It's not often that a world title bout goes completely under-the-radar but it appears that one really has done. That's the upcoming WBO female Light Flyweight title fight between unbeaten Korean Eun Hye Lee (7-0, 2) and Thai youngster Ploynapa Sakrungrueng (12-5-1, 1). The bout, which is set to take place in Lee's homeland of Korea on June 27th, has hardly had a mention by those in the boxing press, and that's despite the bout now taking place on a rescheduled date after originally being announced for May 23rd. It had to be put back a month following an injury suffered by Lee though the bout was so under-the-radar that no one seemed to even know about the injury.
Thankfully here we are and the bout now looks to be a go-er with Lee getting her first world title fight and Ploynapa returning to South Korea, where she has been unsuccessful on 3 previous visits.
The title's vacant coming in to this bout, following Argentinian legend Yesica Yolanda Bopp vacating the belt, though that won't take anything away from the desire of the two fighters involved in the bout, who will both be looking to claim their first world title.
Although Lee is fighting in her first world title bout she has got title experience. The 32 year old has held, and defended, the WBO Asia Pacific female Flyweight title. Of course this bout is at 108lbs and not 112lbs however the loss of those 4lbs shouldn't be much of a problem for the Korean who has also held the South Korean Light Flyweight title.
Sadly, though not unexpectedly, footage of Lee is hard to come by. What we do have is her bout with Rathsada Sor Worasin. In that bout she looked rather well schooled with nice hand speed, sharp combinations and, more notably, she looked huge at the weight. At times Rathsada forced her back but more often than not the Korean looked in control, even on the back foot. Although she did seem a good boxer-mover she also showed an ability to trade when she had to and was able to better Rathsada in every facet of the bout. Interestingly boxrec list her at 5' 4½” which is rather tall for a fighter at 112lbs. Interestingly we've since seen Rathsada in action and she actually managed to give Japan's Tomomi Takano, a very tall Super Flyweight, a tougher bout than she gave Lee.
Coming in to the bout the Thai is more experienced fighter with 18 boxing contests under her belt. She's also the much younger fighter, having turned 21 late last year. Sadly however she's also the fighter who appears to have been more “exposed” than the Korean. So far in her career she has been stopped 3 times, from her 5 losses, and has shown a lack of power with just a single stoppage win, albeit a stoppage she scored last time out.
Again footage of Ploynapa wasn't that widely available, though we did manage to come across one of her very early bouts. The bout in question was her 2011 bout with Yeon-Hee Kim, which was Ploynapa's first bout in Korea. In that bout the then 17 year old Thai looked like a promising novice but Kim seemed so much sharper and more technically capable than the Thai. To her credit the youngster acquitted herself well against her more capable foe and showed a genuine toughness, especially late on when Kim really went hunting a stoppage. Since that bout Ployanapa has, understandably, developed as a fighter and as a woman. Sadly however she has yet to score a win over a fighter with a winning record, at least according to boxrec.com who are admittedly not 100% accurate with their Thai records.
Whilst the footage of each fighter is scarce it does give us a decent read on how we suspect the fight will go. We suspect that Ploynapa will try and get close to Lee who will use her size and reach to land sharp shots at range. Up close, where Ploynapa should have the advantage, we'll see things being more competitive however we can't see Ploynapa having the strength or power to really trouble the Korean, even when the action is being fought on inside.
Our prediction is a clear win for Lee, probably by a wide decision, though a possible late stoppage shouldn't be ruled out.
When it comes to the best stories in boxing we can't help but love the story of Hyun Mi Choi (9-0-1, 3) a young female fighter who was born in Pyongyang before defecting, with her family, and setting up life in Seoul. Not only has Choi set up life in the South Korean capital but she has really made a success of herself, and is a 2-weight world champion. Bizarrely she claimed her first title on debut, winning the WBA female Featherweight title in her first professional bout, and has since become the WBA female Super Featherweight champion.
On May 23rd she'll be defending that Super Featherweight title as she takes on a veteran of the Japanese sense, Chika Mizutani (14-4, 7), who looks to become a world champion at the third time of asking. For Mizutani it's almost certainly "last chance saloon" though it's also a way to show that she can still compete after having been out of the ring for almost 2 years.
For those who haven't seen Choi she's a scrappy fighter when she needs to be, showing traits of her family's struggle to readjust to life in South Korea, how ever at her best she's an educated boxer who enjoy's using her size and youth. At range she's really talented and shows off the hard schooled teachings she had of North Korean boxing, something she had ahead of the 2008 Olympics, whilst also showing the traits that she's developed from having been a professional for more than 6 years, albeit and inactive professional.
Mizutani on the other hand is a warrior first and foremost. At 33 she's seen better days but she's a heavy handed puncher who has mixed in fantastic company, losing bouts to the likes of Erica Anabella Farias and Fujin Raika. Notably she has also lost twice in Korea, losing decisions to both Ji Hye Woo and Hyo Min Kim.
In her prime Mizutani would have been a real handful for Choi. Now however we can only see one winner, Choi, who is younger, fresher and much more "lively" given a 9 year age advantage. We do however hope that this bout can kick start the winner's career, with neither having been particularly active in recent times, in fact neither has fought in more than a year.
(Image courtesy of Hyun Mi Choi's facebook)
Here we preview the key female title bouts involving an Asian fighter.