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