The final female world title bout of the decade will see Miyo Yoshida (13-1) defending her WBO female Super Flyweight world title as she takes on Chinese youngster Li Ping Shi (5-2, 2), as part of a super stacked card at the Ota City Gymnasium in Tokyo. For Yoshida this will be her first defense, after winning the title in June, whilst the 21 year old Shi will be getting her first crack at a world title, and look toe extend her current 3 fight winning run.
The 31 year old Yoshida has made a name for herself over the last couple of years, with her rise from relative obscurity to Japanese, then OPBF and now world champion, all in the space of just over 2 years. She has done so as a single mother, which the Japanese press love to remind us, and has really shown she much improvement from her early days as a boxer. She has stepped up the levels and improved every step of the way, avenging her sole defeat along the way and beating the likes of Tomomi Takano, Yoshie Wakasa and, most recently, Casey Morton.
Although completely devoid of power Yoshida is a solid boxer-mover. She likes to establish range, using her speed and movement to get in and out and ties up well on the inside. Although not a powerful puncher she is surprisingly strong in the clinch, and has pushed around the likes of Wakasa with no issue. What she does really well is time her opponents, and although he shots don't have much weight behind them they do look damaging due to how well she lands her counter shots.
Whilst Yoshida has proven her self at every level whilst climbing through the ranks the same cannot be said of Shi, who is a relative unknown, even in Asian boxing circles. She has been selected as an easy first defense, though with some momentum behind her, including a good win over Yuko Henzan last time out, the challenger will not be there to make up the numbers, and will be going in with some genuine self belief. She has had 3 wins coming into this and despite her youth she does look like a solid, confident and aggressive fighter. Like Yoshida she lacks power, but she comes to fight, and is very much the woman who is going to be pressing the action with her pressure.
Whilst there is plenty of footage of Yoshida out there, including quite a lot on Boxing Raise, the same cannot be said of Shi, though we did manage to get a copy of her 2018 bout against Hyun Hee Gil to get something of a read on her. That footage suggests that she could be a very interesting test for Yoshida, and not the gimme defense that her record suggests. She managed to regularly rush Gil, making the Korean incredibly uncomfortable through out. It wasn't a consistent rush, but it was a regular tactic that left Gil off balance and unable to really respond. A tactic that could unsettle the timing and counters of Yoshida.
We suspect that Yoshida will have to work incredibly hard to take home the win here, though we do expect her to do enough to squeak the decision. Shi will come to win, she will rush, attack and be happy to take one to land one. She's not a big puncher, but the challenger has the aggressiveness to make up for it, and her hooks are thrown with bad intent. Yoshida might be the better boxer, but she will have to take some big shots en route to a win here, and may even be hurt early on by the huge over hard rights that Shi unleashes.
Prediction - Yoshida UD10
It's fair to suggest that 2019 is going to go out in style, and to end the decade Watanabe gym will be promotin a show with a staggering 6 title bouts on it. Of those 6 bouts 3 are world title bouts, including a female title bout, two are regional title bouts and one is a female Japanese title bout.
Of course the least notable of those bouts is the female domestic title bout. Whilst the least significant it is actually a well-matched bout that deserves more than just a passing glance from fans more interested in the bigger bouts. In one corner will be 19 year old hopeful Yume Hirayama (4-0), whilst the other will house Marina Sayama (4-1-1, 2), they are the top two ranked Japanese domestic female Flyweights and they are both hunting their first title. They are also meeting for the second time, after first fighting back in 2017.
Back in 2017, when the women first fought, Hirayama took a decision win over Sayama. It was Hirayama's debut and she was the clear winner. Since then Hiayama has slowly carved out a a small but notable winning run, racking up victories against the then unbeaten Yui Akai and defeating Sachiko Kondo, who was recently the opponent of Tomomi Takano in her Japanese ring return. Although lacking in power she's an energetic fighter, bouncing around the ring with ease, boxing wonderfully out of a southpaw stance and controlling range well. Not only is she smart with her feet but she has enough sting on her shots to stop opponents in their tracks typically, especially with her sharp left hand.
At the age of 32 Sayama is looking to prove herself in a second sport, after having had a career as a professional football player, or soccer player for our American readers. She turned to boxing after she turned 29 and was probably a bit too old to make a major mark on the sport, though she did have the fitness to give it a good run. She won her first 2 bouts before losing to Hirayama in December 2017, then had a draw with Sachiko Kondo. Since the draw she has beaten Kondo in a rematch and stopped Korean for Chan Mi Lim, though sadly that Lim bout was over a year ago and she's been out of the ring since. Whilst Hirayama fights like a smart boxer with a bit of amateur experience, Sayama looks like someone who took to the sport late, but has done well to craft a style that works to her strengths. She's not as crisp, or as clean or as natural as Hirayama, but she does look very powerful, and her right hand is very much a big punch for her, though there is little else in her arsenal. It's also worth noting that Sayama had been dropped in the past, and we do wonder about her chin and overall durability.
Whilst Sayama is clearly the stronger, more physically mature and powerful fighter, we expect to see Hirayama using her footwork, speed and crisper punching to neutralise the advantages of Hirayama and take the decision win. We don't see her asking real questions of Sayama's toughness, but we do see her coming out on top whilst relying on her boxing skills.
Prediction - UD6 Hirayama
On December 14th Tenkai Tsunami (26-12-1, 15) will return to the Light Flyweight division as she seeks her second defense of the WBO female Light Flyweight title. In the opposite corner to the champion will be 2-time world title challenger Jessebelle Pagaduan (12-1-1, 5), from the Philippines, in what looks like a very interesting match up on paper.
The champion, who is a proper veteran, has been a professional since 2005 and this will be her 40th professional bout. On paper her record does look blotchy to say the least, but she has been in 12 world title bouts and faced a genuine who's who of female boxing during her long career. During that she has faced the likes of Ayaka Miyao, Kayoko Ebata, Naoko Yamaguchi, Janeth Perez, Mariana Juarez, Zulina Munoz, Jessica Chavez and Naoko Fujioka. Given that level of competition there is no wonder she has picked up losses, with all of them coming by decision and the majority coming in her opponents back yard.
Although not an elite level fighter Tsunami is clearly world class and is a 2-weight world champion, having won the WBA Super Flyweight title more than a decade ago before dropping in weight to win her current title last year. She's tough, sets a good work rate and hits solidly, without being a concussive puncher. To beat her an opponent needs to keep her off balance, using quick feet and making her chase them. That however is easier said than done and few have the stamina, toughness and physicality to do so over 10 rounds.
Pagaduan has twice challenged for world titles in Japan, and twice been rather unfortunate. Her first world title fight came back in 2014 when she came up against the excellent Nao Ikeyama, who was simply too good for Pagaduan and came far too early in Pagaduan's career. Her second ended after a round with a technical draw against Kumiko Seeser Ikehara. Since then she has won 5 in a row, though all 5 wins have come against very limited opposition.
Footage of Pagaduan isn't too great, though what is available shows an aggressive, speedy yet small fighter. She has the speed and aggression to be in some exciting fighters, and if she can get back down to 102lbs she could be a really fun fighter down there with the other small fighters. Sadly at Light Flyweight, and against a strong Light Flyweight like Tsunami, her size is going to be a real issue and she'll be bullied around.
We suspect that Pagaduan will come to will and will start fast, with a lot of early success thanks to her speed. That however will change as the bout goes on, and the weight, strength and power of Tsunami will wear her down, breaking her spirit and stopping her late on.
Prediction - TKO9 Tsunami
Here we preview the key female title bouts involving an Asian fighter.