This coming Saturday we'll see WBO female Minimumweight champion Etsuko Tada (20-3-3, 7) make her first defense as she takes on mandatory challenger Thi Thu Nhi Nguyen (4-0, 1) from Vietnam. The bout might not look like anything special on paper, but it should be a very interesting one, pitting a 40 year old, veteran champion, against a 25 year old, looking to make her mark on the sport and put Vietnam on the boxing map.
Of the two women it's Tada who is the much, much more well known. The veteran has been a professional since 2008 and is one of the most decorated Japanese female boxers in history. During her 26 fight career she has won the WBA, IBF and WBO Minimumweight titles and fought in 18 world title bouts since 2009. It's not just the numbers that are impressive, but also her competition and she holds notable wins over the likes of Cho Rong Son, Ibeth Zamora Silva, Naoko Shibata, Yuko Kuroki, Kayoko Ebata and Ayaka Miayao.
In the ring the champion is an aggressive fighter. Over the years she has developed from a raw fighter, full of energy but lacking in finese, to being more of a pressure-fighter. Sadly her legs have slowed over the years, something that obvious happens in a fighters mid to late 30's, but she applies intelligent pressure, has a good work rate, is incredible tough and has solid power, as Miyao found out. She can be out worked, she can be outsped and out boxed, but few fighters will manage to outlast her over 10 rounds, and she's a genuine nightmare for anyone at 105lbs.
The challenger on the other hand is a bit of an obscure fighter. She debuted as a professional in 2015 and then vanished before returning in 2019 and picking up two low key wins. She then kicked off 2020 with her biggest win to date, beating Kanyarat Yoohanngoh in Camboddia for the WBO Asia Pacific female title. That bout saw the Vietnamese fighter taking a split decision over the Thai, in a 10 rounder, the longest bout of her career. Sadly since that win, in February 2020, Nguyen has been out of the ring, with numerous planned and scheduled bouts falling through due to issues with Covid and covid related travel restrictions.
In the ring Nguyen lighst to fight as a pressure fighter, coming forward behind a tight guard, using good upper body movement and pressing opponents around the ring. She's not the most active with her output, as we saw against Yoohanngoh, but her forward march does look like it could make for some very exciting bouts against the right opponents. Technically her punches aren't particularly crisp, and they don't look like they have a lot of weight on them, yet they seem to have an effect when they land, and we suspect she's a much heavier handed fighter than she looks. Although she likes to pressure she does have very slow feet, and given her lack of output it seems clear she can be out boxed, out worked, and out fought, though it may be easier said than done.
Given the two fighters involved the styles should gel really well. They should meet face to face, and that should allow for a high tempo bout on the inside, something that we strongly favour Tada in. Nguyen can make for good fights, but we feel she's up against a much better version of herself here, and the sort of fighter that she'll not manage to do what she wants against. In fact we suspect Nguyen will be the one looking for plan B and plan C sooner rather than later.
With that comment in mind we do need to bring up the elephant in the room, the promoter. The bout is taking place in South Korea, and a card promoted by Nguyen's team. Nguyen's win over Yoohanngoh did not look on the level, and the two 99-90 scores were atrocious. Tada will need to be aware that she's not going to have the judges on her side, and will really need to win clearly to get the decision. We think she'll look to really hurt and punish Nguyen over the course of the fight and make it clear that the judges can't rob her here, despite maybe trying.
Prediction - SD10 Tada
Here we preview the key female title bouts involving an Asian fighter.