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
Here we preview the key female title bouts involving an Asian fighter.