On September 1st we'll see a new Japanese Atomweight champion being crowned as the unbeaten pairing of Sumire Yamanaka (5-0, 1) and Honoka Kano (4-0-2, 2) battle for the vacant title at Korakuen Hall. The bout is expected to be a major stepping stone in the career of both women, who are both eying up future success well above domestic level, however both will also know this is set to be the toughest bout of their career. A win would be huge for either woman, though both are young enough to take a loss, and bounce back stronger in the future, and defeat is certainly not the end for them.
The more well known of the two women involved in this bout is 20 year old hopeful Sumire Yamanaka, the younger sister of former world champion Ryuya Yamanaka. The diminutive Yamanaka has been ear marked for success by Shinsei Gym but has struggled a little bit in the professional ranks, despite her unbeaten record. Sadly for her, her lack of size, standing at less than 5', and lack of physicality has made life hard for her, and at just 20 there is significantly physical development for her to still go through. Despite that there is no doubting her hunger for success and she did look to find a bit of killer instinct in her most recent bout, which took place in Thailand. It seems fair to say that Yamanaka isn't the complete article, but even as a work in progress there is a lot to like about her. She's aggressive, gutsy and does have a nice mix of skills and weapons in her arsenal.
For us Yamanaka seems to be the type of fighter who is 3 or 4 years away from what she'll become, but is still a very notable female prospect in a division which has long been dominated by fighters from Asia.
As for Kano, the 27 year old she made her debut in 2019 and looked big and powerful in her first bout, before being held to a draw just a few months later. Through her career so far she has continued to look power, big, strong and like someone who has the physical attributes to compete well above the Atomweight division, and she will easily tower over Yamanaka in this fight. In the ring Kano is aggressive, she looks to cut the distance, use he physicality and bully opponents, whilst throwing and landing big, heavy shots. Given her aggression she is often willing to take on to land one, and is defensively poor, but is tough and strong enough to know she can take one to land one, especially at this level. Her biggest issue is her balance and footwork, with very sloppy footwork and the technical side of her game is lacking, but that's typical for a fighter with just 5 bouts to their name.
Whilst we feel that Yamanaka is very much a work in progress, and will look like she's being dwarfed by Kano, we do feel her aggression, and the style of the two women will play in her favour. If Kano was the type of fighter who kept things long, and used her size to box at range this would be a really, really tough for Yamanaka. Instead Kano will look to bring the fight, Yamanaka will respond, getting inside and working away with shorter, crisper shots up close. The power and strength of Kano could be the difference maker, but we feel that the inside work of Yamanaka will actually be the key to her taking a narrow decision win.
Prediction - UD6 Yamanaka
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 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 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
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'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 Monday Japanese fight fans at Korakuen hall will see Japanese female Featherweight champion Yoshie Wakasa (7-2, 2) make her first defense, as she takes on veteran Kimika Miyoshi (15-13-1, 6), the woman she beat for the title in 2020. This is an "immediate rematch", in the loosest sense of the word, but still a very important one for both fighters. For the winner a potential world title could be on the line, whilst the loser could end up retiring with really nowhere to go.
The 33 year old Wakasa began her career in good form, winning her first 6 bouts, before back to back losses in 2019, losing to Miyo Yoshida and Wakako Fujiwara, seemed to slow her progress down. Despite those losses she bounced back more than a year later to dethrone Miyoshi in a career best win to claim the title.
Although no world beater Wakasa is a good solid fighter, who lacks power but has a good work rate, a solid jab and and fights to win. She fights like someone who believes in her own toughness and although she's technically limited she's a good honest professional who gets in the ring to fight and brings plenty of pressure along the way.
Aged 38 Miyoshi is a true veteran who has been a professional since 2008. She began her career with losses in her first 2 bouts but has rebuilt brilliantly over the years to win OPBF titles in 3 weight classes and even get a world title fight in 2017, losing a wide decision to Hyun Mi Choi. Given her record it's easy to think she's a terrible fight, but in all honesty she has proven to be much better than her record suggests.
In the ring Miyoshi has had success through sheer hard work and grit. She is technically very, very limited, and has never really shown much polish, but she brings pressure, she constantly marches forward, and she always looks to make things rough, tough and hard for opponents. She has a pretty tight guard, but it's very much used as little more than just something to come behind rather than rather than something to help set up counters. It's very static and basic.
In her prime Miyoshi would have been the favourite against Wakasa, but at 38 and with father time getting to her she's a long way from her prime. And much like their first bout we suspect the slightly more polished boxing, energy and work rate of Wakasa will be the difference maker. It'll be a fun enough bout but not the most competitive or the most high level.
Prediction - UD6 Wakasa
On December 9th we'll see a new Japanese female Minimumweight champion being crowned as Nanako Suzuki (5-2, 1) and Sayo Segawa (1-1, 1) battle for the currently vacant title, which was given up by former champion Yuma Narita following her first defense last December.
Aged 22 Suzuki is the younger fighter, despite having more professional experience than Segawa. Suzuki debuted at the age of 17, back in 2017, and scored win on debut before suffering her first loss in her second bout, when she was beaten by Eruka Hiromoto. She bounced back with a couple of wins, including one over Ka Yan Won in Hong Hong, but was beaten in a minor surprise in 2019 as she returned to Hong Kong and lost to Renz Dacquel. Since that loss she has notched up back to back wins and built some momentum whilst also winning her first 6 rounder.
In the ring Suzuki is an energetic little fighter, who bounces on her feet a lot and comes forward behind a busy jab. Sadly she is tiny and whilst her jab is busy it's not a damaging one. It also doesn't really set the table for her other shots as her right hand is slow and wide and her other shots often look more like slaps than full blooded punches. She's very much a developing fighter, but she looks like a novice in there with a lot of work to do. Offensively she's not particularly sharp, though she is quick. Sadly though she is very open defensively and so far she's been lucky not to have faced opponents able to really take advantage of all her defensive holes.
Segawa was a former amateur standout before beginning her professional career in 2019. She impressed in her debut, beating a Thai visitor, but was beaten in her second professional bout. Whilst she is an inexperienced professional she was very established in the amateur ranks, coming 3rd in the All Japan Championships and scoring more than 30 wins with almost half coming by stoppage. Sadly though she is diminutive, and is less than 5 foot tall, which will be a problem as she steps through the levels of the sport.
Given her amateur credentials it will be little surprise to learn that Segawa's a polished fighter. She does things properly, her shots are crisp and clean, her movement looks natural and educated, and her footwork is solid, though somewhat rigid. She picks her shots well, she sets a good tempo and she looks like a much more polished version for Suzuki, tidying up a lot of the flaws we mentioned with Suzuki. Sadly she's lacking power, and doesn't seem to put too much on her shots, but she is quick, aggressive and clearly understand what she's doing in the ring.
We suspect Suzuki can go on to win a title in the future. Here however we expect the polish and amateur skills of Segawa to be the difference maker, and her loss last time out will act as the sort of bout to correct her focus, and develop a more intelligent gameplan, rather than holding her feet as she did last time out,
With neither fighter having much in terms of power we can't imagine this one finishing early, we do expect a lot of shots landed by both in an exciting and very fun fight. Just unfortunately for Suzuki we don't think she has the tools to beat the more polished Segawa.
Prediction - UD6 Segawa
On June 7th we're set for a notable, albeit short, card from Watanabe Gym with three title bouts, which were originally scheduled for May but needed to be delayed due to the State of Emergency in Japan. One of those bouts is rather uneven looking Japanese Female Bantamweight title fight, with Kanako Taniyama (3-1-1, 1) facing Yuko Henzan (8-10-4, 2) for the vacant title. Although the least significant of the three bouts, it's an interesting one, and one that both fighters will likely see as a must win bout. At least if either of them wants to potentially land a world title fight before retirement.
On paper the match looks like it's two fighters in very, very different places. Tamiyama, with just 5 bouts to her name, looks like a woman at the start of her career, whilst Henzan, with a 22 fight record, looks like a journey woman, going nowhere. In reality however both women are 34, neither can afford another set back and another loss, for either, would push them a very long way from a title fight, of any kind. They are also very similar in size, and their desire to claim a title will be huge here.
Of the two fighters Taniyama is the more notable. She was a stand out kick boxer before turning to professional boxing in late 2018, with a lot of hype and expectation on her shoulders. After scoring two quick wins she got her first title fight and fought to an 8 round draw with Tomoko Okuda for the JBC and OPBF female Bantamweight titles. The bout was hotly contested and resulted in a rematch around 4 months later, which was another hotly contested bout, with Okuda taking a 7th round technical decision, giving Tamiyama her first loss. Since then Okuda has gone on to win the WBO female Super Flyweight title, whilst Taniyama herself has gone on to bounce back with a win over Mitsuda.
In the ring Taniyama is a fighter who presses forward, comes with aggressive intent and is very much a kick boxer turned boxer. She's crude, she's rough around the edges, but is very much an aggressive, fun to watch fighter who tries to impose her will on the bout. She's not the quickest, in fact she has had issues with her legs in the past from her days as a kick boxer, but cuts the ring off well and comes to fighter, every time she's in the ring.
Henzan on the other hand has been a professional since 2010, and has fought a genuine who's who. Due to that willingness to fight pretty much anyone she has picked up a lost of losses, including defeats to Miyo Yoshida, Fan Yin, Li Ping Shi and Wakako Fujiwara. During her career she has fought for OPBF and WBO honours, and actually did pick up the OPBF Bantamweight title in 2018, though her reign lead to nothing of note. In the ring she's technically very limited, very light hitting, and relatively open. However she's not an easy fighter to beat or look good against because she's tough, she's tiny and comes forward looking for a fight. She lets her hands go on the inside and really does seem to enjoy a fight. She's a limited boxer but a genuine fighter who will go toe to toe when she needs to and lets body shots go on mass. Sadly however she is under-sized, she lacks physicality and is very flat footed.
Because both are slow of foot, both like to fight and both like to let shots go up close we're expecting this one ton be a genuinely exciting bout. Not the most highly skilled, or intelligent fight, from either, but an exciting, "TV Friendly" fight, with the two women engaging often and trading blows. Sadly for Henzan we suspect her lack of real phsycality will be an issue and she'll come off second best when the two do trade. She'll be the one backing up, the one being pushed around and the one taking the heavier blows. She'll certainly always fight back, but we have the feeling she'll also come up very, very short.
This will be fun, a genuine tear up, but we supect it'll also be a clear win for Taniyama who just has that extra class and extra physical strength.
Prediction - UD6 Taniyama
This coming Sunday is a pretty big one for female boxing in Japan with two shows at the with two shows at the Sangyo Shinko Center, in Sakai. The second of those shows is headlined by a female world title bout whilst the other is an all female show, headlined by a Japanese Atomweight title fight between defending champion Kaori Nagai (5-2-3, 2) and unheralded challenger Natsuki Tarui (4-6-2).
Nagai, who is now 31, made her debut in December 2015, and did so in disappointing fashion, losing her first 2 bouts. In fact after 6 bouts she was 1-2-3, and few would have given her any chance to make a mark on the sport. Since then however she has turned her career around, reeling off 4 wins including her title win. Not only has she been picking up wins but she has taken an unbeaten record along the way and scored two wins over a former world title challenger, in the form of Momoka Kanada.
In the ring Nagai is fairly limited, if we're being honest, and there is no sign of her ever becoming a world champion. However, she's a fun woman to watch, letting off straight punches and trying to avoid the typical gruelling mauling action we've come to see a lot of in female boxing. She's someone who looks like she wants to fight at range, use her legs and firing off combinations at range. When it does come to action on the inside she can fight there, though often looks less comfortable there, and she often seems happier at mid-range than in the pocket. Sadly she lacks power, and there is a rushed look to a lot of her work, but she really has improved so much over the years and we suspect the title will galvanise her, and go on to make her a better fighter.
At 29 years old is the younger fighter, but despite that she's the more experienced, having made her debut in 2014. Just like Nagai she also struggled to get going with her career and lost her first 4 bouts, and was 1-5-1 after 7 bouts. Her only win during that early stretch of her career came against boxing model Riyako Goshi. She has, like Nagai, managed to turn things around and is 3-1-1 in her last 5, During that recent run she has given 3 fighters their first loss, and held the always fun to watch Mont Blanc Miki to a 6 round draw.
Interestingly Tarui is also a fighter who knows how to use her feet, and seems happier at mid-range, she's got quick hands, throws straight punches and seems like the sort of fighter who has got plenty of tools in her arsenal. Sadly though she also lacks power, big time, and she's physically lacking in strength and size and looks like she could be bullied around quite easily. She also doesn't really look that technically sound and loses her composure a lot. At her best she's genuinely very good, much better than her record suggests, but it's hard to know just how much of a fight will be her at her best. If she's on song for 6 rounds, at Japanese level, she could be a very tough fighter to beat.
Whilst this bout is an easy one to look over, especially given the weight and records of the two fighters, we genuinely are excited about it. The women match up really well, their styles should gel well, and we should get a very exciting, relatively clinch free, fight, with a lot of leather thrown by both fighters. We suspect the edge in speed for Tarui will be key to her gameplan, but by that same taken Nagai is probably the more physically imposing we it wouldn't be a surprise to see her use that to try and slow down Tarui if she needs to.
The two fighters match each other really well and this should make for a very close and exciting bout. We are expecting this to be a fun one, a hotly contested one and one where the judges will be torn. They will have a very tough time scoring it, but those watching will have a joy watching a high tempo, high action fight with every round being close.
Prediction - SD6 Nagai
Here we preview the key female title bouts involving an Asian fighter.