On February 8th Costa Rican fighter Yokasta Valle (19-2, 8) will be making her first defense of the IBF female Minimumweight title, ash she goes up against Filipino challenger Carleans Rivas (8-6-4). This will not only be Valle's first defense but also Rivas' first world title challenge, after having fought numerous times for regional titles.
Although not a global name by any means Valle is a talented fighter, The 27 year from San Jose has shown a willingness to travel and to take on the best. This has seen her lose on the road to the likes of Naoko Fujioka and Tina Rupprecht, running Rupprecht very close in Germany, and actually winning this title in Spain last August. The belt she currently holds is her second, after having previously held the IBF's version of the 102lb title in 2016, and she has proven to be a tough fighter to beat.
In the ring Valle is small, even for a female fighter at 102lbs or 105lbs, but she uses her diminutive size well. She makes herself seem smaller, darts in an out well, and is very aggressive. She's not the most powerful puncher out there but she throws a lot of leather, has a busy lead hand and throws in bunches, often getting flurries off before an opponent can respond. It's her activity and aggression that make her a nightmare to fight and not many fighters will have the work rate to go with her, or the power to make her think twice about letting shots go.
The 31 year old Rivas has really struggled when she has fought above Filipino level, and in fact even at domestic level she has been beaten by the likes of Jessebelle Pagaduan and Lady Love Sampiton. Above domestic level she has lost to the likes of Tamao Ozaw, Chaoz Minowa, Tenkai Tsunami and Yumeni Ikemoto. Sadly for her she hasn't been able to win when she's stepped up and she's also rarely even been competitive at regional level. She is also 0-4 outside of the Philippines.
Whilst she's not totally terrible she isn't particularly good either. She lacks power, throws a nice jab but a very slow and loopy right hand and often puts herself off balance. There's a fighter that could have been competitive at regional level if her team had managed to polish her rather clear visible flaws, but instead those issues are still clearly there and clearly limit her potential to go far in the sport.
Although we don't see Valle as an emerging superstar of female boxing, she is a talent and we expect her to make this first defense look very, very easily. We would be massively surprised by anything but a dominant win by the Costa Rican champion.
Prediction - TKO8 Valle.
Back in September Japanese fight fans in Sakai saw local fighter Tomoko Okuda (5-2-2, 1) earn a controversial draw against Kanako Taniyama (2-0-1, 1) in a bout for the Japanese and OPBF female Bantamweight titles. It seemed that Taniyama, the busier, more aggressive, fighter had done enough to earn the win. The judges thought otherwise and gave the local fighter the benefit of the doubt, well at least two of them did with both of those judges scoring the bout even over-ruling a 78-74 card for Taniyama.
On January 28th they go again, this time with Taniyama having home advantage with the bout taking place at Korakuen Hall in Tokyo.
The first bout, although controversial, was interesting through out. Okuda looked to box on the outside, keeping the bout at range and counter the aggression of Taniyama. Taniyama on the other hand wanted to make it a fight, pressing in bursts, and forcing the pace through out. Although Taniyama was the aggressor she did take a lot of clean punches herself, from the more technically correct Okuda. Those shots left Taniyama with a badly swollen left eye that she fought through. The final round, of what was an 8 rounder, was a mess as the two tiredly fell into each other during some wild exchanges.
We expect to see a similar dynamic here. Taniyama pressing, trying to drag Okuda into a fire fight. We would however be very surprised if Taniyama's eye swelled up like it did in their first bout, and we would also be shocked if the judges in Tokyo gave Okuda the same benefit they ones in Sakai did.
Instead we expect Taniyama's aggression, heart and determination to impress judges, and help her take the decision.
One interesting difference between this bout and their first, other than the venue, is the length. Their draw came in an 8 rounder, and this is only 6. So the mess of the final round, where there was a lot of clinching between wild exchanges, isn't likely to be seen here. It's also worth noting that after 4 rounds last time out the two were level on all 4 cards, meaning a hot start here could be key in taking the Japanese female Bantamweight title.
Still in saying that, we do still favour a Taniyama decision.
Prediction - UD6 Taniyama
The first world title bout to take place in Japan this year is a female one between two former world champions, who can't afford another loss at this stage of their career, if they are to remain relevant as top contenders. Both are heading towards and neither is in their prime, as injuries and age catch up with them. Despite that we are expecting a genuine fantastic fight as Etsuko Tada (19-3-2, 6) and Ayaka Miyao (23-8-1, 6) meet for the WBO female Minimumweight title.
Of the two it's Tada who is the older fighter. The Shinsei promoted 38 year old is a former WBA, IBF and WBO female Minimumweight champion who has fought at world level for a decade or so. She won her first world title in 2009, following an excellent amateur career, and has faced a genuine who's who of female boxing in the lower weights. She took her first title from ChoRong Son and went on to defend it against the likes of Ibeth Zamora Silva, Maria Salinas, Naoko Shibata and Yuko Kuroki before being dethroned by Anabel Ortiz. She would claim the IBF title 2 years later, beating Kareli Lopez, before losing in her first defense to Cai Zong Ju, then claim the WBO title in 2018 beating Kayoko Ebata.
In her prime Tada was fast, aggressive, a solid puncher, highly skilled, tough and a nightmare for anyone. As she's aged he speed has slowed, her combinations don't flow as they once did and she struggles to apply the same pressure she did when she was younger. She's still an excellent fighter, but often needs the right sort of opponent to shine against. Against a mover she struggles, and she's much better against a fighter who stands their ground. Despite that can chase, just not in the way she once could.
At 36 years old Miyao is no youngster herself, and she's no novice either, having made her professional debut in 2004, before the JBC even recognised female boxing. Her early career was tough, and she was 4-4-1 after her first 9 bouts. Since then however she has gone 19-4 and become a major figure in the Atomweight division, where she is a former WBA and WBA interim champion, who also fought in a unification bout with the then WBC champion Momo Koseki. During her long career she has beaten the likes of Mari Ando, Masae Akitaya, Gretchen Abaniel, and Nao Ikeyama.
At her best Miyao was a lighting quick fighter who could fire off lightning quick shots, and move around the ring with very quick footwork. She's been slowing down in recent years, but is still quick, skilled and hard to pressure. Notably she is moving up from Atomweight, 102lbs, to Minimumweight, 105lbs. It's going to be interesting to see how she copes with the extra weight, and the extra weight of her opponent. One other thing to note is that Miyao has previously suffered a nasty knee injury. She has fought twice since then, but it does leave some question marks about her body.
Here we expect to see Tada pressing, coming forward and Miyao boxing and moving on the back foot, using her feet to try and stay away from Tada's pressure. From there it really depends on who controls the distance as to who wins. We suspect that Miyao will have the early success with her foot work, but Tada will come on strong and begin to take control in the second half. This will not make it easy to score, but will make it very, very competitive, and very close.
Prediction - Draw (Split)
The Japanese female title scene is a very mixed one. Some of the title fights are brilliant, well matched bouts between two fighters on their way up the ranks. Other times it appears the JBC just want to full a vacancy, and anyone will do. On January 27th we get a bout that firmly fits in the latter category as Yumiko Shimooka (4-7, 1) and Yumi Narita (3-4-3, 1) battle for the Japanese female Minimumweight title.
Coming in each fighter has won just 1 of their last 6 bouts, and for both women they without a win in their last 3. These aren't the best female fighters in Japan at 105lbs but with a vacancy that needs filling they are facing off for the belt.
The 38 year old Shimooka made her debut in 2014, and immediately struggled. She was stopped on debut, and despite winning 3 of her following 4 bouts never really built any career momentum. She has now lost 5 of her last 6 and hasn't fought since a decision loss to Mont Blanc Miki in November 2018. You need to go all the way back to December 2017 for her last win, which came in an upset against Umi Ishikawa.
Watching Shimooka you can see why she's lost so many bouts. She's crude, lazy, wide open, slow and not particularly busy. She telegraphs her punches and stumbles forward, often eating more than she throws as a result, and what she does throw is so horribly off balance.
Aged 30 Narita is the younger fighter, and the more active, with 2 fights last year. Incidentally she lost both of them by split decision, including a title fight to Chie Higano and a close loss to Sana Hazuki. Although she's win-less in 3 she was competitive in all 3 of those bouts and has interestingly drawn 3 of her last 6. One thing to realise when it comes to Narita is, win, lose or draw, she has generally been in close bouts.
Sadly however her limitations are very visible, much like Shimooka. She lacks power, she lacks variety and although she does have a busy jab, it lacks snap. It's more thrown as a stay away punch then a real scoring shot. Sadly when fighters walk through that jab she no real answer and often holds, leading to some messy action. Watching her she really doesn't appear to have anything at all on her back hand.
With the limitations of both should make this competitive but we can't help thinking that Narita, the younger, fresher, more active fighter, will do enough, just, to take this. Neither is particularly good but the jab of Narita, and her younger legs, are likely to prove the difference maker in a fight we expect to be very, very messy.
Prediction - SD6 Narita
The first world title fight to feature an Asian fight for the new year takes place this coming Saturday in Mexico as Chaoz Minowa (6-2, 5) takes on WBC "interim" female Light Flyweight champion Kenia Enriquez (22-1, 9) in Jalisco. For the Mexican this will be her 4th defense of the title she won back in May 2017 whilst Minowa will be looking to claim a world title at the third time of asking, and do so after more than a year away from the ring.
Although female boxing isn't huge in the English speaking world, despite growing notable in recent years, it has been popular in Latin American for years with numerous Mexican and Argentinian stars. The 26 year old Enriquez looks to be on her way to becoming another female star of the sport. She has bounced back excellently from her sole defeat, to Melissa McMorrow way back in February 2015, and is riding a 9 fight winning run at the moment. Whilst Enriquez hasn't yet beaten a who's who of the female scene she has scored notable wins over Katia Gutierrez, Maria Salina and Jessica Nery Plata and has become one of the clear faces of the female scene at 108lbs.
Watching Enriquez in action is different to watch many Latino female boxers. She doesn't look to set a hectic pace. Instad she's actually quite deliberate, but that's not an insult. She throws crisp, clean straight shots, works off her jab and is very accurate. She slips shots well and puts together heavy shots. She's not a concussive puncher, but she's someone with the thudding power that fighters feel every single time she connects. From a technical stand point she is very good, though perhaps a little on the slow side.
In 2016 Ayako Minowa turned professional, adopting the Chaoz Minowa fighting name. She was full of confidence and seemed like the sort of fighter that had success ear marked for her. She had been a fantastic amateur, had heavy hands, through combinations, looked tough and like a real handful. Just 3 months after her debut she had claimed the OPBF female Flyweight title and had spoke about winning titles in numerous weight classes. Sadly when her competition stepped up in 2018, when she took on Tenkai Tsunami she came up short, being broken down by the rugged Tsunami. A second world title fight that same year saw her fight valiantly but lose a clear decision to Ibeth Zamora Silva. Now aged 32, and with more than a year away from the ring, it's now or never for Minowa.
At the early stages of her career Minowa often fought like she was going to rip through opponents. That changed somewhat later in her career, and against Zamora she boxed smartly, though had her legs taken away through the fight and really slowed down in the second half of the fight. Whilst some of that slow down can be attributed to the altitude credit also needs to be given to Zamora for forcing a high tempo and going to the body. Here we're expecting to see Minowa fight smartly again, and with less problems from altitude she could well find her gas tank last better, especially given that Enriquez doesn't set a tempo like Zamora.
If Minowa wasn't coming in after such lengthy break we'd give her a decent shot, she has got the skills in her locker to give Enriquez issues. Sadly however the lengthy absence from the ring is a major issue, and we see that being a problem here for the challenger. That, combined with the effectiveness of Enriquez, and the Mexican crowd behind the champion doesn't bode well for Minowa.
We see the challenger having moments, she's too good not to, but we also see her coming up short, and losing a close but clear decision to the local favourite. We suspect Minowa will be in the lead early, but when Enriquez gets into the groove she'll start racking up the points and taking the decision.
Prediction - UD10 Enriquez
Here we preview the key female title bouts involving an Asian fighter.