The Atomweight division is the most obscure division in professional boxing. Not only is it the lightest weight classes, at 102lbs, but it's a female only division and has pretty much been dominated by Japanese fighters since it was first created with fighters like Momo Koseki, Ayaka Miyao, Nao Ikeyama having long and notable reigns there. Whilst there is a growing number of people interested in both the lower weights and female boxing, there isn't much of an international interest in the Atomweights.
Despite the low profile the division has been providing some fantastic fights in recent years, and right now has one of the brightest hopes in female boxing. That is Eri Matsuda (3-0), who has adapted to the professional ranks with ease and already won her first 2 titles, the JBC and OPBF Atomweight titles. This coming Thursday she'll be looking to make her first defense of the Japanese belt as she takes on Mont Blanc Miki (4-2-1, 1).
Matsuda was a talented amateur before turning professional last year and instantly showing touches of genius out boxing the rugged and aggressive Sana Hazuki on debut. She then claimed the OPBF title just months later, out pointing Minayo Kei and then unified the OPBF and Japanese titles with a win over Nanae Suzuki. Unlike many female fighters Matsuda is an outside fighter, setting the tempo for the fight at range, behind her jab and her footwork. Unlike many female fighters she's not someone who looks to have an inside war and instead uses a more classic, pure boxing approach.
Whilst Matsuda is a real talent, and has shown it through her short career, there is less to talk about in regards to Miki. She is a 26 year old who made her debut a little over 2 years ago. As a professional she hasn't shone at all. She scored a win in her debut before being stopped in her second bout. Since then she has gone 3-1-1, with her second stoppage loss coming in March to the limited, but hard hitting, Chan Mi Lim. She has proven to vulnerable, light punching and really technically limited. She's popular but not particularly talented.
Whilst Matsuda hasn't shown much power yet she has enough on her shots to get respect of good fighters. Without trying to be harsh Miki has done little to show she's actually a good fighter, and we really wouldn't be surprised if Matsuda got her first stoppage here. Matsuda's clean accurate punching will be the key her, and we suspect that when she moves through the gears she will hurt Miki, and then force the referee to jump in.
Prediction - TKO4 Matsuda
Unification bouts in boxing are rare, whether they are bouts to unify world titles, or regional titles they are still rare. Even more so when they involve relative professional novices. With that in mind there's a bout on March 13th to get really excited about, especially if you follow the female boxing scene, as OPBF Atomweight champion Eri Matsuda (2-0) takes on JBC counter part Nanae Suzuki (8-2-1, 1), with the two women looking to join the most notable regional title with the Japanese title.
Of the two it's Matsuda who is the more interesting. She was a former amateur standout who has already impressed, beating a former Japanese title challenger on debut, taking a competitive win over Sana Hazuki, before schooling Minayo Kei over 8 rounds to claim the OPBF title. The 24 year old from Team 10 count is one of the smoothest female boxers on the planet, with really well rounded skills, a very sharp punches and lovely movement. She's a rangy southpaw who knows how to use the ring, though when she needs to bite down and fight she has shown she can do that too.
Despite being a professional novice Matsuda has already fought 14 rounds of professional boxing. She has proven her stamina over 8 rounds already and will not worry about the 8 round distance against Suzuki, have done 8 rounds at a good pace against Kei.
With 11 professional bouts under her belt Suzuki is the much more experienced fighter, and she has already been involved in 4 Japanese title fights, going unbeaten in those 4 bouts. Her first title back, back in December 2017, saw her fight to a draw with the previously mentioned Suzuki, though she would take the title in a rematch 3 months later. Since then she has defended the bout against Akari Arase and Sayaka Aoki. Despite having a couple of losses and a draw on her record already she has actually beaten every one she has fought, avenging losses to Aoki and Yumiko Shimoooka.
Watching Suzuki we see a relatively basic fighter. That's not to say she's bad, but she is basic, with a good work rate, a pretty solid looking right hand and aggressive mentality, coming forward behind her jab. Technically there is a lack of that crispness we see with Matsuda, but she has got a battlers mentality, coming forward and letting her hands go up close.
Suzuki has the type of style we see bothering Matsuda, a come forward style that involves working in the pocket. Thankfully for Matsude the limitations of Suzuki mean that she probably won't actually have too many issues here. If Suzuki was a bit quicker, a bit sharper and a bit lighter on her feet she could be a problem. Instead we see Suzuki being too sharp, too quick and establishing her range, tempo and jab en route to a wide 8 round decision win.
The Japanese female scene is one that looks set to really build in 2019, with a number of rising hopefuls looking to be fast tracked through the ranks. The creation of the Japanese female titles has been a really great addition and given female fighters something to aim for on their way up the ranks.
On March 13th we see the Japanese female scene take center stage with Victoriva Vol 4, which will feature only female fighters. One of the main bouts on that card will see OPBF and JBC female Bantamweight champion Miyo Yoshida (11-1) defending her national title against JBC #1 ranked contender Yoshie Wakasa (6-0, 2).
The 30 year old Yoshida has been one of the big revelations of the Japanese female scene in the last few years. She began her career in 2014 and despite some struggles to really get going, wining her first two bouts by close decision and losing her 5th bout, she has really shined, winning her last 7 in a row. That current run of wins has seen her avenge her only loss, beating Yuki Koseki just 6 months after losing to her, as well as winning the Japanese female title, defeating Tomomi Takano, and the OPBF female title, defeating Gretel de Paz. Not only has Yoshida won both titles but she has also defended both belts.
Yoshida isn't a big Bantamweight, she's not a quick fighter or much of a puncher. What she does well however is apply intelligent pressure, bringing the fight to her opponent and landing clean shots. Her jab seemed to land more often than that of Tanako when the two fought, despite Takano having a clear reach and height advantage, and her timing when she throws her straight right is very impressive. There is, at times, a messiness to her work, but that tends to lend it's self well to her using his physical strength on opponents, and despite being a small fighter she really is a physically strong one, often able to push opponents around.
The unbeaten Wakasa, also 30, also began her career in 2014 though has not been as active as Yoshida, or accomplished as much, in part that was due to real inactivity in the ring in 2016 and 2017. Despite the lack of experience she is the JBC #1 ranked contender and is an unbeaten fighter with notable domestic wins over Asami Jinnari, who later challenged for the Japense female Featherweight title, and Tomoko Okuda. In just 6 fights she has already taken 2 unbeaten records, and has shown steady improvement through her career.
Watching Wakasa we see a fighter with good timing, a sharp jab, and the ability to cut the distance pretty well. She has managed to beat quicker, more naturally gifted fighters, and moves smartly, using intelligent footwork. She sets an educated work rate, and does appear happy to throw eye catching shots, even if they aren't the crispest. If we're being honest we thought she was lucky against Okuda, but she did land the more eye catching shots, even if she was out landed.
Given the styles of the two fighters we tend to feel that Yoshida will bring the pressure and force Wakasa to fight at her pace. The lack of power, from both, would suggest this is going the distance, but the 6 round distance is something Yoshida has more experience with, as Wakasa has only gone 6 rounds once, and could end up helping the champion further stamp her authority on the bout.
We're expecting a clear but competitive decision win for Yoshida here, who may well move into world title bouts before the end of the 2019.
Here we preview the key female title bouts involving an Asian fighter.