Earlier this year we saw Costa Rican fighter Yokasta Valle (25-2, 9), the IBF Atomweight champion, score her most widely seen win to date, scoring a very clear and decisive win over Lorraine Villalobos on DAZN. That win saw her impress everyone, and put her hat in the mix to be consider a top 10 pound for pound female fighter, with the performance showcasing her speed, skills, movement and the natural fluidity she has to her in ring style. This coming Thursday we'll see her return to the ring to defend her title in a unification bout against WBO champion Thi Thu Nhi Nguyen (5-0, 1), from Vietnam.
Valle really is a sensationally talented fighter who appears to be able to do it all. She might not be the explosive puncher that Seniesa Estrada, but she certainly hits harder than her record suggests and is such a clean, accurate puncher and is a smooth, natural boxer, with an excellent style. Whilst she does have two losses on her record, it is worth noting that she's gone on an excellent run since them. They occurred in late 2017, to Naoko Fujioka, and mid 2018, to Tina Rupprecht, both in her opponents back yard. In both of those fights she made a great account of herself, and showed there was a real talent there, which has been nurtured really well as she's become the face of Costa Rican boxing.
As for Nguyen , the Vietnamese fighter is the first ever world champion from Vietnam, but also someone who has had more than her fair share of good luck. In just 5 fights she has raced to a world title, but her rise has included questionable wins over the very limited Kanyarat Yoohanngo and the talented Etsuko Tada, who she beat for the WBO world title last October. In both of those bouts, which took place away from Vietnam, she was afford some very nice judging. In the ring she's certainly not bad, but nothing about her screams word class. Instead she's been fortunate, with Cocky Buffalo protecting her some what. She's fast, and she's skilled, and gutsy, but lacks power and lacks that know how and experience needed to legitimately compete at the highest level.
Coming in to this we expect to see Nguyen not having favourable judges in her corner, for once, and that will be a major issue against someone as versatile, rounded, and consistent as Valle. Valle will likely take a round or two to see what Nguyen really has to offer and is bringing to the table. She will respect her, as a fellow world champion, but after a few short rounds Valle will have scouted her foe, and begin to find her own range, timing and rhythm, and begin to land at will. Nguyen is quick, and she used that speed well against Tada at times, but Valle is not a late 30's fighter with slow feet. Instead she's a quick, sharp, well school fighter who will close the ring and find her range and do what she wants with the Vietnamese fighter.
Prediction - UD10 Valle
Arguably the best bout scheduled for September 1st at Korakuen Hall is an IBF Atomweight title fight, as champion Ayaka Miyao (25-9-2, 6) looks to make her first defense, and takes on former WBO champion Mika Iwakawa (10-6-1, 3) [岩川美花]. The bout is interesting not just because both are proven at world level at 102lbs, but also their styles, which are very different, should gel to provide us with a very interesting and engaging bout.
The 38 year old champion has been one of the major faces of female boxing in Japan over the last 10 years or so. During her career she has become a fixture at world level, with a lengthy WBA title reign being the highlight of her career. During her career she has been in with a genuine who's who of notable lower weight female fighters, including the likes of Nao Ikeyama, Tenkai Tsunami, Naoko Shibata, Momo Koseki, Etsuko Tada and most recently Eri Matsuda, who she beat for the IBF title in February. Whilst she hasn't always been able to beat the top fighters out there she has always had the tools to ask serious questions of them, and has regularly bounced back from set backs to prove there is still life in her now aging legs.
In terms of her style Miyao is very much a swarmer, who can box but is always happy to use her speed to get in and out whilst unloading flurries. She lacks power, but forces opponents to put their guard up with a high work rate, very quick hands, and intense combinations during her raids. She's not only got quick hands, but also quick feet, and when she's on the retreat she's hard to catch. Technically she does make a lot of mistakes, and often slaps with her shots rather than getting behind them, but with her speed, stamina, work rate and toughness she usually gets away with those mistakes. Sadly for her she has struggled in recent years having suffered a nasty injury against Nao Ikeyama in 2016, as well as a loss to Montserrat Alarcon and a brutal TKO loss to Etsuko Tada in 2020, but a win over Eri Matsuda in February showed there was still some life left in her career.
Whilst Miyao is a veteran at 38 she's actually the younger fighter here, with Iwakawa being 39 years old, though she's a fresh 39 with just 17 fights and 102 rounds to her name, since her debut in 2011. What's remarkable Iwakawa is the way she has slowly built her career. She started off with 3 wins, but quickly fell to 3-3-1 after 7 bouts and 6-5-1 after 12. Since then however she has had the best for of her career, winning the WBO Atomweight title in 2018, with a win over Nao Ikeyama, and defending it in 2020 against Nanae Suzuki, before losing it in a rematch to Suzuki this past February. Sadly she has been relatively inactive, with just 3 bouts since her title win, in July 2018, and she also didn't dight at all in 2021, and also had issues at a former gym, which has effectively derailed her over the last few years.
At her best Iwakawa is a pure boxer, and one of the best at the weight. She boxes well, uses the ring well and is very well schooled from a technical perspective. In a division that really has been dominated by fighters with high work rates, speed and a willingness to out land and out punch their opponents, Iwakawa stands out as something of an oddity, boxing on the move, making opponents miss, countering, and generally fighting a reserved style. It's a style that has lead her to success late in her career, but also a style that can show cracks when she's under intense pressure from someone who is willing to take one to land one. If she can maintain range she is very hard to beat, but that's a huge if.
Sadly for Iwakawa we can't imagine her having this fight her way. In fact whilst we do expect her to make a good start, boxing well to win the first few rounds, she end up falling behind to the pressure and work of Miyao who will, over the rounds, simply do too much to be denied. We expect to see Miyao down after 4 or 5 rounds, but a strong second half will turn things around whilst a tiring and worn out Iwakawa will offer little late on, as a result Miyao will have overcome the early deficit to take a hard fought decision win.
Prediction - UD10 Miyao
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
On February 25th we'll see two different generations of Japanese female fighters collide as professional novice Eri Matsuda (4-0-1, 1) takes on veteran Ayaka Miyao (24-9-2, 6), in a bout for the vacant IBF Atomweight title which Saemi Hanagata gave up last year.
For the 27 year old Matsuda this is just her second world title fight, following a draw with Hanagata in 2021, and marks just her 6th professional bout. Miyao on the other hand has more than 10 world title fights to her name, has previously held the WBA and WBA "interim" titles at Atomweight, has more than 30 bouts in total and is now 38 years old with her professional in 2004 debut pre-dating the JBC's recognition of female boxing.
Whilst the fighters are from very different eras of female they are also fighters with very different styles. In fact their styles, in many ways, sum up the two eras of women's boxing.
Miyao has always been a fighter who has used speed, work rate, stamina and determination to win fights. She's never been particularly well polished, but she gets in the ring to our work opponents, out fight them, and out punch them. Not only does she have great output with her hands but she's a little bit like the energiser bunny, with quick footwork, and rarely stands still for more than a second or two. She sets the tempo, and demands others come with her, or lose. Sadly for her however she has aged in recent years, and injuries as well father time have started to take a toll on her, with an injury against Nao Ikeyama in 2016 being something of the start of the end for her, and a brutal TKO loss to Etsuko Tada in 2020 seemed to suggest that retirement was imminent. This shot is too good to turn down, but we do wonder what she has left in the tank.
Matsuda on the other hand is a scientific fighter, with a polished style. She wants to fight long, use her reach, fight at range and make the most of her straight shots, timing, and boxing brain. She can look very uncomfortable when crushed for space, as we saw when she faced Nanae Suzuki and Mont Blanc Miki, but if she can dictate behind her movement and long punches she can make things look very easy for long stretches. Unfortunately in her sole title bout she was held to a majority decision draw with Saemi Hanagata, though she did seem to do enough to deserve a win there, and we suspect the draw will do her more good than harm, showing she can do 10 rounds and she can bite down and fight a fighter's fight when she needs to.
Against a prime Miyao we would see this as a potential loss for Matsuda. The energy and work rate of Miyao would be a nightmare for someone like Matsuda, who is the more polished boxer, but can be a little bit happy to not put her foot on the gas. Against a 38 year old Miyao however we see Matsuda struggling early on, then getting a read on the veteran and doing enough to take a clear, yet hard fought, decision victory. Matsuda's youth, particularly her younger legs, will prove to be the difference maker here.
When we talk about the best pound for pound female fighter on the planet there are few that can challenger Irish boxing queen Katie Taylor (19-0, 6), the undisputed Lightweight champion, and of the greatest female amateurs of all time and a woman who has already scored a host of notable wins. Sadly the female Lightweight division has essentially cleaned out by Taylor, who has wins over Viviane Obenauf, Anahi Ester Sanchez, Jessica McCaskill, Victoria Noelia Bustos, Cindy Serrano, Eva Wahlstrom, Rose Volante, Delfine Persoon, Natasha Jonas and Jennifer Han. To get a good test she needs to either go over old ground, with bouts against Persoon and Jonas being interesting or move up in weight.
Sadly instead of chasing a legacy defining fight at a different weight Taylor is scraping the barrel and this weekend she will face Kazakh challenger Firuza Sharipova (14-1, 8). On paper Sharipova looks like an okay challenger, but in reality she's a fighter with a horribly padded record, no wins of note, and a career that has been played out just as much in the Kazakh press as the boxing ring. In fact if anything anything she's been in the press more for stupid stories rather than her boxing career.
When we talk about Katie Taylor, we talk about a fantastic fighter who can box, brawl or fight. She's among the best pure boxers in female boxing, but when she needs to dig deep and fight she's proven she can do that too. The only thing missing from her arsenal is fight changing power. She has great stamina, fantastic work rate, a good boxing brain, solid technical skills, she's well polished and determined to prove she's the best. If she had power she would be a truly sensational fighter, instead of just an excellent one.
Sadly when it comes to Sharipova we talk about one who is poor, untested, limited and who's best wins come against fighters that wouldn't even be in the top 10 wins for Taylor. Fighters like Djemilla Gontaruk and Yuliya Kutsenko are the best she's faced, and neither of those are close to being world class fighters. Sadly it's the other opponents that sum up Sharipova's resume best, with fighters like Happy Daudi having shared the ring with her, and Daudi looked like she had stumbled into the ring whilst looking for a friend rather than looking for a fight. Sadly even against someone as limited and poor as Daudi, Sharipova didn't shine, instead she had a punch bag in front of her who essentially gave up being hit rather than gave up trying to win.
Sharipova's record might suggest she has some power, but that really says more about her competition. Only one of her stoppages has come against a fighter with a win, and that was the aforementioned Happy Daudi. Sadly for her she's not going to have the fire power to get Taylor's respect. She's not going to have the skills to test Taylor. She's not going to have anything to make Taylor think twice. Instead Taylor is going to beat Sharipova into submission in a bout that is not just a step up in class, but something more akin to getting an elevator from the basement to the pent house suite. She is going to get a beating here, and hopefully she doesn't have the heart and will to stay in there for too long. Fingers crossed she knows her limits and doesn't take a career changing beat down to Taylor.
Prediction - TKO 5 Taylor
Over the last few years female boxing has gone from strength to strength and no longer is female boxing only for the hardcore fight fans, who watch anything they can. Whilst it's not fully crossed over into the main stream, there are certain fighters who have connected with a wider audience than ever before, such as Katie Taylor, and we are seeing more and more hints towards getting all-female cards in the UK and the US.
Whilst it's great to see more countries embracing female boxing it's worth noting that a number of countries have been putting on notable female bouts for years, such as Mexico, Argentina and Japan. That looks to continue for the foreseeable future, including this coming Thursday, when Japanese fans at Korakuen Hall get an interesting IBF Atomweight title fight.
The first in question will pit defending champion Saemi Hanagata (16-7-4, 7) against novice Eri Matsuda (4-0, 1) in a really intriguing bout. For Hanagata the bout will be her second defense, following her title win in 2018 against Yuko Kuroki, whilst Matsuda will be getting her first crack at a world title. For Hanagata the bout is a chance to prove she is the Japanese queen of the division whilst Matsuda is looking to force a generational shift in the division, and prove the new women of Japanese boxing are just as good at the legends that put Japanese female boxing on the map over the last 15 years or so.
Fans who have followed Japanese female boxing will be familiar with Hanagata and her career. The 36 year old debuted way back in 2008 and has been bouncing around the world title picture since 2012, when she challenged the legendary Momo Koseki for the WBC Atomweight title. Whilst Hanagata managed to establish herself as a world class fighter rather early on, it wasn't long until she became a fighter with a reputation of not being able to get it done at the top level. By the end of 2017 she had gone 0-2-2 in world title bouts, and it seemed like she was never going to get over the line. She already won the OPBF title but couldn't get over the line at world level. Thankfully for Hanagata it was fifth time lucky in 2018 when she scored a split decision win over Yuko Kuroki for the IBF title, and a year later she recorded her first defense, defeating Nao Ikeyama. Now she's looking to continue her reign as a champion, and return to action 18 months after her last bout.
One of the things that made Hanagata such a popular fighter was her incredible desire to win. After failing to win in her first 4 world title bouts she had still desire and hunger to climb towards another shot. That wasn't just hunger for a shot though, it was hunger every time she stepped in the ring. It didn't matter who she was against she was a rampaging monster in between the ropes. She pressed forward almost constantly, she threw a lot of leather, and never stopped coming forward. Her desire to become a champion was just an extension of the desire shown in her in ring style and tenacity. She was an aggressive, pressure fighter who made for fan friendly bouts. For those with Boxing Raise we really suggest giving her bouts a watch, they are almost always thoroughly entertaining wars.
The 26 year old Matsuda debuted back in 2018 and was moved quickly through the ranks after a solid amateur career. In her debut Matsuda beat recent world title challenger Sana Hazuki before winning her first title, in just her second bout, as she beat Minayo Kei for the OPBF Atomweight title. Soon after that she unified the OPBF and Japanese titles, with a win over Nanae Suzuki, and would defend the Japanese title once, with a TKO win over Mont Blanc Miki.
Despite her lack of experience Matsuda has already got 27 professional rounds under her belt, shown she can do 8 rounds at a good pace and has faced a number of aggressive pressure fighters, and has shown the tools to go a long way, though obviously still has a lot of work to do. In the ring her style is very much an amateur style, with her focus being on straight punches, maintaining distance and a lot of footwork. It's a style that looks very taxing on the legs and really is a safety first one. Sadly, due to her movement, she doesn't really sit on her punches and seems feather fisted, but she's very skilled and her competition so far has been incredibly advanced for someone with so little experience. It has also been the perfect type of competition to prepare her for a fighter like Hanagata, with Hazuki, Suzuki and Miki all bringing a lot of heat to Matsuda, who had to maintain her focus and her composure.
Coming in to this it's worth noting that neither fighter fought in 2020. In fact both fighters last fought on September 12th 2019, on the same show at Korakuen Hall. Neither fighter is likely to look their sharpest from the opening bell and instead we expect to see both need a round or two to find their groove. That could prove vital here given how different their styles are.
If Hanagata settles first, and manages to force her fight from the opening round, we suspect she can take an early lead and force Matsuda to chase the fight. If that happens we're not sure Matsuda has it in her arsenal to turn the tide. However if Matsuda settles first, creates space, and tags Hanagata coming in we could easily imagine the younger, fresher, fighter racking up the early rounds then holding and spoiling late on to take a decision. It really is going to be key for both women to find their rhythm as soon as they can.
Coming in to this one we see it as a very, very well match bout, and the difference in styles, age and experience leave it as a compelling match up. We suspect that Matsuda will get off to a good start, and take the early lead, but as the rounds go by, and as Hanagata's pressure cranks up she'll come back into the bout. The real question is whether Matsuda can get a big enough lead to take the win, or whether Hanagata's pressure will be enough for her to take a narrow, and hotly contested, victory.
Prediction - Matsuda SD10
On January 30th we’ll see the IBF female Minimumweight champion Yokasta Valle (20-2, 9) defending her title against Japanese challenger Sana Hazuki (8-4-1, 2) in Costa Rica, the first world title fight to feature a Japanese fighter this year. The bout isn’t a huge one, but it is an interesting one, in a division where there are some very good female match ups to be made, and the winner here will find themselves well in the mix for bigger figures. In fact prior to this bout being made there was supposed to be a much, much bigger bout lined up for Valle, but more about that in a few moments. Sadly however this bout has been put together on relatively short notice, and it could end up being a case that neither fighter is quite 100% for this clash. Despite that we do expect an interesting contest.
As mentioned Valle was supposed to be in a much bigger bout. Originally she had planned for a mid-January bout against German fighter Tina Rupprecht, to unify the IBF, WBC, IBO and Ring Magazine titles. That bout was sadly cancelled earlier in January, and the IBF ordered a mandatory between the champion and Hazuki as a result.
The now 28 year old Valle has been a professional since 2014, and has really proven herself as a talented fighter in recent years. That was despite a slow start to her professional career in which she fought a lot of low level bouts early on. Despite the slow start to her professional career she did claim the IBF Atomweight title in December 2016, beating Ana Victoria Polo to become the inaugural champion. Sadly she didn’t actually defend that title, instead looking to face bigger names, and in 2017 that led her to facing Naoko Fujioka in Japan, and suffer her first loss. Just 6 months after losing to Fujioka she travelled to Germany and lost to Tina Rupprecht. Within just a few months Valle had gone from 3-0 to 13-2, but had fought two highly talented fighters and proven her ability.
Since the back to back losses Valle has claimed the IBF female Minimumweight title, beating the hard hitting Jaoana Pastrana in Spain in 2018, and defended it once, stopping Carleans Rivas in 2020.
In the ring Valle is an aggressive fighter, who throws a lot of leather and believes in herself. She’s tough, energetic, and has more than a respectable amount of pop in her punches. She throws a very nice, crisp jab and a clean, straight, right hand. Given her power, work rate, big over hand right and speed and movement she’s not an easy fighter to beat, and she really does know her way around the ring. Unlike some female fighters she’s not all out aggressive and is more of a boxer-fighter than some of the swarmers we see out there in the lower weights.
The Japanese challenger, who also debuted in 2014, is now 36 and is likely on the back end of her career. Despite that she’s not got a great deal of wear and tear and will be getting her first world title in just her 14th professional contest. Despite not having much wear and tear she’s also not proven herself as a viable world title contender, with her most notable win coming over the then 5-0 Eruka Hiromoto in 2019, a win that netted her the OPBF female Minimumweight title. That win aside has little else of note on her record in terms of success. In fact the other notable results on her record are losses to Eri Matsuda and Nanae Suzuki, and a draw to Suzuki.
Despite her less than stellar results it’s hard to fault Hazuki’s work rate. In the ring she’s all effort, all energy and always coming forward letting her hands go. There’s a lack of quality and crispness to her work, but few can fault her tireless engine, with to win and all out fighting mentality. Sadly though she lacks the nuance to make the style work and the power needed to get her opponents respect. A lot of her shots are slapping shots, and there’s a really trudginess to her pressure. She’s a fun fighter to watch, but someone who’s deficient in too many areas to really compete at world level.
Although Hazuki is an all aggression fighter we don’t really see that aggression working too well against Valle, who we suspect will use her feet well, set up the counters and land big, heavy, clean shots. Hazuki will come forward all night, but eventually an accumulation of clean head shots, and the gulf in skills, will prove to be the difference, and we suspect Hazuki will end up taking a lot of leather until the referee steps in.
Prediction - TKO 8 Valle
On February 8th Costa Rican fighter Yokasta Valle (19-2, 8) will be making her first defense of the IBF female Minimumweight title, ash she goes up against Filipino challenger Carleans Rivas (8-6-4). This will not only be Valle's first defense but also Rivas' first world title challenge, after having fought numerous times for regional titles.
Although not a global name by any means Valle is a talented fighter, The 27 year from San Jose has shown a willingness to travel and to take on the best. This has seen her lose on the road to the likes of Naoko Fujioka and Tina Rupprecht, running Rupprecht very close in Germany, and actually winning this title in Spain last August. The belt she currently holds is her second, after having previously held the IBF's version of the 102lb title in 2016, and she has proven to be a tough fighter to beat.
In the ring Valle is small, even for a female fighter at 102lbs or 105lbs, but she uses her diminutive size well. She makes herself seem smaller, darts in an out well, and is very aggressive. She's not the most powerful puncher out there but she throws a lot of leather, has a busy lead hand and throws in bunches, often getting flurries off before an opponent can respond. It's her activity and aggression that make her a nightmare to fight and not many fighters will have the work rate to go with her, or the power to make her think twice about letting shots go.
The 31 year old Rivas has really struggled when she has fought above Filipino level, and in fact even at domestic level she has been beaten by the likes of Jessebelle Pagaduan and Lady Love Sampiton. Above domestic level she has lost to the likes of Tamao Ozaw, Chaoz Minowa, Tenkai Tsunami and Yumeni Ikemoto. Sadly for her she hasn't been able to win when she's stepped up and she's also rarely even been competitive at regional level. She is also 0-4 outside of the Philippines.
Whilst she's not totally terrible she isn't particularly good either. She lacks power, throws a nice jab but a very slow and loopy right hand and often puts herself off balance. There's a fighter that could have been competitive at regional level if her team had managed to polish her rather clear visible flaws, but instead those issues are still clearly there and clearly limit her potential to go far in the sport.
Although we don't see Valle as an emerging superstar of female boxing, she is a talent and we expect her to make this first defense look very, very easily. We would be massively surprised by anything but a dominant win by the Costa Rican champion.
Prediction - TKO8 Valle.
In August American fans saw Joshua Franco and Oscar Negrete end their trilogy with their second draw. The two men had next to nothing to separate them over a thrilling 3 fight series, with Franco taking a split decision in the only bout to end with a winner. This coming Thursdays Japanese fans get the end to a similar trilogy, as Saemi Hanagata (15-7-4, 7) and Nao Ikeyama (18-5-4, 5) battle for the third time. Their first two bout have both been split decision draws and both will be hoping to take a victory over their nemesis in what will likely be the final clash between the two.
Interestingly the dynamic entering this third bout is different to their earlier bouts. In their first 2 bouts it was Ikeyama entering as a champion, defending the WBO Atomweight title, with Hanagata being the hungry challenger. This time the tables are turned, with Hanagata entering as the IBF Atomweight queen and the soon to be 50 year old Ikeyama fighting as the challenge. Whether that makes a difference is yet to be seen, though it is an interesting shift in the narrative as we enter the third chapter of rivalry.
Ikeyama is one of the more interesting stories in female boxing, and proof that if you keep trying, keep improving, and don't quit you can achieve notable success. She turned professional way back in 2003, at the very advanced age of 34.
Ikeyama's debut was so long ago the JBC hadn't even began to recognise female boxing in the early stages of her career she would win the WIBA Minimumweight title and the JWBC title, but was still essentially fighting without the JBC backing until 2008. When the JBC recognised female boxing Ikeyama would get a shot at the WBC Atomweight title, facing Momo Koseki in 2009, and lose a clear decision. At that point she was 39 and after just 3 more fights it seemed like her career was over, following a win over Mika Oda in December 2010.
Amazingly Ikeyama resurfaced 3 years after her win over Oda. This come back lead to her biggest success, with a 2014 win over Jessebelle Pagaduan netting her the WBO Atomweight title, at the age of 44! She would would defend the title 6 times, score notable wins over Jujeath Nagaowa and Ayaka Miyaao, as well as two defenses against Hanagata, both coming by way of draws, before losing the belt in 2018 to Mika Iwakawa. She would hint at retirement following her title loss, but then continue on and lose in a third bout with Miyao. Again talk of retirement was ended when Ikeyama returned and earned a draw with Yuko Kuroki, in what was really credible performance and one that showed there was still life left in Ikeyama's career
In the ring Ikeyama is a bundle of energy, despite her age. She's ultra busy in the ring, throws a lot of leather, and whilst she's not light on her feet or a big puncher, she's still a nightmare to fight. Here fitness levels are incredible and she can take a good shot. In recent years she has come un-done against faster, smart fighters, but few will look to go punch for punch with her if they hope to win. It was the movement from Miyao that played a huge factor in their third bout and showed the tactics to beat Ikeyama at this stage.
At 34 years old Hanagata is a relative spring chicken, though she too is a veteran having debuted more than 11 years ago. She has adopted the surname of promoter Susumu Hanagata, and has been one of the biggest success stories of the Hanagata Gym, along with recent Japanese champion Yuta Saito and former world title challenger Go Odaira. She lost on her debut and remained at a lot lower level for around the first 2 years of her career, losing in her first step up against Jujeath Nagaowa. She would get a second step up in class in 2012 and earn a draw against Masae Akitaya before getting a world title fight with the then WBC Momo Koseki, losing a competitive decision.
Having proven she could have with better fighters Hanagata's team started to match her more aggressively. That back fired early, with a loss to future world champion Kumiko Seeser Ikehara, and a win and draw against Yuko Kuroki, but in 2014 she would claim her first title, the OPBF female Minimumweight title. Her reign was short lived, losing the belt just 6 months after winning it. Despite the loss she would move up in weight and get her second world title shot, losing a close a decision to Naoko Shibata. Since the loss to Shibata we've seen Hanagata go on a bit of a tear, whilst dropping back down in weight. She would reclaim the OPBF female Minimumweight title, have her two ultra close bouts with Ikeyama and then, last September, claim the IBF world title, winning the big one in her 5th world title bout.
We've not seen Hanagata in the ring since her title winning performance, so whether she still has that hunger is a big question, though it's clear she will want to pick up a win against Ikeyama after their first 2 bouts were so close and hotly contested. At her best she's a rugged punching machine, with a real will to win. She walks through shots with her pressure and looks to work her hard shots on the inside. Although not an out and out puncher she does have heavy hands, as we saw when she dropped Yuko Kuroki last time out.
As with their first two bout we're expecting a thrill a minute bout. It's not going to be the prettiest of the smoothest fight we'll ever see, but it is going to be a thrilling bout, with both looking to control the pace, both throwing a lot and both engaging in close combat. The big questions are whether Hanagata still has the fire she had before winning the title and whether Ikeyama can still go with her 50th birthday coming up just days after the fight.
We think Hanagata's "youth" will play a part here and will be the difference. Ikeyama has such an amazing gas tank, but it will have to break at some point and we expect that to be here. She's not looked her best recently and is 0-2-2 over the last 2 years, though has fought at a high level. Hanagata on the other hand will not to throw away the biggest achievement of her career and will be desperate to keep the belt, doing just enough, and being that touch busier, to retain the title.
Prediction - SD10 Hanagata
This coming Friday fight fans in Spain will Thai visitor Samson Tor Buamas (40-4, 22) face off with local champion Joana Pastrana (13-1, 4), for Pastrana's IBF female Minimumweight title. The Spanish fighter will be making her first defense, following her title win in June against Oezlem Sahin, whillst Samson will be looking to claim a “big 4” world title for the second time in her career, more than a decade after she last won bout for a big title.
The 27 year old Pastrana debuted in 2016, and began her career with 3 stoppage wins, all within the first 2 rounds. She then followed up with 4 decisions against novices before losing in her first step up in class, losing to Tina Rupprecht in 2016, when she actually suffered a broken hand. Since then she has racked up 6 wins, claiming the European female Minimumweight title, which she defended once, and now the IBF title.
The footage of Pastrana shows her to be a strong but clumsy fighter. Her foot work looks slow and calculated, rather than natural and fluid, her upper body movement is much better but still isn't genuinely world class. She does however look strong and powerful. She might have only scored 1 stoppage in her last 10 wins but she looks like she gets the respect of her opponents quite easily. Sadly for her though she's not very sharp, accurate or quick. Everything she does looks a bit awkward, almost as if she's converted to boxing from another combat sport.
At 35 Samson is past her best. At her very best she was a top female fighter, who literally fought her way out of prison to become a boxing world champion. Less than 2 years after her debut she defeated Ayaka Miyao to claim the WBC female Light Flyweight title, which she would defend 3 times include a very notable win over Momo Koseki and another against Kayoko Ebata. Since then however she has really failed to capture the attention of the boxing world. She's shown good skills,scoring only a single win of ant note when she beat Gretchen Abaniel. For the most part however she has faced limited novices, with the only exceptions being in losses to Nadia Raoui and Cai Zongju.
At her best Samson would have given fits to almost any female fighter in the lower weights. Now however she is well past her best. Her recent competition won't have done much harm physically, but will have failed to keep her sharp enough to really be competitive at the world level. Added to the low level of competitive is her inactivity, with just 2 bouts in the last 2 years, and we expected her to look slow, clumsy and out of sorts.
Despite the issues that Samson has with age, competition and activity we feel she has a chance to show how flawed Pastrana is. Sadly though we don't see her doing it often enough to take the win. Instead we suspect that the home fighter will take the decision, but not shine like a champion would want to in her fist defense.
Here we preview the key female title bouts involving an Asian fighter.