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
Back in September Japanese fight fans in Sakai saw local fighter Tomoko Okuda (5-2-2, 1) earn a controversial draw against Kanako Taniyama (2-0-1, 1) in a bout for the Japanese and OPBF female Bantamweight titles. It seemed that Taniyama, the busier, more aggressive, fighter had done enough to earn the win. The judges thought otherwise and gave the local fighter the benefit of the doubt, well at least two of them did with both of those judges scoring the bout even over-ruling a 78-74 card for Taniyama.
On January 28th they go again, this time with Taniyama having home advantage with the bout taking place at Korakuen Hall in Tokyo.
The first bout, although controversial, was interesting through out. Okuda looked to box on the outside, keeping the bout at range and counter the aggression of Taniyama. Taniyama on the other hand wanted to make it a fight, pressing in bursts, and forcing the pace through out. Although Taniyama was the aggressor she did take a lot of clean punches herself, from the more technically correct Okuda. Those shots left Taniyama with a badly swollen left eye that she fought through. The final round, of what was an 8 rounder, was a mess as the two tiredly fell into each other during some wild exchanges.
We expect to see a similar dynamic here. Taniyama pressing, trying to drag Okuda into a fire fight. We would however be very surprised if Taniyama's eye swelled up like it did in their first bout, and we would also be shocked if the judges in Tokyo gave Okuda the same benefit they ones in Sakai did.
Instead we expect Taniyama's aggression, heart and determination to impress judges, and help her take the decision.
One interesting difference between this bout and their first, other than the venue, is the length. Their draw came in an 8 rounder, and this is only 6. So the mess of the final round, where there was a lot of clinching between wild exchanges, isn't likely to be seen here. It's also worth noting that after 4 rounds last time out the two were level on all 4 cards, meaning a hot start here could be key in taking the Japanese female Bantamweight title.
Still in saying that, we do still favour a Taniyama decision.
Prediction - UD6 Taniyama
The female scene in Japan is going through a big transition right now as the older generation appear to be ending their careers whilst a new wave of fighters are breaking through the ranks. The likes of Eri Matsuda and Kasumi Saeki are leading the new charge with Eruka Hiromoto not far behind. Another "novice" professional looking to get themselves a title in just a handful of bouts is former kick boxer Kanako Taniyama (2-0, 1) who returns to the ring this coming Monday to take on 36 year old Tomoko Okuda (5-2-1, 1), in a bout for the Japanese female Bantamweight title.
At 32 Taniyama is no young kid rising through the ranks, but is still a professional novice looking to rise quickly through the ranks. She turned to professional boxing after a leg injury limited her ability in kick boxing and she debuted as a boxer in December 2018, on a stacked female only card from Shinsei Gym. In her debut she beat experienced Thai Sumalee Tongpootorn in 2 rounds before following up with a decision over the limited but tough Phannaluk Kongsang this past March.
As we often see with kick boxers who turn to pro boxing later in life Taniyama hasn't got the greatest of footwork, but she's aggressive, appears to have solid power on her shots and despite being a little bit on the crude side, compared to Matsuda and Saemi, she does look like she understands how to put her weight behind shots. There's limitations, but there's enough to be excited about at this early stage in her career.
Okuda on the other hand is a southpaw who turned professional more than 4 years ago, but hasn't really accomplished much since beginning her career, just weeks before her 32nd birthday. Her best wins are a couple of competitive decision wins over the crude but hard hitting Miki Mitsuda in 2016 whilst her most notable results being her losses, a debut stoppage loss to Wakako Fujiwara and a narrow loss to Yoshie Wakasa last year.
Okuda isn't "bad" as such, but she's not particularly good either, and a bout a bout at this level, despite her experience compared to Taniyama's, is a step up in class. It's a step up that we don't feel she'll be successful with, her lack of power and rather basic fundamentals limiting her against the natural fighting spirit of Taniyama.
Okuda will try, she will always try, but Taniyama will simply be too good in the ring, too experienced as a fighter, and too heavy handed. We don't feel Okuda has the skills to make Taniyama pay for her clumsy footwork or her still rough around the edges style, and instead Taniyama will rack up the points and take a clear win.
Prediction- UD8 Taniyama
Here we preview the key female title bouts involving an Asian fighter.