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
This coming Wednesday fight fans at Korakuen Hall will see a new OPBF female Bantamweight champion being crowned, as Makoto Kikuchi (1-1, 1) and Marina Sayama (4-3-1, 2) clash for the currently vacant title. Although neither fighter is a major name, and neither is likely to become a major player in the division internationally, we do anticipate this being a very interesting and potentially very entertaining bout.
Coming into the bout Kikuchi is the older woman. The 35 year old southpaw his highly ranked by the JBC at Bantamweight and was a stellar domestic amateur, though was surprisingly upset on her professional debut, when she lost to Aka Ringo. Thankfully for her she bounced back from that loss earlier year, when she stopped Ai Sugimoto and put herself in the regional and domestic title mix.
As for Sayama the 34 year old debuted in 2017 and won her first 2 bouts, before moving her record to 4-1-1 (2). Sadly however she has lost her last two bouts, including a Japanese Flyweight title bout in 2019. Although she hasn't had much success recently there is a real hunger from her to make a mark in the sport, after crossing over from Football (soccer).
In the ring Kikuchi is a big strong looking Bantamweight, with some technical ability, an aggressive style, and nice, natural, fluid footwork and movement. Against Sugimoto she looked like a natural boxer, with heavy hands, and a relaxed in ring demeanour. She's not the smoothest or most active, but it's really clear that she's a well-trained and powerful fighter with bricks for hands. Defensively she isn't the tightest, but fighters will have to take risks to make her pay for her poor defensively skills, and with her power that risk is one that some won't be in a rush to take. Go to war with her at your own risk.
As for Sayama she is a natural athlete and has good stamina, good movement and good energy. Sadly however she doesn't have the polish of a boxer and is very much an athlete who turned to boxing late, rather than someone who was an athletic boxer. As a result she doesn't have the subtle things that fighters have from years of boxing, and instead relies on athletic ability, rather than boxing ability. Whilst that's not great for her to have success, she does need applauding for showing what she has, in a sport she didn't really focus on until later in her life.
Sadly for Sayama her issue here isn't necessarily her lack of boxing background. Instead it's her lack of size and physicality. We suspect with her speed and movement she will have success early on. She will take rounds on her feet. Sadly though as her feet begin to slow, and she holds her ground more, she will get broken down by the heavier hands, and sheer physicality of Kikuchi.
Prediction - TKO 7 Kikuchi
This coming Thursday we'll see Japanese Female Featherweight champion Kimika Miyoshi (16-13-1, 6) defending her title against once beaten challenger Akane Fujiwara (5-1, 2). The bout isn't the most interesting or the best match up on paper, but it is one that should provide some great action for fans at Korakuen Hall.
The 38 year old champion is a true veteran of the sport, and a true warrior who has made the most of her relatively limited natural skill set. Miyoshi made her debut in 2008 and lost her first 2 bouts, and was actually 2-3-1 after 6 bouts, but has built well from that poor start. In fact she's rebuilt so well that she has managed to be a multi-time world title challenger , a 3-weight OPBF champion and a 2-time Japanese Featherweight champion. An incredible achievement for someone who has barely won more than half of her career bouts.
Inside the ring Miyoshi is a relatively limited fighter, but not an awful one. She has a busy jab, and a style that involves a lot of footwork, she's busy, active and a bit of a hustler in the ring. She's not the smoothest, or the quickest, or the most powerful, but she's able to out hustle, out work and simply out fight opponents. She's used her long career to develop her skills and has learned a lot over time. She knows the key to victory is often having the final word in an exchange, and if her opponents can't hurt her she can stand and take risks to fight fire with fire. She'll never win a world title, but even at the age of 38 she's busy enough and capable enough to be a success on the domestic stage. She's also exciting enough to get more opportunities and to have fans tuning in, enjoying her battles.
Aged 34 the challenger will be getting her most notable bout to date. Fujiwara made her debut in 2017, losing a split decision to Chisa Tanaka, but has bounced back well since then with 5 straight wins, albeit all against fellow novices. Sadly though she has been inactive since October 2019, and has struggled in a number of her wins. To date she has never been beyond 4 rounds, and it's hard to know whether her style will have success over the 6 or 8 schedule.
In the ring Fujiwara is an aggressive fighter. She's somewhat crude, wild and wide with her shots, in what is an energy intensive style, but she's also very fun to watch letting her hands go and committing to her offensive work. Sadly her lack of polish leaves her open to counter shot, and she does eat shots clean. Her work rate is really good to watch and she clearly has the tools to develop into a good fighter. Sadly though, given her age and inexperience, we don't think she has the time needed to polish her skills off and have real success.
Coming in to this bout we do expect Fujiwara to have success in the early rounds, but as the rounds go on her defensive flaws and wild offensive work will come back to bite her as Miyoshi begins to land her own busy jab and out land the challenger.
The styles of these two should gel well, we should get some really exciting, low level, action, and the fans are in for a treat here. But we suspect Miyoshi should manage to make it look easy on the scorecards.
Prediction - UD6 Miyoshi
This coming Monday WBO female Super Flyweight champion Miyo Yoshida (15-2) looks to make her first defense of her second reign, as she takes on battle hardened veteran Tamao Ozawa (16-5, 6), in what is likely to be Ozawa's final crack at a major world title.
The 34 year old Yoshida first popped on to the radar in 2017, when she beat Tomomo Takano for the Japanese female Bantamweight title, before adding the OPBF title and then dropping down in weight to win the WBO belt in 2019. She made a single defense of that WBO belt until losing it in 2020 to Tomoko Okuda, via technical decision. She reclaimed the belt a few months later when she took a split decision over Okuda in a rematch, and it seemed like rubber bout would make sense, but sadly that's not occurred and instead Yoshida will be against Ozawa.
In the ring Yoshida is a fighter who wants to apply pressure, set a good tempo and get inside where she can smother her opponents power and let her own hands go. She's not the prettiest or the tidiest, but she is physically strong, sets a good work rate and looks to turn things into a fight on the inside. For someone without any stoppages in her first 17 bouts it would seem fair to say she's not a puncher, but she does have enough on her shots to get respect from opponents and her work rate is a real nightmare for many opponents, even those who are more technically skilled than her.
Aged 37 Oazawa has been around for years, having debuted back in 2011. Her career started well, but in 2013 she stepped up to OPBF title level and was stopped inside a round by Tomoko Kawanishi. She would then be stopped just 2 fights later by Kai Johnson. Despite those set backs she get her career back on track, winning the OPBF title in 2015 and getting the chance to fight on the round in 2015 before facing female star Mariana Juarez in Mexico in 2016. Following that loss she would twice fight for world titles, coming up short against Su Yun Hong and Raja Amasheh. Sadly she has been out of the ring for more than 3 years, and her last 3 bouts have all come at a low level.
As a fighter Ozawa is experience, she knows her way around the ring, and she knows how to box. Sadly though she is slow, and as she ages that's not going to change, she has nice timing, but there's real snap on her shots, and she doesn't like to put them together too much. She can also be seen backing up in relatively straight lines, which will be a problem against a pressure fight, like Yoshida. To her credit she is very composed in the ring, but can also be too patient at times, and be caught waiting for a mistake that never comes. At her age it's hard to imagine her keeping up with the work rate of Yoshida, and despite being the more technical fighter it does seem unlikely she'll have the tools to deal with the champion.
We expect Ozawa to have success early on, but as Yoshida gets going her work rate and style should prove to be too much for Ozawa, as the champion scores a clear and wide decision win.
Prediction - UD10 Yoshida
On May 15th we'll see a clash for the OPBF female Minimumweight champion Mizuki Chimoto (3-0, 1) defends her title against Kaori Nagai (6-3-3, 2). For Chimoto this is a chance for her to continue her rapid ascent through the rankings and make a move towards a world title fight later in the year, whilst Nagai gets a chance to add an OPBF title to her collection, which already includes the Japanese Atomweight title.
Of the two fighters the 27 year old Chimoto is the more accomplished, and the more highly regarded. She was an excellent amateur, representing Japan at the World Youth Championships and placing in the All Japan Championships several times. She has also shined as a professional winning the Japanese female Minimumweight title in her second bout, and the OPBF title in her third bout, beating former world champion Yuko Kuroki for that OPBF title.
In the ring Chimoto is a technically well schooled fight who's patient early on, light on her fighter, and applied intelligent and meaningful pressure. She's not in the ring to let her hands go every second of every round, but when she does let them go she's throwing with the intent of landing meaningful shots. Unlike some female fighters she also has a very solid guard, and good defensive skills, as well as intelligent defensive footwork, getting out of range just as well as she gets into it. Notably Chimoto is also physical strong, which works well with her style, and has under-rated upper body movement, when she uses it. Whyen she needs to up the tempo she can, but it often seems like she's fighting within herself, keeping something back and in the tank until she needs to call on it. Watching her it's clear she's an excellent talent, but someone who likely needs some seasoning, and some more ring time, before moving up another level.
Aged 32 Nagai is someone who has turned her career around after a very shaky start. She lost her first 2 bouts and was 1-2-3 after 6 contests, but has since gone 5-1, winning and defending the Japanese Atomweight title along the way. Notably her one loss since her second professional bout came last time out, to former world champion Ayaka Miyao, who showed that there was levels to the sport, despite a good effort from Nagai. On paper Nagai doesn't hold any wins of major note, but she has twice beaten Momoko Kanda as well as taking the unbeaten record of Ryo Sawai. She hasn't made a major mark on the sport, but she has really improved since her early days as a professional and could end up mixing in world level in a few years time, given the rate of her progress.
In the ring Nagai looks pretty basic, there's nothing that really stands out about her in terms of power, speed or work rate, and she does, unfortunately for her, look very upright with her chin in the air. Despite her flaws however she is getting results, and that comes down to her will to win, her ability to land sweeping shots, particularly with her right hand. She's lucky to have not fought a big puncher so far, but there's not many of them in the lowest weights of women's boxing, and her drive and willingness to grit her teeth through tough moments has earned her some good results so far. Sadly though against polished fighters we do expect her to come up short, as she did against Miyao.
Here we expect to see Nagai simply being out boxed, out fought, out thought, and out punched by a more polished, sharper, younger, faster and all round better fighter. Nagai, given her tenacity, will have moments against Chimoto, likely moments in every round, but won't have enough of them to impress the judges, with Chimoto landing the cleaner, better shots.
Prediction - UD8 Chimoto
On April 16th we'll see Japanese female Bantamweight champion Kanako Taniyama (4-1-1, 1) make her first defense, as she battles against Miki Mitsuda (5-7, 4) at the EDION Arena Osaka. For Taniyama the bout is a must win if she's to progress above domestic title level whilst for Mitsuda the bout serves as a chance to become a 2-weight national champion and avenge her most recent defeat, which came in late 2020.
The now 35 year old Taniyama turned to professional boxing in 2018, following a successful career as a kick boxer, and a background that also involved karate. Due to her previous combat sport career she was moved quickly, and in just her third professional bout she challenged for both the OPBF and Japanese Bantamweight titles. She ended up drawing in that bout, and coming up short in a second shot at the titles, before finally winning the Japanese title in her third shot, last June. Sadly for Taniyama and her team, she hasn't managed to make a mark in the professional ranks like she and her team would have hoped. She's not bad, by any stretch, but she's also not as good as hoped, and at 35 she'll be on the slide sooner rather than later.
In the ring Taniyama is a strong looking fighter, who does have some genuine ability. She moves nicely around the ring, creates angles, has a crisp jab and does a lot of things right. She looks like a natural fighter in the ring and is athletic, well trained and understands the concepts of boxing. Sadly though she does seem to run out of steam a lot, and puts a lot of effort into creating space to box early on in bouts. Intense pressure against her can have success, and she also struggles to get respect from opponents, due to the fact she doesn't really sit on her shots and get full purchase on them. Her footwork is nice, but it does stop her sitting down on shots and really getting weight behind things, and this can be a problem against fighters taking the fight to her.
Aged 30 Mitsuda is still a fighter in, or at least around, her prime years. Sadly for her, her career hasn't every really flourished or have much sustained success. She lost 4 of her first 5 bouts and was 3-5 after 8 bouts but in 2019 had a major breakthrough win, winning the Japanese Featherweight title with a TKO win over Asami Jinnari, in what is a career defining win for Matsuda. Sadly though her reign was short lived, and she lost the title in her first defense, before then then losing to Taniyama. On thing that is interesting about Mitsuda's record is that whilst she has suffered 7 losses, 5 of them have been by Split or Majority decision, and with some luck she could have had a very, very different looking record.
Between the ropes Mitsuda is very dangerous, strong, imposing and not someone to mess with. It's rare for women to have high stoppage rates, but Mitsuda has scored 4 of her 5 wins inside the distance and the reason for that is simple. Her right hand is thrown with really nasty intent. She's not the best boxer out there, in fact her boxing skills are quite basic, but her right hand is scary powerful and like someone playing a video game, she really likes to load up that right hand and spam it at times. To go with her dangerous right hand is some nice upper body movement, and a willingness to take one to land one. When she lands clean she hurts fighters, and that will be her focus again here.
Of the two Taniyama is the much more polished fighter, and has all the technical advantages. That however won't change the fact that Mitsuda will know she needs get inside, and she needs to land that powerful right hand, a lot. If she can do that, to both head and body, she could end up breaking down Taniyama, and impressing the judges. She will need to walk through a lot of jabs and some straight shots from the champion but the challenger certainly has a chance here.
Whilst Mitsuda has a chance, we expect to see her mostly chasing shadows. The movement of Taniyama will be a major difference between the two and will be enough, over the first 4 rounds, for her to take some sting out of Mitsuda, and impress the judges. We see this being competitive, compelling, close but the good start from Taniayama will be enough for her to take the win.
Prediction - SD6 Taniyama
This coming Saturday we see attention turns to Osaka for an interesting Shinsei promoted female only card, featuring three title bouts.
One of those title bouts will see veteran Yuko Henzan (8-11-4, 2) take on professional novice Aka Ringo (2-0, 1), with the two women battling for the vacant WBO Asia Pacific Female Bantamweight title.
Aged 27 years old Ringo is very much a professional boxing novice, having only debuted last year. Her opponents so far were both debutants, and she is taking a huge step up in class for this bout. Amazingly in total she has just 9 rounds of professional boxing experience to her name, a worry as she heads into this bout which is scheduled for 8 rounds it's self. Notably however she isn't a combat sports novice and has come from a Mixed Martial Arts background, and is very comfortable in the ring.
Footage of Ringo as a boxer isn't too widely available, though that shouldn't be a surprise given her short career in the sport, however it is possible to find her second professional bout in full on YouTube, and in that she looks very relaxed and comfortable in the ring. She's not the sharpest fighter, or the best defensively, but she looks tough, strong, powerful, and is willing to take one to land one when she needs to. She likes to apply intelligent pressure, backing opponents up and trying to our work them and out land them. She is open to counter shots, and her defense looks like it could be a major issue for her in the coming years, but it's clear she believes in her chin and her own power and physicality. We do question not just her defense, but her work rate, and although she applies pressure, she doesn't really let her hands go all that much, and that will be an issue when she begins to face solid competition.
As for Yuko Henzan she's a 34 year old veteran of the ring, with 23 professional bouts and 118 rounds to her name, in a career that dates back to 2010. Her career hasn't been littered with success, but she has turned things around since a very poor start to her career. She failed to win any of her first 4 bouts and was 1-5-2 in her first 8 bouts. She actually managed to go on a good enough run at one point to have a record that read 8-7-4 (2), though things have gone down hill since, with 4 straight losses. The biggest success of her career was a short run as the OPBF Bantamweight champion, she vacated the title rather than defending it.
Henzan is very much a battle tested warrior. She comes forward behind a tight high guard and looks to make boxing contests into up close fights. She's aggressive, fun to watch and incredibly flawed. Her issues are numerous. She's got slow feet, she's small at Bantamweight and Super Bantamweight, her shots don't have much snap on them, and she often falls short with her punches. Despite that she does have a style that could be a real issue for Ringo here, just based on her work rate. If she's willing to take one to land one, and presses to get into the reach of the more naturally skilled Ringo she could make this rough, tough and a bit ugly.
Over 8 rounds we expect to see Ringo doing enough. But certainly being made to answer some real questions, thanks to Henzan's pressure, toughness and willingness to come forward in bursts of activity. Ringo should be too big, too fluid and too strong to lose, but her inexperience will allow Henzan to have moments and maybe take a couple of rounds from the younger fighter.
Prediction - UD8 Ringo
This coming Saturday we'll see a new Japanese female Atomweight champion being crowned as Kaoru Iga (5-2-1) and Natsuki Tarui (4-8-2) battle for the currently vacant title. The bout isn't a mouth watering one, but these lower level female bouts in Japan do tend to be rather fun to watch, with a lot of leather being thrown and the winner will know they will only be a fight or two from a potential world title fight.
Of the two it's fair to say Iga will be the favourite. The 29 year old is the younger, taller fighter and the one with the more impressive looking record. She is less experienced than Tarui, but neither is exactly a veteran of the sport, or has bucked of top tier experience to their name.
Iga debuted in 2019, fighting to a draw on debut, and she lost her second professional bout, but since then she has gone 5-1, with her most notable bout to date being a loss in an OPBF female Light Flyweight bout in 2021. That bout showed she was flawed, but had been improving, and was a fighter who was still very much in the developmental stage of her career. For this bout she is moving down in weight and should, if she doesn't take much out of herself with the cut, be a pretty strong and powerful fighter at 102lbs.
In the ring Iga is, sadly, a bit all of the place and looks very much like a woman from the previous era of boxing. She looks nervous under pressure, over-reaches, and sets her feet heavy on the ring. There is very little polish and finesse about her, and she often looks very, very right hand happy. If it was a crisp, clean, sharp right hand that would be a good weapon, but instead it's a predictable, somewhat slow right hand, with little behind it. There is no real weight on any of her shots, and a lot of that is down to her form, which is poor, from her footwork to her punching technical. Thankfully she has been improving, but a lot of errors are still in her game and she is still defensively very open.
Aged 30 Tarui is only a little bit older than Iga, but has been a professional for much longer, having debuted back in 2014, with 14 bouts and 63 professional rounds under her belt. Tarui is a diminutive fighter, standing at under 4'11", and a natural Atomweight, getting her second shot at the Atomweight title. Her career has seen her getting very mixed results, but she has really turned things around since the start of her career. She began her career with 4 straight losses, including 2 by stoppage, and just a single win in her first 7 bouts. Since then she has gone 3-3-1, with all 3 of those losses being incredibly close, and with only a bit of luck she could easily have had a 10-4 record.
Although Tarui is small she is also a bundle of energy and her 2021 loss to Sumire Yamanaka showed she is much, much better than her record suggests. She's quick, sharp, relaxed in the ring and does through plenty of leather. Sadly for her she does seem to lack confidence in the ring, but has got plenty of tools in her arsenal with under-rated footwork, nice hand speed, and good counters. She makes her lack of size work in her favour, being a small target, and although it looks like a good jab could keep at range, there isn't too many female fighters at 102lbs with really good jabs, meaning she can have success against most out there.
Although Iga will be the favourite, as she should be, we genuinely wouldn't be surprised by an upset here. Tarui is the more naturally talented boxer, the more rounded fighter and the one who seems to have a lot more going for her. Iga will certainly have moments with her right hand, but we expect the work rate, aggression and footwork of Tarui to be the difference in a genuinely notable upset at this level.
Prediction - SD6 Tarui
This coming Saturday we get a lot of action to look forward to, with big names in action and some massive bouts. Given there are set to be so many big bouts this weekend it can be easy to over-look some bouts, including a potential female fight of the year between Naoko Fujioka (19-2-1, 7) and Marlen Esparza (11-1, 1), who look to unify the WBA and WBC female Flyweight titles. The bout hasn't had the huge fanfare that several other bouts have had, but could end up delivering incredible action and continue the string of thrilling female title bouts we've been having in recent years.
The 46 year old Fujioka, the current WBA female Flyweight champion, is a female fighter who should be destined for a hall of fame induction when she retires. She has been the star of Japanese female boxing for much of her career and done things that really weren't being done, especially not by Japanese fighters. She turned professional in 2009, following a successful amateur career, and despite being 34 when he debuted she has gone on to win world title from Minimumweight to Bantamweight, becoming Japan's only ever 5 weight world champion. Along the way to collecting a trophy cabinet full of belts she has beaten the likes of Naoko Shibata, Anabel Ortiz, Naoko Yamaguchi, Mariana Juarez, Shindo Go, Isabel Millan, Irma Sanchez and Sulem Urbina. She has also been able to travel for fights, with bouts in Germany, Mexico and the US.
In the ring Fujioka is a veteran, with bucket loads of experience, heavy hands, an aggressive style, a great chin and although she's not the tidiest fighter she is a rough, tough handful with decent boxing skills added to a fighters mentality. Even in her mid 40's she has proven to have impressive stamina, and actually gets better as fights go on, starting slowly before getting her engine going and simply out working, out battling and out fighting fighters. Despite a busy style, she's accurate, and lands shots that catch the eye, whilst also keeping opponents too busy to really fight back. Sadly in recent years she began slowing down, in part due to age and inactivity, but she's still one of the best female fighters on the planet, despite being the wrong side of 40.
Aged just 32 Marlen Esparza is something of a spring chicken compared to Fujioka and is part of the new wave of female fighters who turned professional after the 2012 Olympics, like so many of the other top current female fighters out there. As an amateur Esparza won bronze at the Olympics and a Gold at the 2014 World Amateur Championships, before finally turning her attention on the professional ranks in 2017. Sadly her career was somewhat slow to get going, though she did notable fighter in some of the few female bouts to have 3 minute rounds. After winning her first 7 bouts she then came up short against the sensational Seniesa Estrada ina bout for the WBA "interim" Female Flyweight title. In that bout she was out worked, out fought, out boxed and just out-everythinged by Estrada, before the bout was stopped due to a cut, leading to Estrada winning a technical decision. Since that bout Esparza has bounced back big time, and scored her 3 most notable wins, taking decisions over Sulem Urbina, Ibeth Zamora Silva and Anabel Ortiz.
In the ring Esparza is a well schooled boxer, and her amateur pedigree does show through. She's a clean, accurate boxer, who likes to have some space to work with, throws lovely straight shots, and has really good timing, especially on her left jab and short right hands. Sadly though she really struggles on the inside and lacks the power to maintain space, or get the respect of fighters, who will feel comfortable pressuring her and trying to out work her. She's quick and sharp, but is very much a fighter who needs to use her speed, and needs to avoid a tear up at all costs.
Given her youth, speed and style Esparza does have some advantages over Fujioka, and she will need to capitalise on them to beat the Japanese boxing Queen. Sadly though we feel the style of Esparza will be her own downfall. The pressure, tenacity, work rate, strength and stubbornness of Fujioka will almost certainly be too much for her. We expect Esparza to start well, taking the first few rounds with her movement and boxing. But as the rounds go on Fujioka will get closer and closer, before taking control of the bout in the middle rounds and dominating the final rounds.
There could be some suspect scoring to help save Esparza, but we don't see that being enough to deny Fujioka here. Instead we see the judges having it closer than they should, but being unable to deny the Japanese visitor.
Prediction - MD10 Fujioka
One thing we hate to see are fights put together at late notice, especially if they are re-matched of bouts that took place relatively recently and were one sided. Sadly this coming Friday we get one such bout, as 37 year old Sana Hazuki (8-5-1, 2) challenges IBF Minmumweight champion Yokasta Valle (23-2, 9), for the second time, in Costa Rica.
The two women fought in January 2021, with Valle dominating Hazuki over 10 rounds, and it was clear in their first bout that Valle was levels above Hazuki. She was too quick, too accurate, to sharp, too skilled and too good. In that bout Hazuki was given decent notice, though it certainly wasn't a lot of notice. This time around, some 14 months later, it appears that Hazuki has been given even less notice, and only travelled for the bout this past Monday, giving her no real time to acclimatise to time zone and local conditions. In fact she was only given 2 to 3 weeks notice to take the fight, which is unlikely to be a competitive one.
Valle is one of the best female fighters at 105lbs. She might not be a truly elite level female boxer, akin to Seniesa Estrada, Katie Taylor, Amada Serrano, Naoko Fujioka or Claresa Shields, but she's a very, very capable fighter with experience against top fighters, a willingness to prove herself on the road and the confidence of someone who has won her last 10 bouts.
In the ring Valle is light on her feet, boxes and moves well and although not a big puncher, she hits hard enough to get respect from her opponents. Her real strength is her activity, accuracy and work rate, all of which were on show against Hazuki last year, in a bout that had competitive rounds, but wasn't particularly competitive overall.
Hazuki on the other hand is a clumsy but very game and aggressive fighter, who presses the action trudges forward and looks to make bouts into real fights. Sadly for her she does often over-reach with her shots, leaves herself open to be hit and doesn't have the quickest of feet or hands, allowing others to counter her and create space against her. Sadly against someone as quick and accurate as Valle her flaws are there to be taken advantage of, albeit she does make for fan friendly and exciting bouts.
Much like their first bout we don't see this being close, but it will have competitive rounds. As with their first the speed, movement, accuracy and fluidity of Valle will be too much.
After 10 rounds we expect this to be a clear win for Valle, but the bout will certainly be a fun one with some exciting exchanges. Sadly though the short notice for Hazuki, and very late travel to Costa Rica, will not do her any favours. She will be game, but will not have the tools in her arsenal to beat Valle.
Prediction - UD10 Valle
Here we preview the key female title bouts involving an Asian fighter.