The Minimumweight division in female boxing seems to be widely dominated by Asian fighters. We recently saw Mako Yamada announce herself on the world stage by winning the WBO female world title, we also saw Mari Ando win the WBC title late last year and in the past fighters like Naoko Fujioka and Etsuka Tada have dominated the division.
With that in mind the division is an important one to Asian fighters, especially those form Japan who appear to have a genuine desire to become the best female fighters at 105lbs.
With that in mind we feel that there is more to the upcoming contest between Saemi Hanagata (8-4-2, 3) and Satomi Nishimura (6-0, 1) than just the OPBF Minimumweight title that both women will be trying to claim. We feel that this bout is more about the winner planting themselves as a top contender in the division and making a claim for being a future world title contender.
Of the two fighters it's Hanagata who probably has more to lose. She has the more damaged record already and will know that one more set back could well send her well back down the rankings and she would likely lose her #5 WBC ranking with a loss, whilst a win would certainly boost her place from #13 with the WBA.
The reason Hanagata has got a somewhat muddied record is down to the fact she has faced several good fighters. These have included former world title challengers such as Jujeath Nagaowa, Masae Akitaya and Yuko Kuroki as well as current world champion Momo Koseki. Those fighters, between them, would mess up anyone's record in the lowest weight divisions.
Whilst Hanagata has lost to the likes of Koseki and drawn with Kuroki and Akitaya she has also experienced what it's like to fight some top fighters. Those fights will have done more good in terms of her development and helping her improve than 14 fights against complete novices who lined up to lose. They will also have instilled a real grit and confidence in her that she will, one day, become a champion herself despite failing in previous title fights.
With an unbeaten record Nishimura looks better on paper than Hanagata though unfortunately when you look beneath the surface of Nishimura's record you see how deceiving it is. Her 6 bouts so far haven't come against anyone of note and in fact 4 of her 6 opponents have been debutants. Between all 6 their combined record has been 11-10-1 with Thai journey woman Nongbua Lookprai-aree accounting for 8 of the wins and 9 of the losses.
Unfortunately for Nishimura she hasn't been given any sort of experience building fights. Instead she's been given record padding fights. That's all well and good when you're young but at 33 years old that lack of development tends to come back and bite you.
With the difference in experience levels it's hard to pick against Hanagata who may have won just 1 of her last 5 but she has been very competitive in those she didn't win, including the Koseki fight, one of Koseki's toughest. Nishimura will likely start well but Hanagata's experience will see her figure out Nishimura early on and beat her down the stretch with Nishimura wondering why Hanagata is hitting her back unlike her previous 6 opponents.
The winner will likely only be a win or two away from a world title fight so we'd keep a serious eye on the result of this one.
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
The first of 3 female world title bouts on "Hina matsuri" will see IBF Light Flyweight champion Naoka Shibata (11-3, 3) attempt to make the first defense of her title.
Shibata, who won the title late last year with a victory over Alondra Garcia, may not be as good as some world champions in the sport but she is a genuine world level fighter. Her record and performances have proven this as her 3 losses have all been close and all been to top fighters in Naoko Fujioka, Etsuko Tada and Ibeth Zamora Silva. The performance against Garcia may not have been great but Shibata is world class.
Unfortunately for Shibata her first defense comes against a fighter that will not net Shibata any plaudits at all. That's because Shibata's opponent Guadalupe Martinez (6-5, 3) has a record not befitting of world title challenger. In fact if you looked at Martinez's record you'd likely wonder how the 21 year old Mexican even qualified for a world title fight.
The problem with just looking at records is that you don't tend to see who a fighter has actually fought. For Martinez things have't been easy as she's been thrown in with some very talented opponents such as Daniela Romina Bermudez, Ana Arrazola and Debora Anahi Dionicius all of whom are world class. What also helps distort records is the weight class a fighter has been fighting in, in Martinez's case she has been fighting from Light Flyweight all the way up to Super Bantamweight and has fought in two world title fights at Super Flyweight.
If Martinez had only been fighting at Light Flyweight it's undeniable that her record would look better than it does. On paper she's a weak opponent whilst in reality she's a strong opponent who has been able to survive bouts with significantly bigger opponents.
When it comes to Shibata we have a warrior. She's not the most skilled or the most powerful but she's tough, can hold her own in a fight and is a natural Light Flyweight. She can go to war with anyone in the division and give them a real fight, as she did with Tada and Zamora Silva, and she is genuinely tough to beat.
With the experience and home advantage it's hard to pick against Shibata who we do think is better in most areas than Martinez, though we do expect this to be a much tough contest than the records of the fighters indicate and in fact we wouldn't be shocked this is a very hard to call for the first 6 or 7 rounds.
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.
When we talk about dominant female world champions few can match the dominance of Japan's Momo Koseki (17-2-1, 4) pictured.
Koseki, the WBC Atomweight world champion, hasn't lost a fight since since November 2007 and has not become a world champion but become a dominant one defending her title an impressive 12 times since August 2008. Yes you read that right, Koseki has defended her world title 12 times in less than 6 years and what's more impressive is that she's been doing it against some top opposition such as Teeraporn Pannimit Masae Akitaya and Saemi Hanagata.
Tough as old boots, aggressive and well schooled Koseki is a nightmare to fight. She can go to war with you, she can rough you up or she can box with her well schooled skills. Their are flaws in her style, of course there are, but they tend to revolve around the way she comes in with her head as opposed to things that would make it easier to beat her. She's a really tough opponent and she has experience to go with her skills.
Attempting to prevent Koseki from her 13th title defense on March 3rd will be unbeaten Thai Angor Onesongchaigym (5-0, 3) who we believe is a teenager.
Angor may not have the record of an experienced fighter though we're of the belief that she is a highly established former Muay Thai fighter with more than 60 wins. Whilst it's true that not all great Muay Thai veterans become great boxers there is enough of a track record to suggest that Angor may be a very, very good fighter and the sort of fighter who could be a real banana skin for someone like Koseki.
Unfortunately it's very hard to be too sure about Angor with details on her being difficult to find. As with many lesser known Thai's footage of her is scarce and our recollection of fights of her that we've seen have all been her against very limited foes. She has looked decent admittedly but against the opponents she's been up against it's hard to really say anything about how she copes when hit back or what she does against more skilled foes.
With Koseki having a track record at world level, a long unbeaten run, plenty of footage out there and a very strong amateur background it's hard to suggest anything but another successful defense for the reigning champion. We do expect this to be a hard one, top Muay Thai fighters are known for their toughness and fighting ability, but we think that Koseki may just have too much boxing knowledge for Angor.
We're hoping that the winner here fights the WBA champion in a major Atomweight unification bout. Unfortunate that's something we've wanted to see for a while so aren't expecting it despite really wanting to see it.
Here we preview the key female title bouts involving an Asian fighter.