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