September 1st is set to be a huge day for female boxing in Japan with a single card featuring 5 title bouts. One of the easier to over-look on that card is a Japanese female Flyweight title bout, between two promising and rising young fighters each looking to move their careers forward, claim their first title, and continue on to bigger and better things. That particular bout will see the wonderfully well school Mizuki Hiruta (2-0) battle against Hinami Yanai (2-0, 1), and both will know a win here will not only net them a Japanese title but also move them towards a world title fight, potentially in 2023 or 2024.
Of the two fighters the more proven is 26 year old Hiruta. As an amateur she went 29-16 (13) and she has already made a big impact since turning professional. On her debut, last October, she dominated Nanae Yamaka, then 4-0, in a wide 6 round win. She then followed that up with an excellent win in April against veteran Terumi Nuki, in an 8 rounder. Not only did she beat Nuki, but she also showed her heart and grit, to recover from a knockdown late in the bout and show there was more to her than boxing skills.
In terms of her skills and style. Hiruta is a well polished out-side fighter fighting from the south paw stance. She uses very polished boxing skills, good hand speed, technical skills and light feet. She seems to lack power, and doesn't sit on her shots, but she has the skills, speed and ring IQ to go a long way and a win here, to claim her first title, would likely see Misako Gym look to continue her rapid ascent through the rank. Sadly her lack of power will be a problem at the top level, but at domestic, and even regional level, she has the tools to control fights, especially over the 6 round distance. Over the long distances, 8 and 10, she could find her gas tank struggling, especially with her movement, and could become more susceptible to big shots, as we saw against Nuki, but over 6 rounds we suspect her flaws won't be exposed all that often.
Aged 24 Yanai, from the Shinsei Gym, is a very different type of fighter, but one who also had a solid amateur background, going 20-6 (7), before making her professional debut last December. In her debut she out pointed the limited but experienced Michiko Abiru over 6 rounds before making her international debut back in May, when she stopped the very poor Daoprakary Trathong in Bangkok. That win gave Yanai some international experience, which is always valuable, but did little to show how good she was or what her potential is like going forward.
Whilst her competition hasn’t been great Yanai has shown enough to let us get a read on her style, which is aggressive, high tempo and exciting. Yanai likes to dictate the action, come forward and despite being offensive she is also well polished, with good technical traits from her amateur background. Sadly for her she does appear somewhat clumsy at times, especially with her defense, and it does seem like she could walk onto a big shot at times, however she is strong, powerful and appears to be able to take a shot well. With her aggressive style it should be noted that she is very effective with body work, and that could be a major factor here, against Hiruta, who relies on movement and could struggle if her legs are taken away from her.
Whilst Yanai has got the type of style that could be a problem for Hiruta, we really think that Yanai would need 10 rounds to really make the most of it, and over 6 rounds her pressure and aggression won’t be enough to neutralise the clean effective boxing and movement from Hiruta. Instead we expect to see Hiruta boxing, moving, pot shotting, getting shots off and getting away, and simply out landing her rougher and less polished foe.
Prediction – UD6 Hiruta
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
This coming Thursday fight fans at Korakuen Hall will get the chance to see OPBF female Flyweight champion Chaoz Minowa (6-3, 5) make her first defense, as she takes on Yumemi Ikemoto (7-1) in an interesting looking 8 rounder.
Sadly whilst this will be Minowa's first defense it's not like her reign has just begun, in fact she won the title way back in 2016, in just her third professional bout. Back then she was regarded as one of the hottest prospects in female boing, and there was talk about her going up and down the weights and winning world titles in a huge number of weights. Sadly however things haven't worked out for her, and now, some 5 years later, this OPBF title is still the only one she has held. Despite that she has been busy and she's gone 3-3 (3) since her OPBF title win, and challenged for world titles on a number of occasions. Sadly she's fallen short at world level, but it does seems like she could have success by dropping back to Oriental level.
The problem for Minowa is that, despite being a good amateur, he style as a professional is rough and raw. She's more focused on her power and aggression rather than her boxing skills. It's made her fun to watch, but it's also come at an expensive of her stamina and her results and there's been times where a more conservative approach in the ring could have yielded better results, such as her bout with Tenkai Tsunami in 2018. She has also been plagued with inactivity and fought has fought just 6 times since winning the title back on December 13th 2016! From those 6 bouts, 4 took place in 2018.
Sadly coming in to this one it's not just Minowa who has lacked activity, but also the challenger. Ikemoto began her professional in 2016 and was 6-1 by the end of 2018, but has only fought once since then, with that being a decision win over limited Filipino fighter Gretel de Paz. To date her most notable result came in 2018, when she beat Yuki Koseki for the Japanese female Flyweight title, but sadly she never defended that title. Rather than building on that win she has been inactive, and comes into this bout after having been out of the ring for well over 2 years, and close to 3 years!
In the ring Ikemoto is an aggressive, fun fighter to watch. She comes forward and applies pressure, has under-rated power and lets her shots go up close. She's not particularly polished, but she is exciting, comes to fight, and puts a lot into her shots. She also gives opponents chances to catch her, and she's quite basic in a lot of things she does. She comes forward in straight lines, she throws wide shots and she can be very open to counter shots. So far she has, on the whole, gotten away with her flaws, but this is a step up in class for her.
Given the styles of the two women it's hard to imagine this being anything other than a fun, brutal action bout. Sadly for Ikemoto her lack of power will be an issue here, and we suspect that Minowa's extra pop will be the difference maker in a very exciting action bout. We expect to see the two women spending a lot of time toe to toe and unloading, making for an eye catching and thrilling contest, with Minowa doing enough to take a close win.
Prediction - UD8 Minowa
Over the years we have had some legendary Japanese female fighters but it's fair to say that none quite compare to current WBA female Flyweight champion Naoko Fujioka (18-2-1, 7) who has become the bar by which all other Japanese female fighters are compared. The talented Fujioka is the only Japanese fighter, male of female, to have won world titles in 5 weight classes, she has chased her legacy around the globe and won world titles from Minimumweight to Bantamweight. Not only has she done great things in terms of winning titles but she has also beaten a who's who along the way, with wins against Naoko Shibata, Anabel Ortiz, Naoko Yamguchi, Mariana Juarez, Shindo Go, Yokasta Valle and Irma Sanchez. In just 21 professional bouts she has done almost everything she could ever have dreamed of doing in the sport.
The one thing missing from Fujioka's resume is scoring a win in the US, something she gets the chance to do this weekend when she takes on the once beaten Sulem Urbina (12-1-0-1, 2) in Los Angeles. A win for Fujioka would add another cherry on to one of the best careers of a female fighter in the sport, whilst a loss would be a farewell to the 45 year old boxing legend, who must know retirement is looming around the corner.
For those who haven't followed Fujioka's career, and we genuinely can't blame you given how low profile female boxing was until very recently, she was a former amateur standout before turning professional in 2009 aged 34. An ancient age for a fighter, especially a lower weight fighter. She quickly raced through the ranks, winning an OPBF title just over a year after making her debut and stopping Anabel Ortiz for the WBA Minimumweight title within 2 years of her debut. She then pursued greatness, jumping from Minimumweight to Super Flyweight and dethroning Naoko Yamaguchi before bouncing up and down the weights picking up titles at Bantamweight, Flyweight and Light Flyweight whilst etching her name in the Japanese boxing history books.
In the ring a prime Fujioka could do it all. She could box, she could fight, she could brawl, she had a good work rate, solid engine, a real will to win, and a desire to be the best. She was technically not the most perfect. There was a clumsiness to her style, but one that she generally got away with due to her strength and physicality. At times it could look like she was being dirty, sneaky even, but on the whole it was aggressive clumsiness, something often seen in female boxing, especially when fights are close and hotly contested. She was a born fighter, who became a good boxer, but was still a fighter at heart. Sadly however at the age of 45 she's also now a true veteran and she's not been seen in the ring since a draw with Tenkai Tsunami back in July 2019, around 2 years ago! She has also only fought twice since the start of 2018, leaving us with questions as to what is really left in the tank.
The challenger on the other hand is a 30 year old Mexican born American based fighter who really hasn't done a great deal as a professional, since debuting in 2016. As an amateur Urbina competed at a high level, with some very mixed success, before beginning her professional career in Mexico in 2016. She began her professional career with a string of wins against some very low level competition, and was tested in some of those bouts, before making her US debut last year with a win over Noemi Bosques. To be honest her wins, so far, have come against very, very weak opposition, with her most notable victory coming against the limited Judith Rodriguez. Her competition isn't fitting of a world title challenger, despite her pretty looking record.
The only real stand out name on Urbina's record is Marlen Esparza, who beat Urbina in October 2020, with a very clear decision. Sadly that was her most recent bout.
Despite her competition being limited Urbina is genuine a very solid fighter. She gets in the ring and comes to fight, she lets good body shots go, she looks to set a high pace, puts forward a lot of pressure and comes to let shots go straight away. Her shots are thrown with bad intentions, she keeps pressing, and she has very, very busy hands. Although not the most polished, or smooth boxer, she makes for good TV friendly fights and at the end of the day the sport needs more fighters like that!
Give the styles of the two women we expect to see them both get close early on, and really unleashing shots in high volume at close range. Fujioka could make this easy by boxing and moving, but we're not sure the 45 year old legs of Fujioka would be able to stay on the move 10 rounds, like Esparza did against Urbina, and instead we expect to see her holding her ground and really beign happy to have a war with Urbina.
It's a real shame we're not seeing the prime version of Fujioka here. There's a chance that Urbina will be in the right place at the right time to take advantage of a faced legend. But in reality that should be considered an upset. Even with this version of Fujioka. Instead we suspect the clean punching, and the heavier shots of Fujioka will be the difference maker and will be enough for her to take home the victory here.
Prediction - UD10 Fujioka
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
Recently we saw Japanese fighter Kazuto Ioka being wrongly proclaimed by many as the first Japanese 4-weight world champion. Whilst he was the first man to achieve that feat, he was the second fighter to achieve it, following in the foot steps of Japanese boxing queen Naoko Fujioka (18-2, 7), who subsequently went on become Japan's first 5 weight world champion as well.
This coming Friday Fujioka returns to the ring to defend her WBA female Flyweight title, as she takes on 2-weight world champion Tenkai Tsunami (26-12, 15), in what is a really highly anticipated female show down between two of the best female fighters Japan has given us.
Whilst their is certainly a new wave of Japanese female fighters, such as Kasumi Saeki and Eri Matsuda, both Fujioka and Tsunami are part of the last generation and have lead the way for the younger fighters to make their mark on the sport. As a result this has the feeling of a real meeting of two significant fighters from the last generation, even if both are perhaps coming to the end of their great careers.
Fujioka really has been a legend of female boxing. Yes she lacks the high profile of Claressa Shields and Katie Taylor, but her career has seen her win world titles from Minimumweight to Bantamweight, moving up and down the scales, and defeat the likes of Naoko Shibata, Anabel Ortiz, Naoko Yamamguchi, Mariana Juarez, Shindo Go and Irma Sanchez. She has chased legacy fights, and both of her losses with were very competitive decisions on the road to local heroes, with a loss to Jessica Chavez being a rather dubious one to say the least.
In the ring Fujioka can box or brawl. She did hit quite hard early in her career, at Minimumweight, but at the higher weights her power has lost something. Saying that she's still a solid puncher, but no longer has real stopping power with just 2 stoppages in her last 9 wins. Instead relying on her skills, intensity and accuracy, rather than her power to pick up wins.
Whilst Fujioka is a real legend of female boxing, it's fair to say that Tsunami deserves a similar description, despite her less than stellar record. The 34 year old made her debut way back in 2005, before the Japanese Boxing Commission even recognised female boxing. She would become one of the real stars of the early days of female boxing in Japan, winning the JWBC Flyweight title and winning an IFBA title before winning the more significant WBA female Super Flyweight title in 2009. Since then she has fought a real who's who of female boxing, often travelling for some of her biggest bouts. Her competition has included, but isn't limited to, Kayoko Ebata, Naoko Yamaguchi, Janteh Perez, Mariana Juarez, Zulina Munoz, Jessica Chavez, Carolina Rodriguez, Arely Mucino and Gretchen Abaniel.
The problem for Tsunami is she's often come up short on her travels, losing in South Korea, Mexico and Chile, with losses in her last 8 road bouts. Despite those losses she has proven, where ever she fights, that she is tough, is full of energy and always looks to have a fight. Sadly though she has shown a lack of speed, poor footwork and can be out boxed, out thought and out sped, which have all been issues through her career. She's aggressive but clumsy, exciting, but flawed.
Whilst we rate both fighters very highly we believe that Fujioka's more rounded skill-set, her ability to move and use her speed and feet is going to be the difference here. We're expecting an intelligent display from the champion, who will be forced to trade at times, but will control the distance and tempo en route to adding another notable win to her legendary career.
Prediction UD10 - Fujioka
The Japanese scene has been full of ambitious former amateur standouts, especially in recent years with the likes of Naoya Inoue and Kosei Tanaka. Another ambitious fighter is former female amateur standout Chaoz Minowa (6-1, 5), who stated that she wanted to win world titles in a ridiculous 9 weight classes. That ambition was seen earlier this year when she faced Tenkai Tsunami for the WBO female Light Flyweight title, and despite coming up short few can doubt her desire to leave a mark on the sport.
We'll see Minowa get her second shot at a world title on November 17th when she challenges Mexican fighter Ibeth Zamora Silva (29-6, 12), the current WBC Female Flyweight champion. For Silva the bout will be her first defense of the title, that she won earlier this year, whilst Minowa will be getting he second shot to become a world champion.
The challenger was a top amateur, with notable international experience, who turned professional in 2016 with a fair bit of fanfare having inked a deal with Watanabe Gym. Her career started promisingly, and after just 3 fights she had claimed her first title, the OPBF female Flyweight title, and fought on foreign soil, stopping Chan Mi Lim in Korea. Sadly though there was flaws in what she was doing, and those flaws were exposed when she faced the tough and highly experienced Tsunami back in March. Tsunami basically let Minowa punch herself out, whilst tagging her with sharp, accurate shots and breaking her down.
In the ring Minowa is very much a fighter, not a boxer. She can box, and is well schooled due to her long amateur career, but is someone who seems to be taken over by emotion and looks to make every bout into a war. She sets off at a high tempo and looks to use her power, aggression and physicality to beat opponents down. Against lower level opponents that's fine, but against better fighters that's an issue for her, with those better fighters about to defend themselves better, counter better and pick holes in her leaky defense.
As mentioned earlier this will be Zamora's first defense, though she has long been a world class fighter. She really made a name for herself fighting at Light Flyweight, winning the WBC title in 2013 when she defeated Naoko Shibata in Tokyo. She would make 8 defenses of that title, beating the likes of Ava Knight, JEssica Chavez, Esmeralda Morema and Mari Ando before losing the title in early 2017, losing to the aforementioned Moreno. She then moved up in weight and beat Isabel Millan in a world title eliminator before beating Melissa McMorrow for the WBC female Flyweight title earlier this year.
Zamora, dubbed "Roca", is an aggressive and hard working fighter who comes forward, throws in combinations and backs up opponents. Despite being a busy fighter she is pretty solid, with a sharp jab and good, solid hooks, which she uses well on the inside. Notably she is a smaller fighter, but she has used her lack of stature well to get on the inside where she works best. She's not the crispest, but her work rate and intensity is great and her energy is fantastic.
Sadly Minowa's lack of proven world class stamina and energy, and the fact she's on the road for this bout, will not serve her well against Zamora, who is a really a little bundle of energy. Minowa will have moments but will come up short, likely making it over the finish line but looking exhausted and well beaten after 10 rounds. We would love to see Minowa fulfil her promise, but suspect she will come up short again here.
This weekend is a huge one for boxing but it actually starts a little early, and there's a very notable female world title bout this coming Friday, as Japan's first ever 5 weight world champion Naoko Fujioka (17-2, 7) defends the WBA female Flyweight title against interim champion Irma Sanchez (30-7-1, 8).
Aged 43 Fujioka is the queen of Asian boxing. She debuted in 2009 and despite only having 19 career bouts she has managed to win world titles at Minimumweight, Light Flyweight, Flyweight, Super Flyweight and Bantamweight. Not only has she collected titles but also names, scoring notable victories over Naoko Shibata, Anabel Ortiz, Naoko Yamaguchi, Mariana Juarez and Shindo Go. Even her losses actually enhance reputation with one being a competitive decision loss in Germany to Susi Kentikian whilst the other was a controversial decision defeat to Jessica Chavez in Mexico.
At her best Fujioka is a bit of a brawler but is also a very capable boxer-puncher. She's a little slow on her feet at times, and defensively a little open at times, but takes a shot well, closes distance brilliantly and tends to simple grind opponents down with a high work rate. At 43 and having not fought since last December there are question marks about her age and ring rust, but she looked fantastic against Yokasta Valle last time out, and has had relatively long breaks in the past with no ill effects. In fact it could be argued that the breaks between fights actually helps her with longevity and could explain how, at the age of 43, she's in such good shape and able to move between weights with such ease.
Mexican challenger Sanchez is 30 years old, but is already a 12 year veteran having debuted in 2006. Her 38 fight career, twice as long as Fujioka's, has been spent entirely in Mexico though she has regularly mixed with world class fighters, including Mariana Juarez, Katia Guterrez, Jessica Chavez, Ibeth Zamora Silva, and Carina Moreno. Whilst she has lost most of her biggest bouts she did win the WBA “interim” female Flyweight title last time out, setting up this bout, and is certainly a very accomplished, experienced and talented fighter.
Watching Sanchez is looks a little wider, a little slower and clumsier than the Japanese fighter. She is younger, but looks more rough around the edges than Fujioka, who seems to have the edge in size, skills, power and speed. Despite the disadvantages that Sanchez has going against her she hasn't been stopped in almost 11 years and will feel that with her youth and hunger she will be able to walk through Fujioka's shots and win a war of attrition, as she's had to do in the past.
Given the style that Sanchez uses we suspect she's going to have a war with Fujioka, but unfortunately for the Mexican we don't see that paying off well for her, and in fact we suspect that the power and accuracy of Fujioka will be too much for the challenger to survive with, with Sanchez being stopped late in to the contest. We know Sanchez can fight, be here she's up against someone who think is better in every way. There is a risk that Fujioka gets old, but we don't see that happening, and instead we see her simply grinding down Sanchez to either a very wide decision win or a late stoppage, in a fan friendly but one sided contest.
Last year Japanese fighter Yunoka Furukawa (9-1-2, 6) claimed the WBA Atomweight title, stopping Satomi Nishimura. That win saw the Watanabe fighter get some attention in Japanese boxing, but really she is seen as being a bit of an unknown. This coming Friday she looks to break out further and claim her second world title, as she takes on unbeaten Argentinian Leonela Paola Yudica (12-0-3), the current IBF female Flyweight champion.
In her title win Furukawa looked like an aggressive and heavy handed monster. Since then she has made one defense of her title, narrowly beating Mika Ishikawa with a majority decision. That bout seemed to show that Furukawa wasn't a monster puncher, which she had seemed, but also suggested that the 102lb Atomweight division was too low for her, and that she really needed to leave the division and head north. Something she is doing this weekend.
As her best Furukawa is an aggressive fighter, with heavy hands. She's not the monster puncher she once seemed, but she's an exciting young fighter who has the potential to become one of Japanese boxing's most notable female stars. She is however a long way from that will need to develop more than just her power to reach those heady heights.
Although talented Furukawa has shown issues with her stamina, and has looked rather crude and limited at times. It does seem like a she's a fighter can be out boxed, and that her aggression can be used against her very easily. She appears to take a good shot, but leaves herself open to shots, and looks likely to be a fighter who will always have to take some leather during her bouts.
Coming into the bout as the unbeaten champion Yudica will be very confident, and will be cheered on by her local fans. Aged 29 the champion is in her physical prime, is a highly skilled and fleet fighter. She lacks power, thought that is partly down to her style, but has the skills, speed and stamina to be a real handful. Especially if she can establish her pace and be able to stay at range.
As the champion Yudica will know that she all the advantages, and the biggest of those is her style. Her speed, and accuracy should be a stylistic nightmare for Furukawa and her poor defense. Saying that however the champion will have to keep her defenses on point to avoid the power of Furukawa, and to stay in control of the contest. If Yudica is drawn into a brawl it could be a very tough bout for the champion.
If Furukawa can cut the range she can make this very interesting, and potentially a war, but we suspect that Yudica's back foot boxing will make the Japanese challenger look like a made to order opponent, and one for her to look good against.
In recent times we've seen a number of top former female amateur fighters turn professional, with almost all of them coming to the professional game with notable success as the Olympics. Prior to the current of female stars we did have a number of lower key female fighters who had made their mark on the amateur scene. One of those was Nana Yoshikawa (7-1, 4), who was a 3-weight Amateur champion with an impressive 55 wins in the unpaid ranks. As a professional she claimed her first world title last year, narrowly beating Eun Hye Lee for the WBO female Flyweight title.
This coming Sunday Yoshikawa looks to make her first defense of that title as she takes on Mexican challenger Monserrat Alarcon (8-3-2), who has proven tricky to find much footage of, but has proven to be popular for images. That's because the young Mexican is very photogenic, and it does appear her looks have gotten her some notable attention, perhaps more than her boxing so far.
Although that sounds like we're being harsh “Raya” has proven to be a tough competitor so far, suffering 2 narrow losses to current world champion Alondra Garcia and she holds two good wins over Branda Ramos, to become the Mexican Female Minimumweight champion.
Although there is very limited footage of the Mexican it does look like she is well skilled and moves around the ring well. There is a certain wildness to her punches, but there is plenty to like about her too, and she does look very quick and seems to strike with good counters, though they aren't the sharpest. It's possibly her lack of sharpness which has lead her to never having scored a stoppage, but by that same token she has never been stopped and she does look sturdy in the footage out there.
As with many former amateur standouts Yoshikawa is very well schooled. She might be heading towards her 39th birthday but she's in great shape, with good boxing form and a style that has developed since her 2015 loss, a wide decision defeat to Anabel Ortiz in a bout at 105lbs. She has a filled out frame at Flyweight and can hit hard enough to hurt opponents. It should be said that she was look to over-come Eun Hye Lee last year, but Lee is a world class fighter herself and would be a handful for many Flyweights out there.
On paper Yoshikawa is the more proven fighter here, winning OPBF and world titles, and she's also a fighter with the deep amateur background. She is however a fighter who has been in wars with Ortiz and Lee and could well be on the slide, despite being such a “professional novice”. She has got nice skills, but with age comes the slowing process and she could struggle with stamina and timing as the bout goes on.
Although we think Yoshikawa is heading to the end of her career she does look like a fighter with a few more good fights left in her, and we think that'll show here with her superior skills being too much for the younger, but less talented Alarcon. As Alarcon looks tough we suspect she will go the distance, but we think she'll lose a pretty wide decision here.
Here we preview the key female title bouts involving an Asian fighter.