On December 14th Tenkai Tsunami (26-12-1, 15) will return to the Light Flyweight division as she seeks her second defense of the WBO female Light Flyweight title. In the opposite corner to the champion will be 2-time world title challenger Jessebelle Pagaduan (12-1-1, 5), from the Philippines, in what looks like a very interesting match up on paper.
The champion, who is a proper veteran, has been a professional since 2005 and this will be her 40th professional bout. On paper her record does look blotchy to say the least, but she has been in 12 world title bouts and faced a genuine who's who of female boxing during her long career. During that she has faced the likes of Ayaka Miyao, Kayoko Ebata, Naoko Yamaguchi, Janeth Perez, Mariana Juarez, Zulina Munoz, Jessica Chavez and Naoko Fujioka. Given that level of competition there is no wonder she has picked up losses, with all of them coming by decision and the majority coming in her opponents back yard.
Although not an elite level fighter Tsunami is clearly world class and is a 2-weight world champion, having won the WBA Super Flyweight title more than a decade ago before dropping in weight to win her current title last year. She's tough, sets a good work rate and hits solidly, without being a concussive puncher. To beat her an opponent needs to keep her off balance, using quick feet and making her chase them. That however is easier said than done and few have the stamina, toughness and physicality to do so over 10 rounds.
Pagaduan has twice challenged for world titles in Japan, and twice been rather unfortunate. Her first world title fight came back in 2014 when she came up against the excellent Nao Ikeyama, who was simply too good for Pagaduan and came far too early in Pagaduan's career. Her second ended after a round with a technical draw against Kumiko Seeser Ikehara. Since then she has won 5 in a row, though all 5 wins have come against very limited opposition.
Footage of Pagaduan isn't too great, though what is available shows an aggressive, speedy yet small fighter. She has the speed and aggression to be in some exciting fighters, and if she can get back down to 102lbs she could be a really fun fighter down there with the other small fighters. Sadly at Light Flyweight, and against a strong Light Flyweight like Tsunami, her size is going to be a real issue and she'll be bullied around.
We suspect that Pagaduan will come to will and will start fast, with a lot of early success thanks to her speed. That however will change as the bout goes on, and the weight, strength and power of Tsunami will wear her down, breaking her spirit and stopping her late on.
Prediction - TKO9 Tsunami
Female boxing in the east may not have many stars but it does have an interesting fight scene with several notable fighters. Sadly however many fighters are over-looked for one reason or another, including many world champions. One of those over-looked world champions is WBO female Minimumweight champion Kumiko Seeser Ikehara (6-1-1, 3). The champion, a 30 year old based in Kyoto, won the title last time out when she over-came the more experienced Gretchen Abaniel in what is a career defining win for Ikehara.
Although Ikehara isn't a sensational fighter she is a good one and is much more proven than her record would suggest. The win over Abaniel is the stand out result though she also holds a big win over Saemi Hanagata which is head and shoulders above anything else on her record, other then the win over Abaniel.
At the end of the month we will see Ikehara return to the ring as she attempts to record the first defence of her title and over-come former title challenger Jessebelle Pagaduan (7-1, 4).
Pagaduan's career defining fight was a previous world title tilt, and her only loss, as she was routed by the then 44 year old Nao Ikeyama in the inaugural WBO Atomweight title bout. That bout saw Pagaduan being completely out classed though coming into this bout she will be allowed an extra 3lbs of weight on the scales which may well translate to a more energetic performance.
Prior to the bout with Ikeyama it was hard to say much regarding Pagaduan. She had won the GAB female Minimumweight title but her opponents were limited to say the least with a combined record of 2-6-6. Against Ikeyama she was coming up against an opponent with a 13-3-1 record and the class difference told. Sadly since he Ikeyama bout we've only seen Pagaduan claim a win over a debutant and learn next to nothing.
Whilst Pagaduan is pretty limited she also has another thing to worry about. That's the fact Ikehara and Ikeyama are close friends and stable mates at the Kyoto Fitness Gym. Essentially Ikehara has seen her stablemate dominate Pagaduan and will know what to expect of her challenger here. We're not saying Ikehara is something exceptional but she's a solid fighter and will have had an excellent scouting report on her opponent here.
We suspect Ikehara could beat Pagaduan “going in blind” though with Ikeyama's win and a chance to see Pagaduan in action this really is almost certainly going to be a clear an easy win for the champion who should be too good, too busy and too clever for the challenger.
When we talk about history we can split it in to two things. Those things that are remembered and spoken about as something great or memorable, and those things that only a hardcore fan has any interest in. We imagine this Saturdays WBO Atomweight title fight will belong in that second column, despite being the first ever WBO Atomweight title fight.
The WBO, following in the footsteps of the WBA and the WBC, have now started to recognise the 102lb Atomweight division. It's a division which has given us champions like Momo Koseki, Ayaka Miyao and Mari Ando and this weekend we see Jessebelle Pagaduan (6-0, 4) and Nao Ikeyama (13-3-1, 4) attempting to become the latest Atomweight world title holder.
The unbeaten Pagaduan,from the Philippines is an ambitious 29 year old looking to win a world title in just her 7th professional bout. Sure that's not a record for female boxing it's still ambitious and a sign that she knows she has to make up for lost time, especially considering that she's not the most active of fighters with just 6 bouts in 2 years from her debut.
Fighting from the southpaw stance Pagaduan is naturally heavy handed. Sure her competition, so far, has been poor but she's far from a poor fighter and in fact he biggest problem so far has been with the with the 102lb weight division as opposed to any of her opponents thus far.
Whilst the Filipino is unbeaten and in her physical prime the same cannot possibly be said of Ikeyama who 44 years old, has fought just once in the last 3 years and last scored a win of note 4 years ago when she defeated Masae Akitaya. Sure she has the more proven record and the more notable victories but she's certainly a fighter a long way removed from any of those big wins.
At her best Ikeyama was world class and her opponents read like a who's who of the Atomweight division. Momo Koseki, Ayaka Miyao, Akitaya, Ji Hyun Park. Unfortunately we can't possibly think she's even a shadow of the fighter she once was. In fact if anything she's probably "even older" in terms of boxing years than her 44 actual years, especially considering she has to make 102lbs, an incredibly low weight for this fight.
Ikeyama has always been tough, and she'll need to be tough again here to see out the distance though unfortunately for her we don't see her legs holding out for 10 rounds against a younger, bigger more energetic fighter in the form of Pagaduan who we think will either take a wide decision or a very late stoppage with father time being too much for Ikeyama.
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
Here we preview the key female title bouts involving an Asian fighter.