It's seemingly ladies week in Japanese boxing with 3 female world title fights in just 3 days, the final of which is an IBF female Light Flyweight title defense by Japanese veteran Naoko Shibata (14-3, 4), who faces Mexican southpaw Maria Salinas (11-4-2, 4). The bout will be Shibata's 4th defense whilst Salinas is challenging for a world title for the second time, incidentally her first world title bout was also in Japan where she was out pointed by Etsuko Tada.
Aged 34 Shibata is one of the “elder-stateswomen” of Japanese boxing. Like a fine wine however Shibata has gotten better with age and has turned a faltering 9-3 record into her current 14-3 record, winning a world title in her third attempt, out pointing Alondra Garcia in November 2013, and keeping that title one way or another.
It's fair to say that Shibata hasn't been a sensational fighter, though wins over Garcia, Guadalupe Martinez, Ana Arrazola and Saemi Hanagata are certainly wins that deserve respect. Those wins have shown Shibata to be a fighter who has improved with the title around her waist. She has shown her heart and determination, her improving skills and her will to win, gutting out some real problems, especially against Hanagata, to retain her title.
Although not the best, or hardest hitting, or most skilful fighter out there Shibata is a good, solid all rounder who, as mentioned, has that real will to win. In fact it sometimes seems that she would be willing to go through anything to retain her title and continue being a world champion.
In Salinas we have a hungry young challenger. She's 26 and has been mixing with top tier competitive for the last 4 years. That run has seen her going 4-3-1 though has featured bouts with the likes of Esmeralda Moreno, Etsuko Tada, Jessica Nery Plata and Arely Valente. Although she's mostly lost to those top names she will have improved just by being in that type of company and she'll have improved so much from being the fighter that she once was,
In the ring Salinas isn't a puncher but is a good solid southpaw who has shown bravery on the road, especially in the loss to Tada. Sadly though she hasn't shown world class ability and her best achievement so far is becoming a 2-weight WBC Youth champion, claiming the title at 105lbs and 115lbs. Notably she has fought across all the lower weights, apart from Atomweight, and although she's growing it does seem like she could make anything from 105lbs to115lbs with no real issue.
Whilst Salinas has been up against some very capable fighters it does need to be said that sh has usually lost to the better ones. We suspect that will be the case again here with Shibata who we suspect will just refuse to lose in a bout that will be full of action but see the champion just out hustling the challenger over the scheduled 10 rounds.
The least significant of two world title fights this coming Wednesday sees WBO female Minimumweight world champion Kumiko Seeser Ikehara (7-1-2, 3) defending her title against fellow Japanese fighter Momoko Kanda (9-7-2, 3). On paper the bout looks farcical with a world champion defending their title against a fighter with a 50% win rate but in reality the bout should be a good one.
The 30 year old champion won the title back in August 2014 with a split decision win over Gretchen Abaniel. Since then she has defended her title twice, with both bouts ending early due to head clashes.
While Ikehara's last two bouts may have ended in less than brilliant fashion she is a world level fighter. She genuinely won a world title and is unbeaten in over 3 years, following a close loss in her second professional bout. That has seen her rise quickly through the ranks to the point where she is now a world champion and holds a notable victory over Saemi Hanagata, who has since challenged for a world title.
In the ring Ikehara is a hard working fighter who has enough skills to box but seems to get involved “up close” an awful lot of the time, hence why 3 of here bouts including the last 2 have ended with head clashes.
As for Kanda she's relatively unknown by the majority of Japanese fight fans. She has fought some notable names, including Ayaka Miyao who beat her last year, though lacks a notable win of any real relevance. Saying that Miyao is the only fighter to have beaten Kanda in the last 30 months, with Kanda scoring 5 wins in her last 6 bouts.
Given that Kanda hasn't scored a notable win we struggle to see that changing here. Instead we see Ikehara taking a clear decision. Despite favouring Ikehara to win we don't imagine she'll be able to stop Kanda who went 6 good rounds with Miyao and has gone 10 rounds with Joselyn Arroyo Ruiz.
Whilst boxing, at it's heart, might be a combat sport where participants get hit in the face some fighters do do well outside of the sport based on their looks. It's shallow and ignores their skills but it's certainly something a lot of fighters, especially female ones, have made a part of their careers in recent years.
One of the fighters who has certainly attracted a lot of attention is Japanese fighter Tomomi Takano (8-1, 5) who moves up in class this coming Wednesday to take part in her first world title bout. The gorgeous Japanese fighter will be up against the more proved and much more experienced Argentinian world champion Daniela Romina Bermudez (17-3-2, 5), the current WBO female Super Flyweight world champion.
The 28 year old Japanese fighter took up boxing late in life and although she's not rounded off her skills there is a lot to appreciate about her. Physically she has the build to be an excellent boxer. She's tall, long, rangy and in fantastic condition. If she had taken to boxing at a young age she could have rounded off her skills to develop and excellent jab and move gameplan that could have taken her far.
As it is Takano's not a terrible fighter. She's not the accomplished fighter that she could have been but she's improving all the time and is a fighter who scarcely resembles what she once was. She's not the most powerful but she now knows her way around the ring, she knows how to box and she knows how to use her physical traits to her advantage, though she's perhaps not able to do it against good competition.
As for the champion she's a real fighter who has been a professional for more than 5 years and mixed with some excellent opposition, including Edith Soledad Matthysse, Yesica Yolanda Bopp, Mayerlin Rivas, Linda Laura Lecca and Venesa Lorena Taborda. Whilst it's fair to note that she has lost to Bopp, twice, and Matthysse she has been mixing with success against very good competition.
In the ring Bermudez is a fighter. She can box but she's a gritty fighter who is likely to find the test of facing Takano and interesting one. She's the much small fighter but is one who will likely apply pressure from the off and look to get inside where she can go to work, if she can do that she'll be letting her hands go and breaking down the challenger.
Before we get on to our prediction we do need to note one more thing. Takano's weight. Stood at close to 5'10, and having fought as high as Super Bantamweight, we know she'll struggle to make 115lbs for this bout.
Given what we know about Takano, he struggles to make weight and her loss, a stoppage to Kei Johnson, we have to favour Bermudez to simply wear her down. The champion may not be a puncher but she will, simply, be too good for Takano.
Here we preview the key female title bouts involving an Asian fighter.