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
Here we preview the key female title bouts involving an Asian fighter.