On September 1st we'll see WBO Atomweight champion Nanae Suzuki (11-4-1, 1) look to make her first defense, as she takes on former WBC champion Yuko Kuroki (19-7-2, 9) at Korakuen Hall. The bout might not have two of the top names involved in the bout, but it does promise to be a very exciting, high tempo contest, between two men who like to throw a lot and should gel when they get in the ring.
On paper the champion isn't anything special, but the 30 is a truly fantastic fighter to watch, with a style that involved intense pressure, a refusal to back off, and a mind that is very much focused on making every bout into a fight. She made her debut in 2016, losing 2 of her first 3, but since then she has gone 10-2-1, won the Japanese and WBO Atomweight titles, and we very unlucky in her most recent loss, a split decision to Mika Ikwakawa. Those recent bouts have proven her early struggles really are behind her. She has managed to prove herself as a high work rate fighter, an intense fighter, and the sort of fighter who will always be a nightmare, despite lacking power.
As mentioned Suzuki is a pressure fighter. She can struggle early in bouts, with her first 2 losses coming in 4 rounders, but as bouts get longer and longer she becomes more and more frustrating, and then eventually overwhelming. She's not particularly polished, or a smooth boxer, but she is just pure intensity and when her engine gets going there really is no stopping her. She pressures, she presses, and she throws, a lot. Notably she doesn't seem to be the type of fighter to be discouraged, despite being caught plenty of times, and walks through shots to land her own, and to drag opponents into her fight. Unfortunately she lacks fight changing power, but with her output she is still a nightmare.
As for Kuroki, the 31 year old southpaw once looked like the next queen of Japanese boxing, but now appears to be a fighter looking to just keep her career alive. She began her career in 2008, and lost 2 of her first 3 bouts before working her way to a world title fight in 2013, where she lost a wide decision to Etsuko Tada. She would however make the most of her second shot at a title, in 2014, when she defeated Mari Ando for the WBC title. She would defend that title 5 times, until being dethroned in 2017 by Momo Koseki, who subsequently retired having become a 2-weight world champion. Sadly since her loss to Koseki we've seen Kuroki going 2-2-1, with both of her wins being low key ones, and she now desperately needs a big win to keep her career alive.
In the ring Kuroki is a good already. She has good skills, she's light and relaxed in the ring and fights confidently. She has solid power, a rugged toughness to her, and although there are holes in her technically she is a very solid all rounder who finds holes in opponents and lands solid shots. She has a very nice southpaw jab, and a solid straight left hand, which are her key weapons. Sadly for Kuroki she can be out worked, and although she has a lot to like, she can be seen posing a little bit too much at times, and not letting her hands go quite enough, which is an issue at 102lbs and 105lbs, where fighters set high work rates and impress judges with activity.
Coming in to this one Kuroki is the more skilled fighter, and we expect to see her skills shine early on. We expect to see her foot work, her movement and her clean accurate punching impress early on. Sadly though as the rounds go on the work rate of Suzuki will begin to shine, she will simply out work and fight Kuroki as the challenger slows and tires. The early lead of Kuroki will be clawed away at in the the middle rounds with Suzuki edging the bout thanks to the final rounds.
Prediction - UD10 Suzuki
Arguably the best bout scheduled for September 1st at Korakuen Hall is an IBF Atomweight title fight, as champion Ayaka Miyao (25-9-2, 6) looks to make her first defense, and takes on former WBO champion Mika Iwakawa (10-6-1, 3) [岩川美花]. The bout is interesting not just because both are proven at world level at 102lbs, but also their styles, which are very different, should gel to provide us with a very interesting and engaging bout.
The 38 year old champion has been one of the major faces of female boxing in Japan over the last 10 years or so. During her career she has become a fixture at world level, with a lengthy WBA title reign being the highlight of her career. During her career she has been in with a genuine who's who of notable lower weight female fighters, including the likes of Nao Ikeyama, Tenkai Tsunami, Naoko Shibata, Momo Koseki, Etsuko Tada and most recently Eri Matsuda, who she beat for the IBF title in February. Whilst she hasn't always been able to beat the top fighters out there she has always had the tools to ask serious questions of them, and has regularly bounced back from set backs to prove there is still life in her now aging legs.
In terms of her style Miyao is very much a swarmer, who can box but is always happy to use her speed to get in and out whilst unloading flurries. She lacks power, but forces opponents to put their guard up with a high work rate, very quick hands, and intense combinations during her raids. She's not only got quick hands, but also quick feet, and when she's on the retreat she's hard to catch. Technically she does make a lot of mistakes, and often slaps with her shots rather than getting behind them, but with her speed, stamina, work rate and toughness she usually gets away with those mistakes. Sadly for her she has struggled in recent years having suffered a nasty injury against Nao Ikeyama in 2016, as well as a loss to Montserrat Alarcon and a brutal TKO loss to Etsuko Tada in 2020, but a win over Eri Matsuda in February showed there was still some life left in her career.
Whilst Miyao is a veteran at 38 she's actually the younger fighter here, with Iwakawa being 39 years old, though she's a fresh 39 with just 17 fights and 102 rounds to her name, since her debut in 2011. What's remarkable Iwakawa is the way she has slowly built her career. She started off with 3 wins, but quickly fell to 3-3-1 after 7 bouts and 6-5-1 after 12. Since then however she has had the best for of her career, winning the WBO Atomweight title in 2018, with a win over Nao Ikeyama, and defending it in 2020 against Nanae Suzuki, before losing it in a rematch to Suzuki this past February. Sadly she has been relatively inactive, with just 3 bouts since her title win, in July 2018, and she also didn't dight at all in 2021, and also had issues at a former gym, which has effectively derailed her over the last few years.
At her best Iwakawa is a pure boxer, and one of the best at the weight. She boxes well, uses the ring well and is very well schooled from a technical perspective. In a division that really has been dominated by fighters with high work rates, speed and a willingness to out land and out punch their opponents, Iwakawa stands out as something of an oddity, boxing on the move, making opponents miss, countering, and generally fighting a reserved style. It's a style that has lead her to success late in her career, but also a style that can show cracks when she's under intense pressure from someone who is willing to take one to land one. If she can maintain range she is very hard to beat, but that's a huge if.
Sadly for Iwakawa we can't imagine her having this fight her way. In fact whilst we do expect her to make a good start, boxing well to win the first few rounds, she end up falling behind to the pressure and work of Miyao who will, over the rounds, simply do too much to be denied. We expect to see Miyao down after 4 or 5 rounds, but a strong second half will turn things around whilst a tiring and worn out Iwakawa will offer little late on, as a result Miyao will have overcome the early deficit to take a hard fought decision win.
Prediction - UD10 Miyao
On September 1st we'll see OPBF Atomweight champion Eri Matsuda (4-1-1, 1) look to get back to winning ways as she puts her title on the line and takes on Kaori Nagai (6-4-3, 2) at Korakuen Hall. On paper this looks like a straight forward win for the highly skilled Matsuda, however things are certainly not as easy as they look on paper, and she will likely be asked serious questions by someone who is much better than her record suggests.
Matsuda, now aged 28, was touted for success from the moment she called time on her amateur career. Her record in the unpaid ranks was 21-12 (9), and whilst that's certainly not a spectacular record she showed the skills and tools in those amateur bouts to make a real mark on the professional scene. Her amateur skills showed almost immediately, as she beat Sana Hazuki on debut before taking the OPBF female Atomweight title in just her second professional bout. In her third bout she unified the OPBF title with the Japanese title, beating Nanae Suzuki, and in just 13 months as a professional she had raced to 4-0 (1). Sadly for Matsuda the pandemic really screwed with her career and she the entire of 2020 on the side-lines before returning in early 2021, after 18 months out of the ring. On her return she put in a great effort but was held to a majority decision draw by IBF Atomweight champion Saemi Hanagata. Following that disappointment, she was out of the ring for another 11 months before suffering a majority decision loss to Ayaka Miyao this past February, in another IBF title fight. With those results it is now almost 3 years since Matsuda last scored a win and we do need to wonder what she's like mentally given those results against Hanagata and Miyao.
In the ring Matsuda is very much a fighter who boxes as an amateur. She keeps things long, uses great technical skills and boxes on the move. She has a solid jab and a great straight left hand, with good footwork and solid stamina. Fighting out of the southpaw stance she makes her style and size work well, but she does need to work really hard at times to get the space to work. Due to her style, which is very much based on movement and keeping on her toes, she rarely sits on shots and really doesn't have the power to hurt fighters, which is a major issue for her against top tier opponents, like Hanagata and Miyao. However against pretty much everyone else in the division, her skills will be enough to secure the rounds needed for a decision.
Nagai, who is now aged 32, has proven her value in the sport as a gate keeper of sorts, rather than a genuine threat at the upper echelons of the regional scene. She made her debut in 2015 and lost her first 2 bouts before going on a solid unbeaten run of 9 fights, with notable wins over Momoko Kanda, for the Japanese Atomweight title and Natsuki Tarui. Sadly that run ended in September 2021, when she lost a decision to Ayaka Miyao and since then she has also lost to Mizuki Chimoto, in a competitive bout for the OPBF Minimumweight title. Those recent losses, to Miyao and Chimoto, showed she wasn't world class, but she did take rounds from both fighters and did enough to prove her will to win and toughness, things needed to become a gatekeeper type of fighter.
In the ring Nagai is a busy fighter with a lot of movement, a busy jab and nice speed, in fact she almost matched the incredibly quick Miyao at times. Sadly though she doesn't sit on her shots at all, and although she has a busy jab there is little else in her offensive arsenal. Take the jab away from her and she really does offer very, very little other than a lot of movement and being something of an irritant, rather than a threat.
We expect Matsuda to somewhat cruise to a victory here, though Nagai may have the speed to catch Matsuda with the occasional shot here and there. Sadly the fact Matsuda is a southpaw is likely to negate the jab of Nagai and essentially leave her weapon-less. As a result we expect to see Matsuda simply out boxing, out skilling and out landing Nagai. Matsuda might have trouble landing in the first few rounds, due to the speed and movement of Nagai, but when she gets her timing down she will be landing regularly en route to a clear, wide and dominant win.
Prediction - UD8 Matsuda
On September 1st we'll see a new Japanese Atomweight champion being crowned as the unbeaten pairing of Sumire Yamanaka (5-0, 1) and Honoka Kano (4-0-2, 2) battle for the vacant title at Korakuen Hall. The bout is expected to be a major stepping stone in the career of both women, who are both eying up future success well above domestic level, however both will also know this is set to be the toughest bout of their career. A win would be huge for either woman, though both are young enough to take a loss, and bounce back stronger in the future, and defeat is certainly not the end for them.
The more well known of the two women involved in this bout is 20 year old hopeful Sumire Yamanaka, the younger sister of former world champion Ryuya Yamanaka. The diminutive Yamanaka has been ear marked for success by Shinsei Gym but has struggled a little bit in the professional ranks, despite her unbeaten record. Sadly for her, her lack of size, standing at less than 5', and lack of physicality has made life hard for her, and at just 20 there is significantly physical development for her to still go through. Despite that there is no doubting her hunger for success and she did look to find a bit of killer instinct in her most recent bout, which took place in Thailand. It seems fair to say that Yamanaka isn't the complete article, but even as a work in progress there is a lot to like about her. She's aggressive, gutsy and does have a nice mix of skills and weapons in her arsenal.
For us Yamanaka seems to be the type of fighter who is 3 or 4 years away from what she'll become, but is still a very notable female prospect in a division which has long been dominated by fighters from Asia.
As for Kano, the 27 year old she made her debut in 2019 and looked big and powerful in her first bout, before being held to a draw just a few months later. Through her career so far she has continued to look power, big, strong and like someone who has the physical attributes to compete well above the Atomweight division, and she will easily tower over Yamanaka in this fight. In the ring Kano is aggressive, she looks to cut the distance, use he physicality and bully opponents, whilst throwing and landing big, heavy shots. Given her aggression she is often willing to take on to land one, and is defensively poor, but is tough and strong enough to know she can take one to land one, especially at this level. Her biggest issue is her balance and footwork, with very sloppy footwork and the technical side of her game is lacking, but that's typical for a fighter with just 5 bouts to their name.
Whilst we feel that Yamanaka is very much a work in progress, and will look like she's being dwarfed by Kano, we do feel her aggression, and the style of the two women will play in her favour. If Kano was the type of fighter who kept things long, and used her size to box at range this would be a really, really tough for Yamanaka. Instead Kano will look to bring the fight, Yamanaka will respond, getting inside and working away with shorter, crisper shots up close. The power and strength of Kano could be the difference maker, but we feel that the inside work of Yamanaka will actually be the key to her taking a narrow decision win.
Prediction - UD6 Yamanaka
September 1st is set to be a huge day for female boxing in Japan with a single card featuring 5 title bouts. One of the easier to over-look on that card is a Japanese female Flyweight title bout, between two promising and rising young fighters each looking to move their careers forward, claim their first title, and continue on to bigger and better things. That particular bout will see the wonderfully well school Mizuki Hiruta (2-0) battle against Hinami Yanai (2-0, 1), and both will know a win here will not only net them a Japanese title but also move them towards a world title fight, potentially in 2023 or 2024.
Of the two fighters the more proven is 26 year old Hiruta. As an amateur she went 29-16 (13) and she has already made a big impact since turning professional. On her debut, last October, she dominated Nanae Yamaka, then 4-0, in a wide 6 round win. She then followed that up with an excellent win in April against veteran Terumi Nuki, in an 8 rounder. Not only did she beat Nuki, but she also showed her heart and grit, to recover from a knockdown late in the bout and show there was more to her than boxing skills.
In terms of her skills and style. Hiruta is a well polished out-side fighter fighting from the south paw stance. She uses very polished boxing skills, good hand speed, technical skills and light feet. She seems to lack power, and doesn't sit on her shots, but she has the skills, speed and ring IQ to go a long way and a win here, to claim her first title, would likely see Misako Gym look to continue her rapid ascent through the rank. Sadly her lack of power will be a problem at the top level, but at domestic, and even regional level, she has the tools to control fights, especially over the 6 round distance. Over the long distances, 8 and 10, she could find her gas tank struggling, especially with her movement, and could become more susceptible to big shots, as we saw against Nuki, but over 6 rounds we suspect her flaws won't be exposed all that often.
Aged 24 Yanai, from the Shinsei Gym, is a very different type of fighter, but one who also had a solid amateur background, going 20-6 (7), before making her professional debut last December. In her debut she out pointed the limited but experienced Michiko Abiru over 6 rounds before making her international debut back in May, when she stopped the very poor Daoprakary Trathong in Bangkok. That win gave Yanai some international experience, which is always valuable, but did little to show how good she was or what her potential is like going forward.
Whilst her competition hasn’t been great Yanai has shown enough to let us get a read on her style, which is aggressive, high tempo and exciting. Yanai likes to dictate the action, come forward and despite being offensive she is also well polished, with good technical traits from her amateur background. Sadly for her she does appear somewhat clumsy at times, especially with her defense, and it does seem like she could walk onto a big shot at times, however she is strong, powerful and appears to be able to take a shot well. With her aggressive style it should be noted that she is very effective with body work, and that could be a major factor here, against Hiruta, who relies on movement and could struggle if her legs are taken away from her.
Whilst Yanai has got the type of style that could be a problem for Hiruta, we really think that Yanai would need 10 rounds to really make the most of it, and over 6 rounds her pressure and aggression won’t be enough to neutralise the clean effective boxing and movement from Hiruta. Instead we expect to see Hiruta boxing, moving, pot shotting, getting shots off and getting away, and simply out landing her rougher and less polished foe.
Prediction – UD6 Hiruta
This coming Tuesday we'll see Japanese Female Minimumweight champion Nanako Suzuki (6-2, 1) make her first defense, as she takes on Sarasa Ichimura (4-10-1) at Korakuen Hall. For the champion the bout will see her defending the title she won last December, when she narrowly beat Sayo Segawa, with a 6 round split decision, whilst the challenger will get her first shot at a title, and will going into the bout as a huge under-dog after going 1-6 in her last 7.
The diminutive Suzuki made her debut in May 2017 and after winning her debut she was out of the ring for around 9 months before losing on her return. She would suffer her second loss in early 2019, falling to 3-2. Since then however she has began to string together results, with wins over Aoi Watanabe, Megumi Hosoda and Sayo Segawa. Sadly for her she has shown a complete lack of power, with her only stoppage coming in her third bout back in July 2018 against Ka Yan Wong in Hong Kong. Thankfully for her, she makes up for that with accuracy and timing, tools that have allowed her to defeat naturally more polished, and heavier handed fighters.
Suzuki is light on her feet, has a good work rate and despite not being heavy handed, at all, she is accurate with punches that are straighter and more crisp than many of her opponents. We wouldn't say she was "compact" with her punches, but she does look more polished than other fighters in and around the Japanese title scene at the weight. That crispness leads to her landing cleanly pretty consistently, often through the wide shots of her opponents. She also has pretty decent movement, and often stands in front of opponents, making them miss and returning fire.
As for Ichimura she turned professional in 2015, and did so with a loss to Eiko Jonai. She then went on the run of her career, to move to 2-1-1, but has struggled since then becoming something of a Japanese domestic level journey woman. Despite struggling to get wins, she has often put up game efforts, and there has been a number of bouts that she could have won, despite coming up short on the scorecards. She has very much proven herself as being willing to fight through the Kansai region of Japan, though notably she will be the away fighter here, travelling from Osaka to Tokyo for the bout. Sadly for her travelling to Suzuki's backyard will be one of many problems for her here.
In the ring Ichimura is someone who has nice quick feet but sadly that's really the only thing notable about here. She struggles to do a lot of the basics and is wide, clumsy, awkward and makes things messy. At range she's awful, with no real crispness to her jab, which is rare for her to even throw, and up close her bouts become a mess of holding, wrestling, and trying to simply out muscle her opponent, rather than out work or outbox them. To her credit she never stops trying, but her limitations are very, very evident, and she really doesn't manage to do much to cover up those issues.
Whilst Suzuki will not be winning a world title, her skills and clean punching should be the difference her. She should find herself picking her moments, landing clean shots are winning rounds, to secure her first defence against a very, very poor challenger.
Prediction - UD6 Suzuki
Here we preview the key female title bouts involving an Asian fighter.