wins but she has taken an unbeaten record along the way and scored two wins over a former world title challenger, in the form of Momoka Kanada.
In the ring Nagai is fairly limited, if we're being honest, and there is no sign of her ever becoming a world champion. However, she's a fun woman to watch, letting off straight punches and trying to avoid the typical gruelling mauling action we've come to see a lot of in female boxing. She's someone who looks like she wants to fight at range, use her legs and firing off combinations at range. When it does come to action on the inside she can fight there, though often looks less comfortable there, and she often seems happier at mid-range than in the pocket. Sadly she lacks power, and there is a rushed look to a lot of her work, but she really has improved so much over the years and we suspect the title will galvanise her, and go on to make her a better fighter.
At 29 years old is the younger fighter, but despite that she's the more experienced, having made her debut in 2014. Just like Nagai she also struggled to get going with her career and lost her first 4 bouts, and was 1-5-1 after 7 bouts. Her only win during that early stretch of her career came against boxing model Riyako Goshi. She has, like Nagai, managed to turn things around and is 3-1-1 in her last 5, During that recent run she has given 3 fighters their first loss, and held the always fun to watch Mont Blanc Miki to a 6 round draw.
Interestingly Tarui is also a fighter who knows how to use her feet, and seems happier at mid-range, she's got quick hands, throws straight punches and seems like the sort of fighter who has got plenty of tools in her arsenal. Sadly though she also lacks power, big time, and she's physically lacking in strength and size and looks like she could be bullied around quite easily. She also doesn't really look that technically sound and loses her composure a lot. At her best she's genuinely very good, much better than her record suggests, but it's hard to know just how much of a fight will be her at her best. If she's on song for 6 rounds, at Japanese level, she could be a very tough fighter to beat.
Whilst this bout is an easy one to look over, especially given the weight and records of the two fighters, we genuinely are excited about it. The women match up really well, their styles should gel well, and we should get a very exciting, relatively clinch free, fight, with a lot of leather thrown by both fighters. We suspect the edge in speed for Tarui will be key to her gameplan, but by that same taken Nagai is probably the more physically imposing we it wouldn't be a surprise to see her use that to try and slow down Tarui if she needs to.
The two fighters match each other really well and this should make for a very close and exciting bout. We are expecting this to be a fun one, a hotly contested one and one where the judges will be torn. They will have a very tough time scoring it, but those watching will have a joy watching a high tempo, high action fight with every round being close.
Prediction - SD6 Nagai
Over the last few years female boxing has gone from strength to strength and no longer is female boxing only for the hardcore fight fans, who watch anything they can. Whilst it's not fully crossed over into the main stream, there are certain fighters who have connected with a wider audience than ever before, such as Katie Taylor, and we are seeing more and more hints towards getting all-female cards in the UK and the US.
Whilst it's great to see more countries embracing female boxing it's worth noting that a number of countries have been putting on notable female bouts for years, such as Mexico, Argentina and Japan. That looks to continue for the foreseeable future, including this coming Thursday, when Japanese fans at Korakuen Hall get an interesting IBF Atomweight title fight.
The first in question will pit defending champion Saemi Hanagata (16-7-4, 7) against novice Eri Matsuda (4-0, 1) in a really intriguing bout. For Hanagata the bout will be her second defense, following her title win in 2018 against Yuko Kuroki, whilst Matsuda will be getting her first crack at a world title. For Hanagata the bout is a chance to prove she is the Japanese queen of the division whilst Matsuda is looking to force a generational shift in the division, and prove the new women of Japanese boxing are just as good at the legends that put Japanese female boxing on the map over the last 15 years or so.
Fans who have followed Japanese female boxing will be familiar with Hanagata and her career. The 36 year old debuted way back in 2008 and has been bouncing around the world title picture since 2012, when she challenged the legendary Momo Koseki for the WBC Atomweight title. Whilst Hanagata managed to establish herself as a world class fighter rather early on, it wasn't long until she became a fighter with a reputation of not being able to get it done at the top level. By the end of 2017 she had gone 0-2-2 in world title bouts, and it seemed like she was never going to get over the line. She already won the OPBF title but couldn't get over the line at world level. Thankfully for Hanagata it was fifth time lucky in 2018 when she scored a split decision win over Yuko Kuroki for the IBF title, and a year later she recorded her first defense, defeating Nao Ikeyama. Now she's looking to continue her reign as a champion, and return to action 18 months after her last bout.
One of the things that made Hanagata such a popular fighter was her incredible desire to win. After failing to win in her first 4 world title bouts she had still desire and hunger to climb towards another shot. That wasn't just hunger for a shot though, it was hunger every time she stepped in the ring. It didn't matter who she was against she was a rampaging monster in between the ropes. She pressed forward almost constantly, she threw a lot of leather, and never stopped coming forward. Her desire to become a champion was just an extension of the desire shown in her in ring style and tenacity. She was an aggressive, pressure fighter who made for fan friendly bouts. For those with Boxing Raise we really suggest giving her bouts a watch, they are almost always thoroughly entertaining wars.
The 26 year old Matsuda debuted back in 2018 and was moved quickly through the ranks after a solid amateur career. In her debut Matsuda beat recent world title challenger Sana Hazuki before winning her first title, in just her second bout, as she beat Minayo Kei for the OPBF Atomweight title. Soon after that she unified the OPBF and Japanese titles, with a win over Nanae Suzuki, and would defend the Japanese title once, with a TKO win over Mont Blanc Miki.
Despite her lack of experience Matsuda has already got 27 professional rounds under her belt, shown she can do 8 rounds at a good pace and has faced a number of aggressive pressure fighters, and has shown the tools to go a long way, though obviously still has a lot of work to do. In the ring her style is very much an amateur style, with her focus being on straight punches, maintaining distance and a lot of footwork. It's a style that looks very taxing on the legs and really is a safety first one. Sadly, due to her movement, she doesn't really sit on her punches and seems feather fisted, but she's very skilled and her competition so far has been incredibly advanced for someone with so little experience. It has also been the perfect type of competition to prepare her for a fighter like Hanagata, with Hazuki, Suzuki and Miki all bringing a lot of heat to Matsuda, who had to maintain her focus and her composure.
Coming in to this it's worth noting that neither fighter fought in 2020. In fact both fighters last fought on September 12th 2019, on the same show at Korakuen Hall. Neither fighter is likely to look their sharpest from the opening bell and instead we expect to see both need a round or two to find their groove. That could prove vital here given how different their styles are.
If Hanagata settles first, and manages to force her fight from the opening round, we suspect she can take an early lead and force Matsuda to chase the fight. If that happens we're not sure Matsuda has it in her arsenal to turn the tide. However if Matsuda settles first, creates space, and tags Hanagata coming in we could easily imagine the younger, fresher, fighter racking up the early rounds then holding and spoiling late on to take a decision. It really is going to be key for both women to find their rhythm as soon as they can.
Coming in to this one we see it as a very, very well match bout, and the difference in styles, age and experience leave it as a compelling match up. We suspect that Matsuda will get off to a good start, and take the early lead, but as the rounds go by, and as Hanagata's pressure cranks up she'll come back into the bout. The real question is whether Matsuda can get a big enough lead to take the win, or whether Hanagata's pressure will be enough for her to take a narrow, and hotly contested, victory.
Prediction - Matsuda SD10
On January 30th we’ll see the IBF female Minimumweight champion Yokasta Valle (20-2, 9) defending her title against Japanese challenger Sana Hazuki (8-4-1, 2) in Costa Rica, the first world title fight to feature a Japanese fighter this year. The bout isn’t a huge one, but it is an interesting one, in a division where there are some very good female match ups to be made, and the winner here will find themselves well in the mix for bigger figures. In fact prior to this bout being made there was supposed to be a much, much bigger bout lined up for Valle, but more about that in a few moments. Sadly however this bout has been put together on relatively short notice, and it could end up being a case that neither fighter is quite 100% for this clash. Despite that we do expect an interesting contest.
As mentioned Valle was supposed to be in a much bigger bout. Originally she had planned for a mid-January bout against German fighter Tina Rupprecht, to unify the IBF, WBC, IBO and Ring Magazine titles. That bout was sadly cancelled earlier in January, and the IBF ordered a mandatory between the champion and Hazuki as a result.
The now 28 year old Valle has been a professional since 2014, and has really proven herself as a talented fighter in recent years. That was despite a slow start to her professional career in which she fought a lot of low level bouts early on. Despite the slow start to her professional career she did claim the IBF Atomweight title in December 2016, beating Ana Victoria Polo to become the inaugural champion. Sadly she didn’t actually defend that title, instead looking to face bigger names, and in 2017 that led her to facing Naoko Fujioka in Japan, and suffer her first loss. Just 6 months after losing to Fujioka she travelled to Germany and lost to Tina Rupprecht. Within just a few months Valle had gone from 3-0 to 13-2, but had fought two highly talented fighters and proven her ability.
Since the back to back losses Valle has claimed the IBF female Minimumweight title, beating the hard hitting Jaoana Pastrana in Spain in 2018, and defended it once, stopping Carleans Rivas in 2020.
In the ring Valle is an aggressive fighter, who throws a lot of leather and believes in herself. She’s tough, energetic, and has more than a respectable amount of pop in her punches. She throws a very nice, crisp jab and a clean, straight, right hand. Given her power, work rate, big over hand right and speed and movement she’s not an easy fighter to beat, and she really does know her way around the ring. Unlike some female fighters she’s not all out aggressive and is more of a boxer-fighter than some of the swarmers we see out there in the lower weights.
The Japanese challenger, who also debuted in 2014, is now 36 and is likely on the back end of her career. Despite that she’s not got a great deal of wear and tear and will be getting her first world title in just her 14th professional contest. Despite not having much wear and tear she’s also not proven herself as a viable world title contender, with her most notable win coming over the then 5-0 Eruka Hiromoto in 2019, a win that netted her the OPBF female Minimumweight title. That win aside has little else of note on her record in terms of success. In fact the other notable results on her record are losses to Eri Matsuda and Nanae Suzuki, and a draw to Suzuki.
Despite her less than stellar results it’s hard to fault Hazuki’s work rate. In the ring she’s all effort, all energy and always coming forward letting her hands go. There’s a lack of quality and crispness to her work, but few can fault her tireless engine, with to win and all out fighting mentality. Sadly though she lacks the nuance to make the style work and the power needed to get her opponents respect. A lot of her shots are slapping shots, and there’s a really trudginess to her pressure. She’s a fun fighter to watch, but someone who’s deficient in too many areas to really compete at world level.
Although Hazuki is an all aggression fighter we don’t really see that aggression working too well against Valle, who we suspect will use her feet well, set up the counters and land big, heavy, clean shots. Hazuki will come forward all night, but eventually an accumulation of clean head shots, and the gulf in skills, will prove to be the difference, and we suspect Hazuki will end up taking a lot of leather until the referee steps in.
Prediction - TKO 8 Valle
On December 18th we see the international debut of WBA female Super Featherweight champion Hyun Mi Choi (17-0-1, 4), who has one of the greatest modern day stories in professional boxing.
The talented Korean, who signed with Eddie Hearn and Matchroom earlier this year, would have been hoping to make a big impact on her international debut. Sadly however she is taking on the limited Calista Silgado (19-11-3, 14), in a bout that takes place in Florida on the under-card of Gennady Golovkin's upcoming IBF Middleweight title defense. Not only is Silgado not a high profile opponent, but she's also someone who has taken the bout on extremely short notice as Eddie Hearn and his team have once again dropped the ball on their US shows.
What should have been a potential chance to stand out and make a name for herself has seen Choi put in a position where she really can't win. And with DAZN expected to cheerleader her before hand they are leaving a talented fighter in a position to have undue criticism due to the work of her esteemed promoter.
As for the fight, rather than extending the rant, it's really hard to see anything but a Choi win.
The 30 year old Korean fighter has been a world champion since 2008! She won the WBA female Featherweight title on her debut, beating Chunyan Xu, and made 7 defenses before moving up in weight and becoming a 2-weight champion. At Featherweight she notched a few wins over notable opponents, such as Tenku Tsubasa, Claudia Andrea Lopez, Sandy Tsagouris and Shannon O'Connell. At Super Featherweight Choi has continued to picking up notable wins, with victories over the likes of Fujin Raika, Kimika Miyoshi and Alejandra Gomez. Sadly however she has been horribly inactive, with only 6 fights since the start of 2016, despite being the face of Korean boxing.
In the ring Choi is very much a well school boxer. She lacks single punch power, but has good movement, good straight punching, and knows her way around the ring. She keeps a decent work rate, usually, but has slowed in later rounds in bouts. Although very talented she really doesn't like a fight up close and resorts to holding a lot when an opponent is too close for comfort. It can make her bouts frustrating and messy, but when she's in a groove she's fantastic to watch and looks like a stellar boxer. Not a fighter, but a boxer.
Silgado is a 32 year old Colombian who looks dangerous on paper, with 14 stoppages in her 19 wins including 4 in the opening round. Sadly however her wins have come over some truly terrible opposition and only 3 of her 19 wins have come against fighters with more wins than losses. Whilst that is a worrying stat in regards to her quality of wins, it should be noted she has lost to pretty much every opponent of any value she has ever faced. That includes Alejandra Marina Oliveras, Yazmin Rivas, Ogledis Suarez, Mayerlin Rivas, Amanda Serrano, Cindy Serrano, Shelly Vincent and Mikaela Mayer. On one hand she has faced good competition, but on the other hand she has lost repeatedly against good competition.
In the ring Silgado is very, very limited. She was absolutely dominated in 2018 by Mikaela Mayer who was too quick, too sharp, too long and too tall for Silgado, with Mayer winning every round. Even when Silgado landed her clean her shots bounced off Mayer and it was clear that Silgado didn't belong in there with a world class Super Featherweight. In fact if anything the one thing she impressed with there was her ability to survive the talented American.
Given her record, the level of wins she has, the level she loses at and the super short notice she's had for this bout it's hard to see anything but a loss for the Colombian here, who really shouldn't be getting a world title fight, or rather another world title fight. Silgado has come up short in numerous world title fights in the past and she'll come up short again here. She might survive the distance but will not be competitive, and will not act as the introduction to a US audience that Choi deserves.
Prediction - Choi UD10
Here we preview the key female title bouts involving an Asian fighter.